Volume 48

The Lord's Coming (1)

J. Taylor

Page: 270

1 Thessalonians 4:1 - 18

H.F.N. Understanding that it is on the mind of the brethren to take up the thought of the Lord's coming, I thought we might consider the rapture as presented in 1 Thessalonians 4, as well as what precedes it in the early part of the chapter. It is the Enoch chapter of the New Testament. The Spirit of God says of Enoch, "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him", (Genesis 5:24). Then there is the striking reference to Enoch in Hebrews 11:5, "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he has the testimony that he had pleased God". The opening part of the chapter before us gives in embryo what was developed later in the ministry of Paul. First, we have a reference to the thought of God's will: "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification", verse 3; then to the calling: "for God has not called us to uncleanness, but in sanctification", verse 7. The third thought that comes before us is that "God ... has given also his Holy Spirit to you", verse 8; so that we are brought to this supreme thought -- the gift of the Spirit. And then the fourth thing is that each one of us has been the subject of divine teaching: "For ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another", verse 9. These suggestions really lay the basis for the introduction of the great thought of the rapture.

I think we would all agree that the Lord is bringing about, ere the moment of the rapture arrives, the development of bridal affections and a state that is pleasing to Him. Our chapter opens with the reminder to these Thessalonian babes, "even as ye have received

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from us how ye ought to walk and please God", verse 1. The truth of the rapture is brought in at the end, but first, the Lord would bring about a state of things that is pleasing to Himself; an atmosphere of love and affection and conditions that are pleasing to God. The Lord will translate what pleases Him.

J.T.Jr. Your allusion to Enoch greatly helps, for it not only brings out the thought of God's pleasure in what is translated, but Enoch also prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord, and His dealing with ungodliness, as we read in Jude.

H.F.N. So that you feel the importance of each one of us, in view of the rapture, cultivating a walk with God. In the book of Genesis, the Spirit of God refers to three different individuals, of whom it is said that they walked with God. The first is to Enoch, as we have been remarking, and then we have a reference to Noah, who amid the corruption that was in the world, walked with God. When we come to Abram, we have the divine standard in regard to our walk, for God said to him: "walk before my face, and be perfect", (Genesis 17:1). Then, Jacob refers at the close of his life to the God before whom his fathers Abraham and Isaac had walked. Genesis 48:15. The beloved apostle did not put a heavy burden on the young saints at Thessalonica, but exhorted them that they should know how to walk and to please God.

J.T.Jr. The apostle almost immediately refers to the fact that we are to possess our vessels "in sanctification and honour", verse 4. Enoch's prophecy would warn us and help us to reach the mind of God as to this.

A.B.P. Would it be right to say that the transfiguration corresponded in a sense with what was seen in Enoch? The glory, as it were, claimed Him. God claimed the One in whom He had found His pleasure.

H.F.N. I am sure that is so. Each one of us is challenged in view of the translation, that we might seek to

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walk and to please God. Enoch's was a life of communion in which God was pleased; he was really taken out of the scene as an expression of God's pleasure in him, but when we come to Noah, it is rather the side of witness to a world of corruption and violence. Enoch's life made very little public history, but Noah walked with God and was sustained in a public position amidst the corruption and violence that filled the scene.

A.N.W. "Ungodliness" is the word Jude stresses as characterising the world in which Enoch lived.

C.H.M. Do you think Noah would be, in a sense, the counterpart of Enoch? God would have both sides, communion with Himself, and then the public testimony in the world.

H.F.N. That is what one had thought; Enoch represents the communion side, and Noah our public walk amidst the corruption and violence that is in this scene.

Ques. Is the collective position referred to here? All the saints in Thessalonica were walking righteously.

H.F.N. They are spoken of in that way, but are exhorted to abound still more. They are spoken of as "babes", but they are very lovable babes. The apostle in his reference to their walk really speaks of the great results of his teaching, and so the first thought in our chapter is how we are to walk and to please God. It is a large subject and there is very much said in the scriptures concerning it. Then, following that, the apostle calls attention to God's will. I thought we might see how, in the apostle's teaching, he develops the great thought of the will of God, in its bearing upon the translation of the saints from this scene.

A.R. What have you in mind in relation to the will of God?

