Due to pressures of life and business it was not possible for me to write this time on our Galatian series. We hope to continue this series, God willing, in the next issues of the Standard Bearer.
There was evidently concern in the hearts of the Thessalonian believers concerning what would happen to those who had died and had been buried. Was there hope also for their resurrection from the dead? The article of faith concerning the resurrection from the death is not shared by the pagan, Gentile world. They do not have this hope. The resurrection from the dead is the hope of Israel. The Sadducees denied and ridiculed the hope of the resurrection. (Matt. 22:23-31) They, err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. (Matt. 22:29) Heathendom will not receive the teaching concerning the resurrection from the dead, as is evident from the reply of the unbelieving Athenians to Paul in the Areopagus. (Acts 17:32) Paul is deeply concerned that the believers in Thessalonica may not live and die in the deep helplessness and, hopelessness of “the others” in their city! He would not have them ignorant of the teaching of the Scriptures and of the power of God. They must know that all things are possible with God, the Almighty God, Who raiseth the dead and calleth the things that be not as if they were. They must know that God has given this power unto the resurrected and glorified Christ. (John 5:21)
In this Scripture passage Paul is revealing some details concerning the resurrection in the last day, the Day of Christ’s Parousia. The hope of this Parousia is the great theme here in this first Epistle to the Thessalonians. It is noteworthy that Paul mentions this “coming” (Parousia) at the end of each of the five chapters of this letter. See I Thess. 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23. All refer to Christ’s coming from heaven to judge the world in righteousness, and to raise the believing “dead,” who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Blessed hope of the resurrection!
THE TWOFOLD AXIOM OF OUR FAITH.
Paul writes, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” (Verse 14) This conditional sentence does not imply that it is doubtful that this is the faith of the church. Paul says, “if we believe.” The entire church believes this historic fact as an undoubted article of faith. That was the central theme of the preaching of the Apostles. (I Cor. 15:1-4) Thus he can write, “so we preach and so ye believed.” (I Cor. 15:11) If this were not true, we would still be in our sins, yea, we would be of all men most miserable. (I Cor. 15:19) For then we would only have hope in Christ for this life!
But now it is true that Jesus died; He died according to the Scriptures for our sins. (Isaiah 53:5, 6) His name is JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins. He did not come into this world to die for Himself. He died as the Head of His people, the last Adam, the Lord of glory. He died as the One Who had power to lay down His life in sacrificial obedience for our sins; He died as the Lamb of God, the great Passover Lamb, the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Jesus died and His blood is the blood of sprinkling, the blood of the Mediator, which speaks better things than the blood of Abel. (Heb. 12:24) Yes, through the eternal spirit, Jesus offered Himself without spot to God to purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:14) Even on the resurrection morning we are told not to fear because we seek Jesus “who was crucified.” (Matt. 28:5)
Such is the first pillar of our faith: It is the rock of ages!
There is a second basic consideration given here. Paul writes, “If we believe that Jesus died androse again.” Now this second great gospel-truth must follow from the first. Writes Paul in Rom. 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and wasraised again for our justification.” Resurrection must follow the crucifixion. Fact is, there can only be a blessed resurrection where there is satisfaction for sin. With that truth Jesus comforts John on Patmos: “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead: and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and death.” (Rev. 1:17, 18) Hence, the Gospel-truth that Jesus arose for our justification and eternal glory is the necessary concomitant of His dying for us. The former is based upon the latter.
Now if it is a fact that we believe these twofold Gospel truths in our hearts, then there follows something which is just as certain. It means that the other articles of faith stand anchored in the eternal justice and wisdom of God. The good work which God has begun for us He will finish even unto the day of Jesus Christ in His Parousia, to take us with Him in the air, so that we may ever be with the Lord.
