The Lord Himself Will Descend

By Jon W. Quinn

In Paul's epistles to the disciples at Thessalonica, one of the significant issues dealt with is the return of Jesus. Much speculation is offered today about the possibility of Jesus' imminent return. Is it important for us to know when Jesus will return? A careful study of I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 will tell us what we really need to know about these things.

There Will Be A Resurrection
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In these verses, Paul affirms that there is a resurrection to come. Christians have a hope that unbelievers do not and look forward to being with God after their physical death. Paul declares that those who are dead in Christ will be raised from the dead! Death is not the final curtain!

Notice the phrase in verse 14 which says God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, and then the parallel in verse 16 which says, the dead in Christ shall rise first. The souls of the saints who have died will return with the Lord and partake in the resurrection of the body. The evidence of this is found in the fact of Jesus' resurrection.

Paul very clearly lets it be known that there is a cause and effect relationship at work in his words. The phrase “Therefore comfort one another” is an indication to us that there should be great comfort in the confident assurance of Jesus' resurrection. If God raised Jesus from the dead, God can do it again and raise others from the dead! (1 Corinthians 15:12-20; 23-24).

Notice these points:
1. There is no doubt that Jesus was resurrected!
2. There is no doubt that what God has done once, he can do again!
3. When Jesus returns, God will raise the dead in Christ.
4. Those still living shall join them meeting Jesus in the air.
5. We shall ever be with the Lord!

With Jesus' resurrection as evidence that there is a resurrection for us, we are to comfort each other. How many times do we find it necessary to comfort each other in our spiritual doubting and weaknesses? Through it all, we need to be reminded of the concepts Scripture sets forth here. Great spiritual strength should be derived from the assurance of Jesus' resurrection.

We Know “If” There Will Be A Resurrection, But Not “When”
None of us knows when these things will take place. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5). Paul clearly says that no one knows when Jesus will return. Some charge today that Paul mistakenly thought Jesus' return would be soon. Perhaps we all think that at times in our lives, but Paul never taught that he knew it would be soon. He gives no hints about how to tell when Jesus will come back. Instead, he indicates that it will be a surprise to everyone, even the faithful! “Like a thief” means “without warning or announcement”.

When has anyone ever heard of a thief who called and warned his victim that he was going to burglarize their house on a particular day? It doesn't happen! Nor will men know when Jesus is to return. Because no one knows, many will not believe that he will ever return. Some look at the long time that has passed and conclude that He will never come (2 Peter 3:3,4; 8).
Still, today, some look at the long time that has already passed and say it will be a longer time still until Jesus return, or that He will never return. They are saying, "Peace and safety!" They feel secure in their belief, but their feelings are wrong. Paul points out that Jesus' return will be sudden. It will be like the onset of a woman's labor pains, Jesus return will be sudden and climactic.

Finally, there will be a universal awareness of Jesus' return. The doubters, will not escape! In 5:1 through 5:3, Paul made the following points:
1. No one knows when the Lord will return.
2. His return will be a surprise to all, even the faithful.
3. Doubters and unbelievers will feel secure in their safety.
4. When he does come, it will be universal! Even the doubters and unbelievers will know of it.

The Faithful Will Not Be Surprised
Having demonstrated these points, an interesting observation is made in these Scriptures! Faithful brethren, even though they do not know when Jesus will return, will not be taken by surprise! (I Thessalonians 5:4,5). Paul used symbols in verses 4 and 5 to make his point; the figures of "day" and "night." The idea is that during the day, good and constructive things are accomplished by the industrious, while, at night, men work that which is unseemly and evil. Jesus also had taught about being prepared (Luke 12:42-46). So the faithful are characterized as being of "day" because they are busy for God and hence stay in a state or condition of preparedness. The unfaithful are characterized by night and darkness, because they are neither prepared to nor concerned about serving God.

If even the faithful do not know when Jesus will return, how can His return not be a surprise? The faithful expect his return momentarily, and are continually prepared for His return! The faithful cannot be caught unprepared, because the very fact of the uncertainty of when Jesus will return causes them to stay in a state of preparedness. The very uncertainty of when Jesus will return creates a sense of expectation and diligence.

Jesus may return any moment. Come quickly Lord Jesus, come quickly! (Revelation 22:20,21) What a wonderful disposition to have!

Because Jesus is Coming Back
Being prepared involves several things (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8):

The first quality that should characterize the Christian who is expecting Jesus to return is his alertness. The Christian will be like the watchman of old who is ever alert to the approach of any, whether they be friend or foe. He is constantly watching for danger and always prepared to turn away any attack. This same alertness and response to danger, keeps him in a state of preparedness to meet any threats. He will not be taken unawares by any evil, not because he has been warned, but because he is on his guard! By the same token, he will also be prepared for his Lords return.

The second thing that will characterize the Christian who is expecting Jesus to return is sobriety. This is metaphorical and in contrast to those who are drunken in verse 7. The one who is drunken has decided that how he behaves is not important; he won't be caught. Nothing is going to happen! The one who remains sober is determined to be prepared for any and all eventualities, whether they be good or bad. His mind is set on service to God.

Then we are told that we should stay prepared and equipped with the armor we have already put on, the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation.
Be prepared!

From The Bradley Banner 4/25/2004
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915


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