The Absent Apocalyspe

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  4 : 13
Subject: Rapture; End Times; New Year
Series: Ready to Live - Ready to Leave
Introduction

The Mayan calendar dominated our news for the past year or two. The world, some predicted, would end on December 21, 2012. Some more familiar with the Mayan calendar stated that 5,000 year calendar is actually a lot like our annual calendar. It ends, then it starts all over again, but that fact did not keep some people from jumping on "The End of the World" bandwagon. Those of us who know scripture knew from the beginning that December 21, 2012 could not be the end of the world. Why? It couldn't be the end because everyone was expecting it to be the end! Jesus said, "In an hour that you think not, the Son of Man will come!" He will come like a thief in the night. We not supposed to get ready for Him to arrive - we are supposed to BE ready at all times for His arrival. Jesus is coming again! The world will change forever on that day. No, that will not be the end of the world, at least not for a few more years. In the end, a new heaven and new earth will appear.

Since the dreaded "end of the world" did not occur, we must look forward to a New Year. Yes, God could step in at any time to fulfill His promises, and for that reason we must live each day doing faithfully those things that honor Him. We can, and we should, commit 2013 and everyday in this year to loving, praising, serving and sharing Jesus. Just maybe, Jesus will return in this New year.

A little boy had been to church and heard the preacher talking about such an upward journey. The next week he went with his father to a large building in downtown Atlanta. The elevator shot up at lightening speed. It past the fifth floor, then the tenth, it shot past the fifteenth floor, rising like a jet - up, up, up it went. As the elevator roared passed the fiftieth floor the little boy looked over at his dad, gulped and asked, "Daddy, does God know we coming?" The question is, "Do we know that HE is coming?" Well, He is coming, whether everyone knows it or believes it.

We come now to 1 Thessalonians 4:13 through chapter 5. In this section we are made to consider four great truths.

1. The Resurrection

The resurrection of all believers who have died from the time of Christ’s resurrection is promised in these verses. The Thessalonians where troubled about those Christians who were dying. Were they going to miss the coming of Christ. Paul assures them that the dead in Christ will be raised when the Lord comes in the air for His children. (vss. 14-16)

2. The Rapture

The rapture of living believers remaining alive when He comes is also presented here. As the dead in Christ are raised with new bodies, living Christians will instantaneously be given new bodies and will be caught up on clouds. This is called the rapture. The word comes from the Latin translation of the New Testament word which means to be caught up. (vs. 17)

3. The Reunion

The reunion of both the resurrected and raptured saints with each other and with the Lord is shared. All believers, those resurrected and those alive when He comes, will be caught up to be with Christ forever. (vs. 17)

4. The Reward

The reward of all believers at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ is not taught here, but is taught in other places. The reward event is referred to in 2:19-20 and is referenced in 1 Corinthians 3:12f. and 2 Corinthians. 5:8f.

No one understands everything in this passage. It reminds me of a story about D. L. Moody. He once said, "I am glad there's a depth in the Bible I know nothing about, for it shows its Divine authorship. A man once came to me with a very difficult passage and said, `Mr. Moody, how do you explain that?'

I replied, `I don't.'

`But how do you interpret it?'

`I don't interpret it.'

`Well, how do you understand it?'

`I don't understand it.'

`What do you do with it?'

`I believe it!'"

That is what God calls on us to do with the promise of His return – Believe it!'"

I want us to focus our attention of the reason why so much is mentioned about the coming of Christ for the saints in the New Testament. In a book entitled "Just As He Promised," the author states that the coming of Jesus is mentioned in the New Testament over 200 times. This is an oft repeated theme and is seen in almost every New Testament Book. The question is, why? Why did the Lord feel it necessary to present this theme again and again. I want to show you three reason why the Lord wants us to keep His return on our minds.

I. Our Encouragement in View of the Coming of the Lord  - Attitude 4:13-5:5

The Christian life is a good life, a rewarding life and a blessed life; however, one would not call it an easy life. It is a life of giving, sacrifice, work, commitment, dedication, and in some parts of the world, ridicule. There are many encouragements which the Lord has given us in His word and one of those is the promise of His coming. In Titus 2:13 the promise of His coming is called the Blessed Hope. The word Hope means assurance and confident expectation of some coming event. The word Blessed means precious, something divinely bestowed. So, the Blessed Hope is a precious promise from God regarding the assurance of His coming given to His saints to encourage them!

