ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 5:1-11

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.” (I Thessalonians 5:9,10)

The eternal destiny of believers is secure. We do not have to fear judgment, for God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. God has chosen us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The Epistle to the Romans gives us further insight into our destiny — “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:29,30). We are destined for glory!

God wants us to have the assurance of our salvation. He wants us to know that we are eternally secure. We have this certain promise — “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). God will not let us go. He will keep us and nothing can separate us from His love — “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38,39).

How comforting it is to know that we are secure in our salvation. Jesus accomplished salvation for us. He died for us and paid the price we owe God. And we can be sure that we will live with Him forever!

Lord God, I thank You that You did not destine me for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus died for me so that I could live with You forever. How grateful I am for the assurance of my salvation.

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CHILDREN OF LIGHT

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 5:1-11

“But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are children of light, children of the day.” (I Thessalonians 5:4,5)

Although we believers do not know the specific day and time of our Lord’s return, we know the certainty of it. We know what will happen to the present heavens and earth. And we know that new heavens and a new earth will appear. We know that we will live forever with the Lord and that we will be reunited with our loved ones who are now in heaven. God has revealed these things to us. Therefore we are “children of light, children of the day.”

Since we know these things, the way we live should be different from those who walk in darkness — “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who drink, get drunk at night” (v. 7). We, however, are called to live in the light of God’s Word. We are to keep in mind the second coming of our Savior and we are to be ready when He returns.

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (v. 8). We are to be alert for the return of Jesus. We are to exercise self-control as we seek to walk in the light of the gospel. We are to be a people of faith and love, living out our faith as we seek to love our Lord and others. And we must never lose hope for our salvation, for we are destined for glory.

Putting this all together, as we anticipate the return of Jesus Christ, we are to be informed about the events of the Day of the Lord. We are to be alert and self-controlled. We are to live out our faith and love others. And we are to have assurance of our salvation.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You have made us children of light. You have revealed to us Your truth. Enable us to be alert and prepared for Your return. I pray that You will return soon, Lord Jesus!

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BE READY!

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 5:1-11

“While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (I Thessalonians 5:3)

The Day of the Lord is a day of judgment. It is the day that Jesus returns to earth to resurrect the dead, to usher in the new heavens and earth, and to execute the final judgment. No one but the Father knows when this will take place. Jesus said, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

The Apostle Peter gives us further insight into the Day of the Lord — “But the day or the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a great roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (II Peter 3:10). Thus you can see why our text says, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ the sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

The Day of the Lord will be dreadful and terrifying to unbelievers, but what about believers? Peter gives us these words — “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (I Peter 3:11-13).

How are we to ready ourselves for the Day of the Lord? We are to continue in faith in the Lord Jesus. By His grace we are to lives lives of holiness and godliness. We are to wait patiently for Jesus to return. We are to remember that we are pilgrims and strangers on this earth. And we are to look forward in great anticipation to the new heavens and news earth in which only righteousness will dwell. We have a glorious future before us. Wait patiently and be ready!

Lord Jesus, I look forward in great anticipation to Your return. I know You are coming to set things straight. You will usher in the new heavens and new earth in which only righteousness will dwell. Let me live this day as if it will be the day of Your return.

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THE DAY OF THE LORD

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 5:1-11

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (I Thessalonians 5:2)

The “day of the Lord” refers to the events that will occur when Jesus Christ returns to earth. Jesus Himself will return bodily to this earth. The angel told the disciples at the ascension of Jesus, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Everyone will see Him when He appears — “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). His coming will be sudden and unexpected — “like a thief in the night.” It will be a glorious and triumphal return (Revelation 19:11-16).

Why is Christ coming again? What will He accomplish? First, Christ comes again to introduce the future age. He comes to bring about the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1-8). All of history is moving toward this event, the establishment of the eternal state in which we shall dwell.

Second, He comes to resurrect the dead — “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are int he tombs will hear His voice, and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:25,28,29).

Third, Jesus comes again to judge the world — “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30,31). The day of the Lord is the day for final judgment — “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (II Corinthians 5:10).

The day of the Lord will be a terrifying day for unbelievers, for they shall face the judgment of God. For believers, we have nothing to fear, for our Savior has already borne the judgment on our behalf. We will be glorified with Christ and given our eternal homes in the new heavens and new earth.

Lord Jesus, You are the righteous judge who is coming again to bring judgment upon all sin and evil. Thank You that You bore the wrath of God in my place. I will be able to stand in the judgment as one who has been made righteous through Your perfect righteousness imputed to me.

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CAUGHT UP TOGETHER IN THE CLOUDS

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 4:13-18

“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with Him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (I Thessalonians 4:17-18)

We know that the dead in Christ will come back with the Lord at His second coming. Their resurrected bodies will be united with their eternal souls. These resurrected saints will come in the clouds with Jesus when He returns to earth. But what will happen to those who are alive on earth when Christ returns? Our passage today answers that question.

