Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 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. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, NIV 1984).
My Musings – Some Bible scholars contend that Paul not only believed in the imminent (could happen at any time) return of Christ, but that he also expected that it would happen in his lifetime ( we who are still alive). So, how did he let this affect his calling and ministry? I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23–28, NIV 1984).
Clearly, he did not let his expectations about the Lord’s return take him off task. Rather he saw it as increasing the urgency for the spread of the Gospel. This should be instructional to us today. Driven by a great apostasy around the world, unrest in the Mideast and by other “signs” there has been a renewed emphasis on end time speculation in recent years. Many Christians have grown weary and “long for His appearing” with such zeal that they just might be taking their eyes off the ball. Give up, sit back and look up. Paul saw it as a looming deadline, with much work to be done. So, he “worked much harder….“
My Advice – Friends, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37, NIV 1984). For the sake of our loved ones, for the sake of our “neighbors,” we cannot afford to just give up, sit back and look up, because we expect His return is probably very soon. “Men of Galilee,” [the angels] said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11, NIV 1984). It’s okay to long for His appearing, but let’s get our heads out of the clouds and back in the game. Let’s not be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.