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The Rapture of the Saints - 14

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
July 18, 2021 7:00 pm

The Rapture of the Saints - 14

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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July 18, 2021 7:00 pm

A proper understanding of the second coming of Christ ministers great comfort to God's people. Pastor Greg Barkman continues his teaching series in 1 Thessalonians.

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Gregory N. Barkman
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Eschatology is the technical term for the study of last things, that is those events that surround the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I probably am not telling you anything you don't know when I tell you that there are widely divergent interpretations of the scriptures that deal with last things and sometimes very heated debates over what is the proper meaning of the text. And today we come to the one of the major passages about the second coming of Christ, this one in the last third of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Now the second coming of Christ, as you remember, is mentioned in every single of the five chapters of 1 Thessalonians, but in the first three chapters it is just a brief reference, a passing reference without a great deal of information. But this extended passage in chapter 4 and another extended one in the first part of chapter 5 go into a great many details.

But as we shall see, they don't provide all of the details that we wish they did, but they do provide a great many that we otherwise would not have. The text before us today in 1 Thessalonians 4, 13 and following describes for us what is known as the rapture of the church or the rapture of the saints. And it is very profitable for us to study it carefully, not only to see what is there, but also to make note of what is not there, and I think both of them are probably equally important in regard to a proper understanding. So we are going to see first of all a problem, second a clarification that will address the problem, third an elaboration which will extend a little bit further the clarification that is given to address the problem, and then number four, an application for this teaching, the only application that the scripture gives us for the teaching of this passage. But we start with an examination of the problem in verse 13, which is the reason for writing all of this section. Paul says, but I do not wish you to be ignorant brethren concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

And the problem is first of all a gap in their understanding and secondly a defect in their behavior based upon this gap in their understanding. A gap in their understanding regarding the fate of believers who have died, evidently saints who had died after Paul's departure from Thessalonica. And now they are wondering what's happened to our departed loved ones. Paul calls them having fallen asleep, a beautiful phrase, a term for death that is found a number of times in the New Testament scriptures, a very common term for the death of a saint. When Jesus said to his disciples, let's go to Bethany to visit the family of Lazarus, he said for behold he sleeps, he sleeps. He died of course and Jesus went to resurrect him but he said he sleeps. When Jesus raised to life the daughter in Mark chapter 5 that had died and Jesus said to the mourners, don't worry she sleeps and they left him to scorn but nevertheless Jesus went in and raised her back to life. Indeed she was sleeping, a beautiful term, a beautiful term. And it indicates that believers who have died are not in agony, they're not in turmoil, they're resting, they are as it were sleeping.

It's a beautiful euphemism to describe the death of the saint and furthermore they're going to awake. Sleep is something that is not permanent, it's temporary. We all enjoy a good night's sleep or maybe I should say we all enjoy it when we get a good night's sleep. I hope we all enjoy a good night's sleep. I hope you're all getting sufficient sleep at night. But when we go to sleep at night we expect to wake up. Occasionally we don't. I've never not and neither have ever you not awakened from sleep but there are times when people will go to sleep and then they never awaken out of that sleep until.

We're going to talk about the time when they do awake. But sleep is a good word to describe the death of a saint and that's the word that Paul uses here. In fact did you know what the word cemetery means?

I didn't until this week. I read it in a book and I said I'm going to check on that and I went to a dictionary to make sure and sure enough cemetery means a sleeping place. It's a term for the place where we lay the bodies of the dead that was given to that location by Christians who believed that their loved ones are sleeping in the grave and in a cemetery.

They are in a place of sleep. But this term sleep of course refers only to the body. We go elsewhere in scripture to find out that when death occurs, what we call death, physical death. When death occurs there's a separation of the body and the soul and the soul goes immediately into the presence of the Lord but the body goes into the grave. The body has as it were gone to sleep. And so Paul tells us elsewhere absent from the body, present with the Lord just like that.

