Sunday, June 05, 2005


The Lord Himself Will Descend from Heaven

It may be that Paul had Exodus 19 in mind when he wrote I Thessalonians 4. A number of parallels exist between the scene at Mount Sinai when God gave the Ten Commandments and the scene at the time of the Rapture.

1. It is an event designed for God to meet his people:
Exodus 19:17 – Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God
I Thessalonians 4:17 – to meet the Lord in the air

2. The sounding of the trumpet:
Exodus 19: 16, 19 – the sound of the trumpet grew louder
I Thessalonians 4:16 – with the trumpet call of God

3. The descent of the Lord from heaven:
Exodus 19:20 – The LORD came down to the top of the mountain
I Thessalonians 4:16 – The Lord himself will descend from heaven

4. The ascent of the people to meet God:
Exodus 19:13 – When the ram’s horn sounds . . . they shall come up
I Thessalonians 4:17 – will be caught up together with them in the clouds

5. Warnings about sexual activity as part of the preparation for the meeting:
Exodus 19:15 – do not go near a woman
I Thessalonians 4:3 – avoid fornication

The announced plan of all the Israelites meeting God on Mount Sinai did not take place. Exodus records that instead of going up the mountain to meet God at the trumpet's signal, the people remained at a distance out of fear (Exodus 20:18-21). They were unwilling to have a direct relationship and companionship with God. Instead, they asked Moses to do their talking to God and to do God’s talking to them. This led to the establishment of a mediated covenant between God and Israel at that time. The covenant was mediated through Moses, through the Tabernacle, through the Levitical priests, and through many additional commandments.

This “old” covenant lasted from the days of Moses until the death of Jesus Christ, who established a “new” covenant through his blood. The new covenant allows for one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. Thus, believers today do not need a priest, ceremonial rites, or a veil to protect us from God. We have a direct relationship with God.

During our lifetime here on earth, however, believers are not yet in our full, face-to-face companionship with God. The full benefits of the new covenant are not yet in our grasp. This is not a mistake or a failure, but a predicted situation. As Jesus ratified the new covenant with the disciples at the Last Supper, just before his actual death, he commanded his people to remember him through the ceremonial communion observance. He, though, would not drink of the cup again until he drank it anew in the Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:27-29). So, there remained a future completion or consummation of the new covenant.

It seems, then, that the ultimate purpose of God is for Jesus’ followers to enter into a direct contact with Him, just as the original offer to Israel under Moses was for all the people to enter into direct contact with Him. God would come down with a trumpet signal to meet a people who had prepared themselves to enter his presence. At the appropriate time, the people would ascend to meet the Lord. This scenario did not occur in Moses’ day, because of the unbelief and fear of the people. It will happen some day for us, at the return of Jesus. At the signal, the sleeping saints will be raised from death and join the living saints in a going up to meet the Lord.

Paul wants us to comfort and encourage each other with this promise. How encouraging to realize that God has not abandoned his desire of meeting and being forever with his people, even if the full experience of that direct communion had to be postponed for centuries because of unbelief.

Let's keep reading with our eyes open.

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