February 19, 2017   I Thessalonians 4: 13 -18Sleep 


   I want to share today what we believe at least Bill and I and what Advent Christians believe.  We have been accused of excluding others but we accept others with different understandings.  Bill and I probably have different points of view on some things of scriptures.  Perhaps Bill is better versed on some of this than I am.   Many people do not believe what we believe and unfortunately and sadly it has been a source of division in the body of Jesus. I do not see this as a hill that I need to die on.  In other words, I want to teach on it but not run every one out of my life that has different beliefs.  Be patient I will cover the verse to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and I will cover the thief on the cross when Jesus told him today you will be with me in paradise. 

    Now that I have said that I also want to say I hope we do not tune out.   Are you teachable?  It seems that God had a hard time to teach his people through the centuries.   Many folks believe they are right.  Many believe they are right about everything.  Many believe they have the answers.  That is not all bad but some folks are not very open and teachable or only teachable in some things.  We have heard the comments he or she has a closed mind.   This teaching may be brand new for some of us and for others we may be closed to it.  I would just ask for your honest attention to what I share today.  I think that is important.  Search the scriptures and study.  Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  They were noble because they studied and searched.  They dug into the bible.  So, don’t just take my word for it but study for yourself.

    Do we care about what many people say about the bible or do we care what the bible says?   Yes, many people see and believe different things about the scriptures and what I believe today is different than what I believed years ago.  We continue to grow in our understanding of scripture and the Lord.  Drew Dyck wrote that no one really knows God.  Yes, we know him but do not really know him.  John the disciple that Jesus loved new Jesus in a deeper way after his revelation of Jesus in Revelation 1.  No flesh can see God and live.  Moses kind of saw his back side and that was such that his face glowed with glory for days. 

    Paul wrote this passage to encourage the Thessalonians.  This was written to comfort them.  We have a hope.  We believe in God and life after death on this world.  Paul said do not be ignorant and do not grieve like others grieve over the death of a loved one.  As Christians, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  There is a reward for our labor for Jesus.  There is blessing ahead beyond our imagination.   There is glory and wonder and God’s presence. 

   We believe what this passage says and other passages.  We believe that we sleep.  Now some folks that do not like that say that is just a euphemism.  In other words, instead of saying dead God says we are asleep.  We believe that we sleep.   We believe that our next waking thought is to be with Jesus.  So in essence Jesus disciples who have passed away about 2,000 years ago, for them it will be like 1 second and they will be with Jesus.  They are asleep. 

    Many like to say that the body sleeps.  The bible says the body without the spirit is dead.  The body is dead and it decomposes.  The body is not alive.  James 2 tells us the body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead.  The body is dead and therefore it decomposes.  Paul is very clear here that we sleep.  He or the Holy Spirit through Paul says it 3 times.  Do we find that in other places in the scripture?  Yes, we do. 

   In Daniel chapter 12 we read “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.  At that time the NIV says in the last days or the days that we live in I believe.  Verse 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.  Where are these people?  They are in the dust of the earth asleep the bible says.  It seems to me from these verses that the righteous and unrighteous awake together.  That leads me to believe that they are not in heaven and they are not in hell right now.  They are asleep in the dust of the earth until resurrection.

    In john 11 we see Jesus raising up Lazarus from the dead.  In John 11:11 and following After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”   12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”   Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.  14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, Jesus knew Lazarus was dead but saw him and said he was asleep.  In Matthew 9 we read when Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 

     After the crowd, had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.  The people knew she was dead and Jesus knew she was dead but Jesus also saw her as asleep.  The body was dead but she was asleep.  Her spirit or soul or if you prefer the breath of life had departed.  God made Adam out of the dust of the earth but he did not have life until God breathed on him.  Do you remember the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37?   We read So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.   I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.   Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”   So, I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.   All the skin and flesh was there but what was needed was the breath.  There is no life without the breath.  When the breath entered them then they moved. 

   In II Corinthians 5 is a passage of scripture that is used to say we go to heaven as soon as we die.   We read therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.   For we live by faith, not by sight.   We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.   So, we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.   For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  I would say this verse does not say that we are immediately in heaven.  It says we are with the Lord.

    David argued that if he went to hell that God was there.  David said I cannot flee from you.  God is everywhere present.  I believe that God is every place where there is life.  His word and power hold all thing together.  Paul in Athens on Mars Hill said we live and move and have our being in his presence.  In Romans 10 Paul said you do not have to go into heaven to bring Christ down or go to hell to bring Christ up from the dead but the word is near you.  II Corinthians 5:8 does not say you are immediately in heaven but you are with the Lord.  In Hebrews 13:5 Jesus promises I will never leave you or forsake you.  He is with us.  He is with the Christian.  Romans 8 nothing can separate us from his love.  Nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love. 

    Many would say well in Luke 23 Jesus told the thief that today you will be with me in paradise so that proves that we immediately go to heaven.    We read in Luke 23 starting with verse 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”   But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?   We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”   Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ”   Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Man, put the comma in.  I tell you, today you will.  That comma is not in the original Greek.  In John 20:17 Jesus tells Mary Do not hold onto me for I have not yet returned to the Father.  When did Jesu ascend?   It was 40 days later.   Jesus was telling the thief today I am telling you or right now I am telling you, you will be with me.  It is interesting that the thief said remember me when you come in your kingdom. 

   Some would argue well Enoch was taken.  In Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more.  And Elijah was taken by a whirl wind into heaven.  It would seem that he went to heaven where God is.  The atmosphere was also called heaven.   Paul talked aobut being lifted to the third heaven in II Corinthians.    I do not believe that Elijah was lifted into heaven where God is because of what Jesus said in John.  In John 3:12 & 13 we read    I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?   No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. These are the very words of Jesus. Jesus Sid no one has gone into heaven.   The words are in red and Jesus said clearly no one has ever gone into heaven.  Since Jesu said it I believe that Enoch and Elijah did not go into heaven.   

   There is another passage that is a parable that Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man and the rich man was in hell and in torment.  I have a 4-page sermon on that and we will not go there today.  In I Corinthians 15:6 Paul writes some have fallen asleep.  In I Corinthians 15: 17 & 18 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.   And in verse 20 but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  And 3 times in I Thessalonians 4 Paul tells us that we sleep.  .  Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For 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 word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  The Old Testament talks about sleep and Jesus talked about sleep in death and Paul writes it at least 6 times that we sleep after we die.  To me it does not matter.  If we sleep our next waking thought will be with Jesus.  It is really the same thought.  Jesus said heh a dot come back so his disciples could be with him.  So, for them when they wake up if seem like 1 second ago they died. 

    In verse 15 it is very clear that those who are alive will not precede those that are asleep.  In verse 17 the dead in Christ will rise first.  The living will not go before those that have died.  I know that many believe that is referring to the body.    That ties in with what Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:2 & 3.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  I will come back Jesus told them, and take you to be with me.  Jesus has to come back to take the disciples to be with him.  Jesus has not come back yet though I have had people say to defend their beliefs that Jesus may be coming all the time to get people.  That is quite a stretch in my mind.     Paul tells us to encourage one another with the truth presented here.  Those that have Jesus have life. He that has the son has life.  Only God has immortality.  Questions? Comments?