Let’s close by looking at this passage in Thessalonians again. In Thessalonians Paul speaks about the time when Jesus is going to return. And, into this bleak scenario I’ve just spoken about, he offers some hope.
At some point, in the not-too-distant future, Jesus is going to return.
The first stage of His coming is going to be the removal or the taking of the believing church to be with Himself – what we call The Rapture of the Church.
I’m probably not going to get into the timing of that because I’m going to give another talk on this next week, and we will look more at the timing, but it’s going to happen.
The important thing, whether you believe it’s pre-tribulation or post-tribulation or whatever – it’s going to happen – there’s going to be a time when Jesus is going to come and take everyone who believes in Jesus out of this world to be with Himself.
Paul tells us it’s going to happen. He says,
I don’t want you to be ignorant brethren …
Therefore, they’ve got a choice: Either you’re going to be an ignorant brother or a wise brother.
If you want to know, this church is traditionally part of the Open Brethren. There used to be a Brethren Movement which had Open Brethren, Close Brethren, Plymouth Brethren and they all had different ideas.
Probably the biggest denomination in the church today is the ‘ignorant brethren’, because they don’t know anything about it, and they don’t teach anything about it. That’s why they’re ignorant.
But I’m hoping you’re not ignorant because I’m going to teach you about it.
It’s something that’s going to happen, and something which God wants you to know about. He doesn’t want you to be ‘as others who have no hope’.
If you look at this passage, the issue for the Thessalonians was those ‘who have fallen asleep’. ‘If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who’ve fallen asleep’.
It says, “don’t sorrow as others do concerning those who’ve fallen asleep who have no hope”.
By talking about people who’ve fallen asleep, he means people who have died and one of the questions which the Thessalonians were asking Paul was:
We’ve heard you talk about the Second Coming of Jesus. What’s going to happen to the people who’ve already died between you telling us about this and now?
So, we’ve seen brothers and sisters in the fellowship who’ve died. Will we ever see them again?
And Paul’s saying ‘yes, you’re going to see them again’ because when Jesus comes, He’s going to bring them with Him.
The first thing he’s telling you is: there’s going to be a Second Coming of Jesus and He’s going to bring with Him all those who’ve died in the faith beforehand.
Therefore, you’re going to see people who’ve died in the faith when you’re called up to meet with the Lord or, if you die before it happens, you’ll be one of them.
You have two options in the subject: Either you die before Jesus comes or, you’re alive when Jesus comes in which case, you’re called up to meet the Lord.
Both ways, you meet with the Lord and with those who’ve been before.
And this will happen in an event which is basically another resurrection, a resurrection of the believers which will take place at the Second Coming of Jesus when those who are alive at this time will be supernaturally caught up from where they are to meet the Lord in the air.
So, you’ll be walking down Golders Green Road or sitting in Bridge Lane Christian Fellowship and suddenly you’re not there, you’re caught up to meet with the Lord, and you meet with Him in the air.
It sounds a bit bizarre, and some people think: ‘Well, I can’t really believe that could happen. Things like that don’t happen!‘
The language used here is very straightforward. He said that’s going to happen: one minute you’re going to be there then, you’re going to be up in the air with Jesus.
There’ll be people alive at the time. This will happen: to be supernaturally taken out of the world into the presence of the Lord to meet Him in the air.
I believe this corresponds to what Jesus talked about in Matthew 24 when he said of that day:
Jesus also said there’s going to be a time when there’ll be two people together either inside, in the middle, or outside in the field (it doesn’t matter if you’re inside or outside, it doesn’t matter if you’re asleep or awake) and one’s going to be taken, and one’s going to be left.
I believe the one that’s going to be taken is the believer to be taken alongside Jesus.
Some people say it’s the unbeliever, but, if you look at the Greek text, it’s more likely speaking about the believer who will be taken alongside Jesus in something which is positive rather than negative, or who’s left behind to be left behind for something negative. Therefore, left behind for the time of tribulation.
But He’s saying ‘you don’t know when it’s going to come so be ready for it’.
Now, Paul says that this is going to happen, and he says also he’s got this revelation by the Word of the Lord. That is, he’s saying ‘this isn’t my bright idea, I didn’t work this out, the Lord revealed it to me.’
Therefore, pay attention because this is not something coming from Paul, this is coming from the Lord.
There are only three occasions when Paul uses this phrase or something similar to it:
1 Corinthians chapter 11, where he says:
A teaching concerning the breaking of bread in remembrance of the Lord.
A teaching speaking about the resurrection.
So, on three occasions which are very crucial to the Christian faith, Paul says he’s received a message from the Lord.
In other words, pay attention to it! It comes from the Word of the Lord.
It sounds unusual, but the Bible says it’s happened before, at least two occasions.
