Today David continued our ‘Living In-between’ series, looking at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. This passage centres around the second coming of Jesus, and touches upon the subject of death, a topic that is extremely sensitive and emotive for every single one of us. Before we move further into the passage, it is important to look at the heart behind these verses:
This passage isn’t meant to scare, nor confuse, nor stimulate speculation or debate, but rather to help us encourage and comfort one another in our experience of dealing with death as Christians. As John Stott comments, ‘There is nothing in this text of curiosity – only everything for comfort.’
Paul begins speaking into the situation in Thessalonica by saying,
From the outset Paul is clear that he doesn’t want his readers to be left in the dark about what happens after death for Christians. Paul is reminding us of the reason why we don’t have to grieve like the rest of mankind. However, he’s not suggesting that we don’t grieve and deny the pain and sadness of death. Grief is natural and emotionally necessary, therefore Paul is calling us to grieve differently, as those who have hope, and in doing so we will be set apart. As Christians we can see death as an endless hope, as opposed to seeing it as a hopeless end, which is how it seems for so many others in our world.
So, what is this hope? Our hope is that death is temporary, as Paul refers to the dead as those who ‘have fallen asleep’ in verse 14. Just as sleep is followed by an awakening, so the death of a Christian will be followed by resurrection. Death does not have the final word. Paul then goes on to confirm the unshakeable foundation of this hope: the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This profound life- and death-altering hope is founded completely on the resurrection of Jesus. Because of this we can confidently hope in Jesus, even amidst the pain and grief of death.
Now that Paul has addressed the query around Christians who have already died, he then clarifies the situation for those who will be still alive when Jesus comes again:
Paul affirms that when Jesus returns, neither the Christian dead nor living will be left behind or excluded. We will all be with the Lord forever. This is the reason for our hope, and it is why we can grieve the death of loved ones differently and live every day in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus.
- v.18 ‘Encourage one another with these words’: is there anyone you can encourage and comfort with this passage this week?
- How do these verses change your attitude towards death and the second coming of Jesus?
- Listen to ‘Living Hope’: https://youtu.be/u-1fwZtKJSM