Recently I was involved in a special prayer meeting for a church in Asia that is being persecuted. As we prayed together, the Spirit brought to my mind the following passage from 1 Thessalonians, and the importance of actively maintaining in the forefront of our minds the hope of Christ’s return. Frequent meditation on Christ’s return will encourage and strengthen us as we face persecution and difficulty in this world.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
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.
When we fail to meditate on these details of Christ’s return, we are missing out on a very important source of encouragement that God has designed for us. Paul says that we are to “encourage one another with these words.”
In the next chapter, he says the same thing: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11). This second reminder to encourage one another, just like the first, follows a description of the details that will surround Christ’s return to earth.
I Thessalonians 5:1-10
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Consider the tremendous power these truths have to encourage us as God’s people. When we face persecution and difficulty during our lives, even if that difficulty is for an extended period of time (perhaps even for our whole lives), meditating on the truth that Jesus is coming back and will eternally reign as king over a perfect and sinless new earth will give us a different perspective on our circumstances. What is a year of suffering? or ten years? or a lifetime? in comparison to what Jesus has prepared for us in eternity?
Or taken from another perspective, meditating on Christ’s return will encourage us not to be slothful and lazy during those times when we are not facing difficulty or persecution. As verse 6 says, “let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and sober.” What regret we will experience at the return of Christ if we have not busied ourselves with the Lord’s work as we wait for him to come. We will be like the servant who had nothing to show for the talent that had been entrusted to him in his master’s absence. (For a sobering thought, read the consequences this servant suffered in Matthew 25:30)
So given the power that these truths have to encourage us, over the next several days, I want to meditate on what the Scriptures teach about the return of Christ.