But as far as the body is concerned it goes into the grave and it goes into a sleep, the sleep of death. And so this gap in the understanding of the Thessalonian saints was in relationship to those who had died as well as in relationship to Christ's return and how to put together an understanding of what happens to those who have died in regard to Christ's return. And all of this I think is a very good testimony to their strong focus upon the second coming of Christ. It seems to me that this implies that they were looking for the second coming of Christ with eagerness.

They anticipated it with great joy. They considered it to be a wonderful glorious event, in many ways the climax of their salvation. They were looking forward to meeting the Lord at His return but now some of their loved ones had died.

Are they going to miss this event? Are they going to be denied the celebration that takes place when believers are united with their Lord? Are they going to miss out on the triumph of Christ's return? How are our dead loved ones who died believing in Jesus, how do they relate to this wonderful anticipation of the second coming of Jesus Christ? And so the fact that they had questions like this is in itself a testimony to their focus upon the second coming of Christ. They would probably add a greater focus than many Christians have in our day who seem to forget the importance of this great truth.

But there was the problem of a gap in their understanding and there was secondly, because of this defect in understanding, a gap in their behavior, a defect in their behavior. As Paul indicates that some of them were sorrowing about their loved ones in the same way as unbelievers sorrowed concerning their dead loved ones. And Paul said, I write to you, I don't want you to be ignorant, I've got to fill in some gaps in your understanding, I don't want you to be ignorant, I don't want you to be a knowledgeable brethren concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow like those or as those who have no hope. Now please, and here's a place for careful examination, please do not misunderstand Paul to say that Christians should not grieve for the death of their loved ones.

That's not what he says. What he says is Christians shouldn't grieve in the same hopeless way as unbelievers grieve. It's not the act of sorrowing, it's not the act of grieving, it's not the act of weeping, it's not the act of missing our loved ones that is displeasing to the Lord, that's natural, that's normal.

In fact you would have to wonder what kind of relationship you had with that person if there seemed to be no sorrow, no grief, no concern about their departure, but there is a joyful grief and there is a hopeless grief. And Paul said you need to have a better understanding so that your grief will be God honoring grief, it will be joyful grief, it will be believing grief, it will be anticipatory grief, it will be grief that you know is coming to an end because of a glorious reality that is taking place which you don't fully understand. And this indicates that Paul had not had opportunity to teach them the details prior to this letter that he's now forwarding to them. Many of the other statements that Paul made in here are reviews, they are repetition.

He says I told you this when I was with you, you already know this but I'm going to tell you again. When he comes to this particular section he says now here's something that you don't know because you haven't been taught. So brethren I need to fill in a gap in your understanding. We need to correct this area of ignorance in your theology. And so the defect in the behavior is some were apparently grieving like unbelievers because unbelievers have no realistic hope of the future. The seeming finality of death begets great despair. Unbelievers have no hope beyond the grave. Even if they hope there's something beyond the grave there's no foundation for their hope, there's no reality for it, they really don't have any reasonable way to anchor that hope upon truth because they don't know, they don't have truth, it's just a big blank. And that's why many of the unbelievers we know seem to go into unconsolable sorrow at the death of a loved one because they have no hope.

It's all despair. But Paul said it shouldn't be that way for believers. Believers have a glorious hope called in the Bible the blessed hope. The grave is not the end. A glorious future awaits believers beyond the grave. And an informed mind corrects defective behavior. Some of you are sorrowing like unbelievers, let's give you the truth that will correct this behavior so that in the future you will not sorrow like those who have no hope. That's the problem that Paul addresses. And so we come to the needed corrective.

What is going to correct their improper understanding and behavior? And we have this clarification in verses 14 and 15. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that could be translated and probably should be translated, for since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, it is a certainty that every true Christian believes that. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus. 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. This clarification involves a foundational truth, a subsequent corollary, an authoritative revelation, and a necessary reunification.

Are you ready? First of all, Paul begins with a foundational truth, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again. The foundational truth is the truth, the doctrine of the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus died.

