Sunday, January 18, 2009

January 18th - Our Appointment with Death and Christ's Return

Prayer Requests
Rhode's sister's foot
Debra Leyland
High Schoolers at Kaleo
Leon's safe return
Pastor Aaron and Family
Pres. Bush
Pres. Obama

Text – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Next week was going to be a little weird, because I am taking a class in which I have to preach a 20 minute sermon, so next week I was going to preach a sermon for the first half of class instead of a class, then back to teaching. The sermon was to be on Romans 12:1-2, which worked out with almost perfect timing, since 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 is about the same subject, so I skipped verses 9-12 right now to teach them along with Romans 12:1-2. However, Dave is letting me preach at Trek, so now everything is all confused, but we'll get to verses 9-12 soon.

This week is half of a big block of text about Christ’s return. You’ll find all sorts of people who get caught up in this topic and go nuts about it. It can consume their studies, make them paranoid about every news event that happens, and believe that if you don’t believe the way they do about Christ’s return, there is no way you can be saved. I don’t want any of you to become these people, because the two that I know that are the most zealous about this subject bear no fruit in keeping with repentance, have no brotherly love, and are more interested in their own opinions than in the Words of Christ.

The Baptist Faith and Message 2K puts it beautifully, if not somewhat snippy;

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

Your parents may have a more detailed belief, but the BF&M is Summit’s official stance and is, we believe, the proper interpretation of scripture without going nuts. It is sort of the pan-millennialist view that “However it pans out is fine with me.” The timeframe is what people get in arguments about, when and how Christ is returning…this passage we are going to read in First Thessalonians 4 is unconcerned with the timing, only with the event, and since this was the only Epistle they had describing the timeframe, Paul obviously considered it as a sufficient prophecy for Christ’s return.

Revelation 4:8 "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"

I just know, that without a doubt, Jesus Christ was before all things, he entered into human being through the virgin Mary, he died for our sins, defeated death, was called bodily up into Heaven, and will be coming back, hopefully soon.

The reason he hasn’t come back yet is because all of his saints haven’t been born and/or reached repentance yet, if he had come back four years ago, I would have faced him as his enemy instead of as his son, fifteen years ago and we wouldn’t have met you guys, if he had come back 100, 200, 300, 1000 years ago, a huge number of saints would not exist. He knows exactly what he is doing and what his plan and purpose is towards tarrying. Besides saving everyone written in the Lambs Book of Life, which was penned before the dawn of time, I believe that God is also using this present evil age to show just how bad sin is and how terrible things can get without his intercession.

I believe the fall of Satan happened something like this, talking to God, “So You’re perfect, and I’m perfect, why am I not God?” In this world we have the answer, because only God is perfect, only God can keep things working, only God is worthy of glory.

Worst of all, is that the wages of sin is death. This death is no respecter of persons, it is the great equalizer, it affects kings and paupers, men and women, young and old, and when it happens that isn’t the end of a person, only their body dies, their souls continues.

Luke 12:4-5 I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Death is not to be feared, the Lord of Glory has defeated death, death has lost its victory, death has lost its sting, for in Jesus Christ we have received the victory. Thessalonica might not have known this, since this is the only place where Paul gives them a bit of an admonition against their belief. They seemed to think that if they died before Christ returned they would not partake in the kingdom.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

v. 13 We do not want you to be uninformed about those who are asleep…

Asleep is one of the ways the Bible talks about being dead. When Pastor Stephen was stoned, here is what it says,

Acts 7:54-60 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Jesus Christ, who ascended to Heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father, was now standing, even before Stephen was stoned; Jesus stood to welcome his saint into Heaven. It was Stephen’s appointed time to die, and it has glorified God much. His last statement, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” has been quoted by many, many martyrs in history.

How did Jesus know that Stephen was going to die that day?

In Jeremiah, the condemned men ask him where they should go, and Jeremiah replies thusly,

Jeremiah 15:1-2 Then the LORD said to me, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go! And when they ask you, 'Where shall we go?' you shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD: "'Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence, and those who are for the sword, to the sword; those who are for famine, to famine, and those who are for captivity, to captivity.'

The Apostle John quotes Jeremiah when talking about the saints;

Revelation 13:7-10 [Antichrist] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain.” Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

Everyone has an appointment with death, there is a call for endurance and faith in the saint because the way you will die has been preordained by God to glorify him. Whether this is getting stoned for preaching, or dying of cancer so that you can convert the dying Buddhist lying in the bed next to yours, there is a plan and purpose for your death. There is no need to worry, there is no need to be afraid, God is in control.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

This doesn’t mean that if you want to, you can be a quarterback in the NFL, it means that you can face every circumstance no matter how painful or excruciating, but that God will give you grace and strength to endure it.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

v. 13 …that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

If it weren’t enough to know that God is in control, has preordained your death, and will use it for his glory, there is even more good news, that not only has God saved you from Hell, but that he will save you from death.

v. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

I’m pretty sure the reason the Bible uses the language of sleep is because our death will be just exactly the same as going to sleep and waking up. Your whole life you’ve been preparing for this moment, that when you fall asleep for the final time, you will awake in paradise with Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead, took death upon himself and defeated it.

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Galatians 2:19-20 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

v. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

This is authoritative, because it is the Word of the Lord, that if you are alive or dead, you will be reunited with Christ, but those who are alive will not precede those who are dead, since the dead go straight from here to Heaven, then come back.

So those who have fallen asleep, taken into Heaven, will be reunited with Christ and brought back on the Day of his return.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

v. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

I can’t explain this any better than Revelation, which paints an absolutely beautiful picture of Christ’s return.

Revelation 19:11-14 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.

How the body situation works is somewhat confusing, we get new bodies in Heaven, which is good, because I’ve wrecked this one. Our bodies in Heaven will be imperishable. First Corinthians 15 talks at length about this, but it would take a whole class period to do it justice, so just know that we get new bodies in Heaven, bodies that will never die.

On that day, from Luke 21:26-27 “Men will faint with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

On that day, some will be happy, some will be terrified, terrified to the point that they will faint for fear. When we think faint, we think of people passing out, but the Greek word here means they will die where they stand, the King James Translators said it better with their hearts will fail them. They will be literally scared to death. Some will call for the mountains to fall on them, but the mountains will melt like wax, and there will be no-where to flee from the wrath to come, for the only everlasting refuge is inside of the saving graces of Jesus Christ.

And what of those of us who are alive on that day?

v. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

This verse is where we get the term, “Rapture” which derives from the Latin word for “caught up”. The Greek word means literally to be plucked up. After this, we will never be separated from Christ again, “so we will always be with the Lord.”

v. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Here is the encouragement, whether you die before Christ returns, or you see his return without seeing death, know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, he knows whether you will die or not, he knows how you will die, he will bring glory to himself through your death and you will be rewarded with him for your faithfulness.

Therefore when our Christian brothers and sisters die we do not mourn as those who have no hope, for we know we will see them again, but the next time we see them will be in bodies that no longer know pain, bodies that can no longer die, in perfect purity and holiness in the presence of Jesus Christ, who was dead, but who is alive forevermore.


Psalm 116:15-19 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!