QUESTIONS

Mark 9:9-13

BRIEF INTRO: Peter, James, and John were taken up to a high mountain with Jesus, where He was transfigured before them. These three men, out of the twelve that Christ called unto Himself, were the closest to Him, the “inner circle” that witnessed many things that the others did not. This was one of those times. 

To these three disciples, Jesus gave a special privilege of previewing His kingdom. But in this case, it wasn’t a repeat of the view presented in Matthew thirteen (“the kingdom of heaven is like). Rather, “it was a glimpse of the kingdom as it will be when it has been completely established, and Jesus is revealed to all as its King.”

These men were the key disciples that Jesus would use to motivate and encourage others. To these men, all twelve, the gospel would be entrusted. The gospel was to move forward and be proclaimed throughout the world. I think this goal, at least in part, was to encourage and motivate these three men. We have witnessed their doubts along the way, so something as grand as this would increase their faith and understanding of who Jesus is and why He came, lived among them, and would ultimately die and rise again!

As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, [a]until the Son of Man rose from the dead.”

FOCUS ONE: What happens on the mountain. . .

The central theme of this vision is Jesus, the king! He is the whole point. These men have just been given a glimpse of the divine nature of Jesus. Some of His glory radiated externally (that was within shined through) for them to see who He truly was and in such a powerful and memorable way so that they would understand more wholly why He would have to suffer and die. 

Can you imagine yourself witnessing such an event and then being told to keep it to yourself? Would you be able to? Jesus instructs them “not to relate to anyone what they had seen.” But this instruction or exhortation was limited in time. It was not to be kept a secret forever, only until “the Son of Man should rise from the dead” (v. 9). 

“Only from the perspective of the resurrection would they understand the transfiguration and thus be able to proclaim its meaning correctly.” It appears that they believed in a future resurrection (John 11:24), but their misunderstanding of His messianic kingdom’s nature was evident. And so…

10 “They [a]seized upon [b]that statement, discussing with one another [c]what rising from the dead meant.”

FOCUS TWO: Healthy dialogue 

They “seized upon” or kept those words to themselves. This “keeping” is similar to what Mary did (Luke 2:19) after she heard so many good things about her baby boy. One exception would be that while Mary kept those things to herself (pondered them in her heart), they kept discussing what Christ’s words meant with one another. Especially His statement regarding rising from the dead. What does rising from the dead mean? 

Again, it is clear that they were perplexed by Jesus’ words. What is instructive for us is that they wanted to understand what He was saying to them! They kept on discussing His words together. The dialogue and possibly debates about what He meant continued for some time, most likely even up to the events at Gethsemane, the trials, and then the cross.

I love their zeal to understand! I love the discussion, dialogue, and debates that ensued over His words. I am excited that they wanted to know truth, understand theology (although they may not have viewed it that way at the time), and even their willingness to engage in thoughtful debate over the issue. We can learn much from this observation. We are witnessing the demise of such things in our society. Rather than polite, thoughtful discussion to know the truth, we resort to yelling, canceling, and even violence. God help us.

What does rising from the dead mean? One commentator points out: “The disciples did not understand the distinction between “the second coming” (8:38) and “the resurrection” (9:9). The Jews of Jesus’ day expected only one coming of the Messiah into history and this coming was related to the military victory and supremacy of national Israel on a global scale.” 

11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And He said to them, “Elijah does come first and he restores all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has [a]indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written of him.”

FOCUS THREE: The authority of scripture

It is not odd for the scribes to come into the conversation. However, it is a bit unusual that the Pharisees are not mentioned with them. But it is rather insightful, especially when we notice Jesus’ response to the question. The Scribes and the Pharisees sat in “Moses’ seat. That is equivalent to a university’s “chair of philosophy. “The expression here may be translated as “[they] have seated themselves in Moses’ seat”-stressing the fact that this was an imaginary authority they claimed for themselves. There was a legitimate sense in which the priest and Levites had authority to decide matters of law (Deuteronomy 17:9), but the scribes and Pharisees had gone beyond any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the word of God (Matthew 15:3-9). For that Jesus condemned them (Matthew 23:8-36).”

