Aug. 4. Christian Life Compared to Wilderness Wandering

I Cor. 10:1-13

To further illustrate the importance of steadfastness in living the Christian life, Paul reminded the Corinthians of the events surrounding the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and their eventual entry into Canaan.

Egypt represented the time that a person was lost in sin. Moses was a type of Christ who led the people out the Egypt of sin and into the wilderness of the Christian life. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea with water on both sides and a cloud hovering over them hiding (burying) them in baptism from the grasp of the Egypt of sin. This analogy relates to baptism into the church to save from sin. Eating the manna and drinking the water from the rock was a type of the communion enjoyed by Christians as they partake of the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day. Finally, crossing the Jordan River into Canaan represented the passage through death from the physical life of the wilderness to the everlasting glory of heaven.

Paul pointed out that many were saved from the Egypt of sin, but various sins of lust, idolatry, fornication and complaining caused many of them to die in the wilderness. Many of the Israelites even wanted to return to Egypt. Just as these sins caused the Israelites to die in the wilderness, these same sins cause Christians to die spiritually in the wilderness of life preventing them from entering into the Canaan of everlasting life in heaven.

In closing this admonition, Paul gave another warning and an encouragement. He warned the Corinthians to be alert for temptations because they come when least expected. However, they were encouraged by the fact that God will not allow a Christian to be tempted greater than he is able to bear, but will provide a way of escape.

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Aug. 3. Paul Defends his Apostleship

I Cor. 9:1-28

There were some in Corinth who questioned Paul’s apostleship. They reasoned that since he had not accepted monetary support from them, he considered himself inferior to the other apostles who did accept payment for their labors.

Paul met this charge head on. He replied, “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” The Corinthian church was a direct result of his recent labors.

Apostles, preachers and other workers for the Lord had a right to receive compensation from the church with whom they worked. Paul reminded them that even the Law of Moses stated, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.”

The Corinthians had failed to recognize the blessings that Paul had given to them by working with his own hands while he was with them. Even though he had the right to be paid for his labors, he wished to preach without charge. This was his sacrifice and it kept his enemies from saying that he was just preaching for the money.

Paul’s zeal for winning servants for Christ was as great as his zeal for persecuting the church had been before his conversion. He said that he had become all things to all men that he might by all means save some.

In matters of opinion or tradition that did not violate the commands of Christ, Paul stated that he allowed himself to become like those whom he was teaching. He observed certain Jewish rites, accepted the title of Pharisee, ate with Gentiles, quoted Gentile poets and abstained from meats offered to idols in order to have a common bond with those whom he taught.

Paul compared the Christian life with an athletic race. Participants engaged in strenuous training regimens for a contest with only one winner. The prize in the athletic event was great glory and a perishable crown. He stressed the importance of even greater preparation for a race in which all may receive a crown that never perishes. Paul realized that even though an apostle, if he did not continually control himself, he could be disqualified—not finishing the race and losing the crown of life.

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Aug. 2. Additional Questions Answered

I Cor. 7:25-8:13

The next question of the Corinthians also concerned marriage. Even though Jerusalem was hundreds of miles from Corinth, the same political upheavals that led to the destruction of Jerusalem were affecting many other places including Corinth.

Paul advised those who had never married to remain single. That was not a general command, but a wise suggestion due to the turmoil of that period of time. He further instructed that those who were married should remain married. Whatever state they were in would be easier to maintain than having to adjust to a new lifestyle.

Single people would be better able to care for the things of the Lord than those who were married and had family responsibilities. Paul pointed out that it was not sinful to be married or single.

Customs of that time dictated that the father of an unmarried daughter would select her husband. Some fathers were concerned that they were mistreating their daughters by withholding them from marriage. Paul instructed fathers to allow their daughters to marry if remaining single would cause them to sin.

Another concern of the Corinthians was regarding whether widows should remarry. Paul stated that a wife was bound to remain married as long as her husband lived. After the death of her husband a widow could remarry only in the Lord. Again, because of the distress of the time, he suggested that it would be better if she also did not remarry.