H.F.N. I was thinking of how the will of God was developed in the apostle's teaching. We see the thought here so distinctly in embryo, but then, in Romans 12,

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we are called upon to prove the will of God as having presented our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God", Romans 12:1. We are to "prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God", Romans 12:2. I suppose the will of God in this sense has reference to us as seen in relation to the wilderness, but when we come to the epistle to the Colossians the thought of the will of God is enlarged. The apostle prayed for them that they might be "filled with the full knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding", Colossians 1:9. I suppose that would have reference to the will of God in relation to the thought of the body, for the truth of the body is brought in, but when we come to Ephesians 1, we have mention of the good pleasure of His will in verse 6, the mystery of His will in verse 9, and the counsel of His will in verse 11. The will of God is seen there in relation to the whole universe. I believe the Spirit of God would give these Thessalonian saints an impression as to the will of God, and if we get a spiritual impression through ministry, and follow it up, much more will open up to us. So, in view of the rapture the apostle would emphasise the importance of our being controlled and governed by the will of God, while we await the Lord Jesus from heaven.

A.F.M. It would give one a consciousness of security in the knowledge of that will.

H.F.N. I would like to emphasise the importance of learning to follow things up. If we get a spiritual impression, though it may be a very simple one, we should follow it up. It is a great thing to get a divine impression of the wealth that is bound up in the ministry of Paul; and as we expand in that, it brings about a state in which the saints can understand and appreciate the truth of the rapture. We have spoken a little of the will of God, but then there is also the thought of the calling . The simplest impression of the calling is found in Romans 8. We are said to be called "according to

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purpose", and that involves that we should be conformed to the image of God's Son. It gives us a simple impression in regard to the calling, which is developed in Paul's ministry until we come to the full height of it in Ephesians. The apostle evidently would give the very best to these Thessalonian babes.

J.T.Jr. It is very important that we should stress the fact that we are not called to uncleanness. There is that which would attract the young people particularly, as the lust of the flesh and that kind of thing, which works havoc in our souls and keeps us in bondage.

H.F.N. Quite. And then we are called "in sanctification". It involves that the vessel is really set apart with a view to the holy service of God. How important it is to get an impression in regard to the will of God. If we are called in sanctification, there is a great deal of wealth opened up to us in relation to God's will. The Thessalonians had been brought out of a heathen world -- a scene of idolatry -- where there was the worst kind of uncleanness. I suppose there is always the danger of our going back to that from which we have been called, hence the great importance of understanding our being called in sanctification.

A.P. What is involved in the word called?

H.F.N. I suppose God would appeal to us, that in the carrying out of His purpose He has brought us into blessing. As called to anything we are to be governed by it.

R.W.S. Paul said he was not among them with flattery, or covetousness or seeking glory, but he had been gentle in the midst of them as a nurse would cherish her own children. They would never have found that in the heathen system. Was that not an inducement, as cradled in love, to judge these moral elements?

H.F.N. Well, indeed; I suppose a nurse is particularly concerned about three things: first, the atmosphere in which the child is to thrive; then the suitable

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food it should be given; and the clothing it should wear. How the beloved apostle was concerned in regard to these three things, and the same spirit and desire should mark us.

J.S. What is involved in sanctification?

H.F.N. It is that we are really set apart as vessels for the will and service of God. It is a very wide subject, but the main thought is that we are set apart in relation to God's service and will. The apostle develops these great thoughts elsewhere. The next thought is the gift of the Spirit . It says in verse 8, "He therefore that in this disregards his brother, disregards, not man, but God, who has given also his Holy Spirit to you". This is an important statement in regard of this matter, and it would be of vital help to us all and particularly the younger brethren if we could get the thought of it in our souls.

If we get a divine impression of God's will, and then that we have been called, and then that God has given to us His Holy Spirit and what is bound up in that gift, it would be of immense gain.

J.T.Jr. So that the believer is set up here as having the Holy Spirit whereby he can use his vessel - himself really -- for the carrying out of God's will in his own affairs, on the one hand, and on the other hand, for the service and worship of God.

J.S. I suppose the Holy Spirit is seen here as on our side to maintain us in the will of God.

H.F.N. That is what I thought. Think of the possibilities that are opened up to us in the gift of the Holy Spirit! It has been truly said that we are often more infidel in regard to the presence of the Spirit than we are as to Christ. So that it is important that we raise the question. Are we making use of the Spirit -- are we in the present gain of His presence? He can say to these Thessalonian babes, "God ... has given ... his Holy Spirit to you".

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A.P. Does the making use of the Holy Spirit make good in a practical way the sanctification of verse 7?

