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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In this passage of scripture you can take something normally negative, sad and difficult, and find it’s actually good, that there is hope in the sorrows of life, there is peace and there is comfort. This morning I am going to talk to you about death, to show that even in pain and misery our God remains holy and perfect. He is the One with a plan and a purpose. The point of church is it’s real, practical and alive. We will all experience, in some form, the pain of loss – whether we’re watching a loved one, an accident, or a diagnosis. This is real, lived-out theology.
What is the Christian to do when we respond to the worst thing imaginable? There is a famous saying, ‘There are only two things in life which are inevitable – death and taxes.’ Many people would say they’re terrified of death, which is for them a great unknown. What is it like? What happens? There is confusion. Not knowing about death creates further confusion.
- We are informed people.
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) We are informed people. We are a people who have been revealed by God the truth of death. We don’t face it alone, without understanding. We are informed for a reason and a purpose. Fascinating! Christians have hope. In the midst of the hardest trail we will ever face, we have hope.
Death is the great enemy, the great separator. Christ is greater! One day, there will be no more death. We have spiritual life in Him because He has given it to us. I know who my Saviour is. He is still goodness, the gospel is still true. Even in the worst things imaginable, my Saviour is alive.
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). This verse explains to us what we believe. Do you believe? Can you say that I believe this Jesus really lived, died, rose and is really coming back? The hope, the peace – it’s only there if you have confidence, truth and belief in Jesus. The root and stem of peace in all circumstances is knowing who Jesus is and believing He has done what He has said He has done.
Jesus rose again. Outside of Jesus, you don’t have peace. Friends, Christ has carved out the way for us. He has already died and risen again. We are not doing this alone, we are following Him in the path He has already walked. Without Him, there is no hope, but with Him, all who call upon the Lord will be saved. “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24). That’s the power of Jesus Christ. For all those who trust in Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, we have hope.
- We should declare it.
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). Because we believe in Jesus, we have something to say. We have an answer, a solution, a hope. We hold onto this verse. The whole of scripture is God inspired. Every word is from Him. There is something unique, Paul says here, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord.” Was this the Holy Spirit working in him, from speaking with other believers? I don’t know, but it is important. It is not our thought, it comes from authority from the Lord, from the one who has lived, the one who has died for us.
For those who have already died, before Jesus returns, they will not be forgotten about. Jesus’ power is so mighty that all who are in Him are safe. I encourage you to read the Bible more. When someone dies their body will rot away but their soul immediately returns to God. The second a person passes away, their soul is with God, in the presence of the Saviour who loves them. Those who are in Christ who have passed away are with Him. What a thing to declare. There is hope for everyone who turns to Jesus Christ.
- The Lord Himself.
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The return of Christ cannot be compared to. Our Saviour is coming back. There are so many people working out the mechanics of what it will look like, they forget Jesus is coming back. The one who died for you is coming back. When we see Jesus, what we’ll care most about is we’re with Him! What can be greater than to be in the presence of our Saviour? The Lord Himself will come for His people. What confidence we have!
The great shout, the sound of the trumpet – what will it be like? I don’t know. But the whole point is seeing my Saviour. I can’t imagine what it will be or what it will look like. We don’t understand it or fathom the glory of that day when Jesus returns. What matters is, are we living as if God keeps His promises? We know Jesus is coming. Are you ready to meet Him, for the day when Jesus returns? So many people think they are ready for everything. Are you ready for His return? Are you ready for that great judgement day?
- When the Lord appears what will happen?
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the grand reunion when God reunites us who have sinned, with Himself. He will unite us forever. We will be with Him. The idea of being caught up means He will intentionally come down and bring us to Him.
We will meet Him in the air. Breath-taking! The word ‘meet’ describes the official welcome of honoured guests. When we meet Him it is an intentional meeting. All who believe in Jesus will be with Him. What does this meeting look like, to meet in the air? I have no idea. It will be a once in eternity event. Unique. This is Jesus Christ coming back, God returning to have the final victory. It is the end of human history and the beginning of spiritual eternity. We can’t understand it.
God, in His infinite wisdom, plan and order, is coming back for us. Our feeble minds can’t comprehend it, but one day we will witness it and live it! The risen, resurrected, conquering Lamb, whilst we were still sinners, looked at us in love. We will be overwhelmed by Him.
At the end of verse 17 we see what everything revolves around – we will always be with our Lord. There will never be a moment when we will not be with Him. We’ll be in the presence of the Lord.
- Encourage one another with the truth.
“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Those whom Christ died for will never be forgotten but will be with Him forever. Therefore, in the struggles of life, encourage one another with these words. Our God is coming back, and nothing will separate us from the love of God.