“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 )
One of the critiques of the “Left Behind” series is that it takes portions of the Bible from all over and re-arranges them according to the story the authors have created. Portions of the Bible become jigsaw puzzle pieces, and the author – like jigsaw masters – trim and shape the stories and the scriptures to create a picture they themselves have determined. In essence it is no more than what ministers and theologians have been doing for years through sermons, commentaries, and scholarly theses. But I have to wonder which was given more credence; the wholeness and integrity of the progression of scripture or the storyline. Pastor Barnes, in the “Left Behind” series, would cite biblical passages from different places in the Bible and string them together to form an explanation for the events in the story. And I had to ask to myself, why are the clues for knowing the end times sprinkled in such obscure biblical places? Which came first: knowing what Bible passages are predictive and relevant; or creating the storyline?
So with this frame of mind, consider the passage for today. Is this reliable and predictive of how the end times will come about? Or is this the writer of Thessalonians creating a story or picture for his readers to illustrate the point he wants to make? The writer of Thessalonians wanted to settle a theological question and assure his readers. There was worry and concern that those who were faithful to God, but had died might not enjoy life eternal when Christ returned. The writer of Thessalonians, I think, did not so much want to predict how Christ will come and how we meet up with him; rather those who have physically died will not be ‘left behind’, but that Christ will honor and receive the dead as much as the living.
I think it was with this in mind that Jan van Hasebroeck wrote to his wife, “My dear and much beloved wife, take good heed, that no robber deceive you by philosophy and vain deceit, after the rudiments of the world; and that you may not have labored in vain, but may receive your reward, so that no man may take your crown. Hence have your conversation always in heaven, from whence we look for our Saviour, Christ Jesus our Lord; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body. Phil. 3:20:21. Herewith I will commend you, my dear and much beloved wife, and both my children, to the Lord, and bid you farewell, until we shall meet hereafter, where men shall part us no more; for the apostle says, that the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:26, 17): then men shall not part us.”
May you, gentle reader, think not so much on how the Lord will come, but will live lives that reflect the fact that the Lord will return so that the Lord will remember and honor you in those end times. Selah!