The Dead in Christ Will Rise First

When Christ Shall Come

Pastor Jerry Gillis - October 20, 2019

Community Group Study Notes

  1. Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s message.
  2. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Why does the Apostle Paul tell us here that we don’t grieve like those who have no hope? How can we grieve with hope?
  3. Read 1 Corinthians 15:26. What comfort does this verse bring to you?
  4. Death can be somewhat uncomfortable or unsettling to talk about. If death is an enemy that Jesus conquers, how does that change our conversation? How can we live in anticipation of His appearing without being fearful of death? Why is this important?
  5. What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?

Abide


Sermon Transcript

So, December 17, 2003 was both a great day and a sad day for me. It was a great day because the third installment in the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, called The Return of the King, came out in movie theaters. It was a great day, right? It was a sad day because it was the third in a trilogy and it was now going to be over and I couldn't wait another time. Because basically in 2001, December, 2001, Fellowship of the Ring came out, and then in December of 2002, The Two Towers came out. And then in December of 2003, The Return of the King came out.

And I was like, "Oh, this is fantastic!" And then I was sad all at the same time because I knew that now it's a trilogy and it's done. And I was bummed. And I know, we're going to Hobbit movies later, but I still was mad that this was going to be the case.

Now, if you've read the books, and I don't know if you have, there is a lot of things in the books that never made it into the movies. And so, if that's an interest of yours, then take it because J.R.R. Tolkien was a brilliant mind, not only as a writer but also as a Christian. And when you begin to read the last chapters of The Return of the King, this final installment in this trilogy called The Lord of the Rings, you realize that he's painting this beautiful picture of a new creation and a new cosmos. And he's doing it with a very distinct worldview. You could say that Tolkien had a keen sense of the biblical worldview and the Christian story.

Now to get to that story, it required the lead character, named Frodo, who was actually going to make his way to Mount Mordor, or Mount Doom in Mordor, and was going to take the ring of power and throw it in. And he was there with Samwise Gamgee. If some of you are going, "Man, spoiler alert! You should have told us!" Hey, spoiler alert! This was a decade and a half ago. You should have watched it by now, so I don't really care at this point, right?

So he throws the ring of power into Mordor, into Mount Doom. And he and Sam are just there on the mountain, and basically they have now passed out from exhaustion and sorrow and all that they've been through. And they basically thought, "This is it. We're dead." And they kind of told each other, "You've been great friends and we're just going to die together." And there they are.

And then what happens is that Sam wakes up, he's surprised by the fact that he's alive, number one. He's surprised by the fact of where he is, he's in this place called The Havens, it's like this elvish place and it's awesome, I would love to go there. If you've ever been, just let me know. I'd love to go. He's like blown away because it's like this heavenly picture, right? Wakes up in the soft light and it's beautiful. And he's surprised he's alive. He's surprised where he is. And he's surprised that standing at the foot of his bed is Gandalf, who he was sure was already dead, and now he's not.

And although you don't see this in the movie, in the actual book Sam says these words. He says, "Gandalf, I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?" This is an absolutely brilliant and beautiful way of posturing what is going to come.

Now, if you've read Tolkien, I don't want to spend too much time talking about the brilliance of that question that Sam asked, but the brilliance of that question is a reminder that the Christian story actually has an answer to the idea of suffering that many other places and religions and thought systems simply can't give an answer to.

You see, what he asked is a question that doesn't ask, "Are good things going to come true?" He actually asks a different question, and that question is, "Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?" You see, Tolkien had painted a picture of this kind of fictional place that he called Middle Earth. And Middle Earth was a beautiful place, but it was teeming with violence and darkness and sadness and despair and death. And so, when Sam wakes up and he poses this question after thinking that he was dead, after thinking that he was never going to wake up, being surprised where he was, thinking and knowing that Gandalf had been dead and now he's not, and he asks, "Is everything sad going to come untrue?" What a statement!

