The return of Christ: comfort one another

1 Thessalonians 4_16-17

Each day we are confronted with this harsh reality: There is “a time to be born and a time to die.” Even though death can be one of the most challenging issues to confront us, the Scriptures provide great encouragement, comfort, and hope. Such a passage is found in 1 Thessalonians, an epistle whose focus is the return of Jesus Christ. Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for May 31, 2017 speaks of the glorious appearance of our Lord and Savior in this way in the Message Bible:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.

Often recited at funerals or memorial services, this celebrated passage makes reference to a subject that continues to generate much discussion: the return of Jesus Christ. Whether referred to as “the Rapture” or “the Gathering Together,” or somewhat irreverently called “the Big Snatch,” the Return of Christ still stirs the hearts of believers. Although the term “rapture” is not used in the Scriptures, the Latin derivation of the word is translated from the Greek word harpazo, meaning “to carry off,” “snatch up,” or “grasp hastily.”

Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, the Bridegroom, went away to prepare a place and promised to return for his bride. That promise ignites passion in the heart of believers. Lately this “enduring flame” burns even more brilliantly, as we grow older and witness the passing of family members, friends and loved ones, especially contemporaries of our same age range. Such occasions bring to mind the words of the Psalmist who describes our lives as but a vapor.

Whether the person who dies is a celebrity in politics, entertainment, or some other area or an ordinary co-worker or neighbor who lived and died in obscurity, during such times we may experience the depths of sorrow and a sense of loss that can be overwhelming. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we take comfort and encouragement from the passage that includes the Verse of the Day. The New Living Translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 offers great comfort and assurance:

 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.

The powerful lyrics to one of the classic hymns inspired by the hope of Christ’s return provide a vocal picture of what will occur “When He Shall Come”:

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