H.F.N. It does. The Lord will take out of this scene what pleases Him, and He is producing it at the present moment by the Spirit. He is producing holy vessels in this scene which have their part in relation to God's service and are here for His pleasure.

A.R. Does the service of the Spirit develop a state in us so that the Spirit and the bride say. Come?

H.F.N. That is the great end in view.

C.H.H. Would the Holy Spirit produce in us what was seen in Enoch and Noah; first, an inward consciousness of God's pleasure, and then an outward testimony in the power of the Spirit?

H.F.N. I am sure that is right.

A.B.P. Would you help us on the practical experience of making more room for the Spirit and how we can use the Spirit as power?

H.F.N. Well, the thing is illustrated in the woman in 2 Kings 4 who was to sell the oil that was poured out and then live on the rest. The vessels are to be full. "Set aside what is full"(2 Kings 4:4) Elisha says.

A.R. Does the indwelling of the Holy Spirit develop a conscious relationship with the Lord Jesus and with the Father? It says, "no one can say. Lord Jesus, unless in the power of the Holy Spirit", (1 Corinthians 12:3), and by the Spirit we cry, Abba, Father.

H.F.N. Yes. What a joy it is to enter a holy realm, where, in the power of the Spirit, we say. Lord Jesus, and then to be able to look up and by the Spirit cry, Abba, Father. You can see therefore the profound import of this, "God, who has given also his Holy Spirit to you".

C.H.M. It brings out the holiness of God, does it not? I suppose that when the word "holy" is attached to the Spirit, it is to draw our attention to the need of holiness.

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J.S. It would really be in keeping with the thought of sanctification. We cannot maintain our vessels in sanctification except by the Spirit.

A.P.T. Does not David say, "and take not the spirit of thy holiness from me", (Psalm 51:11)? He felt the enormity of his sin in the presence of a holy God, did he not?

H.F.N. Indeed. So that, as having the Spirit, we should be exercised.

We have had the thought of God's will before us; that we are to be here for the will of God; and then we have considered the fact that we have been called; and then that God has given us His Holy Spirit, so that we should now see that we have been taught of God to love one another. Though young in the faith, these Thessalonian saints nevertheless had a flow of love amongst them, and it was a result of divine teaching. "For ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another", verse 9. It reminds us of the Lord's words in John 13:35: "if ye have love amongst yourselves". Well now, in view of the imminence of the rapture, God would challenge every one of us as to whether we have love among ourselves. If we are not free in love among ourselves how can we really welcome the thought of the rapture? I believe the Lord has been adjusting the brethren all over the world. Questions have been faced which have been unsettled, some of them, for years. The Lord has brought to light these questions, and they have been faced in His presence, and it has brought in a remarkable spirit of love among the brethren. Well now, dear brethren, we want to have part in that. The word for us is that we have been taught of God to love one another; there is not a brother or a sister that is not to be an object of our love. We have been taught of God to love one another. This is in relation to the Christian circle, though there is the public side. The Lord is challenging the brethren all

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over the world in regard to it. When you think of the ministry that the Lord has given to us -- the richest and choicest ministry -- well, what is the advantage of it to us if we have not love among ourselves? If there are any unsettled questions among us which are hindering that love, we should settle them at once.

J.S. We see in Cain the utter disregard of his brother. He says, "am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9).

C.A.M. The sphere of things into which we have been brought is where we love one another as taught of God. It is really a realm where there is no self-interest.

H.F.N. I am sure that is right. This was not written for the Thessalonians only. With all the light we profess, and the ministry we have received, it is a challenge to each one of us. "By this shall all know that ye are disciples of mine, if ye have love amongst yourselves", (John 13:35). As has been suggested, there is that which would come out publicly in testimony as a result. The Lord says in John 13:17, "If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them",.

J.T.Jr. Disregarding God, as suggested in verse 8 of our chapter, would be tantamount to disregarding His will or commandment, would it not?

H.F.N. Quite.

A.B.P. Loving one another would suggest a horizontal flow. Being "taught of God to love one another" is seen in Christ in John 13. He was teaching His own, and as the antitype of the Hebrew servant. He said, "I love ... my wife, and my children (Exodus 21:5)". The Lord calls them children in John 13:33.

H.F.N. It would indeed; and in the apostle, too, who had been the embodiment of love as moving amongst the Thessalonians. They had been taught by example.

