1 Thessalonians 5:21
April 3, 2016
Toward the end of 1 Thessalonians, Paul launches into a group of short orders to the church. He instructed them to pray. He urged them to maintain a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. Yield to the Holy Spirit. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Guard your reputation.
But in the midst of all of this he writes: “Prove (test) all things. Hold fast that which is good.” Sound words of advice. Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t despise prophesying. But don’t drift from the Word. Don’t drift from the Word.
You test theologies, philosophies, convictions, preferences, opinions by the Word. It demands a familiarity with this Book and when we are familiar with this Book we still will find many things we will scratch our head over.
So please don’t hear your pastor say that I am right all the time. You have the responsibility to prove (test) all things. In fact, 2 Timothy 2:15 gives some great instruction.
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
God has always had a plan. Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. So even at the beginning God was providing salvation through Christ. Old Testament saints were saved not by the law but by grace through faith in God’s atonement. Even when they did not know the name of Jesus they still believed in God’s promise. Read Hebrews 11 and find the indispensable quality of faith stretching back to Noah. He found grace. He built an ark by faith. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. All the saints in Hebrews 11 came the same way. Faith.
And so must we come by faith. God has not made many paths to Himself. Rightly divide the word and see that all roads must come together and pass through Calvary and an empty tomb. I don’t understand everything the Bible says, but that is in no way critical of the Bible.
I asked you for some questions and you responded. Some I expected. Some I didn’t. Some have straightforward biblical answers. Some not so much. I cannot answer them all in this setting.
Here are seven categories of questions mostly relating to our exit and the end of the age:
1. End of life issues: Hospice and euthanasia.
2. What does the Bible teach about cremation?
3. When unbelievers die where do they go? What happens to their souls? When will they be judged?
4. The Judgement Seat of Christ. If our sins are covered how are we held accountable? If I tell a lie 10 minutes before I die what about that? What is judged at the Judgement Seat? Tears in heaven?
5. What will we know in heaven? Will we know what is happening on earth? What about the great cloud of witnesses? What will it be like to not be able to find someone in heaven?
6. Replacement Theology. God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people. Who are the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7?
7. Some general questions concerning the order of events of the end times. Difference between the tribulation and great tribulation? General order of events vs specific events such as the horsemen of the apocalypse, seals, trumpets, bowls etc.
So what was I thinking when I offered to do this?
Euthanasia and Hospice Care
A bit of a controversial topic. The Bible highly values life. Our days are known by Him, numbered by Him. God controls our life. Yet we know we can exercise and take care of our bodies and extend our life. In fact, you can honor your parents and extend your days. How can that be? God knows.
Suicide is never part of God’s plan. Euthanasia is the taking of life. Even if it is doctor assisted it is wrong. We are living in a day where modern medicine enables people to continue to live with extremely poor health. Sometimes I wonder about that. I also wonder about praying that God would keep the terminally ill alive. Who are we to pray that they continue to suffer?
Hospice care can hasten the end but it should not. It is intended to comfort to the end if properly administered. I think that is a good thing but speeding up the process is really taking it out of God’s hands. That is wrong.
There really seems to be growing trend this way and sometimes it is about logic and often it is about money. The high cost of funerals.
I think the Bible speaks from silence. There is no straightforward commandment that I have found. But consider this: There is no example of the people of a God burning their dead. We know because history tells us that pagans did this. One of the worst periods in all of Israel was when they sacrificed their children to Molech.
I have not found the “ashes to ashes” statement in the Bible. But God can do that. The ovens of the holocaust, the Twin Towers of 9/11, as well as those drowned at sea, God will bring them up. He can resurrect.
The “ashes to ashes” arose out of Europe as they dealt with bodies during the plague. You remember the nursery rhyme “Ring around the rosie, pocketful of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
Cremation has increased in popularity. A local mortician told me that when he started in 1974 the frequency of cremation was 5% of all deaths. In 2015 it grew to 42% at Freeman. He said that coastal areas of the US cremate about 80% of bodies. Europe cremates at 90%.
We know that Jacob was embalmed by Joseph. Joseph was embalmed. But generally the Israelites were not embalmed. Missouri State law does not require embalming.
The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The spirit of man also resides there but when we leave this body it is but an empty shell. Dignity and respect is still very important.
Where do unbelievers go when they die? What happens to their souls? When will they be judged?
We have addressed the question from the other direction as we spoke of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The spirit of the saved go immediately into the presence of The Lord awaiting the resurrection/glorification of the body. Absent from the body and present with the Lord. Jesus said to the dying thief, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
There are many words that describe this temporary place. There are Greek and Hebrew words like Sheol, Hades, Paradise, Abraham’s Bosom, sleep, grave, death, Gehenna, heaven, hell.
Simple answer is described and illustrated in Luke 16:19-31. It is what Jesus pictured in “the rich man and Lazarus”. Very unusual parable if it is a parable. The saved go to a temporary place awaiting their resurrection. Even so do the lost. It is a place of suffering but not the final place.
