For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NKJV)
With clarity and authority the apostle affirms the events of the return of Jesus. Paul systematically explains what will happen on that great day. The return of Jesus will be personal (“the Lord Himself”). It will not be invisible. There will not be a representative standing in His place. Just as He ascended, so shall He “descend from heaven” (Acts 1:9-11). With a shout He will command the dead to arise (Jno. 5:28-29). The archangel will lead Christ’s angelic attendants in this moment of power and victory (2 Thess. 1:7). The trumpet of God will sound, signaling liberty from death and the gathering of God’s people (1 Cor. 15:52; cf. Lev. 25:9-10 and Num. 10:3). Then, the dead Christians will rise first (before the living Christians, v. 15). Remember, Paul’s context concerns informing and comforting Christians about the saints who die before Christ returns (1 Thess. 4:13-15). Truly, every person will be resurrected from the dead when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 15:21-22). But, this passage gives particular comfort to Christians, assuring us that death will not deter our hope in the eternal glory we will share in with the Lord on that day (Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 1:10). We do not sorrow without hope when death comes because we anticipate the coming glory of eternal reward (2 Tim. 4:8). Do you?
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, NKJV)
The authority of Christ’s word must support what we teach. Paul knew this, and so he made it very clear that he was not giving his opinion about what will happen to Christians who die (vss. 14, 15). What we teach, including things about the return of Jesus, must be in harmony with His word (Matt. 28:19-20). With that assurance, the apostle tells why we do not hopelessly sorrow over the death of Christians (v. 13). It is because they will not miss out on anything that happens with Christ returns! In fact, the dead saints “will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). Then, the living saints will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:52). We do not know when the Lord will come, but we know that when He does, every saint – dead or alive – will fully participate in the glory of that moment (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4). But, it will also be a moment of fiery indignation – a fearful expectation of judgment – for His adversaries (Heb. 10:27; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Do not be the Lord’s adversary. Serve the Lord faithfully, and you will be ready for the day He returns (1 Thess. 5:1-11).
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, NKJV)
Paul was thankful to God for his brethren because they are participants in God’s election in Christ (verse 13). This was not a predetermining of each soul being either saved or lost, but of God’s choice to save sinners in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-4, 11:12). God uses the gospel to call sinners to redemption’s glory. Jesus said the Father draws sinners to Himself by teaching them His will, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44, 45). God does not call people through personal revelations, visions and experiences. He calls sinners “by our gospel” (that is, the gospel preached by the apostles, Mark 16:15). God’s call to salvation is for everyone and the same to everyone. There is only “one faith,” the gospel preached by Christ’s apostles (Galatians 1:11, 23; Acts 24:24). Notice the linkage between the gospel and salvation. The gospel that calls us to salvation produces faith so that we may be made holy (sanctified) and obtain the glory of Christ. To suggest we can be saved with the gospel nullifies the “sanctification of the Spirit,” the “belief in the truth,” obtaining the glory of Christ.
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3–4, NKJV)
Christians “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Along with rejoicing in “having been justified by faith” and its spiritual blessings, we also learn to glory (boast, joy, rejoice) in tribulations as we view their beneficial results (verse 3). Our faith looks beyond present distress and its pain, uncertainty, trauma and trials, to the consummation of our hope. We understand (we know) that trouble borne out of being faithful to Christ produces steadfast endurance (perseverance). Do not be overwhelmed when trials test your faith, but “by patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Patiently continuing to do God’s will despite tribulations produces “character” that is approved by God. Trustworthy dependability to keep doing the will of God is developed in your life by consistently enduring the distresses that test your faith (see James 1:2-4). The hope you have in Christ is enlivened and secured when your faith is genuine and when, by God’s grace, you are trustworthy to persevere through the temporary trials of life.
8 I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:8–11, NKJV)
The assurance of David’s faith was so strong that, even in the face of death, he rejoiced in the abiding presence and strength of the Lord. Hope sustained him, for he knew that in God’s plans for him did not end in the grave. In God’s presence is the path of life, joy and eternal pleasure. This great statement of faith is applied to Christ Jesus in Acts 2:25-31 as a prophecy of his resurrection from the death. Jesus died and was buried, and three days later his tomb was empty. The death of His saints is precious is the sight of the Lord (Psalm 116:15). Christians do not sorrow over death like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). As you face daily forces designed to weaken and destroy your faith, remain faithful and true to the Lord. Be strengthened and rejoice in your hope of eternity, confident that the path of life given you by God leads to eternal joy.
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17–18, NKJV)
Children of God are heirs of an inheritance that is “incorruptible, undefiled and that does not fade away,” and that is “reserved in heaven.” This sublime inheritance is for those “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). To share the glory of this eternal inheritance with Christ “in the last time,” God’s children suffer with Christ at “this present time” (Colossians 3:4). The faith through which God’s power guards us unto that Day assures us that any suffering we endure now is not worthy to be compared with the heavenly glory we will experience throughout eternity. Hold fast to your faith in Jesus Christ and accept suffering for the sake of righteousness (1 Peter 3:14; Matthew 5:10). The glory of heaven will remove every tear of the darkness night, and replace it with the brilliance of eternity’s day.