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"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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What's the Difference: Epistle or Letter?

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 1:1 "an epistle") To Timothy, my true son in the faith. (I Timothy 1:2 "a letter")

Most people use the word "epistle" and "letter" interchangeably making no distinct difference between the two. Actually, there is a difference.

Both the epistle and the letter follow the format of our present day business letter with a recipient identified, greeting, body, closing and the name of the sender. Even though epistle is synonymous with letter, the epistle is sometimes regarded as more formal, and the letter is more personal. The New Testament has 21 epistles/letters; 13 written by Paul (Romans through Philemon) and the remaining 8 are general epistles/letters (Hebrews through Jude).

The Pauline epistles are public documents written to churches (Romans to the church at Rome, I and II Corinthians to the church at Corinth, Galatians to the church at Galatia, etc.). The Pauline epistles are longer documents. For example, Romans has 16 chapters. The Pauline letters are private documents written to people. The tone is more personal, and the letters are much shorter. For example, Philemon has only one chapter. The other Pauline letters are I and II Timothy and Titus.

Let's review: Epistle = Longer, Public, More Formal, to Churches
Letter = Shorter, Private/Personal, Less Formal, to a Person

Don't worry if you inadvertently call an epistle a letter and a letter an epistle. The main thing is that you read it and take heed to all that's written.

Have a great weekend and read an epistle. Oh, I mean read a letter! Or is it an epistle that you should read?

The Hope of Glory
 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (1 Thessalonians 1:27)

 What is it about you that gives others hope? What is it about you that makes others want what you have? Is it anything about you that makes people want to give their lives to the Lord? Perhaps not. Perhaps so. Perhaps you suspect, but you don't know for sure. Here is what it is.
 According to Paul, it is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is the assurance that you have about your own relationship with God that gives others the assurance of God's saving power.
 Make sure you always stay in God's presence because the Christ in you is the HOPE OF GLORY!

The Three Comings of Jesus
The Bible clearly speaks about three comings of Jesus. We must keep these three comings in mind and know how they relate to one another.
The Incarnation: Jesus came TO all people. (Luke 2:11)
The first coming of Jesus has already happened. The Old Testament speaks of the coming Messiah. Then Jesus was born with the title, "Emanuel" meaning "God with us." God became one of us in the person of Jesus to save all of us.  

The Second Coming: Jesus will come FOR the saints. (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Jesus will descend from heaven the same way He ascended in a cloud with nail prints still in His hands. His feet will not touch the earth. The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, those who are still alive will be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The saints will go back with Jesus while those who are left on earth will go through a tribulation period. Some will perish, but some will become saints during this period. However, it will be much harder because the Holy Spirit will not be on earth during that time and no other saints will be present to minister or to serve as examples.
The Third and Final Coming: Jesus will come WITH the saints. (II Thessalonians 1:7)
After the tribulation has passed, Jesus and the saints will return to earth to judge those who still do not know God and still have not confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. According to Zechariah 14:4, Jesus will return in His final descent out of the atmosphere and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives. It is only after this third coming will Jesus set up His kingdom on earth.

Resurrection or Rapture?
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

The word "resurrection" means "being raised from the dead." The word "resurrection" is found throughout the Bible and has three primary meanings:
  1. bringing people back to life in this present world only to die again such as Lazarus, Jairus' daughter, and the Shunammite woman's son;
  2. our Lord's resurrection from the dead, who is still alive; and
  3. our own physical bodily resurrection.
We believe in the physical resurrection of our own bodies because Christ was the "firstborn from the dead" (I Corinthians 15:12-58).  Paul devotes the entire chapter of I Corinthians 15 on the resurrection. The word "rapture" is NOT found in the Bible at all. It is the concept of "being caught up in the air."

Resurrection or Rapture? "For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead IN CHRIST will rise FIRST. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds TOGETHER with them to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Jesus will not descend all the way to earth. We will be so excited to go that we will MEET HIM IN THE AIR whether we are dead or alive; RESURRECTED or RAPTURED.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Opposites Don't Always Attract
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. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Last night in our End Time Events class I shared that I imagine Jesus being a giant magnet in the sky during the rapture when the dead in Christ will rise first and we who are still alive will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Then Minister Morgan Clark shared that in this case opposites will not attract. He explained that a positive charge will have to go to a positive charge, and since there is nothing negative about Jesus, there will be no way the unsaved will be caught up.

To summarize, being saved is a guarantee that you will be caught up in the air with Jesus when He returns whether dead or alive. If you want to be caught up in the air when Jesus returns, it is encumbered upon you to make sure there is some magnetism in you. And that magnetism comes when you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. (Romans 10:9)

Expect Jesus' return. Expect to be caught up in the air with Him. Don't have beliefs opposites from those of our Savior and Lord because in this case...Opposites don't attract!

Encourage One Another
Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

While running the last mile in a race, your legs ache, your throat burns, and your whole body is exhausted and needs rest.  You might be ready to quit, to throw in the towel, to say it is not worth it.  But then your friends and fans cheer you on to finish the race.  You get a new burst of energy.  You feel refreshed.  You feel like you can go on just a little while longer.  In the same way, Christians are to encourage one another .  A word of encouragement offered at the right moment can be the difference between finishing the race or collapsing along the way.  Be sensitive to others' need for encouragement.  Offer support in ways that will help others, glorify God and put yourself in the position to receive everything God has in store for you.

Words of Encouragement
Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1Thessalonians 5:11)

If you have ever run in a race, you probably have noticed that as you near the end of the race, your legs ache, your throat burns, and your whole body cries out in pain. Yet, you can't stop. You won't stop. You must finish no matter how badly your body demands it. This is when friends and fans are most valuable. Their encouragement helps you push through the pain to the finish line. In the same way, Christians are to encourage one another. A word of encouragement works wonders. When offered at the right time, it is better than pain relievers for an aching body.

Help soothe someone's aching heart. Offer encouragement today.

In Everything Give Thanks
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (I Thessalonians 5:18) "Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence. (Psalm 140:13)

It seems unfair to give God thanks for some things and not for others. We shouldn't pick and choose what we should give thanks for.  After all, God is God in the small things as well as the big things. God is God in crises as well as in celebrations. God is God in trials as well as triumphs. God is God in pleasures as well as in persecutions. God is God in tests as well as in testimonies. Therefore, in everything give thanks. Whatever happens is not complete in itself.  It is part of a bigger picture; part of a bigger plan.  Whatever we experience is only the portion we see as the parade moves in front of our window.  There is much more in the parade.  Some of it has passed, and some of it is still to come. Our present situation is just one float in the long parade of life.

In everything give thanks, for the God who created you is the same God who will sustain you, uphold you and give you peace. The righteous shall always dwell in God's presence; therefore, in everything let us give thanks.

The God of Peace
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Where God is . . . there is peace.  Where God is there is peace because God is the God of peace.  He is the Prince of Peace.  Where there is confusion, God is not.  "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33).  Consider yourself blessed if there is peace in your home.  Consider yourself blessed if there is peace on your job.  Consider yourself blessed if there is peace in your church.  But most importantly, considered yourself doubly blessed if there is peace . . . total peace within your own heart.

"And may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

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