A MEETING IN THE AIR
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, 5:1–11
Memory verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17
”For the Lord himself will come down from heaven...and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them.... And so we will be with the Lord forever."
Ask the students to name some events that can come upon us without warning. They will probably name such things as thunderstorms, fire, or accidents. Then discuss ways we can be prepared for such events—build strong houses; keep the grass cut near houses, etc.
We need to be prepared for a fire. The best way to avoid a fire is to eliminate any possible cause of a fire. Allow students to suggest ways fire can be avoided; then ask what they should do in case of a fire. Offer suggestions.
Finally, review basic safety rules around the house that help eliminate accidents, such as falls, cuts, or burns. Such items include keeping objects off steps, not playing with matches, keeping poisons out of the reach of small children, etc.
Tell the students the most important event for us to know about and be prepared for can happen even more quickly and unexpectedly than any of the previous events. This event has a more lasting effect on us than anything that has ever happened before. Because of the impact of this event, it is very important that we be prepared for it. This week’s study will tell what the event is and give ways we can get prepared. Emphasize that if we are prepared, this event will be an exciting, wonderful time.
Hearing God’s Word
First Thessalonians is the first letter written by Paul to the church at Thessalonica. Paul wrote this letter after receiving a report from Timothy, his co-worker in preaching the gospel.
Paul’s Concern for the Thessalonians
Paul had spent some time in Thessalonica and preached to the people there. Then he went on to other places. However, he was still thinking about the Thessalonians. (Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2.) Paul was worried that the Thessalonians would be frightened and discouraged by the persecution they were suffering from unbelievers. He did not want the Thessalonians to lose hope and give up their faith. So Timothy was sent to encourage the people to stay true in their belief in God and His Son Jesus, to let their love increase and to live holy lives through Jesus.
Questions about Jesus’ Return
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to answer questions on a subject that concerned them. They wondered what would happen to loved ones who died before Jesus came back to take believers to heaven. If they were already dead, what hope could they have? They were afraid their loved ones who died would not get to go to heaven. They thought they would never see these people again.
Ask: Do you think the Thessalonians were right? What will happen to Christians who die before Jesus comes back? (Allow responses.)
Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know they had nothing to fear. He told them what will happen when Jesus returns. (Ask a student to read 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.) First, Jesus will come with a commanding shout, and the trumpet of God will sound. Then Christians who have died will rise from their graves and meet Jesus in the air.
Finally, those of us who are still living will rise in the air to join them. (Instruct the students to find the memory verse in their Bibles and read it in unison.
All Christians will Rise
Gods plan is for deceased Christians to rise from the dead, just as Jesus, who died on Calvary, rose from the grave victorious over sin and death. Paul says, “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). He did not want the Thessalonians to grieve and be sad. The return of Christ would be a happy, glorious day for all Christians.
Jesus’ Coming is Unexpected
The Thessalonians were curious about the day and time Jesus would return in the clouds. They probably asked such questions as these: “What is the exact day Jesus will come back?” “How will I know when He is coming?” “Will I be warned so I can prepare for His return?”
Paul answered these questions in 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11. (Let volunteers read these verses.) He told the people it was not necessary to know the exact day or hour of Jesus’ return because Christians should always be ready. He compared Jesus’ return to the coming of a thief in the night. Thieves often break into a business or home late at night when it is dark and everyone is sleeping. The thief does not tell anyone he is coming, so no one will expect him. But we can prepare for thieves by making our homes and cars secure. (Refer also to the Lesson Lead—In discussion if you had that discussion.)
Jesus’ return will be just as unexpected. We can prepare for His return just as we prepare for other unexpected events. Paul told the Thessalonians Jesus’ return should not surprise us as a thief in the night. We should live every day without fear, alert to Jesus’ promise to return. We should be active and working for Him. If we are living for Jesus, we need not fear His coming. In fact, we can look forward to it. Paul gave the Thessalonians a command in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Ask: What is Paul’s command to the church? (Allow a student to answer.)
Reactions about Jesus’ Coming
Ask: How do you really feel when someone mentions Jesus’ return? Do you feel fear, hope, anxiety, or joy? Do you experience mixed emotions? (Allow responses.)
Let us think back to what we have learned about Jesus’ first coming to earth.
Ask: How did people react to Jesus then? (Allow responses.)
Many people doubted Jesus. They just could not believe God would come as a tiny baby and be born in a lowly stable among dirty animals. As Jesus grew into a man, more people began to believe in Him as He performed miracles and spoke wise, loving words. Others were confused by what they saw and heard about Him. Religious and government leaders were angry and fearful. They thought Jesus would lead a rebellion and try to become an earthly king.
Reactions to the fact that Jesus will return to take Christians to be with Him are probably as varied as those just mentioned. Some people doubt; others fear. Many people get angry and say the idea is ridiculous. Of course Christians believe Jesus’ promise to return, for we have witnessed the many promises He has already kept. (Discuss experiences the students have had that demonstrate Jesus’ faithfulness in keeping His promises. Share some personal experiences as well.)
We know God’s Word is fact. Jesus will return in the clouds to take every Christian to heaven to live with Him. This includes our Christian relatives and friends who have already died. In fact, if Jesus returned today, those loved ones would rise to meet Him first.
We Can See Loved Ones Again
Anything as spectacular and awesome as the return of Jesus, as Paul described it. may cause a little confusion in our minds and emotions. After all, we have never seen such a sight! But think of the glorious hope we have. We will be reunited with loved ones who have died, and we will live forever with Jesus.
It is natural to be very sad at the death of a loved one and to feel a terrible loss. We miss those who have died, but we can also feel joy knowing that, if this person knew Jesus as his Saviour, we will see this loved one again in heaven. Jesus has promised that when He returns, we “will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Accepting God’s Word
Ask all the students to think about whether they are ready to meet Jesus when He returns suddenly, with the shout of the archangel and the trumpet call of God. Tell them that if they will ask Jesus to be their Saviour, they can be ready for Him when He catches away those who love and believe in Him.
Help your students understand that the only reason anyone should be afraid of Jesus’ return is if that person has not had his sins forgiven. Without forgiveness, our sins will keep us from joining Jesus when He returns to take us to heaven with Him. Ask if anyone in your class has not accepted Jesus as Saviour. Pray with any who respond.
Present the information about the Krongo tribe in Sudan given below.
Meet the Krongo
REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for the Krongo tribe in Sudan
1. The Krongo to hear the message of repentance and forgiveness,
2. Believers who are in neighbouring tribes open their eyes to the spiritual needs of the Krongo,
3. All of us recognize that we have a responsibility to present an adequate witness of the gospel to the Krongo.
"And repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations (tribes)" (Luke 24:47).
MORE INFORMATION: www.joshuaproject.net
Remember: A MEETING IN THE AIR
Memory verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17
”For the Lord himself will come down from heaven...and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that , we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them.... And so we will be with the Lord forever."
1. Jesus may return today.
2. I will prepare for His coming by living a holy life.
3. I will encourage unbelievers to accept Jesus as their Saviour, now!
Pray for the Krongo tribe in Sudan.
Study 12 | Give to God / Paul Writes | africaatts.org/go-teach