Jesus, in this case, does not invalidate their teaching regarding Elijah. He clarifies it! The word “must” is a verb (dei) that in Greek speaks of the absolute necessity that this must occur. So this is a logical question being asked of Jesus in light of Malachi four and their recent experience on the mountain.

The question seems to be, how does the appearance of Elijah on the mountain relate to the scribe’s teaching? Let me sum up Jesus’ answer in this way:

“The sequence of thought is as follows: (1) Elijah is coming as the restorer (Malachi 4:5); (2) he came, unrecognized, in the person of John the Baptist, and was killed; (3) the Son of Man faces a like fate. The disciples seem to grasp only the first two points.”

We will witness these very words of Jesus coming true as we continue moving forward in our study of Mark. 

One last observation for our consideration. Did you notice the statement “just as it is written of him” in verse thirteen regarding John the Baptist, and again in verse twelve “how is it written” concerning the Son of man? Those statements should encourage our study of scripture and equip us in our daily walk and ministries because they reveal Jesus’ high view of scripture! He believes it to be authoritative, and so should we!

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 143

Preceptaustin commentaries, online

Macarthur Study Bible, pg. 1436

GOSPEL AVOIDANCE

Extended reading: Matthew 27:62-28:15

Devotional reading: Verses 12-15

Each of us has friends, family members, and loved ones that seem to do all that they can to avoid the message of the gospel. They want to be “free” of His message for varied reasons that they deem to be legitimate. Some, sadly, will use extreme measures to discredit the gospel message, others, the tactic of avoidance!

“ The religious leaders went to a lot of trouble to be free of Jesus’ message. They spent time and energy trying to discredit Him in front of the crowds. Then they plotted His murder. When they caught Him, they tried to come up with witnesses and then had to convince Rome that Jesus was worthy of the death penalty. Once Jesus was dead, the leaders feared He would come back to life, either in fact or through rumor, so they got permission to seal and guard the tomb.

Finally, they had to come up with a story to explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Obviously the easier path would have been to accept Jesus’ message and make the appropriate changes in their lives and beliefs. We must make sure we don’t become so hardened that we, like the Jewish leaders, go to great lengths to avoid accepting the life saving message of the gospel.”

Adapted from the Every-mans Bible

EASTER

                                       

Sing, soul of mine, this day of days,
The Lord is risen.
Toward the sun rising set thy face,
The Lord is risen.
Behold, He give them strength and grace;
For darkness, lights or morning, praise;
For sin, His holiness; for conflict, peace.

Arise, O soul, this Easter Day!
Forget the tomb of yesterday
For thou from bondage art set free;
Thou sharpest in His victory
And life eternal is for thee
Because the Lord is risen!

Author unknown

A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES

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I recently read through Spurgeon’s Catechism and was meditating on question sixteen: “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” The answer is not good. “The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery?”

The fall (Genesis 3) eluded to is that time in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God’s ONE command; the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam, being our representative, sinned, we fell with him: “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). 

Because of that choice to violate God’s command, all of mankind lives in a state of guilt, lacking any righteousness, and sadly, the corruption of our whole nature. That is why Solomon, hundreds of years later, cried out, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Futile or meaningless).” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and in his writing, we recognize that he clearly perceives the evil all around him, as well as the results of it on mankind and creation.

Does this mean that we should live our few breaths in this life in despair? Absolutely not! Isaiah the prophet writes of a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17-19). A time when sin and its corruptions will be remembered no more! In John’s gospel, he wrote about mankind’s one pathway to escape the bondage of sin, its misery, and the wrath that follows, and that pathway that person is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16)!

God revealed His plan of salvation to us by way of the Prophets and Apostles. He told us that Jesus had to die on a cruel cross as our substitute (representative). Shed His blood as an atonement for sin, once for all (Hebrews 10:10), and rise from the grave victorious over sin, death, and hell. He said that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His redemptive work only, and that such a faith is accompanied by repentance (Acts 20:21).

