Death And Hope
I worship You, Lord. You are the One who made me, sustains me and saves me. How great You are!
Read 1 THESSALONIANS 4:13–18
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.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of life” (Dr. Emil Brunner, 1889–1966). We must breathe in deeply of the hope the resurrection brings to us.
In Paul’s day, some Jews rejected resurrection, but the Pharisees and most others expected a final bodily resurrection and judgment. Most of Paul’s converts came from a Greco-Roman worldview which utterly rejected resurrection. For them, the immortal soul, released from the body, lived on after death trapped in the underworld. A few, the noble and courageous, lived on in the White Isles or Elysium. For most, as with a modern atheist, death gave no hope—just grief.
Here, with some Thessalonians dying, Paul addresses the Christian hope of resurrection. The basis for this hope is anchored in history—Jesus died and rose again! The reason we hope is that “we believe” (14)—faith is all-sufficient for confidence. What will happen? Christ will return with a glorious fanfare. Then the corpses of God’s people already deceased will rise fully reanimated, incorruptible and immortal (1 Cor. 15:50–55; Phil. 3:20,21). They will join God’s people alive at the time. Together, they will meet the Lord “in the air” (17). Although this can mean they are then whisked away with Jesus to heaven, the Greek apantesis is a technical term used of welcoming a dignitary (e.g., Acts 28:15). Here it probably means that all of God’s people will meet Jesus and welcome him into his world as King! He finishes with these glorious words, “and so we will be
with the Lord forever” (17). Now that is good news!
Paul ends by urging the Thessalonians to “encourage one another with these words” (18). Unfortunately, these words often get embroiled in controversies over various understandings of Jesus’ return. Paul would turn in his grave! Rather, we must allow these words to penetrate our inner beings and rejoice at our certain future—eternal bodily life with Jesus. I would cry “bring it on,” but there is too much work to do. To that we now turn.
Consider the truth of the resurrection. Worship the Lamb that was slain and is risen. Imagine your future. Be encouraged.
Lord, I praise You: “Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Savior! He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord” (Robert Lowry, 1826–1899).
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