Does anyone doubt that? Jesus took upon himself our humanity in order that he might die. He did that for the very purpose of experiencing death, of undergoing death, of tasting death for his people. He died. But Jesus was also resurrected. He didn't stay in the grave. He came out of the tomb. He conquered death. He came forth with a glorified body, a resurrection body, an eternal body. Paul talks about the two kinds of bodies in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, how that this mortal body cannot put on immortality. This mortal must put on immortality.

There's got to be a change. Our earthly bodies are not prepared for heaven. They are not capable of living for eternity. But Jesus died, just like all of us will die, unless we're in that group that are alive when Jesus returns. Some will be, whether any in here will be or not, only God knows. Some will be, but the experience of 99.99% of the whole entire human race is that we are born and we die. We live in between those two events. But as certain as we are born, as certain as there is a day of our birth, there is also a day of our death.

It comes to all of us just as normal as clockwork, you might say. We love to celebrate birthdays. We're not so keen to celebrate deaths, but that's all part of life, isn't it? We're born, celebrate those birthdays, like Marty and I celebrated the third birthday of our eighth grandchild yesterday. What a joyful event. But one of these days we're going to gather around the casket of some of our loved ones.

If they don't gather around ours first, we don't ever know how that's going to be. And that's part of life as well. We're born, we're died. Jesus took upon humanity in order to die, but he rose again. He came out of the grave.

He was resurrected. And that, all of us agree, is a fundamental doctrine. That's part of the gospel. You're not a Christian if you don't believe that. What's the most condensed statement of the gospel in Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians 15? How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, how he was buried, and what?

Rose again according to the scriptures. That's the gospel. You're not a Christian if you don't believe that.

Listen to me. You're not a Christian if you don't believe that. I never know who may be listening to this by video, by sermon audio or live stream. You're not a Christian if you don't believe that. If you don't believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, then you don't believe the gospel. And if you don't believe the gospel, then you are not a Christian no matter what you may call yourself. So Paul is saying, of course you all believe that. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, that is a foundational truth that underlies all the Christian faith, every Christian person. But he says we need to understand there is a subsequent corollary to that truth that maybe we haven't understood. There's something that is linked to the truth of Christ's death and resurrection, which will be very helpful to you at this point.

What is that? Go back to verse 14. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus. And he's saying, if you believe the one, you shouldn't have any trouble believing the other. If you believe that Jesus died and rose again, you do, don't you?

Amen. If you believe that Jesus died and rose again, then please don't struggle with believing this truth, also revealed in scripture, that Jesus is coming again and will bring with him the souls of the departed saints. It's a subsequent corollary. Since we believe the one, we should also believe the other. Jesus participated in our death so that, and we'll get into this in just a moment, but it all goes together. Jesus participated in our death so that we may participate in his resurrection. Or to put it even more strongly, Jesus participated in our death. Jesus tasted death.

Jesus tasted death for every one of his people, so that every one of his people will also taste his resurrection. Our resurrection is essentially related to Christ's resurrection. United in Christ, we must share in his death. United to Christ, we must also share in his resurrection.

Do you understand that? By the work of the Holy Spirit, we are united to Christ in faith. And united to Christ in faith, we partake of his death. His death becomes our death. His payment for sins becomes our payment for sins. We have entered into his death.

He did that for us, but we receive the benefit of it. We partake of it. We are involved in the death of Jesus. That's part of what we typify when we follow the Lord of Believers' Baptism.

And what do we say? Buried in the likeness of his death, raised to walk in newness of life, right? And if we partake of his death, as we do, we must also partake of his resurrection.

One is just as necessary as the other. We must partake of his death to have payment for our sins. We must partake of his resurrection because united to him in resurrection, it's inevitable that we shall be raised as well. We are united to him.

That's the corollary, necessary corollary. And if you are doubting any of this, please understand this is an authoritative revelation. Verse 15, For this we say to you by the word of the Lord. This is God's word by the word of the Lord.

