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1Thessalonians 4:13-18

Thursday Evening Bible Study

October 5, 2017


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 3300 words   Video = 75 wpm


Video:  The Bible Project – 1Thessalonians

There would be three areas where Paul would be challenging the Thessalonians to grow in.  First was in holiness, then in love, and now in their hope of Jesus’ return.

4:13-18 The Rapture

:13 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.

wantthelo – to will, have in mind, intend

ignorantagnoeo – to be ignorant, not to know; not to understand, unknown

sorrowlupeo – to make sorrowful; to affect with sadness, cause grief, to throw into sorrow

:13 I do not want you to be ignorant

The concern was about the folks who had become believers, but had died.

These folks might have died from natural causes, disease, or even the persecution that had come on the church.
The church was concerned over what their fate was.

:13 those who have fallen asleep

asleepkoimao – to cause to sleep, put to sleep; metaph.; to die.

The verb is a “perfect” tense, meaning that the action happened in the past and has results continuing on into the present.

In the New Testament, death for a Christian is compared to “sleep”.


What happens at death

There are some groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses that teach a doctrine called “soul sleep”.
They teach that when a person dies, their soul goes to sleep in their body and stays in the grave until the resurrection.

The Bible doesn’t teach this.  It’s not the soul that sleeps, it’s the body that looks like it’s asleep.

The Bible teaches that when a person dies, their soul separates from their body.
While the unbeliever’s soul goes to hell, the believer’s soul goes immediately to heaven.  Paul talks to the Philippians about this separation …

(Philippians 1:23b NKJV) …having a desire to depart and be with Christ

To the Corinthians, Paul wrote,

(2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV) We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Until the day of the rapture (we'll talk about this in a minute), those who have already died are in what’s called “the intermediate state”, where their soul is alive, but without a body.

So why does Paul describe death as “sleep”?
1. That’s how the person looks

I’ve done more than my share of funerals and more than a few open caskets.  The person looks asleep.

2. That’s how harmful death is for the believer.

Jesus said that as believers we will not face the eternal death of hell because of Him.

(John 11:25 NKJV) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.


It’s just like naps and growing up.  Kids hate naps.  They detest naps.  They’d rather be up and running around wildly.  But you know you’ve become a mature adult when you grow to love naps.  You can tell a lot about the maturity of a person by how they respond to the suggestion of taking a nap.

Death for a mature Christian should be in a sense something that we look forward to.  After all, it’s when we get to go to be with Jesus.

:13 lest you sorrow as others who have no hope


Our sorrow is different

In my role as a pastor, I see a distinct difference in how a believer handles death versus how an unbeliever handles death.
The unbeliever, if they even attend the funeral, will say things like “They died so young” or “What a tragedy”.

Their focus will be on trying to make sure everyone knew what a good person they were and that they will “live on in our hearts”.

The believer recognizes that it ain’t over yet.

Physical death isn’t the end.

It’s just a doorway that the believer passes through into eternity.

As believers, we certainly have our share of sorrow at a funeral, but our sorrow is for us, for those of us who will miss the person. 

We don’t sorrow for the dead believer, we’re quite happy for them because they’re with Jesus.

Of course, I’m assuming the dead one was a believer.
If they were not a believer, then there is plenty of reason for everyone to sorrow.
A few hours before Dwight L. Moody died, he caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him.  Awakening from a sleep, he said, “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go!” 
His son who was standing by his bedside said, “No, no father, you are dreaming.”
“No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming; I have been within the gates; I have seen the children’s faces.” 
A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle, he spoke again: “This is my triumph; this my coronation day!  It is glorious!”

:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

sleep in Jesus – those who are Christians, but have died.

will bringago – to lead, take with one; to lead by laying hold of, and this way to bring to the point of destination: of an animal; to lead by accompanying to (into) a place; to lead

with him – note that those who have died will be coming “with him”, or, “with Jesus”. They are not in the grave, but “with Jesus”.

:14 Jesus died and rose again

There were some early heresies where some cults taught that Jesus didn’t even have a physical body.

Yet Paul is going to parallel what happened to Jesus with what will happen with to our physical bodies.

Jesus had a real physical body.

His body died, and then it came back to life again.
After the resurrection of Jesus, He was in a physical body.
After we die, we too will one day have a new, physical body.

:14 God will bring with Him

God will bring them “with” Him because after they died, they went to be with Him immediately in heaven.

