The Great Meeting In The Air

Photo by William Sinclair on Unsplash

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

The Bible Is Filled With Wonderful Meetings That
We Can Read Of, But Could Not Be At

I wish I could have been at that camp meeting when Israel passed through the Red Sea as if on dry land. I wish I could have been there when Miriam, Moses’ sister, led Israel in song:

Exodus 15:21 Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath {God} thrown into the sea.

That must have been magnificent! I would have loved to have been at the meeting when Moses received the Law, or when Jericho fell as God’s people marched around it. There are so many wonderful meetings in the Old Testament I would have loved to have been at.

Wouldn’t you have loved to be at that meeting at the empty tomb when the Angel told the women:

Matthew 28:6-8 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been at that meeting when the disciples huddled together, fearful, in a locked room? I would have loved to be there. I can imagine the conversation, the sadness, as we spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus had told His disciples that “after three days He will rise” (Mark 9:30-32; Matthew 17:22-23). Jesus told them (Matthew 26:32) “after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee”. They heard His words, but the words didn’t register. In that locked room 11 defeated men gathered – oh, how I wish I could have been there – when suddenly and miraculously Jesus appeared. Can you imagine it? It would have made me shout. Jesus has conquered death. He passed through a locked door to see us, saying:

Luke 24:39-43 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them.

What a wonderful meeting that must have been! Then Jesus “shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). What a wonderful series of meetings this must have been. The Sermon on the Mount was well attended, and a great blessing – but just imagine the meetings with the resurrected Jesus! Praise God!

On the fortieth day following His resurrection from the tomb, Jesus commissioned His Apostles. He told them – and us – to carry the Gospel message into the world. How it must have moved their hearts when they saw Jesus – defeating gravity – ascend to glory:

Mark 16:19-20 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

What a powerful meeting that was! Neither you nor I could be at any of those wonderful meetings. I read of them, and believe that they happened just as they said. But I can only read of them, and imagine the joy of seeing Jesus – the resurrected Jesus – face to face. I was born in the wrong time to see those wonderful meetings. But there is a meeting that will be greater than that first meeting with Jesus was. This meeting is a meeting that every Christian will attend. The old time Evangelist Billy Sunday said of this coming meeting:

… “no meeting has ever been held anywhere or in any time that could begin to compare in importance with the greatest of all meetins that is to be held in the air, when our Lord comes to make up His jewels. That meeting is the one for which all others have been preparing the way. It will be the crowning meeting of all history. The purpose of all that has been done in this world up to the present times has been prepared for that great meeting in the air.”

Jesus is Coming! Jesus said He would be crucified. He said that He would lay His life down for us. He said that He would die, and rise again on the third day. But Jesus also said that He is coming again. Jesus said that His coming would be like lightening, quick and unpredictable. He said:

Matthew 24:27 as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Jesus told His disciples that the day of His Second Coming is known only to the Father. He said:

Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Matthew 24:42-44 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

The Second Coming of Christ is referred to over 350 times in the New Testament.

Water Baptism is an important Biblical truth. The Apostle Paul refers to Water Baptism about 13 times. But the Apostle refers to the Second Coming of Jesus 50 times. Our Jesus is coming again. He is coming to save, and He is coming to judge and rule. If you are a child of God by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26) then you WILL be at this great meeting, one way or the other.

All Christians Will Be At That “Meeting In The Air”

Word Study In 1 Thessalonians, we see the Apostle Paul use the word “sleep” in two different technical ways.

1. The Apostle uses the word “ASLEEP” {Greek κοιμάω koimáō, [pronounced koy-mah’-o], meaning “to be in a state of rest or sleep”} in chapter four to describe the saved Child of God who is physically dead.
2. The Apostle uses the word “SLEEP” {Greek καθεύδω katheúdō, [pronounced kath-yoo’-do], meaning “to fall asleep”} in chapter five to describe the lost child of Adam who is spiritually dead.

This morning we are going to talk of the “Meeting In The Air”, the first phase of our Lord’s Second Coming. Let’s begin.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

When an unbeliever in Jesus physically dies, it is called “die” or “death”. But when a believer in Christ physically dies, the Bible refers to this as “sleep” or “asleep in Jesus”. Why is this? Because our Lord Jesus said:

John 11:25-26 …. I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

Again, “whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die”. The Christian does not DIE. The Christian SLEEPS. The body of the believer RESTS in repose. The body of the Christian in that casket looks like it is sleeping. Death is but a sleep for the genuine believer in Christ. When the Evangelist Stephen was being stoned to death by the Pharisees the Bible says:

Acts 7:60 {Stephen} kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen did not drift off into normal sleep while his body was being beaten with stones. His body died – but to him it was like drifting off into sleep. “He fell asleep”. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, our Lord told His disciples:

John 11:11 … Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

The disciples did not understand. They said:

John 11:12-15 … Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

For the Christian, death is but a sleep.

When the Apostle Paul wrote of the some 500 brethren who saw the resurrected Jesus, he wrote:

1 Corinthians 15:6 … {Jesus} was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

The Apostle was speaking of the believers who had physically died. They were “fallen asleep”. Death for the Christian is indeed much like sleep. Both death and sleep are inevitable. Everyone must die, and everyone must sleep. When you as a Christian die, you do not cease to exist, no more than you cease to exist when you sleep. When you sleep, you awaken to a different time. When you as a Christian die, you awaken in glory, in a different time. Both death and sleep sneak up on us. When I lay in bed at night thinking about going to sleep, I cannot sleep. But when I think on other things, sleep sneaks up on me. It is a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. Death and sleep for the Christian are the same.