This is not Paul's personal idea. This is declared by divine revelation. He's simply passing along what has been given to him by God. As an apostle of Jesus Christ, he received direct revelation from God. And he said, I'm telling you this by the word of the Lord. It is as authoritative as if Jesus had said these very words by the shores of Galilee.

And so there is a necessary reunification. 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. Because believers are not only joined to Christ, but they're also joined to one another. How many bodies of Christ are there?

One. Now, there's a separation into two categories, two groups that Paul is referring to here. There are those who have died in Jesus and there are those who are still alive in Jesus.

So that looks like maybe two different groups, two different categories, but keep in mind there's only one body. All of us who are saved are not only united to Christ, but we are also united to one another. And death doesn't change that. Dying doesn't sever our union with Christ. And dying doesn't sever our union with other believers. It doesn't sever our union with living believers.

We're still united to them in Christ. And that's why these two different categories will be united to Christ's return. Don't worry about your dead loved ones missing the return of Jesus Christ. You can be certain they won't because they are as much a part of the body of Christ as living believers and God is going to see to it that they're going to be as much a part of the rapture of the saints as you are. And so we who are alive until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

We're not going to get there before they do and they're not going to get there before we do. So that's the clarification and that should help you not to sorrow as those who have no hope. But then he goes on to what I've called an elaboration of verses 16 and 17, which in many ways just adds some additional details to what he's told us in verses 14 and 15. And so in this elaboration we have Christ's glorious return described. We have the dead saints resurrection declared. We have the living saints rapture explained.

And we have the intended result revealed. Christ's glorious return described, verse 16, For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God. That's the description of Christ's glorious return. It is personal. The Lord himself is not going to send angels to represent him. Angels will be involved, but he's not sending a representative. He is coming himself.

It is personal. This same Jesus, the angel said in Acts chapter 1 verse 11, The same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven will what? Will so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven. This same Jesus. That's what Paul is saying here. The Lord himself.

It is personal. Number two, it is purposeful. The Lord himself will descend from heaven. This is big stuff. Here he is ascended back to heaven, enthroned upon the throne of the universe, where he has been for 2000 years. It must be some pretty big event to cause him to leave again, to leave his heavenly throne, and to descend down to earth.

There must be something huge. There must be a big purpose involved, and indeed there is. It is the rapture of the saints. It is purposeful.

Number three, it is public. There will be a shout. There will be the voice of an archangel. There will be the trumpet of God. There will be a shout. The Greek word indicates an order, a command.

It doesn't tell us what the command says. I have a speculation, but it doesn't tell us. But there will be a shout. There will be the voice of an archangel.

There will be the trumpet of God. Now, there's a lot of speculation about these three elements. Are they three separate things? Are they two things? Is it one thing all combined together?

You have to read the commentaries to get all this kind of dialogue. And I don't know. This I know. It's designed to be glorious. It's designed to call attention to it. It's designed to be public. It's designed to be arresting.

It's designed to be something that is heard all over the world. When the Lord descends from heaven with a shout, with a command, with an order, I wouldn't be surprised at what that command is. Arise, all believers in the grave. That's the command. Just like when Jesus stepped up to the tomb of Lazarus and he ordered a command.

What did he say? Lazarus, come forth. Someone has said if he hadn't said Lazarus, then every person in the grave would have come forth at that command.

But he restricted it. Lazarus, come forth. Now there's another order, another shout, another command.

Maybe, we're not told this, my speculation, but maybe that's what it is. Believers in the graves, come forth. And if Jesus says that, I can assure you they will, every single one. You don't have to worry yourself about what about those who were buried at sea and eaten by the sharks and so forth.

