Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 9

Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 9

Study Guide, March 17, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

So, what comes to mind when you hear the name, ‘Methuselah’? Right, the oldest man to have ever lived…remember how old? 969 years old! I can imagine him saying something like, “Oh, to be 800 again!” But, of course, that was before the Flood, for after the Flood ages were shortened. The pronouncement of Genesis 6:3, of numbering man’s days at 120 years, has been thought by some to refer to lifespan, but the context there indicates a period of respite before the judgment of the Flood. And many Creation Scientists believe the changes in lifespans afterwards were due to the lack of the protective canopy which covered the Earth before the Flood, producing a greenhouse effect on the Earth. But once that was gone, along with the growing effects of the Curse of sin upon the Earth, ages were greatly shortened.

But the next question is, so who was the father of Methuselah? Right, that would be Enoch. And what is super significant about Enoch? Let’s see: Gen 5:21-24- “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” NASU It’s like ‘Rapture #1!’

All right, jump ahead a couple thousand years. 2 Kings 2:11-12- “As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more.” NASU Now we have ‘Rapture #2!’

We move ahead another thousand plus years to this: Acts 1:9-11- “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” NASU And here is ‘Rapture #3!’

Then we find, what we could call, a ‘mini-rapture’ with Philip after the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:39-40- “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.” NLT So this could be a half-Rapture, like ‘Rapture #3 1/2!’

And who can forget the Apostle Paul’s ‘rapture experience’? Paul will certainly never forget it: 2 Cor 12:2-4- “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago — whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows — such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows — was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” NASU Sometimes people are confused about this statement of ‘the third heaven’. But that was common thought in Jewish expressions about Heaven, where the heavens were considered the clouds and atmosphere above, with the next of the sun, moon, and stars, and then the third, the very residence of God, where Paul was permitted to see the indescribable Home of God and God’s people.

By the way, when I was in Moscow a Pastor there said to me: “You know the language of Heaven is Russian, right? Yeah, Paul said that he returned from Heaven with words he could not speak. So that had to be Russian!” It is a tough language all right! But now we have ‘Rapture #4!’

Which brings us back to 1 Thess 4:16-18- “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.” NASU And now ‘Rapture # 5!’ Point being: This world has already witnessed many previews of the coming Rapture of the Church. And we’re not talking about Sci-fi stuff – “Beam me up, Scottie!”. These were actual transfers from the Earth to Heaven by real people in real time into a real place of Paradise…Heaven. So when we think of the upcoming Rapture of the Church, this will not be the first time that God’s people, even the Lord Jesus Himself, have been ‘caught up’, ‘taken up’, from the Earth into the very presence of God in Heaven! That’s what the word ‘Rapture’, from the Greek ‘Harpazo’, means: ‘caught up, or taken up’. Although, it will be unprecedented in how all the followers of God on Earth will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.

By the way, one of the fun discoveries in the study of Greek…and ‘Yes, Greek can be fun!’, and one such example of just how fun Greek can be is when you come to another Greek word that the Apostle Paul chose to use in this prophecy of the Rapture. For in the Greek there are two different words for ‘air’. One word is ‘aer’ and the other is ‘aether’. Now, ‘aer’ is a reference to the lower air or lower atmosphere around the Earth, and ‘aether’ is a reference to the upper air or what we would think of as ‘space’ or ‘outer space’. Now a question: Which word for ‘air’ do you think Paul chose, or we should say, which word do you think God the Holy Spirit had Paul choose in revealing this prophecy about the Rapture? Or, let’s ask it another way: Just how, if we could put it this way….just how anxious is the Lord Jesus to return to gather His church to Himself in preparation for then establishing His Kingdom upon the Earth? Think about it: The Lord Jesus would not even have to descend from Heaven to ‘rapture’ the Church. He could simply call the Church up from His throne. But, in keeping with Prophecy, but even more so, our Lord and Savior is so anxious to come for His Bride, the Church, that He will descend as close as the ‘aer’…the lower air, the lower atmosphere around the Earth to call us all to meet Him and be with Him forever!

Remember, in a teaching moment with the Disciples, which was patterned almost exactly after the steps of a Jewish Wedding, which also must have stunned them again…Jesus had told the Disciples: “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.” John 14:3 NASU That part right there, of the ‘descending from Heaven’ part in the Rapture, is Jesus, the Bridegroom, coming for the Bride, the Church. And this is important to note on another note, because when you think about how anxious you are for the coming of the Lord Jesus in the Rapture of the Church, just think about how much our Savior is looking forward to that day…the day the Bridegroom comes for His Bride! Jesus is even far more anxious for this first stage of the Second Coming than we are! And the more that we think about that from Jesus’ point of view, actually, the more we think about everything from Jesus’ point of view, the more impact it will make on everything in our lives! For, remember, ‘Perspective is everything!’

