Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints. More specifically today’s passage begins with the first verse of the fourth chapter and continues through to the eleventh verse of the fifth chapter. “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. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despieth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
“But as touching brother love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are all in Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12).
“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 rise 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. 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 air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly 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 that 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 5:1-11).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints preparing to draw to a close. What makes the words which are found here in this passage so incredibly unique and interesting when you think about it is when you consider what is found in the final verses of the third chapter. If you begin reading with and from the seventh verse of the third chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing unto these beloved saints how they were comforted over them in all their afflictions and distress by their faith. What’s more is the apostle Paul would also follow this by emphatically declaring that they live if they would stand fast in the Lord. The apostle Paul would go on to write unto the Thessalonian saints concerning the thanks they could render to God again for them for all the joy wherewith they joy for their sakes before God. The apostle Paul would go on to declare how night and day he prayed exceedingly that they might see their face and might perfect that which was lacking in their faith. The apostle Paul would also go on to write how God Himself and their Father and the Lord Jesus Christ would direct their way unto them. What’s more is the apostle Paul also went on to speak of the Lord make them to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men as they themselves had done toward them. This would be followed by the apostle Paul going on to speak of the establishing of their hearts unblameable in holiness before God—even the Father at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
Pause for a moment and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and consider the words and language that is presented therein. The apostle Paul spoke of Timothy coming from them unto them and bringing good tidings of their faith and charity and that they had good remembrance of them always desiring greatly to see them. If there is one thing that so amazes and inspires me about the words which are found in this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints it’s the tremendous amount of encouragement he had for these dear saints. The apostle Paul began in the first and opening chapter speaking of their work of faith, their labor of love and their patience of hope and how he again speaks of their faith and charity. Not only this but the apostle Paul would go on to write and speak of the comfort they received over them in all their affliction and distress by their faith. What’s more is the apostle Paul wrote an incredibly powerful declaration unto these dear saints when he spoke unto them concerning their standing fast in the Lord. I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need within our hearts and lives to truly recognize and understand the need to stand fast in the Lord. Oh there is indeed a tremendous need to stand and to even stand in the Lord, yet there is something incredibly powerful about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture. Within these verses the apostle Paul not only speaks to them concerning standing, and not only speaks to them of standing in the Lord but also standing fast in the Lord.
I am sitting here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the words and language that are contained therein. The apostle Paul acknowledged their own affliction and distress by their faith for the apostle Paul experienced the resistance and opposition of the unbelieving Jews in the city of Thessalonica. So severe and grievous was the opposition and affliction of the Jews that the apostle Paul had to be delivered by the brethren and sent forth from that place unto Berea. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about and consider it is when you read of both affliction and distress having the product and result of faith within the hearts and souls of the saints of God. There is this intrinsic link between the affliction and distress the apostle Paul and his companions faced and experienced and the establishment of the faith that was present within the hearts of those in Thessalonica. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when considering the words in this passage it is that more often than not the affliction, the suffering, the distress, the conflicts, the struggles and the like which we face in this life does not happen in a vacuum, nor does it happen in a bubble. We would like to think that the suffering, the affliction and the distress we face within this life is simply and solely about us ourselves and we fail to recognize and understand that the afflictions, the distresses, the struggles, the conflicts and the sufferings we face in this life serve as a witness and testimony for others.
The apostle Paul wrote unto these dear saints encouraging them to stand fast in the Lord—something we have a great need of recognizing and understanding within our own lives. In all reality I can’t help but read these words and see the encouragement and admonition of the apostle Paul in three different segments and realities. The first realm found in the encouragement and admonition of the apostle Paul was simply standing—nothing more and nothing less. If we are truly honest with ourselves we must needs recognize and understand the awesome and incredible truth that there is a great need within us as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to stand. There is a great need within our hearts to be those who are truly and undeniably able to stand—to stand in this generation, to stand in the midst of affliction and distresses, to stand as the beloved of the Lord, to stand as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, to stand as the men and women we have been called to be. Not only this but I am absolutely convinced that while we are indeed called to stand we are called not to stand in and of ourselves or even stand in our own strength but to stand in the Lord. If there is one thing we as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have been called to stand as saints and soldiers but also to stand in the Lord. When we think of ourselves being able to stand in the midst of the days in which we are living—and not only the days in which we are living but also the days in which we are preparing to enter.