WHAT GOD WILL SURELY DO IN LIKE MANNER (I Thess. 4:14)
Paul writes “even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
What a beautiful sentence concerning the sure work of God! It is the only possible, divine conclusion that can follow. It is not a mere logical conclusion of faith. It is the word of the revealed mystery of God which is great. It is the justice of God: The same God Who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins in Jesus, is also the same faithful and just. God to bring us with Jesus from the dead in the last day. It is said with deep reverence: God cannot deny Himself. God would prove false at Calvary and in the morning of the resurrection, if presently the dead do not rise with Christ. It behooved God, out of Whom, and by Whom and unto Whom all things are, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the captain of our salvation through suffering. (Heb. 2:10)
Those who believe in Jesus are connected with Christ by a true living faith, and receive all His benefits. These benefits are centrally the forgiveness of sins, through the redemption in Christ’s blood. But it also means sharing in Christresurrection life, His immortality and glory. God will be glorified in the Son of Man, as this is exhibited in the glorified church. And when the church, the believers, receive all Christ’s benefits it implies also the benefit of resting, sleeping in the grave where Jesus was buried, dying in the Lord. For whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. (Rom. 14:7, 8)
But this is the great hope of the church: to be brought with .Jesus by God from the grave, in the resurrection unto life. God is just. The saints who are connected with Jesus as members of His body, have the right to be sons in the light in glory, heirs of everlasting life. They have a place prepared for them in the Father’s house with its many mansions! (John 14:1-3) O, let not our heart be troubled! O, death where is thy sting, O, grave where is thy victory? Death has lost its sting which kills us; the sting of sin of guilt and condemnation has been removed. God will bring us with Christ and give us the complete victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 15:55-57)
THE WORD OF THE LORD JESUS HIMSELF THROUGH PAUL (I Thess. 4:15)
Yes, this is a word which is really a “mystery.” (I Cor. 15:51) This word concerns that which was hid in the secret counsel of God before the foundations of the earth, but which was revealed in these last days for us, who hope in God, the living God. (I Peter 1:20, 21) It is not just a bit of general information concerning future things to satisfy our curiosity, but it is the Word of eternal consolation and comfort for us who believe that Jesus died and rose again! It is the word of comfort for all those who have “received double from the hand of the LORD for all of their sins.” (Isaiah 40:2) Jesus, the chief prophet Who reveals the secret counsel of God concerning our salvation, here gives some details concerning the manner of the resurrection. No, the veil is not lifted on the exact time of this great mystery of the resurrection. We are to be watchful unto prayer in hope!
Here are some very carefully articulated steps in the events of that glorious hour, when we shall see the sign of the Son of Man.
1.) “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven.” (I Thess. 4:16) Heaven must receive Him till the restitution of all things. (Acts 3:21) All the prophets spoke of this great return of the Lord of hosts in His day. All searched out the manner of the sufferings, and the time, and also the glory to follow. (I Peter 1:11) A study of all the prophets shows this to be true. Think of such prophets as Abraham “who saw them from afar and rejoiced.” (John 8:56) Think of the perspectives in Isaiah 53:1-12; Psalm 2; Psalm 110:1 ff. These all spoke by the Spirit of Christ. And now, by the Word of the Lord, Paul tells us that this Lord and Christ will return himself. Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. Amen!
2) He will come with a, “shout.” The term here means: war cry, victory shout. The shout of the victorious captain of our salvation, as he comes riding on the white horse, conquering over sin and death and over all our foes. What a glad triumphant shout of victory! No, He will not be riding on the lowly ass’ colt, but He shall ride in the majesty of His glory, which He received from the Father at His own right hand.
3) It will be with the “voice of the archangel.” All the host of the angels will be summoned. All the angels of God will worship Him, and be the ministering spirits. It is the day of harvest when the angels will be the reapers, and they will bring in the elect from the four comers of the world. (Matt. 24:31) For Christ will come with all His holy angels upon the clouds of heaven. (Matt. 24:30)
5) Then the dead in Christ shall rise first. Here the “dead in Christ” is not opposed to dead “outside of Christ,” the reprobate, but refers to the dead who have died all through history, fell asleep in the Lord, in distinction from those who will then still be the believers living on earth. Not all shall sleep. But all shall be changed. (I Cor. 15:51) But the order is: first those who are asleep in the grave (their bodies) and then those “who remain.” And so the one will not “go in” before the other. All go to heaven at the same time in their resurrected, glorified bodies. That is the thrust also of Hebrews 11:39, 40. The perfection of the body must wait till that day!
This is meant to be pure comfort. The message is full of comfort; it is the balm of Gilead indeed! Comfort one another with these words.