1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18 Believers who have died
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. 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. 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. 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. 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 for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
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This passage shows clearly that the early church believed that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. Paul says, “…we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord…”; I’m quite sure he didn’t expect to live for the almost 2000 years that have elapsed since he wrote this letter!
Many generations have lived since then; many people have died.
Do we grieve?
I think many of us do, when we lose someone dear to us.
Yet Paul’s teaching here is as valid today as it was then: “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.”
If we take this seriously, what need have we for grief? There will be separation for a period and then a joyful reuniting in the presence of our Lord.
Despite this faith, we feel sadness when we are bereaved. Partly it’s the loss of the person’s physical presence. Partly we regret the lost opportunities that they can no longer have – this is particularly the case when the person we have lost is young. Also, there may be personal issues that we wish we had settled before our friend or family member died.
Certainly bereavement is a big test of our faith.
We can only offer our little faith to God in the belief that he will make it sufficient, and remember the words that St Paul wrote at the end of this passage.
“And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Thank you for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Please help my faith to grow until all my trust is in you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen