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Left Behind

"13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words."
Good Morning my beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day!
We are so thankful to have all of our brothers and sister with us today from all around the world.

As we come to our topic today, it’s my hope and prayer, that we can get above the labyrinth of life that we’re in and begin to understand God’s divine design for the future. We might feel like we’re going around in circles but God is moving history toward a grand finale, if only we could just see it. We’re going to catch a glimpse today, as we stand on our toes by taking a look at a wonderful passage of Scripture. Before we do that, let me address some preliminary points.

We need to guard against end times extremism. There are probably some of you are less than thrilled by our topic today. And, there may even be a few of you who are confused by an overemphasis on date setting or maybe you’ve been tempted to follow Bible teachers who force every current event into a prophetic paradigm. My goal this morning is not for you to tune out or confuse you further. Instead, I hope that you become "tuned in" to a biblical view of what lies ahead.

When Christ returns, there will be some snatched away, while many will be left behind to face the seven-year period of unprecedented Tribulation, as described in the books of Daniel and Revelation. Beloved, I can tell you this, you do not want to be left behind!

Our passage is dealing with the rapture of the church. This is a subject that has been debated for centuries. There is a great discussion concerning the timing of the rapture. The views are varied as to when the Lord will actually come for the church. Some see no difference in the rapture and Second Coming. As with many of you, I believe the rapture will take place prior to the Great Tribulation. 
The first reference to the second coming of Christ in the clouds as a specific event is found in Daniel 7:13 "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him."

While others contend that we have no biblical basis for such a thing, since the word rapture is not found in Scripture. To the fact that rapture is not found in the Bible, I will agree, however, it is mentioned there nonetheless. We see the phrase "caught up" in verse 17. The word rapture translates the Latin word "rapto or raptus" and comes from the Greek word "harpazo." The phrase translated caught up literally means “to snatch out, or to seize; to claim for one’s self;" While we don’t have the word rapture recorded in Scripture, clearly the doctrine and teaching are there. In fact, the word "sermon" also is not found in the Bible, however, preaching a sermon is clearly taught in the Bible, and as best as I can determine, you are presently listening to one right now. My point is, while there are many words that are not found in the Bible, we use them to represent biblical principles that are taught in the Scriptures.

Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Heavenly Father,

Father, we thank You for this Word for us today. Thank You for such wonderful truth that gives us shining hope. It is almost incomprehensible, that one day soon, You will snatch us out of this world. Thank You for Your amazing grace that saved us.

Lord, help us, that we would live in the light of that reality, that we would remain faithful in our service to You. Help us to live each day, living in the light of the coming rapture and the gathering of Your church. 
In Jesus' precious name we pray

Today's Message: Left Behind 

The Bible is filled with prophecy. In fact, around 30% of Scripture is made up of prophecy. More than one hundred prophesies in the Old Testament depict the first coming of Jesus as the Messiah, and He fulfilled each one. While, there are many today, including some Christians, who think His return is allegorical, I am more than confident that Jesus will come again! He promised He would ­ five times more frequently than He promised to come the first time! Since His first coming is a fact of history, we can be at least five times more certain that He will come the second time. As unashamed, Bible believing Christians, we are compelled to study this marvelous, rich doctrine. And, as I stated previously, First Thessalonians contains a reference to the return of Christ in every chapter!

Today, we have come to what I believe, is one of the most recognized passages in first Thessalonians. It is probably one of the most familiar passages in all of Scripture. It is a passage that is often read at funerals, because of the comfort it affords to the families who have lost loved ones in Christ. 

The rapture of the church is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. Through our faith in Christ, we have the hope of a future resurrection of the dead where all believers will be caught away to meet the Lord in the air and enter into His glorious presence with new, glorified bodies. If Christ had not risen, if we had no hope of life beyond the grave, our faith would be no better or no different than the false religions of the world. It is this hope, that sets us apart from all others.

Open your Bibles with me to the Book of first Thessalonians. As we continue our study in this marvelous epistle of first Thessalonians, I want you to consider the reality of the rapture. We live in an age, where many are searching for a means of comfort and stability. The believer has a hope beyond this world. When our loved ones die in Christ, hope is not gone. The hope and assurance of their resurrection in Christ is real and certain.