Don't you worry about that. The God who created this world out of nothing has no difficulty resurrecting the bodies of all of his saints and presenting them with a glorified body. But this is a public announcement. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't have an illustration in the conversion of the Apostle Paul and the Damascus Road, who were told all those who were with him heard the voice from heaven, but they didn't understand the words. They didn't understand the message distinctly. But they knew something had taken place. This didn't happen without them knowing something big is going on here when the light from heaven, greater than the noonday sun, flashed around them and this rumbling voice, noise from heaven spoke and only Paul had evidently understood distinctly what the command was.

But I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't something like that. When the Lord descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God, there's going to be a rumbling throughout the whole world and the whole world's going to be aware something big is taking place, but only believers are going to really understand what it is. So, Christ's glorious resurrection described. The dead saints' resurrection revealed. Again, verse 16, the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. The dead in Christ will rise first. That is, first in priority. First before the living saints are raptured.

Why? They need to be resurrected in order to join the living saints in the rapture. We're going to be united.

We're going to go up together. The reason that living saints will not precede those who are asleep is because, and Paul now gives us the details and make this all clear, because the dead saints are going to be resurrected and they're going to be now living saints, and then all the living saints will be raptured together. All one body we. Thirdly, we have the living saints rapture explained. The living saints rapture explained, verse 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. We who alive and remain. Paul says we. Many have taken from that the concept that Paul expected to be alive when this occurred.

I couldn't deny that. That may be what he's saying. We who are alive, or he could just simply be acknowledging that he's in the company of the living at the time he writes this, and this is what happens to the living, but he could very well be saying, I expect or at least I hope to be in that number. We who are alive and remain shall be caught up, and here's where we get the word rapture, caught up, raptured.

That's a Latin phrase. It's imported into our English theology, but it comes from the Latin raptured, which means to take by force. We shall be, as the Greek says, caught up together with them, with the ones who have been resurrected first in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. If you will take the time to do it and study all of the second coming passages in the New Testament, you'll find that clouds are mentioned in an awful lot of them. Clouds are prominent in the second coming of Christ. And here we have it again. We are caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

A great reunion. It's going to happen in the air, and that tells us about the living saints. So now we've got the dead saints' resurrection. We've got the living saints' rapture. But now we come to the intended result.

Why is this designed by God? Well, the last part of verse 17 tells us, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. That's why this that has been described occurs so that we shall always be with the Lord, be ever and forever with the Lord. Do you realize that when this happens, the whole church of the Lord Jesus Christ is going to be assembled together in one place for the first time in history?

The word church means the assembly of the saints. And every time we assemble as a local church, it's a small portrait of the bigger reality. But the truth of the matter is the church universal has never assembled yet in one place, but it will, and here's where it starts. And after this happens, it'll be assembled together forever, because if we're all going to be forever with the Lord, never separated from Him, then we're never going to be outside of the presence of each other as well, will we? If you don't like going to church, you're going to have trouble in this.

Because that's pretty much what heaven's going to be, church 24-7. The whole assembly assembled in worshiping God and glorifying Him and praising Him. We shall be with the Lord in the presence of Christ, never to be separated from Him again. Though in one sense, we haven't been separated from Him now as He has been with us in the person of the Holy Spirit.

But yes, there has been a separation. The apostles felt it very keenly when Jesus said, I'm going away. I'm going away. If I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also. But I'm going away. And they said, no, no, no, you can't leave us. We can't be separated from you.

Yes, you can. And yes, you will. And I will give you the comfort of the Holy Spirit who will in many ways be better than my presence with you. But yes, we are going to be separated until what? Until this time when the Lord returns.

And then we shall be forever with the Lord, never to be separated again. We will be forever with Him wherever He is. Where will He be? If He's in heaven, we'll be with Him in heaven. Where will He be? If He's on earth, we'll be with Him on earth. Where will He be?

We don't know. There's a lot of things to consider in Scripture about where He will be. But one thing we know is wherever He is, we'll be there always and forever, never separated from our Lord ever again. Which is why some saints sing, there's going to be a meeting in the air in the great, great by and by.

Now, there's some things in that song that are speculative, but that much got it right on target. There is. There's going to be a meeting in the air in the great, great by and by. And you can be sure of that.

