We are working our way through Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Last week we hit the main point of these letters. One of their people had died. We named him...Nick. Last week, Paul answered what happened to Nick. Last week, Paul explained 7 concepts about what happens to Christians when they die. Quickly, let’s recap...
Concept 1... No pagan grief.
When a pagan died, they believed, the soul was ferried across the river Styx to Hades. Their souls were judged, and they were assigned their place in hades... forever. Paul first tells the Thessalonians not to grieve over Nick... Instead, hope!
Concept 2... Jesus died and rose again... So, will we!
The reason they should not grieve over Nick was because of Jesus. Jesus died and rose again. We die and rise again! The resurrection of Jesus is the power of our resurrection! Jesus was the first of those who fell asleep and then was raised. Nick will be raised, just like Jesus.
Concept 3... The dead have fallen asleep.
To me, this is the simplest explanation of what happens to a Christian when they die; they sleep in Christ. When we die we do not immediately go to our reward. Instead, the writers of the New Testament seem to be teaching (63%) the dead are asleep; resting in Christ; R.I.P. Nick is asleep.
Concept 4... The alive will not have precedence over the asleep.
Paul explains to the Thessalonians that Nick was going to be brought with God at the Coming. Those who are alive at the Parousia are not going party before those who are asleep.
Concept 5... Jesus will descend from heaven.
One day Jesus is coming back. One day Jesus will come back to this earth. This next time, it will not be quietly as a baby on Christmas morning. The Parousia will be loud... Shouts... commands... trumpets! Everyone will know when the Parousia happens!
Concept 6... We escort Jesus to earth.
The dead and the alive Christians will meet Jesus in the clouds. The Parousia calls all believers to join Jesus in the air to escort Him back to the earth. It is our ticker-tape parade. Nick will escort Jesus back to earth.
Concept 7... We will always be with the Lord!
We are promised Jesus will return... this time forever!
We learned all of that, last week.
Inevitably, when we talk about Jesus coming again, we always ask the same question... When? It seems, everyone since Jesus left, wants to know when!
If you do a Google search on the history of the predictions of Jesus coming... here is what you find. I’m not going to read all these. Just look.
365: Hilary of Poitiers, announced that the end would happen that year. It didn't.
400: Saint Martin of Tours was convinced that the end would happen sometime before 400 AD.
500: This was the first year-with-a-nice-round-number-panic. Hippolytus and an earlier Christian academic Sextus Julius Africanus had predicted Armageddon at about this year.
968: An eclipse was interpreted as a prelude to the end of the world.
992: Good Friday coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation; this had long been believed to be the event that would bring the end.
1000: Many Christians in Europe had predicted the end of the world on this date. As the date approached, Christian armies waged war against some of the Pagan countries in Northern Europe. The motivation was to convert them all to Christianity, by force if necessary, before Christ returned in the year 1000.
1033: Some believed this to be the 1000th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus. His second coming was anticipated.
1179: John of Toledo predicted the end of the world during 1186. This estimate was based on the alignment of many planets.
1205: Joachim of Fiore predicted the Millennium would then begin, sometime before 1205.
1284: Pope Innocent III computed this date by adding 666 years onto the date the Islam was founded.
1346: The black plague spread across Europe, killing one third of the population. This was the prelude to an immediate end of the world.
1496: This was approximately 1500 years after the birth of Jesus. Some mystics in the 15th century predicted that the millennium would begin during this year.
1669: The Old Believers in Russia believed that the end of the world would occur in this year. 20 thousand burned themselves to death between 1669 and 1690 to protect themselves from the Antichrist.
1783 AD: On June 8th, a volcanic eruption in southern Iceland started. It pumped massive amounts of toxic dust, sulphur dioxide and fluorine into the atmosphere. Cattle died, crops failed, and about one quarter of the island's population died of starvation. By the end of June, poisonous clouds had reached England and much of Europe. There was massive loss of life in England, particularly among farm workers. Many predicted that the end of the world was imminent.
1792: This was the date of the end of the world calculated by some believers in the Shaker movement.
1794: Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, thought that Doomsday would occur in this year.
1843 & 1844: William Miller predicted the second, after the first failed.
