1 Thessalonians 4:9-4:18
1 Thessalonians 4:9-4:18
1 Thessalonians 4:9-4:18
Good morning church. Open your Bibles with me to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. We got as far as the 8th verse last week, let me just remind you that Paul begins the chapter with the words finally then. Not as his closing, but as a transition between doctrine and practice. Or teaching and showing. Paul transitions to the “so what”, or the so this is what it should look like in our lives.
I’ll tell you what, if you weren’t with us last week, rather than go through the whole thing again, if you would just stand, I identify the sin that Paul says you need to stop doing. No, I’m kidding. But he does say Christian, if you want to know God’s will for your life, it is your sanctification. I hope those that were here, did take the time to do your homework and understand the differences between justification and sanctification. If you were here and completely forgot, start taking notes. Go over the passage and the message again when you have time with just you and God.
Paul tells us that it is God’s will for us that we be set apart for God, that we allow Him to clean us up, to be holy like He is holy, not overnight, but overtime. Practice application number one was that we would abstain from sexual immorality and we talked about what that is, and what it looks like in our lives.
Paul now moves to another practical point of application in our sanctification and he writes in verse 9...
9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
Let’s pray and then we will go through this....
So Paul continues on with this revelation of God’s will for our lives. He desires for us a life a purity. Which in this world is going to show up the most, stand out to others around you the most, in two major areas of our lives. The first is in Sexual purity. If we want to honor God with our sexuality, we will limit our eyes, our minds, and our activities to the covenant relationship of marriage as He established it in the Garden of Eden. We won’t engage in any of it before marriage, or outside of marriage. Within marriage God has blessed it and in the book of Hebrews He says....Heb 13:4
4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
So sexual purity will be a witness to the world, but then he hits on another big one here and that is our love. Jesus said, John 13:35
35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And Paul here just tells us what that should look like…1 Thes 4:9-10
9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;
As Christians, God the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us, the Bible says we are now the temple of God, it also says that God is love. Not that He is really, really good at it, or sets a great example for us, but God is love. So God is in us, and teaching us His children what loving our brothers and sisters looks like. Sometimes it’s through them messing up really big, or really painfully, and us realizing that love is not an emotion, love is a choice. However, He is doing it in your life, if you are a Christian, God is going to be teaching you how to love, just like the Christians in Thessalonica.
So Paul says, I know you know what love is, I know you know how to love each other, he even says you’re doing great at it, even those that are in someone else’s Growth Group, right? All those in all of Macedonia. But, we urge you, we beg you, we earnestly plead with you and persuade you, to grow in that love, and then when you do that, grow in it some more, and then keep growing in it, more and more. That...
11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
Aspire, or are ambitious toward, leading a quiet life…I wonder how many of us could say my testimony to both my brother and sisters in the Lord, and the world around me that doesn’t know Jesus, is that I love God above everything else, and everyone else in my life. I’m cooperating with Him as He sanctifies me, or makes me more and more like Jesus,... more today than I was last week, and more last week than I was in 2022.
I am doing what it takes to remove the drama, to remove the ciaos, to remove the too busy, the over scheduled, over committed, the too engaged in the noise around me to ever listen and hear from the Lord. I’m purging all of that aspiring to lead a quite life. I’m minding my own business. That doesn’t mean isolating and not engaging with my brothers and sisters or even the world around me, but it does mean minding my own business. While still regarding others before myself, it is myself and my business that I’m examining before the Lord, not everyone else’s. I’m not the morality police for everyone else. I’m not the Holy Spirit for everyone else.
I mind my own business, let the Lord sanctify that. And I share the Gospel, the good news about salvation in Christ with the broken, lost world around me…where I work. Where I’m productive. Where I’m not lazy, but carry my weight, and contribute. There is a huge portion of Christianity today that think of themselves as baby birds in a nest that someone else build for them, and they want to be fed big juicy night crawlers all day, everyday. If they get a meal worm now and again, or a minnow, they spit it out, rather than work for themselves.
Paul says lead a quiet life, mind your own business, and work, with your own hands like we commanded you. Why did they have to command it? Maybe there were some baby birds back then? Really, in the Greek culture, it was status when you no longer had to do the manual labor things for yourself, when you could just hire someone else to do it, or give a donation, rather than participate. Things haven’t changed much. Remember, this is all a part of God’s will, all a part of our sanctification, all a part of changing what just comes natural to us, to supernaturally becoming more and more like Jesus, so the world sees that this is real, that Jesus is real.
That’s really what he is saying in Verse 12, 1 Thes 4:12
12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
Those who are outside, not yet Christians. If they see this kind of life in you, this kind of life in the church, they are going to want that for themselves. That’s reason #1, and that you may lack nothing. Remember back in chapter 3 Paul said we were so excited when Timothy came with such great news of your faith and love! But we are praying exceedingly, that we can come see you face to face, so you will be lacking nothing in your faith. So Paul is saying do these things so you represent right to the outside world, and so you will no longer be lacking.