Paul continued replying to the Corinthians by answering the problem of eating meat that had been offered to idols. This issue had been addressed several years earlier during the conference in Jerusalem after the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas.

Many of the new converts to Christianity had been led from paganism and idol worship. Meat sacrificed to these idols was eaten during feasts associated with the worship of these gods. Some of it was sold in the markets. In order to show true conversion, James had forbidden new Christians from eating such meat lest they associate themselves again with these idols.

Paul pointed out that there is only one God and that these so-called gods mean nothing and the meat offered to them is as though it had never been offered. However, to keep these new weaker believers from stumbling, he warned the stronger Christians to refrain from placing a stumbling block before them.

Stronger Christians show their love for God and His Son by loving those who are weaker in the faith. Paul demonstrated this love by refusing to indulge in anything that would cause a weaker brother to stumble, even if the indulgence itself was not sinful.

Christians lead and teach by example and are to do nothing that will cause a brother to sin. When a weak brother observes behavior in a strong brother that violates his conscience and is led to commit that act violating his conscience, he sins against Christ. By causing the weak brother to sin, the strong brother also sins against Christ.

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Aug. 1. Paul begins to Answer Questions from the Corinthians

I Cor. 7:1-24

At some point in time, Paul had received a letter from the Corinthians about certain problems. After addressing division, incest and going to court, he began to answer their questions.

The first problem that Paul answered dealt with whether marriage was desirable or to be avoided. Living conditions were very difficult due to the persecutions at the time Paul wrote this letter. Because of these conditions, he suggested that it would be better if marriage were avoided.

Paul recognized that the sexual immorality of that day would also make it impossible for many of them to abstain from sinning if they were not married. He suggested that if the unmarried could not control themselves, it would be better for them to marry.

As a deterrent to unfaithfulness between husbands and wives, Paul instructed them to fulfill the sexual needs of their spouses, only being apart by mutual consent for short periods.

The second question Paul answered dealt with believers and unbelievers remaining together. After conversion, many Christians were faced with the dilemma of being married to nonbelievers. In order to keep the Israelites pure, the Law of Moses forbade them from marrying the Canaanites. These new Christians feared that to be pure, they would be required to divorce their spouses who were not Christians and that their mates and children would be unclean.

Paul, through inspiration replied that if an unbeliever desired to continue being married to a Christian, there was no need for them to divorce. There was a good possibility that the believer could lead the unbelieving spouse to Christ.

If an unbelieving husband or wife would not continue in the marriage, a separation would be permitted and the Christian would not be bound to live with such a person. Paul did not give this as grounds for divorce—only a separation.

Christianity did not change a person’s cultural or social status in life. If he were married, he should stay married. Those who were slaves were to continue to be slaves unless other circumstances allowed them to be freed. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision made a person a better or lesser Christian. One should remain with God and not let social standing hinder his spiritual life. Christians must remember that they were bought with the blood of Christ.

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Jul. 31. General Admonitions to the Church

I Cor. 6:1-20

After having admonished the Corinthians regarding divisions and incest in the church, Paul turned to the matter of some of them going to court against their Christian brothers. He instructed them to place legal disputes before the church for judgment by the righteous instead of before heathen judges.

Christians are to be examples of peace and harmony in a world of chaos and confusion. When Christians go to civil courts to settle their differences, they deliver a message to the world that they place more trust in the unbelievers than they do in their own brethren.

Paul stated that it would be better to take a loss (even to be cheated) from a brother than to go to the unrighteous judges of that day. He even charged them with the same actions that they were accusing their brethren.

After admonishing the Corinthians about going to court, Paul repeated his previous list of sins and added others that would prevent a person from entering heaven. The additional sins were homosexuality, sodomy, and theft. Note: There are those who accuse Christians of hate when these sins are spoken against. God hates sin, but He loves the sinner. True Christians hate sin, but they also love the sinner—even when that sin is committed against them.