A. To Encourage Us In Our Believing

God tells us of the coming of His dear Son to encourage us in our believing. God is desirous that we not be ignorant on this subject. He wants us to believe it. He calls it the Blessed Hope. Just as you believe He died. Just as you believe He rose. Therefore, you are to believe He is coming again! This is important to the Lord and should be important to us. Why? Because it serves to encourage our hearts. It serves to lift our spirits. It keeps us focused on what is truly important.

B. To Encourage Us In Our Grieving

The Bible never says that Christians do not grieve when death occurs. Surely we do! But the Bible does teach that the believer is not to grieve like the rest of the world. Why? Because we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We know our loved ones are with Him now – if they died in Christ. So, we do not grieve like those who have no hope.

C. To Encourage Us In Our Leaving

We are to be encouraged about our own departure. Death is but a sleep to our body and a delivering of our soul to God. The rapture, the coming of the Lord, will bring us into the immediate presence of Jesus. He is not going to send an angel with a broken wing to get us. He not going to send a great OT prophet to escort us into glory. No! Jesus, Himself, is coming to get us!

Explain that the Thessalonians were confused on this subject. They did not understand it. They thought that those who had died would miss the rapture and not get to be part of it. Paul was telling them that the leaving would be a special event for those still alive and those who had gone on to be with the Lord.

II. Our Accomplishments In View of the Coming of the Lord - Actions 5:6-22

The promise of His coming is to motivate us to accomplish certain things. This has to do with our actions.

The recent apocalypse hype caused many people to do some strange things. Some people chose to live home and gather in some places where they thought they could ride out the problem. Really? How do you ride out the end of the world? Others spent all their money, since they figured they would not need it any longer. Others decided to party one last time. What a hangover they must have now! What are we to do in light of the fact that one day Jesus will return for those who have trusted Him as Savior and Lord?

A. It is Time to Wake Up

We are to be wide awake. The word asleep is used on our text today in two ways. First, it is used to speak of those Christians who have died in the faith. Every Christian who has died as a believer is said to have fallen asleep. This does not refer to soul sleep, but rather refers to the tranquility of death for a Christian. Sleep is rest to the body, but the subconscious is still alive and well. We move while asleep, we dream while asleep, etc. Paul was revealing that a Christian dies and his body sleeps, but he, the Christian, is still very much alive. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

Another kind of sleep in our text and in the New Testament is that of laziness and indifference. At least four times in the New Testament sleeps refers to being a backslidden state. We are to be alert and alive. We are live on tiptoe. We are to keep our eyes open, fixed on Jesus and stirred. Note later in this passage what Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. We are told not to put out the Spirit’s fire. I believe that is what it means to be awake. We are to be on fire for the Lord.

B. It is Time to Dress Up

We are to put on faith, love and hope. This is a triumphant, tremendous triad! This is one of Paul’s favorite illustrations.

Faith speaks of a defense against doubt in our assurance.

Love speaks of a defense against a decline in our affections.

Hope speaks of a defense against a dissolution in our anticipation.

Put on faith, love and hope and defend against the enemy which comes against you and seeks to get you to doubt your faith, to decline in your ardor and to dissolve in your firm expectation of all that God has promised.

C. It is Time to Speak Up

1. Comforting the Saved

We are to speak up in words of encouragement to the believers. Every Christian needs to hear a good word, an uplifting word. There are enough words of discouragement. Share something of the power and peace of God with fellow believers.

2. Cautioning the Sinner

We are to warn those who are lost of the coming day of judgment. When Christ returns, it will be like a thief in the night. He will come quickly and without warning. The lost shall be caught without oil in their lanterns. It is time for us to witness to our friends, neighbors and fellow workers.