There’s a man called Enoch whom, according to Genesis
Enoch suddenly was taken out of this world. Enoch was also a prophet; he had a son called Methuselah. Methuselah died the oldest man in the world at 969 years old.
Methuselah means [Meth u selah]: ‘when he has died it shall be sent You’.
Work out the dates. You’ll find that Methuselah died in the year of the Flood.
So, Enoch was prophesying the Flood which was going to come.
According to Jude, he also prophesied the Second Coming of Jesus. It says,
Therefore, Enoch, a man who was taken supernaturally in an event like the Rapture of the Church also prophesied the Flood and prophesied the Second Coming of Jesus.
This is interesting.
The other one was Elijah who was taken up in a whirlwind to be with the Lord.
They were both taken up into heaven without seeing death. Both prophets of God.
Now, you might think it’s impossible, it can’t happen! But with God nothing is impossible.
And Paul goes on to say,
He starts off by saying there’s going to be some element of faith we already have to believe this. Who is going to qualify us for being part of this event? It addresses the people who believe that Jesus died and rose again from the dead.
Some people say that’s also impossible. How is it possible that man can be put on the cross and crucified, put into a tomb to lay there for three days and then rise from the dead?
That doesn’t happen!
But it did happen to Jesus. And Jesus showed that there is a resurrection from the dead.
A lot of things which we believe are thought to be impossible: the virgin birth being one of them.
But Jesus did the impossible because He’s God; and Jesus is able to do this thing which is impossible in the Rapture of the Church.
He says that if, by implication if you don’t believe, you won’t be there.
That is why the kind of universalist teaching I was talking about from bishop Tutu is totally wrong.
Sincere Muslims won’t be there however sincere they are. Atheists won’t be there. Only those who believe in Jesus will be there.
That’s why we insist that there’s One Way of Salvation through faith in Jesus.
Paul’s talking about the same event there and he says,
flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God
Again, the only people who are going to inherit this are those who truly believe in Jesus.
That’s why it’s very important that everybody who’s listening to me now believes in Jesus.
If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re not going to be there, you’re going to miss out, you’re going to be lost.
So, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
Jesus is going to gather together all the believers from all ages. That will include believers from the Old Testament dispensation, but it’ll start with believers from the New Testament dispensation; the one in which we’re now.
And, to qualify, you have to believe in Jesus.
Another passage which speaks about this is John chapter 14 where Jesus said:
So, He said, ‘don’t be troubled, have faith. Have faith in God, have faith in me. I’ve prepared a place for you.’
No matter how bleak your present situation may be, there is a future and a hope for you; a much better future than anything you have now. And you’re going to be there when you believe in Jesus.
Jesus is going to come and receive you to Himself and He says,
I’m the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.
That’s why the kind of universalism I was speaking of before is nonsense. You’re not going to get there if you’re just a good person, if you’re just part of a religious, good-works situation. It’s not possible. Your sin is going to keep you out.
The only thing that is going to get you in is if you repent of your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is One Way of Salvation and so those who sleep in Jesus, those who already died, will be caught up with those who are alive at the time. They will be caught up to be with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4 verse 16 says,
Therefore, He comes out of the heavenly realm where He is now. And this is beginning what we call the Day of the Lord time.
If you look in the whole of scripture, you’ll find that the Day of the Lord is the day in which the Lord intervenes in human affairs.
It begins with the Rapture of the Church, it goes right through the Tribulation to the Second Coming, to the Millennial Kingdom, through to the end of the world.
In fact, Peter talks about the Day of the Lord which is the time when everything can be burned up.
But the Day of the Lord is the time when God descends. The Lord descends out of heaven and begins to intervene in this dramatic way in human affairs.
It’s pretty exciting that we’re going to see it if we believe we are in the time before the Second Coming of Jesus, which I believe we are.
So, no matter how boring your life may be now, you have an amazing future if you believe in Jesus. A future beyond the ability of any preacher to describe.
He says, ‘the Lord will supernaturally cause those who are still alive to be caught up to meet Him in the air’.
The word for caught up in Greek is harpazo. Harpazo means ‘to seize away’ and becomes rapieri in Latin. And the Latin then gets translated into the strange word ‘rapture’ in English.
‘Rapture’ presents some problems for some people because, usually, the word ‘rapture’ means when you’re very happy. It doesn’t mean that something is being ‘seized away’.
The French word is much better. It is enlèvement which means ‘being lifted up’, but this English word people don’t quite get their heads around.
However, it means ‘being caught up’, ‘being seized away’, and Paul says that he’s inspired to write about this.
People will be taken out of this realm into the air. We’re not told exactly where the air is but it’s clearly out of this realm it’s, not on this planet.
Now, one thing which occurs to me is that the only place we can live and breathe on, is this planet.