See, if there's anything that I think about that brings sadness, and what Sam was actually talking about here was every seed of darkness, every piece of brokenness, every sense of violence, all that are making their way toward death, because death is, in the way that we view the world, death is this ultimate sadness. And so when he sees that he's alive and he sees that Gandalf's alive, and he sees that the world has not been completely and totally destroyed like he thought, he says, "Is everything sad going to come untrue?"

You see, what he was talking about fundamentally was death and everything that leads up to the idea of death. You see, death in the biblical worldview, ladies and gentlemen, really doesn't belong. It feels like it's misplaced. We weren't made for this thing. That's why there's such great sadness around it. That's why there's such great ... you just feel distraught around this idea. Because it's not what we were made for in this world.

Death actually feels like an enemy to us, it doesn't feel like a friend. And rightly so. In fact, when you start to read the New Testament writers, writers like the Apostle Paul, he actually referred to death as an enemy, and in fact said it was the last enemy that would ultimately be conquered.

Notice what he said in 1 Corinthians 15, he said, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." Now if you read that passage a little fuller, and that's not where we're going to spend all of our time today, but if you read that passage even fuller, what you would realize is this, is that this last enemy called death will be destroyed when Christ comes.

Would you sit with that phrase for just a minute? When Christ comes. He's going to come. When Christ comes everything is going to change. When Christ comes, for those of us who believe, everything sad will become untrue. When Christ comes. You see, this is one of those things that we don't often think about, or at least don't think about as often as we should. It's one of the great left out truths of the preaching in western culture.

Western culture is so fixated on what I can do to improve my life now. "Jerry, give me ten reasons to have a better Tuesday." And we're so focused on the now that we lose sight that, listen, Christ is going to come. As surely as he was born and lived and died and rose and ascended to the Father, he's going to return. And when he does, it is the consummation of history, and everything fundamentally changes.

Now, we don't think about it enough really, if I'm being honest, we just don't think about it enough. But it's not the writers of scripture's fault that we don't think about it enough. They say a lot about the return of Christ. They talk about it constantly. But for us sometimes, we're just trying to get through the day. We're just trying to live day to day because we feel overwhelmed. Why is that? Well maybe it's because we live in a Middle Earth of sorts. Right? Where we see the beauty in the world, but we also see how the world is dark and it feels overwhelming at times. We see the brokenness.

Maybe we're students, maybe high school students, maybe college students, and we're bombarded with so much information on our social media platforms and on our full access to everything in the world informationally, that we realize that we're beings that aren't made for that amount of information. That we can't handle the emotional ups and downs and it creates anxiety and depression and senses of being overwhelmed.

Or maybe we're a young parent and we don't need social media to feel overwhelmed, because we now have a child that we're responsible for that didn't come with instructions. And we're just trying to get through the day, we're trying to figure out, "How do I be a parent? How do I stay married and be a parent? How do I figure all of these things out?" And it feels overwhelming. And so all we can look at is day to day.

Or maybe we're caught up in the rat race of careers. So much so that we're chasing dollars and we're thinking about, "What I have to do, what is the next move, what is my next goal in life?" And we haven't thought about the long distance, we haven't played the long game in our mind.

Or maybe we're a parent and we've got a child who's breaking our heart. Who's maybe left or who's rebelling and who's just crushing our hearts. And we can't seem to think of anything other than that, we can't look beyond it because it feels overwhelming at the time.

Or maybe we're facing sickness or disease or hurt. And it's all that we see right in front of us. And so it's difficult for us to think about Christ coming because there's so much that's grabbing our attention. But I would say this, not thinking about Christ coming is not exactly what we ought to be doing. We ought to be doing it. Maybe more than we do because the writers of scripture gave us ample information about this idea of Christ's coming, and it was for the purpose of speaking courage into us, of actually encouraging us in the life that we're leading, with all of its sickness and with all of its sadness and with all of its brokenness, that sometimes we feel like we're staring at Middle Earth and it feels overwhelming. But we've been taught about the idea of Jesus coming, so much so that it will make all the sad things come untrue for those who believe.