Those who are alive will be “caught up together” with the resurrected saints to meet the Lord in the air. The Greek word that is translated “caught up” means “to grab, to seize suddenly, to snatch, to take away.” The saints who are left on earth will be snatched up suddenly and taken into the clouds.

The clouds at the second coming of Christ are no ordinary rain clouds. They are the clouds of glory that surround the presence of God. They are the same clouds that descended upon the tabernacle and the temple. They are the clouds of the Shekinah glory of God. The resurrected saints and the saints still alive on earth will be drawn into the glory of God, the glory Moses longed to see (Exodus 33:18) –“Please show me Your glory!”

In the clouds of glory we will meet the Lord. The Greek word translated “meet” is often used of an important dignitary’s reception by the inhabitants of a city. In this case, we will meet the King of kings and the Lord of lords! What a reception that will be!

This happens in the air as the new heavens and new earth are being prepared. Then we will all be with the Lord forever in the new creation. It is easy to understand why Paul concluded this passage the way he does — “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (v. 18).

Lord Jesus, it is so encouraging to know what will happen when You return to earth again. If I am still alive when you return, I will meet You in the clouds of glory along with the other saints who remain on earth. We will join the host of those who are already with you in heaven. Thank You for making it possible for me to be among Your people. Thank You that I will always be with You.

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THE SECOND COMING

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 4:13-18

“For 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.” (I Thessalonians 4:16)

The Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth a second time. It will be a glorious and triumphal event when the Lord Himself comes in all His glory to usher in the new heavens and new earth. Notice the three sounds that accompany His return. These noises summon the dead to wake from their slumber, that is, their bodies will be resurrected and their souls that descend with Jesus will be united to their resurrected bodies. This is the final state of our salvation — glorification.

The first sound is the cry of command. I understand this to be the command for the dead to rise to life. The second is the voice of an archangel. The only archangel identified in the Bible is Michael (Jude 9). The archangel formally announces the coming of the King of kings. Then there is the sound of the trumpet of God. Trumpets in the Old Testament proclaimed the Lord’s presence (Exodus 19:16; I Chronicles 16:6; Psalm 47:5). In the Jewish tradition, the trumpet was associated with battle. In the case at the second coming, the trumpet of God announces the Day of the Lord, and His victory over the final enemy death — “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (I Corinthians 15:26).

On that great day, Jesus will bring the souls of all the deceased saints with Him. He commands that their bodies be resurrected and He reunites their souls with their resurrected bodies. We are given a description of these resurrected bodies in I Corinthians 15 — “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Corinthians 15:42-44).

Do not lose hope. We will see our loved ones again. We will join them in worship and service in the New Jerusalem — “And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'” (Revelation 21:2-4).

Lord Jesus, I look forward with great anticipation Your return to this earth. I look forward to seeing You as You return gloriously and triumphantly. I will rejoice to see again those I have loved so dearly who are with You now. I look forward to the coming of the New Jerusalem. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

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THE SAINTS IN HEAVEN

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 4:13-19

“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For then we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (I Thessalonians 4:14,15)

These words are so encouraging to those of us who have lost loved ones. We will be reunited with them again! In these verses, Paul is referring to those who have died in the Lord. He uses a phrase, “fallen asleep,” to refer to their condition in heaven. He does not mean that they are literally sleeping, for we know there is activity in heaven. It is simply a phrase that describes their deaths — a state of rest from earthly labors, trials, and struggles.

The Bible has very little to say about the intermediate state, which is the state of those who have died until the final state when their souls are united with their resurrected bodies. We are given some information about those who are in the intermediate state now.

We know that the souls of believers immediately go to be with the Lord at their deaths (Luke 16:22; Philippians 1:21-24). Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians — “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8).

Those who are in heaven now are in a state of rest and joy — “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their works follow with them” (Revelation 14:18). They have finished their earthly course and God is satisfied with what they accomplished on earth. They are in His presence where there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

Our loved ones who are in heaven enjoy freedom from all that is evil and painful. They are at perfect peace in the presence of Jesus. But they are active. They worship and serve God — “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence” (Revelation 7:15).

As much as they love us, they would not want to return to earth, for they share with Christ in His royal glory. Paul put it this way — “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Yes, they behold the glory and beauty of Christ.

Lord Jesus, thank You for making heaven possible through Your suffering, death and resurrection. Thank You for the comfort of knowing that those I love, who have died, are safely in Your care and that they are free from suffering, toil, and pain.

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CHRISTIAN GRIEF

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 4:13-18

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.” (I Thessalonians 4:13)

All of us have experienced the death of someone we love. Perhaps it was a parent, a spouse, a child, a close relative, or dear friend. Death is a reality and we must be prepared when someone close to us dies. Paul gives us comforting words about the death of our loved ones who die in Christ. We will look in detail at this passage in the next several devotions.

