Therefore comfort one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:18(NASB)
The Church at Thessalonica were commended, by Paul, for their work of faith and their labour of love. But he also recognised that they held a steadfast hope in the return of the Lord Jesus - a blessed hope that He would come in the clouds to take them to be with Himself, into the presence of God the Father.
These Christians believed in the resurrection of the dead, but they also believed in the rapture of the Church for they had been taught that God has not appointed Christians to go through the coming tribulation. God has not destined us to incur His terrible wrath which must one day fall on a God-rejecting, Christ-hating sinful world. Our Father did not save us in order to condemn us. He saved us to obtain salvation through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
When Paul visited the city for the first time and founded the Church at Thessalonica, he was only with them for a few weeks, before continuing his missionary journey across the wide expanse of Asia Minor. However, during those few short weeks, Paul taught them some tremendous truths, including the return of the Lord Jesus in the air to take His Body into His presence at the rapture - to claim His bride which is the Church, 'and so we shall forever be with the Lord'.
It is in his first letter to the believers at Thessalonica that Paul reminds them of his earlier teaching, by presenting a very thorough synopsis of the events that will take place when Christ returns in the air to claim His bride; when the Church will be raptured into the presence of God; when saved souls will be changed, in the twinkling of an eye; when Christians will receive a new and eternal body.
In this passage, Paul gives an expanded teaching on the glorious truth that this fallen, decaying body of ours will put on incorruption, for this mortal body must be clothed with immortality and death will be fully and finally swallowed up in victory. And Paul encourages us to 'comfort one another with these words - to encourage each other as we watch and wait for the return of the Lord Jesus in the clouds, to take us to be with Himself.
Paul wanted to reassure the believers there that their hope in the soon return of Christ was well-founded. He also gave them great reassurance that their loved ones, who had already died or would pass on in the coming days would not be excluded from this event. Their loved ones who had gone before would also be included in the glory that was to be given to believers at Christ's return.
How excited they must have been when Paul reminded them, "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." How joyful we should be to know that the rapture is imminent - and Christ's return for His Church could happen at any moment!
The bodily resurrection of Christ is our assurance that we too will be resurrected from the dead. But whether any of us are alive at the rapture, or have already passed into our graves, we will ALL participate in this glorious event. And this truth has been revealed to give comfort to our soul and to strengthen our resolve to stand firm in the faith and be ready for the day when we hear the shout of an archangel and the trump of God will call us home.
But note... we are exhorted to give comfort to others - to 'comfort one another'. And as we give comfort to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we ourselves will also be comforted in our blessed hope. We live in a world that seems to be spiralling out-of-control, but just as the God of all comforts and Father of all mercies Who comforts us in all of our difficulties and sufferings, so we are exhorted to comfort others in all the difficulties and dangers that they are also facing and what more appropriate comfort can we offer, than to bring to remembrance the soon return of the Lord Jesus on the day that we will be raptured into His presence?
Thank You, heavenly Father, that You are the Father of all mercies - the God of all comforts, Who brings healing to the broken-hearted, consolation to the suffering, hope in the soon return of Jesus, and comfort to the soul. Thank You for the glorious hope that we have in Christ Jesus that He will soon be sent from heaven to rapture His bride into Your presence and clothe us in a glorious body that is uncorrupted and eternal. Help me to give comfort to my brothers and sisters in Christ as we look for the any-day return of the Lord Jesus to take us to be with Himself. Praise Your holy name, AMEN.