Paul pointed out that some of the Corinthians had been guilty of those sins, but they had been forgiven when they had obeyed the gospel and became Christians. As fruits of their repentance, they must not return to those old ways.

Even though Paul and the Corinthians had the power and ability to do many things, some of those things were not acceptable or advisable to commit. Christians are to hold to the highest levels of moral conduct and must flee from the evil temptations that are present. They are not to defile their bodies with the sins that he had mentioned earlier.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that their bodies had been bought with the price of God’s Son and therefore belonged to Him and that His Spirit resides in His temple, the bodies of Christians.

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Jul. 30. Instructions for Purging Sin from Church

I Cor. 5:1-13

Paul continued his letter by addressing another serious problem. It had been reported to him that a man was in a sexual relationship with his father’s wife—probably his stepmother. This was a grievous sin that even the Gentile world would not condone, but those in the church had actually accepted it.

Immediate action was demanded by Paul to purge this man from the fellowship of the church. This was to make him ashamed and to see the need for repentance. No action was necessary for the woman because she was probably a pagan.

Under the Law of Moses, Jews were to purge all leaven from their homes one week before observing the Passover Feast. Leaven was symbolic of sin and therefore, must be removed.

Since Christ gave Himself as our continual Passover Lamb, Christians must continually purge the leaven of sin from their lives. As a small piece of leaven spreads throughout a large lump of bread dough, a small amount of sin contaminates the whole church.

Paul was concerned about the possibility of sexually immoral people being in the church because of the immoral nature of the people of Corinth. He had even written them a previous letter warning them of that danger. There is no other record of this letter or its contents.

Listed among the sins that Paul warned Christians about are sexual immorality, covetousness, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness and extortion. The only way the church is to deal with the immoral behavior of those outside in the world is to try to convert them from their wickedness. It is, however, the church’s responsibility to remove those members who practice sins within the church.

Please keep in mind that at this time in the church’s history, there were no denominations. Even though there were differences of opinion and divisive actions, the church of Christ was still the one body of Christ. That remained true throughout the New Testament.

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Jul. 29. All Are Equal in God’s Sight

I Cor. 4:1-21

Paul reminded the Corinthian church of his responsibilities as an apostle. The apostles were servants of Christ and stewards of the gospel. They did not discover or invent truth, but they administered it to others as the Holy Spirit revealed it to them. Man’s judgment was not important to Paul. He wanted God to be the One to judge him as a faithful steward.

Some of the Corinthians had an attitude problem. They felt that since they had special gifts they were better than others who had less ability. Paul asked them what they had that they did not receive. They had earned nothing by their own achievement. It had all come from God.

Paul used sarcasm to show the Corinthians how they had exalted themselves, but were failing to possess the humility necessary for serving others, as he had demonstrated as he had taught them the gospel. Mixed with this sarcasm was his desire that they could be as great as they had thought that they were.

Just as a father warns and admonishes his children, Paul exercised that same care and compassion for the Corinthians. He pointed out that in a sense he was their spiritual father because he had led them to Christ through his preaching of the gospel to them. They were urged to imitate him in the ways that he followed Christ.

Paul related that he had sent Timothy to Corinth to further instruct the church. As a spiritual son of Paul also, he would remind them of the things that Paul had previously spoken to them.

Lest some of his enemies would say that Paul had sent Timothy because he did not want to face them himself, he informed them that he was planning to see them soon. He let them know that if they had repented of the issues that he had addressed, he would be gentle in his preaching when he saw them—otherwise he would be harsh.

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Jul. 28. Divisions in the Church Condemned

I Cor. 1:10-3:23

After those brief introductory remarks, Paul began to address the problems of the church. They had “preacheritis.” Some of them were following their favorite preachers. They had not divided themselves into denominations yet, but left uncorrected, denominations could surely follow.

Jesus had prayed on the night of His betrayal that His disciples would remain as one, as He and the Father are one. The Corinthians had taken the first steps toward division. All spiritual blessings are found in Christ so there is no reason to follow Paul or any other human leader.

