This Week: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
Date: May 15, 2016
Series: Shoe Leather Theology: Study of James
This Week’s Resources:
- The Compass Bible Study (pdf)
- Study Notes (pdf)
- Lighthouse Leader Study Guide (see below)
- Lighthouse Discussion Guide (pdf)
- FFC Faithlife Community
This Week’s Lighthouse Lesson
Overview of this Lesson
Last week we studied the coming of the Lord from James’ perspective. He connected the event with our need to be patient as believers waiting for the Lord. This week, we turn to 1 Thessalonians for a portion of Paul’s teaching on the coming of the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is one of the clearest teachings on the Rapture of the church in the New Testament. As Irving R. Jenson notes, “The word rapture is not found in the Bible, but it very appropriately represents the phrase “caught up” of 4:17. (The Latin translation of the Greek word is rapiemur, hence our word rapture.)
While prophecy can be a daunting topic to teach, we’ve tried to keep the cookies on the bottom shelf this week. There are fewer questions, and they are broadly cover the topic of Bible Prophecy. I’ve also provided more extensive commentary to help you prepare, knowing this may be off the familiar path for some.
Memory Verse for This Week
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: (ESV) – 16 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. 17 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.
- Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
How do you react when you hear predictions of the future?
How is prophecy abused within the church today?
As an example, here’s a recent illustration of how “prophecy” is misapplied within our contemporary context:
The word “trump” appears twice in the King James Version of the Bible, both in the New Testament, referring to trumpet blasts being sounded at the Second Coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Writing for Charisma Magazine’s Prophetic Insight section, “prophetic minister” Jeremiah Johnson compared Donald Trump to Cyrus in the Bible. Referring to Trump or someone like him, Johnson says:
Could God not use the wicked and ungodly to bring about His plans and purposes thousands of years ago and can He not still do the same thing again, especially in the midst of the crisis that we find America in today?
Then Johnson writes that the Holy Spirit told him Trump would become…. (wait for it)…. His “trumpet to the American people.” According to Johnson, the Holy Spirit sounds a lot like a Trump spokesman:
Trump shall become My trumpet to the American people, for he possesses qualities that are even hard to find in My people these days. Trump does not fear man nor will he allow deception and lies to go unnoticed. I am going to use him to expose darkness and perversion in America like never before, but you must understand that he is like a bull in a china closet. Many will want to throw him away because he will disturb their sense of peace and tranquility, but you must listen through the bantering to discover the truth that I will speak through him. I will use the wealth that I have given him to expose and launch investigations searching for the truth. Just as I raised up Cyrus to fulfill My purposes and plans, so have I raised up Trump to fulfill my purposes and plans prior to the 2016 election. You must listen to the trumpet very closely for he will sound the alarm and many will be blessed because of his compassion and mercy. Though many see the outward pride and arrogance, I have given him the tender heart of a father that wants to lend a helping hand to the poor and the needy, to the foreigner and the stranger.
“Is it possible that there is a prophetic link to Donald Trump?” asks Mike Shoesmith during a recent broadcast on the Prophecy News Network.
“Could Donald Trump be a final warning to America to pay attention? To get rid of the liberal cancer which has infested the country? Could Donald Trump and his no-nonsense, anti-political-correctness speech be the final warning from God?”
“Many people, not just this Jeremiah [Johnson], are seeing the possibility that Donald Trump is fulfilling some sort of call from God to maybe not even win the election, but just be a trumpet warning from God to His people,” Shoesmith concluded.
This Week’s Take Home Truth
NOTE: Todd & Carlos opted to provide slightly different Take Home Truths for their sermons.
Ankeny–“The certainty of Lord’s return ‘comes along side’ God’s people and enables them to grieve with hope for those ‘asleep’ and live with purpose as those ‘awake’.”
Bondurant– “The certainty of the Lord’s return enables God’s people to grieve with hope for our fellow believers who have died and to live with purpose until He comes.”
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions.
4. What is prophecy?
Bible dictionaries offer varied definitions of Bible Prophecy, yet they carry a similar thread. In short, Bible prophecy is a word from the Lord delivered by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides the most in-depth definition:
Prophecy along with its English cognates (“prophet,” “to prophesy,” “prophetism,” and “prophetic”), derived from a group of Greek words that, in secular Greek, mean “speak forth,” “proclaim,” “announce.” In biblical Greek, however, these terms always carry the connotation of speaking, proclaiming, or announcing something under the influence of spiritual inspiration.
