All of Christ for All of Life
Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone

23 January 2021 – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. (ESV)

Anthony Hoekema writes:

We go on now to ask what the Scriptures teach about the manner of the Second Coming. We note first that it is to be a personal coming: Christ himself will return in his own person. This is clearly taught, for example, in Acts 1:11, which records the words of the two men in white robes who said to the disciples at the time of Christ’s Ascension, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” To the same effect are the words of Acts 3:19-21, spoken by Peter in the temple: “Repent therefore, and turn again … that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the LORD, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” Paul similarly teaches that Christ will return in person: “But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20). Note also what he says in Colossians 3:4, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

From the New Testament we also learn that the return of Christ is to be a visible coming. Jehovah’s witnesses claim that Christ returned in 1914, in an invisible way. But surely Revelation 1:7 rules out any such conception of the Second Coming: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him. …” See also in this connection Titus 2:11-13: “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. …” … The Second Coming will be as visible as the First.

A third characteristic of Christ’s return is that it will be a glorious coming. The first coming of Christ was a coming in humiliation. Isaiah had already predicted this:

He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Paul also reminds us that when Christ came to earth the first time he “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,” and “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7, 8).

But when Christ comes again, all will be different. He will return in glory. Christ himself told us this, in his Olivet Discourse: “… And they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). Paul adds some further details: “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” (1 Thess 4:16 NIV). Christ will come again to be glorified in his saints (2 Thess. 1:10), and we who are his people will appear with him in glory when he returns (Col. 3:4). Christ will return as the glorious conqueror, the Judge of all, the redeemer of the whole creation, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 42
Q. 42. What is the sum of the ten commandments?
A. The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.