Words of Faith 3-28-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Thessalonians 4
 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.  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, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Fundamental to our hope as Christian believers is the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Scripture teaches that the bodies of those who are dead in Christ shall rise and be reunited with their souls and be glorified in Christ. The revelation of this resurrection came from Jesus Christ Himself. This is the central truth of the Gospel.
We don't know how this truth came to Paul. It may have been a direct revelation. Not only will the souls of the dead in Christ return with Him, but their bodies will also be resurrected at His coming and meet Him in the air. The bodies of dead Christians will be resurrected immediately before living Christians are conveyed upward.
Clearly, Paul believed that he and his Thessalonian readers might well be alive when the Lord returned. Those believers who are alive physically at the time of Christ's coming will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. He believed that this Rapture (snatching away of believers) was imminent, or that it could take place at any moment.
How does all that work? Jesus Christ now sits at the right hand of God in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3). He will leave that position and descend to the earth. By the words the Lord Himself Paul emphasized that it would be the same Jesus who had ascended through the clouds (Acts 1:11).
This event will be unmistakable. There are two sounds mentioned in this verse-- a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God. These are difficult to interpret, but they will surely be known to all when they occur.
Some things are not totally clear. Who will voice the loud shout? Will it be Jesus Himself (John 11:43), or the archangel Michael (Dan. 10:13; Jude 9), or another angel? And is this a literal trumpet or shofar call, or was Paul speaking figuratively in describing the call of God by which He will announce the Advent of His Son? (1 Cor. 15:52)
These three phenomena may all refer to the same thing, but probably they are three separate, almost simultaneous, announcements of Christ's return.
All our questions regarding the Rapture are not answered here, but one thing is clear: Christ's return for His saints will be announced from heaven dramatically and forcefully. Then the dead in Christ will be resurrected, that is, believers will be raised. The Old Testament saints will evidently be raised at the end of the Great Tribulation because the phrase "in Christ" would seem to refer exclusively to the Church (Dan. 12:2).
The bodies of the dead in Christ will rise before the living Christians are caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes. 4:17). This raises some troubling questions. How will God raise the bodies of people who were buried hundreds of years ago? What about the bodies of those Christians who were burned to death and those whose ashes were thrown to the wind, and Christians who perished at sea?
We don't know exactly how this will work, but this revelation came from Jesus Christ Himself. These events are as certain in future fulfillment as Jesus' resurrection is a fact of past history. The God who spoke the universe into being out of nothing is entirely able to reassemble the decayed or disintegrated bodies of all His saints in a moment (1 Cor. 15:35-58).
The real question for us? Indeed, we face the same issues as the Thessalonians. Do we walk, witness and grieve with hope, knowing that the Lord is coming for us and may arrive at any moment? But more importantly-- Are we ready? Are we prepared at any moment for the return of Christ? Is there anything that is left undone? Any word left unspoken? Any witness left unexpressed?
Father God, I thank You for Your divine plan. Build in me the hope of resurrection. Build in me a sense of readiness for the culmination of this age. May I walk in readiness for Your coming. In Jesus' name.