10 September 2020

Topic: afterlife

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How to Face Death and Judgement

Bible Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10

How to Face Death and Judgement

Are you ready to face death with a smile? Pastor Austin Rammell shares 2 tools from 1 Thessalonians 5 that will help you eliminate the fear of death and judgment.

Venture’s Weekly Worship Gathering on September 13, 2020.

Everybody knows they will die and most believe they will be judged. So how do we truly live with that reality? #ThisIsLiving #DareToVenture

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Intro:  Even non-Christians live aware they will die and may even live with a sense that there is a judgment. However, the way the world attempts to live facing this reality and the way we as Christians can live are two totally different experiences. Paul contrasts these experiences and their implications in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10.

1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 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. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 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. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  (5:1-10)

Prop:  1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 demonstrates two contrasting experiences of living with knowledge of death and eternal accountability.

The first experience is that of the lost world …

The lost world faces death and eternal accountability with a false sense of peace and security that will horrifically end.  (5:1-3)

Note: The “roaring 20s” was built on the sale of junk bonds that literally led to the Great Depression. Life in the 1920’s was a total contrast to the massive economic destruction of the 1930’s. In the 20’s they were living a farce because things were really not good even though they convinced themselves they were. They were building a big huge party on top of a frozen lake and suddenly the ice cracked! For those who have never given their life to Christ they still are aware that one day they are going to die and even potentially believe they are going to be held accountable to God. So how do you live? That is really live, all the while knowing death is coming, and potentially judgment! Well, just like in the 1920’s, the world does that by creating a sense of confidence and security through its current circumstances, watch how Paul highlights this.

1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you

He begins by encouraging the believers in Thessalonica that they have no need for any more information on the subject of when Christ will return. As in the order of things, when which season happens. Our life groups will be diving into that subject. So if you want more on what Paul had already taught them, then get plugged in to one of our groups this week or next!

To those concerned with feeling you need to know the date or even approximate date He’s coming back, just remember Jesus refused to share that knowledge and sometimes even to acknowledge the question, i.e. ACTS 1!

In spite of not knowing, it has been tempting for the church to try to figure out the times and seasons. This is not just the error of the Thessalonians. This is the same thing that the apostles asked Jesus in Matthew 24:3 and at the beginning of Acts (1:6). After being told by Jesus and Paul that we do not need to worry about times and seasons, we might think that is enough. Surely we would not keep trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back … right? And yet we continue to guess at the dates and to struggle with this. We reason that if we just knew the date, we would be ready! So we continue to set dates for the coming of Christ.

It’s also important to remember that Jesus even told His disciples that He didn’t know when the Father was going to send Him back. So it’s a little ridiculous that we continue to be drawn to people that claim they have figured it out!  “In 1988 I was in middle school, and I distinctly remember standing on a hill outside our school talking to several other students about the return of Christ. A former NASA engineer named Edgar C. Whisenant had written a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, which predicted that Jesus would return to rapture his church during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah on September 11–13, 1988. Many evangelicals took Whisenant’s predictions seriously, and by some estimates his book sold over four million copies. The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) actually interrupted their regular programs in order to help Christians prepare for the rapture. When it did not happen, Whisenant shifted the date to October 3. When that date failed, he told Christianity Today, “The evidence is all over the place that it is going to be in a few weeks anyway.” When the rapture did not occur, Whisenant continued to predict a date in 1989, 1993, and 1994.”

Paul then describes the effect of the return of Christ on the lost world.

2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (nobody will know when … nobody will expect it). 3 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. 

“Peace” and “security,” especially “peace,” were regularly used to tout the great Pax Romana (see comments on 1:1, above). The Roman historian, Velleius Paterculus, a younger contemporary of Paul, uses two equivalent Latin terms in tandem to describe the “assurance of safety, order, peace and tranquility” associated with the ascendancy of Rome (Compendium of Roman History II, 103.5; cf. Tacitus Histories 2.12.1 and 4.73).

The people in Thessalonica fully enjoyed a peace called the Pax Romano. It was a peace that offered them tremendous prosperity because instead of spending money to fight wars and defend themselves, they could instead continue to put money into their economy and build their wealth. However, Paul points to this peace and security as nothing more than a farce that will horrifically and inescapably end!