What is the most sad thing? I guess it's death, and the truth is is that Jesus' coming actually speaks to the idea of death very significantly. In fact, when the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Thessalonica, he was talking about this very idea, he was trying to encourage them by talking to them about the return or the appearing or the coming of Jesus. And why that had an influence on the idea of death itself.

Now, I want to point you to this passage of scripture because what we're going to do over the next few weeks is we're going to step into the world of the Thessalonians. And we're going to listen as Paul walks them through talking about the return of Christ, and he does that in the last two chapters of his first letter, and the first two chapters of his second letter. And over the next number of weeks, we're going to just continue to unpack all that the Spirit of God would want us to see about the return of Christ as Paul talks to them in Thessalonica about it.

And so, if you have a Bible, I would encourage you to find a place there in 1 Thessalonians. It's about two thirds through the New Testament, so kind of take it toward the back and move around. You'll find it situated right before 1 and 2 Timothy, if that helps you at all. So when you start seeing the 1 and 2 T's, you're in the neighborhood, all right?

1 Thessalonians, we're going to be in chapter number four, and I want to read our focus text. And I'm going to read it all and then we're going to break this apart and unpack it a little bit, all right?

Here's what Paul wrote to them, 1 Thessalonians 4, beginning in verse 13. He said, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first."

You see, this is important for us to understand, is that the church in Thessalonica was starting to lose a little bit of hope because they were distressed about something. They believed what the apostles had been teaching, that Jesus was going to come again. And in fact, they were only about 25 or 30 years removed from Jesus' death and resurrection. So this wasn't, we're not talking about being really far removed from that. In fact, we're talking about the same generation of people generally speaking. Not even a full generation removed.

And they knew that Jesus had been here historically, that he'd lived, that he'd died, that he'd risen from the dead, that he'd ascended to the Father. And there was this promise that he was going to return. And this is great news for them, and so they kept praying and longing for his return. And their hope was that that return would be soon, that it would be in their lifetime, that it would be something that they would be able to see.

But then here's what started happening. Some of these new believers in Jesus, these new followers, who had been now following him for a decade or 15 or 20 years, or whatever it might have been, now some of them started to die. And they grew concerned. And their concern was, "Wait a minute, my dad who first believed in Jesus and who told me about Jesus has now died. And Jesus hasn't yet come again. Is my dad going to be left out of the great day when Jesus actually returns?" These were the things that were going on inside of their hearts. And Paul is writing to them so that they can begin to understand exactly what this actually looks like.

What Paul does is he writes about how death is impacted by the return of Jesus Christ. And I want to actually give you four quick truths about that that you can jot down. Here's the first one, that death doesn't kill hope, it proves it. Death doesn't kill hope, it proves it.

In fact, let me show you this in the text. In verse number 13 Paul writes, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope." So Paul initially tells them, "I don't want you to be uninformed." Some of your translations that you're reading, it says ignorant. You're going, "Man, bet nobody ever ... don't call me ignorant." Well it means the same thing, uninformed. Right? He's not saying you're stupid. He's saying, "You haven't been taught this, you don't understand it and here's why."

Because there in Thessalonica where they lived, they were in kind of the heart of what we would call Greco-Roman cultural influence. And Greco-Roman cultural influence, particularly the paganism associated with that, did not really think that much about the afterlife, didn't think about what happened when we die. And so, their thought, even though they did think about it a little bit, it was more like the idea of some shadowy netherworld where like little, you know, you kind of waif your way through this, right? But they didn't really think about it much.

And so, that influence was unfortunately found in Thessalonica, and these new believers were probably thinking about some of the same things that they used to think. And they thought, "Man, if people die then they're going to miss out," and it was going to be a tremendous problem.

