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We saw last week that Paul's advice on preparing for Jesus' return in the first half of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 focused on trusting in Jesus. In that section, Paul makes it clear that only Jesus can rescue "the dead in Christ" from death, and only Jesus can rescue those "who are still alive and left" from separation from God. In the second half of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, as well as verse 18, Paul connects the promise of Jesus' second coming with the promise that we will spend eternity with him - and then gives us advice on how to prepare for both events: "And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words" (NIV). What Paul literally says in that first sentence is, "And in this way, always, we will be with the Lord." The Greek of Paul's expression conveys excitement, joy, and anticipation in the wonderful and loving way Jesus intends to ensure that we get to be with him forever - much like a lover desire to be with their beloved everywhere they go. And it's in light of this "lover's excitement" that Paul gives advice in verse 18 on how to prepare to experience this event: live within these words. The NIV uses the word "encourage," while the NKJV uses the word "comfort." Paul's Greek verb means "to tenderly comfort" as well as "to joyously encourage," so both translations are fantastic choices. But Paul is not suggesting that we comfort or encourage each other WITH these words. Similar to verse 16, Paul literally tells us to comfort or encourage each other IN these words - basically, to live the Christian life from the reality that Jesus died for you, rose again for you, and is coming back for you. Friends, the best preparation for Jesus' return is to live the Christian life from WITHIN the hope of Jesus' death, resurrection, and second coming. God bless.