1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
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.
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
While studying this passage together on Tuesday night at Solomon’s Porch’s weekly meeting, I asked the question, “How should we live in light of the second coming?” First off, When Paul wrote this passage I don’t think he had any idea the kind of wasteful, silly arguments that would ensue about which trumpet he was referring to, who blew it, or us trying to figure out the angel’s name that would be shouting when Christ returned. Simply put, none of that is the point of this passage.
As Christians we generally tend to sensationalize the second coming of Christ. We make movies about it that either try to scare people into the Kingdom or that comfort us, in a real weird way honestly, about the final judgment of others. I say it is weird because many times it seems as if we might be rejoicing in final human suffering. Now, I am fully aware of the passages that do speak of our rejoicing at God’s justice being brought to earth, and yes that does involve the final judgment of evil men. Yet, our purpose here before that time is the same as Christ’s, who didn’t come into the world to judge it, but rather to bring life to it. How then should we live in light of the second coming? How should it shape our lives and communities?
A good friend of mine, Steven Farris, came up with a great analogy Tuesday night during Solomon’s Porch to explain how Christ’s second coming should effect our daily life. This is the way he explained it.
“If I am playing Monopoly and I am the top hat game piece, if I get into the game to much and begin to think that what the top hat owns, wins, or buys, is really important, then I loose perspective on the way Steven Farris the actual person behaves. (We’ve all seen people take a game way too seriously) But if I just play the game in a healthy way, I enjoy it, because I realize nothing the top hat owns, wins, or looses is all that important. I can’t spend Monopoly money any where, it’s useless outside of the game.
In the same way, we begin to think that the amount of stuff we own, our money and possessions, matter more than they really do. Living like our joy and value is in our life here on earth and the possessions we accumulate is like us identifying with the top hat in a Monopoly game. So Jesus encourages us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven and not on earth, because where our treasure is there will our hearts be also. So Paul, in Colossians 3, connects our life on earth with heaven and the second coming when he tells us to,
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
– Colossians 3:2-4
A famous general was once asked how he could remain calm and unafraid in battle. His response was that his faith in Christ was the reason he could be brave. That his faith taught him to feel as safe in battle as he was in bed, that God had fixed the time of his death and that he did not concern himself with such things. His concern in this world was to live in such a way as to be always ready, whenever death should overtake him. This is also the way the second coming should effect us. To live in such a way as to be always ready, whenever he should choose to return. This dislodges us from the cares of this world and allows us to find our hope in the world to come, not in the possessions and trappings of this one.