But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. -1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
It’s been a bit of a sad month. I have had to say goodbye to some good friends. And I don’t mean, “Goodbye, have a nice vacation.” I mean, several people I have done ministry for and with have graduated to glory. It’s a two edged sword of sorrow and joy. Sorrow because, selfishly, I am going to miss these people. But joy because these people were all born again believers. Recipients of the promise of God in Christ to forgive sins and provide eternal life. So, as James MacDonald says about the departed in Christ, “they are having a good day!”
So this is just a reminder. For me, definitely. For you if it applies. (If it doesn‘t now, it will some time soon.)
A reminder of what?
- I am not uninformed. Notice Paul’s first statement. He is saying we are not ignorant about those who have died. I don’t need to sit here and wonder “Where are they? What’s it like there? Are they happy? Will I see them again?” God gave us His Word to take the guess work out of what it's like to step into eternity.
- I am not hopeless. Paul reminds us that Jesus died and rose again. This is not just a fact in history, this is the core of my faith. This is what keeps me going. This is what makes it all worth it. This is my very hope. If not for the death of Jesus for my sins, and the resurrection of Jesus to give me eternal life, this life is meaningless and death is horrifying. So there is grieving, sure, but not grieving like people who don’t know the Lord. Because we know better. See #1.
- I am to encourage others going through this. Look at that last phrase. Encourage one another with these words. We will always be a people dealing with death (that is, until Christ returns for us, as Paul mentions). We will see loved ones die - after many years, after few years, through illness, through tragedy… it’s always happened and it will continue. So in the face of such sadness, I am to remember to encourage people with the living hope that we have in Jesus Christ. You be an encourager, too.
Thank you, God, for these reminders.
p.s. - not uninformed