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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

WHEN JESUS COMES AGAIN

1 Thess 4:13-18 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.

By the ignorance of the Christians of Thessalonica, they, as well as all members of the body of Christ throughout all ages, learn, by the divine inspiration of Jesus' apostles, what it will be like for them when Jesus comes again. It was possible that many, at that time, expected Jesus to return within their lifetime here on earth. In answer to their concerns, Paul gives a brief explanation of this wondrous event, to the members of the church of Christ in this city. His explanation applies only to Christians - those that believed Jesus to be the Savior of the world, confessed Him to be the Son of God, repented and turned from their past sinful life, and had been baptized into body of Christ for the remission of their sins.

No doubt there were those that felt much grief and sorrow for fellow Christians, who had passed away, that possibly were their relatives, friends, and neighbors. They were grieved because they thought those already dead, would not be able to meet Jesus when, He comes again in His glory. They were sorry because they did not know where the dead in Christ had gone, what state they were in, and whether they were in pain or comfort. They were sorry because they thought they would never see them again. The unknown can be, and often is, extremely troubling to all. Paul's Holy Spirit-inspired explanation is given, in order that those Christians then, and all Christians thereafter, to the present day, may have sufficient knowledge and understanding about the end of time, to allay and calm any doubts they may have, and to comfort, and relieve, them of any worry or fears about this future, yet unknown - the Day of Judgment.

Time on earth for all mankind, may end either with the second coming of the Lord, or with physical death. But, with death time does not end. Paul tells us that faithful Christians, that have already passed from their earthly habitation, are merely asleep. They have fallen asleep in the comforting arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But there is to be no grief and despair for them. Why? It is because there is hope; a hope that those outside the body of Christ do not have. It is only the unfaithful, unbelieving others, which have no hope. The hope of eternal salvation, for those that die in their sins, is lost. Without eternal salvation, which is only available in Christ Jesus, the hope of salvation for every sinner becomes buried with them in their grave.

However, there should never be extended grief and sorrow for a departed, faithful brother or sister in Christ. Paul tells us why: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. To be in Jesus, one must obey the will of God, which culminates in baptism for the remission of one's sins. It is then, and only then, that God adds you to the body of Christ, His church. To be in Jesus,is to be in the church of Christ. Leading to this act of faith, one must believe in the virgin birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven, of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We are assured that those, which sleep in Jesus (Christians that have passed from this world in death) will God bring with Him,on the day of Judgment. This is precisely the spiritual significance of this passage of Paul's letter to the church at Corinth. He wrote: For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:16-21).

To the "unlearned" babes in Christ at Thessalonica, Paul continued revealing that which God made known to him through the Holy Spirit. He wrote, that we, which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. This tells us exactly how it shall be at the Lord's second coming. Christians that are still living, on the Day of Judgment, shall not prevent (or precede) them, which are asleep. Paul assures us of this in the next verse by saying, that on this final day of earthly existence, Jesus Christ, 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.

After the dead in Christ are risen, Then we (faithful Christians), which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them (those that were asleep in Christ) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Christians, both those that had already passed on into a peaceful sleep of death, and those that are alive at the coming of Christ, will enjoy a glorious reunion together with each other, and with their Savior, Jesus Christ. Together with Christ, they will ascend into their heavenly home, and will forever be with the Savior, in the presence of God, our Creator, and the Author of our salvation. It is there that the faithful children of all ages shall inherit the kingdom prepared ...from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34).

On the Day of Judgment, this prophesy of Jesus will be fulfilled. Before His death on the cross of Calvary; before His burial, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven, Jesus gave His faithful followers this promise: 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). To these Holy Spirit-inspired words of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, Paul could only add: Wherefore comfort one another with these words.