S (Scripture): 1 Thessalonians 5:9 God didn’t intend for us to suffer his wrath but rather to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with him. 11 So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.
O (Observation): Many in Paul’s time wondered when Jesus was coming back. For many of that time, who believed that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus’ return was thought to be imminent. Like…tomorrow is Jesus’ likely time of return. And because of this, many lived in fear. They feared Jesus’ return, because they feared that they might be doing something “wrong” when Jesus comes back.
So Paul reminds the people that Jesus was not about causing fear, but rather, salvation! Jesus was about overcoming the gap in relationship between the people and God. Death was the greatest gap between God and God’s people, and God overcame that gap by allowing Jesus to suffer and die, then be raised. In being raised, Jesus overcame the power of sin and death.
So, whether they are awake or asleep (that is, alive or dead) they are the Lord’s! In other words, God is always with you. So keep going about your work and stop worrying about your salvation being dependent upon the action you are engaging in at the exact moment Jesus comes back. Instead, keep encouraging each other that God wishes for you to carry out your daily duties…and to do so with joy.
A (Application): I saw a bumper sticker once that said: “WARNING: In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” I’ve also seen some that say: “In case of rapture, can I have your car?”
Obviously, the second sticker is a humorous response to the first. But the first sticker represents a whole concept that inspires fear in Christian believers. And unfortunately, that fear creates a sub-culture within Christianity that revolves around “doing / looking good for Jesus.” The problem with this line of thinking is that – if we’re being honest – we will falter, and thus, we will be stressed out over our eternal salvation.
Paul reminded those in Thessalonica that Jesus’ return was a joy, not a fear!
To non-Christians, the whole rapture component looks like cleaning up the house real quick before the parents come home. Can’t let them know we had that party! Quick, sweep that junk under the rug. Toss out the beer cans! Spray the Lysol EVERYWHERE.
Look…God is bigger than our faults and failures…and the times in Scripture when God is most disappointed with us is when we try to cover up our faults and pretend that we are faithful, when we are not. God is angry with empty praise and empty worship.
God can handle our faults. God simply requires a repentant heart. God takes care of the rest.
So let us encourage others – Christians and non-Christians alike – to be honest with one another and to humbly seek God’s forgiveness and the wideness of God’s mercy.
P (Prayer): Lord, give us hearts of joy, not fear. Amen.