A.R. The Lord, in quoting from Deuteronomy says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God ..." (Matthew 22:37) and then He says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 19:19).

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On these two commandments the whole law and the prophets hang", Matthew 22:37 - 40. The apostle, in writing to the Galatians, says, "The whole law is fulfilled in one word, in Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself", Galatians 5:14.

C.H.M. Why does "seek earnestly to be quiet and mind your own affairs", verse 11, come in in relation to loving one another? Do many of our troubles come about through taking up things which do not concern us?

H.F.N. I am sure that is right. It is not every one of us that carries it out. No doubt many of our troubles result from interfering with what is outside our range. If we were more occupied in caring for the interests of Christ and minding our own affairs, there would be fewer heartaches amongst the brethren, and these matters are touched on here as indicating how the Lord prepares us in view of our suitability for the rapture. We are all to be taught of God; that there may be a full flow of love amongst the brethren. There should not be a brother or a sister in the meeting into whose face one cannot look; and we should be able, as the apostle said, to "Salute one another with a holy kiss", (2 Corinthians 13:12). It would be a challenge to us, in view of the imminence of the rapture; for whilst we know that the moment has been set in the counsels of God, when the rapture will take place, and no man knows that day or hour, yet we may be hindered as to the present enjoyment of the hope by unsettled questions amongst us.

W.R. Reference is made in this epistle as well as in Corinthians to greeting one another with a holy kiss.

H.F.N. We should challenge our hearts as to whether there is a brother or a sister whom we cannot salute thus. The apostle, in speaking of the rapture, has in mind that the saints should be morally prepared for it. He is concerned that there should be developed that

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which is pleasing to the Lord, so that He delights to take it to heaven.

J.T.Jr. This challenge comes to us in a special way at the supper each Lord's day morning. The bread and the cup challenge us as to whether everything has been settled between us; that we are ready to go up.

W.R. In keeping with what has been said, the apostle says further, "Now the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly: and your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ", (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

R.W.S. What is companionable is translatable! Enoch walked with God three hundred years; there was companionship between him and God, and he was translated.

H.F.N. Very good; and that is what we would desire, and so the apostle now passes on to the thought of the rapture: "But we do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are fallen asleep, to the end that ye be not grieved even as also the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus has died and has risen again, so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus", chapter 4: 13,14. Our attention has often been called to the fact that some of the Thessalonians had been taken away by death, and those who remained were troubled because they thought the sleeping ones would miss the coming of the Lord. The word would comfort and instruct their hearts, for he first deals with those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. Think of the vast number of saints who have fallen asleep through Jesus! It is also said of them that they have died in Christ , they have died in faith and many of them are said to have died in the Lord , but here, it is said that they have fallen asleep through Jesus. What a source of comfort it is to think that those who have been taken from us have fallen asleep through Jesus! He has served them as they fell asleep.

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A.F.M. They will have the first attention.

H.F.N. Yes; one cherishes the thought that the rapture will be for the pleasure of God and for the heart of Christ, yet, of course, we come into it, and those who sleep will have the first attention.

A.P. What is the difference between the thought of falling asleep and of dying?

H.F.N. We have the expression in Revelation 14:13, "Blessed the dead who die in the Lord",. That is of course a military reference to those who die in relation to the testimony. Every Christian who has passed away can be said to have died in Christ, but it is not every one who dies in the Lord.

A.R. Would you explain the end of verse 14: "so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus"?

H.F.N. What follows is the explanation. The parenthesis in verses 15 - 18 contains a special revelation of the Lord to Paul in regard to the rapture and it explains how God is to bring these saints who have fallen asleep through Jesus with Jesus. The truth of the rapture is brought in to comfort the hearts of those saints in regard to their departed brethren.

R.W.S. Will you say more as to what you have in mind about dying in the Lord, in Christ, and falling asleep through Jesus?

H.F.N. I think dying in Christ stands in relation to headship and in contrast to what we are in Adam; we die in Christ . Dying in the Lord suggests a victorious death upon the battlefield; we die in relation to the testimony. Then also, we are said to die in faith . Faith is divine light in the soul; we die with the light of another world in our hearts. And then we get this beautiful thought of falling asleep through Jesus. He puts us to sleep, as it were. It is like a child falling asleep in its parent's arms.

J.T.Jr. The thought "through Jesus" suggests

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instrumentality. It is the One who had to say to death, who performs this service to His saints.