Paul was thankful that he had only baptized a few of the Corinthians lest they would say that he baptized in his own name and even more of them would be following him. He said that he was not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. There have been some who have used this statement to lessen the importance of baptism. In this period of rapid growth in the church, it was more efficient that one person would do most of the preaching and someone else (maybe Silas and Timothy or others) would administer the physical duties such as baptism. Remember that baptism was then and is now required for the forgiveness of sins.

It was Paul’s desire that the Corinthians would understand that the gospel was not a great philosophical wonder. He contrasted it with worldly wisdom. The gospel is foolishness to those who trust in the wise words of men, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Worldly wisdom, however, is foolishness in God’s sight and even what man may see as the foolishness of God is great wisdom.

Even though Paul was well educated, he spoke the gospel in simple language. His message was about the Christ who had died on the cross and His plan to save man through the atoning power of His blood.

Paul realized his grave responsibility to try to reach the hearts of the Corinthians. When he first began to preach to them, he was alone in a hostile environment. He then received encouragement with the arrival of Silas and Timothy and the vision from the Lord promising safety from persecution.

The Holy Spirit was guiding Paul as he wrote this letter—not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Paul referred to the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery that their rulers did not understand or accept. If they had accepted it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. He pointed out that the Holy Spirit, not man’s wisdom, had revealed this mystery to the apostles. In turn, the apostles revealed in their teachings and writings that this mystery is the gospel of Christ (the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins).

The natural man is unable to accept the things of the Spirit of God. It takes the inner spiritual side of man to understand the gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians and to other churches.

A major problem with the Corinthian church was the lack of spiritual thinking and living. They had lived for the fleshly pleasures of life for so long that they had trouble grasping the spiritual.

Paul had been unable to teach them the advanced substance of the gospel while he was with them because of what he called their carnal lives. Even after several months since he had left them, he said that they still needed milk (basic principles of the gospel).

The divisions that Paul condemned in his letter were the result of the immature behavior of the Corinthians. He reasoned with them that he and Apollos were only mere men doing God’s work.

Paul and his associates had established the church at Corinth. Apollos had taught them after Paul had departed for other areas of work. The men who were involved with the Corinthians were not important. It was God, who must be worshipped.

As Paul continued reasoning with the Corinthians, he presented an allegory depicting the church as a building. He had laid the foundation (Jesus Christ) and others had built on it by converting new Christians.

It was not important who had taught these individuals. The importance was in the type of building material that each of these Christians represented.

These building materials in the church (Christians) are to be of the highest quality precious metals and stones—not of wood, hay or straw representing the bickering and divisions of the Corinthians.

The church will be tested by fire at the judgment and this fire will destroy the inferior Christians, but the ones who converted them will not be lost because of this wickedness.

Paul pointed out that as God dwelt in the earthly temple during the Old Testament law, He now dwells in the church, which is His spiritual temple under the New Testament law. They were defiling this temple by their divisive factions and this was displeasing to God.

The Corinthians were reminded again that in order to become wise, they must accept the ways of the Lord, which the philosophy of the world calls foolishness.

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Jul. 27. Paul Writes First Letter to Corinth from Ephesus

I Cor. 1:1-9

Paul did not have access to forms of instant communication, but he did receive news from the churches. The news from the church at Corinth disturbed him. The Holy Spirit guided him to write a letter while he was in Ephesus to correct the problems that were in the Corinthian church.

As previously stated, the people of Corinth were highly immoral. The church was made up of this class of individuals who had been converted from their idolatry, prostitution and general immoral behavior. It became necessary for Paul to remind them that they were to refrain from returning to this way of life.

Paul identified himself as an apostle in order to emphasize his authority. He addressed the church as saints who were set apart in Christ and called by the preaching of the gospel. The first part of the letter complemented the Corinthians by pointing out their spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Jul. 26. Paul Begins Third Missionary Journey

Acts 18:23-19:10

Having completed his report to the church at Antioch, Paul began what is known as his third missionary journey. He traveled through Galatia and Phrygia revisiting some of the churches and strengthening the disciples in that area before arriving at Ephesus.

