Friends, I am so excited to dig into this part of our study! I think it’s the part we’ve all been waiting for, so let’s talk about the rapture! The last two lessons were a bit hard-hitting as, like a good father, Paul sternly instructed us how we should live in light of Jesus’s return. Now we get to the “ice cream!” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, review Knowing the Will of God and Awaiting the Return of Jesus.)
We wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come.~1 Thessalonians 1:10
That is our hope and our joy, isn’t it! That Jesus left His heavenly home to die for our sins, then promises to rescue us from the wrath to come…it’s seems too good to be true! But it is! However, the believers in Thessalonica had a hard time believing it, and so do we. Why? Because there have always been opposing voices. Voices that say we’re crazy for believing such a thing. Such was the case in Thessalonica, where pagans (and perhaps even some believers) were saying Jesus was not coming back, or that He had already come back and they had missed it!
That was the reason for Paul’s letters to these newborn believers in Thessalonica. He wanted to set the record straight, and to teach them how to be ready for His coming! The return of Jesus is a comfort for those who know Him, and knowing Him is key to understanding Bible prophecy! What does Revelation 19:10 say?
Ever since the first century, but particularly since the rebirth of Israel in 1948, the world has witnessed the stage being set for Jesus’s return. According to the Bible, the end of this world cannot happen until:
- The nation of Israel is reborn. Done…May 14, 1948.
- Jerusalem is back in the hands of Israel. Done…Six Day War, 1967, and the US proclamation of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel in 2017.
- A revived Roman empire is established. In the works…EU and/or UN could be the foundation, but a revived Roman empire will arise. (This may be after the rapture.)
- The Soviet empire is fractured. Done…1989. Ezekiel 38 identifies ancient names of Russia, not the old Soviet Union.
- A series of peace treaties are made. Began in 1970’s, continues today via the Abraham Accords.
- Jerusalem becomes the focus of the whole world. Becoming truer every day. Jerusalem is and will be a heavy stone that will injure those who try to move it.
- Increased worldwide disasters. Growing more frequent and more severe year-to-year.
- Global economies collapse. Happening now…Middle East (except Israel), European, American and other economies are all unstable at best, collapsing at worst.
- World currencies become electronically based. The cashless society is upon us!
- A Muslim alliance, though led by Russia, attacks Israel from the north. Have you read recent news? The stage is set!
Today’s headlines proclaim the accuracy of Bible prophecy. So, why should we doubt the rapture is soon to come?
Read today’s passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15. That word “ignorant” or “uninformed” is the Greek word agnoeo, from which we get “agnostic.” It means to intentionally ignore…to be intentionally ignorant!
- What did Paul want us not to be ignorant of?
- What do you think Paul means when he says, “…concerning those who have fallen asleep”?
In Thessalonian culture, when someone died, it was final! They believed, like so many today, that once you die, that’s it! You’re done! But as believers, we have great hope, knowing that “asleep” means our bodies may die, but our spirit and soul live forever with Jesus! We need not grieve as those who have no hope! Where is our hope? Yes, in the Lord Jesus Christ…and that hope lives in the promise of resurrection!
Verse 14 explains:
- IF we believe… . If we believe what? (Substitute “Since” for “If” and it will make more sense!)
- Since we believe Jesus died and rose again, what do we know next?
- Yes! He will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep…those who died in Christ before us! (Read ahead to the end of verse 16.)
Glorious!!! Jesus fills us with hope of the resurrection, which, for those alive at His coming, is the rapture!
Now to verse 15. God’s authority is at work here! See those words, “…by the word of the Lord”? When He speaks, we should listen! Check out what Jesus says in John 11:25-26. Do YOU believe this? Paul is invoking the name and authority of Jesus to state the following:
…that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep.~1 Thessalonians 4:15b
To the Thessalonians, he is saying, “Hey, gang! Don’t let anyone deceive you. Those believers who have died in Christ are not simply buried in the ground. They are alive in spirit and soul, living with Jesus, and when He returns to catch us up into the clouds, the bodies of your dead loved ones will beat you to Him!”
The dead in Christ will precede us, but it will all take place in the twinkling of an eye and we will be changed! (1 Corinthians 15:52)
Here is the amazing thing: NOTHING needs to happen first for the rapture to take place! Those things listed above that are still in progress will be in progress until, and perhaps throughout, the tribulation! But we will be spared! We have come full circle…go back up to the top of this post and re-read 1 Thessalonians 1:10! The rapture is that rescue from wrath!
Wow…I would love to press through the last three verses of the chapter, but let’s chew on what we’ve eaten today! I’ll see you right back here tomorrow to close out the chapter!