When the Bible refers to the Christian sleeping, this sleep refers to the body, not the soul. When the Christian experiences physical death, the believer’s soul goes to be with the Lord. The Bible says:

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

When we are “absent from the body”, that is, my soul departs this vessel, then we are “present with the Lord”. Believers go to be with Jesus, where Jesus is. When John the Revelator looked into Heaven, he said:

Revelation 6:9 … I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

He did not see their bodies. He saw their SOULS. He said the same thing in Revelation 20:4, “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God …”. When the believer in Christ dies, their BODY sleeps “in the dust of the earth” (Daniel 12:2). The Apostle, writing to the Church at Philippi, said:

Philippians 1:21-24 … For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Physical death for the Apostle was GAIN, not loss. Why? He said “I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ”. Paul rightly saw that physical death for the believer was when our bodies sleep, but our souls go to be with Jesus, to see Him face to face.

Christians Sleep And Have Hope.
Unbelievers Die Without Hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

The Apostle did not want the Thessalonians to “sorrow as others which have no hope”. When unbelievers die, their souls go to a place of TORMENT (Luke 16:22-23). “The rich man lifted up his EYES IN HELL, BEING IN TORMENTS”. Lazarus, on the other hand, was “being comforted”.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

Here then is the great news of salvation. The Christian who “sleeps” or physically dies prior to the return of Jesus Christ, then “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”. Those loved ones who have gone on ahead – who have “fallen asleep in Jesus” – when Jesus comes back God will bring them – their souls – WITH HIM. Our loved ones – my grandma and grandpa, my momma and daddy, the loved ones who were “in Christ”, and who “fell asleep in Christ”, or have physically died, these precious souls will come back with Jesus when He returns.

1 Thessalonians 4:15 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.

Word Study Those Christians who are alive when Jesus returns in the air “shall not prevent them which are asleep”. The word translated “prevent” is the Greek φθάνω phthánō, [pronounced fthan’-o], which means “to come before or precede”. When Jesus returns, He brings the souls of those who have believed in Him with Him, like a mighty cloud of witnesses.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

At this wonderful meeting in the air that some call “The Rapture”, the souls of those who departed this life, “asleep in Jesus”, will be given resurrected bodies FIRST. Those who go the sleep first receive resurrected bodies first. What a blessing this is!

1 Thessalonians 4:17 … Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Word Study The words “caught up together” is the Greek ἁρπάζω harpázō, [pronounced har-pad’-zo]. This is a very interesting word, as it means “to seize, to carry off or be claimed eagerly for one’s self”. After Jesus unites the believers who have previously “fallen asleep” with glorified bodies, He takes those Christians who are alive and remain off of this earth. What great news! “And so shall we ever be with the Lord”. Christ’s Church, the believers of every age, will forever be with Jesus. The Apostle of love said:

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

“when he shall appear, we shall be like him”. What a glorious truth this is, dear Christian. As you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, one day – and we do not know when that day will be – Jesus will come back to receive you to Himself. If you “fall asleep in Christ” prior to His second coming, then He will bring you back with Him when He returns “in the air”. Jesus is coming – we do not know when. The Moody Bible Institute notes:

“Before He establishes His kingdom on earth, Jesus will come for His Church, an event commonly referred to as the “Rapture.” At that time the dead in Christ will be raised and living Christians will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever. In this resurrection, those who have died in Christ will have their redeemed souls and spirits united with a body similar to Christ’s glorified body. Christians living at the time of this event will not die, but will be changed to be like Christ. This expectation is a motivation for holy living, as well as a source of comfort.”

If You Plan On Meeting Jesus In The Air
You Will Live For Jesus On The Ground

Knowing that the Lord shall return at any moment – and we do not know when that moment will be – we as Christians are to live expectantly and in a holy manner every moment of every day. When we started this message we read:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep

We skipped over that little word “But”, but that word is important, too. Preceding this teaching on the Second Coming of Christ the Apostle said:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-4 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor…

If you are a Christian, and are expecting to one day to “fall asleep in Jesus” and not to die, then you should “know how to possess {your} vessel in sanctification and honor”. The lives that God has given you are stewardships. “You are not your own, but are bought with a price, the Blood of Jesus Christ. Glorify God in your BODY, and in your SPIRIT, which are God’s!” (1 Corinthians 6:20). You are to be living your lives as if Christ might come at any moment. You are to live your lives to please Jesus.

Understanding the Second Coming of Christ should spur us into actively serving Jesus. We do not know when Jesus will return. If you are saved, and looking forward to SLEEP and not death, then:

1 Thessalonians 4:7 … God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

We are to be a holy people. God tells His Children:

1 Peter 1:15-16 as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of {your way of life}; 16 because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

We are called as believers to holiness, to living our lives so as to please our Lord. Knowing that Christ is returning without warning, the Apostle exhorts us:

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; 11 and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

The Second Coming of Christ is in two phases. In phase 1, Jesus saves His Church from the Great Tribulation. The Church goes with Jesus to glory for seven years, while the judgment of God and the rule of the Antichrist grips the earth. At the end of that seven year period Jesus returns to the earth with His Church to save Israel, and to judge sin. Jude wrote of this in:

Jude 14-15 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

There is a Second Coming “In the Air” and a Second Coming “On the Ground”. The first is to save the Church from Tribulation. The second is to save Israel, and establish the Kingdom of Christ on the earth. What wonderful truths!

Will you be at this meeting? Will you be at the Second Coming of Christ? You will be, but only if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You will be, but only if you have been born again of the Spirit, and are Children of God by spiritual adoption. You will be, only if you love Jesus, and follow Him. Jesus will not return for a stranger. He is returning for those He loves. Will you be at that great Meeting in the Air? May God the Holy Spirit draw you to call upon Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. The Bible says:

John 3:15-18 … whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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