Now what Paul is saying here is he's saying, "Here's what I don't want you to do, I don't want you to grieve as one who doesn't have hope." Hear what he's not saying. He's not saying, "I don't want you to grieve when your friends die. I don't want you to grieve when brothers and sisters in Christ die." He's not saying that at all. In fact, grieving is a natural part of understanding that we love someone. When they're not here any more, we grieve.

If I die and you come to my funeral, you better cry. I'm serious. Do you know why I'm going to cry at the funerals of people that I love? Because I love them! That's why. So he's not talking about we don't grieve, he's not even setting up this contrast between those who grieve less, believers in Jesus, and those who grieve more, these pagans. He's not even doing that. He's setting up a contrast between those who grieve with hope and those who grieve without hope.

And ultimately, what he's trying to remind us of is that the great hope is in the fact that Jesus is coming. That death, listen to this, death doesn't kill hope, it proves it. Why? Because Jesus is coming. In fact, when Paul was writing to his young protégé, Titus, he actually talked to Titus about what the great hope we have for kind of all time is. He called it the blessed hope, or the blessed hope.

Listen to what he says in Titus 2, Paul writes, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope," what is it? "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."

What is the great hope that we have, ladies and gentlemen? Here it is, Jesus is coming again. Jesus is going to appear. Jesus is going to show up. Christ will come. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder how fired up you are about your life if Jesus showed up today? Because it should teach us to say no to ungodliness and to say yes to all that he is, because he's showing up.

So death didn't kill hope, it proves it. Why is that? Here's why, because of the second truth, because death didn't kill Jesus, it proved him. See, the reason that death doesn't kill hope is because death doesn't kill Jesus. And he is our hope. In fact, notice what verse 14 says. Paul writes, I want you not to, listen, here's what he says, he sets it up in verse 13, "I don't want you to grieve like people who don't have hope, because we believe that Jesus died and rose again." Jesus died and rose again. You see, this is the great hope.

And what Paul is doing here is he's not writing about hearsay. Paul's not going, "You know, I heard that that happened." That's not what he's doing at all. Paul was an eyewitness. In fact, listen to what he said in 1 Corinthians 15, he said, "Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received," this Gospel, "I passed on to you as of first importance," here it is, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas," that's Peter, "and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living," in other words, go ask them, "though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

Listen, he's not just saying, "Hey, it's a nice thing to think about, this philosophical idea of maybe, you know, we can have hope because Jesus is risen from the dead, maybe in our hearts." No, no, he's going, "No, no, I've been face to face with the man. He was dead and now he's not. I was on the road to Damascus and he showed up and said, 'Saul, Saul.' Like, he knew my name, he said, 'Why do you kick against the goads?' I'm looking at the resurrected Jesus who was dead, who was buried, and who isn't any more." This is what Paul says.

You see, Paul's not just passing along secondhand information, Paul is spitting eyewitness facts. "I have seen the resurrected Jesus." And the reason that this is important is because what Paul is communicating to the Thessalonians is this, is that because Jesus died and rose again, those who die in Christ will rise with him. That's where he was going in his argument.

You see, he was trying to combat some wrong thinking about the idea of resurrection. Because in a couple of other cities in Asia, a couple of other cities actually had a problem with this as well. Like Corinth, in Corinth some of them did not believe that there was a resurrection. And do you know what he wrote? Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians 15, "But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" In other words, some of them were saying, "There is no such thing as resurrection."

But then there was other problems, like Ephesus where some people were preaching that the resurrection had already occurred. And you could see where that would be distressing for the people in Thessalonica when their family has started to die and the resurrection's already happened. Notice what it says in 2 Timothy 2, "Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some."

