Apr 12 2020 Easter - 1 Thess 4-5 - We Grieve, but with HOPE!

Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “[a]Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him;

Heavenly Father, thank You for this opportunity to celebrate – to remember the HOPE that is in Jesus Christ – Thank You that we will rise again – we will be with You – we will be raised to new life in Jesus Christ. Thank You that we have hope in You!

We are going through Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians – and it just so happens -

1Thessalonians 4:13

13 Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep.

The Church in Thessalonica was probably a small church – maybe like our church! Probably 3-4 homes would have hosted – and maybe several families would join together in a home on Sunday morning for their time together. Some in this small church had died. Being a small church – there were certain characteristics – Everyone gets to know one another, and everyone feels like family – and so everyone was grieving as if they had lost a family member. Paul is addressing that in this passage.

So they have this grief that Paul is talking about – but they had this other grief – based on belief. They had this belief that those who died before Jesus came back were gone and would not be able to participate in the resurrection.

You grieve – and we live in a time where we grieve – and rightfully so. It is Easter, and there is hope – but it is not a time to be cheery – we must also grieve.

Paul says – we grieve, but not like those who have no hope. We grieve, but with Hope.

The resurrection is the only true hope of Easter.

Easter is the most celebrated Christian holiday. More go to church on Easter Sunday than on any other. Not in these times – but I’m sure millions watched the Pope’s message online this morning!

The rest of the year – Easter is mostly ignored. Even our evangelism tends to focus on Good Friday – and we can tend to neglect Easter and the resurrection. Think of the typical gospel presentation you have heard, or you have given yourself. We focus on sin – Jesus dying – and our sins being forgiven. And the next thing we hear – is the need to believe in Jesus and to ask Jesus into our hearts – but my guess would be that you heard very little about the resurrection other than you can go to heaven.

If you look at the Book of Acts – notice how much emphasis is placed on the resurrection of Jesus! There is a reason this is so important. When we talk about our sins and forgiveness of sins.

1 Cor. 15 – Paul says this.

16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

THIS is a resurrection passage. This has significant teaching about the resurrection – but many times we don’t think of it in this way. Paul’s teaching of it can get lost in this – we get focused on PRE – POST – MID Tribulation rapture! But Paul says nothing about that! That is not Paul’s concern! He is not concerned about the Tribulation timeline in this passage. Paul, in writing this has a pastoral concern. Easter has significant pastoral implications. Paul is using this to give comfort to those who are grieving – to give hope to them.

Paul draws on 3 stories – 2 come out of the Old Testament – and the 3rd is a metaphor that is familiar to the Thessalonians.

Exodus 19:13

The LORD also said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow… 11 and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people… When the ram's horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain."

The sound of the trumpet – they shall come up to the mountain!

16 So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound (here we have it again!), so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God… The LORD came down on Mount Sinai,

When He talks about this coming down – it is bringing His presence to be with us – making His presence known. When the Lord returns – He will be with us – physically – in those moments. And that is the theme of the Bible – God is with us.

Let me give a little, limited, illustration – about this concept of God being with us.

I have these circles drawn –

There is this place called heaven – and earth – and in Eden, they met! God would come down – and meet with Adam and Eve – and there was this tree of knowledge of good and evil – and the serpent tricked them, and they ate of that which they weren’t supposed to eat.

And they were banished from the garden.

At times, God would make himself known – and there was one – named Abraham – and God had Abraham make a tent – a tabernacle – where God would meet with humanity – and eventually – they built a temple – But that was temporary – it was destroyed a few times – but then God came down in a surprising way – God became man – the Incarnation – Jesus became humanity – and on Good Friday – He was crucified – and then was raised from the dead.

Then God sent the Spirit – We had Pentecost – and now we have God living inside of us through the Holy Spirit – God is with us.

God will destroy the current heaven and earth and will create a new heaven and earth – and God will be with us eternally – His plan was to live with us eternally in OUR realm – in bringing His realm down to our realm. What humility!

The second hyperlink – is from Daniel

Daniel 7:13

13 "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.

When we read that part – we think of Angels floating around… but that is not what is happening – then he says this:

14 "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

What we have here – in Christ’s return – in the presence of God – not just His personal presence – but His reign and kingdom here on earth – but us, participating and sharing in it. We will be a part of His kingdom and will share and reign with Him in all of creation. He will welcome us as partners in running all that He has created.

There is also a contemporary metaphor – back to

The language Paul uses is familiar to the language used whenever Caesar, the Emperor, would visit a city. This is more familiar to the Gentiles who lived in the city who might not understand the Old Testament references.

When the Emperor would come – ambassadors would go out from the city to meet the emperor from a distance and would escort him into the city. Think of a president who flies into a city to have a rally – and they have a parade as he enters the arena. The true reigning king has come to rule, and all other rulers are set aside. It is not Caesar – but the true emperor has come to rule – and you get to escort him in!

This metaphor was also used for conquering generals who win a war!

What Easter tells us – not only are our sins forgiven – which they are – and not only can we be in a relationship with God – but it shows that God WON THE VICTORY over the powers of sin and darkness in this world! They have been destroyed by Christ’s death and resurrection!

1 Thessalonians 4:16

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Victory over sin and the powers of darkness.

Who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Gal 1:4 NAU)

13 He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Colossians 2:13)

WOW! Christ came in on the cross and destroyed evil permanently forever!

When they were stripping Jesus and mocking Him – and putting the crown of thorns and shaming Him – God was making a public display of the rulers of darkness – stripping and shaming THEM through the resurrection.

1 Thess 4:16 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Suddenly – This term was used for the grim reaper – death snatching people – but God uses it as people being snatched from death.

In the Old Testament – the people were enslaved to the Egyptians – and God rescued and delivered them from slavery. Huddled in their rooms – celebrating the Passover – and God delivered them. We are all enslaved to sin in some form – and the HOPE of Easter – those things that hold us – their power has been broken! We do not have to be enslaved to those things anymore.

Second practical thing – there is a victory –

The ten plagues that came over – each was related to the gods of Egypt – and what God has done – He has destroyed the idols of this world – the idolatries. The Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the living God.

We no longer have to be beholden to the ways of the world.

Finally – we are caught up together with them in the clouds. We are rescued from separation and isolation. For these folks – it was the real separation of death – and that is true for many today – but we will be together for all eternity! A huge aspect of our eternal existence is to be with those we have loved and being with them for all eternity.

In 1 Cor. 15 – we have these mortal, earthly, and corruptible bodies – falling apart – but we will be given new bodies in the resurrection – bodies tat are familiar but different. Spiritual, immortal, and incorruptible – and there will be a new heavens and new earth – we see in Revelation.

We will also have new relationships – the same, but different. Even those we love – tend to be filled with strife – conflict, difficulty, lack of forgiveness, bitterness, judging – these things fill our relationships today. When we are with God – all those relationships will be reconciled – whole and without conflict – without all those things that come with relationships – and that is the hope for the Thessalonians and hope for us today.

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