About a century ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton attempted to lead a band of men across Antarctica. Almost from the first the expedition faced seemingly insurmountable challenges. The twenty-eight men hadn’t gotten far before their ship was frozen in. Held in the shifting grasp of ice plates their ship began to buckle. They removed their most important supplies just before the ship was crushed by the ice. After months of camping on drifting ice, Shackleton and four others undertook an impossible 800-mile journey in a small open boat across ice-laced ocean and by foot over uninhabited frozen desert to find help. He promised to return. Astonishingly, the little band made it to the only inhabited town around. Shackleton was given a small ship and crew to attempt a rescue. As he got close to where he had left the rest of the crew, huge icebergs blocked the way. Suddenly, a passage opened through the ice and Shackleton sailed toward the stranded men. They scrambled aboard as soon as he had arrived. All of them attempted a hasty escape as the ice crashed together again – behind them. Shackleton remarked how good it was that the men were all packed and ready to go when he arrived. The men replied, “We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, ‘The boss may come today.’” This is a good picture of how Christians live. They know that Jesus Christ could come today so they never give up hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 speaks about the hope Christians have even in death because Jesus is coming for them soon.
Before studying this passage, pray and ask God to open your eyes to see wonderful things out of His Word and to open the ears of your soul to hear His voice calling to hope and action.
Read Focus Verses
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and notice what all these verses are talking about.
How does Paul identify those he is addressing in the beginning of verse 13?
Whose condition does God not want these believers to be ignorant about?
Who should not sorrow without hope at the passing of a Christian loved one?
Before looking more closely at what God says about the condition of those who have died in Christ, notice the verses that precede it in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12, which talk about a Christian's life.
In verse 14, who is the pattern of a believer's death and resurrection?
Which two groups of Christians will be caught up in the rapture as mentioned in verse 15 and 17?
In Your Own Words
In your own words, what does this passage teach will happen to believers who have already died when Christ returns?
In Your Own Words 2
In your own words, what does this passage teach will happen to believers who are still alive when Christ returns?
After Jesus catches His people up to Himself in the air, what happens next according to verse 17?
What specific command are we given in verse 18 regarding these truths?
The verses following today's passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 provide more information regarding Christ's return and the impact it should have on a believer's life.
Keyword - Coming
Use this symbol to highlight the central theme of this passage - Christ's return.
Mark the words that describe Christ's return like coming and descend in today's passage.
Jesus often spoke of believers who had died as having fallen asleep just as this passage did. Based on what this passage says about Christ's coming and resurrection, why is falling asleep such a fitting analogy for Christians who have died?
In Ephesians 2:11-13 we are again reminded that the world has no lasting hope.
Hope In Death
Proverbs 14:32 confirms the idea that God's people have hope even in death.
1 John 3:1-3 speaks more about a Christian's hope beyond the grave.
From Scripture, what is a Christian's hope in death?
As we read the New Testament, we realize that God is not telling believers there should be no sorrow when a loved one goes to heaven. What does it mean not to sorrow like unbelievers who have no hope?
Romans 8:11 speaks of the assurance Christ's resurrection brings to believers that they will be raised too.
If He Rose
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 also speaks about how important believing in Christ's death and resurrection is to having hope in death.
Why does 1 Thessalonians 4:14 and these other verses emphasize the importance of believing in Christ's death and resurrection for those who would have hope in death?
1 Corinthians 15:51-58 also speaks of the trumpet sounding when Christ returns.
Like 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 3:20-21 talks about what will happen to our bodies at Christ's coming.
Jesus' Resurrected Body
Since Scripture teaches that we will have bodies like Jesus Christ's resurrection body, reading about Jesus' resurrected body in Luke 24:33-43 shows us that we will have real, physical bodies.
Revelation 21:4 tells us what will be different about our resurrected body.
How would you use these Scriptures to answer someone who asked what our bodies will be like in heaven?
In the Clouds
The first time we read the promise that Jesus will come in the clouds comes right after Jesus went back to heaven - in the clouds - in Acts 1:9-11.
If we go a few verses down from today's passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 we see that God has not told us when Jesus is coming back for His people.
In Mark 13:32-37 Jesus reinforces that message and tells us how it should impact our lives.
How should the fact that Jesus could come back at any moment effect a person's life according to these verses?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 again and notice who has taken the sting out of death and given victory.
Who made it so that death has no sting for Christians?
Hebrews 2:14-16 tells us how Jesus took the sting out of death and won victory over it.
How did Jesus give His people victory over death?
We've seen that those who are alive when Jesus comes back in the clouds will not die. Instead their bodies will be transformed on their way to heaven directly. This does not mean that they will not stand before Christians give account of what they've done. Read Romans 14:10.
We know from Romans 8:1 and many other Scriptures that this judgment does not mean some true Christians will lose their salvation.
How Christians Are Judged
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 explains what this judgment of Christians is for - rewards.
The reality of eternal rewards is why in so many of the passages we've looked at today we are urged to live ready for the coming of the Lord. See what 1 Thessalonians 5:6 says.
The Work of the Lord
1 Corinthians 15:58 also speaks of what a life lived 'always ready' will look like.
How will watching for Christ and always being ready for His return change a Christian's life?
Why does God tell Christians to comfort each other with these truths in the end of today's passage?
Perhaps you are thinking of other passages about Jesus coming back that sound different than the passages we've looked at today. That's because Jesus is coming back twice - once in the clouds to gather His people and once to the earth to conquer His enemies. This short article highlights a few of the differences.Click To Visit Website
Is He Your Savior?
Today we've mostly focused on what these verses mean for Christians, but the Bible has plenty to say about what it will be like for those who are not Christ's when He returns - it's frightening really. Have you accepted Christ as your Savior so that you will either die in Christ to be resurrected or be caught up to meet Him in the air?
Are You Watching?
Over and over throughout the Bible Christians are told to be ready and watching. As you've seen today, that means living so you would be glad for Christ to return at any moment. What needs to change about your life so that you are always ready for Jesus to come back?
What are some ways you can prepare yourself to use these verses and truths to comfort sorrowing Christians?
How has this study challenged your view of death and dying? How are you going to change your thinking so that you do not fear death or sorrow without hope when other Christians "fall asleep" in Christ?
We hope this study has challenged you to live like Jesus is coming soon.
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