Approximately twenty-five years after the church had been established at Jerusalem, there were men who continued to preach the teachings of John the Baptist regarding Jesus. One of these men was a Jew named Apollos who was born at Alexandria near the Nile River on the northern coast of Africa.

Alexandria was the seat of Greek and Hebrew learning and Apollos was highly educated in the Scriptures. Even with knowledge superior to many of that day, he was preaching error regarding the baptism of John.

After Apollos arrived in Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla heard him preaching in the synagogue and they recognized the error that he was preaching. “They took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Observe that when great men, as Apollos are corrected, they accept that correction and continue with their new knowledge.

Sometime later, Apollos left Ephesus and went to Corinth in Achaia to strengthen the church there. The Ephesians sent a letter to encourage the disciples there to accept him. He did a great work in Corinth and was very helpful to Paul.

When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found a group of disciples who had been baptized according to John’s baptism. It is not known, but it is possible that they had been baptized by Apollos. After Paul had taught them about the baptism of Christ, they were then “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

If the kind of baptism were not important, it would not have been necessary for these men to be baptized again. We see in this account that their first baptism was not valid, even though they were sincere in this error.

As had been his practice in other cities, Paul began to teach in the synagogue. He was able to continue for three months, but as before, the opposition of the Jews made it necessary for him to change to another place.

This new location was in the school of Tyrannus. Paul worked out of that school for a period of two years. During that time, the gospel was preached to the Jews and Gentiles of Ephesus and throughout all Asia. While there, he also replied to a letter from Corinth to correct problems and answer questions from that church.

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Jul. 25. Paul’s Second Missionary Journey Ends

Acts 18:12-22

During the time that Paul, Silas and Timothy were in Corinth, the Jews continued to oppose their work. On one occasion they seized Paul and took him to Gallio, the proconsul. They charged that, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”

Since this was a Gentile court and the Jews’ charges against Paul were related to their own law, Gallio refused to hear them. Roman officials at that time did not involve themselves with religious quarrels. This is evidence of the Lord’s promise in the vision that He would protect Paul.

At the end of Paul’s eighteen-month stay in Corinth, he departed to return to Antioch. Aquila, Priscilla, possibly Silas and probably Timothy accompanied him as far as Ephesus. After this, Silas was referred to in the Scriptures as Silvanus, his Latin name. They probably remained with the church in Ephesus to prepare for Paul’s return several months later.

Paul’s journey to Antioch included visits to Caesarea and Jerusalem. After arriving, he spent a period of time reporting on the fruits of his travels during the last three or four years.

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Jul. 24. Letter Ends with Warnings Against Idleness

II Thes. 2:13-3:18

As Paul began to conclude his letter, he stressed the importance of continuing to observe the things that he had taught them in person and by letter. He then called for divine comfort and support for the Thessalonians as they continued in their work for the Lord.

Paul had shown his love and support of the Thessalonian church in his admonitions to them. He now asked them to support him in their prayers that others might receive the word as they had.

There were still those in Corinth who opposed Paul in his work. He expressed confidence in the Thessalonians that they would remain faithful to the commands, which he had taught them.

After praising the Thessalonians, Paul addressed a problem of some of their individual members. There are those who for some reason, feel that the world owes them a living. They are too proud to work. Some of these people were in the Thessalonian church. Instead of working, they were busy minding the business of others.

As an apostle, Paul had the right to expect support from the churches. He chose to set an example for them by working night and day to not be a financial burden on them.

Paul was so adamant in this practice that he taught that a person who would not work should not eat. He commanded the Thessalonians to withdraw from and not to associate with those who walked disorderly in that regard.

Even in shaming a person, Paul taught compassion. This action was not to destroy a person, but to get his attention and to make him realize his Christian responsibility and repent of that sin. He stated, “Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

Paul ended his letter by invoking grace and peace from the Lord of peace upon the Thessalonians.