We find this same set of circumstances in Paul's day. While there were those who were living looking for the Lord’s coming, they were sorrowful over loved ones who had died in Christ. Many feared those who had already gone by way of the grave would somehow miss out on the coming of the Lord. They felt as if the Christians’ hope was buried with those believers in the grave.

The Apostle Paul continues to exhort the church in Thessalonica, he is aware of their confusion regarding the coming of the Lord and the future of all believers. Dealing with their confusion, Paul offers words of wisdom. 

I would like to encourage you to follow along with me as I read to you from this wonderful portion of the Word of God. I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." 

As many of you already know, I believe in the literal, personal, imminent, pre-tribulation and pre-millennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ with His redeemed ones. I do not believe that the return of Christ is allegorical, is not symbolic but will involve Jesus Himself, returning to the earth, as foretold in Scripture! Imminent means that He can come at any time. Nothing else needs to happen before the rapture occurs. This will be followed by a seven year period of unprecedented Tribulation. At the end of this time, Christ will return with believers and set up his 1,000 year-reign on earth. 
Before we begin today, I want to clarify something for you. When you read the phrase "coming of the Lord" in the Bible, keep in mind that this phrase refers to a series of events. It begins with what we’ll see today in I Thessalonians 4 when Jesus comes in the clouds for believers who have died and for those who are alive. The "coming" of Christ concludes when He returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation period as described in the Gospels and prophesied in Revelation 20.

Here, in verse 13, Paul begins by saying that he does not want them to be uninformed, or ignorant. He does not want them to be uneducated. This is his favorite way to transition to a different subject. This is a very emphatic statement meant to get their attention. Remember that these brand new believers were experiencing persecution. They thought Jesus was going to return any moment and rescue them from their trials. When their brothers and sisters in Christ started dying, it caused them concern. Did their deaths disqualify them from meeting the Lord when He returned? Had they somehow missed out on the end time events?

So, Paul is writing to clear up their confusion about those who have "fallen asleep." That reminds me of the Sunday school teacher who asked her class why it’s important to be quiet in church. To which one little girl replied,  "Because people are sleeping in church!" I do not believe that’s what Paul has in mind here. The phrase "fallen asleep" is used in verse 13, verse 14, and verse 15 to describe believers who have passed away. This is a wonderful way to speak of death for the believer. Used in this way, it always refers to the bodies of believers when they die. Our souls do not sleep at death; they go immediately into the presence of the Lord as stated in II Corinthians 5:8, which tells us "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

In John 11:11 when referring to Lazarus who had been in the tomb for several days, "This He said, and after that He *said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." By the way, the word used, "koimōmenōn" in the Greek, is from where we get our word "cemetery." It was the early Christians’ optimistic word for a graveyard because they knew it was a sleeping place, a dormitory for dead people, who will one day be resurrected. Our spirits go to be with Jesus when we die, while our bodies go to sleep. 