Our current state may be one of sin and misery, but that is only the first part of the story. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. . . “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive”. . . “But each in his order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22,-23).

The curse will be removed! Christ HAS broken our bondage to sin, and we will be with our savior throughout all eternity, not as enemies, but as His beloved children

CHRISTMAS IN GENESIS

Extended reading: Genesis 3

Devotional reading: verse 15

And I will [a]make enemies
Of you and the woman,
And of your [b]offspring and her [c]Descendant;
He shall [d]bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise Him on the heel.”

Genesis 3 gives us an account of the process of temptation and mankind’s fall into sin. Not quite the place where you would expect a Christmas story. But without this historical account and its prophetic view of the complete destruction of the evil one, the story of the virgin birth, ministry of Christ; His death on a cross and resurrection from the grave, would make absolutely little sense.

“In His grace,  God promised that the off-spring of the woman would defeat Satan. He promised that He would take charge of the redemption of their lives and overcome the enemy. This is good news- the first mention of the gospel of grace that would eventually be fulfilled by the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.”

As one Christmas song rightly concludes, Christmas is about the cross!

PRAYER: Father, we thank you for keeping your word and sending your Son Jesus to redeem mankind from the bondage of sin. There is no greater gift we can receive than that which you have already given, Baby Jesus, Emmanuel! Amen.

KNOWING CHRIST

                                                   

 Philippians 3:10-12

 Brief Intro: 

As I mentioned in my last post, we would have to come back, camp out, if you will, a bit longer in verses 10-12, because there is so much Paul is expressing that, on its face, honestly, it just doesn’t make much sense, at least not concerning what we know about Paul’s life and conversion.

Those statements about “knowing Him,” “fellowshipping in His sufferings,” “conforming to His death,” etc., what’s that all about? We tend to glide past statements like this a-s-s-u-m-i-n-g we get it. We presuppose meanings to such things that may or may not be correct. We all do this at times, don’t we?

So, initially for myself, and now hopefully for your edification, I started digging to see what I have been missing by assuming too much in my own cursory reading of this Epistle.

So my aim in this post is simply this: to shed light on these statements of Paul and hopefully give you a much more precise and more applicable understanding of Paul’s heart, which he lays out to these believers in Philippi in these verses.

FOCUS ONE:

1.   To Know Christ 

What does this mean? If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have learned what you know about Jesus mostly from Paul. He wrote about His death, burial and resurrection. He explained the meaning of the gospel and revealed to us this “mystery” called the church. He “knows” and understands these things better than anybody else. So what does he mean when He says that he wants to know Christ?

Paul says in verse 10, those very words, “I want to know Christ.” This statement seems to assume his thought back in verse 8: there is an “Infinite value in knowing Christ.” Compared to everything in his life, his history, as he expressed in verses 5-6, to know Christ more personally, more intimately, here-now is to Paul of greater worth than anything else the blessings and honor of this world have to offer.

He is not just seeking a greater cognitive knowledge of facts about Jesus, things learned from books or mentors; no, what Paul was seeking was an intimate relationship with his savior born out of the daily experience of walking with Him!

Through the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs, the good and the bad; through the trials and tribulations or the blessings and comforts; whether being persecuted for the faith or experiencing the heights of spiritual success in serving Christ, Paul knew that in these things he would learn more about Christ. He knew that walking through life’s twists and turns in humble obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ would be the catalyst for such an abiding relationship.

The word “know” in verse 10 has varied meanings in our English language, just as it does in other languages and just as it does in our bible. For example, it can mean “to have learned something by serious study.” Or to know something by experience. It can refer to intimate knowledge between two persons, and even deep personal intimacy and contact between two people like, such as with Adam and Eve as in Genesis 4:1. But as Dr. Boice comments, “but because this is what knowledge between persons is—deep, intimate union, Paul having been saved wholly and solely by Christ, wants to enter into the deepest possible union with Him.” Dear reader, that union is to be forged within the fires of our own human experience.

