Let us pray: Dear Savior, all of us long for that glorious, triumphant reunion in heaven. All of us long to enter Your palace and join with our departed loved ones in partaking of the heavenly banquet. Today, as we ponder that reunion, keep us from idle, silly human speculation which will detract from our anticipation of that great day. Keep us locked on Your word of truth and wisdom instead. For then all our fears will be quieted, and our energy level toward Your work will be raised. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF GLORY!
TEXT: I Thessalonians 4: 13-18
Fellow Redeemed In Christ The Lord of All Saints:
You’ve had a bad day at work. The kids are cranky when you come home. You get hit with an unexpected bill. You feel a cold coming on. And tomorrow you have to tell some of your group at work that they will be laid off. As the Southwest Airline commercial says: “Need to get away?” At such times heaven sounds really, really good, doesn’t it? But then, you start thinking about heaven and everything that leads up to it and questions, worries, some doubts, even a smidgen of fear cross your mind. Ah, there really is no heaven on earth! Even speculating about heaven is tough for us to get a handle on.
Well, you’re not alone. The members of the church St. Paul founded in Thessalonika had similar concerns, worries, and fears. And to calm their hearts, Paul writes them our lesson. Based on his words today I’m going to discuss with you:
THE WORLD’S END, CHRIST’S RETURN, LAZINESS AND FEAR
Like many mature believers, those in Thessalonkia longed for glory. The eagerly anticipated being freed from this world of unjust political rule, physical and emotional persecution, sickness, pain, and death. They took seriously the words of Christ as found in today’s Gospel from Matthew 25 where Jesus says: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”—of His return. Likewise, they knew and practiced such watchfulness through daily repentance.
However, they had a problem. That problem being: since they expected Jesus’ second coming any day, they had withdrawn from the world and become lazy when it came to laboring in His kingdom and sharing the message of salvation. The thrust of this entire epistle is to pull them out of such laziness.
Do you recall exactly what you were doing on 9-11? Do you remember how you felt? I do. When I first heard the news and saw the video images that morning I was sad. I wondered: “Is the world as we know it and the lifestyle we’ve led coming to an end? Will all this hasten our Lord’s return?” And then I got out my paint bucket and commenced to staining the backside of the parsonage. Personally, when He returns I want Him to find me busy doing and laboring for His glory. For Jesus is not impressed by lazy Christians, and quite frankly, neither am I.
Human speculation about Christ’s return was common in the 1st century. Many weird ideas were floating around. Paul touches on one such weird idea in our lesson. It seems that many of the Thessalonians were worried about the fate of their loved ones who had already died. Would they be included in the resurrection and be caught up into glory too? Or, would their “dust” be lost along with the earth when it passed away? Obviously this was a faulty view of what resurrection meant. But, it was real to them.—Faulty human speculation about divine things usually is real to the speculator. So, to clear up the matter Paul writes this: “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.” In other words, just as Jesus died to save us and pay for our sins and then arose to a new life, so, too, individual believers who die (fall asleep in Christ) will be reborn, resurrected, too.
Then Paul adds this: “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.” Apparently they thought that the dead would be left out of being caught up into glory. Because of this many believers feared their loved ones fate on judgment day and that fear diminished their bliss. Paul quotes an apparently well-known phrase uttered by Jesus that this is not the case. And then he expands on it by saying: “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. (Obviously this will wake even the dead saints!) And the dead in Christ will rise first (not last). 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.”
What a glorious picture! Brothers, sisters, grandma and grandpa, preceding generations whom you never knew, saints whom you’ve only read about—all believers who cling to Christ’s forgiving love will rise and be caught up together into glory. All will experience the ultimate in escapism. We will all experience exactly what we were all created for—the happiness and joy of praising God and appreciating each other’s faith without anything to subtract, diminish, to take away from such bliss. Ah, no more “bad” days ever again!
Today on Saint’s Triumphant Sunday we need to be reminded that this gift beyond all gifts awaits us, too. The world’s end is coming. But since we’re still in the world we dare not let laziness over our certain future in Christ paralyze us into inaction. Christ’s return is a fact. Therefore, we dare not let human speculation take the place of Godly truth about the how or why of it. We all possess inner fears over whether we’re worthy of a place in His palace. So, we all need to cling to His love and salvation all the more because it alone insures us of a place there. And finally, we all need to get busy encouraging each other when bad days come. For someday, the best! Is coming! “Therefore encourage each other with these words.” Yes, continue to let your light shine every day, to let His light of grace shine in and through you! And always remember: You and I have a mighty army of saints at our back and Jesus Christ in the lead! Amen