Christ’s Coming, Our Hope

MEMORY VERSE: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it cloth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” —I John 3:2


SOME of the most valuable lessons that we get from the Apostle Paul’s writings are the result of difficulties, errors, or misunderstandings in the churches. This is true of our lesson today.

The theme of the apostle’s message was the return of the Lord and the establishing of the kingdom. Apparently the brethren at Thessalonica were imbued with the same zeal for the kingdom and the return of the Lord, but all the more so because they believed that it was near—indeed even at the door. It was their erroneous belief also that only the living members of the church would enjoy the reward of faithfulness. The problem had become acute when some members of the church had died. And so the apostle, in verses 13-18, endeavors to correct this false concept.

First he says that they are sorrowing for their deceased brethren as the world would sorrow; that is, as those having no hope. This is in error, because we have a hope—a hope that is oblivious of death because we believe in the resurrection of the dead. This hope of a resurrection is centered in Jesus, and the fact that he died and rose again. The brethren who have died are asleep in Jesus; that is, because they have accepted Jesus as their Savior and have walked in his footsteps, sharing his suffering, their hope is still alive even though they are asleep in death, for they sleep until Jesus returns, and at that time the power of God is exercised and the sleeping saints are resurrected to the divine nature, and will accompany Jesus at his presence. vss. 13,14

In verse 15 the apostle clarifies the order in which the saints shall be glorified. “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.”

The key word in this text is “prevent.” The Greek word is “phthano,” which means anticipate or precede. The thought of the text, then, is that “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord do not precede them which are asleep.” In fact, says the apostle, when the Lord comes, God himself will take an active hand in the affairs of men.

We, as Bible students, have come to recognize this time as the Day of Jehovah—a time when God, exercising his power through Jesus, would prepare the world for the establishment of his kingdom. Little did the Apostle Paul realize that this day would be nearly 2,000 years thence; for the evidence of the fulfillment of prophecies, and the conditions in the world today pinpoint this time as being in our day. At this time, the apostle says, “the dead in Christ will rise first.”—vs. 16

Then the apostle deals with those of the church who are alive at this time, and he says, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Some use this text to teach the “rapture,” but the key to a proper understanding rests in the word “together.” In this instance it is an adverb modifying the verb “caught up,” and as an adverb, according to Strong’s Concordance, it means “also.” The emphasis then is not on time, but on the place to where they are caught up. The same word is used in the fifth chapter, verse 10, with the same emphasis on place rather than time.

In other words, those who are alive will be gathered to the same place—in the air, or in the heavenlies, with the Lord. The apostle, in I Corinthians 15:51,52, states that those who are alive will be changed in a “twinkling of an eye.” The thought is that as each living member goes beyond the veil he is changed immediately, and gathered together with the Lord and the risen saints.

“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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