So you've got some that say there is no resurrection. You've got others that say the resurrection already occurred. And Paul is trying to calm everybody down in Thessalonica and go, "Hey, I know that you were hoping Jesus showed up before your brothers and sisters in Christ have started dying, but here's what I want to make sure that you know, I want you to know that death doesn't kill hope, it proves it. And here's why, because death didn't kill Jesus, it proved him. He rose from the dead."

That's why Paul, when he's talking to the church at Corinth, he actually fills out what he's saying to the church at Thessalonica. Notice what he said in 1 Corinthians 15. He said, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ," rises from the dead, "the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." Did you catch it? You should have, because I spent a lot of time pointing at it just a moment ago. Right?

Christ, the first fruits of resurrection from the dead, then when he comes those who belong to him will be resurrected from the dead. See, this is the truth of the Gospel that we are proclaiming. And this is what he was trying to encourage the Thessalonicans with. He said that Jesus is the first fruits, do you know what first fruits implies? That there will be last fruits. That there will be other fruits. You're a fruity people.

Jesus, the first fruits, and then when he comes, all of the other fruits that have been born through his resurrection and will themselves be resurrected. See, death doesn't kill hope, it doesn't kill it, it proves it. Why? Because death didn't kill Jesus, it proved him.

But there's a third truth I don't want you to miss, and it's this, death isn't panic time, it's nap time. I'm not trying to be cute here, I'm actually trying to honor what the text teaches us. I want you to look again in verse number 14, it says, "For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."

Those who have fallen asleep in him. Why does Paul choose to use the term, both here and he uses it in 1 Corinthians 15 as well, why does he use the term sleep, when what he's referring to is death? He's clearly talking about death, but the term that he uses is sleep. I don't fully know, I'm not inside of the mind of Paul, I don't know exactly why he chose to use this term. At the very least, he's using a softer term about death for the believer.

But death should be pictured more like sleep for you that have believed, that's what we have to look forward to. Now some of you think to yourself, "Well, if that's what that means, that when we die before Christ's return, then we just sleep. Does that mean that we're unconscious?" No, it doesn't. Let me explain why. Because Paul, who writes this text, has also written other texts where it's clear that he talks about not being in the body, but being in the conscious presence of the Lord.

Listen to what he said in Philippians 1. He said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Does that sound like an unconscious existence? Would Paul be saying this is better by far if it was unconscious?

Notice what he says as well in 2 Corinthians 5, "Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." As the phrase goes, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. This sounds very conscious, not unconscious.

Then why in the world would Paul use the phrase sleep? Again, it's a softer way of talking about death, but I want you to think about something. When you sleep, you are not conscious to this world, but you are conscious to another one. You ever had a dream?

Imagine this, that when we die our souls go into the presence and safety of the Lord Jesus Christ in a conscious way. This is not the time yet when we are dancing around in new bodies. We don't have those. Do you know why? Because Christ hasn't come yet. When we get up from the dead with an imperishable new body is when Christ comes. But until that time, our souls are safe and secure and conscious in the Lord.

It's actually a really beautiful picture that Paul paints here so that death for us is not panic time, it's a secure time where we are conscious to the Lord in his safe care with our souls.

Let me give you a fourth truth here from our text. Death won't make you miss the big day. This is actually where Paul is going in his writing. This is the argument that he's making. He's trying to help them understand that those who have died in Christ, they're not going to miss the big day when Jesus shows back up.

Notice what he says in verses 15 and 16, "According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first."

You see, what he's saying is, "I'm trying to encourage you that you're not going to miss the big day. That if you die before Jesus shows back up, and you die believing in Christ, you're not going to miss the big day." Now, he says a lot in this passage. I'm going to sit for a moment because there's a ... I'm going to look at this passage here for a second. I hope you're looking at it too, because I'm not going to keep putting it up here. I just want to keep cracking it open, and cracking it open for a moment, all right?

He begins that verse in verse 15 by saying, "According to the Lord's word." What word of the Lord is actually referring to there? We don't know exactly, do we? It could be one of a few things. I'll tell you what I think it is at the end, that's what you always do, right? It could be one of a few things, and then at the end I'll tell you what I think it is.

