The thought of Tokyo 2020 has been uppermost in the minds of all those who are aspiring to compete there. For months, years, even decades, this has been regulating their lives. The games have been defining how they think and act. The why, what, when and where of every single activity will have been, and continues to be, influenced by a resolve to appear there in the best possible condition.
Looking to the Summer Olympics will determine the activities of thousands of athletes and the huge sacrifices they will make. Yet, for every Christian believer, there is an event, which will occur once only, that should regulate our lives, determining all that we do and say, how we do it and why we do it. It is an event that is infinitely more significant than any Olympic Games - the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is this event uppermost in your thinking? Does it regulate all that you do? Does the thought of it control the why, what, when and where of daily living?
Throughout the New Testament there are multiple references to this sure and certain event. In the hours before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus made great promises to His disciples such as this one:
'And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also' (John 14:3)
He promised to come again. He promised to take His disciples to Himself, so that they would be with Him forever. The promises of God are precious to every child of God. They cannot be broken; they are a sure and certain hope; they are a rock on which the believer stands. As an old hymn states, ‘I’m standing on the promises of Christ my Saviour’.
The challenge for many Christians who live in the relative comfort of the western world is: does the great hope of Christ’s return control our lives? Is the blessed hope of Christ’s return not merely a doctrine in our minds but a hope and a desire that controls our lives?
In the New Testament there seems to be an exemplary, though not perfect, church. The Christians at Thessalonica were an example not just in their own city or the region where they lived but even beyond that!
‘... you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe’’ (1 Thessalonians 1:7).
There is a direct parallel between their example and what gripped their minds. Their conduct was determined by what they really believed. In all five chapters of Paul’s first letter to them there is a reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The church at Thessalonica was a ‘second coming church’, not just as a belief on their statement of faith, but as a glorious thought that the day was coming when they would be delivered from a sinful world and their remaining ‘flesh’. They would go to be forever with Christ.
Bear in mind that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians within two years of their becoming Christians (Acts 17). This was a young church that endured persecution from the onset yet had a powerful and far-reaching testimony. They understood the seriousness of God’s wrath on sinners and how they would be delivered from that.
‘… you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10)
Knowing that the Lord Jesus will deliver His people from the eternal punishment of their sins because He endured the wrath of God against them and that, through faith in Him, every believer has the value of His work accredited to their account, is a doctrine that controlled how they thought and lived. That the Lord Jesus will also deliver Christians from the coming period of tribulation judgement, when the wrath of God will be poured out on the world that has rejected His Son, was a tremendous comfort for them, as it should be for all of God’s children.
The believers were continually encouraged and strengthened by the Word of God. Paul taught them about the ‘rapture’ of all Christians. In chapter four we are exposed to some of the clearest teaching on the next event in God’s revealed prophetic timetable.
‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
The promise of the Lord Jesus in John chapter 14 will be fulfilled when the events described in 1 Thessalonians chapter four occur. This hope determined how the believers acted, as their faith towards God, love for His people and hope in Jesus Christ was lively and active (1:3).
Much more could be, and has been, written on the Lord’s return. The Bible has a lot to tell us about it. In His Word, God has revealed to us some of the details, but there are other things that have not been made known. Whilst theological accuracy is essential, it is very important to note that in the lengthiest section regarding this future event (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11) we see two similar statements.
‘Therefore comfort one another with these words’ (4:18)
‘Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing’ (5:11)
The truth about the imminent, visible and personal return of the Lord Jesus was to be spoken about as a hope to comfort and encourage the people of God, not to provoke theological debate on the unrevealed details.
The return of the Lord Jesus was taught early and frequently to the church at Thessalonica. The truth ‘raptured’ their minds as they waited for the rapture of themselves to be with Him.
The imminent return of Christ is a longed-for event that has a sanctifying impact on the life of the believer as he avoids doing anything that he would not want to be doing when Christ returns.
How often do you talk about the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ? What aspects do you discuss? Why do you discuss it?