H.F.N. Yes. Our chapter is really moral education in view of translation, and the apostle brings revelation to bear upon it; "For this we say to you in the word of the Lord, that we , the living, who remain to the coming of the Lord, are in no way to anticipate those who have fallen asleep", verse 15, and then he says later, "the dead in Christ shall rise first", verse 16. Well, we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that those who have died in Christ from Adam down will be raised incorruptible, as a witness to the power of God over death. Think of the myriads of the saints who will have part in that testimony, as it says, "then shall come to pass the word ... Death has been swallowed up in victory", (1 Corinthians 15:54). And now we have this special revelation in regard to the rapture. The living are not to go before those who have fallen asleep, but, "the Lord himself, with an assembling shout, with archangel's voice and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we , the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air", verse 16, 17.

J.S. These verses which you have quoted give us the manner, or order, by which the thing will be brought about.

H.F.N. Exactly.

A.R. What would you say about the words used, "the Lord himself ... shall descend"? Why does it say "the Lord"?

H.F.N. There are different uses of the title "Lord", but I think here. He is presented as the supreme One; administration is in His hands. "The Lord himself ... shall descend". It is a question of the exercise of His power.

W.F.K. Would the shout be the same as the loud voice that called Lazarus from the grave?

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H.F.N. It is the same voice.

J.S. Would the assembling shout have a military aspect; that is, it gathers all together?

H.F.N. Indeed; it reminds us of the passage in the book of Numbers where the priests sounded the silver trumpets, and the people were gathered together; and then, too, the Lord's supper really becomes the rallying point for the saints, but the last move on the part of the saints is when we respond to this assembling shout.

C.H.M. I suppose there is the idea of victory in the assembling shout. We do not read of any great stir on earth in connection with the rapture, but it will hardly be private in heaven, for Satan will be cast out of heaven.

H.F.N. Would you not connect that with the catching up of the Man-child? The moment Christ and the saints have entered into the heavenlies, then Satan is publicly cast out; but the rapture as such is secret. The assembling shout gives it character, as connecting it with the passage in Numbers. We have been accustomed to the sound of the trumpet in relation to the movements of the testimony, and its final movement will be when the assembly leaves this scene. That is the last time the silver trumpet will be heard. And so, we have the assembling shout, archangel voice, and trump of God; that is, the character of the voice, a voice of power and victory , and then the divine assertion of authority .

W.F.K. Would the word in Revelation 4:1 come in here? -- "the ... voice which I heard as of a trumpet speaking with me, saying. Come up here",.

H.F.N. It is similar in character.

A.R. If we are going to respond to the supreme call of the rights of God in the rapture, should we not, in the meantime, be concerned about yielding to God's rights over us on earth?

H.F.N. Yes. The three things take place concurrently; it is the assembling shout, which is the

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intimate thought; then archangel's voice, which I thought really brings out that the Lord is Head of the angelic band. He is not only Head of the assembly, and Head of every man, but He is Head of the angelic band; so that it is the voice of power; and then the trump of God is the assertion of divine authority over the whole realm of the dead. The scripture is clear, "for the Lord himself, ... shall descend from heaven; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we , the living who remain, shall, be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air", verse 17. Emphasis is on the word "together". He has spoken of those who have fallen asleep through Jesus, and then he refers to the living who remain, who shall not anticipate the sleeping ones, for we shall all be caught up together ; we shall all meet Him together. One feels that the Lord is stirring up His people so that the hope of His coming may be revived in their affections, and that we might view it from the standpoint of what God will secure for His pleasure, and what there will be for the heart of Christ. If that were to take place tonight, what joy and ecstatic bliss would be ours in seeing the face of the Lord Jesus. It should challenge us if there is anything on our part that is hindering this.

J.T.Jr. It is a great thing to be able, every one of us, to put ourselves in the "we" as we face this great prospect.

H.F.N. One would like to guard against the teaching abroad today in regard to a partial rapture, which, we need hardly say, is foreign to scripture. The Lord is not to take half His bride. When the Lord comes for His assembly, He will take the whole company. As a simple illustration, a magnet, when applied to steel particles will draw them all to it, even though some may be rusty and others bright. That, of course, is His side, but on our side, we should face the question as to whether,

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if the Lord should come tonight, we are really prepared for translation.

J.S. All difficulties should be settled; all that stands in the way should be removed.

A.P.T. You mean we should get rid of the rust.

H.F.N. Exactly.