It could be that Paul is referring to a statement or a teaching of Jesus that's not recorded in the Gospels. Some of you are going, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. Did Jesus say things that aren't recorded in the Gospels?" Uh, yeah. Did you read the Gospels? Because when you get to the end of John, John says, "If I were to record everything that Jesus ever said and did, I'd fill up all the books in the whole world. In fact, that wouldn't even be enough." Right? He's basically saying, "He said a lot of things."

And by the way, if you think that that's something, you'd be like, "Is there precedent for that in the scripture?" Of course there is. If you looked in Acts 20:35, I won't go there, but if you looked there, you would hear Paul saying, "As Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive." That statement is not in the Gospels, that's not recorded in the Gospels. Paul is actually stating something that Jesus said, very likely to him, that wasn't recorded in the Gospels. Or he's referring to a teaching of Jesus that wasn't recorded in the Gospels that he's now referring to.

Okay, so that's a possibility according to the Lord's word. It could also be that the Holy Spirit simply revealed this to Paul. That's also possible. That happened in the course of scripture as well. Or thirdly, it could be that Paul was actually referring to known teaching of Jesus that we have in the Gospels, which I think is what he's doing. In fact, I think he's referring to Jesus teaching in the Olivet discourse, particularly as you read it in Matthew 24, and we're not going to go back there. But I think that's the case because I've done this, I've done the work on this. If you look at Matthew 24 and you look at 1 Thessalonians 4, I have found no less than 13 similarities between the two. No less than 13 similarities between the two.

If that's the case, then that's probably what he's referring to according to the Lord's word. And here's what he said, "We who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord." That word in the Greek language is the word [foreign language 00:35:06], okay? Not that you need to be impressed by what the Greek word is, but it's a reminder. [foreign langauge 00:35:12] in the New Testament, the coming of the Lord or the appearing of the Lord, is kind of a New Testament representation of an Old Testament phrase that was this, the day of the Lord.

When you read in the Old Testament, you'll often see this prediction of the day of the Lord. Well that's in essence what [foreign language 00:35:32] is trying to capture. In other words, the close of one age and the beginning of a new age happens when? At the day of the Lord, at the [foreign language 00:35:43], when the appearing of Christ occurs. That's what he's referring to.

And he says this, "That we who are still alive will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep." I'm not going to spend much time there, but it goes on to say, "Then the Lord himself will appear." Aren't you glad that he's not sending like a subordinate? Right? He's not sending an angel. "What's up everybody?" Jesus himself is going to show up. That is an extraordinary and celebratory truth.

But it says, "The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command." Some of your texts actually say with a shout. Okay? Either one of those translations is perfectly fine, a loud command or a shout. Where is that coming from and who is doing the shouting? Well that term in the Greek language is kind of a military term. It would be like a General giving order to his subordinates. Or it would be like the commander of a ship yelling out to all the crew a command about what they needed to do. I probably put my hand on the table here in telling you that I think that this loud shout or this command is coming from the General. It's coming from the Captain of the ship. It's coming from the Lord Jesus.

You're like, "Jerry, is this just kind of a sanctified imagination on your part?" Maybe, but I'm actually basing this on the words of Jesus. Because if you were to push yourself back into John's Gospel in John 5, I want you to listen carefully to Jesus' words. "Very truly I tell you," Jesus says, "whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out."

I'm just listening to what Jesus said. And I think Jesus is going to show up and say, "Beloved! Get up!" I don't know what exactly he's going to say, I thought that sounded good. And I think it's something close to that. But it's something along that line.

So it says there's going to be a loud command or a shout. But then there's also another shout. Then it says there's going to be a shout with the voice of the archangel. What's that all about? I don't really know. Here's the way I think about it. I think about it, kind of, you know how like a football coach pulls all the team in, gives them the talking to at halftime about what they need to do to come out and get it done? [inaudible 00:39:01]. That's what happens. And then the assistant coach goes, "You heard him!" That's how I think about this.