1850: Ellen White, founder of the Seven Day Adventists movement
1891: Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, predicted the end.
1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994 AD: Jehovah's Witnesses looked for the Second Coming.
Early 1980s Hall Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” predicted the end.
2000 We remember the predictions.
Paul knows everyone would love to know... when. “Just tell us. When is the Parousia?” So, Paul answers... When is Jesus coming?
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come...
Before we read the answer, I have to warn you... Paul’s answer is going to be a bit disappointing.
Paul answers with metaphors. I like metaphors. But I attempt to not mix my metaphors. In answering when Jesus will return Paul mixes, at least, 7 Metaphors about the Parousia. Let’s unravel these 7 metaphors to see when. I suspect each will tell us something about the Parousia.
Metaphor #1... A Thief
1 Thessalonians 5:2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
This has always baffled me. Paul is clear. Thieves don’t announce when they are going to break into your house. That would kind of defeat the purpose of coming at night. Burglars don’t advertise their schedules.
Jesus said the same thing to his disciples.
Matthew 24:36,42-44 "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only... Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
It has always been clear, the when of the return is a mystery. If someone predicts a date... it will most likely not be then. I told you it was a bit disappointing.
Metaphor #2... Pregnant woman
1 Thessalonians 5:3 While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Before the invention of sonograms, it was difficult to know when a baby was going to be born. You can kind of tell, but when it comes it will be sudden and dramatic.
Metaphor 2 is the opposite of number one. When people are saying everything is fine; peace and security... it may be then.
Metaphor #3... Darkness and Light
1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
We live in the light. We live in openness. We are not going to be surprised because we are ready all the time. We live in the light... no secret dates... things are simple!
Metaphor #4... Sleep or Awake
1 Thessalonians 5:6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake.
If the thief is supposed to come at night... we are going to stay awake. We pay attention. We are prepared. We are ready. I’m good with Jesus coming... now or now or now.
We are good with whenever!
Metaphor #5... Sober or Drunk
1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 But let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober.
Let’s stay sharp. This is true more today, then in 50 AD. It is easy to be sloppy. It hasn’t happened in 2000 years... it probably won’t.
2 Peter 3:4-9 They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." For they deliberately overlook this fact, ...that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Here is a clue... the Parousia is waiting on repentance... hmmmm!
Metaphor #6... Military
1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 ...having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
Paul comes back to the three components of who we are faith, love and hope! He mixes a military metaphor in... We are victorious over the enemy because of faith and love... with the helmet of Hope! Whether we are alive or asleep when Jesus returns, we are good!
We continue to be faithful... we continue to love... we continue to spread the hope of salvation in our world... hmmmm, another clue about the long wait.
Metaphor #7... Builder
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Regardless, of how long it is until the Parousia we keep on building the temple! That is the bottom line! We keep on building till the end!
Paul answers the when question.
The Parousia is like a thief or maybe a pregnant woman who could come at any time. So, you need to stay awake during the day and don’t get drunk while wearing your armor, so you can construct the temple. Paul likes his metaphors. The answer is... Jesus can come again at any time. So, be ready all the time.
Let me conclude this mixed up sermon with some speculation. “Don’t do it, Tim.” Well. I sort of have to.
I want to speculate. This is just me speculating. 37% chance of being correct. Perhaps, the reason the Parousia is hard to predict --not even Jesus, while on earth, knew when-- It is not a set date, but a set accomplishment. I am speculating it is an achievement, rather than a time. When the correct circumstances occur, then the Parousia will happen.
Here is why I think that...
1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
He reigns through his church, through us. We work for him until the enemies are defeated.
Matthew 6:9-10 Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
When his prayer is answered... then he returns???
2 Peter 3:11-13 What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
We can hasten the coming of the day of the Lord. We can reign with Jesus to defeat all authorities and power. We can be a portion of the answer of the Lord’s Prayer. I speculate this is the reason for the long wait for the Parousia... The Lord is waiting for His victory over his enemies!
39% of being correct...
All those who have predicted the return of Jesus, so far, have been wrong. Here is the take away, we should continue to advance the kingdom until He Comes!
November 4, 2018