Today I want to deal with grief. When someone we love dies, grief is the natural response. Never suppress it, for it is unhealthy to do so. In God’s providence, today I am in Jackson, Mississippi to participate in the memorial service for one of my heroes. Jim Baird was a mentor, spiritual father, and dearest friend to me. He baptized my three children, preached at Anne’s memorial service, was my pastor when I went into the ministry, and has been my spiritual hero. Much of my ministry is patterned after his.

When I received word that he had experienced a very serious stroke and was not expected to live, I wept. I still weep and hurt inside. I grieve that I will not be able to talk to him and seek his wise counsel. Other than my own father and grandfather, Jim Baird was the man who had the greatest influence on my life. I will miss him greatly and I am grieving. Grief is the appropriate response when we face the death of a loved one.

Christian grief is different from the grief unbelievers experience. We grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is based on the resurrection of our Savior. He was raised from the dead and all those who are in Him shall be resurrected also. Remember what Jesus said to Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus — “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)

We need to answer Jesus’ question — “Do we believe this?” If we do, we know that we will see our loved ones again. We will spend eternity with them in the glorious presence of our Savior. Our grief is temporary and it is full of hope. Our loved ones who have departed from life on earth have been taken to heaven where they are enjoying release from all their suffering, pain and sorrow. They are in the presence of Jesus; they behold His glory. Grieve but do not let the grief cripple or overwhelm you, for you will be reunited with them again in glory! Jim sees Christ face to face and he is worshipping with the saints and angels. What a glorious thought!

Heavenly Father, please comfort those of us who are grieving. Thank you that we do not have to grieve as those who have no hope. We have the sure hope of the resurrection because Your Son conquered death and so shall we.

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BROTHERLY LOVE

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 4:9-12

“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (I Thessalonians 4:10b-12)

This passage begins with these words — “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another” (v. 9). God has made it abundantly clear that we are to love one another. Unfortunately, there is a huge lack of love both inside the church and outside of it. The second great commandment is that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Paul is calling us to do this more and more.

We are given some very practical advice about the application of brotherly love. We are told to live quietly, that is, peaceably — “If it be possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). It is amazing how much conflict exists between people in the church. Failing to be at peace with one another is a failure to exercise brotherly love.

We are also told to mind our own business. Some people are known to be gossipers. They pass on information. which may or may not be true, to others, for their own benefit. They stick their noses in other people’s business when they have no right to do so. This too is a failure to exercise brotherly love.

We must also work with our own hands and not be dependent upon others to provide for our needs. I’ve seen people in the church and outside the church expect handouts, special favors, discounts, and the like. Some take advantage of the generosity of others. Again, such actions reflect a failure to exercise brotherly love.

Those outside the church observe how we treat each other in the church. Unfortunately, they often see a failure of exercising brotherly love among believers. This is a poor witness. Remember the words of Jesus in the High Priestly Prayer — “I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26). We have the love of Jesus in us. We must learn how to appropriate it in order to love others, especially the hard people to love.

Lord Jesus, I confess that there are some people I have trouble loving. Forgive me for failing to love others. Grant me the strength and the desire to love others with the love You have for me.

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DISREGARDING GOD

I Thessalonians 4:1-8

“For God has not called us to impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man butGod, who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” (I Thessalonians 4:7,8)

A Christian’s greatest concern is to please God. We please God by loving and obeying Him. Think of all He has done for us. He chose us to be His own (Ephesians 1:4). He spared not His Son for us (Romans 8:32). He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). He gave us the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). He sent His Spirit to indwell us (John 14:16,17). He has destined us for glory (Romans 8:18). Reflect upon all the blessings He had bestowed upon us. How could we not desire to please Him?

The problem is that we forget all His blessings and benefits. When we do so, we easily disregard God. Every time we commit a sin, we show disrespect and disregard for the One who loves us more than anyone else.

God has called us to a life of holiness — “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy. You also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (I Peter 1:14-16). When we realize all that God has done for us, we must desire to please Him. We please Him by living holy lives, which means out of our love for Him, we will obey Him.

Let’s face it, when we fail to honor and obey God, we ignore Him, we disregard Him, and we dishonor Him. When we do so, our hearts should be filled with sorrow and we should be driven to deep repentance.

The good news is that God never stops loving us. Even when we fail Him, He doesn’t reject us. We we disregard Him, He doesn’t disregard us. He grieves over us but He will never turn His back on us. Jesus secured our salvation and nothing can take that away from us. God perseveres with us and He will not let go of us. When we think upon these things, how could we disregard God? Instead, we should desire to please Him by living holy lives. Read Psalm 103 and review all the benefits that the Psalmist tells us not to forget!

Lord Jesus, please forgive me when I disrespect and disregard You. Every time I sin, I fail You. I ignore the presence of Your Holy Spirit and I dishonor You. Give me the desire and power to live a holy life that honors You above all else. Thank You for all that You have done for me.

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