That’s one of the reasons we spend so much time and emphasis at the Chapel on Prophecy…on the prophetic teachings of the Scriptures. Does knowing the next events of the Second Coming of Jesus have a great impact on the way you look at your life and the way that you deal with everything else? Of course it does! Does it encourage you to press on when things are hard, knowing that any day now, everything is about to become beyond wonderful? Of course it does! Does it inspire you to know that you know what is about to happen on this Earth and to this Earth when so many around you do not know, or even have a clue, and thus are so stressed and depressed about most everything? Of course it does! And does it comfort you to know that soon and very soon you are not only going to see the King, but you are going to be with the King forever and ever? Well, back to our passage: “…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. 1 Thess 4:16-18 NASU

The teaching on the coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church, and the subsequent events that usher in the Kingdom on Earth, but especially the reality that soon and very soon you and I will forever be with our Creator and our Savior…you can’t get any more comforting truth than this! It’s a reminder of what we once pointed out – that there is a part of you, the real you, your soul and spirit, the New Man or New Woman, the son of daughter of God that you really are…that part of the real you is something that the world, the flesh, and the devil cannot touch! You belong to God alone, fully and completely, and there’s nothing this world can do to change that nor change who you are ‘in Christ!’

That’s one of the reasons that Satan and his demons, who are also working through the ungodliness of others…that is one of the reasons the devil is so disturbed and distressed, because he knows that there is something about every Born Again child of God, about you…that he cannot touch! Why, not even death has the sting that it once had! We have even won that victory and the devil has forever lost it! In that twin passage about the Rapture and our Immortal bodies Paul expressed our victory over death in ‘neon lights’! Check it out: “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:55-57 NASU

Certainly, death is harsh and hard, but death is completely defeated as well! Every time you pass by a cemetery or go to one, you can think and say: “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” You can say – “My body may one day lie here temporarily, but because I have Jesus in my life, I have the victory over death and the grave. Devil, you might touch that, but you can’t touch this…my soul. And even one day my mortal body will rise to immortality, and you can’t touch that either!”

You and I need to carry around a pocketful of prophecies all the time, so that we can pull them out and think about them, dwell on them, and then share them with others. The prophecies of the Bible are meant to be a major part of our understanding of the faith and a major part of our attitude about our life. This is evident since prophecy is a major part of the whole of Scripture. Sixty-two of the Bible’s sixty-six books contain predictive information. That’s 94 percent of the Bible! The number of verses in the Bible are numbered at 31,124. And get this: 27% of those verses refer to prophetic issues. That’s 8,352 verses! And 22% of all prophetic verses refer the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! Plus, there are 333 specific prophecies that deal with Christ’s two advents. One-third describe Jesus’ First Coming, and two-thirds are connected to Jesus’ Second Coming!1

Now, you’re not going to fit all of those into your pockets, but do carry some of these amazing prophetic truths around with you as often as you can. For, you see, the prophecies of the Scriptures are not some additional information that God gave us to only give us a glimpse as to what’s going to occur someday. No, the prophecies of the Scriptures are essential teachings that God gave to us to ground us in Biblical faith, and to strengthen us against the madness of this world, and to motivate us to live each day for the glory of God and the coming of His Kingdom. Even in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven’…that is not an observation that we are making. No, that is a petition that we are making for God’s Kingdom to come, and for God’s Heavenly will to done…for God’s will to be imposed over this Earthly world! Yes, this lost and dying world must go through its ages and its cycles during these times of opportunities for repentance before the Judgment, just like the days before the Flood. (Which, in reality is what the days and weeks and years of this present Earth really are – they are days and weeks and years of opportunities for people to come to repentance before the day of judgment comes). But there is an end-day coming, and it’s coming any day now. Actually, even now, everything in Creation, from the galaxies and stars, from the animal kingdom to the kingdom of man…all are groaning in anticipation of their redemption. The world around you that you see every day, even though there are still remnants of beauty on the Earth and expressions of blessedness among the redeemed, still, every day you are looking at a world that is wearing out like a garment, a world that is unraveling in spiritual and social and moral decay, a world that is separated from the Creator because of their sin, and a world that is under the Curse and the destruction from sin.

But all of that is about to change! For one day, soon and very soon, the King is going to say – “Times Up!” – and the change will start. And it will start with: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God…” 1 Thess 4:16 NASU

Watch for it…Wait for it…Be looking for it!

  1. Dr. David Jeremiah, The Great Disappearance, pp.247,248