141116 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18
Theme: Are You Ready to See the Saints Triumphant?

There is a story that is told about a boy who was sent out to a field to watch over a flock of sheep. The boy quickly became bored, so to add some excitement he yelled out, "Wolf! Wolf!" When those in the town heard him crying out, they ran to the field, only to find out that there was no wolf threatening to eat the sheep. This went on for days. The boy would cry out "Wolf! Wolf!", and the town people would come running out to help the boy. Finally, a day came when a wolf did actually come to the field where the sheep were. The boy cried out, "Wolf! Wolf!", but this time no one came. Everyone in town thought it was just the boy playing his joke again. Finally, some from the town went out to the field, only to find that all the sheep had been eaten.

There are some who accuse the Christian Church of crying "Wolf!" when we talk about the End Times, and Jesus coming again on the Great Last Day. Already in the very early days of the Church, there were those who accused the followers of Jesus of crying "Wolf!" about his coming again. Jesus' disciple Peter writes in his second letter, "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'" For almost 2,000 years, the Christian Church has taught the truth found in God's Word: Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will come again as the Judge of all mankind. Again, from Peter's second letter we are told, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief." Yes, the day of Jesus' return is coming. It will come at any moment. It will come without any warning. It will be a great day, when Jesus returns in all his glory, along with all the Saints Triumphant who have gone before us. The Bible tells you and me to be ready at all times for the Savior to come again. So, the question for you to ask yourself is this: Are you ready? Are you ready to see the Saints Triumphant?

The first thing for us to note from these verse before us from 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 is how the Bible refers to death. "We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep." Just as we aren't afraid to go to sleep at night, so you and I should not fear death. Just as we wake up from sleep each morning, so the Bible tells us that our bodies will wake from death. How is it possible that death can be compared to sleep? Because we are told, "We believe that Jesus died and rose again." The Bible tells us very clearly that the wages of sin is death. It is simply a fact that when a person dies, they have absolutely no power to make their bodies come back to life or come out of the grave. God's Word tells us that our bodies will wake from the sleep of death not because of anything we are able to do, but because our one and only Savior conquered death. Jesus lives! Just as Jesus died, rose again and now lives in heaven, so the bodies of the Saints Triumphant will rise from the sleep of death, and live forever at the side of their Savior in heaven. This is why at the death of one of the Saints Triumphant we do not "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope."

Are you ready to see the Saints Triumphant? As we listen to God condemn us in his Law, you and I know that what we deserve is to go down in defeat and spend an eternity in hell. Without our Savior, we would be lost. Without Jesus we would have to fear death, knowing that hell was waiting for us. But, listen to the comforting words of our Savior in the Good News of the Gospel. There we read that Jesus Christ came to this earth, he lived perfectly in our place, he suffered and died for each and every one of us here this morning. Through the Savior's perfect life and his innocent blood shed on the cross, you and I enjoy the forgiveness of all of our sins. As Jesus now lives, we know that one day we will wake from the sleep of death and take our place among the Saints Triumphant in heaven. That is the promise of Jesus when he is tells us that he is "the resurrection and the life." Are you ready to see the Saints Triumphant? In John chapter 14, the living Savior answers that question for us when he says, "Because I live, you also will live."

We know from God's Word that at the time of death the bodies of the Saints Triumphant rest in the sleep of death, waiting for Jesus to come again. But what happens to the soul? God's Word tells us, "We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." At the time of death, the souls of the Saints Triumphant immediately go to the Savior's side in heaven. On the great Last Day, when Jesus comes again, he will bring with him the souls of all the Saints Triumphant who have been living with him. After their bodies have raised back to life, soul and body will once again be reunited. Then those Saints Triumphant who have died along with those who are still living when the Lord returns, they will all live together forever at the side of the Savior. So, because of the living Lord and Savior, the Saints Triumphant here on this earth are able to "encourage each other with these words."

What is it that keeps you going some days? Maybe there are times when you just don't know how you will get to the end of your day. But, the hope, the anticipation, of having a chance to relax at some point during the day, keeps you going. There are times when you and I see our sins piling up higher and higher, and think that we have no chance of forgiveness. Perhaps you look ahead to your own death, and from time to time you may have feelings of fear. Then our loving Savior comes to you and me and reminds us that we are part of the Saints Triumphant, not because of your efforts or mine, but only because of our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Are you ready to see the Saints Triumphant? As we sing in one of the hymns in our hymnal, "My hope is built on nothing else, than Jesus blood and righteousness; I dare to make no other claim but wholly lean on Jesus name. When he shall come with trumpet sound, oh may I then in him be found, clothed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand." In Jesus Christ alone we have the hope, we have the certainty, of full and free forgiveness for all our sins. Through Jesus Christ alone we are able to look forward to seeing the Saints Triumphant on the great Last Day, because you and I know that our Savior has made us one of them. It is in Titus, chapter 3 that we read, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

It is in Revelation chapter 7 that we are given this glimpse of the Saints Triumphant in heaven, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" While you and I look forward to taking our place among the Saints Triumphant in heaven, we want many more to be there with us. This is why we support the ministry of our congregation with the best of the gifts our gracious Lord has freely given to us. We want to bring up the next generation to be among the Saints Triumphant, so we support with our time, talents and treasures the ministry of our Lutheran Elementary School and our Sunday Bible School. We want to have a place where we are able to gather together to worship our Savior-God, spend time in his Word and encourage one another, so we bring our financial gifts before the Lord to cover the expenses of keeping up our facilities. We want to share the Good News of Jesus our Savior with those who do not yet know him, so we participate in efforts to share that Good News, such as our upcoming Live Nativity. All the time, all the effort, all the money that we give is so that many more might take their place among the Saints Triumphant where, as we are told in Revelation chapter 7, "they [will be] before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

We take a look at the sinful word around us, and there are many things in this life that may cause us to have concern. Once again we have heard this weekend that the return of our Savior need not be one of those things. Are you ready to see the Saints Triumphant? From God's Word this weekend we have heard the Good News that our Savior, Jesus Christ, makes you and me ready. Jesus won the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus won your place at his side in heaven. Jesus has made you part of the Saints Triumphant. Therefore, in the peace and comfort which can only come from our living and loving Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we "encourage each other with these words." Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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