The Unity of the Gathering & the Warning of the Day

Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints of Thessalonica. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twelve verses of the second chapter. When you come to this particular portion of this epistle you will find the apostle transitioning within the epistle to write concerning the coming of the day of the Lord and the tremendous evil that will take place on that day. You will recall from reading the latter portion of the fourth chapter and the beginning portion of the fifth chapter that the apostle pail wrote concerning the coming and sudden appearing of Jesus who is the Christ in order that He might gather together unto Himself His body which remains upon the earth. What is actually interesting when you read and consider this reality is that when Jesus appears on that day and in that moment, He will not only gather together unto Himself those which slept and those whose bodies were placed within the earth, but He will also gather those which were alive and remain upon the earth. In that moment when Christ appears He will gather both the dead in Him, as well as those which are alive and remain in order that He might bring them to where He is in paradise and unto His Father who is in heaven. I have to admit that I absolutely love this concept and reality, for much like those who lived and existed during the days of the Old Testament and Old covenant there would be a new messianic expectation that would be present within and upon the earth. If you read the entire Old Testament you will notice and discover that there was a powerful Messianic expectation that was present within the earth, for the saints who lived during those days spent their time looking for, anticipating and expecting the coming and appearing of the Messiah. In fact, if you read the writings and the sermons of the apostles within the New Testament you will find them proclaiming and declaring that the messiah must needs come according to the scripture and that He must needs suffer and be risen from the dead.

When you come to the New Testament you find the fulfillment of the long standing messianic expectation being fulfilled when the Lord sent John the Baptist as a forerunner to prepare the way for the coming and appearing of the Messiah. When you come to the New Testament you will find—not only after the entirety of the Old Testament, but also after four hundred years of silence—that the Lord suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Although there were angelic appearances within the earth unto the shepherds, as well as to both Mary and Joseph, when the messiah finally did come and appear, He appeared almost out of nowhere and perhaps even during a period when men and women had given up on and abandoned the expectation and hope for the coming of the messiah. What I love about the resurrection and ascension of the messiah is that when He ascended unto the right hand of the Father in heaven He left something more than simply His body and bride within and upon the earth. If you read the conclusion of the four gospels, as well as the opening chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that when the messiah ascended to the right hand of His Father He left behind Him a second Messianic hope and expectation. One thing which both testaments and covenants share and have in common is the powerful expectation and strong belief that the messiah would come unto His people. When the angels appeared and spoke unto those who were standing gazing intently in the direction of which Christ has ascended you find them declaring that just as they had scene Jesus ascend into the heavens, so also just as He ascended unto heaven He would come once more in like manner. How absolutely incredible and wonderful it is to read and consider that when Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father He left behind Him a powerful expectation and anticipation that He would return and come for and unto His people. Not only when He ascended, but also when He was still on the earth—particularly in His upper room discourse—we find Him encouraging His disciples with the awesome reality that He would return and would come once more in order that He might gather together unto Himself both the dead and the living in Himself.

One of the realities which I so love and appreciate about the opening chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is that almost immediately after it opens we find a new Messianic hope emerging and rising within and upon the earth. The previous Messianic hope and expectation was fulfilled when Jesus Christ took upon Himself the nature of flesh and blood and took upon Himself the nature of the seed of Abraham. When Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of His Father which was in heaven He left behind Him a new Messianic expectation, and a new Messianic hope that would be present within the hearts and minds of His saints and followers who would remain within and upon the earth. In fact, one of the most notable realities concerning the saints of Thessalonica is that they were a congregation which eagerly looked forward to and expected the return and second coming of the Messiah. Part of the reason these two letters were written unto these dear and precious saints was to speak directly to the Messianic hope and expectation that was found to be present within their hearts and minds. What’s more, is that if you read the New Testament book of Acts, as well as the various epistles and writings contained within the New Testament, you will find that these saints believed they were living in the Last Days, and that they would see the imminent and soon coming return of the Messiah, as He would return in like manner to gather together unto Himself His saints—both those which were dead in Him, as well as those which were alive and remained upon the earth. It’s imperative that we recognize and understand that when the Day of Pentecost took place and occurred within the earth, it marked the beginning of a powerful dispensation of grace within and upon the earth, for the Day of Pentecost marked the beginning of the Last Days. What’s more, is that even though within the New Testament book of Acts we witness the birth and the beginning of the body of Christ—the Church of Jesus Christ—upon the earth, we also witness a clock which started to countdown until and unto the coming and imminent return of the Messiah to gather together unto Himself His saints. As surely as the New Testament book of Acts is a book about the beginning of the life and ministry of the body of Christ within and upon the earth, it also marked a clock which began to countdown until that moment when Jesus Christ would return for His saints in order that He might gather them together unto Himself that where He is they might also be there with Him.