Lexham Bible Dictionary adds to this understanding:
The two major categories of divine message are:
Prediction, or the foretelling of future events– Prophecy is most commonly viewed as prediction or foretelling. Biblical examples of predictive prophecy are the oracles against the nations. These prophecies, which appear in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, among others, predict the fall of various nations. Biblical predictions of disaster may be addressed to the king (Jer 35:2–5), civil or religious leaders (Jer 5:5–6, 30–31; Hos 5), or the nation as a whole (Jer 5:1–4, 7–29; Hos 4). The Bible also contains examples of prophets predicting divine salvation (Hos 2:14–23) or military victory (Judg 4:4–9).
Admonition, which can be either accusatory or exhortatory– . Prophecies of admonition can take two forms:
- divine messages of accusation and impending judgment due to the hearer’s rebelliousness
- divine messages of comfort and exhortation that divine salvation is at hand
Examples of accusation or impending judgment are the prophetic “woes” (e.g., Isa 3:9, 11; 5:8–30; Amos 5:18–24), or the highly stylized oracles of judgment in Amos 1:3–2:16. This kind of prophecy was dominant in the period of the “writing prophets” (eighth and seventh centuries bc). Biblical prophets are often described as arbiters of the covenant in that they brought accusations from Yahweh regarding Israel’s infidelity to the covenant (e.g., Hos 6:4–7:16).
These categories often overlap. Yahweh’s accusations could be coupled with the prediction of disaster, and comfort often came in the form of a prediction of divine salvation.
5. Why do many churches and Christians avoid Bible Prophecy today?
Charles Ryrie observes,
In the last several decades interest in prophecy seems to have been declining (except when some trouble erupts in the Middle East!). This has been detrimental to the well-being of the body of Christ. It has robbed us of an important perspective on life here and now, for the knowledge of the future should affect our actions in the present. To ignore what God says about the future cannot but cloud our insights into the present.
Why has this happened? Possibly because we are so content with our lot in this life that life hereafter has lost its attraction. Perhaps because churches are not offering prophetic teaching, since they perceive that people do not want it (and they have geared their programs to offer what people want, not what they need). Perhaps because our training institutions are devoting less time to it and doing it with less specificity. Perhaps because we do not want to face the reality that it is God who is in control, and He is bringing His plan to His preannounced conclusion in His time and way. Perhaps because we forget that prophecy consists not only of a scheme of future events but also includes teachings on resurrection, judgments, heaven, and eternal punishment, all of which subjects are eminently relevant.
On the other hand, many within the Church are consumed with Bible Prophecy. John MacArthur writes,
The study of the end times is the consuming passion of many in the church today. Sensational best-selling authors argue that current events fulfill their often dubious interpretations of biblical prophecy. Some claim to have figured out the secret that even Jesus in His Incarnation did not know—the time of the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:36). Tragically, some people get so caught up in the study of eschatology that they neglect the basic principles of spiritual growth and evangelism that the Second Coming is designed to motivate. [Emphasis added.]
6. Why is it important to study Bible Prophecy?
Bible commentators are quick to point out that more than one-fourth of the Bible is prophetic in nature. Of the approximately 31,000 verses in the Bible, more than 8,000 of them deal directly with Bible Prophecy.
Paul Benware, a Bible professor at Moody Bible Institute, gives us five reasons it is important to study and know Bible Prophecy:
Bible Prophecy Reminds Us That God Is Sovereign–In a world that seems chaotic and completely in the grip of wickedness, we need to remember that our God sovereignly controls it all. The prophet Isaiah declared that the powerful Creator of this world is not at all impressed with the supposedly great power of men and nations (Isa. 40:12-26). In fact, he asserted that God regards them as dust on the scales, as a drop from a bucket, as nothing and meaningless. Our God is the king of the universe, who reigns both now and in the future (Ps. 2:1-12). And although Satan is called the “god of this world,” he does not dictate what happens on this planet but remains unquestionably under the sovereign authority of the Lord God (Matt. 28:18-20; Rev. 1:18).
The prophetic Word proclaims the power and sovereignty of God and reminds us that His sure purposes for the future will indeed come to pass. Neither people nor demons can thwart the plans of God Almighty. This great truth brings insight and comfort to the believer living in this hostile world.
