16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, 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. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
What are you looking forward to?
That’s a loaded question for a Christian. Its loaded with a view of history that has history moving towards a person. So our question is more appropriately framed as, “Who are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to Jesus.
The Resurrection of Jesus marks what began with His Incarnation: The Kingdom of God is at hand and has been steadily advancing in the lives of men and women.
To be in Christ is to have a purposeful and personal destiny. When you and I anticipate the day when death is completely swallowed up in the life of Jesus we have a source for courage. Thus Paul says, “encourage one another with these words.”
Why do we need courage?
We need courage to live today as if the Lord Jesus Christ has affection and admonition for all who will enter His Kingdom eternally. We need courage today because we are surrounded by voices that compete for our affection. We need courage today because we cannot live and speak prophetically in the character of Jesus on our own strength or in our own personal visions of power. We need courage to walk “in the fear of the Lord.”
We need courage to act and move according to the commands of Jesus. Such courage can be nurtured in our relationships with each other. “Encourage one another with these words.” But it does require a maturing capacity to give and receive questions about our attitudes and actions. And it requires humility to receive the exhortations directing us to the greatness and glory of Jesus.