:15 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.

remainperileipo – to leave over; to remain over, to survive

precedephthano – to come before, precede, anticipate; to come to, arrive at; to reach, attain to

:15 by the word of the Lord

Paul is speaking with God’s own authority.  These aren’t Paul’s ideas, but God’s ideas.

:15 we who are alive and remain

On the day the rapture happens, there will be some of us who will not have died.  We are the ones who are “alive and remain”

:15 will by no means precede those who are asleep

There is a resurrection that will take place at the Rapture.

Those of us still alive at the Rapture won’t get our bodies before (“precede”) those who have already died ahead of us.  We will get our bodies after they do.

:16 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.

:16 with a shout

shoutkeleuma – an order, command, a stimulating cry

It’s a word used to describe a charioteer shouting to his horses, the master of a ship shouting to his rowers, or a commander giving orders to the men in his army.
God Himself will issue a command.

:16 with the voice of an archangel

voicephone – a sound, a tone; a voice; of the sound of uttered words

archangelarchaggelos – archangel, or chief of the angels

An archangel is a “chief” angel.

Though there may be others, we know the name of one of the archangels, Michael (Jude 9; Dan. 12:1)

(Jude 9 NKJV) —9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

Daniel the prophet mentions that one of Michael’s chief responsibilities is protecting the nation of Israel, and that he will be involved in the events at the end.

(Daniel 12:1 NKJV) “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.
That “time of trouble” is the Tribulation period, which we believe will follow the rapture.
Since one of the main issues of the Tribulation is God once again using the nation of Israel, it might make sense that Michael’s voice kicks it all off.

:16 with the trumpet of God

trumpsalpigx – a trumpet.

Some folks have gotten their eschatology confused by trying to tie this trumpet with the trumpets of Revelation.

The book of Revelation speaks of “seven trumpets” being blown during the Tribulation, and since Paul even says in 1Cor. 15:52 that the rapture happens at the “last trumpet”, therefore they conclude that the Rapture happens at the end of the Tribulation.
(1 Corinthians 15:52 NKJV) —52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
One objection: Don’t forget that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians some 30-40 years before the book of Revelation was written.  I’m not sure Paul had those trumpets in mind.

Trumpets are used in the Bible for several things.

They were used to communicate orders to an army, like “advance” or “retreat”.
Quite often they were also used to gather the people, or to gather an army.
Judg. 3:27 – the Judge Ehud “blew the trumpet” and gathered the people together to fight the Moabites.
Gideon “blew the trumpet” and gathered the people together to fight against the Midianites (Judg. 6:34)

I think this idea of “gathering” is what’s in focus with this trumpet.

shall descendkatabaino – to go down, come down, descend

:16 the dead in Christ will rise first

dead in Christ – again, Christians who have died

shall riseanistemi – to cause to rise up, raise up; to raise up from the dead

Those believers who have already died and whose spirits are currently in heaven with Jesus will be the first to receive their new resurrection bodies.


New Bodies

Just like a person couldn’t survive in space without a spacesuit, our current bodies wouldn’t be able to survive in heaven.
(1 Corinthians 15:50 NKJV) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

Our new bodies will be perfectly designed to enjoy heaven forever.

Paul tells us that these new resurrected bodies will be similar to Jesus’ resurrected body.
(1 Corinthians 15:49 NKJV) And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Jesus was able to fly and walk through walls.  I think it’s possible we’ll have similar abilities.

Heaven is not only an amazing place, but we’ll be able to enjoy it fully because of our new bodies.
This 85-year-old couple, having been married almost 60 years, had died in a car crash.  They had been in good health the last ten years mainly due to her interest in health food, and exercise.  When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite and Jacuzzi.  As they “oohed and aahed” the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost.  “It’s free, “Peter replied, “this is heaven.”   Next, they went out back to survey the championship golf course that the home backed up to.  They would have golfing privileges every day and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth.  The old man asked, “what are the green fees?”.  Peter’s reply, “This is heaven, you play for free.”  Next, they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out.  “How much to eat?” asked the old man.  “Don’t you understand yet?  This is heaven, it is free!” Peter replied with some exasperation.  “Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly.  Peter lectured, “That’s the best part...you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick.  This is heaven.”  With that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly.  Peter and his wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong.  The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault.  If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!” 

:17 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.

:17 Then we who are alive and remain

Thenepeita – thereupon, thereafter, then, afterwards

remainperileipo – to leave over; to remain over, to survive

At the rapture, first those who have previously died get their new bodies, then those of us still alive on the planet at that time will get our turn.

