Wow, what a ride! Weeks ago we launched into America, Israel and the Church. We spent time considering how to move forward in America as Christians, we looked at what is happening (and what is to come) in Israel, and we’ve turned our gaze toward the church. More than ever before, it is time for Christians…the church or the body of Christ…to be ready for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So, for several days now, we have been in 1 Thessalonians, learning from Paul as he instructed new believers how to live in the last days so to be rapture ready! Yesterday’s lesson, Rapture: The Hope of His Coming, put us right in the thick of Paul’s teaching about what happens at the rapture. Review yesterday’s lesson before moving into today’s, as it is really one lesson split in two!
Yesterday, we created a list of things that must occur prior to the end of the world as we know it. All are either done, well underway, or the stage is fully set. Many of those events happen in the tribulation, after believers are snatched away in the rapture! So, what we know is this: when you see Christmas decorations hung in the mall, you know Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Believers, the signs of the tribulation are all over the place, so the rapture is very close at hand!
In Matthew 24:15-31, Jesus talked about His Second Coming (which occurs after the tribulation), then He backs up in Matthew 24:32-41 to talk about the rapture. There is an entire Bible study to be taught in that chapter, but that’s for another time! Instead, given the context of all He says will happen in the last days, focus on verse 33. He says, “…when you SEE all these things, recognize that He is near…” Friends, we are living in the only generation in history to actually SEE the signs listed in yesterday’s lesson come to pass! This is the most exciting time imaginable to see Bible prophecy fulfilled!
We’re going to back up and take a running start into today verses. Please read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Yesterday’s study covered verses 13-15, where we rejoiced that the dead in Christ will rise first at the rapture. Now, let’s move into verse 16.
- According to the first phrase, who is coming for us?
- Does this align with Philippians 3:20?
What three things will be heard as the Lord descends from heaven? How does 1 Corinthians 15:52 describe the event?
The shout of the Lord is the Greek word keleusma (or keleuma), meaning a cry of incitement, to rally an army, to issue a command. It is a battle cry! Let’s go fight this battle and WIN! Interestingly, Jesus already won the battle at the cross, but He has been awaiting His Father’s command to return for those He has saved. If you have children, do you recall the anticipation of the birth of your firstborn? The excitement, the energy, the “I can’t wait” moments! Multiply that by an infinite Savior who died for our sins and can’t wait for our arrival to our heavenly home! That is keleusma!
The archangel (typically identified as Michael, the warring angel, in Scripture) adds his voice. He’s been leading a heavenly host in the spiritual battles and must be really excited to see his battles pay off! Then, there is the trumpet sound of God. I wonder if that is God the Father blowing the victory horn for the coronation day of the saints! This is sanctified imagination, as we simply don’t know the specific details. But we do know it is a BIG DEAL when Jesus returns for us!
Verse 17 tells us that, once the dead in Christ are risen, we who are alive will follow and, together, we will forever be with the Lord! I encourage you to stop right now and read straight through 1 Corinthians 15. It is a full description of the resurrection and rapture. However, if you can’t read the whole chapter, please read at least verses 50-56.
- According to that passage, what is the mystery?
- What gets “put on” during the rapture? What do you think that means?
- Finally, we get to jab Satan in the eye! What words are used in verses 54-55?
- What is God’s promise in verses 56-57?
Yes, the rapture is the great escape! Our ticket out of a world damned by hatred and evil. Our ticket to our eternal home with Jesus! We are reminded of that in these verses:
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (We haven’t even gotten there yet!)
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (We’ve been here before!)
- Revelation 3:10
God’s promises hold true! For that reason, verse 18 instructs us to encourage one another with these words. Do you believe Jesus is really coming for us? Do you believe we will spend eternity with Him in a place called heaven? If so, who will you encourage today?
There’s so much more, study friends! We’re about to consider 7 reasons the church will not go through the tribulation, so stay tuned!