A text of the message of February 9, 2020 from Melvin Gaines:
Once a month I have a bible study over at my mother’s assisted living and memory care community, Forest Hills Place in Cleveland Heights. The bible study is well attended as the staff must gather the participants together in an area on the third floor of the main building. Now, just so you know, the participants on the third floor have memory issues, and so much so that they are not able to leave the floor on their own. They require a higher level of care and supervision, but not so much that they don’t understand what is going on. A few of the residents, an even mix of blacks and whites and male and female, know about church and have familiarity with discussions about Jesus. Some of the residents are less inclined to participate as they may be further down the road, so to speak, with their attentiveness and focus. With that said, there are still about 15-20 of them that can hang in there for a one-hour bible study.
(For those who were wondering, my mother is now in the rear building at Forest Hills, which is referred to as Forest Way. It is for residents with advanced cases of memory care, and while there is human interaction it is more for just purposes of contact and stimuli. She is doing well and still has a good appetite, but she does not recognize any friends or relatives who visit.)
Since a bible study at Forest Hills Place must be a one-and-done study (as no one will remember what happens from month to month), I have gone through several studies each month since June of 2018. I started with the book of James and then went through Philippians, Colossians, and now First and Second Thessalonians. In the Thessalonians study, the emphasis has been, and will continue to be the use of my mantra for the group there to stand firm, stay the course, and remain faithful. Perhaps you remember that I used this same phrase during my message last week. The reason that I emphasize this phrase to stand firm, stay the course and remain faithful is because the daily routine of the residents is pretty much the same each day. They wake up and get dressed (or someone dresses them) and they follow a schedule of activities as guided by the staff of professionals, including a set time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the middle of all of this are nurses that monitor each resident as to their diet and medication. This is their routine every day. It is fitting for them (and for us) to make sure that we remain vigilant in one very important area of life, and that is to stand firm, stay the course, and remain faithful to Jesus Christ each and every day.
So, for our discussion today we will look at the Thessalonians, who I have deemed to be a very special group of people, and I believe that Paul saw them as unique, as well. I’ll explain why I believe this, but I want to share with you very briefly as to the history of this group of people in the Bible that we find had received two letters from Paul. The Thessalonians were a new group of believers and were a church plant by Paul and his companions sometime around the summer of A.D. 50. Paul and his group had to leave the area rather quickly because of the threat of persecution (Satan was very busy back then) and left for Berea. He checked back with the Thessalonians as a follow-up and found that they were doing well in some areas of the faith but not so well in others, and a lot of this had to do with persecution. It was very, very tough for the new believers. If you’re wondering how tough it was, consider that Thessalonica was not just a small village. It was a great city. It was the capital and largest city (about 200,000 people) of the Roman province of Macedonia. The most important Roman highway (the Egnatian Way)—extending from Rome all the way to the Orient—went through Thessalonica. This highway, along with the city’s thriving seaport, made it one of the wealthiest trade centers in the Roman empire. Thessalonica was a free city and was allowed self-rule, which meant they were exempt from most of the restrictions placed by Rome on other cities in the empire. With its international flavor, however, came many pagan religions and cultural influences that challenged the faith of the young Christians there.
Today, the name of the city is Thessaloniki (which is Greek), and there are over a million people there in central Greece. They are one of the few cities in the Bible that still have the same name today! Who says that the Bible is not a history book?
Now, as to why I believe the Thessalonians were special in Paul’s eyes: Were they perfect? No. They made a number of mistakes. They were mixed up and distracted in the popular traditions of the day, and they were persecuted for their faith. So much so that they were asking early and often as to when Jesus was coming back. When is Jesus coming back, Paul? You said He would come back—when? They were so intrigued with the prospect of Jesus’ return that some of them stopped working altogether, and by doing so they became subject to the trappings of sin (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13), but Paul saw that the Thessalonian faithful needed something more. So, we see this in our featured passage today:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV
13 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. 14 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. 15 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. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Now, this passage followed verses that emphasized the importance of staying obedient to God and His Word and loving one another as God loves you, and then the Spirit imparted Paul to add these words.
