1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 Going Up
Our theme verse is from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, HCSB)
This verse talks about a “rapture” or a being “caught up” and that this hope of meeting Christ is something that should encourage us. The theme of this associational meeting is “going up.” What does this text say about being “caught up”?
All believers will be caught up in the clouds ‘to meet the Lord in the air’. The word ‘meet’ refers to the welcome given to a newly arrived magistrate by the leading citizens who gladly hurry out to meet him and then escort him back to the city. After this meeting, the Lord will pass the final judgment on the devil and the wicked, which will be approved and applauded by all believers, who themselves will receive crowns of glory.
Dr. Charles Stanley tells in his book The Glorious Journey, the basic meaning of the word “caught up.”
The basic idea of the Rapture is drawn from the Latin term for “caught up”—rapturo. It means that the church of Jesus Christ, those who have trusted in Christ as their Savior, will literally be transported from earth to heaven in an instant. There will be no death for those who are raptured. They will be taken—caught up—in the air to be with Jesus!
But the fact is, not everybody is “going up.”
Will the unsaved world be aware of what is happening? Will they hear the shout, the voice, and the trumpet? First Corinthians 15:52 indicates that this will happen so suddenly that it will be over in the twinkling of an eye. Since the shout, voice, and trumpet apply to God’s people, there is no reason to believe that the unsaved masses will hear them. If they do, they will hear sounds without meanings (see John 12:27–30). Millions of people will vanish instantly, and no doubt there will be chaos and great concern.
Here in Barry County, that means one of every two people is lost and will not be going up. When Jesus tells the Archangel “Scotty” to “beam them up,” half of you will be left behind. You may say: “I am a Christian!”. You may be, and I know that most of you are waiting to be caught up. You are looking around thinking: “I’m finished. I’m just waiting for my signal.” Some here are thinking: “I can’t wait to get away from these heathen hillbillies.” The fact is, the Bible teaches us that there are other things that need to be “going up” in the meantime.
Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, His disciples were gathered and they asked Him if he was going to restore the kingdom of Israel at that time. Jesus said, “Don’t worry about it. I have other stuff for you to do.”
He said in Acts 1:6-8:
“So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”” (Acts 1:6–8, HCSB)
Jesus made it clear that until He “calls us up,” there are other things which need to be “going up.” What are those things which need to be “going up?” I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you some things which need to be “going up.”
1. Relationship Building
Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:19:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, HCSB)
It all starts with relationships. We need to get up off our chairs and be going up to our neighbors, friends, and people around us to need to hear about Jesus. Lost people don’t come to Jesus unless we share the Gospel. We can’t share the Gospel unless we are going up to people and talking to them.
Now I know this new generation likes for text messages and Facebook messages to be going up on their smartphone screens. That is one method of communication. Yet, we need to make an effort not to just to use gadgets to tell others about our love for Christ. We need to talk to them about it. We need to let them know personally about our relationship to Christ. It’s easy to make a statement on a screen for others to read. However, personal contact is best. So relationship building needs to be going up.
Baptisms need to be going up. Very few churches in this county are seeing a significant number of people being saved. We need to stop seeing people going from church to church. We need to see churches bring new people into the Kingdom. On average, the population has been going up ten times faster than our baptisms in the last decade. So our work is not keeping up with the population.
We have all kinds of churches based on location. However, there are not enough churches in this association. You say, “How can that be?” When the population is 38,000 and we only have 15,000 people who are members of our churches (and much fewer who are attending), then that means that either our current churches need to work harder to add more members, or we need to work on multiplying our efforts. I find multiplication is better than addition. How does that work?
We need to plant more churches. That can be more worship services of a current church. At Washburn FBC, we have two services on Sunday morning. At FBC Cassville, they have church in two locations. That is also a possibility. We can also start churches by location. We can start more churches for different groups (Hmongs in Wheaton, Cowboys in Cassville, Wild Game Hunters in Washburn, Bikers in Barry County). However the method, more churches need to be going up.
4. Financial giving
Financial giving needs to be going up. Even in this association, there is a need for more money to come in. Why should our churches continue to give to the association? The association is a resource for the churches. It is also an opportunity where we can work together to see people come to Christ so that more people will be “going up” when Christ calls us up.
In many of our churches today, financial giving needs to be going up. We all know that expenses have been going up. But that doesn’t excuse us from giving to God and His church. Our tithes need to be going up. Our offerings need to be going up.
More cooperation needs to be going up. Not only should giving to the Cooperative Program be going up, our cooperation between churches should be going up. We work for the kingdom, and not for ourselves. We need to be helping churches try to succeed. We don’t need to fight and talk against each other.
There are churches who are reaching all kinds of people. There are successful churches who are doing great work in their areas. We need to learn from one another. We need to look in this association where we can work together and then come together and help each other.
I have seen cooperation work in various ways. We started a church in Seligman. We had partners with the Missouri Baptist Convention. We also have helped The Point with their special work. Other Baptist churches here in the association have helped them with their unique ministry. We have worked together with associations to continue the youth and children’s camp at Baptist Hill.
Building relationships, baptisms, churches, giving, and cooperation are never going up until there are prayers which go up. Prayers need to be going up. We don’t pray enough in our churches. You start a party, 300 people show up. You start a church meeting, 30 people show up. You start a prayer meeting, 3 people show up. The number of people who should be praying should be going up. The number of prayers from these people should be going up. That would help solve the other things which should be going up.