The Coming of the Lord: No. 2

1 Thessalonians 4:13‑18  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
We will now look at the remarkable scripture, 1 Thess. 4:13-1813But 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. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For 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. 16For 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: 17Then 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. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13‑18). It is evident the apostle had said little or nothing to them, during his few weeks' preaching, about death and going to heaven. The coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven was the blessed hope of the gospel which the Lord gave him to preach. It is further evident that, during the few weeks or months before he sent this letter, some of the assembly had died. This had given them great sorrow, as though those who had died would not be here when the Lord should come. We can scarcely understand this sorrow now, the coming of the Lord has been so much forgotten, and death actually put in its place.
The Lord has, in His tender love, given a special revelation for the comfort of those dear babes, and not for them only but for us. This will also explain how it is that all the saints will come with Christ, when he comes to judge the living wicked.
We see also that the apostle treats the coming of the Lord as a part of the glad tidings. " For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Take away this hope, and the gospel would be totally altered and disfigured. Mark then, what follows is revelation from the Lord. " For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent [or go before] them which are asleep." What a real and present thing the coming of the Lord is in scripture. It is not they, but we who are alive. Hence all living Christians should expect the Lord before they die. It is " we who are alive." Also mark how this revelation shows the very order of events.
Suppose you say, "Well, I am waiting for the Lord Jesus from heaven but when He comes what will be the very first thing that will take place?" Let us read. "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." Is not this a plain answer to your question? The millions, yea, all that are Christ's are raised first. It is the very first thing that will take place. You will find a full account of this in 1 Cor. 15 And more, there we learn that if this is not so, there is no truth in the gospel at all. If this does not take place, then Christ is not raised; and if Christ is not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. " But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept." Thus the resurrection of the dead in Christ is certain." But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." Read the particulars of this glorious event from verse 42 to end of chapter. What a change for the poor body sown in loathsome corruption, raised in glory.
Do not make the common mistake, that these words speak of the resurrection of all, saved and unsaved. This is that resurrection spoken of in many scriptures of such unspeakable privilege. Jesus said, " But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage." (Luke 20:3535But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: (Luke 20:35).) He also marks with great distinctness the two resurrections, " They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5) Again, He speaks of a resurrection of great privilege. Three times He repeats this in John 6:39, 40, 4439And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:39‑40)
44No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
. The Jews were greatly offended because the apostles " preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead." (Acts 4:22Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. (Acts 4:2).) For this believers are waiting—" the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." (Rom. 8:2323And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23).) This is the resurrection of those that are Christ's at His coming. (1 Cor. 15:23-5723But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 24Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 29Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? 30And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. 33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. 35But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 39All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:23‑57).) For this Paul longed, " If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead;" or, as it should be translated, " from amongst the dead." (Phil. 3:1111If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:11).) "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." (Rev. 20:55But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:5).)
Yes, in perfect harmony with all scripture, we are thus assured the very first thing that will take place is the resurrection of those that sleep in Christ. Will they then be taken to heaven first and leave us behind? No. What will be then the second thing that will take place? " 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." How often we hear the saying, Ø We shall all surely die." The scripture says just the opposite of this. " We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," &c. Men may deny this blessed hope, and scoff at it, but our God says to us, " Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Yes, what comfort to those who were distressed about any who had fallen asleep! They will be raised first. They will not remain unclothed spirits. Their bodies will not remain in vile corruption. They will rise in incorruptibility, in the likeness of the glorified body of Christ. Oh, think of this when you remember the dear ones whose bodies you have left in the grave. The very first thing is, they shall be raised in glory.
Are you bowed down with sorrow in the church, and distress in the world? Do you see the dark shadows of the coming storm grow darker and darker? Oh what a comfort—in a moment we who are alive and remain, shall be changed. We shall rest forever, rest with the Lord. Is this really our hope? Do we wait for Him, look for Him, this night, this day?
And mark, how these few verses explain the difficulty as to all believers, all saints, when the Lord comes, coming with Him. He comes first, as He promised He would, to take us to Himself. All this is as the Bridegroom, and before He comes to judge. Yes, we shall be with the blessed Lord in the place prepared in the Father's mansions. Yes, this we learn by revelation. The coming of our Lord in the air, and our gathering together to Him. Just as Jesus ascended up to heaven and a cloud received Him, so we shall ascend in the clouds to meet the Lord. He says, " I will come again and receive you to myself." Do you doubt Him? Why should you? Has He loved us and died for us, and will He not come for us? Has He washed us from our sins, and will He not take us to Himself? Has He died in vain? No; in a moment, and then forever with the Lord. Thus close the words of comfort to the young converts at Thessalonica.
What is next, or what will follow after the church is taken away to be with Christ? Let us read and mark the order. Chapter v., " But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you." All dates, or times, or seasons do not directly concern the church. She will have been taken away before those future times and seasons begin their course. A knowledge of this would preserve men from all the vain fixing of dates. The apostle shows us that all these refer to the world, and not to us. " For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they [not ye] shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."
Thus nothing could be more clear as to the order of events: the Lord comes in the air for His saints, those that sleep in Him are raised first; then we who are alive and remain unto His coming, are changed and caught up to meet the Lord, and to be with Him forever. This realizes our blessed hope—our full, entire, everlasting comfort. Then comes the solemn warning to the world—the clay of the Lord. This terrible day of the wrath of almighty God had long been foretold by all the prophets of the Old Testament, as ushering in the blessing of Israel, and the kingdom of God on the earth. The Lord Jesus has described this time of tribulation such as never was; and then the immediate coming of the Son of man in judgment. (See Matt, xxiv, xxv.)
And all this will come as a thief in the night, yes, in that appalling midnight darkness of this poor world, the Lord will come, and be as little expected by the world as was the flood in the days of Noah, or the fire that fell upon the doomed cities of the plain, in the clays of Lot. Is not all this foretold by the very lips of Jesus? There needed no fresh revelation as to all this. But the clear young converts need to know that they are not of that midnight darkness. They are not and will not be in it, thus to be overtaken. No, it is the poor world, deceived by Satan, and looking for its golden age of lawlessness, crying peace and safety, even up to its sudden destruction by the coming of the Son of man.
It may be asked, How can men be crying peace and safety, in such a time of tribulation? Is it not so in principle at this very moment? Misery and distress of nations are increasing every day, such as no human mind can deal with—and, yet men never boasted more of the golden time as coming. But the young converts did need to be told that they were not of this scene. We are not of that world which is hastening on to its midnight darkness and awful judgment: " Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness." Is it not a fact that many, who profess to be Christians, are working and toiling and devoting their energies as if they were of the world, and they or their children had to stay here forever? Oh read these solemn warnings, lest you find you have deceived yourselves, and are left in this, in your world's midnight darkness, to perish forever, when you hear those words: " Depart from me, I know you not."