The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that we are to stand, that we are to stand in the Lord and that we are to stand fast in the Lord. I am convinced there is a great need within our hearts and lives to be those men and women who not only stand, and not only stand in the Lord but also stand fast in the Lord. Oh when I think of those who stand fast in the Lord I think of the parable which the Lord Jesus delivered at the end of His Sermon on the Mount. If you remember the final words which were spoken in this famous Sermon on the Mount you will find Jesus comparing and contrasting two individuals—one who built their house on sand and another who built their house on solid ground. In this particular parable the Lord Jesus described those who heard His words and did them as those who built their house on solid ground and whose house would at some point experience the onslaught of a storm. Conversely the Lord Jesus spoke about those who heard His words and did not do them being likened unto one who built their house on sand and also experienced the onslaught of a storm which came against their house. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the final verses of the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
If there is one thing worth noting about this passage of Scripture it’s not only the fact that both of those groups of people whom Jesus spoke of heard the words which He had spoken but both had a choice what to do with those words. Both groups of people Jesus spoke of in this parable were such as heard His words and yet they were given a choice whether or not to hear and do that which the Lord Jesus had commanded or not to do it. What’s more is that within the parable you will find that both the man who built his house on the rock and that man who built his house on the sand both experienced the storm. It would have been one thing for only one of these two individuals to experience a storm while the other was somehow immune to facing the storm. The truth of the matter, however, is that it made no difference whether you heard the words of the Lord Jesus and did them or heard the words of Jesus and did not do them—storms would indeed and would in fact come. The fundamental difference which existed between the two was not in the facing of the storm but rather in what they did with the words the Lord Jesus spoke. Within this parable Jesus seems to indicate that those who are able to weather the storm(s) which come their way are those who hear the words of the Lord Jesus and actually do them. Both those who hear the word of the Lord Jesus and do them and those who hear the word of the Lord Jesus and don’t do them can and will experience storms within their lives and yet only one of them will survive the storm—and not only survive the storm but also experience the security of their house.
When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Thessalonian saints I can’t help but see an intrinsic and powerful link that exists between those who hear the words of the Lord Jesus and their being likened unto those who build their houses on solid ground. The storms can and will come and there is absolutely no way around walking through, facing and experiencing those storms. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand is that storms can and will come and there is absolutely no one who is exempt and immune from them. The Lord Jesus Christ made it very clear that even those who heard the words which He spoke and did them can and will face and experience storms. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand is that even those who hear the words of the Lord Jesus and do them in their lives can and will be those who experience storm. Jesus made it perfectly and abundantly clear through this parable that it is not just the unrighteous and those who hear His words and don’t do them who can and will experience storms. The Lord Jesus made it perfectly and abundantly clear that even those who hear His words and do them can and will walk through, face and experience storms within their lives.
The words which the apostle Paul writes and speaks within this passage of Scripture are such that bring us face to face with the tremendous need to stand, to stand fast and to stand fast in the Lord. There is a great need within our hearts and lives to be those who are able to stand fast in the Lord in the midst of the storms, the struggles and the suffering we face and walk through in this life. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the patience, the endurance, the confidence, the fortitude, the faith and the trust that is found within our hearts and lives. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly able to be those who are able to stand, to stand fast and to stand fast in the Lord. There is a great need for us to be such who are able to stand, to stand fast and to stand fast in the Lord. I absolutely love the words which are found in these verses for they bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus needing to be those who are able to stand—and even when they have done all to stand they are to stand. Oh that we would recognize and understand that we have indeed been called to stand, to stand fast and to stand fast in the Lord as those who are good and faithful soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture we must also recognize that in addition to the apostle Paul speaking of their standing fast in the Lord he also goes on to speak of the Lord Jesus perfecting that which was lacking in their faith. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand concerning faith is that faith is the essential building block and foundation of our relationship and walk with the Lord. We know that the Lord Jesus is indeed the chief cornerstone upon which the whole house is built and each individual member is built upon and yet we must needs recognize and understand that at the very heart of this is the faith that is within our hearts—faith that enables us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and to be granted power to become sons of the living God. In fact it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John, the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome, as well as the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the same epistle and those which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Peter unto those saints which were scattered and suffering. Consider if you will the following words which are found in each of these passages beginning with those words presented in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John:
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:6-18).
