“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words,” [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]
Jesus is RISEN. Death no longer has a victory over us, it no longer has any sting. We are saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has undone the effects of sin and death forever. Those who trust Him with their eternity are never disappointed and are free from the fear that held us captive. And when we accept the life that Jesus offers, we become immortal. Our spirits within us are regenerated to live forever. Our bodies will either die, experience the resurrection and be gloriously reunited with our spirits when Jesus brings them back with Him, or our bodies will never die if we are still alive when Jesus returns –but we will all be changed. He is, without a doubt, returning to catch us up in the air to be with Him. And, as if to give us an extra measure of assurance about our loved ones in Christ who have gone on before us, the bodies of the dead will rise first. Imagine, the disembodied souls of Christians who have been with Christ until that very moment of His return for the Church are with Him, enjoying the peace and comfort of Christ’s Awesome and Holy Presence. But they are not complete, and they have not defeated death in Christ completely yet either. And we are not complete. Though our spirits live, our bodies are dying. But we will all be made complete TOGETHER. Isn’t God awesome?
Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus has rung the death knell for death and for this world as we know it. The world continues to reel in pain, as in the pangs (contractions) of childbirth, awaiting the deliverance (delivery) of the Sons of God (all Christians) and its own deliverance (the new heavens and new earth). As we watch the news in horror as we witness natural disasters intensify, though it is sad and grievous, it should not surprise us. Just as labor pains intensify, they are bearable because we know they will not last forever, but become more severe right before delivery. And our deliverance is near. None of this should take us by surprise because Jesus told us this would happen. And rather than grieve like the rest of the world does, we are challenged to look upward because our redemption is drawing very near.
While the world reels, mocks and scoffs at God, let us be extra careful not to be caught up in the godlessness of our times. The resurrection of Jesus is a certainty. And because Jesus has risen, we too shall soon rise, whether that be from the dead or if we’re caught up in the air shortly after the dead have risen, it will all happen faster than it has taken for me to describe it to you. Just as there is a Harvest of Firstfruits (Jesus, and the resulting Church), there will certainly be a Last Harvest (the catching up of the Church and the resulting final harvest of the earth).
No, things are not “as they have always been.” Things are changing. Be careful that you don’t adopt a callous and blasphemous attitude like the one Peter warned us would prevail in the last days (that we see all around us: 2 Peter 3:1-13). So, as we see the Day of Deliverance approaching, and because we know that Jesus is coming for us soon, let us heed the words of the Apostles and work even more diligently, giving ourselves “fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
The resurrection of Jesus has signaled the beginning of the Last Days. The Kingdom of God has invaded the darkness of this world and it is only a short matter of time before the Kingdom comes in all its fullness. Let us therefore work harder, not less, as is the trend of the Church today. Let us all really question our priorities, if indeed we believe the Word of Jesus concerning His Return for His Church. Let us not be caught off guard –let’s be READY (see Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21). Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He is the Head of the Church, the Bridegroom who loves and longs for His Bride. Let’s not disappoint the One who loves us so much that He died to pay the ultimate “bride price” to redeem us. Let us be ready for that moment when it is proclaimed in all of creation, “Here’s the Bridegroom! Come out to meet Him!” Be ready, because we don’t know the day or hour when this will happen, but we can certainly be sensitive to the Season of the Lord’s return. Jesus is ALIVE, and we should be alive and living for Him, as those who anticipate real life, the kind of life that conquers the grave.
Love in Jesus,