This is the only place in God’s Word where we see this rendition of the monumental event of the dead and living in Christ going to meet Him in the air. Praise the Lord for the amazing word-picture visualization. It certainly gets your imagination going, and this is exactly what the Thessalonians must have needed to stand firm, stay the course, and remain faithful.
It’s what we all need to see, as well. In today’s world of uncertainty, we need reminders of Christ’s promises and how He will keep every single one of them, including this one!
These are the ultimate words to encourage the Thessalonians, in the midst of all of the confusion surrounding them and all of the hassles that they were experiencing, to live a joyful life knowing that there is something amazing that is coming one day for both the dead in Christ and those who were still alive in Christ.
Remember the last verse of this passage: Therefore encourage one another with these words.
The Thessalonians were charged by Paul to encourage one another.
We participate in bible studies to encourage one another with God’s Word.
We listen to the Spirit speak to us for the primary reason of encouragement, and we fellowship to encourage one another.
Encourage one another with these words.
And what does the word “rapture” mean? Well, it describes the event in 1 Thessalonians 4 where the dead and alive in Christ meet him in the air, but the actual word meaning is very telling.
Rapture is a noun, and it describes (1) an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion; (2) a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion.1 It is also defined as the described future event, but the name itself has a wonderful connotation of euphoria and wonder.
Note the key words in the definition: ecstasy, passion and overwhelming emotion—each of these is a great description of what we can only imagine to be the most amazing, incredible, life-altering moment that we will ever experience! We will no longer look at superheroes in our imagination who can fly such as Superman. One day, we WILL be flying like Superman!
The words of the Rapture to the Thessalonians were indeed words of encouragement, and not just for encouragement, but to experience delight and joy!
I must tell you that it is a joy to experience the power of Jesus, His healing, His mercy, and He is worth celebrating!
I sincerely hope that you can see this for yourself. Jesus will be coming again soon. He will return one incredible day, and it will be amazing to behold!
About a week ago I was up half the night because I kept thinking about this message, which I have called Rapture Delight, because I kept thinking over and over again about Rapper’s Delight. And of course, you ask, why Rapper’s Delight? Well, because the Rapture is a celebration of Jesus returning to gather His people, and it is because of the Good News of Jesus Christ when you trust Him as your personal Lord and Savior.
And because the word rapper sounds like rapture…and I like the song, Rapper’s Delight!
So, I woke up that morning and jotted down some lyrics. And now I’ll share them with you.
Lyrics by Melvin Gaines
Sung to the tune of Rapper’s Delight 2
For a YouTube video of this, please click here.
Well a hip, hop, a hippy a hippy dippy hip hip hop and you don’t stop—
Rock it out baby bubba to the boogity bang bang a boogy to the boogity beat
I say I couldn’t wait for the end of this week
‘Cause I can rap to the rhythm of the groovy beat
And take the time to tell you a story
About the way some of us are going to glory
It comes from Jesus, Lord and Savior
Who died on the cross to show His favor
He paid the penalty for our sins
So everyone who knows the Savior wins
Now everyone can see this world is crazy
But He doesn’t want any of us to be lazy
He wants us to do what’s good and right
And this is what leads to this rapper’s delight
This glory story is about Christ’s return
And He wants His children to know and learn
His Word is First Thessalonians Four
Listen very close and I’ll tell you more
Now what I have to say will be about
How Jesus will return with a mighty shout
No need to worry about the sisters and brothers
Who die in Christ, all the fathers and mothers
‘Cause Jesus will do in the twinkling of an eye—
Raise ‘em from the grave and meet ‘em on high
It will be amazing—a sight to behold
Guaranteed to shock the world!
Then those still alive will then take flight
And join Christ with the others in heavenly height!
Another promise that Jesus will keep
So be encouraged whether alive or asleep
If we know Jesus we will be with Him
For eternity—everybody say—Amen!
Now you’ve heard this rapper’s delight!
To live for Christ and pray day and night!
Put on God’s armor, shield and sword
Let the Spirit guide you and stay in His Word.
1 Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Rapture. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved February 7, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rapture
2 Rodgers, N. (2011). Rapper’s Delight (Instrumental) – from “Good Times”. [MP3].