Now we come to the application. Why is all this given? For comfort. Verse 18. Therefore, with this new knowledge, this extended knowledge, this fuller knowledge, therefore, comfort one another with these words. Those who are grieving, like those who have no hope, comfort them with these words. That's the purpose of it, comfort. The divinely intended purpose for this passage is to minister comfort to the saints. You say, are there any other purposes? Well, there may be, but the only one that we're told, the only one that the Bible tells us is this is what the passage is for. It's to render comfort to the saints. Not for eschatological speculation, which can become addictive and problematic at times, but it is to promote comfort to the believing saints who have lost their loved ones. There's a command to comfort, and there's the means of comfort. Therefore, comfort. Comfort one another with these words. I'm instructing you to do that.

And how do you do it? With these words, with the words of Scripture, with the words of truth, with the words of sound doctrine. You don't provide much comfort with emotion, empty pleasantries, ungrounded speculations, sentimental platitudes. But when you come to Scripture, the Word of God, and give them truth, then you provide real comfort. It doesn't say, wherefore, argue with one another about these words.

It says, wherefore, comfort one another with these words. A couple things in closing. I tried to show you what is in the passage, and I think we've looked at it pretty thoroughly, but there are still some unanswered questions, because not everything that I wish I knew has been told to me. So there's the question, for example, when will this occur?

And there's actually two parts to that question. First of all, when will this occur in Earth's history? Here we are 2,000 years later since these words were spoken. It hasn't happened yet.

When will it occur? And the truth of the matter is we're not told. And the truth of the matter is the Bible is very clear that we're not supposed to know. We're supposed to be ready every day of our lives, but we're not supposed to know when this will happen.

Paul's going to deal a little bit more with that aspect of it in chapter 5. But there he doesn't tell us any more than I'm telling you now, actually, where we don't know when this is going to happen in history. Well, another aspect of when will this occur.

When will this occur in relationship to the Great Tribulation? Answer, yoo-hoo, listen to me. Same answer. We are not told. Does that surprise you?

We're not told. I'll insert a personal story, true story. When I started pastoring here many, many, many years ago, I came out of a strong dispensational background and I preached what I had been taught with a little bit of, I'm not sure what word to use, a little bit of unhappiness that I knew I was preaching things that I couldn't prove from Scripture, but I assumed that they had to be true. I really had a commitment to only preaching what I knew to be true, what I could show to people from Scripture, but this was so complicated. But everybody I knew believed it, everybody I knew taught it. All my life I had been taught a pre-Tribulation rapture dispensational view of the second coming of Christ, and I assumed that it had to be true. And all I'd heard about other positions was those folks don't take the Bible literally and so forth, don't pay any attention to them.

So my assumption was I just need more time. I haven't had enough time to really get in and study the Scripture sufficiently to find this for myself. So now I am pastoring, now I am preaching, now I have hours in the week to study, now I'm going to Scripture, now I'm going to find this and I'm going to show it to you from the Bible. And I remember how puzzled at first I was that it was harder to find than I realized. I took down Dwight Pennycoast's book, Things to Come.

You might call that the encyclopedia of dispensationalism. I remember reading that, particularly in reference to the rapture and the timing of the rapture. Boy, there was a lot of there, page after page after page. In some ways it was very convincing, but as I looked at it I realized, well this statement depends upon having accepted the previous statement, but he didn't really prove the previous statement. The previous statement depends on accepting this statement, but when you really look at it, it's just a whole string of presuppositions.

And if the first one is not correct, then it's like a house of cards. The whole thing falls down based upon a particular interpretation of Daniel's 70 weeks and so forth. And if this is true, if we accept this interpretation of Daniel's 70 weeks, then it follows logically that this must be true and so forth and so on. The only problem was nobody had demonstrated some of these things from Scripture. And the more I looked, I came to the conclusion that the Bible does not anywhere tell us the timing of the rapture of the church. Yoo-hoo, but that is the truth. You can't find it anywhere. I still remember reading one particular dispensationalist who was talking about the rapture of the church, and he made the bold statement about the pre-tribulation rapture of the church and put in parentheses this proof text, 1 Thessalonians 4, 13-18.

