“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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thess. 4:17-18 NKJV
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
Do you want to know truth? Be able to discern lies? Know how to figure it all out in these confusing times and have peace? The Bible says Jesus is the truth. I have experienced it and it has changed my life. I was once a hot mess of sin, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and so much more. But I was lost and when I could not find my way, or find a truth, I numbed it with bad choses. When I found Jesus, and truth – I found peace and deliverance from those things.
If you want a relationship with God without truth you will get the counterfeit, hypocritical Christianity that has kept some of you away for too long. You need truth and relationship. You need to be honest with yourself and God (including honest repentance) and God will reveal truth to you. It becomes the two way, interaction that your relationship with God is built on. This is why Jesus is called the truth, because he is our only way to the Father.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen
Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen
Today’s reading is the Book of First Thessalonians chapter 4 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV).
Plea for Purity
4 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who[a] has also given us His Holy Spirit.
A Brotherly and Orderly Life
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.
The Comfort of Christ’s Coming
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen [b]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 [c]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 [d]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.
a. 1 Thessalonians 4:8 NU who also gives
b. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Died
c. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 Or through Jesus sleep
d. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Dead
MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
It almost seem Paul intended to end the letter with the prayer we concluded with yesterday. I am so thankful he didn’t because in the next two chapters he sheds light on a concept we think is prophetic and new (because this is the first time it is taught like this in the Bible). However, it would seem, Paul only mentions it in part because it is just a standard part of the basic gospel message. (And better understanding of why Paul said he was accused of preaching an afterlife where the dead are resurrected.) Since modern Christianity (and basic Gospel message) is robbed of this truth – this may be a confusing and even scary concept – the Rapture. Also back then there was only one ‘interpretation’ of it. But God permitted most of the details to slip away over time, so no one can know the day or the hour – but we can all see the signs of the time.
The last two chapters are instructional and have 3 easy points: First work hard, second is be sexually pure, and third is have a different perspective on life (and death).
Paul has a difficult task when speaking against sexual impurity – sex was a part of temple worship of the pagan gods AND some of these new believers were OWNED slaves in the sex industry. They cannot of their own free will stop participating in sex. This situation was handled gently – one on one with those women helping them to cope and handle their plight – and tried to raise funds to free them.
God called the Jews to be different, giving them food and cleanliness laws – same with the Christians, but our cleanliness rules are to give our whole self to Jesus and not look or act like people of Rome and the world. So these sex slaves would stop dressing promiscuously outside of work, they slowly were transformed in their personal time. BUT it was also known that Paul was not writing about the slaves and their predicament.
Just like you and I, when we first became Christians, we continued to participate in certain things that later God revealed to us were a sin. Some things we knew straight away and repented of. Others took time.
When I returned to God, I would leave church, get in my car and light a cigarette – I needed deliverance. Some sins, we know are sins but are helpless against until we are delivered.
In Thessalonica as well as all over the Roman world – people with means opted to be lazy, laying around having sex and discussing philosophy. And they would participate in pagan temple sex.
In today’s reading we see (in verses 1-12) the instruction to work hard and be sexually pure mixed together – obviously addressing those who participated in the lazy part of Roman culture. Besides it being fashionably to participate in this – Christian new Jesus was returning soon, so some thought, as some do today, they can just sit around waiting for him (they missed the parable of the brides and their oil lamps).
So, what about people then, and now, in relationships presumably having sex (and/or living together), who come to Jesus to build a relationship. If Christ like love, sexual purity and hard work are what are supposed to define Christians and set them apart unto God, what do we do about newbies in this complicated sin? One of which Paul did not tolerate (mostly because it was ritualistic pagan sex to false gods – but the Bible says what it says). Marriage, family, purity and relationships are important to God.
I knew a lady with three small kids, going through a divorce, dating another man and someone in her drug and alcohol rehab introduced her to Jesus gets her into a church. Within a few weeks of her attending church she brings a man and her children with her and everyone assumes it is her husband, especially because of how young the children are. This man was not even the same man from two weeks ago and is not her husband. But everyone seems to like him so she moves in with him. A little later the leadership learns they are not married and confronts them. Well, they moved in together while waiting for her divorce to be final. What does leadership do with a complicated mess, legally joint property and splitting the sinful couple would complicated. Can’t marry them as she is still married and in process of a divorce. There are three small children entangled.