If you’re taken out of the earth and you go into space, unless you’ve got a spacesuit and you’ve got some artificial means of breathing, you’re dead.
And we’re not going to have a spacesuit! Therefore, the only way in which we’re going to be able to live in this new realm is if we have a new body.
This, our current body, is going to have to be changed in order to live in this new realm and that’s exactly what Paul says is going to happen in 1 Corinthians. He says,
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, 1 Corinthians 15.54
Right now, you have a mortal body which means you’re going to die. And you have a corruptible body which means it’s subject to death, to aging, to disease, to all kinds of things going wrong with it.
This is not to say your body is anything insulting, but your body, my body, we’re all corruptible, and we’re all mortal.
Yet, if we’re going to live in this new realm, we must have an incorruptible body and an immortal body which is what Paul says is going to happen.
We’re going to be changed like unto His glorious likeness.
And there’s one bit of good news! If you feel your body is not functioning quite as it should do, if you have experienced the fact that the older you get, your body doesn’t function better, it functions a bit worse, then you have a glorious future in a glorious hope, and you won’t even have to wear glasses and you won’t have to do anything like this. You’ll have a new body!
Wonderful! That’s what the Lord is offering us!
Paul is inspired to write about this.
Having met with the Lord in the air it says: then we’ll be with Him forever.
In other words, wherever Jesus is, we’re going to be!
If Jesus is in heaven, we’ll be in heaven; if Jesus is on the earth, we’ll be on earth, and anywhere in between.
We will be with the Lord wherever He is.
That gives me the idea that, following the Rapture of the Church, we’ll be taken to be with Him in heaven, there’ll be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and we’ll then come back with Him at the Second Coming:
Revelation chapter 19: to reign with Him during the Millennial Kingdom and,
Revelation chapter 20: At the end of which, the earth is going to be burned up and then we will go into the new heavens and the new earth.
Therefore, wherever Jesus is, we’re going to be.
Wherever Jesus is, there’s always hope, there’s always joy, there’s always goodness, and there’s always protection from the evil one, because He has conquered evil.
There’s every good reason to believe in Jesus.
And he says,
The truth of the return of Jesus for His people and the eternal union of Jesus with His people is to be a source of comfort for Christians.
This means that, whoever you are, wherever you come from, if you believe in Jesus, you have a future, you have a hope, you have something to comfort you with.
Also, if the ‘catching away’ (rapture) in the previous verses delivers Christians from some impending danger, this is another reason for a comfort.
I believe that it is taking you away out of a situation which is going to become increasingly dangerous as the world enters the Tribulation time in which it faces the wrath of God in the Great Tribulation.
So, Jesus is taking us out of that to be with Himself, and wherever the Lord is, we will be.
I’ve said that already, and there’ll be a glorious hope and a glorious future.
So, to conclude:
We live in a time now when there’s a gathering doom on the earth which corresponds to a number of passages in the Bible.
Isaiah chapter 60 says,
There’s a time coming when God is going to rise upon His people, and they will be glorious to be caught up to meet the Lord as He comes in the clouds of heaven.
It will happen. It gives us a hope for the future.
I haven’t got into the time to explain when it’s going to happen, so I’m not getting into tonight: on the pre-post or mid-tribulation. I’m just telling you it is going to happen.
If you want to know, personally, I believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture, but I will give you some ideas next time when we look at this subject next week on the verses in chapter 5 which we haven’t gone into which speak about the timing of the event in the light of other scriptures.
Meantime, ‘look up, lift up your heads’, you’ve got a great future if you believe in Jesus.
If you don’t, believe in Jesus! Make sure that you do now!
Please don’t go out of this place without knowing that you’re saved because it’s so important, it’s vital.
If you’re listening to this talk on the internet, make sure that you believe in Jesus, that you have eternal life and faith in Him, because there are only two ways you can go: heaven and hell.
There’s a path that leads to life and a path that leads to death. There aren’t any others in the middle. There’s only two.
And there’s only one way to get on the right path, that’s through faith in Jesus. He said,
I’m the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
You’ve got a glorious future. God bless you!
Let’s have a word of prayer and we’ll close:
Lord, we thank you for Jesus, we thank you have come to fulfil prophecy and that you’re coming again.
We thank you Lord that, in Jesus, we have a glorious future and a glorious hope.
We pray that each person listening here, in this church, each person who listens online will truly repent and believe the Gospel and know that they have eternal life through faith in Jesus.
And we thank you Lord for the hope that you are coming again. Thank you that you haven’t left us without comfort and without hope in this desolate world as it goes from one crisis to another.
We thank you Lord that you told us that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
May each one of us know the truth of your love, your salvation, and your presence with us now and forevermore, amen.