Jesus is going to show up, "Beloved! Get up!" Then the archangel's going to go, "You heard him! Get up!" It's the best I got. I'm not sure exactly how that's going to play out, but that's as close as I can get.

But then there's a third noise. There's the shout of the commander. There's the voice of the archangel, which I think is affirming that shout. And then it says there's a trumpet call of God. Hmm. Now Paul actually uses this same metaphor, this idea of a trumpet call, he uses the same metaphor in 1 Corinthians 15. Notice what he says, he says, "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."

Now, if you're saying, "Jerry, what's up with this trumpet? Like is this an angel who's literally over there licking their lips with a horn? And they're going to do this?" No, no, no. I actually think that this is a picture of the Feast of Trumpets. Let me explain why I think that, because the Feast of Trumpets was a feast that Israel observed that was pointing to something.

You know that with all the feasts that Israel observed, whether that was Passover, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, or any of those kinds, right? Some of them happened in the spring, and all of those spring feasts were fulfilled in Jesus. Done. No longer need to fulfill those feasts, don't have to observe those feasts. They were a shadow pointing to the reality, which was Jesus. But then you had the fall feasts, and the fall feasts were actually looking forward. They were looking to a future.

The Feast of Trumpets was one of those fall feasts and there's not a lot said about the Feast of Trumpets. But, what were trumpets used for in Jewish life as we read about it in the Old Testament? Well, it kind of began with the salvation that God gave Isaac when Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac. Do you remember the story? Walking up Mount Moriah and Isaac was going to be sacrificed, but God already knew that he had provided a ram in the thicket that would be the substitute for Isaac. Do you remember the story? Yeah?

Well, that ram's horn, the idea of a shofar, would be blown so that it would be a reminder of God's provision for Isaac. The substitutionary salvation God provided to Isaac. That was one way that a trumpet was heard from.

But there were a few more. One of them was a horn would be sounded to call together an assembly. So like when you see King Solomon and others, when the horn would sound, it would be to call people together, to assemble together. Sometimes that was to pray and repent, sometimes that was for an announcement, whatever it might be, it was to call the assembly together.

Horns were also used particularly in the time of Yom Kippur, in what they called the days of awe, horns would be reminders as they would blow, these trumpets would blow, reminding about a warning of judgment. But there was a last way that horns were used, and that was the announcement of a king. Bomp ba da da! Here comes the king.

The reason that I tell you that I think that Paul is using this imagery is because he's calling upon something that actually was forecasting a future. And that future is found in the blessed hope, the actual coming and appearing and return of Jesus. Because listen, Jesus doesn't fulfill just one of the reasons that they used trumpets, he fulfills them all.

He is, when he appears, and when he does appear, he is going to appear to all. And even those who pierced him, the Bible says, will see him. And everyone will be reminded in that moment when the trumpet noise sounds that this is the one who took our place as a substitutionary sacrifice. He is our ram in the thicket that died in our place so that we could live!

It is also the sound that goes out that says, "I am calling together the assembly of my people, both dead and alive. Everyone who has believed in me, I am gathering you together. But I am also in my coming going to judge those who have opposed, whether dead or alive."

And then finally, this horn announces that the King is coming. The one who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

You see, all of these things are fulfilled in the return of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the King. And Paul, what he's doing writing all of this is he's trying to encourage the people of Thessalonica. He's encouraging them that even if they die in Christ, they're not going to miss the big day. Here's why, because the dead in Christ will rise, what?

First. 78 of you were listening to that, thank you.

The dead in Christ will rise?

First. Have you ever wondered why that is? Why would the dead in Christ rise first? Before we who are alive and remain are changed, the dead in Christ rise first.