The point of the metaphor of labor pains is she can’t stop it once it starts. There is no reverse, the outcome is happening! This emphasizes the absolute nature of the reality of the second coming of Christ in that when He comes there is no going back, and the outcome is certain. For those who are not in Christ they will stand condemned at the judgment seat of Christ.

The phrase in verse three “then sudden destruction will come upon them” emphasizes the harsh reality Jesus frequently taught in that eternal damnation is real. So the lost world has a sense of peace and security that they should not have because in the end they actually have no reason to feel any peace and security. That is they are not at peace with God because they stand condemned by God in their lack of submission to Christ and therefore have no security from His wrath!

They have literally built their lives on a frozen lake/junk bonds of the peace, security, prosperity of this world. Thus when He returns it will be a disaster because things have nothing to do with their standing before an almighty God! There will be no possibility for doing things over or going back. It is an inescapable reality!

So the experience for the lost world in this life is to reject their conscience that tells them accountability before God is real and let the pleasures of this life convince them everything’s going to be OK. This ends with shocking disaster just as the great depression came upon the world in 1929. However, for followers of Christ there is a different reality!

The 2nd experience is that of those who are actually saved …

Those who are in Christ have the tools to live with confidence and excitement because of how things will end! (5:4-10)

4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 

Everyday, when I leave for work, if my kids are awake I kiss them and tell them I’ll see you tonight. I do the same thing with my wife. That gives them assurance that I’ll be back!  But, if they were to wake up and suddenly be unable to find me, couldn’t call me, I left no note, I had said nothing about  leaving then they would get really worried.

Point being that as believers we are not in the dark about what’s coming. It is not like a thief in the night to us. We know He’s coming and we know what’s going to take place! Christ did not leave us like that. He didn’t just die and disappear, He rose from the grave, testified of the future, gave all of us a job to do and then ascended in front of the eyes of hundreds! So listen, we are not in the dark about death and eternity. He is alive and coming back to establish His Kingdom for us to dwell with Him forever! We know this to be true. We are not in the dark about the future! So….

6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 

The metaphor of sleeping and drunkenness takes us back to the first few verses and how the world handles the reality of death and accountability. It generally handles it in one of two ways…

The Drunken Pessimist: everything is going to be terrible so I’m just going to get drunk and pass out!

The Drunken Optimist: everything is going to be just fine because I feel great!

Paul commands them not to embrace the future as a drunk who passes out and goes to sleep knowing what’s coming. Nor a drunk who just runs around happy even though the ship is sinking!

We are to face the coming of Christ soberly. But, how do we do that knowing we are all going to be judged? How do you face that soberly?Even as Christians we know we are going to be judged by Christ for every word, action and even thought! Every desire of our heart will be judged by Christ. I don’t fully understand the reality of how Christ going to issue rewards and consequences because the Scriptures are not super clear. There is a lot of metaphoric language used, but the point of the metaphors are clear and that is that we will be judged and we will receive rewards and consequences. As in we believers! So how in the world do we live soberly? That is not freaking out and just block out that reality in drunken pessimism or optimism. Well listen to verses 8-10 …

8 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. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

First of all I want you notice the metaphor has a military context. Paul is speaking of armament used by soldiers. Military armament was meant to help soldiers mitigate fear and win in battle by giving them confidence to freely fight and engage the enemy.

It’s the difference between going to a fight with just a sword and a tunic to face the enemy or sent in with armament and a sword. One goes in fearing for his life and the other goes focused on the attack!

“Having put on” this armament is very specific in that it’s called a Circumstantial Participle which is used “to express the conditions, or circumstances.” Our reality of believers is that we have put on something that should give us huge confidence and motivate us to fight the good fight of life with tenacity and Joy. What are those tools, the armaments?

Paul mentions two specific tools for living. Armaments that equip us to fight the fight of life and run the race with joy and excitement and confidence rightly knowing everything will be ok at Christ’s coming!

The breastplate of faith and love is the reality the Gospel has created for us that protects the passions of our heart.

The faith in all that Christ has accomplished for us and the gift of God has given us to believe it and trust in it.

Love highlights exactly what that faith is about. The love of Christ being poured out for us to rescue us from sin and adopt us forever as His children!

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him!