:17 shall be caught up together with them in the clouds

togetherhama – at the same time, at once, together

caught upharpazo – to seize, carry off by force; to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly; to snatch out or away.

Some folks poke fun at evangelicals by saying that the word “rapture” doesn’t appear in the Bible.
That’s not quite true. 
They’re just not using the right Bible.  They need to switch to Latin.
Our word “rapture” comes from a form of the word used in Jerome’s Latin translation of this passage.

The actual Latin word is “rapiemur” (future passive indicative first person plural from rapio).

(1 Thessalonians 4:17 VGCLEM) —17 Deinde nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur, simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Christo in aëra, et sic semper cum Domino erimus.

to meetapantesis – to meet one

fromapantao – to go to meet, to meet; in a military sense: a hostile meeting

the airaer – the air, particularly the lower and denser air as distinguished from the higher and rarer air; the atmospheric region


The Rapture

There are a couple of distinctive aspects of this event known as the Rapture.
1. It is sudden
(1 Corinthians 15:51–52 NKJV) —51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

The word “moment” (atomos) comes from a word where we get the word “atom”.  It’s a moment of time that can’t be cut in two or divided.

The word “twinkling” (rhipe) is a rapid movement like the throwing of a spear, the casting of a glance, or blinking.

We blink so fast that most of the time we don’t notice our own blinking.

Think of sitting in church listening to the boring guy up front.  Your eyelids get heavy and you give yourself a strong blink.  But when your eyelids open, instead of seeing me, you find yourself suddenly in the presence of Jesus.

When the rapture happens, it happens quickly.
2. It is unexpected
There is one aspect of the Lord’s coming that will be completely predictable.  Jesus said,

(Matthew 24:15–16 NKJV) —15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

The abomination of desolation is a future event that takes place in the middle of the Tribulation where the antichrist will enter the Temple in Jerusalem and declare that he is God.

The prophet Daniel tells us that when this occurs, there will be 1290 days until Jesus returns. (Dan. 9:27; 12:11)

(Daniel 9:27 NKJV) —27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

(Daniel 12:11 NKJV) —11 “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.

And yet, despite this predictability, there is another aspect of the 2nd coming that is unexpected. Jesus said,
(Matthew 24:36–42 NKJV) —36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
How could His coming be predictable, and yet unpredictable?

There are two separate events.

The Rapture will happen suddenly and unexpectedly before the Tribulation occurs.  Jesus will snatch away His church.

The Full Return, which takes place at the end of the Tribulation, is when Jesus returns with us to conquer His enemies and establish His kingdom on earth. It will happen like clockwork after an event in the middle of the Tribulation period (the abomination of desolation).

:17 we shall always be with the Lord

Along with our believing loved ones, we will be in heaven with Jesus during the seven year Tribulation period, and then be with Him when He returns to conquer the earth and set up His kingdom.


The Best Part

Whether it’s through death or in the rapture, the best part of all of this is that one day we will be with Jesus.
One of my favorite stories that I love to share at the funerals of believers of my parents’ generation is this one.
The Sailor and the Lady
John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn’t, the girl with the rose. His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library.  Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.  In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner’s name, Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and effort, he located her address. She lived in New York City.  He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond.  The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II.  During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail.  Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding. Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like. When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting - 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York.  “You’ll recognize me,” she wrote, “by the red rose I’ll be wearing on my lapel.” So, at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he’d never seen. 
I’ll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:  A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive.  I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose.  As I moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips.  “Going my way, sailor?” she murmured.  Almost uncontrollably I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell.  She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes.  The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away.  I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own.  And there she stood.  Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle.  I did not hesitate. My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her.  This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be grateful.  I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment.  “I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?”  The woman’s face broadened into a tolerant smile.  “I don’t know what this is about, son,” she answered, “but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!”

Our relationship with God is a lot like this.  We have only gotten to know Him by His letters.  But there will be a day when we SEE Him face to face. 

(Isaiah 25:9 NKJV) And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

:18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

comfortparakaleo – This word has more than just the simple idea of “comfort” to it. It means – to call to one’s side, call for, summon; to admonish, exhort; to beg, entreat, beseech; to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort; to encourage, strengthen

:18 comfort one another with these words

I’ve changed my view on what Paul meant by these words over the years.

Though there is some measure of comfort that comes knowing that Jesus could come at any time and rescue us from this messy world, I’ve come to think that’s not the comfort that Paul is talking about.

Have you lost a loved one who is a believer?

Here’s your comfort – you WILL see them again.
They are with Jesus right now, and you will one day be with them as well.