We find in the Book of Acts chapter 7, verses 59-60, we're told "They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep."
There are essentially only two groups of people in the world, ­ those who have hope and those who do not. Believers in Jesus Christ, those who have received the gift of salvation, have the guarantee that there is something better coming. While unbelievers have no hope at all. The moment of death marks a tremendous division in the human race between those who are saved and those who are lost. 
What Paul is not saying, is that believers should not have sorrow when a loved one die, he is stating that a believer should grieve differently than someone who does not know Christ. Because we are not saying "good bye," we are merely saying "good night." If they knew Jesus and you know Jesus, you will see them again when their bodies are "awakened" and they are reunited with their spirit.  
In verse 14, the apostle goes on to further assure them of the confidence they have in Christ. If they believe Christ Himself, has risen from the dead, and they did, then they ought to believe that those who slept, or had died in Christ, would too, rise from the dead. 
In verse 14, Paul tells us, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." In this wonderful verse, we can know that the promise of the rapture is sure, because it is built on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus died as full payment for our sins. By rising from the dead, He conquered death. The Resurrection proved that God the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son and guaranteed that we too, will be raised to new life. Beloved, this is a clear and concise summary of biblical Christianity. 
The old rugged cross is our focus and the empty tomb is our hope of heaven. Focus your attention on the facts of our faith: the crucifixion and the resurrection. This will give you hope and you can know that the promise of His coming is sure. Our resurrection and gathering with Him at His coming is predicated on His resurrection. I don't believe that you can get much clearer than I Corinthians 6:14, which says "Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power."
And in I Corinthians 15:20 we're told "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep."  
In verse 15, Paul continues to reassure these believers. Those who had died in Christ were not left without hope. They would not be left in the ground and forsaken at the rapture. Those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. To the comfort of the church, Paul declared that the living at the rapture will not take precedence over the dead in Christ or gain advantage over them. Those who have died in Christ, will in no way be inferior to the living at His coming! All those who have been born again, both living and asleep, will be included!  
The Rapture is not a made-up doctrine. It’s not theological speculation. It’s sure because it’s built on three pillars ­ the redemption provided by Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.
In fact, I Thessalonians 1:10 tells us " and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."
Paul tells us in verses 16-17, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. "
Beloved, this passage couldn't be more clear, the Lord himself shall descend from heaven. It will not be one like Him; it won’t be Michael the archangel; it won’t be one of the prophets or Apostles. No, it will be Jesus Christ Himself coming for His bride! The One who bore our sin and shame, bled and died upon the cross, was buried and rose again, this same Jesus will step out on the clouds and call for the church!
Just as He declared that He would!
As a footnote, in Jewish history, a bridegroom would remain separated from his bride for 12 months, during which time he prepared the living accommodations for his wife in his father’s house, prior to the wedding. Upon completion of the home, he would return for the bride, at a time not known exactly to her, then take her home, and the marriage ceremony would begin.
I love what Jesus said in John 5:25, " Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." This is the time when the dead and the devoted will hear His thunderous command. What a tremendous promise for us.
A great resurrection. The dead in Christ will rise first. This is a statement of priority that would have calmed the concerns of the Thessalonians. I'd like you to notice that it is the dead "in Christ" who are raised. This is a resurrection of believers only. The unsaved dead are left in their graves to be raised at the Great White Throne judgment, 1,000 years later, as spelled out in Revelation 20:5, which tells us "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection." 
All believers in Christ, of every generation, will be raised. That includes people who died 2000 years ago and those who died in Christ this week. It includes Martin Luther, Martin Lloyd-Jones, John Calvin, Corrie Ten Boom, Todd Beamer, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, John Knox and believers from our own congregation. They will be raised indestructible with brand-new bodies, clothed with immortality, healed, restored, put in their right minds, and raised to live forever, to die no more. 
Interestingly,  remember Jesus' words in John 14:1-3, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." The Bridegroom will, at an time, unknown to us, will one day return for His bride!
And Philippians 3:20-21 tells us "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."
When we’re snatched, we’re instantly transformed with brand new bodies too! Two questions I have been commonly asked, is "Will we eat?" Yes, remember, Jesus ate with the disciples when He appeared to them before the ascension. The other question is "Will we still gain weight?" Well, I don't know for sure, Scripture doesn't give us any particulars on that, but we can certainly hope can't we? 
As we come to the end of this wonderful chapter, Paul, in verse 18, reveals that the purpose of all that he has written is to comfort us, "Therefore comfort one another with these words." I do not know about you, but it's not a very comforting thought to think we will be going through the Tribulation period, is it? Of course not! Our comfort is in the reality that we won't have too! Jesus is coming for His own. Don’t worry about believers who have died and don’t be concerned about yourself if you know Christ. We’ll all be there when He sounds the trumpet. I believe as believers, we should be talking more about the Rapture than we do, because knowing what is soon coming, ought to influence the way we are living right now!
In Closing....
I am excited! And, I believe that you should be too! The purpose of prophecy is to give us hope, comfort and encouragement. Jesus is coming again. It’s a promise for us to believe. At the same time, it’s a frightening prospect for those who have not yet put their faith in Christ.
However, if you do not know Jesus as you personal Lord and Savior, if you have not been born again, you will be left behind. You will be left to face the seven year Tribulation period. I want to tell you right now, that it’s not too late for you. In fact, you can have a new beginning, right now, today, if you want it. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been sleeping, or how many times you’ve come to church. I implore you, turn to Jesus right now…tomorrow might be too late!
If you’re ready to commit your life to Jesus Christ and receive salvation, please let me know.
I earnestly pray today, it would be so....
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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