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall. Live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:1-15).
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the father, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11).
It is absolutely necessary to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here bring us face to face—not only with our faith but also the incredible need to add to our faith. If you read the words which are found in the first and opening chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Peter you will find the apostle admonishing and instructing them to add to their faith. What’s more is not only did the apostle Peter admonish them to add to their faith but he also provided them with those things which ought to be added unto their faith—namely virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity. In addition to this we find the apostle Paul—when writing unto the saints which were at Rome—declaring unto them that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. When writing unto the Hebrews the author of the epistle emphatically declares that without faith it is impossible to please God and how it is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Consider all of this in light of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle unto the Thessalonian saints for he would write and speak unto them concerning that which was lacking in their faith. This actually leads me to the place where I consider my own life—and not only my own life but also my own faith and what might be lacking in it. It is one thing to say that we have faith and yet Scripture clearly indicates that faith can be lacking substance. What’s more is faith can not only lack substance but it can also lack demonstration and manifestation. If you consider the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Hebrews as well as the epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus you will encounter the tremendous truth regarding “faith being the substance of things hoped for” as well as faith without works being dead.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the tremendous reality of that which might be lacking in our faith and that which we need to add to our faith and I can’t help but think about that which is desperately needed in our faith is both substance and demonstration. There are a number of men and women who feel their declaration of faith and/or their declaration of the faith they believe themselves to possess as being enough. The truth of the matter, however, is that when we think and speak about faith we must needs recognize that it needs and requires both substance and demonstration. A declaration of faith is not enough for us within our lives and there must needs be that which we continually add to our faith. We as the saints of God must needs be those who recognize that faith demands and requires substance as well as demonstration. James eloquently declared that faith without works is dead abiding alone and I would also declare that faith without substance is entirely and altogether useless and unprofitable. If you want to know what type of faith pleases the living and eternal God you must recognize and understand that faith with both substance and demonstration are what is required of us. We know that without faith it is impossible to please the living God and the type of faith that pleases the living God is that which has directly linked and connected to it both substance and demonstration. In all reality this is what is so incredibly unique and significant about the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews for the entire chapter is centered upon the reality of faith with substance and faith with demonstration. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the opening and final verses of the eleventh chapter:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:1-3).
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embrace them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).
“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not acceptable deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40).
If you continue reading the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints you will find him going on to admonish and speak unto them concerning the Lord making them to increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all men even as they did toward and unto them. The apostle Paul would also go on to speak unto them concerning their hearts being established unblameable in holiness before God at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. Oh we must needs recognize this incredible truth concerning the establishing of their hearts unblameable in holiness before the Lord for it was intrinsically linked and connected to the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon reading this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica you will find an underlying theme and current being the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. As you come to the latter chapters of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto them concerning the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ and the tremendous need to be ready for and at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that everything the saints did and everything the saints were was in preparation and expectation of the arrival, the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ten days after the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit arrived and at His ascension two men clothed in white apparel declared unto them that the same manner in which the Lord Jesus Christ ascended unto heaven would be the same manner in which He returned.
It is this concept of the Lord Jesus coming again, appearing and returning that is at the very heart and center of the final two chapters of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints. If you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the fourth chapter you will find the apostle Paul beseeching them as brethren and exhorting them by the Lord Jesus that as they had received of them how they ought to walk and to please God so they would abound more and more. The apostle Paul goes on to write unto them concerning the commandments they gave them by the Lord Jesus and how the will of God was unto their sanctification and that they should flee fornication. What’s more is the apostle Paul also went on to write unto them that every one of them should know how to possess their vessels in sanctification and honor—not in the lust of concupiscence as the Gentiles which knew not God do. He would go on to instruct them that no man should go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter because the Lord is the avenger of all such. The apostle Paul seeks to remind them how God did not call them unto uncleanness but unto holiness. In the ninth verse of the fourth chapter the apostle Paul goes on to write concerning brotherly love and how they did not need for him to write unto them for they themselves were taught of God to love one another. With this being said we also find the apostle Paul speaking unto them concerning their increasing more and more. There is a great and present need within our hearts and lives to not only recognize the great need to add to our faith but also the great need for us to increase more and more.