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Jul. 23. Second Thessalonian Letter Clarifies Description of Christ’s Final Return

II Thes. 1:1-2:12

Shortly after writing the first epistle to the Thessalonians, it became necessary to follow it up with a second letter. Paul had attempted to correct some misconceptions about the final return of Christ, but had been misunderstood. The Thessalonians were still expecting Jesus to return soon and feared that some who had already died would not share in this glorious event. Some even feared that He had already come and that they had been left out.

The Thessalonian church was still under great persecution and Paul thanked God and praised them for their faith and perseverance in the face of such difficulties. He continued to use them as an example of faith to encourage other churches.

Paul pointed out again the judgment that is to come upon those who persecute God’s children and the rest that they will receive if they continue to endure. This punishment is described as a flaming fire with everlasting destruction and separation from God.

There were some events that must take place before the coming of Christ. Paul said that there would be the falling away. This falling away would be a period of time in which the world would refuse to follow God. In all likelihood, this apostasy would be led by the man of sin, the man of perdition (the antichrist).

Since that time the church has gone through a long period of apostasy and there have been many who have usurped God’s authority on earth. Even today there are those in the church who are teaching false doctrine. It is very possible that those events that Paul mentioned have already taken place.

Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he had told them those things when he was with them. Even at that time, there were lawless people beginning to undermine the church with false teachings.

The antichrist was described by Paul as an agent of Satan. His very being was in opposition to Christ. He would come with power, signs and lying wonders and deceive the people. God would allow those who would not love and receive His truth to believe the deceptions of the antichrist and be destroyed. (Stop! Look! Listen! Are we receiving and obeying the truth or are we being deceived by what some man is saying?)

Paul was thankful for the submissive attitude of the Thessalonians as they had shown their love for the truth. That was in contrast with those previously described as following after the antichrist. They had received the promise that was delivered at the beginning to all Gentiles who obeyed the call of the gospel.

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Jul. 22. Concluding Words of Instruction

I Thes. 5:12-28

Paul concluded his epistle to the Thessalonians by issuing a list of general commands and exhortations. Leading his list was the command to recognize and respect the elders of the church. The elders are responsible for the leadership and welfare of the church—to ensure that Christians receive the divine instructions left by Christ. Also included in this first command was an exhortation to recognize other workers and teachers.

One of the most important qualities of a healthy church is to be at peace with one another. Paul said, “Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”

A joyful attitude is of utmost importance in living the Christian life. Paul said on another occasion that he had learned in whatever state he was to be content. Joy and contentment come from being constantly communing in a prayerful spirit with God through thanksgiving and supplication.

Christians receive their instructions from the writings of men inspired by the Holy Spirit. When these writings are ignored, it is like pouring water on a fire. The Spirit is quenched.

Paul admonished the Thessalonians to accept only the truth when facing decisions regarding right and wrong. If a teaching or practice appears evil or false, Christians are to reject it.

Paul ended his letter by calling for a blessing from God for the Thessalonians, asking them to pray for him and commanding that this epistle be read to all of the church. Since Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit in this writing, it is equally important that it be read and studied today.

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Jul. 21. Christ’s Final Return Described

I Thes. 4:13-5:11

One of the concerns of the Thessalonians that Paul addressed in his letter was the eternal destiny of those who had died before the return of Christ. Some thought that only those living at His return would go with Him into heaven and those already dead would be left behind.

Paul reminded them that Jesus died and rose again. Jesus also said, “All who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Both the good and evil will be raised to face the judgment in that last day at the end of time.

The dead in Christ (Those who had died in a right relationship with Christ) will rise first. Paul further explained that those who are living will then be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ in the air.

There will be no announcements or warnings just before the Lord returns. He will descend from heaven with a shout; a shout from an archangel; and the trumpet of God. This will be an awesome moment. There will be no further time for preparation. Judgment Day will have arrived! If we die before Christ returns, our death will be the end of preparation time for us. We should live each moment as if it were our last. Someday, it WILL be our last!

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