Well, maybe most of his readers wouldn't take the time to study that, but I already had. And I knew that that passage, the one before us this morning, says absolutely nothing about the time of when this will take place. Is it pre-trib? Is it mid-trib? Is it post-trib?

Is it no-trib? It does not say. It does not say anything in reference to the time of the tribulation. That was a shocking realization to me years ago, really was.

It started just by asking questions. Well, if that's true in regard to the pre-tribulation rapture, that there really is not clear in scripture, maybe there's some other elements of this that are similar in nature. So, I will not go any further into that, but that's one unanswered question. When will this occur? Another unanswered question, who will be raised? We know part of the answer to that question, which is answered here, the believing dead, the Christians who died will be raised, but the unanswered question is how about the unbelieving dead?

Are they going to be raised at this time? And, of course, that's where some of the debate comes in. I'll just read one statement.

I'm not saying this is the final answer. I'm just reading one statement for the benefit of those who are absolutely certain that the unbelieving could not be raised at this point. Let me read John 5, 28 and 29. Jesus said, Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth. Those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation. Now, if you are certain that the unbelieving dead are not raised at this time in 1 Thessalonians 4, you're going to have to have a good explanation for the words of Jesus in John 5. And I'm not saying that there is no valid explanation, but I'm just saying it's not quite as simple and clear cut as a lot of people think it is. So we don't know the answer to that question.

It's not dealt with here. Will the unbelieving dead be raised? One third question that's not answered. Where will we go after the rapture? Back to heaven or onto earth?

Now, you may never have thought about this before. It's almost always assumed that we arise and meet the Lord in the air and then we go back to heaven with Him. That means He's going to come again another time. But there's a lot of reasons, which I don't have time to get into now, to come to the conclusion that we meet Him in the air and then accompany Him. He started down from heaven to earth. Is He not coming to earth or is He? Maybe so, maybe not. But it's possible, please at least consider the possibility, that He's gathering His retinue and then they're all going to accompany Him in a grand triumphal entry as He comes to earth.

That would be one position. But the fact of the matter is we're not told. This passage doesn't tell us.

And really that is not clearly spelled out anywhere in Scripture. That position is based upon certain presuppositions and logical deductions. What I find is in virtually every eschatological position, a good number of speculative presuppositions that are impossible to nail down in Scripture.

That's my conclusion. I have come to believe that much eschatology is based upon speculation and logical deduction. If your logic is correct at every point, well and good.

But if there's any point at which it's not absolutely correct, then it all falls apart. I've come to the conclusion that there's much less about the details of the Second Coming actually revealed that many people believe and declare. And that's why my conclusion is that wisdom demands caution, not dogmatism when it comes to eschatology.

You'll be wiser if you'll tread lightly. What if God does not intend for us to understand all the details? If I had time, I'd take you to some Scriptures that I think indicate exactly that.

But just for now, what if? In the area of eschatology, God doesn't intend for us to understand all the details any more than in the prophecies about the First Coming of Christ. He didn't evidently intend for everybody to understand all the details.

At least nobody did. There were a lot of things that did not get answered until Christ came. Now, now we understand. Now we understand the prophecy. Now we understand the details.

Now it all falls into place. He's come. We're looking for Him. There were certain things we were looking for.

There were certain things that were not clear. He comes, all becomes clear. What if the Second Coming is like that? If it is, are you okay with that?

If it is, are you willing to live with that? Are you willing to be patient with that? Are you willing to wait on the Lord for that? Shall we pray? Father, how grateful we are for the word that you have given. How eagerly we look forward to the revelation yet to come. How eagerly we look forward to the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-21 16:10:11 / 2023-09-21 16:26:15 / 16

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