TO DIE, TO SLEEP
Lord, prepare my heart to receive what you have for me in your Word today. Thank you for the joy that is mine because of the faith you have given me in your Son.
Read 1 THESSALONIANS 4:13–18
Believers Who Have Died
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 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. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
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ReflectGive thanks for those you have known and loved who have ‘fallen asleep in [Jesus]’ (v. 14). Thank God for their example and their encouragement.
We learn much about Paul’s pastoral heart in this passage. First, he wanted to deal with ignorance (v. 13), which causes many issues in the Christian walk. How do you deal with your own ignorance in matters of faith? Do you?
Second, he met their concern with the central message of the gospel: ‘Jesus died and rose again’ (v. 14). Notice we ‘sleep in death,’ but Jesus ‘died’: he endured death and its consequences.
Third, Paul’s confidence in Jesus’ return came from ‘the Lord’s word’ (v. 15). This was not made up by Paul, but the truth came from the only one we can truly trust. The picture he used is of an important visitor being greeted and then welcomed into a city by its citizens (vv. 16, 17). It will be a wonderful reunion.
Fourth, we don’t know everything about the future (see 5:1), but we know enough to ‘encourage one another’ (v. 18). Pastoral care and encouragement is for all of us to practice.
How can you encourage someone in your church family this week? Whether they are bereaved or not, how can you (gently) encourage them with the truth of the gospel? How can you go out of your way to show them they are loved?
Hallelujah, Lord Jesus—you said that you will return; those asleep in you and those still living in you will rise to meet you and be with you forever. Indeed the gospel is good news!
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