These two descriptions apply to the breastplate. A breastplate covers the chest, the heart, the seat of our passions, and sense of value. Where our worth and drive for living exists! Paul says you have this breastplate on. Look and see it, realize it. You have been equipped to not feel all hope is lost and just go get drunk and endure life! You are equipped to passionately engage life. You are equipped to run! To live your life obeying and loving God, loving others and engaging people with the Gospel. You have what’s necessary to protect your heart in that effort. What Christ accomplished on calvary has demonstrated that we are loved forever and that we are secure in Him. So we can run and not grow weary. If we acknowledge what we He has given us! There’s nothing like our sin and failure to convince us that there’s no point trying. Our own sins and failures make us lose heart that God loves us and that we could possibly have any future other than punishment and condemnation. But, the breastplate of faith and love, is the revelation of all that God has done for us and guards our heart so that we don’t lose heart. We don’t feel everything is futile and that our efforts our pointless! Furthermore …

The helmet of salvation is the reality the Gospel has created for us that protects our minds from false thinking and bad decisions.

I’ll never forget the North Gaston vs. South Point football game in 2007. It was for the Conference championship and it was the last regular season game of the year. North Gaston stadium was absolutely packed, record crowd. Our quarterback and running back combo was the best one/two punch running combos in the state. Our offensive lineman dominated defenses and regularly opened up huge holes for those two to get the second level, make people miss and get huge chunks of yards. We had a game plan that we knew was going to win. But two things happened in the emotion of the moment that was compounded by a terrible tragedy and the game plan went out the door. The offensive was not running the plays we were calling on the sideline and the defense was not executing their assignments. The results were that we got so far behind that despite a huge comeback in the 2nd half we just didn’t have enough time to win the game. The clock literally ran out on us. Physically and athletically we were the better team. No doubt about that! But playing half the game the wrong way made us lose! They didn’t lose hope they could win. As as a matter of fact they were actually over confident. So much so they thought they could play however they want. They tossed the game plan to do what they felt like doing in the moment! They bought a lie!

So now to Paul’s metaphor of a helmet. Obviously, the helmet is a military armament intended to protect the head. He has already mentioned in this letter that Satan is our enemy and seeks to attack us and our effort to move the Gospel forward. He does this primarily by getting us to believe lies about God and His Gospel!

That we a really aren’t saved. That He really isn’t coming back. That Heaven isn’t real. Most importantly that being faithful to Him, by obeying His instructions on how we are to live and what we are to do aren’t worthy! The game plan isn’t working and it’s not worth sticking to, just do your own thing.

Hope equips us to make right decisions! Because we know Christ is coming back, we know we have something awesome to labor for! It’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:58 to be steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord. Because eternal life is real. Jesus is coming back and he is going to reward us for being faithful to the task! If you know that being faithful to the Lord is worth it, then you can stay in the fight. If you know the game plan and that the game plan will win, then you will make the decisions based on that game plan! Life in Him is worth living!

The knowledge of the Gospel assures us that Christ is alive. Heaven is real, and Jesus is coming back to set up His kingdom for all who are in Him to rule and reign with Him forever! It gives us the hope to stay focused on our task! This right knowledge about the future, this right knowledge on what He has called us to do (love Him, love others and make disciples) is a helmet to protect us from all the lies, and circumstances that Satan and life will bring us to keep us from truly living. To try to get us rattled and feel like we need to replace God’s instructions and game plan with our own because God’s ain’t going to get it done!

Challenge: Are you refusing to surrender your life to Christ and thus living in a farce?  Are you a believer who is living as if you are not equipped for it?

If you have never given your life to Christ you need to understand, this may sound like a hellfire and brimstone sermon to you. It should! Hellfire and brimstone describe the terror to come at the judgement seat of Christ on all who have not surrendered their life to Him. So yes, you have no reason to not fear His coming. But you have every opportunity to embrace the Gospel that will give you every reason not to!

To the believers, we are called to fight the fight of life in Christ. Not just hide in the city, get drunk and wait on the inevitable. Rather to live to fight the good fight. To stay focused on our mission of loving and obeying God, loving people and engaging those far from God with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to know and follow Him. We are to stay wide open, “GO MAN GO”, pedal to the metal, full throttle, full steam ahead with no fear at all because we are equipped to do so! So are you? are you ignoring that you are equipped to live and thus settling for defeat? There is nothing more ridiculous than settling for defeat when victory is ours!

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