1 Thessalonians 4:15
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord…
Among the words of consolation in the valedictory discourse of Christ is the promise that He would come again and receive His people unto Himself. Time has sped noiselessly along. For nearly nineteen hundred years the Church's eyes have been strained with intense expectancy; but it has not lost confidence in the promise. Faith in the Second Advent of Christ is more widely spread and firmly held than ever. Long waiting has sharpened the longing, brightened the hope, and clarified the vision. Observe —
I. THAT THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST IS THE SUBJECT OF DIVINE REVELATION. "By the Word of the Lord." In a subject of such vast moment Paul was anxious to show that he spoke on the most incontrovertible authority. He had a special revelation, and spoke under the immediate inspiration of the Divine Spirit. The Second Advent is emphatically taught in the Scriptures.
II. THAT THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST WILL BE DISTINGUISHED BY SIGNAL TOKENS OF TERRIBLE MAJESTY.
1. There will be the triumphant shout of the Divine Redeemer (ver. 16). Just before Jesus expired on the cross He cried with a loud voice, and, though there was the ring of victory in that cry, it sounded more like a conscious relief from unutterable suffering. But the shout of Jesus on His second coming will be like the battle shout of a Great Conqueror. It will break the silence of the ages, startle the universe into attention, raise the dead, and summon all people to the presence of the victorious Messiah. Formerly He did not cry (Isaiah 42:2). But now is the revelation of His power (Psalm 50:3, 4).
2. There will be the voice of the archangel (ver. 16), the chief of the heavenly multitude. In response to the majestic shout of the descending Lord, he lifts up his voice, like the loud cry of a herald, announcing the glorious advent, and the sound is caught up and prolonged by the vast hosts of celestial attendants.
3. There will be the trumpet blast. "With the trump of God" (Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52). Among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Latins it was the custom to summon the people with the trumpet. In this way God is said to gather His people together (Isaiah 27:13; Jeremiah 4:5; Jeremiah 6:1). The whole passage is designed to show that the Second Advent of King Messiah will be attended by the most imposing evidences of pomp and regal splendour.
III. THAT THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST WILL BE FOLLOWED BY IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD — LIVING AND DEAD.
1. The pious dead shall be raised (vers. 15, 16). The living at that day shall have no advantage over the dead. Before any change takes place in the living, to fit them for the new condition of things, "the dead in Christ shall rise first," and be clothed with immortality and incorruptible splendour. Whatever disadvantages may be the lot of some of God's people over others, they are ever recompensed by some special privilege. The best state for us is that in which God places us. And yet every man thinks another's condition happier than his own. Rare, indeed, is the man who thinks his own state and condition in every respect best for him.
2. The living and the raised shall unite in a simultaneous greeting of their descending Lord (ver. 17). The living, after passing through the wondrous change, shall not anticipate the newly-raised bodies of the pious dead, but together with them — in one reunited, loving, inseparable company — shall be caught away in the chariot of clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and greet Him in the descent. He comes to fulfil His promise (John 14:3).
3. All believers in Christ shall be assured of eternal felicity with Him. "And so shall we ever be with the Lord" (ver. 17) — in familiar companionship, in rapturous communion, in impending "glory, "in ever-enchanting revelations. With Him, not occasionally, or for an age, or a millennium, but uninterruptedly, forever. How great the contrast with the brightest experiences of this changeful life! There are three things which eminently distinguish the heavenly life of the soul — perfection, perpetuity, immutability. The exact locality is not mentioned. It is enough to be assured that we are to abide with Jesus in some place where parting is unknown.
IV. THAT THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST IS CALCULATED TO MINISTER CONSOLATION TO THE SORROWING (ver. 18). The best consolation is that which is drawn from God's Word. The bereaved were sorrowing for their loved ones, and were full of uncertainty about the future. The teaching of inspiration assures them that their departed relatives shall be rescued from the power of death, that they shall meet again in glory to be forever with each other and with the Lord. The wants and distresses of certain individuals may be the occasion for the revelation of given truths, and the truths once revealed remain in the Church forever. Lessons:
1. The Church is justified in looking for the Second Advent.
2. That Advent will bring an everlasting recompense for the sorrow of the present life.
3. The record which reveals that Advent should be prized and pondered.
Parallel VersesKJV: For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.