Sermon- Pentecost 23- “Encouragement And the Last Day,” Pastor Joseph Asher, Kaiserslautern Ev. Lutheran Church, Germany. Office of International Mission- LCMS, 11/8/20 *IN NOMINE JESU*
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Coming of the Lord
13 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. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Church in Thessalonica was worried. Over and over Paul had told them that the glorious return of Christ and Judgement Day was eminent. So the Christians in this northern Greek city believed that the evil and conflict in this fallen world would soon pass away under God’s judgement, while at the same time Christians would be gathered into heaven to be with the Lord forever.
But for the Thessalonian believers, Christians were dying, and they were worried because Jesus still had not returned.
2nd Peter 3:8-9 gives us some insight into God’s timing for our world. Scripture tells us-
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God does not think of time the way we do. The Lord factors in the whole world, and He desires to schedule Christ’s return in glory in a way that permits all who will believe to reach repentance and faith. When you think about it, this is the LOVE and MERCY of God, for He would have all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) So while for some the Father may be delaying His Son’s appearing, God’s timing is always perfect and holy and focused on the salvation of sinners!
But in their grief over the death of their loved ones, the Thessalonians were struggling to understand why Jesus didn’t just appear on the clouds, end death, and then take them all to heaven. So Paul in our epistle reading addresses the matter of Christian death and also Christ’s second coming. This passage before us is read at Christian funerals, so that, as Paul says, verse 13, we may not-
…grieve as others do who have no hope.
God’s Word is crucial in giving us the truth. God’s Word comforts us with the Lord’s promises. By faith, we hold on to God’s truth and promises when death and despair tries to drive us into hopelessness. And when we stand next to the grave of a loved one, we run to Jesus. For in Revelation, He tells us that He holds the keys to death and hell. (Revelation 1:18) And to all who believe in Him, Christ tells us, John 14:19-
Because I live, you shall live also.
Today in our epistle, Paul gives us further insight into our hope in Jesus our Savior. The people wanted to know what happens to our loved ones when Jesus finally arrives on the Last Day. So Paul gives His instruction. His goal is to remove all fear as the people put their confidence in Christ.
There is a great difference between Christians and non-Christians when they encounter death. Christians grieve the death of loved ones with the understanding that Jesus’ words are true and the resurrection is coming for all believers. On the other hand, non-Christians see death as the great tragedy because they have no confidence in anything beyond the grave.
In non-Christian funerals that I’ve attended, the focus of the eulogy has been on what the dead person did while he or she was alive. The deceased…
- Loved animals
- Worked for social justice
- Devoted themselves to important causes
And while from the world’s perspective there may be some merit in these activities, death’s “cold hand” ends a person’s life in despair. For without the salvation of God in Jesus Christ, the legacy of all flesh can only be the grave.
But for the Christian, death is the instantaneous and immediate beginning of eternal life in close fellowship with God. Verse 14-
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Here we see that believers who have died live with Jesus in heaven. And this means that they are experiencing joy and peace in the Savior’s presence. Further, verse 14 reveals that on the Last Day, Christ will return in glory and bring the Saints of heaven with Him. And finally, Paul is declaring that since Jesus died on the cross and rose again, death is defeated and Christians can be sure of our own resurrection, also.
And here is the apostle’s point: Christians should not sorrow over believers in Christ who have passed from this life. Of course we are sad because we miss them. But our hope in Christ makes us know that in the resurrection and in our translation into heaven, we will see our loved ones again with all the saints in glory. This is the prevailing realitywhich is the foundation for our lives… in Jesus, physical death has no ultimate power.
That’s why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15-
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The good news is that “LIFE” is the final word through faith in Jesus our Savior.
Again, where are Christians who have died in the Lord?
Verse 14 affirms that they are in heaven with Jesus, and that the Savior will bring all the heavenly saints with Him to celebrate the last and final day.
So we don’t go to cemeteries as if our loved one is still in the ground. Instead, we go to the place of their physical remains to remember our past life with them. But Christians, seated next to the grave of a loved one, must also remember that all departed believers are with the Lord. The soul is in heaven rejoicing before God throne. And one day, one day, verse 17 in our text-
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.
The great reunion of all the saints is coming. We don’t know when. But we know God’s timing is perfect and holy. And on that day when we all fly to be with Jesus, we will rejoice in the fellowship restored in our Savior. For all believers, both in heaven and on earth, will meet together in the greatest celebration the universe has ever seen.
We have hope because Jesus conquered death and the grave on the cross, and in His resurrection became the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” for us. (John 14:6) There is a way through life, and it is Jesus. There is a way through death, and it is Jesus. And with Christ as Savior, we have nothing to fear. Even death cannot take away our joy. Because Christ has gone before us and conquered death and the grave. And that is why we do not grieve as others do.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew 25, Jesus encourages everyone to be continually ready. Be wise in your recognition that Jesus is coming in the time of the Lord’s choosing. And if Christ seems to delay, remain strong in your faith in Him. For our Savior tells us in Matthew 24:36ff-
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father… Therefor keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come… So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.
So in the Holy Spirit’s power, let’s do all we can to stay ready for the day of Jesus’ appearing with strong faith. We attend worship. We make a priority of personal devotions in God’s Word. We take the Lord’s Supper whenever possible so that we have strength and peace from Christ Himself. We attend Sunday school. All these things in the Spirit’s power help us wait in expectation for the appearing of Jesus.
In the Matthew 25 parable, there are ten virgins whose job it was to light the way for the expected Bridegroom, which represents Jesus. In the parable, the oil represents faith. And the question the parable raises, is: Do we have enough faith to wait for Jesus’ appearing? And Christ’s warning is that we need to be careful not to “fall asleep” and forget about what is of the highest importance.
Faith in Christ, this is what is of supreme importance… because through Jesus, we have forgiveness, peace, and eternal life.
And finally, it is crucial that we live in expectation of our Lord’s return. In the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation 22, Jesus says THREE times-
Behold, I am coming soon!
It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Be prepared. In the Spirit’s power, do those things which keeps your eyes on Christ. And with all the Saints, away His joyous appearing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
+Sola Deo Gloria+
KELC- Prayers- Pentecost 23- 11/8/20
Dear heavenly Father– Keep us always mindful that for You, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Strengthen our faith so that we may always remain alert and ready for the Last and Glorious Day of Christ. Take away all fear of death, and by Your Holy Spirit replace fear with the confident hope that in Christ heaven is our home and that forgiveness, peace, and eternal life is the joy of all believers.
Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………… Hear our prayer.
Blessed Jesus, Savior and Lord, as yet another COVID wave comes through our region, we pray that You would protect Your Church. Keep us from all fear, as our trust is completely in You. Give your people wisdom as we endeavor to respond to this health emergency. Sustain our lives until that day when in glory, we see You face to face.
Lord in Your mercy………………………………………………………………………. Hear our prayer.
Eternal Holy Spirit, continue to lead us to Your Word. Instruct us through Christ’s parables, particularly today as we think about Jesus’ soon return.
Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………………….. Hear our prayer.
Finally, Heavenly Father, in our families and among our friends and co-workers there are many who are in need of Your care. For those who are sick, hospitalized, away on duty assignments, traveling, unemployed, and for all other needs, we name our loved ones in our hearts before you now…
Lord in Your mercy………………………………………………………………. hear our prayer…
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.