International/Uniform Sunday School Lesson for April 21, 2013
Scripture Text: I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
Purpose: To encourage one another in the Christian hope of final victory
I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 (CEB)
4:13 Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about people who have died so that you won’t mourn like others who don’t have any hope.14 Since we believe that Jesus died and rose, so we also believe that God will bring with him those who have died in Jesus. 15 What we are saying is a message from the Lord: we who are alive and still around at the Lord’s coming definitely won’t go ahead of those who have died.16 This is because the Lord himself will come down from heaven with the signal of a shout by the head angel and a blast on God’s trumpet. First, those who are dead in Christ will rise. 17 Then, we who are living and still around will be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet with the Lord in the air. That way we will always be with the Lord. 18 So encourage each other with these words.
5:1 We don’t need to write to you about the timing and dates, brothers and sisters. 2 You know very well that the day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. 3 When they are saying, "There is peace and security," at that time sudden destruction will attack them, like labor pains start with a pregnant woman, and they definitely won’t escape.4 But you aren’t in darkness, brothers and sisters, so the day won’t catch you by surprise like a thief. 5 All of you are children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to night or darkness. 6 So then, let’s not sleep like the others, but let’s stay awake and stay sober.7 People who sleep sleep at night, and people who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 Since we belong to the day, let’s stay sober, wearing faithfulness and love as a piece of armor that protects our body and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 God didn’t intend for us to suffer his wrath but rather to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.10 Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with him. 11 So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
In the Book of Acts chapter 17 and verses 1-9 you will find a record of a brief visit by Paul, Silas and Timothy to the seaport city of Thessalonica in Macedonia. The stay was cut short because of some street thugs, (Acts 17:5) and they went on to Berea about 50 miles to the southwest. Eventually Paul ends up in Corinth and writes this letter back to the church, because he could not return to Thessalonica. All of this taking place around 50-51 AD. Which could mean that this is the earliest of all of the New Testament writings.
Paul writes this letter to the Thessalonian church in response to some questions that Timothy brought back to him after a visit to that congregation. (chapters 2-4)
Paul begins the letter with some good sensible instruction on what it means to be a Christian believer. And then takes on a bigger question concerning losing those that you love by death. Remembering that at the time of Paul, Christ was expected to return at any moment and complete the creation of a new empire. Some in the congregation felt cheated because they had lost loved ones who would not be able to enjoy or participate in the new reign of Christ (or the Messiah) on earth.
Paul's preaching on the resurrection of Christ, had evidently been misunderstood. Paul tries to reassure this fledgling young body of believers that the resurrection of Christ assures all believers that there is the hope of eternal life with Jesus. Those that have died or are now asleep, would be united with Jesus as well as all believers at that meeting in the air. I remember back to my childhood when we would sing that great spiritual “Meeting in the Air.” As I remember the words they go like this; “There is going to be a meeting in the air, in the sweet, sweet, bye and bye, I am going to meet you, yes meet you over there, in that home beyond the sky.” The final phrase is “Gods own Son, will be the leading one, at that meeting in the air.
Paul's words to the Thessalonians should be an encouragement for us. Over two-thousand years later we, the church, are still looking forward to that “meeting in the air.” As Christians we have a unique hope in an eternal home, dwelling with Christ and with all Christians through-out time that are asleep in Christ.
Our job in the meantime is to stay ready, and working to make sure everyone we know is ready for the time when we either go to sleep in Christ or we participate in His triumphant return and help Christ establish a new heaven and a new earth.
Paul says in our last verse, “So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.”