When our kids were young we introduced them to a children’s fantasy series called The Magic Treehouse, by Mary Pope Osborne. The premise of the stories was that a couple of kids, Jack and Annie, were transported by the treehouse (don’t ask) back into key moments of time to observe what took place first hand. It won’t surprise you to hear that I liked the series for its creative way of introducing key historical events and individuals. On their journeys, Jack and Annie meet dinosaurs, knights, mummies, Clara Barton, William Shakespeare, and so much more. Part of the opening pages of each story involve the kids trying to figure out where they are—in time and space. Hints from the people they meet, the surrounding lands, written signs, and other indications eventually clue the kids in on when and where they are. Of course, history dictates the overall flow of the story and the kids’ subsequent actions.
In one story, the kids find themselves on a massive ship in the middle of the ocean; looking over the side at the name of the ship, they realize they are in 1912 on the Titanic during its fateful journey. Knowing the end of the story, of course, effected how the kids acted while on the ship. Supposing, on the other hand, if the ship had been named, The Queen Elizabeth 2 (the QE2 struck an iceberg in 1998 and safely made it to shore with no loss of life), then the kids would have acted significantly differently. Knowing the end of the story dramatically alters the way one lives—either looking for a lifeboat if you are on the Titanic or bailing water if you are on the QE2.
One of the great blessings of the Christian life is that our LORD has revealed to us the end of our journey. While there are many, many unknowns in this life, our final end is secure—secured by Christ’s own death and resurrection. The timing of the end of days, the specifics of how it will occur, and the details of what will happen have not been revealed to us. Indeed, even Jesus while on earth was not privy to that information (Mark 13:32). But, not having a comprehensive view of things does not mean that the Bible has not revealed much that should be guiding our lives.
Without much controversy, we can say that the Scripture tells us clearly of:· The visible, bodily return of Jesus in triumph and glory
· The resurrection of the dead, both the righteous and the wicked
· The bodies of the dead reunited with their souls, raised by the power of Christ
· A future judgment day for all peoples before the throne of God
· The wicked to eternal damnation
· The righteous to eternal life in heaven in the presence of God
This picture of the future is offered by the Spirit through the Scriptures, not simply to provide us insight into what is coming at the end of days, but as a guide to our present living. Just as it matters if you are on the Titanic or the QE2, so it matters how we understand the end of time. What we do today, what we value, who we serve, is shaped by this vision of the future. Assurance of our future with our victorious King should impact all that we think, all we do, and all that we are. Jesus is coming again! Amen.
As we prepare for worship this week, I encourage you to look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
1. Paul here never explains why he doesn’t “want us to be uninformed” about the second coming of Jesus. Can you speculate on why it is important to be informed? What evidence might there be of this importance in the church today?
2. Paul speaks of the second coming specifically in light of “those who are asleep,” meaning, those who have died. Why use the term “asleep”? Is Paul afraid of death or of talking about death? Is this just a nice way of saying it?
3. The goal of Paul’s instruction is listed at the end of verse 13. What is it, and how do you see that goal working out (or not) in people’s lives?
4. Notice the tie between the second coming of Jesus and His prior birth, life, death and resurrection (vs. 14). How does Paul think the second coming is connected?
5. Can you create an order of how things will happen as Paul describes them? What difference does this order make in the ways we live our daily lives?