As you come to the thirteenth verse of the fourth chapter you find the apostle Paul shifting gears to speaking concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His appearance. If you begin reading with and from the thirteenth verse you will find the apostle Paul writing unto them concerning their not being ignorant regarding those who are asleep. The apostle Paul wrote unto the Thessalonian saints concerning those which were asleep—those who died in Christ and whose bodies were buried in the earth—and that they sorrow not as those who have no hope. When writing this particular epistle the apostle Paul uses language which is similar to that which is found in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. You will recall in the fifteenth chapter of that first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints that the apostle Paul spoke unto them concerning the resurrection of the dead. It would be in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we find him writing unto them concerning the resurrection of the dead and emphatically declaring that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. As a direct result of this there is a transformation that needs to take place as that which is corruptible puts on that which is incorruptible and that which is mortal puts on that which is immortal. I am absolutely convinced that in order to understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Thessalonians as well as the epistle which was written unto the Corinthians it is necessary to consider them in light of each other. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:
“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 firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man come 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 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 then they 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 at 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” (1 Corinthians 15:12-34).
“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 of 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 differeth 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 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 is earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).
When you come to the fiftieth verse of the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul you will come to similar language which was present in the fourth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle unto the Thessalonian saints. It is in this particular portion of the fifteenth chapter the apostle Paul actually goes on to speak of and describe that moment when the resurrection of the dead will occur and what can and will take place. If you begin reading with and from the fiftieth verse of this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God and neither does corruption inherit incorruption. With this being said we must needs understand that a transformation is required and that transformation is indeed a part of resurrection. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality for when we speak of the resurrection of the dead there is a great need to also speak of and understand the transformation which needs to take place. Those who have died in Christ have experienced the burying of their bodies in the earth which suffer from decay as the months and years go by. There are others who have died in Christ whose bodies were not buried in the earth but were actually cremated and their ashes being placed in urns and given unto family members. When the apostle Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead he spoke of a transformation that takes place—a transformation of physical and natural bodies as that which is corruptible puts on that which is incorruptible and that which is mortal puts on that which is immortal. Consider now the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints beginning with the fiftieth verse:
“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 incorrpution, 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. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
The apostle Paul speaks of the dead being raised incorruptible and men and women being changed as that which is corruptible puts on incorruption and that which is mortal puts on that which is immortal. If you transition to the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints you will find the apostle Paul writing that if we believe that Jesus died and rose again then we believe that those which sleep in Jesus God will bring with Him. The apostle Paul goes on to write by the word of the Lord that those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent those which are asleep. The apostle Paul goes on to declare how the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. Moreover the apostle Paul also goes on to declare how the dead in Christ shall rise first and then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Furthermore the apostle Paul goes on to declare that when we who are alive and remain are gathered together with those who were the dead in Christ and meet Him in the air we will ever be with the Lord. What a tremendous thought it is to think about the fact that we who are alive and remain upon the earth will be caught up together with those who have died in Christ and we will meet the Lord together in the air that we might ever be with Him. What’s more is that in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find the author writing on the heels of the great hall and role call of faith that was found in the eleventh chapter. It is in the twelfth chapter of this epistle the author speaks of a great cloud of witnesses which we must needs consider in light of that which the apostle Paul writes in both the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as well as the first epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us; looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your mind” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
There is a great cloud of witnesses which has indeed gone before us and for me this reality is even more personal than it has ever been before as my own father became a part of this great cloud of witnesses. On October 15, 2021 my father passed away and became one of those whom Scripture refers to as “the dead in Christ.” In all reality I can never and will never read these words the same way again for now my own earthly father has not only become part of this great cloud of witnesses but he has also become one of those who have died in Christ. The apostle Paul emphatically writes how the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout and with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God. At this moment—in the twinkling of an eye—the dead in Christ shall rise first and then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Oh there might very well be the temptation to sorrow after those who have died in Christ before us and yet the apostle Paul admonishes us concerning those who are asleep that although a might die—if he dies in the Lord Jesus He will bring him with Him unto the living God. The apostle Paul makes it very clear that those who die in Christ the living God can and will bring with Him—and not only those who are dead in Christ but also those who are alive and remain. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that both the dead in Christ as well as those who are alive and remain upon the earth can and will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air that both might be with Him where He has and where His Father and all the holy angels are. Together there will indeed be one heavenly family with the Lord Jesus Christ as the firstborn among the brethren, with God as the eternal Father and all in the presence of the holy angels.