1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 – 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. 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
There are few theological topics that are subject to more debate between well-meaning Christians than the topic of eschatology. While the biblical teaching is clear that one day, Jesus will return and gather God’s children—both living and dead—to himself, believers differ in their understanding of the order of future events. Entire churches have divided over such issues.
However, if we look at this passage from the word of God closely, we will recognize that the debate over the order of events can, if we are not careful, take us far away from the intended purpose of God’s revelation of his plan. In verse 18 of 2 Thessalonians 4, Paul calls the church to encourage one another with the words that he has just shared. Eschatology, the study of end things, is not given as a dividing issue. God has revealed to us the future in order that we might encourage one another. God wants eschatology to be something that, whether we understand the exact order of events or not, is an encouraging topic for believers to share. We ought to be able to look at the truths that are unquestionable, and we ought to let those truths give us courage, strength, and hope for the future.
So, how ought we to be encouraged? In this passage, we see a couple of things. We ought to be encouraged because, all the believers in Christ who have died will not remain in the grave. Paul makes it plain that our loved ones and the saints we never knew who have gone before us will be the first to rise from the grave and will meet Jesus in the air one day. The saints of the past who have suffered and died for the glory of Christ will rise from the dead and be united with their Lord in the air.
We can also find encouragement to know that we, as believers, will also join with those who one day are united with Jesus. Whether we are alive at this glorious day or we have already died ourselves, we will be caught up with Christ in the air. We will be changed. We will be transformed. And we will be with the Lord. No struggle, no pain, no torture from this life can keep that day from coming for all of us who know Jesus. And, we can be assured that nothing we have suffered in this life will come close to equaling the greatness of the joy that we will have on the day when we are caught up in the air to be together with Jesus.
Finally, notice that all, whether they were dead at one point or not, who know Christ and who are caught up in the air to meet him will be with Jesus forever. There is coming a day when we who follow Jesus will be united with him, and nothing will ever separate us from our Lord. He is going to be with us, and he will never leave us. Though in this life, many believers struggle for simply not being able to see and talk to Jesus in the way they can talk with other people, on that glorious day, we will see Jesus and we will be with him from that day forward through all eternity.
Today, take a moment to encourage another believer with the parts of eschatology we can all agree upon. Don’t argue about tribulation, millennium, and rapture timing. Instead, rejoice with them that God has promised us that we will all be caught up into the sky, transformed, and taken to be with Jesus forever. Glory in what an awesome moment that will be to meet the Lord in the air. Celebrate how wonderful it will be to be with Jesus forever, never to be separated from him, never to lose your closeness to him, never to feel lonely or left out again.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the encouraging word that you give us as you tell us of events to come. Jesus, I long for the day when you will draw us to yourself in the sky and keep us with yourself forever. I pray that I will honor you with my life until that time. I also ask that you will help me to encourage one person today with the thought of the glory of your return.