I Thessalonians 4:13-18
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
At the end of this month I will attend a United States Air Force reunion! I will see people with whom I served 50 plus years ago at the 656th Radar Squadron outside of Saratoga Springs, New York. And that got me to thinking….
I am now 75 years old. How many more days do I have on this earth? Only God knows! But the longer I live, the more treasure I have in heaven! What treasure? Christians who have gone on to heaven before me!
- My mother – My wife Hope and I led her to the Lord in 1970, when mom was 68 years old. She died seven years later.
- My brother Neil – He led a rough life for most of his 69 years – hooked on prescription drugs for the majority of that time. He had developed a serious case of COPD, and was in an Oregon hospital ICU where they were making him comfortable by inducing a morphine coma as he slipped into eternity. I called the ICU to tell him I loved him, but the nurse said it was too late, he was already deep in a coma. But she handed the phone to Neil’s daughter, and I heard her say, “Dad, it’s Chip!” Neil came out of that coma to assure me that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior, and that he would see me in heaven!
- My Uncle Stuart was a wonderful Christian man. I hadn’t been in contact with him for years and years. But he reached out to me at age 82 and we started corresponding – he living in Florida, and I in Pennsylvania. He told me he was going to Israel with a Floridian group of seniors, and I surprised him by signing up to go. Keep in mind we hadn’t seen each other in almost thirty years! We roomed together, and it was like we picked up in our relationship from yesterday! I will never forget serving Uncle Stuart communion at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, as the sun set over the water! Hope and I visited him and his wife Audrey in Florida, and had a wonderful time. He died in his 90’s, and I was privileged to speak at his funeral.
- Mitch was a drug addict who had lost his job, his money, and his family. But God sent me to him one cold January night to tell him about Jesus. He opened his heart and life to the Savior with tears rolling down his cheeks! Hope and I started a neighborhood Bible study especially for Mitch so he could grow in his Christian faith. He died unexpectedly in May of that same year!
So many others!
Some I had the priviledge to lead them to the Lord. Others were Christians already, like those of United Baptist Church of Taylor, Pennsylvania – my special prayer support group! I was their pastor in my late 30’s….and they were four women (three in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s!) When I had a problem or challenge in that church (and there were many!), we would gather for prayer and I would benefit from their wisdom of years!
- Gert was the senior in that group – rough around the edges and tough as nails! But, oh, the wisdom in that gray head…and the love in her heart!
- Jane was often hilarious, even when she wasn’t trying to be. We would laugh and sometimes cry over the problems we faced! She was a great pray-er!
- Marion became a strong Christian late in life. I met her when she was hospitalized because, although she was a member, she had never come to church. I asked her if she knew she was a Christian and that she had eternal life in Jesus. She answered in the affirmative, but later told me, “I lied!” But that lie led her to reconsider her destiny, and she opened her heart to the Lord! She became a strong prayer partner and supporter of my ministry.
- Sandy was the youngest of my support group, just a three or four years older than I. She was Gert’s daughter, and she must have learned practical wisdom and godliness from her mom! She is the last living member of those special ladies! She and her husband Bob are both dearest friends!
When I think of those who have gone on to heaven, I do miss them. But I know I will have a reunion! And what a wonderful reunion it will be! Here is what it says in I Thessalonians 4:13 through 18:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we be- lieve that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archan- gel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
This passage is describing the Rapture, when Jesus comes back for His Church (all believers since Pentecost began the Church Age, almost two thousand years ago – see Acts chapter 2). This I Thessalonians Scripture is not referring to the Second Coming of our Lord (see Revelation 19:11-16) when He returns to rule the earth! Between the Rapture and the Second Coming is the seven-year Tribulation when great judgments of God fall upon the wicked of the earth.
But my favorite part of the I Thessalonians Scripture above is verses 16 and 17 which says:
And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
- Those who died believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior will be bodily resurrected (see John 11:25, 26; I Corinthians 15:51-54).
- Those who are still living “…shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…” (I Corinthians 15:51, 52).
- We will “…meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thessalonians 4:17). And when that happens, according to I John 3:2, “…we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as His is.” (see also I Corinthians 13:12; 15:49, 53-55).
- We will be “…together with them [our Christian loved ones]….And so we…together… shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17).
I have so many beloved Christian brothers and sisters that I am longing to see again! And I will see them again! And we will have forever to enjoy one another!
I can hardly wait for this heavenly reunion!