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In an earlier study in this series we noted that at the end of each chapter Paul made reference to the Second Coming of Christ. Now he addresses the subject in more detail. It seems that many of the believers were distressed (or, at least, curious) about those who had died before the Lord's return. What had happened to them? Were they lost forever? Why was the Lord taking so long to come back? Could it have already happened and we missed it? It was in response to such questions that Paul now teaches some of the most helpful insights on this subject in the New Testament.

The goal of the gospel is the return of the King and the full manifestation of the Kingdom rule of God. This includes the final overthrow of Satan, the death of death and the healing of creation.

[1] THE QUESTION OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN  (4/13-18)

Ignorance is always the enemy of truth and insight. Paul now moves to counter that ignorance, misunderstanding and concern. What he teaches is based upon the historical certainty and absolute assurance of the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we have no hope.        Read 1 Corinthians 15/12-19 for an insight into the centrality of the resurrection and how it undergirds all that we believe.

For this session we will simply note a series of phrases that Paul uses and their significance.

a. Those who have fallen asleep - this is a reference to physical death - see Mark 5/39; John 11/11. The likening of physical death to sleep is appropriate given the temporary nature of sleep

b. Will bring with Him - i.e. they already enjoy His presence - this will be a great re-union!! How can He bring them with Him if they aren't already with Him to bring?

c. The Lord Himself - personal triumphant return of the King as promised in Acts 1/11. Of course, this cannot be true if Jesus didn't rise from the dead.

d. The loud command...the voice....the trumpet - sounds of urgency, power and authority. Some people believe that the coming of the Lord is a quiet, unobtrusive event. Paul's description suggests something akin to spectacular.

e. Dead in Christ will rise - physical event - body will be united with soul/spirit - the end of death because death is separation of material and immaterial - reverse of that is resurrection.

f.) Living will be caught up - sudden, irresistible power of God - we are changed and lifted up to the Lord. Read 1 Corinthians 15/50-58 for a fuller comment on this event and the way we will be changed.

g) To meet the Lord - what a wonderful promise!! See Him face to face and be with Him forever.

NB: v.18 - this truth is for our encouragement, not for debate and division.

[2] THE QUESTION OF WHEN THIS WILL HAPPEN  (Vs.1-3)

a)  Believers of all generations have been fascinated by this question. "When if the Lord coming back?" The more ardent advocates of Second Coming teachers usually subscribe to some special chain of events. The truth is that, in the final analysis, no one knows the day, hour or minute when the He will burst upon this planet. Read Matthew 24/36, Mark 13/32

b)  The imagery of the thief is related to the timing of His coming, not to the 'what' He may or may not do when He returns.

c)  The imagery of the pregnant women also relates to timing. It is the inevitability of an irresitable event.

d) "Peace and Safety" are the code-words known among Christians. But such words were false, temporary expressions of a security that suddenly shatters as the Lord returns.

e) There are no dates or timetables available on this subject - just the safe and sure inevitable return of the king. Yet it seems that we abhor a vacuum and in order to fill the blanks, we just have to go exploring so that those blank areas.

It was the wish of the human heart to know God's heart and to cooperate

(3)  THE QUESTION OF HOW TO BE READY?  (5/4-11)

a) Paul now contrasts a series of comparisons that identify the differences between Christians and unbelievers. Day/Night.   Light/Darkness   Alert/Asleep.

b) Be alert!  Be on guard! Be sober!  It's obvious that we are engaged in warfare. Be protected by the body armour of faith and love. This is the imagery of the sentry on guard duty

Question; We have previously noted the presence and/or emphasis on faith, hope and love in this letter. Can you identify them in this passage and explain the connection e.g. faith as a breastplate. In what ways does faith serve us as a breastplate?

Question: In very practical terms how does one "Be alert"?

APPLICATION:

This great truth of the second coming is meant to serve a number of purposes - and one in particular. According to the following verses, what is that purpose?

1  Thessalonians 4/18          1 Thessalonians 5/11          1 Corinthians 15/58
 

Question: What is the key point that has caught your attention as you have worked your way through this study? Is there some specific action you need to take?

What fits into the following categories if you take the session seriously?

a) Information (knowing)

b) Participation (doing)

c) Transformation (changing)

 

 

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