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… So encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 & 18 NLT
The Thessalonian church lived with the expectation that Jesus might return at any moment. This inevitably triggered lots of questions. It did so then, and has done so ever since. The particular issue that Paul addresses in this chapter is what would happen to those who had already died. He makes it clear that they will rise from their graves, whilst those who are still alive when Jesus returns will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then, he claimed, “we will be with the Lord for ever”. He doesn’t go into any more detail than that. The important point to recognise is that Paul saw his words as a word of encouragement. In truth, they didn’t need to know exactly what the programme of events for that day would look like, and neither do we. What we do need to know is that God has it all in hand, and he can be trusted to look after the future.
I believe it is good for us to live with the daily recognition that today might be the day of the Lord’s return. This was deeply instilled in me as a child and, to be honest, I found it quite scary at the time. When I couldn’t find my mother in our family home I would immediately assume that the Lord had returned and I’d been left behind. But Paul’s intention was not to scare anyone. He wanted to give everyone the encouragement of knowing that the future was utterly secure in God’s hands. I would love you to have that security today – whether the Lord returns later on today or in a thousand years.
How important is the return of Jesus in your daily life?
Lord God, thank you that I need have no fears as I look to the future. I place myself and my future in your loving hands. Amen
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the king of all:
Govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.