1 Thessalonians 4 (5)
Pray Psalm 24.3-5.
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17.
1. Why should meditating on the return of the Lord be a source of comfort and encouragement for believers?
2. How should Christians use the coming of the Lord to encourage one another?
Jesus is coming again. We don’t and can’t know when (Acts 1.7). But that He is coming to gather us unto Himself forever is the consistent teaching of the New Testament. We can’t know the time or the details of His return, except insofar as the Scriptures reveal them. Paul intended these words to be a source of comfort and encouragement for believers. Naturally, we have used them to create contentions and divisions in the Body of Christ. The problem arises when we try to be more specific than Paul in understanding his words.
So what precisely can we know about the Lord’s return, from this passage? First, He will emerge into sight from the heavenly realm (v. 16; cf. Rev. 19). That descent from heaven will be accompanied by a great shout and a trumpet blast, presumably, a shout and trumpet blast that all the earth will hear (v. 16). No one will not know when Jesus returns.
Next, those who have died in the Lord will rise from the dead and be glorified in their eternal bodies. They will be immediately followed by those who are yet alive and in Christ. Together they will rise to join Jesus as He returns (vv. 16, 17). John carries this forward beyond where Paul stops, to explain that all the redeemed and saved will return with Jesus. You can read about this in Revelation 19.
The word translated air (ἀέρα) refers to the spiritual realm, the place inhabited by saints and angels. The coming of Christ introduces us to a new quality of life, which both John and Peter further elaborate to include a spiritual life that is fused with a new creation, of our bodies and of the cosmos (2 Peter 3, Revelation 21). Its primary feature, however, is that it is a spiritual domain where spiritual beings live, and where those whom Christ gathers to Himself will dwell with Him always. The new heavens and new earth, according to Peter and John, will be physical places, such as we are familiar with now, but above all, places where spiritual beings, whatever else they are doing, commune with God and one another always (v. 17).
What an exciting prospect! It behooves us to meditate often on the coming of the Lord, and to be encouraged and comforted by the promise of His coming and all that accompanies it. This life is only partially true and real. We should expect hardship, sorrow, and tribulation here. But not there. Not where we dwell in glory with Jesus, Who is coming again for us soon.
Truly, these are words we should use to encourage one another as often as we can.
1. How do these words encourage you? What do they encourage you to do?
2. How can you make meditating on the return of the Lord a more consistent part of your spiritual disciplines?
3. How can meditating on the return of the Lord help us in preparing for that event?
And do not marvel that the flesh of the saints is to be changed into such a glorious condition at the resurrection as to be caught up to meet God, suspended in the clouds and borne in the air. Indeed, the same apostle, setting forth the great things which God bestows on them that love him, says, “Who shall change our vile body that it may be made like his glorious body.”It is in no way absurd, then, if the bodies of the saints are said to be raised up in the air, seeing that they are said to be renewed after the image of Christ’s body, which is seated at God’s right hand. Rufinus of Aquileia (345-411 AD), A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 46
Come quickly, Lord Jesus! And help me to prepare for Your return by…
Pray Psalm 24.
As you pray, let the Lord speak to you about your readiness to meet Him. Open all the “gates” of your soul to receive Him with greater fullness and power.
Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 24 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
The earth is the Lord’s, as is all it contains;
the world and its peoples He daily sustains.
He founded it fast on the seas long ago,
and bid gentle rivers throughout it to flow.
Oh, who may ascend to the Lord’s holy place?
And who may appear to His glorious face?
All they who are clean in their hearts and their hands
and true in their souls with the Savior shall stand.
A blessing all they from the Lord shall receive
who seek Him and on His salvation believe.
For these are His people, the children of grace,
who earnestly, eagerly seek for His face.
O lift up your heads, all you gates of the soul,
for the Savior would enter and render you whole!
The Lord strong and mighty in battle draws nigh;
He rules in His glory above us on high.
O Who is this King, Who approaches our gate?
His might is before us, His glory is great!
This King is the Lord of all glory above,
Who comes to indwell us in mercy and love!
T. M. Moore
Where do 1 and 2 Thessalonians fit in the unfolding of God’s covenant? Our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, can help you understand the setting of all the books of the Bible, and how they fit into God’s unfolding plan of redemption. Watch the brief video introducing this course at The Ailbe Seminary (click here), then plan to register after January 1 in our Certificate in Kingdom Studies program, featuring Introduction to Biblical Theology.
Forward today’s study to some friends, and challenge them to study with you through this series on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each week’s lessons will be available as a free PDF download at the end of the week. Get a copy for yourself and send the link to the download to your friends. Plan to meet weekly to study Paul’s ministry and prepare for your own.
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