Now Paul transitions to the most exciting part of our chapter, the rapture of the church! How many of you have ever heard that the rapture is something the church made up, or that the word rapture isn’t even in the Bible? Well, they are wrong, and wrong! It was not made up by the church, and they wrong, well maybe a little right on the word rapture not being in the Bible. We get our word rapture from the Latin raeptius. In fact, it occurs in the Latin Vulgate, the original Latin translation of the New Testament produced by St. Jerome, sometime between 383 and 404 A.D. He translated the Latin Vulgate from the original Greek text.
Our New Testament Bible was originally recorded in Greek and directly translated into English. Rapture is not a Greek word, we take it from the Latin, so of course it does not appear in our Bibles. The Greek word Harpazo does however, translated I think in verse 17 as caught up in our English Bibles, is in the Latin Vulgate as rapiemur where we get the word rapture.
I say it is the most exciting part of our chapter, to me, it’s hard to top as a topic in the Scriptures period. When I was a teenager, it was talked about all the time. Pastor’s preached it, they taught it to their churches, they encouraged each other with these words. I remember one of my friends had a bunch of older brothers who where in a Christian rock band. My friend was their only road crew, they’d practice at his house, and I remember meeting the lead singer one day, and as he is introducing himself to me, he asked if “I was in the air man?” I had no idea what he was talking about! But it was this! Was I going to be raptured as part of the church? Was I saved? Anybody middle aged like me remember the Left Behind movies? It seemed like the whole idea was to terrify you into the kingdom of Heaven, but Paul says here, these things are written for us to comfort each other with. Let’s read through it first.
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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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. 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.
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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
I wish we could all meet in our growth groups this week and comfort one another with these words! That we could have discussions about it, answer questions about it. Because for the most part, the church today has stopped talking about it. Mostly because Pastors aren’t sure of their own theology and eschatology, or what they should believe about the end times. There are seminaries today that seem to base their doctrine on whatever the latest blogger say, rather than what the Bible tells us.
I want to read you a couple of different passages first. Listen, don’t get lost in the different references. I know that is easy to do when we are flipping all over the place, that is one of the primary reasons why I try to stick to verse by verse teaching and stay in a chapter. This teaching is a big deal, this topic is a big deal. It is so important, that Paul covered it with this church that he only got to spend a couple of weeks with. So it’s not deep theology that you shouldn’t learn until you’ve been a Christian for a number of years, it’s vital stuff that you should know right now, because I truly believe it affects both the way that we live, and the way that we witness.
So first John 14. This is an awesome chapter of the Bible, one of my favorites. It where Thomas, doubting Thomas had the guts to say, Jesus, we don’t get it. And Jesus responded, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Me, aren’t you thankful for that clarity? The chapter starts the night before Jesus dies on the cross. Jesus is meeting with the Disciples and He says, John 14:1-3
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Why would their hearts be troubled? Because Jesus is going away. He tells them, I’m going away, I’m preparing a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that you can be with Me where I am. So, I’m going, but I’m going to come back to get you, and then we can be together. I know there has been some confusion over this... We get that Jesus is coming back, but as the church we need to understand that there are two, separate and distinct events concerning His return.
The first is the rapture of the church. Think of that as a rescue mission, this is where He receives the church to Himself, and returns to the place that He has prepared for us. The second, is when He comes back with us, the church, to rule and reign for 1,000 years upon the earth, sometimes called the Millennial reign.
So this happened, the next day Jesus is crucified, a couple of days after that, on the third day is the resurrection, He is risen from the dead. He appears to them, hundreds of others see Jesus as the historical record shows. And then in Acts chapter 1, turn there with me.
Jesus has appeared to them, He tells them that they are going to be His witnesses, not just in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, but to the entire world. But He tells them to wait, that they will be given power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, so wait for that, then if we pick up the text in verse 9, Acts chapter 1, verse 9. Acts 1:9-11
9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
So Jesus is coming back, Paul wants them, and us, to be clear about these things. So back in our chapter…verse 13. 1 Thes 4:13
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.
Ignorant here does not mean stupid. If you were ignorant about something, it simply meant that it was unknown to you, you lacked information, you had not been taught, or maybe you didn’t understand or had a question about it. So Paul is saying I don’t want you to not know this. I want you to have understanding about this issue. It is a way that Paul often used in his writing to draw attention to something.
He says, I don’t want you to lack understanding about those who have died in the faith. He uses the words fallen asleep here, but he means died. Not unlike when Jesus was speaking to His disciples about His friend Lazarus. John 11:11-14
11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.
