The Return of Christ | Devotion #5: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NKJV)
“When will Christ return?” is a question I have been asked numerous times through the years, and it is a question that has sparked much debate throughout the church age. But we are going to settle it right here and right now. Are you ready? No, I am asking you, “Are you ready?” That is the answer; be ready! The answer to “when is Jesus coming back?” is to be ready for Him to come back at any time.
Jesus said, “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13 NKJV).
He also said, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 NKJV).
Pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, Mc-Rib (lol), are all (except for that last one) ways of talking about when exactly Christ will come. The “pre-trib” view (which also happens to be the right view, haha) says that Jesus Christ will appear before the tribulation period (described in detail in Revelation chapters 6-19) to take all believers out of the world and into Heaven to be with Him forever. The “mid-trib” view says that Jesus will appear during the tribulation, taking all believers out of the world and into Heaven before the wrath of God being poured out on the whole world during the last 3 1/2 years of the 7-year tribulation period. The “post-trib” view says that there is no taking of believers to Heaven, but that Christ will come back to Earth at the end of the tribulation period and rule and reign forever.
Now, we can debate these views, we can argue our points, but the truth is, no one knows when He will come. That is what He said. He said He would come at an hour we do not expect Him. But hear this, “He is coming.” We can be sure about that.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 we have an interesting situation. It seems that the Thessalonian believers were very troubled concerning the return of Christ. It is clear from this passage and many others that the early Christians lived their lives expecting that Jesus would return at any moment. They understood that when He returned, they would be “changed.” They would immediately put on a “new heavenly body” if you will, to enter Heaven. But then the question, what about their loved ones who died long ago? What would happen to them? Will they be “changed” or are they just tough out of luck? Paul’s words to them assure them that Christ has no problem raising their deceased (“sleeping”) loved ones at His coming. We will all be together when He comes. It was meant to comfort them, and it did.
There are two things we must understand and agree on regardless of where you land on eschatological (end times) debates. First, Christ is coming. Do not forget that or lose sight of it. Second, He can come at any moment. It will be at an hour we do not expect.
These were the realities that the early Christians understood. Day by day they looked for His coming. The Bible tells us that this is right and good for us as His people. 1 John 3:3 (NKJV) says, “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Jesus said, “Surely I am coming quickly.” and so we say with Apostle John “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20 NKJV).