The Dead Will Live
Loving Lord God, I know that You are above me, around me, and within me. I praise Your holy name.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
“If we can see through the fog (of daily living) and picture our eternal home in our mind’s eye, it will comfort and energize us” (Randy Alcorn). That’s something to keep in mind!
Archaeologists often assess the change of religious beliefs by the way in which the dead are dealt with. A new church in Japan might prioritize the construction of a mausoleum. The Thessalonians are not so much concerned about these practical issues as about the spiritual state of those who had died already. It was a sign of the strength of their belief in the resurrection and the affection that existed between believers that they worried that those who had already died might somehow lose out. Paul is able to give a robust answer so that they may not grieve unnecessarily.
He begins with that wonderful Christian term for death: they had “fallen asleep” (13). In Philippians he expresses his confidence that to die is to be with Christ (Phil. 1:21-23). Whatever the reality this represents, it gives us a confident resting place with Christ who loves us. But here he goes beyond that to the reawakening from sleep and our full participation in the resurrection life of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:51; 2 Cor. 5:4). There are advantages in remaining alive until the coming of the Lord, but it is not at the expense of our brothers and sisters who have already died. They participate before us in resurrected and transformed bodies at the glorious return of Jesus. Paul pictures Jesus returning to the earth surrounded by his whole ransomed church.
Whenever we lay to rest a loved one, our faith in the resurrection is tested. The physical disposal is so far from the picture of the triumphant return of Christ, but it is here when we cannot see that we are asked to believe not only that Jesus was raised but also that in him we will be raised. This is our comfort as well as preparation for our own falling asleep in Jesus.
Give thanks for all those who you have known and loved who are asleep in Christ, awaiting their resurrection.
Lord of life, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Help my unbelief as I face the reality of death.
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