Bible Prophecy Reminds Us That God Is Good–Christians often live out their days in personal pain, with unresolved problems and in terribly unfair situations. Prophecy reminds us of the goodness of God by showing that He has written the final chapter on the human condition, which presently includes suffering and pain. If this life and this world were all there was, or the best we had coming, we might rightly challenge the idea that God is good and loving. Prophecy reveals with crystal clarity that the ending of the story is good for the children of God. And it is a kind of good that we really cannot fathom. The apostle Paul, who endured incredible adversity, suffering, and trouble proclaimed without any reservation, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
Bible prophecy is a precious area of doctrine to the people of God who are suffering. One author correctly observed that
what happens in our lives when we live as he directs is up to God. Sometimes the blessings come. Sometimes they don’t. Only when we lose hope in formulas that guarantee success will we develop true hope in a God who can he trusted when life makes no sense, because one day he’ll take us home.
Taking us home is the ultimate good. It is in the Father’s house that His children will experience full and unhindered fellowship and be free from death, pain, and the other ravages of sin. Prophecy shouts to us that God is good.
Bible Prophecy Motivates Us to Holy Living–Without the perspective of prophetic truth, living holy lives is far more difficult. The apostle John once wrote of the Lord Jesus’ return for His children and noted that when that sudden, supernatural event takes place it will bring joy to some believers but shame to others (1 John 2:28). He then says that believers who really believe and gladly anticipate the Lord’s coming will actively work at personal purity (3:3). Persuaded by these truths, they will simply not allow sin’s presence in their lives and will be ready for the Lord’s return. Believers who do not anticipate the Lord’s return will have a greater tendency to allow sin to take up residence in their lives. That was Jesus’ point when He said that it is the evil servant who says that his master’s coming is delayed (Matt. 24:48-51). Jesus taught that this attitude, which denies the Lord’s soon return, stimulates sinful behavior.
A believer who gets out of bed in the morning thinking My Lord Jesus could return today will probably not let sin take root in his life. But Christians who rarely, if ever, reflect on the realities of the future life, the Lord’s coming, and the judgment seat of Christ are far more vulnerable to temptation and sin. And perhaps that explains something of the sin and apathy seen in much of the church today. Could it be that many are saying, “My Lord delays His coming”?
Bible Prophecy Helps Us Establish Proper Priorities–What is really important to us? Many things have importance in our lives, and that is certainly legitimate. But the reality of future things sheds significant light on the great issues of life and helps us to see what is most important. The apostle Peter spoke of the coming end-time judgments in the Day of the Lord and then exhorted Christians to live in light of these ultimate realities (2 Peter 3:10-13).
Many of God’s children seem to make decisions about what they will do with their lives with no conscious thought concerning the kingdom to come. Those, however, who do live with an awareness of the coming Kingdom of God, with its joys and rewards, think differently regarding the use of their time, money, and resources. The goals and purposes of life are often altered by an understanding of future realities. Prophecy can assist us in making better choices in the present as it reminds us of things that have eternal value.
Bible Prophecy Gives Us Hope–If there is anyone who ought to live with a positive confidence in this world, it is the child of God. If there is anyone who ought not to live constantly under a blanket of defeat, fear, and depression, it is the child of God. Though none of us are exempt from painful, negative, even depressing situations, we ought not live in those conditions. A very real joy, pleasure, and glory are coming, and they are wrapped up in the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearance (Titus 2:13). “Let us rejoice and be glad” (Rev. 19:7) are words for the future and remind us to have hope because the best is yet to come. Whereas the unbeliever may engage in wishful thinking about the future, the believer can look ahead with a confident expectation that God will accomplish everything that He has promised to do.
Does this doctrinal area of Bible prophecy make a difference? Yes, emphatically yes! God wants us to know many truths about what is going to take place in the future, and He wants those truths to change us right now in the present. He desires that prophetic truth change the way we think, the way we behave, and the way we view Him. And though we will not come to complete understanding of each aspect of this doctrine, we have been given enough information and help in the person of the Holy Spirit who illuminates His truth to accomplish these changes.
7. Do we have a responsibility to understand Bible Prophecy?
As have seen up to this point in our lesson, the Bible has a lot to say to us through prophecy. Yet, unfortunately, just like the Jews of the First Century, we often ignore or miss what God is saying to us through prophecy.
There are more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled during His first coming. According to Grant Jeffrey, there are more than 2400 recorded prophecies in the OT and NT concerning Jesus’ second coming!
I believe we have a responsibility to understand the times in which we live. We may not have all the answers, but as biblical Christians, we need to view the world through the lens of Scripture.
