1 & 2 Thessalonians Part Two Dive
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER WITH WHAT?
When you read the End Times details in 1 Thessalonians from 4:13-5:11, it can be quite overwhelming and confusing. Twice Paul says, ‘encourage one another’ with these words (Chapters 4:18, 5:11), and honestly, you want to respond, ‘I have no idea what you just said let alone being able to repeat it in an encouraging way’. So how do we take what Paul said so we can use it as an encouragement? Let’s try and simplify these verses so we can get the message of hope that Paul intended.
Paul is encouraging the Christians that the people in their world who had already died will rise from the dead when Jesus comes back. He is giving them hope that because Jesus died and rose from the dead, when Jesus comes back with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, those who have already died will rise first. The people are worried about what has happened to their family members who have died, and Paul is clarifying that they will rise before us.
The Horn of Triumph
After that, if we get to be the lucky ones that are alive and get to see the return of Jesus here on earth, we will then go to be with the Lord. Then he says ‘encourage one another with these words’. Paul is saying that, as Christians, we know that dying is not the end. Jesus came to earth, died and rose again as the first example and we will follow in His footsteps. Death is but a door for us. Imagine this day, imagine seeing Jesus face to face, the One we have been praying to, reading about, falling in love with here on earth – we get to see Him in all His glory when He comes back. The first time He came as a Lamb and Servant, this time He is coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
This is so encouraging and so challenging! Paul doesn’t stop here, he continues in Chapter 5:1-11, reminding us that even though Jesus’ second coming is a day we are all awaiting, it has two sides. Did you notice the contrast of being asleep, in darkness and drunk, compared to being awake, in the light and sober (5:1-11)? This implies there is a choice, we all have to decide which side we will be on when that trumpet sounds.
When it comes to the second coming of Jesus, I have mixed emotions. I am so excited to see Jesus face to face, after talking to Him, walking with Him and never being able to physically see Him – I can’t wait to hug him for real, to walk with Him for real! I will be the one sobbing very loudly when I first get to see Jesus! So if you hear someone sobbing like crazy when we get to see Him – it’ll be me! That’s one side where I am filled with hope, but the other side of me is aware that when the trumpet sounds there will be no more opportunity to share the good news.
The Horn of Finality
That trumpet sound isn’t just of triumph, it is the final horn at the end of the game. Once it goes, it is game over, we cannot preach another salvation message, we can’t quickly go and visit our neighbour or our family. That trumpet sound is the end.
Does that stir you up as it stirs me? We have to let it change our actions! While the game is playing, while we still have time, don’t sit on the sideline, don’t sit on the bench, get into the game and make every second count. When the final bell rings, let’s not be caught unaware, we don’t want to have thought ‘I’ll do that tomorrow’. I know we don’t hear this type of preaching much anymore – it went out with the ‘hellfire and damnation’ preaching! To the hell, fire and damnation message I say good riddance, but have we thrown out the urgency of the gospel because we don’t like the way it makes us feel? Have we watered down the truth of the end times because we are happier focusing on our own lives and making them neat and comfortable.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminds us that that the second coming of Jesus should not be a shock to us, because we are always positioned in a place of expectancy that Jesus could return at any moment.
1T 5:4 ‘But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober’.
Ready, Set, Go!
We don’t listen to those who say ‘peace and safety’ (Chapter 5:3), for we know we are called to be sober, awake and aware of the times we are living in. Paul’s phrasing reminds me of the time in Jeremiah where the false prophets were prophesying peace and safety when, in fact, they should have been awake and repenting as the nation was about to go into exile.
Can you hear the language here? Paul is reigniting the churches passion again, to get out of their comfort zone and get on the field. Every time I read 1 Thessalonians, I am reminded of the Keith Green song ‘Asleep in the Light’. I remember reading the book No Compromise, the story of Keith Green, and how he would weep for the lost and out of frustration for a church that is asleep in their happy place while everyone else is going to hell. They are comfortable in the gift of salvation that was given to them and comfortable in their own salvation, but have forgotten that there are so many that don’t have that gift yet!
As you read 1 Thessalonians, don’t get caught up in the End Times debates that surround these verses, they are just distracting us from the main message: Get ready, He is coming back! Be expectant, live like it is going to happen tomorrow. Don’t let the final horn catch you unaware. Read 1 Thessalonians and be refreshed in your passion for the lost, your passion to see as many people as you can come to Christ. Let the book shake you out of your comfort zone and recover your urgency for the gospel. Because although we are all looking forward to the trumpet sound when we will go and be with Jesus, how many will have no idea what that noise is and be caught off guard by His return?
Let us not forget our commissioning in Matthew 28:19-20, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Let’s love hard, be open with people, and radiate the love of Christ to everyone we meet.
Be sober, alert, awake – and get on the field!