"In That Great Gettin' Up Morning"
by Dennis Michelson
I Corinthians 15:51-52 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Introduction: The traditional celebration of Easter has pretty much obscured the truth of the resurrection. I will spare you all of the pagan practices that have intruded into its "observance." Read Alexander Hislop's Two Babylons and you will get the picture. I want to focus on the implications of the resurrection.
The passages before us clearly teach the fact of the rapture of the Church. Again, so much emphasis has been given to arguing over the timing of the event that we often miss the actual importance of the event. Read the verses in I Corinthians 15 and the background will be clear. Paul elucidates on this same point in the I Thessalonians passage.
1. The Problem (I Thess. 4:13-14)
Paul simply says "don't worry about your dead loved ones, God has everything under control." If your loved one died "in the Lord" then you should briefly sorry but you should never despair. The believer has the hope of the resurrection and his sorrow should be minor compared to the hopeless sorrow of the unbeliever.
Christians need to be very careful about the length and breadth of their grief for loved ones who are now with the Lord. If you are not careful, you may send the message that you miss them more than you miss the Lord! Someone may have intruded into the church at Thessalonica and led them astray with false teaching. Paul sets the biblical record straight.
2. The Promise (4:15)
Paul got this directly from the Word of the Lord. Don't fret about those who have already died and don't be alarmed if you find yourself alive when this happens. God still has everything under control. You may be alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord and you may not - don't sweat the small stuff.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid . . .I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also." The believer, resting upon the sure promises of the Word of God, ought to be the most relaxed person on earth (even on the day he may leave the earth).
3. The Procedure (16-17)
It is simply amazing how complicated scholars tend to make such a simple couplet of verses. Shouting, trumpets, and it's going to be a big secret (I'm just saying). When your hermeneutics and eschatology are accurate then you do not have to "force" verses together - they simply "fit."
Does it say "so shall we ever be with our loved ones?" No it says "so shall we ever be with the Lord." I do look forward to being reunited with my friends and loved ones who have died in the Lord but that does not compare in any fashion to "meeting the Lord in the air."
What does it say about our priorities when we are more focused on those who have gone to be with the Lord than we are on the Lord we are going to be with? Our loved ones and friends were gifts from the Lord. I say this kindly, but is it possible you have more affection for the gift than the Giver?
4. The Practical Benefit (18)
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
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