Much of our western Christianity has a mindset far from what we are reading here. Much of our Christianity is influenced by our parents, culture, and church, or the various churches we have attended over the past many years. 

What do I mean by that? I mean that some Christian’s Christianity is based more on family influence, beliefs, and example than on God’s word. The greater impact in their lives has been the various churches they attended and their particular ecclesiastical structure. But even more predominant than those two things is the influence and affect our culture plays in our individual and corporate walk of faith!

So, as we look at Paul’s words, I want you to think about how much of YOUR Christianity is BIBLICAL Christianity and how much of it comes from our culture and family backgrounds?

Ask yourself these questions as you think through this:

A. Is your love for God more an “emotion,” than it is a commitment?

B. In light of the incredible love God manifests to you at Calvary, are you extending similar love, mercy, and justice to those around you?

  1. We believe that Jesus died on the cross as an atonement for our sin, an act of incredible love. Our only appropriate response to our merciful savior is to submit to Him as Lord in all things. Are you submissive?

We can know Him personally and intimately. Jesus is not someone far removed from us. Our bibles tell us that He is near to us, with us, acquainted with all our ways. Don’t you desire to know Him more personally?

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg! For most of us, the reality of being able to know Christ more personally and intimately in our daily lives is sobering and challenging enough. But Paul doesn’t stop here. Paul also wants to know His power.

FOCUS TWO:

2.   To experience His mighty power

Paul says: “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection.”

He is not only speaking of the divine power that raised Christ from the dead but of the power of the resurrected Christ now operating in his life. That power enables believers to “live a new life (Romans 6:4).” Because they have been raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2,5,6)

Ephesians 2:5,6: “Even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead, (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved). For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:1 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

Paul says that he wants to experience that power in his redeemed body, that “new creation” body that 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks about. As Paul sets his sights on the realities of heaven, as he walks in this promise of “newness of life,” he wishes to experience that power more personally, more experientially in his limited time on earth.  But how? How did he wish to experience it? 

Boice again: “Above all, in the living of a godly life. Paul knew that a life lived with Jesus meant a life of holiness. But he also knew such a life was impossible if it depended upon his own natural powers. He had learned by experience his own inability to live as God intended; Paul longed for such a deliverance,{ as he expressed in Rom. 7:19, 22-24}, through Christ’s resurrection power.” 

The Greek word (Dunamis) used in verse 10 means power, especially inherent power. All the words derived from its stem (Duna) have the basic meaning of being able or capable. In other terms, Paul means having the ability to overcome resistance!

Since Christ died and rose again, overcoming the powers of death through the Holy Spirit, as Paul stated in Romans 8:11, he knew that same power, that same Holy Spirit, was able to help him overcome the resistance of the world, flesh, and the devil.

Dear Christian, Paul was sensitive to this power, are we? Are you? We should understand and believe that a life of holiness is impossible in our natural abilities. You and I desperately need this resurrection power to live a life where we can more wholly, more intimately experience a deeper relationship with our savior. 

Perhaps you are reading this, and these things that I have been talking about so far make no-sense-at-all-to-you, well, hold on because I have a few more things to say that you probably won’t understand either. This is because the things I am talking about are not “taught by human wisdom,” but taught by the Holy Spirit. A person who has not received God’s grace through His Son Jesus will see these things as foolishness and won’t be able to understand them because they are spiritual truths for His children, something that you presently are not!

But the good news is that even though you have sinned countless times against your creator, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rightly deserve His condemnation—God in His love sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus, to take on human flesh and die in the place of sinners like yourself, like all of us. He accepted the sacrifice of His Son as full payment for your sins and evidenced that by raising Him from the dead. He now offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to everyone, including you dear friend, if you but turn to Jesus in repentant faith. You cannot earn something as wonderful as this. It is God’s free, unearned gift to those who genuinely trust in the finished work of Christ at Calvary.

The third thing Paul speaks of is “fellowship in His sufferings.”

FOCUS THREE:

3.   To suffer with Him, being conformed to His death

“I want to “know” Him, and the “power” of His resurrection and the “fellowship of His sufferings.”