So just as we see Jesus using the terms synonymously, Paul does the same in our text this morning. 1 Thes 4:13
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.
Paul was saying that he didn’t want them to sorrow as others, as the world might, or those that have not been saved have no hope in death, Paul didn’t want them to be like that, so he was going to give them more information. See, Paul, and the Christians in Thessalonica believed that Jesus would return during their lifetime. The Bible presents our faith as one that should be like the one I read about in the book of Acts, that we would be looking forward with expectation. Not that we should always be standing around gazing up into the sky, but that we should be living, preaching, teaching and and looking for the imminent return of Jesus for His church. There is nothing else on the prophetic timeline that must occur before Jesus returns for the church.
So you can imagine, the people in the church, get saved and they are expecting Jesus to return at any time. But then grandpa dies. He was saved, he believed in Jesus, but he died before Jesus came back. What happened to him? Did he miss his chance? Did he miss Jesus?
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
Think of the relief this answer to their concerns would provide. By the way, I think this is another place the bible confirms the deity of Jesus. Even so, God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. Verse 15 1 Thes 4:15
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.
Paul is telling us that this is not a doctrine that the early church developed, it isn’t something that makes sense to him, or is the logical conclusion that he has arrived at, He is saying this came directly from Jesus. I don’t know if it was direct revelation to Paul, or if it was spoken by Jesus and just not recorded in any other place, but he make it clear that it is the word of the Lord.
He continues that we who are alive until the coming of the Lord, Paul includes himself in that, indicating that he certainly believed in the imminent return of Jesus for the church. But then he says those that are still here when Jesus comes back will by no means precede or go before those who are asleep, or have died in Christ.
So if you can imagine the scene of graves opening up. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul tells us to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So those that have died that have placed their faith and trust in Jesus for salvation are already with Him. They are not in the ground. Their souls are not asleep, they are with Jesus. Some believe as disembodied spirits. Some believe, because they are in eternity, and no longer within measured time, that they already have their glorified bodies there, even though within time they have not risen yet, all that makes my head hurt.
But Paul says I don’t want you to be ignorant of this, those that have already died are going up first. So as we read there will be a shout, a trumpet sound, the graves will open. Those that have gone before, their bodies will come together, missing limbs or lungs, will come together, the right pieces and parts all in the right places and they will rise first. Pretty sure the world may notice that. And if they somehow miss that, verse 16 says, 1 Thes 4:16
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.
So Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout. The bible doesn’t tell us what that shout will be, so I won’t speculate on it. There are several ideas about it, so make more sense that others. Christian, don’t worry, you won’t miss it. You won’t wonder if this is it. It will be with the voice of an archangel. Jesus is not an archangel, this could be either describing the shout and the sound of it, or that along with the shout from Jesus, Michael the archangel or perhaps another will also be voicing something. There will also be the trumpet of God sounding at the time. So your noise cancelling headphones aren’t going to cause you to miss the alarm.
The dead in Christ rise first, verse 17 1 Thes 4:17
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.
Then those Christians that are alive at the time, I pray that it is us! We shall be caught up together with them, those that have died in Jesus before us and we will all meet the Lord in the air, and from that moment on, we will never be separated from Jesus for all of eternity. He ends with some more practical application. 1 Thes 4:18
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Notice Paul doesn’t say hey chill out and take comfort in these words. He is giving us a directive. Keep talk of the rapture on your lips. When someone is overcome with anxiety, comfort them with these words. When someone is concerned, or grieving the death of a loved one that knew Jesus, comfort them with these words. Remind them that they will see them again, and will be together with them and always be with the Lord.
We should also live in such a way that our loved ones have no doubt of our salvation, so they can be comforted by these words. When a brother or sister is experiencing a trial, that seems too much to bare, comfort them with these words. Remind them that at any second Jesus may be coming to rescue.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification. If we abstain from sexual immorality. If we grow more and more in our love for one another, considering others before ourselves. Working hard, aspiring to live a quiet life, minding our own business, and live and love like Jesus is coming back for us at any moment. It should affect the way we live and the way we witness. Giving us a greater urgency to share the gospel with those that need Jesus.
Before we pray, I want to once again invite all of you to join us in what we are calling Prayer Week. The prayer part will begin next Sunday morning at our regular 8:30 am prayer meeting. Each day of the week. There will be a theme to our corporate prayer, with suggestions listed for each day to pray for and room for you to add additional requests of the groups you may be praying with.
Beginning Monday, January 16th, there will be at least one of the Elders of the church at 6:00am and at 6:30pm to pray corporately with any of you that would join us. Our midweek service on Wednesday night will be a time of worship and prayer. There are some packets on the back table that show the schedule, or you can go to our website and click on the Prayer Week tab, or you can type in your search engine, oldtowncf.com/prayerweek
Grace and Peace