There is no release from this place, nor possibility that anyone can be prayed out. Purgatory is not a biblical concept. The spirit of a dead unbeliever awaits a resurrection. Revelation 20:11-15 describes the event. They are then brought to judgement.
As heaven described in Revelation 21 and 22 is the final estate of the believer even so the unbeliever is cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 21:8 gives a list of those unbelievers.
Questions concerning the judgement seat of Christ. If we are accountable then how can we say our sins are covered? What if I sin 10 minutes before I die? What is judged at the Judgement seat? No tears in heaven?
Some very good questions here. We are told that we will all (believers) stand before this judgement seat. All judgement is given to the Son. John 5:22.
In this life we are to strive to live a holy life. I am not to be calloused toward sin in my life and say “once saved always saved”. I fear that is sometimes used to give false assurance when the life does not bear it out. We are secure and that is a fact. But it seems the greatest of saints have been most sensitive to sin. Never calloused. Paul reminded those approaching the Lord’s Table to examine themselves. “If we judge ourselves we will not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). Physical sickness and judgement comes on the disobedient. Confess your sins. James 5:16.
The security of Christ lets me know that if I die with unconfessed sin I am saved just the same. Listen to what John said in 1 John 1:5-10 and in 2:1,2. Because I am saved I want to obey Him. I want to please Him.
The issue of my salvation is settled. But I must give an account to Him. Hebrews 13:17 tells me that I must give an account for your soul. I will be asked about that.
I Corinthians 3:10-15 says that my labor in The Lord will be judged. It may be that when put to the test my works are consumed. But fire also purifies. I am reminded to not be a shoddy workman. Everyone will not hear “well done”. If you asked me what is the key to rewards I will tell you what Jesus said repeatedly. Are you faithful? If you are faithful, rewards await you. Some have mentioned the specific crowns we are to labor for. I just want to please Him.
Revelation 7:17 says that the day is coming when God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. Some have placed this after the judgement seat but I see it in its context of those who have suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. 7:9,13,14.
The Bible also says all weeping will be behind us. Revelation 21:4 “wipe away all tears from their eyes”. No more death sorrow or crying. I just know it is over. No sorrow or grief carried into eternity. I would include with that the sorrow of unsaved loved ones. Will we weep over them? What will we remember? All sorrow will be wiped away.
Questions concerning heaven. What will we know? Who will we know? Will we know what is happening on earth?
Good questions all. As we have worked through 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 there are some common thoughts. “Caught up together.” “So shall we ever be with The Lord. Comfort one another with these words.” “We should live together with Him”. I think all of these passages point to us being together.
Jesus indicated we do not live as married couples in heaven. So relationships changed. David indicated a belief that he would see he and Bathsheba’s dead infant son. I will tell you that babies are not babies in heaven. Old people are not old people in heaven. We all have a glorified body of which He is the prototype.
The Bible indicates in a couple of places that there is some limited knowledge of what is happening on earth. Hebrews 12:1 may indicate this or the author of Hebrews could be saying “Look at the examples we have.” But a clearer passage may be found in the words of Jesus in Luke 15 concerning the finding of a lost sheep and a lost coin. Verse 10: “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” Someone in heaven rejoices.
I encourage you not to focus on these things. Of course we are interested but the focus in heaven is the “Lamb”. All eyes on Jesus.
Replacement Theology. What is God’s plan for Israel?
There are at least two false views concerning Israel. One is that the church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen and God is moving on. Somewhat of an Amillennial view that ignores a whole lot of teaching.
The other is a dual covenant view espoused by a popular television evangelist that states that God has two covenants of salvation.
I was also asked about the 144,000 sealed in Revelation 7. Who are they? They are specifically said to be 12,000 of each of the 12 tribes of Israel. They are sealed for a specific purpose at the beginning of the tribulation. They are servants of God. Used of God to serve Him. Some have called them evangelists that will be used to bring in a harvest. Many people will be saved in the tribulation.
This period of time will be used of God to bring Israel to the Messiah. Israel’s redemption is dependent on Messiah. They still look for Him.
Paul made this very clear in Romans 11. God has not cast off nor replaced His people. Read verses 17-36 to catch a glimpse of the wonder and majesty of God. Verse 26 indicates to me that although Israel presently rejects the Savior they will turn to Him.
This is the church age and the age of the Gentile, but we can rejoice in a day when all believers are gathered in. One shepherd and one sheepfold.
General questions related to the timing of the events.
I am not going into all of that right now. But I can generally lay out a timeline that goes something like this. As I understand it.
Resurrection and Rapture
Tribulation and Great Tribulation. Some put the rapture between these two events. Marv Rosenthal teaches a pre-wrath rapture of the church. Very interesting.
The scene in heaven- Judgement Seat and Marriage Supper of the Lamb
The scene on earth- seals, trumpets, bowls, antichrist, war, God’s judgement of false religion and world systems.
Conversion of Israel
Second Coming of Christ
Completion of first resurrection
One final rebellion
Satan cast into the lake of fire
Resurrection of the lost
White throne judgement
Lost go into lake of fire
Redeemed go into eternity
New heaven and new earth
The biggest question is not for me. The biggest question is for you. Are you ready to meet Him?