May 28th 2023: Sam Pritchard

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In this passage of scripture you can take something normally negative, sad and difficult, and find it’s actually good, that there is hope in the sorrows of life, there is peace and there is comfort. This morning I am going to talk to you about death, to show that even in pain and misery our God remains holy and perfect. He is the One with a plan and a purpose. The point of church is it’s real, practical and alive. We will all experience, in some form, the pain of loss – whether we’re watching a loved one, an accident, or a diagnosis. This is real, lived-out theology.

What is the Christian to do when we respond to the worst thing imaginable? There is a famous saying, ‘There are only two things in life which are inevitable – death and taxes.’ Many people would say they’re terrified of death, which is for them a great unknown. What is it like? What happens? There is confusion. Not knowing about death creates further confusion.

  1. We are informed people.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) We are informed people. We are a people who have been revealed by God the truth of death. We don’t face it alone, without understanding. We are informed for a reason and a purpose. Fascinating! Christians have hope. In the midst of the hardest trail we will ever face, we have hope.

Death is the great enemy, the great separator. Christ is greater! One day, there will be no more death. We have spiritual life in Him because He has given it to us. I know who my Saviour is. He is still goodness, the gospel is still true. Even in the worst things imaginable, my Saviour is alive.

“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). This verse explains to us what we believe. Do you believe? Can you say that I believe this Jesus really lived, died, rose and is really coming back? The hope, the peace – it’s only there if you have confidence, truth and belief in Jesus. The root and stem of peace in all circumstances is knowing who Jesus is and believing He has done what He has said He has done.

Jesus rose again. Outside of Jesus, you don’t have peace. Friends, Christ has carved out the way for us. He has already died and risen again. We are not doing this alone, we are following Him in the path He has already walked. Without Him, there is no hope, but with Him, all who call upon the Lord will be saved. “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24). That’s the power of Jesus Christ. For all those who trust in Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, we have hope.

  • We should declare it.

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). Because we believe in Jesus, we have something to say. We have an answer, a solution, a hope. We hold onto this verse. The whole of scripture is God inspired. Every word is from Him. There is something unique, Paul says here, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord.” Was this the Holy Spirit working in him, from speaking with other believers? I don’t know, but it is important. It is not our thought, it comes from authority from the Lord, from the one who has lived, the one who has died for us.

For those who have already died, before Jesus returns, they will not be forgotten about. Jesus’ power is so mighty that all who are in Him are safe. I encourage you to read the Bible more. When someone dies their body will rot away but their soul immediately returns to God. The second a person passes away, their soul is with God, in the presence of the Saviour who loves them. Those who are in Christ who have passed away are with Him. What a thing to declare. There is hope for everyone who turns to Jesus Christ.

  • The Lord Himself.

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The return of Christ cannot be compared to. Our Saviour is coming back. There are so many people working out the mechanics of what it will look like, they forget Jesus is coming back. The one who died for you is coming back. When we see Jesus, what we’ll care most about is we’re with Him! What can be greater than to be in the presence of our Saviour? The Lord Himself will come for His people. What confidence we have!

The great shout, the sound of the trumpet – what will it be like? I don’t know. But the whole point is seeing my Saviour. I can’t imagine what it will be or what it will look like. We don’t understand it or fathom the glory of that day when Jesus returns. What matters is, are we living as if God keeps His promises? We know Jesus is coming. Are you ready to meet Him, for the day when Jesus returns? So many people think they are ready for everything. Are you ready for His return? Are you ready for that great judgement day?

  • When the Lord appears what will happen?

“Then we who are alive, who are left, 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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the grand reunion when God reunites us who have sinned, with Himself. He will unite us forever. We will be with Him. The idea of being caught up means He will intentionally come down and bring us to Him.

We will meet Him in the air. Breath-taking! The word ‘meet’ describes the official welcome of honoured guests. When we meet Him it is an intentional meeting. All who believe in Jesus will be with Him. What does this meeting look like, to meet in the air? I have no idea. It will be a once in eternity event. Unique. This is Jesus Christ coming back, God returning to have the final victory. It is the end of human history and the beginning of spiritual eternity. We can’t understand it.