When you read the opening verse of the second chapter within the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica you will find him beseeching and imploring these dear saints much like he had done in previous epistles and writings unto the various other churches. What marks this particular opening verse as so incredibly different is not necessarily that we find the apostle Paul beseeching these saints, but how we find the apostle Paul beseeching them. Consider if you will the words which are found in the opening verse of this particular chapter within the second epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonians: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of what is found in this particular verse, for the apostle Paul presents us with two distinct realities concerning Christ and the expectation and hope that surrounds His second coming and imminent return. On the one hand we witness the revelation that Christ is indeed and Christ is in fact coming once more. It was true that He came the first time born of a virgin in order that He might ransom and redeem mankind unto Himself and unto the Father, but it is also true that when He returns and comes the second time He will come to gather together unto Himself His body which remained upon the earth—that portion of His body which slept, as well as that portion of His body which was alive and remained. In order to fully and completely understand the reality of what the apostle Paul was writing concerning the coming of the Lord it is first necessary that we turn and direct our attention to the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. Consider if you will the words and language which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle written unto these saints beginning with the thirteenth verse of the fourth chapter:

“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. 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, that we which are live and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the ari: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know p refectory that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 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. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11).

Upon reading these words you will quickly discern and discover that which the apostle Paul was seeking to accomplish when writing unto these dear saints—namely, to encourage them around the loss of their brethren, and perhaps even their family members. If you begin reading with the thirteenth verse of the fourth chapter you will find the apostle Paul declaring unto them how he would not have them to be ignorant concerning those which are asleep, nor even that they sorrow as others do which have no hope. When writing unto the saints of THessalonica at this particular juncture within the epistle the apostle Paul was seeking to encourage them concerning the reality of those which slept, in order that they would not sorrow as the world sorrows, nor sorrow as those do who have and who live with no hope. The apostle Paul goes on to write unto these saints that if we truly do believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. This reality was manifested on a smaller scale when Jesus gave up the ghost and yielded His Spirit into the hands of His Father upon the cross, for you will recall that when He died upon the cross a great earthquake took place upon the earth, and the graves of many saints which slept were opened. Matthew goes on to write and record that when Jesus Himself was raised from the grave and raised form death to life, the bodies of those saints whose graves had been opened emerged from the grave and entered into the city declaring unto those within the city the mighty and glorious wonders of Jesus the Christ, and of the Father which is in heaven. What took place on a limited scale at the death of Jesus, and even at His resurrection from the grave would take place on a much larger scale in that moment when the last trump shall sound, and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye Jesus Christ will appear. When Jesus does in fact appear, those which are dead in Him will rise first, for their graves will be opened, and their bodies will not only emerge from the graves, but will also be transformed into a new nature. What’s more, the apostle Paul goes on to write that we which are alive and remain unto and at the coming of the Lord cannot and will not prevent those which sleep, but will be caught up together with those which slept to meet Christ in the air.

In the fifth chapter of this first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica we find the apostle Paul going to on to write unto them that this particular coming of Christ would not overtake them as a thief in the night. In other words, that which the apostle Paul was seeking to accomplish when writing unto these saints was not only to encourage them not to sorrow as the world sorrows, but also to be watchful, to be ready, and to be prepared. In all reality, this is the central theme of the parable of the ten virgins—five of which were foolish, and five of which were wise. When writing unto the saints which were at Thessalonica the apostle Paul writes and encourages them to not not sleep as do others, but instead to watch and be sober. The apostle Paul sought to write unto them concerning the coming of Christ in order that they might live their lives being watchful, being mindful, expecting, looking forward to, and hoping for the imminent return and coming of Christ. The apostle Paul sought to encourage these dear saints that they would be watchful, ready, and prepared for that moment when Christ would return for His body and bride. That which the apostle Paul sought to accomplish within the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica was to encourage them concerning thecoming of the Lord Jesus Christ in order that they would not lose heart, nor would sorrow concerning the loss and death of those which had gone before them. The apostle Paul sought to encourage and instruct them concerning the coming of Christ in order that they might not be overtaken or caught off guard at the sudden appearing of Christ. If there is one thing I absolutely love about Christ’s life and ministry is in all reality three emphatic and powerful declarations He made unto those whom He walked and interacted with. If you read and study the four gospels you will find that one of the most prominent declarations which Christ made was that He would in fact die and would die at the hands of sinful men. I WILL DIE! In addition to this first declaration, there was one that was directly linked and connected to it, for as surely and as certainly as Christ declared that He would die, He also declared that He would rise from death to life. I WILL RISE! The third and final declaration was emphatically stated unto His disciples, and was once more declared unto those who stared intently at the clouds as Jesus ascended and was removed from their sight. This declaration was the declaration that He would return once more. Thus, the three declarations which Christ emphatically proclaimed while upon the earth were: I WILL DIE! I WILL RISE! I WILL RETURN!

