Lesson 16: For we will be rejoined with them when Christ returns - Page 2 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

In this glorious revelation Paul assured the living believers that they would in no case precede or go before their believing loved ones who had fallen asleep in Jesus; for since those loved ones were fallen asleep in Jesus, they were with Jesus and would be with Him when He comes in the Rapture. God revealed much to the apostle Paul concerning the great beyond, but Paul was forbidden to tell all of it. (Study 2 Corinthians 12:1-5)

Today there are many preachers who refuse to believe in or preach a personal return of Jesus to this earth; they spiritualize His coming. Thousands of church members have been told that the second coming took place at Pentecost. Others have been told that the second coming is the conversion of a sinner; while still others have been told that the second coming is death. The second coming of Christ has been spiritualized many times in one way or another, but we must believe God! JESUS CHRIST WILL RETURN TO THIS EARTH “IN HIS PERSONAL, AUGUST PRESENCE.”

Dear friend, you may believe who and what you want to believe; but as for me, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” Regardless of whom the preacher or teacher may be, regardless of the educational degrees he may have, God is still true. Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth in a body, exactly as He went!

(4:17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

The living and the raised shall unite in a simultaneous greeting of their descending Lord. “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up{5] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The living, after passing through the wondrous change from mortal to immortal, shall not await for a single moment the newly raised bodies of the pious dead, but together with them, in one reunited, loving, inseparable company, shall be caught away in chariots of clouds, to meet the Lord “in the air”{4], and greet Him in the descent. He comes to fulfill His promise (John 14:3).

Here Paul tells us that all believers in Christ will escort Jesus back to earth when He returns. We shall be part of a united escort for our Lord. All of this will occur in the territory of Satan, who is called “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). The enemy of our soul can’t delay Jesus’ second coming for one minute. Paul exclaims, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Paul’s words are a source of encouragement; they are also a test of discipleship. If you cannot rejoice at being forever with the Lord, you must examine your faith and your life. You can be ready.

“We . . . will be caught up{5] . . . in the clouds. “Clouds” are associated with the Lord’s presence and His coming in power. The prophet Daniel wrote, "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence” (Daniel 7:13). Describing end times, Jesus said, “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” The mystery and majesty will not be withheld from the Church. Others may miss Jesus, but “we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

All believers in Christ shall be assured of eternal joy with Him. “And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Paul does not say that we will remain in the air forever; he says we will be with the Lord forever―and that my friend is sufficient enough for me, just to know that I will always be with the Lord. Forever with the Lord in familiar companionship―in joyful communion, in approaching glory, and in delightful revelations. We will be with Him, not occasionally, or for an age, or for a millennium, but uninterruptedly forever, without the possibility of separation. How great is the contrast with the brightest experiences of this ever-changing life! There are three things which distinguish the heavenly life of the soul―perfection, eternity, consistency.

18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This passage closes with words of comfort and encouragement. Notice how Paul longed that his people in the Lord should minister to one another: “encourage one another with these words.” That is “Read them to each other, say them to each other, quote them over and over again to assure and reassure each other.”

The best consolation is that which is drawn from the revelations of God’s word. There is nothing that comforts like Scripture comforts. The bereaved were sorrowing for their loved ones who had been struck down by death, and were full of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Will they meet again, or are they to be apart forever? The teaching on the second coming of Christ assures them that their departed relatives shall be rescued from the power of death, that they shall meet again, meet in glory, meet to never be apart again, to be with each other for ever and with the Lord.

Note: Since Paul’s purpose here and in 1 Corinthians 15 is to instruct and comfort Christians he says nothing about the destiny of the wicked, but it seems reasonable to assume that this meeting “in the air”{4] is preparatory to the Lord’s return to earth for the final judgment.

There are many things that we would like to know, but the Bible was not written to satisfy our curiosity. Instead, it was meant to help us in our daily lives, and for that the important thing is that we should be ready when the Lord comes. Thus we are often warned to prepare, and told that the coming will be unexpected.

Dear reader, what about you? Are you ready to meet the Lord? In these uncertain days, are you ready for the next great event in Jesus’ life? “Encourage each other with these words.
[1} When Paul uses the word “we” as he uses it here, he is speaking of all born again believers, members of the one Church of which Jesus Christ is the head.
[2} “The voice of the Archangel” signifies the majesty and power of the summons. The Greek reads “a voice of an Archangel, which makes it unlikely that Paul is thinking of any particular Archangel. Those who try to identify the Archangel usually think of Michael, the only archangel named in the New Testament (Jude 9). Gabriel is mentioned, but he is called simply an angel (Luke 1:19, 26).
[3} The statement “in the clouds” in the Greek signifies “amid clouds.” The suggestion here is that the saints will be surrounded by clouds which will act as a giant chariot, and we will be carried away on their downy softness.
[4} The statement “in the air” refers to the space between heaven and earth.
[5} The word “caught up” means to seize, to carry off, to snatch away.
[6} (John 21:25) Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
[7} (2 Cor. 5:6-8) Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

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