The letters of Paul, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, are the pinnacle for the church. It’s a model church with the hope of Christ’s return at the center of their focus. The return of Christ is mentioned multiple times in these letters.
1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
3:13 To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
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.
5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
In the Old Testament, they looked forward to the first coming of Christ. During the church age, we look forward to the second coming of Christ. The first words spoken by the angels after Jesus ascended was a reminder of his return
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Let’s now look at 1 Thessalonians 4 where we find the phrase “comfort one another”.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-1
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.
God does not want us to be stupid about the dead. Asleep is a euphemism (the truth is diminished)for dead. In the Greek, there are two words for sleep. This word means unintentional sleep (always referring to death). We are not to sorrow like the world which has 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.
Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again? If not then you have a savior that is still in the grave. But because he died and was raised then we can be assured the saints that have died will God bring with him.
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.
Open your eyes and ears because we are getting ready to hear the word of the Lord. We that are alive until the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep [dead].
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:
For the Lord Christ Jesus shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel (Michael?) and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Notice the time references, this comes first.
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet theLord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
After the dead in Christ rise THEN we which are alive shall be caught up (snatched up) with them (the dead saints that are risen) to meet Christ in the air. And we will spend forever with the Lord. There are two parts to Christ’s coming. This is the first part about Christ coming FOR his saints where we meet the Lord in the air. The second part is Christ coming WITH his saints as he returns to the earth (this is what happens in the book of revelation).
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
What is the comfort in these words? The saints do not need to sorrow when fellow saints die because we know that they are saved and we will see them again. We know that Christ is coming back and it may happen during our lifetime. Somebody is going to be alive when he returns, why not us?
In 1 Corinthians 15, the same truth is taught with additional details.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
Get ready because God is about to reveal a secret. We shall not all die but we will all be changed.
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
In a moment (immediately, literally in an atom), after the trumpet sounds the dead shall be raised incorruptible.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
The dead will be raised in incorruption. The mortal [alive saints that are death doomed] must put on immortality. These are the new bodies that we will all receive. This new body will not have flaws or imperfections. We will no longer have cancer, diabetes, arthritis,[you can insert your own physical challenges here]. The new body is able to pass thru walls and fly. We will still look the same (at least the adults, I’m not sure about children that die).
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
After we get our new bodies then Death will be swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This victory will be after we meet the Lord in the air. Until then Satan has the power of death.
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil—
Since the devil is not destroyed yet, then he has not relinquished his power over death. This will occur after Christ returns to the earth with the saints in the book of Revelation.
Our attitude concerning the return of Christ will determine how faithful we are in ministry. This means that when mental pressures, physical pressures, financial pressures, marriage pressures, work pressures, etc. come knocking at our door then how will we respond? The hope is what kept the apostle Paul going in spite of his obstacles.
2 Corinthians 11
24 Of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Three times was I beaten with rods , once was I stoned , thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
There is a crown of righteousness for those who love (look forward to with anticipation and a strong desire) for his appearing.
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Continuing on in 1 Thessalonians there is another occurrence of “comfort one another”
1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
What times and seasons? When Christ will return for his body (the saints) and when Christ will return with the saints.
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
The “day of the Lord” is when Christ will return with the saints.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Previously God was addressing “we” and “us” but now “they”. The “we” and “us” are the saints while they are the unsaved. The sudden destruction comes upon them (the unsaved) and they shall not escape.
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
But we are not in darkness so that the day will surprise us like a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
We are children of the light. God is light and in him is no darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
This sleep means intentional sleep or slumber and not death. We are not deceived because we are watchful and sober. We should not be asleep.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
We are to have a sound (sane) mind. This means putting on the full armor of God according to Ephesians 6:11
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Note: The charge for readiness and the list of the full armor is in Ephesians 6:11-18
We are called to be fully alert and fully equipped watchmen.
God did not appoint us to wrath but to obtain salvation. Hallelujah!!!
10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep [dead], we should live together with him.
Why? Because we are all going to be changed when we meet him in the air.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
We should comfort/encourage and edify/build up each other with these words.
In conclusion, the Return of Christ is significant to believers because
1- It’s our motivation to stay faithful to the Word of God and our Christian calling.
2- It’s our comfort when the saints die.
3- It’s our anticipation that the return of Christ will occur during our lifetime.
4- It’s our knowledge that we will get a new body.
5- It’s our promise of a crown of righteousness.
6- It’s our encouragement that we will not go through the wrath.
7- It’s our confidence that our legacy will have the same spiritual compass to guide them.