Again, what does he mean, right? Paul does not mean that he wished to suffer for human sin as Christ did because only Jesus could do that to the Father’s pleasure and satisfaction. So, Paul is speaking in a different sense. 

Paul wished, as one commentator expressed better than I could: “to stand with Christ in such an individual union that when the abuses and persecutions that Christ suffered also fell on him, as he knew they would, he could receive them as Jesus did. He wanted to react like Jesus, because he knew that abuse received like Jesus would actually draw him closer to his Lord.” Receive rightly and react rightly!

Paul earlier expressed this back in 1:29: “for to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” In 1 peter 4:12-13, Peter said: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

Paul knew that to be a Christ-follower and to walk in a holy manner before this world and His redeemer meant that trial and tribulations, suffering in varying degrees, would come part and parcel with his new allegiance. He knew there was a right way and a wrong way to “run the race set before him,” and he accepted that fact humbly and wanted to receive and react appropriately to the sufferings that God would allow to fall on him, “for His names sake,” as we saw in 1:29. 

He knew that through such sufferings a deeper, more intimate relationship- or “knowing” of the Lord was possible, and he counted the cost and decided that the surpassing value of knowing Christ was worth it all! (3:8)

This fellowship of Christ’s suffering is won at a high price….the price of loyal, intentional obedience (vv. 13-14)!

Christian, are you like Paul desiring to receive and react humbly and obediently to our father in heaven no matter what He allows to come your way?

Or do you count hardship and suffering in your life as something strange and to be avoided at all costs?

Do you realize that there is a biblical way and a worldly way of thinking about sufferings? Which theology do you hold?

These statements of Paul explain why he desires to know Christ more personally and experience His power and fellowship in His suffering because he wants to “attain” or experience the resurrection from the dead.

FOCUS FOUR:

4.   To attain (experience) the resurrection from the dead

Talk about complex statements. If the others were a bit hard to comprehend, what about this one??? 

Does it mean that Paul was afraid of his eternal security? No, not at all. The man who wrote Romans 8:38-39 and Philippians 1:6 is not a man who fears that. Paul is obviously, speaking of something different.

Paul is not thinking in these terms; one commentator writes: “he is thinking about something else. Actually, he is saying that he wishes to be so much like Christ in the way he lived that people would think of him as a resurrected person EVEN now, even before physical death.”

Dr. Kuiper agrees and, in his thinking, has said: “The word resurrection literally means to ‘place,’ or ‘stand up.’ To the Greek mind, living people were standing up, and dead people were lying down. So, making a Greek pun, Paul says, “I want to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings that I may give the spiritually dead a preview to (eternal life in action) as I am standing up outstanding among those who are spiritually on their backs—spiritually dead.”

Brothers and sisters, is it our desire to be so living for Christ in this world that we would appear as a resurrected person living among the dead?

Conclusion:

With so much said and much to think upon, what’s our summarized takeaway from these scriptures? I believe it is this:

What Paul is expressing is biblical Christianity. Vile sinners are forgiven by grace, forsaking their own perceived righteousness and receiving Christ’s, now pursuing their savior. Laying aside what is behind and counting it all a loss to grasp hold of something more precious, something of greater value, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, “laying hold of Christ Jesus!”

Is this our Christianity or are we holding on to some other definition of Christianity that is not biblical, or perhaps comes from our culture, upbringing, or something else?

THE POWER OF GOD

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Extended reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

1 Corinthians 1:18 “for the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

The idling of car engines stopped, and many people, including myself, left our vehicles to begin the one-mile hike to the cross. In a small town known as Paxinos, Pennsylvania, the Easter service at the cross is a big event. The 24 foot high cross, placed initially and maintained by the Boy Scouts, troop 250, sits high on top of a mountain, and the only access to it is by walking unless you are unable to walk, then a van will transport you to the top. 

Young and old alike come faithfully each year to sit beneath the cross and hear a sermon of power, hope, and love: the message of the cross! As the pastor preaches, we enjoy a fantastic panorama of the surrounding countryside. The view before us reminds us all that the forgiveness purchased by Christ Jesus on the cross is available to anyone who will turn to Him in faith! 

