But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
What encouraging words Paul wrote to the Thessalonian brethren. The church in Thessalonica had humble beginnings; beginnings bathed in persecution by the Jews in an area that only allowed Paul to stay about three weeks (Acts 17:1-9). He was concerned about the church there and was inspired to write then to encourage them to faithfulness in the midst of persecution. One way he does this is to constantly point to the coming of the Lord as a motive for great fervor and faithfulness. If you will examine the letter closely, you will find that each chapter (Paul did not put in the chapter or verse divisions that are in our Bibles today) closes with a reference to the coming of the Lord.
How does the Lord’s coming encourage us?
WE KNOW THAT THOSE WHO HAVE DIED, “GOD WILL BRING WITH HIM THOSE WHO SLEEP IN JESUS.” It is comforting to know that that those who have gone on before us, who lived a Christian life, are “asleep in Jesus.” We wonder about that phrase – consider how sleep, restful sleep, is so invigorating and soothing to the one who is tired. To the exhausted sleep is needed for the recuperation of the physical body. Sleep helps to clear thinking, and causes better thinking. A lack of sleep harms the physical body in so many ways (high blood pressure, diabetes, stress on the heart and muscles . . . ), and affects us mentally (Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep improves learning – how to play a piano, math, a golf swing, or drive a car. Sleep helps us to pay attention, make decisions and be creative. Sleep deficiency causes us to have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling our emotions and coping with change – Wikipedia). What encouragement comes from the idea that the departed Christian is “asleep in Jesus.” At the same time, sleep here references death. We await the redemption of the body wherein we will have a new body (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).
WE KNOW THAT IF THE LORD COMES BACK IN OUR LIFETIME, WE WHO ARE ALIVE WILL NOT PRECEDE THOSE WHO HAVE DIED BEFORE US! GOD is God, and he knows the whereabouts of every person who has ever lived. All those, dead and alive, who have been faithful to the Lord will be resurrected to meet the Lord in air. Indeed, the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), then those who are alive will meet the Lord in the air, and “SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD.” Does this not comfort and give us hope as well?
It is sad that we usually read these words only when we face death. When we face the death of one whom we love, or even our own death, these words brings comfort and hope. For the Christian, we know that this life is not all that there is. We know we have something better waiting for us!
With the recent deaths of some in this congregation, and with the deaths of family members of some in this congregation, these words bring hope, and causes us to consider ourselves as well.
If you are unsure of your relationship with God and Christ, now is the time for you to “make your calling and election sure.” If you have not submitted to Christ in obedience, and allowed your faith in Christ to cause you to repent (Acts 2:38; 3:19; Luke 13:3, 5) and confess Christ before men (Romans 10:9-10); and then submit to baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-6) — now is the time for you to do so. Let us help!
Otherwise, there is no hope as per 2 Thessalonians 1:8 “. . . in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God, and on those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Don’t miss out on the rest awaiting the children of God.