I Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
I want to give an update today on our family matters. I mentioned a few days ago that my wife’s brother Jack, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors were amazed at the speed at which this cancer spread and took over Jack’s body. There is a very strong indication that this was not a normal cancer. We will not get into the details of this right now, but there is also an obvious reason for this unusual cancer.
It is with sadness that I state that Jack is gone. He died yesterday at 7:28 in the morning. I am thankful that we had the opportunity to spend some time with Jack over the past few days. I was able to read Scripture to him several times and also to pray with him. He was lucid and interacted with me regarding his life. God was gracious with Jack, as is the case for all people.
In our text, Paul wrote of those who are asleep. Paul was writing to born again Christians. As we have noticed already, the saints in Thessalonica demonstrated that they were saved. This is the key. We have been reminded that life is short and very uncertain. We can make plans, but we do not have the final say on those plans. What is of such crucial importance is to take the short time we are given to listen to God and to be saved.
The Bible often reminds us that salvation is not an automatic thing. In verse 14 Paul reminded the saints that “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again…” It is not a normal thing that we believe that Jesus died and rose again. This is obviously not a flippant belief that Jesus died and rose again. Many in our world have a superficial belief that Jesus died and rose again. History records that fact. The Catholic cult makes much of this historical event. However, Catholics are not saved. They do not believe that Jesus’ death, shed blood, burial, resurrection and ascension are unique. Jesus Christ alone is the Saviour of mankind. There is no hope for man without this necessary belief.
The saints in Thessalonica had this necessary belief. They were changed by turning to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That little word “if” is such a powerful word. In the few years that God gives to a person, it is so critical that the person stops to listen to God. In this case, Jack was given 63 years to choose. He was exposed to the Gospel somewhat. This was a matter of choice as well. We cannot say where Jack is today. He did not give any clear indication that He believed that Jesus died and rose again. God knows where Jack is. Our discussions will not change that fact.
Each person reading this needs to take some time and meditate on this important fact. If a person believes that Jesus died and rose again, in the manner in which Paul wrote in this book, there will be a fundamental change in the nature of that person. That change will be abundantly clear in the life of that person. That is a fact. God is in charge of salvation. He demonstrated His ability to save man in the very first chapter of the Bible. God is all powerful and He is omnipresent and omniscient as well. He made man and He alone has the power and wisdom to make man a blessing to Him and to others.
As we read the sad account of Genesis 3, we read of the fall of man, but we also read of the promise of God after man’s fall. God is “sovereign”. I say that as a born again Christian, not as a Calvinist. The Calvinist does not believe that Jesus died and rise again.
Again, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, He is in charge. We do not become infallible. We do not become sinless. However, the fundamental nature of the saved person is drastically changed. The word “drastically” means something that is likely to have strong and far reaching consequences. That is an undeniable fact with regard to God’s salvation. The desires of the saved person are changed. The Bible shows us that saved people need to be taught and retaught on this important fact. However, this is a Biblical fact. As a born again Christian, I cannot take charge of my own life.
I Corinthians 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
God must be in charge of the saved person’s life. There must be an obvious difference in the life of the saved person compared to the lost person. We have warned many times of the danger of New Evangelicalism. That false religious movement teaches that there may not be this obvious difference between the lost and the saved. In that ungodly belief system, a person can be addicted to tobacco, alcohol and a host of other vices and still be declared a born again Christian. That teaching is so contradictory to what the Bible teaches. There is no justification for it when we take the Bible as our authority.
The apostle Paul was writing to the saints and giving them words of comfort. There is no comfort in the shady brand of Christianity so common in our day. There is comfort in knowing that if a person truly believes that Jesus Christ died and rose again, they are asleep in Jesus and they have eternal life.
This is such a crucial fact to settle. When a loved one dies, it is quite natural to want to know that the person is not suffering any longer. God has placed a general desire in man that he does not want to think that someone will always be suffering.
During the last few days of Jack’s life, they gave him several different drugs to try to relieve the pain and also to control the thoughts of Jack. I will not go into detail on all of that here, but I am convinced that the greatest blessing that Jack was given during those few days in the hospital was from anyone who took the time to read Scripture to him. The Word of God is the primary need of man. The Word of God is designed to be a blessing to man. Even the rebukes given in God’s Word are designed to be a blessing to man.
Most preachers look at the Bible and they look for “smooth words.” They want to ignore the facts and they want to use the Bible as something that will sooth the conscience of man. That is why expositional teaching is so important. It forces the preacher to take every word in every verse and expound upon that within the context of the passage and also within the broader context of the Bible.
Young children are sometimes given a “pacifier.” It is something that gives the child a false sense of comfort. Many children have a “comfort blanket or toy.” This too gives them a false sense of comfort. We do this because we look for ways to keep the child from fussing and crying. Children need to be taught from young on that the real comfort they need comes from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
God is the God of all comfort. He is the Only source to find comfort in any and every situation we face. God directed the apostle Paul in all his writing. He wrote everything so that man could know how to be comforted in every situation and at all times.
I Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Don’t push that important fact away. Embrace It and trust in God’s provision for comfort and hope.