It’s easy to hear these words of Paul and become discouraged. After all, many people are perishing because they think that no one can die and return to life again. But we should be encouraged as we read these verses because God, in His wisdom, was pleased to use what seems foolish to some to save even the most hardened of sinners! 

Listening to the Easter message reminded me of the ongoing work of salvation that God is accomplishing through His Son, who came to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Let us encourage one another with these words.

Prayer: Blessed Lord Jesus, let our faith be fixed and unaltered, one that never grows weary or disheartened. Help us be pleased with what you are delighted with, always rejoicing in the hope and glory of Christ Jesus! Amen.

HE IS RISEN

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HE HAS RISEN!

“He is not here;

                 HE HAS RISEN,

                                 as He said.”
                                              (Matthew 28:6)

The stalwart guards stood watch that day
around a dead man’s grave.

Not mindful that He was the Lord,
they stood there, bold and brave,
till all at once they fell away
without a chance to fight,
for Jesus had returned to life,
and vanquished sin’s dark night.

The angel band drew near to praise
and glorify their King.
They crowded in to worship Him

and hallelujahs sing:
for they had longed to comfort Him
as on the cross He hung,
but He bore all the suffering,
this Savior, God’s own Son.

My sin was pardoned on the tree
that held this blessed Christ;
He took the punishment for me 
and paid sin’s awful price.
Only the perfect lamb of God
could love a wretch like me
enough to die, enough to live,
enough to set me free!

The empty tomb, a witness stark 
that Jesus lived again, 
and soldiers fearing for their lives
knew Christ was no mere man!

O Jesus Christ, my dearest Friend,
O King of heaven and earth,
Though ages pass, no tongue can tell
the measure of Your worth
!

Guest Poet: Connie Faust

COMFORT ONE ANOTHER

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Study 8       

 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:1

Brief Intro:  Moving forward in our study of these two letters by Paul to the Thessalonians, we find topics of a prophetic nature. We noticed how Paul mentions the second coming at the end of every chapter, but now he will speak more directly about it in greater length and with much more depth.

These are topics in which many mature, godly people of faith disagree. They do not differ with Paul’s main point, The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they disagree about the timing of His return. Is He coming:

  • Before the tribulation, in the middle, or after it?
  • Is His coming going to be in two phases or one – Pretribulation or Post tribulation?

These are not issues that should divide us as believers. Instead, in love for one another, let us recognize that no one system of theology has all the answers to these essential questions. So, my focus in this study will be, as best I can, to hold tightly to Paul’s motives for writing these words, i.e., to comfort and encourage these believers regarding the misunderstanding they have about the resurrection of the saints.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who [a]are asleep, so that you will not grieve as indeed the rest of mankind do, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, so also God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep [b]through Jesus. 15 For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [c]and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [d]shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who remain, 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, [e]comfort one another with these words.”

FOCUS ONE: “But we do not want you to uniformed.” Paul begins a new topic with these words. He received information regarding a misunderstanding these young Christians had about those who have died “in Christ” and their outcome. Did the living believers have an advantage over the dead? Would those that have died already waiting for Christ’s return miss the resurrection or not be a part of it? This young church certainly seems to have believed in an imminent (in their lifetime) return of Christ. With that understanding and Christians dying around them amid the persecution they were enduring, even their loved ones, such thoughts were grievous to their souls. So, Paul writes to give them more information on the resurrection, and along with that, provide them with some comfort.

Paul begins instructing them about what will happen to those who died in Christ and those who remain alive until His coming (v.14). (1) “Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.” Since their main concern was regarding those “who are asleep” (dead), he addresses that question first. Paul says that since (for) “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so (or, then it surely follows), that God will bring with Him those who sleep in Christ” (v. 14). Paul uses the term “dead in Christ” in verse 16. Both expressions refer to the same group of people. 