Step one is to inform the couple of what is right and wrong – give the scriptures so the Holy Spirit can work on them – ONLY God knows the right path to clean up the messes of sins. That was done in this situation. Then the couple was told they must marry as soon as legally possible. They did. And all is well? No, years later the man sexually abused the children. Maybe in this case marriage wasn’t right, they didn’t have time to get to know the man to learn these things. Maybe sexual sin was a spiritual stronghold and deliverance was needed, not marriage.
At the same time, there was another woman with a similar situation, older children. She was already divorced. So they got married. They are married to this day and had children together and now grandchildren – they are a beautiful family. In that case it worked.
And I know of a man who met Jesus and moved out of his place with his girlfriend. They tried to keep dating but even though she was at first receptive to Jesus, she did not stay in the church or with the man.
Paul is not speaking of these situations. Relationships without Jesus are messy and complicated and breaking up is NOT always the right answer, and staying together and getting married is NOT always the right answer. Yet as a new Christian, in any situation, we must make every effort to get to the part where we are separated to God with our behaviors acting Christ-like, working hard, and being sexually pure. Paul was addressing the people who were not making that effort. And Paul concludes with:
“Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” Verse 8
Therefore those who continue in sexual sins willfully – they are ejecting the Holy Spirit and like Paul says, we cannot tolerate and keep them among us. Just make sure, before you cast someone out, that you have tried every loving option God has available. Including deliverance. If you haven’t laid hands on them and tried to free them, then you are missing the point – God wishes none shall parish. Try everything first, if they still reject God, send them back to their own kind.
And let’s speak of work, briefly. God made us to work – to manage the earth and the Garden of Eden. So why do we act as if work is an affliction put upon us by the curse of sin? We need to correct our view of work. Our work should be part of how we worship God. God includes that we are not to be busy bodies. We are not to be lazy, but work hard. I myself used to often witness to people on breaks. When I was accused of doing it during working time I did defend myself and explain I was punched out on lunch. This I withdrew and:
“aspire[d] to lead a quiet life, to mind [my] own business, and to work with [my] own hands, as we commanded you, that [I might] walk properly toward those who are outside, and that [I] may lack nothing.” Verses 11b and 12
Living righteous is more important and impactful than any words you can say while robbing time from your employer. God will open doors when the timing is right. Don’t be tempted to walk through open doors when the timing is wrong.
The third point – different view of life (and death) continues into the reading of the next chapter (Monday’s reading) So we will discuss more there as well, but let’s do a brief overview of the idea here.
First, the concept of the rapture is NOT an escapism theology, according to Paul’s belief. He is not waiting around to escape, not is he thinking we will escape hardship, as Paul just ran for his life a second time after forming this church, when he is writing this. The idea of the rapture was not about how we die and leave this life – but how we live while we are here and how we mourn losing others.
I know a Pastor in a Church in New Jersey who: “#LookingUp” all the time. He shouts Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! He lives a life that is kingdom minded and looking forward to the catching up of the saints. It seems the Thessalonians were being fed some lies about some areas of this greater overall teaching. So Paul only gives us the corrections and not the complete theology.
When we die, our bodies go into the ground, but we are present with Jesus! Some take this to mean they cannot be cremated, and what about those Christians who were eaten by lions and burned at the stake? God is capable of healing the living, can He not put the dead back together? Is anything impossible for Him who created everything?
So when Jesus returns those who are dead get their bodies back first and then we join them in the sky.
I have heard people tell me that the rapture does not mean Christian get caught up (like it literally says here) but that the evil people are snatched away so only the pure remain. I am serious – this is a teaching that is going around right now. If people believe that they will be left behind. And sadly they will then think they are the righteous and the enemy will have a hay day with that! God forbid, in the Name of Jesus! Amen!
We must be so very careful that we look at the entire Bible and understand. In Matthew we read Jesus’s words about two I the field and one will be caught up and two in bed and one will be caught up… the same word “caught up” is used here by Paul. And it is the Greek word were we get the word “Rapture” from.
As scary as this strange concept of floating up and dead people rising, might be – as humans we usually fear the unknown – we must not focus on that. That is not the point. The point is not HOW we get to Jesus – the point is that He is coming for us and we will join Him. The point is to NOT fear death because it means we join Him and see our loved ones again. It means we celebrate the lives of our loved ones who transitioned on ahead of us. I means we miss them, but have confidence, more than just hope, that we will see them again. And it means it is all the more urgent that we share the gospel (including the rapture) with others – or they might ended up missing out and in eternal damnation – not caught up with Jesus and not to be seen again.
This is our encouragement – because we are to be kingdom minded – heavenly minded.
“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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Verses 17-18
Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!