What is my Scriptural basis for this assertion? Jesus chided the Pharisees knowing how to predict the weather, but not knowing the “signs of the times” (Matt. 16:1–3). Even the disastrous fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 was attributed to their failure to recognize the predicted day of His arrival (Luke 19:42, 44).
As Daniel read the prophecies of Jeremiah, he felt compelled to pray, but Gabriel interrupted his prayer to give him the most astonishing prophecy in the Bible (Daniel 9). It appears that we are accountable to know what has been revealed.
8. What does Paul teach us about the death of a believer in 1 Thessalonians?
“Concerning them which are asleep.” Paul is referring to the death of the body. This never refers to the soul or the spirit of man, because the spirit of man does not die. We shall note that as we move through this section, but first I want to mention several reasons that the death of the body is spoken of as being “asleep.”
- There is a similarity between sleep and death. A dead body and a sleeping body are actually very similar. I’m sure you have been to a funeral where someone has remarked that So-and-so looks just as if he were asleep. Well, in a way it is true — the body of a believer is asleep. A sleeper does not cease to exist, and the inference is that the dead do not cease to exist just because the body is asleep. Sleep is temporary; death is also temporary. Sleep has its waking; death has its resurrection. It is not that life is existence and death is non-existence, you see.
- The word which is translated “asleep” has its root in the Greek word keimai, which means “to lie down.” And the very interesting thing is that the word for “resurrection” is a word that refers only to the body. It is anastasis, and it comes from two Greek words: histemi which means “to stand,” and ana, the preposition, “up.” It is only the body which can stand up in resurrection.
The same Greek word for “sleep” is used here as is used when referring to a natural sleep when the body lies down in bed. Let me give you two illustrations of this. “And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45). Imagine that Peter, James, and John went to sleep at this time of crisis! The word is the same word that is used here in 1 Thessalonians. Again, in Acts 12:6, “And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.” One thing we know for sure about Simon Peter is that he didn’t have insomnia! Even at times of great crisis, he was able to sleep. Again, the same word for “sleep” is used, and it is the natural sleep of the body.
- The Bible teaches that the body returns to the dust from which it was created, but the spirit returns to God who gave it. Even the Old Testament teaches this. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 we read: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” “The dust” — that is our body. God told Adam, “…for dust thou art, and unto dust shall thou return” (Gen. 3:19). It was the body that was taken from the dust, and then God breathed into man the breath of life, or the spirit, you see. It is the body that will go to sleep until the resurrection — only the body. The spirit of a believer will return to God.
The spirit or the soul does not die, and therefore the spirit or the soul is not raised. Only the body can lie down in death, and only the body can stand up in resurrection. This is quite obvious when Paul says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2Cor 5:8).
The body is merely a frail tent that is laid aside temporarily in death. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2Cor 5:1). The Greek word for “tabernacle” here is skenos, which means “a tent.” The bodies we live in are tents. I have news for you: You may live in a home that cost $250,000, but the place where you really live is a little tent. God put every single one of us into a tent. It is not a matter of some living in a hovel and some in a mansion — we have all been given the same kind of tent. You could reduce the body to its component chemicals, and I am told the whole amount would sell for about $4.00, although inflated prices may push it a little higher. Everyone of us lives in a tent that is worth about $4.00! It can be blown down at any moment. If you don’t believe that, step in front of a car and you will find that your tent will fold up and silently slip away. Our bodies are actually very frail.
- The early Christians, adopted a very wonderful word for the burying places of their loved ones — the Greek word koimeterion, which means “a rest house for strangers, a sleeping place.” It is the same word from which we get our English word cemetery. The same word was used in that day for inns, or what we would call a hotel or motel. A Hilton Hotel, a Ramada Inn or a Holiday Inn — they are the places where you spend the night to sleep. You expect to get up the next day and continue your journey. This is the picture of the place where you bury your believing loved ones. You don’t weep when you have a friend who goes and spends a weekend in a Hilton Hotel, do you? No, you rejoice with him. The body of the believer has just been put into a motel until the resurrection. One day the Lord is coming and that body is going to be raised up.
9. How can talking about God’s promises for our future encourage us in our daily lives?
These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.
- What can you do to make sure you are ready for Christ’s return each day?
What hope can you share with someone who is convinced that death is the end of our existence?
 Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1081.
 Gretchen Ellis, “Prophecy,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).
 John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 & 2 Thessalonians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2002), 123–124.
 Stephen M. Miller, The Complete Guide to Bible Prophecy, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Books, 2010), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 13.
 Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 14-21.
 J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 4”.