When Jesus Comes
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Get hold of this blessed fact and ever walk in the awareness and anticipation of it: -- Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. Just as he came in humiliation to redeem his people, he shall come a second time in power and great glory to resurrect his people from the grave and to reign upon the earth. The promise was given when our Lord ascended up to heaven in glory - “This same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” We are “looking for,” anticipating, “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
There is much about our Lord’s second coming that we cannot know until he appears. We must not attempt to pry into that which God has not revealed. Yet, there is much that is revealed in Holy Scripture about the glorious advent of our King. I want to show you, from the Word of God, what is going to happen when the Lord Jesus comes again. Here are five facts plainly revealed in the Word of God about Christ’s return.
1. Our Lord could appear at any moment (Rev. 1:7). There is nothing necessary to prepare for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The time is at hand. “Lift up your heads, your redemption draweth nigh.” Indeed, the sense of scripture is that our glorious Redeemer is presently coming; he is on his way now. We should live, moment by moment, in anticipation of his glorious appearance.
2. Our Lord is coming in power and great glory (2 Thess. 1:7-10). The Bible nowhere speaks of our Lord coming in secret to rapture the church and then coming again in judgment seven years later. The second advent of Christ will be a climatic thing. Suddenly, he shall appear in glory.
3. Our Lord will come in a real body (Rev. 1:7). I will not attempt to say what the glory of his body will be; but two things are sure: Christ will come in a physical body, the same body in which he hung upon the cross. And his body will be so glorious, so bright, so dazzling, that every living creature shall see him, and the earth shall melt before him.
4. When Christ comes a mighty resurrection shall take place (John 5:28-29). There shall be a resurrection of the just, those who have been justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God’s elect shall be raised to immortality, life, and eternal glory. The body of flesh shall be gathered from the dust, and in those bodies we shall see the Lord, our Redeemer (Job 19:25-27).
There shall also be a resurrection of the unjust, those who are without righteousness before God. The ungodly, the unbelieving, shall also be raised, their bodies shall become immortal and united to their souls, so that they may endure everlasting damnation in hell.
5. At the second coming of Christ, this world shall be destroyed and he will create new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:10-14; Rom. 8:18-23). God’s saints will not spend eternity floating around like ghosts in the air. In these very bodies, we shall live forever upon the new earth. Heaven shall be brought to the earth. Righteousness shall reign here. And the Paradise of God, the Heavenly City, shall be with men.
The Apostle Paul was inspired of God the Holy Spirit to encourage and comfort his brethren there and believing men and women in all succeeding ages with some plain, simple, easy to understand words of instruction and assurance about Christ’s glorious second advent. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is taken entirely up with that blessed hope set before us in the New Testament.
Thessalonica was a large and prosperous city of commerce. Paul came to this city after leaving Philippi, and stayed for about three weeks, preaching every sabbath day. His ministry there was greatly blessed of God. Some Jews, a large number of Gentiles, and many women were converted. This group of new converts was the beginning of a gospel church in Thessalonica. These are the people to whom Paul addressed this his first inspired letter.
The unbelieving Jews of the city were so upset by Paul’s success that they raised an angry mob and assaulted the house of Jason where Paul was staying. Paul and Silas escaped by night and went to Berea, and from there they came to Athens. But, being concerned about the welfare of this young church, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to confirm, establish, and comfort God’s saints. He wrote this letter and sent it to the church there, hoping to encourage them in their afflictions and sufferings, and exhort them to stand fast in the faith of Christ and the ordinances of the gospel.
Here are us five words of comfort given to believing sinners upon the earth by God the Holy Spirit about the second coming of our Savior. Our divine Comforter here gives us a word of comfort about our departed friends (vv. 13-15), our Lord’s return (v. 16), the living saints (v. 17), our glorious reunion (v. 17), and our final position (v. 17).
Our Departed Friends
First, we are given a word of comfort about our departed friends (vv. 13-16). -- "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (GO BEFORE, or PRECEDE) them which are asleep... The dead in Christ shall rise first.”
We have all been to the funeral home. We have taken many to the cemetery. We all have many friends and loved ones who died in the faith. Here Paul admonishes us not to be in sorrow for those who are taken from us, as though we had no hope.
Without question, there is sorrow when a loved one is taken from us. Believers are not unfeeling stoics. Yet, if the one taken from us is a believer, if he has died in Christ, there is no reason for us to be in despair, or to sorrow and mourn as those who have no hope. Do not be ignorant about those who are taken from us.
When the believer dies, he simply falls asleep in the arms of Christ (John 11:11-13; Acts 7:54-60). What could be more comforting than that? It is truly a blessed thing, a thing to be desired, to fall to sleep in the arms of Christ. It is the believer entering into his long awaited sabbath, his rest, with the Lord. The body falls to sleep, and the soul awakes (Rev. 14:13).
Be sure you understand our Lord’s teaching about this. It is only the body that sleeps in the grave. The soul never sleeps. At death the soul enters into a state of activity, such as cannot be known in this world. There is no such thing as soul sleep. Immediately upon the death of the body, the soul enters into a temporary state, an intermediate body, in which it lives between death and the resurrection (2 Cor. 5:1-10; Lk. 16:19-31). The children of God go immediately into the bliss of heaven (Lk. 23:43; Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 7:15-17). The unbelieving go immediately into hell (Luke 16:22-23).