Maybe you jot this down, at the appearing of Jesus, the dead in Christ rise first to glorify the King of life. Dead rise to glorify the King of life. You see, Jesus is the death conqueror, because Jesus is life. You see, sometimes we forget the eternal truth of some of the simplest statements of Jesus. In fact, when John 14:6 says these words, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and," read it with me, "the life."

"I am the life." He's not just saying that so that you and I believe in him and we go, "Oh, we've got a pretty good life because we live in Jesus." Jesus is saying this, "No, no, no, everything outside of me is existence. I am life. I am the life. There is no definition of life outside of me. Everything outside of me is just existence. I am the life."

In fact, John, when he was older, he wrote this in 1 John 1, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us." And by the way, will appear again.

Jesus is life itself. And so what we remember is this, it's that at the appearing or the presence of Jesus in his coming, the dead in Christ will rise first because it glorifies the King of life in all of the cosmos. It's a beautiful truth that Jesus is the King of kings, but he's also the King of life.

At his appearing, the dead in Christ rise first because it will demonstrate how thoroughly the King of life has conquered death. And on that day, for everyone who has put their faith in Jesus, everything sad will come untrue. I can't wait for that. I really can't wait for that. Everything sad comes untrue.

So what I want to do, we've still got a few minutes here, don't you move a muscle. Our worship team's going to come out and just sing over us. And I want you just to reflect, reflect on everything that Jesus has done to conquer death. Reflect on the fact that Jesus, listen to this, because of his death and resurrection, we too will be a resurrected people. Let that wash over you, let that sink into you.

And then when they finish, I'm going to say a word or two before I end up dismissing us. So let this just minister to you.

When Christ comes, this is the great hope that we have. And it may be that you haven't thought about it very much, or you've been content with living your own life, doing your own thing, not really giving thought to the fact that God sent his Son. But I want to remind you that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. That whoever would believe in him would not perish forever, but would have eternal life.

See, God loved us in the midst of our unloveableness, that while we were sinning and while we were rebelling against the crown, he still came to rescue us, to die in our place. The King himself, not a subordinate, the King himself came to rescue us, to die, to rise, to give us hope over death and sin and the grave and hell. This is the great hope that we have, and to treat it as if it's common, and to trample under foot the blood of the Lord Jesus, as if to think that we could do a better job or could rescue ourselves or save ourselves.

That's the pathway of destruction. So if you've never come to a place of receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior, of confessing your need for a Savior, that we've all sinned and come short of the glory of God and need his rescue, need his grace, he open handedly and open armed gifts you this. If you would but receive him. "To as many as received him," the Bible says, "to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe on his name."

If you've never settled that issue, you have no greater issue in the world to settle than that. And so when we dismiss in a moment, I'm going to pray in just a moment. And when we dismiss, I'd encourage you to go by, right across the atrium into the Fireside Room, and speak to somebody there who could talk to you about what it means to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, to have your life transformed, to go from darkness to light.

Maybe for those of us who are believers in Christ already, that we've had our lives transformed, we've been changed by his grace, maybe we needed a reminder of Christ's return. Not only for the encouragement that it brings to us, but also how it sobers us up. To the reminder that there are people around us that need to know Jesus. That maybe if we live in light of the return of Jesus, we live as a holy people, not a rebellious one. And we'd live as witnesses to those that are around us, even in the midst of our heartbreak, even in the midst of our brokenness. Even while we walk around Middle Earth and feel all the darkness that it gives to us, that we are still a people who live with hope and who die with hope. That the world would see that.

Father, may you be glorified in your people. We thank you that you are the life, Lord Jesus, you are the word of life. And this life has appeared and it is eternal life. You are the King of life. And that every one of us who have put our faith in you, even though we die, we shall live. Because you have conquered death, we in you will conquer death by your power in us. Thank you for that promise. May we live in light of your return for your glory. We pray in Jesus' name. And all God's people said?

Amen.


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