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.
The Bible reminds us all that life is fragile. We are reminded that we are as the flower of the grass.
I Peter 1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
No one is given a card at birth stating how long they will live. Parents never know how long their child will live. Spouses never know this either when they marry. Children never know how long they will have their parents.
The Bible makes it very clear that since the fall, man will face death. Genesis 5 reminds us that people were born, they lived and had families and they died. Sometimes, as in the case of the thief on the cross, a person doubts the truth and lives his entire life for himself and does not bother with the truth. God is merciful and He continues to work in the heart of the person right until the end. Many never get saved because they wait too long.
The thief waited until his last day before he finally turned to God and cried out for salvation. God does not want man to wait that long. We do not know the hour of our death. Not only that, but God has so many blessings He wants us to know in this life. The thief was saved, but he robbed himself of many blessings that he could have had during his life. There is no point in living our life with regrets. The blessing of God’s forgiveness helps us to look ahead and to put behind us the past.
I received an obituary notice today of a missionary wife who died of cancer at age 55. The obituary notice described her as a vibrant Christian wife, mother, and grandmother. From what was written she sought to live her life for the glory of God. In doing so, she would no doubt be a blessing to her husband and her children as well.
In our text, Paul was directed by God to address the matter of the brevity of life. Paul expected the Lord to return in his time. He taught the saints to expect the Lord to return in their time. We are now almost 2,000 years past that time, and the Lord has not returned yet. That does not mean He will not return. Every true child of God needs to live with the expectation that this could be the day of the Lord’s return. Every true saint also needs to live with the realization that this could be their last day on this earth. We have no assurance of finishing this day, let alone the next. The reality is “tomorrow never comes.” We can plan for tomorrow, but we live in today.
First century saints were dying and their loved ones were concerned about what happened to them. They needed further instruction on life and death and the after life. Paul was directed to give that instruction.
We notice in verse 13 that Paul was writing to “brethren.” Brethren are defined in verse 14. Brethren are those who believe that Jesus died and rose again. This is not a simplistic statement. There are many people who know that Jesus Christ died on the cross and that He rose again. They give mental assent to this fact, but it is not real in their hearts.
Thayer gives this definition of the Greek word translated as “believe” in our text:
“used in the NT of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul”
The brethren were those who were convinced in their hearts that Jesus died and rose again. This fact which was accepted by faith, changed them from the inside out. We have jumped into the context of I Thessalonians. We will need to go back and review this book to get a better understanding of these verses. You can read the entire book in a short while and get a better understanding of it. For today I believe it is important to look into these verses.
Paul reminded the living saints of his day, that those who truly believe in Jesus, sleep in Jesus at death. The death of a saint is different than the death of the lost. There is a loss, there is grief, there is sorrow, but there is also hope. That hope is real because it is based in fact.
The saved person has a testimony of salvation. They have been changed from the inside out and their lives give testimony to this fact. They desire the things of the Lord more than anything else. They do not just talk about it, but they actually live it in their lives. They take time for the Word of God on a daily basis. Unless they are saved on their “death bed”, they seek out and attend a good church faithfully. They do these things because they have the love of God in their heart.
Paul assured the saints that the saints who had already died, were asleep in Jesus and Jesus would bring them with Him when He comes back in the clouds. It is important to note here that Jesus is called God. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Godhead.
Those that are born again and have died in this age of grace, will be raised up out of the graves at the same time that the living saints will be caught up to be with the Lord in the air. The souls of the sleeping saints are in heaven with the Lord now. They are not sleeping somewhere as the Seventh Day Adventists falsely claim. They are resting in the Lord. God calls it sleep but it is not an unconscious sleep. The Bible tells us that the souls of the saints in heaven are fully aware of where they are. They are rejoicing in being in the presence of the Lord. The saints that are still alive on this earth can take comfort in the fact that their loved ones that have gone on before are not suffering in torment. They are not lost somewhere.
Living for the Lord on this earth will have its challenges. The Bible declares:
II Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
The world does not want to know the true God. They want a god of their own imagination. They want a god that loves to party. They want a god that “understands” life and accepts just about anything and everything. That god does not exist. He or it is an imaginary god.
The God of the Bible is real. He exists as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There is no other entity like this. God the Son took upon Himself the form of a servant, made in the likeness of man. He is called the Son of God and the Son of Man. He never sinned. He demonstrated His deity in many different ways during His 3 1/2 years of public ministry. He laid down His life for you and I. He rose again victorious over sin and death. He ascended back up to glory and is seated on the right hand of His Father now. He is the only Mediator between God and men.
Our text tells us that one day soon, Jesus Christ will descend with a shout, in the clouds, to come and receive His own. The archangel will speak with a loud voice that the saints will hear. The trump of God will sound as well. Those who believed in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and have died, will be raised up out of their graves. Their souls will be reunited with their resurrected bodies. At the same time that this is happening, those saints that are alive will be changed and receive their glorified bodies. Together, all the New Testament age saints will leave this earth and go with Jesus into heaven. That will be the final destination of all the New Testament age saints. We will never be separated from the Lord again.
Paul was told to remind the living saints to comfort one another with these words. As we mentioned, there is sorrow when a loved one dies. However, for those who are saved, that sorrow is not a gut wrenching sorrow. It is natural to miss a loved one in death. It is important for both the dead loved one and the living one, to be saved. It is important to be trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. When we trust in Him, we live for Him. We follow Him according to His Word. We do not set our own standard.
Jesus Christ called twelve disciples while He was on this earth. When He called them He told them to “follow me.” He would make them “fishers of men.” They were changed men, except for one. Judas Iscariot had the same opportunity to follow Jesus that the other eleven had. Judas chose to reject the truth in his heart. He was with Jesus. He was even the treasurer. However, he was a thief. Jesus knew that. Judas fooled the other eleven, but he did not fool Jesus. Judas perished. He is not asleep today. He is in torment in hell.
The other eleven are resting in Jesus Christ today. They are resting in anticipation of the Lord’s return to catch away His bride. When He comes, their souls will come with Him and their bodies will be raised up and they will be reunited with their souls and together with all other New Testament saints, will go to heaven to be with the Lord.
These words are a comfort to those who are saved. These words help the saints to be able to face death and the death of a loved one. God does not want anyone to have to face death on their own. That is a dark place to be at.
It is my prayer that each one reading this can truly say that you believe that Jesus died and rose again. You need to have your full confidence in Him. If that is true, it will be evident in your life. Your life will be defined by what God’s Word says. You won’t be perfect, no one is. However, there will be a definite change in your life that will indicate a life changed by God. That is the most important change that each one needs to make. No one can make this choice for you. You need to personally turn to God in repentance and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. It is not complicated. It is a matter of humbling yourself and placing your trust in God alone through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. If we can be of further help, don’t hesitate to call or write and we will show you further from God’s Word the blessedness of knowing God’s peace in your heart.