God, in His infinite wisdom, plan and order, is coming back for us. Our feeble minds can’t comprehend it, but one day we will witness it and live it! The risen, resurrected, conquering Lamb, whilst we were still sinners, looked at us in love. We will be overwhelmed by Him.

At the end of verse 17 we see what everything revolves around – we will always be with our Lord. There will never be a moment when we will not be with Him. We’ll be in the presence of the Lord.

  • Encourage one another with the truth.

 “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Those whom Christ died for will never be forgotten but will be with Him forever. Therefore, in the struggles of life, encourage one another with these words. Our God is coming back, and nothing will separate us from the love of God.

October 23rd 2016: Ian Middlemist

Our service and communion was led by Ian Middlemist who preached on 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11, focusing on verse 9, ‘For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Ian began by asking us, ‘Are you ready to stand before the judgement seat of Christ?’ He is coming again and we need to be prepared. This life is not all that there is, this life is passing – here but for a moment. We need to be ready for what is to be. There is an appointment to meet with the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge all men – Christian and those who are not Christians. Many assume there is nothing after this life, they agree with the mindless words of John Lennon, ‘Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people living for today.’

The believers in Thessalonica were worried about those who had passed away – how would they fare? They were also wondering how would they, themselves fare on the great day. There are three things to note: to stay alert, to know salvation is in Jesus Christ, to encourage one another.

To stay alert (verses 1-8):
Some people hide away. Some believers thought if they could pinpoint the day Jesus would return again then they would be prepared. The first thing to note is that nobody knows the date or time when Jesus Christ will return again. Jesus told the apostles, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.’ (Acts 1:7).

Picture the scene of the thief in the night. The burglar never announces when he is going to burgle our houses, there is no text message, he comes unexpectedly. Second, we have a picture of sleep. Burglars generally come at night time; it’s dark – often the time when most evil is done. Shame is less of an issue at night. It is a time when most arguments take place in homes. It is a time when may feel safe and secure in their houses under their duvets – maybe after a few glasses of wine. People feel safe and secure but not ready, thinking about comfort, not safety. Switched off.

Are we ready for the coming of Jesus> Are you spiritually alert? The problem with those who do not know Christ is that they are in the dark, they will totally be shocked at His coming. They will be whisked away to everlasting punishment. They must wake up. We need to be alert ourselves. Those who do not know Christ need to walk in the light and anticipate His coming.

Salvation is ours (verses 9-10):
Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who knows our future. Everything is dependent on Christ who is looking at our life right now. On that great day it is heaven or hell – no second chances. Hell is likened to a prison, where the prisoners are in ‘chains of gloomy darkness.’ It’s an eternal prison. Verse 9 is all about salvation, ‘For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ What is salvation? We recognise that we need it, that we need to be saved. What does it mean to be saved? It is to be rescued. But what are we to be saved from? Our greatest need is salvation from the wrath of God. This is what Christ saves us from. On that day of judgement God will judge all people for those sins against Him. He will do this because He is holy and righteous. The law is a reflection of God’s character. He will be vindicated. He will judge. Your sins have caused a separation between you and God. It is God’s wrath we are to be concerned about above everything else. We need to be saved from it by faith in Christ. He is the one who brings salvation through His work on the cross. The gospel is Jesus died for sinners, was buried, rose again from the dead and HIs sacrifice turns away the wrath of God so we are appointed to the grace and smile of a holy God. We have great reasons to praise God for His great salvation.

Encourage one another (verse 11):
The apostle Paul says in verse 11, ‘encourage one another.’ This letter is one of great encouragement. We should take up our responsibility to encourage one another. We live in a tough world. It’s difficult, particularly for the believer. It’s easy to get hurt. Bereavement was an issue for the believers in Thessalonica. How comforting are the words of Joseph Scriven’s hymn:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

We need the encouragement of one another. We need the church. The world offers so much to a troubled people – escape through television, entertainment, drink and drugs, experiences that make you forget your pains. These are all temporary and damaging. We as Christians turn to these things as well. We can turn to professionals to help us, to counsellors, but for our personal salvation we are a body of people who are not to leave it to someone else. It is my responsibility to care for you. You belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. Encourage one another, build up one another. Let’s do that more and more.

Are you in the light or the dark? Are you alert to the coming of Christ? Where will you be on that great day? Encourage one another, especially when we are weak. Press on until He returns!