It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand these three distinct realities, for they are all intrinsically linked and connected to each other. It would be Christ’s death which would ultimately lead to His resurrection, and His resurrection would ultimately lead to His ascension, which was in and of itself itself a portent and sign pointing to His return. It would be through Jesus’ death upon the cross that the graves of His saints would be opened, and it would be through His resurrection that the bodies of His saints would emerge forth from their graves with new life. What’s more, is that concerning Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father—not only do we see a portent and prophetic sign pointing to His imminent return, but we also see a powerful portent and prophetic sign pointing to the ascension of His saints. Through the ascension of Jesus Christ we not only see a portent and prophetic sign of the gathering together of those which are dead in Christ, but we also see a portent and prophetic sign of the gathering together of those which are alive and remain at the coming of the Lord. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints of Corinth in the fifteenth chapter of the epistle which was written unto them. Within this chapter we find the apostle Paul opening up and beginning with a powerful statement concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and His public appearing—first unto the apostle Peter, then unto the disciples, and at one point unto upwards of five-hundred individuals at one time. It was this reality concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead which the apostle Paul used to write unto these saints concerning a resurrection which would take place and occur when Christ come again and returns in like manner as He ascended unto the right hand of the Father who is in heaven. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Corinth beginning with the twelfth verse of the fifteenth chapter:

“Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and all power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith, all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord. I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts of Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up: And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed His own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh off beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star different from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As it the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:12-57).

All of this is necessary to read and pay close attention to, for when writing unto the saints which were at Thessalonica in his first epistle, the apostle Paul sought to speak unto them concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul sought to encourage them concerning those which had already fallen asleep in order that they would not sorrow as the world sorrowed. What’s more, the apostle Paul sought to encourage them concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the gathering together of those which are alive and remain at the coming of Jesus Christ, together with those which had already died in Christ. What I so absolutely love about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is not only the fact that He would come back the same way He ascended to the right hand of the Father, but through and by His coming the greatest act of unity that would ever take place would occur. Within and through the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ—not only would those which are dead in Christ rise first to meet Christ in the air, but all those which are alive and remain would also rise and meet those who died in Christ in the air. Consider for a moment the tremendous union of saints that will take place and occur in that moment as the sky and heavens will be filled with the saints of God—both those which died and fell asleep, as well as those which were alive and remained at the coming and appearing of Christ. It’s worth noting that when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father forty days after suffering at the hands of the sinful men and dying upon the cross, He ascended by Himself in order that He might sit down at the right hand of the Father. When Christ returns and comes again in like manner as He first ascended, He will not ascend by Himself, but will ascend with the saints of God. WHEN I RISE, I RISE WITH. MY SAINTS! WHEN I ASCEND, I ASCEND WITH MY SAINTS! I absolutely love that in absolutely every area of Christ’s manifestation—His death, His burial, His resurrection, and even in His ascension—we are associated and directly connected with Him. When He died, we died with Him; when He was buried, we were buried with Him; when He rose from the grave we rose with Him; when He ascended unto the right hand of the Father, we ascended with Him. I absolutely love the fact that when Christ rose from the grave on the third day He didn’t rise alone, but He rose in power and might together with a number of saints whose graves had already been opened through His death. What a powerful prophetic declaration this is concerning the resurrection—not only the resurrection we shall experience, but also the resurrection we experience while waiting to rise in that moment. Please note and understand that when Christ rose from the grave He rose accompanied by a number of saints, and although when He ascended He ascended alone, when He returns a second time, He will ascend with those saints which were dead in Him, as well as those saints which were alive at the time of His coming.

As you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first twelve verse of the second chapter of this second epistle you will find the apostle Paul beseeching these saints by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that they be not soon shaken in mind, nor be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as that the day of Christ is at hand. The apostle Paul sought to encourage these saints that no man deceive them by any means concerning the day of the Lord, for that day would not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin shall be revealed. That which the apostle Paul sets out to do within this second epistle is to speak to these saints concerning the sign of the coming of the day of Christ—namely, the emergence of the man of sin and the son of perdition which will deceive the whole world. The apostle Paul writes that the day of Christ would not come except there first be a falling away, and that directly linked and connected to that falling away would be the revelation of the man of sin who we know to be the antichrist. The apostle Paul goes on to describe this son of perdition and man of sin as one who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul went on to write concerning this man that he would sit as God in the Temple in order that he might somehow shew that he himself is God. It’s interesting and worth noting when reading this epistle that the apostle Paul declares that while he was still with them he spoke unto and declared these things unto them. Thus, when you read the words which are contained within this epistle you will notice and discover that they were essentially a reminder of that which had already been preached and declared unto them. It is necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to that which is contained within this passage of Scripture, for although the Lord will ultimately destroy the man of sin and the son of perdition, there would be a great deception that would take place within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded beginning with the ninth verse: “…even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness or unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). The entire purpose of this particular section within the epistle was to instruct, warn and remind the saints of Thessalonica that they might not be shaken in mind, nor troubled, nor deceived, but that they would stand firm in their faith and confidence in the Lord. When reading the words which are found and contained within this passage of Scripture it is necessary that we take from it the tremendous need within our hearts and lives to not be shaken in mind, nor troubled in soul, nor be deceived within ourselves concerning the coming of the day of Christ, but that would be watchful, that we would be ready, and that we would be prepared. If there is one thing we can and must take from this, it’s the tremendous need to be watchful, to be ready, and to be prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that in that process we would not be deceived or shaken within ourselves.

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