None of God’s elect die until it pleases the Lord to bring them home. They have left us because the Savior has taken them to himself! Our departed friends are with the Lord. They are beholding his glory, feeding upon the Tree of Life, and drinking from the Fountain that flows from the throne of God. Why should we weep for them?
When our Lord comes again, their bodies shall be raised from the graves. Those who have died in the faith will lose nothing by having fallen to sleep in Christ. They shall be raised first. We who are alive when Christ comes will have to wait for a moment (Really just a split second!), until the dead in Christ arise. It will be glorious waiting, but we will have to wait (vv. 15-16).
May God graciously teach us to live confidently in the hope of the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ secured the resurrection of his people. Christ is called the firstfruits of the resurrection, the firstborn from the dead. If he is the first, there must be at least a second. The resurrection of the body is that for which we hope (1 Cor. 15:17-23; 52-54).
Though this hope of the resurrection was not so bright in the Old Testament church as it is today, it was clearly revealed even to the saints of that age (Ps. 16:9-11; 17:15; 73:24). The wise man said, “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death” (Pro. 14:32). This is what I am saying, Christ arose as our Surety, and as surely as he arose, all who are in him must also rise from the dead (Col. 3:1-4).
Our Lord’s Return
Second, Paul gives us a word of comfort about the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 16). -- "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first."
This is the blessed hope we anticipate. The Lord himself shall descend from heaven. He came once and was despised and rejected of men. He came once in humiliation and sorrow to suffer and die. But he is coming again in power and great glory to reign. In this earth, in the place where the battle was fought and the victory won, King Jesus must reign gloriously.
Our great King shall return with a shout of triumph and victory. The voice of the archangel and the trump of God shall sound. The trumpet-blast shall announce the coming of the great King. The trumpet-blast shall sound the glorious year of jubilee for God’s elect. (Then we shall be free!) The trumpet-blast shall announce the mighty conquest of our King. Death shall be swallowed up in victory. Satan shall be thrown into the lake of fire. Every rebel shall be crushed with the rod of his strength and consumed with the brightness of his glory.
Our Lord’s coming will be public, visible, and audible. The reverberating sound will go through the universe. Every eye shall see him. All of God’s elect shall be gathered unto him from the four corners of the earth. The wicked shall wail because of him, and the saints shall rejoice (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
heart and head with hope and joy in anticipation of this great day - Our Lord,
Our Redeemer, is coming again! He is coming for his bride. He is coming himself. He is coming
NOW! Christ the one who stood as my Surety in the covenant! -- The one who
lived for me in perfect righteousness! -- The one who died for me at Calvary!
-- The one who intercedes for me in heaven! -- The Lord Jesus Christ is coming
The Living Saints
Here is a word of comfort regarding the living saints (v. 17). -- "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51). There will be a remnant of God’s elect living upon the earth. At the last day, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall all be caught up and changed. A glorious transfiguration shall take place. Like Elijah, we shall be swept up into glory in a full array. It could happen today. Blessed thought! Blessed hope!
Our Glorious Reunion
Fourth, here is a word of comfort concerning our glorious reunion (v. 17). -- “We shall be…caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
The air is spoken of in Scripture as the sphere of Satan’s power. He is called “the prince of the power of the air.” The transfiguration and reunion of Christ’s redeemed ones will take place right in the heart of Satan’s territory! The Lamb that was slain, and all the hosts of his elect shall be victorious and Satan shall be shamed, mocked, and defeated. Yes, the fiend of hell must be loosed for a little season; but his days are numbered. Soon, King Jesus will throw the old serpent into the lake of fire. And, at that moment, a glorious reunion shall take place. All the saints of God shall be united. This appears to be the order of things: --
1. Christ will descend.
2. The dead shall be raised.
3. The living shall be snatched up to meet the Lord.
4. The world shall be destroyed and recreated.
5. We shall come to the earth with Christ.
The word here translated, “meet” is only used four times in the New Testament (Matt. 25:1, 6; Acts 28:15). It always implies a friendly encounter. One of the old writers explained the use of this word like this: -- “When a king enters the city the loyal go forth to meet him; the criminals, in confinement, await their judge.” It is in this way that the Kingdom of God shall come to the earth (Rev. 21:1-5).
In that blessed hour, Christ shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. All who were given to him in the everlasting covenant, redeemed by him at Calvary, called by his Spirit, and all for whom he has made intercession these two thousand years shall be with him. They shall see his face. There shall be one fold and one Shepherd. And they shall be one (John 10:16).
Our Final Position
Then, Paul gives us this word of comfort regarding our final position (v. 17). -- “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (Rev. 22:3-5). We have been redeemed by him. We shall be made like him (1 John 3:2). Then we shall be forever with him. Our Lord Jesus Christ has gone to prepare a place for us, and when his intercessory work is done and all his elect are saved, he shall come again and receive us unto himself that where he is, there we may be also. Then, his great prayer shall be answered (John 17:24). Earth’s greatest blessing is to find him. Heaven’s greatest honor is to be with him. And this is promised to all who trust him.
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18). The Master has given us his word. -- "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3). Our departed friends are safe. Our risen Lord is coming again. We shall soon be changed. Soon the whole family of God shall be united. We shall forever be with the Lord.