1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5:1–4, NKJV)
Then, as now, people want to know when Jesus will return. They want to know the designated time and occasion of this great event. Some even predict when Christ will return. All these predictions have failed, and all will continue to fail. Christians who trust the word of God do not fret about when the Lord will come. We know He will come unexpectedly. Just as a thief does not break into a home when the homeowner is watching, Jesus will return when least expected. His return will be sudden, without warning. Like the onset of labor pains from which there is no escape, we will not elude the sudden return of Jesus and the events that transpire on the day of the Lord. Christians remain ready for that day by living holy lives (2 Pet. 3:11, 14). Sinners are not ready, but the gospel calls sinners to repent and obey – to get ready for that day. Why? Because sudden destruction waits the unprepared. Are you ready?
“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).
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14–15, NKJV)
Death and Hades will be overpowered and destroyed at the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:26). At the resurrection and judgment day, Christ (who has “the keys of Hades and of Death,” Rev. 1:18) will destroy death and the grave, fulfilling the prediction that “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). The “lake of fire” is the “second death,” the place of eternal punishment where the devil and his cohorts “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). Death will never claim another body. Hades will never hold another departed spirit. On the judgment day they will “die” – forever separated from the power and fear they have exerted against humanity. The “second death” has no power over those who have part in the “first resurrection,” for they share in Christ’s victory over sin and death (Rev. 20:4-6; 6:9-11). However, those who are not saved in Christ are not in the Book of Life. Their judgment will be the lake of fire, the second death. Hell is real. Hell is forever punishment, eternal separation from God and all this is good. It is outer darkness, filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30; Mk. 9:43-48). Knowing these things beforehand should compel us by faith to repent and follow Jesus completely.
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. (Revelation 20:13, NKJV)
The comprehensive nature of the final judgment (v. 12) is amplified here by elaborating the extent of the resurrection of the dead. Even the depths of the sea will not prevent its dead from coming forth at the Lord’s command (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:52). Death and Hades are pictured in John’s vision as being brought into submission at the resurrection, no longer to hold their power over humanity. Hades is not hell (the place of eternal punishment following the judgment). It is the realm of departed spirits where we go after death as we await resurrection. Hades is composed of a place of rest and a place of torments, with no crossing from one place to the other (Lk. 16:22-26; 23:43). The judgment will be the moment when every one of us will answer to God for our lives. There will be no doubt of the accuracy and legitimacy of God’s decision toward us on that day. Every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, and every soul will receive righteous judgment (Rom. 14:10-12). We have an appointment with death and with the judgment that follows our resurrection from the dead (Heb. 9:27). Be prepared. “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40, ESV). Read Mark 16:15-16 and Acts 2:36-42, put your faith in Jesus, and obey Him now.
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:12, NKJV)
The final judgment will be inclusive – every human being will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). The “small and great” will stand before God to give a personal account to Him on that day. Whether nobility or commoner, rich or poor, famous or anonymous – all will be there. Our judgment will be impartial, complete, righteous, and according to truth (Rom. 2:2, 5-6, 11). That “books were opened” draws attention to the standard by which we will be judged. God’s word – revealed to humanity and recorded in inspired Scriptures – is the rule by which we will be judged (John 12:48). Another book, the “Book of Life,” will be opened to reveal the names of those who received and obeyed the commands of God, and thus have everlasting life (John 12:50). We cannot afford to live as if we are only answerable to ourselves. No one is an island devoid of moral responsibility toward God and toward others (Rom. 14:7). We are accountable to God for our heart, our words and our actions. We must attune our lives to God’s word now. We are accountable, and one day we will answer to God for our choices to obey His word or reject it.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (Revelation 20:11, NKJV)
Often referred to as the “great white throne scene,” John’s vision of Judgment Day begins with the image of the majestic presence of God’s appointed judge seated upon His throne (2 Corinthians 5:10). His throne is “great” (signifying His mighty power of His rule) and “white” (signifying the holy purity and righteousness of His judgment, Romans 2:5). As all people of every nation are gathered before Christ’s judgment seat (according to Matthew 25:32), our material habitation (“the earth and the heaven”) will be no more. In John’s vision they have “fled away” – having served their purpose, they are dissolved from existence, no longer to be found (2 Peter 3:10-12). God has appointed a day of judgment for the world, and He has ordained Jesus as the judge (Acts 17:31). All who believe God’s word will repent of their sins and follow Jesus (Acts 17:30). None will escape the judgment of God (Romans 2:3). Therefore, the gospel persuades us to prepare for that day (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). Are you ready? If not, the gospel tells you how to get ready (2 Peter 3:9-14).
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, (2 Thessalonians 2:1–3, NKJV)
Then, as now, some were attempting to predict the return of Jesus. Some even claimed apostolic endorsement for their forecasts. The apostle had tried to calm the troubled souls of the Thessalonians about the Christ’s return in his first epistle to them (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Now, Paul directly states the return of Jesus would not happen until “the falling away” occurred and the “man of sin…the son of perdition” was revealed. The rise of this pretender and usurper of divine exaltation would coincide with a falling away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). This falling away occurred over the next several centuries as Roman dominance flourished and persecution against Christians became severe. The predicted events have happened. That means Christ could return at any time – no man knows when. We must always be ready for His return by living holy lives, because when He comes the world will end, the dead will be raised, and we will be judged (2 Peter 3:10-14; Revelation 20:11-15). Are you ready?