The magazine "Christian Truth for the Household of Faith" relates the story of a small boy who was lying on the living room floor playing with his toys. Nearby stood a large grandfather clock. Noontime was approaching, and when both hands of the old timepiece reached 12, the chimes began to ring. As he always liked to do, the little fellow counted each gong as it sounded. This time, however, something went wrong with clock's inner mechanism. Instead of stopping at 12, it kept right on chiming, 13-14-15-16 times. The boy couldn't believe his ears! He jumped to his feet and ran into the kitchen, shouting, "Grandma! Grandma! It's later than it's ever been before!"

Of course, the youngster didn't understand what had happened, but in his excitement he expressed a truth we all would do well to consider. It is later than anyone thinks!

D. It is Time to Clean up

Paul tells us to get rid of all evil. As we think of Christ and His return, we should turn from every known sin and make a new commitment to live as if he were coming – not just today – right now!

We do not know when Christ will come, regardless of what some people say and write. Edgar Whisenant wrote a book entitled "88 Reasons Why Christ Will Return In 1988." Despite the fact that Jesus did not return that year, he wrote another pamphlet predicting with absolute certainty that Jesus would return in 1995. The Mayan calendar scare was just one more prediction that was Wrong! No one knows the time, but we can be ready and we can be steady! We must wake up, dress up, speak up, and clean up - the only way to do all these things is to LOOK UP!

III. Our Development In View of the Coming of the Lord -  Advance 5:23-28

A. The God of Peace

"...the God of peace..."

God wants us to have peace. He is the God of peace. He can give us a peace that goes beyond all understanding. He desires that the promise of His return fill us with peace. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to leave them with peace, not the peace the world gives but His peace. What peace does the world give?

The world offers a peace based on circumstances. However, the peace of the world is hit and miss for most people. If your peace is in your job and you lose your job, you lose your peace. If your peace is in your money and you lose your money, you lose your peace. If your peace is in your children and one of them goes astray, you lose your peace. If your peace is in your health and you get sick, you lose your peace. But, when your peace is in Jesus, you can’t lose it!!!

B. The God of Purpose

"...sanctify you through and through..."

The word sanctify is a word which means to set something apart for a specific and special purpose. God wants us to be sanctified through and through. That means that He wants us to have His purpose running through our entire being. He desires that we are permeated with purpose! He is coming, do His will! He is coming, serve His purpose. He is coming, put all into His hands. He is coming, let Him sanctify you through and through.

C. The God of Power

"...He will do it..."

We cannot have peace on our own. We cannot be sanctified through and through on our own. But He Can Do It! And He will do as we submit to Him. That is what Paul was saying. Turn to Him, submit to Him, look to Him, wait for Him to come on the clouds to take you home!

Conclusion

"What would He find, should He come just now;

A faded leaf or a fruitless bough;

A servant sleeping, an idle plow;

What would He find should He come just now?

What would He find should He come tonight,

Your garment soiled or a spotless white;

Your lamps all burning or with no light;

What would He find should He come tonight?"

When the Prince of Wales was making a tour of some seldom visited areas, he decided to stop at a workman's home. The next day the laborer said sadly, I never expected him, nor did my wife. The house was untidy, and I hadn't even washed. We shall never forgive ourselves. If we had only known he was so near, we would have set things in order and been better prepared to receive him.

The great Prince of Peace may also suddenly appear. Although we know not the exact day or hour, He has promised it will be soon--VERY SOON!

Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ's second coming, Roy W. Gustafson said that in southern England there is a village with the curious name of Tiptoe. It seemed natural to call it that because years ago before paved streets and sidewalks were installed, the muddy condition of the lanes in that area often made it necessary for the people to walk on tiptoe. Gustafson remarked, The child of God who walks the streets of this life faces a similar situation. He is to go forward on the tiptoe of expectancy, not only because of his evil surroundings, but also because he is waiting for Someone who is coming very soon!

The Maya calendar never predicted the end of the world. The entire story was sci-fi hype. But, God does have a calendar, and just as His Son came to this earth "in the fulness of time," He will come again at a time set on God's clock. Let us be ready by knowing Jesus through repentance and faith. Let us be ready by doing those things that honor Him so that no one is ashamed at His appearance.