The power, authority, and ability given to Christ to accomplish the saints’ resurrection are anchored to the fact that the Father accepted His sacrifice, raised Him from the grave, and seated Him at His right hand (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 12:2). (2) “God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them.” At least in this passage, that link is found in the use of the phrase even so after speaking about Christ’s death and resurrection (v.14)!

Paul makes a direct statement about the “order” of this event (v.15), and then he fleshes it out more in the following two verses:

  • The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout.
  • There will be a voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.
  • The dead “in Christ” rise first,
  • Then those who are alive will be caught up together with them, in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and then shall forever be with the Lord.

Again, it is not the purpose of this study to delve into what all of this means concerning the timing of these events. But we see in this explanation from Paul how they would be comforted by understanding that their friends and loved ones, who died in Jesus Christ, would not miss the coming of their savior! The living saints would not take precedence over dead saints or gain some advantage over them, according to Paul, who the Holy Spirit led to write these words (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Verse 18 reveals Paul’s goal in giving them further teaching on the coming of the Lord. “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Paul’s primary purpose in writing these things is not to teach some mode or structure of eschatological theology but to provide comfort to Christians whose friends and loved ones have died waiting for what they thought would be the return of Christ in their lifetime. Waiting amid harsh opposition and persecution.

5 Now as to the periods and [a]times, brothers and sisters, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord is coming just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction [b]will come upon them like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, so that the day would overtake you [c]like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then, let’s not sleep as [d]others do, but let’s be alert and [e]sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let’s be [f]sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore, [g]encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.

FOCUS TWO: Paul’s focus in these verses is on the “times an epochs” or period in which His coming, at least the general sense of it, will play out. Notice that he does not predict a specific time for this event. Indeed, he is mindful of what Christ Himself had said to His disciples in Matthew 24:36 and Acts 1:7 and therefore seeks to urge these believers to live prepared lives, living daily in light of Christ’s soon return (vv.6-8). Jesus Himself taught these things (Matthew 25:1-13).

Paul is clear that “the day of the Lord” will be a time of destruction with no escape (v. 3). That the people of that day will be deceived into thinking that all is well, they will say “peace and safety” when seemingly out of nowhere judgment befalls them.

But Paul wants to encourage them, so he reminds them of a critical difference between those who trust in Christ and those who do not, and that is this: believers are NOT in darkness; they are aware such days are coming. They are “sons of light and sons of day,” so not apart of the night around them! And as such, they should not be overtaken by that day’s arrival (v. 4).

So, because of these differences, bestowed upon us through Christ, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to be sober or self-controlled. (3) “Standing on the threshold of an event that will mean sudden translation for some and sudden destruction for others, Christians should arm themselves for action with self-control.” Paul uses metaphoric language in exhorting these believers to put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation (v. 8). A Roman soldier’s breastplate covered him from his neck to his waist, protecting his vital organs. This is what faith and love do for the Christian: Faith in God protects inwardly, and love for others protects outwardly.

The “hope of salvation” guards a Christian mind against the evil one’s attacks (cr. Ephesians 6:10-18). The salvation that believers long for and look forward to is our only hope of deliverance from the wrath to come! And how sweet it is that Paul included the words they would have read in verse nine, and by God’s grace, us today. These words would have lifted their spirits and put a fresh kick in their step, so to speak, and they ought to do the same for us. Our God’s intention for those He redeems IS NOT the wrath that will come upon the earth in the day of the Lord, but IT IS complete salvation that will be theirs and ours when the Lord returns for us in the clouds. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17).

These great truths are a source of encouragement and comfort to us as we face opposition and persecution for our faith in Christ (v. 11). These faithful and true words need to be continuously repeated. Contrary to our current culture, Christians do not always have to be looking for the next “new thing,” but we need to remind ourselves constantly about what we already know!

If you are interested in a deeper study about the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I recommend a book written by Robert P. Lightner titled: The Last Days Handbook—a complete guide to understanding the different views of prophecy. Who believes what about prophecy and why. I included the link below.

  1. (1) John MacArthur
  2. (2) The New Century Bible commentary
  3. (3) Thomas Constable Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians