Our world is becoming ever increasingly chaotic and violent. The violence, the wickedness, and the chaos are nothing new but now it is being broadcast across televisions, tablets, computers, and phones almost as it happens. We are bombarded with horrific images and sickening stories of terrible and heartbreaking events all day and every day. It seems each day we wake up to a new tragedy and by the time night falls we’ve heard about another catastrophe.
For many of us the dreadful condition of this world makes us look to the hope of Jesus Christ. We hold onto Him and our future of eternity with Him in New Jerusalem. And for many people, whether they understand the end times or only know the distorted myths of the end times we believe that The Day of the Lord is near. The church in Thessalonica believed that Jesus was coming back any day. That is for the most part a great attitude for us to have. We should be ready and living as if he is coming back any minute, because we don’t know the time, we only know the seasons and the signs. While the Thessalonians should have been living with the expectation of Jesus’ return, Paul wanted to clarify some things for them. So he wrote to them to elucidate the truth about Jesus second coming. Verses 13-15 reads,
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Paul uses the word asleep to refer to those who have physically died. This language though confusing to us now, was clear to the people in the church of that day, it was early Christianese and described that for the Christian physical death is a temporary state similar to falling asleep. We will wake up one day and we will rise with Christ to eternal life. All of those of us who are still alive, won’t miss out either, we’ll be right behind our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and ancestors going to spend eternity united with one another and Christ in the paradise of New Jerusalem. As we all rise up together, Jesus will descend to meet us in the air. Can you picture it? Try as I might, I don’t think my imagination can capture anything close to what it will be like. Verses 16-18 describe it,
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
At the voice of an archangel and the blast of the shofar Christ will descend and the dead in Christ will rise first, all those we love and miss, all those we never knew, all those we’ve heard about and would love to know will rise first and then we will be caught up with them in the clouds. We’ll meet the Lord together and from then on we will be perfectly united with Him. Truly I cannot even fathom what it will be like, but I know it will be wonderful. There is a reason we have named this event the rapture. Who could imagine a more blissful, ecstatic, joyful happening?
When we are tired, when we suffer, when we don’t know why we keep going on this earth, we are to encourage each other with the description of this day. That means we have to love and trust each other enough to share when we are hurting, suffering, and tired. I know so many of you are exhausted and not sure how you will go on even one more day. I know so many of you are hurting and need some hope. My beloved brothers and sisters, consider this day. We may still be alive when Jesus comes to take us home, or we may have passed on by then. But it is coming. It is not a fairytale. It is not something any man made up to make himself rich. In fact the men who wrote these scriptures all were imprisoned and tortured for writing them. Many were martyred for declaring these words to be true. They wrote what the Holy Spirit told them to write and they were glad to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel. That is how we know this is real. Different men in different locations all were told the same things. The many visions they were given coincide with one another. That is how we know it’s true.
When is He coming? Will it be today? Tomorrow? Next year? In three years? Or in three thousand years? Jesus said He would come back but He didn’t say when. In John 14:1-3 Jesus encouraged the disciples with this promise,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
He told them how to get there by following Him. John 14:6-7 reads,
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
But He could not say when. Matthew 24:36 reads,
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
Matthew 24 does give us many signs to help know when the time is coming close and I suggest you read it. When you do, it may sound a lot like the world we live in today. Don’t let that frighten you. Don’t let it make you believe every false prophet who stands up. Let it inspire more research so you will be more aware of the signs, the times, and the events, so you will be ready and can help get others ready as well. This is what Paul had to say about it in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5 verses 1-3.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
This gives a very scary and dark scenario but the Christian has nothing to be afraid of. We want to be aware for those who are not saved that their fate is not only dark it is terrifying. But while The Day of the Lord will terrible for the lost it will be heaven, literal Heaven for believers. For the lost the day will come on so suddenly they won’t know up from down. For Christians we are aware of what’s happening, we have the signs, we are aware of what season we are in. Like a pregnant woman going into labor should not be shocked that her pregnancy has reached its end, so we should not be surprised that our days on earth have reached their terminus. Verses 4-8 encourages believers to be aware and ready.
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
A pregnant woman prepares. She makes a place for her baby to sleep. She packs a bag for the birthing center and talks with professionals about her birth plan. She makes sure every knows what to do when the time comes. Though she does not know the exact day or hour, she has an idea of the week and she is ready in case it is earlier than she thought. So we don’t know exactly when Jesus is coming but we stay prepared, ready, and alert.
What does it mean to be ready? We are practicing righteousness, we are exercising faith and love. We are walking in salvation. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a couple of parables. One is known as the Ten Virgins. They are brides waiting for their bridegroom to come and take them to the wedding feast. Some stay awake with their lamps ready, wicks trimmed, bowls full of oil, and lit. Some fall asleep and run short of oil, while they are gone buying more, the Bridegroom comes and they miss Him (Matthew 25:1-12). That story is about being dressed properly in salvation and walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit (the oil and light of the lamp).
Later in Matthew 25 Jesus talks about the final judgement and explains to us what it is we ought to be doing do be ready for Him. Matthew 25:31-46 in The Message reads,
31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because--
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’
45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”
The Lord has great plans for us both on this earth and on the New Earth. His plans for us now involve feeding His sheep. But His plans for us then involve something totally different! Luke 12:35-40 reads,
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Read verses 37-38 again,
Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.
Can you imagine it? Jesus doing that for us? Of course you can if you know who Jesus is. He did it for the Disciples before His last Passover with them as He taught them what love really is. John 13:3-5 reads,
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
We have so much joy awaiting us. Jesus will comfort us, He will wipe away every tear, there will be no more death, and no more grieving (Revelation21:14). We are intended, designed, and ordained for eternal union with the Lord. Verses 9-11 read,
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
So I will leave you with that today. Be awake, be ready. Be about your Father’s business. Encourage one another and one another up, just as you are doing.