Lord, prepare my heart to receive what you have for me in your Word today. Thank you for the joy that is mine because of the faith you have given me in your Son.
Read 1 THESSALONIANS 4:13–18
Believers Who Have Died
13 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. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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 forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘… I am convinced that neither death nor life … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’1
I was shocked and upset to learn recently that a close friend had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. A mutual friend said she was ‘praying that her days will be filled with transfiguring grace’—beautiful words, which helped me, despite my grief, to see my dying friend as a dearly loved child of God who awaited the glorious culmination of her redemption in Christ.
Often, we need others to remind us that the grief we feel for loved ones who have died is not the final word and that there is a greater perspective. This seems to be Paul’s role here. We can infer from this passage that the Thessalonians are grieving for some brothers and sisters who have recently died and that they are concerned that they will miss Jesus’ eagerly anticipated return. Paul reassures them that those who have ‘fallen asleep’ in Christ (a common euphemism for death)2 will rise when the Lord comes, to meet him together with those who remain living (v. 17). The word Paul uses for Jesus’ coming (parousia—v. 15) was commonly used to refer to a magnificent imperial visit to a city, whose officials and people would travel outside the city to welcome the dignitary with great celebration.3 All in Christ—whether living or dead—will rise to greet the Lord upon his return.
Some of the imagery Paul employs—the cry of command, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet call, and the clouds (vv. 16, 17)—might seem slightly outlandish, but Paul is using it to paint a picture of the splendor and brilliance of the Lord’s return, as our divine and rightful sovereign. His aim is less to outline the logistics of the second coming than to evoke excitement at the prospect of welcoming Christ in all his glory—along with all our beloved sisters and brothers.
Are there areas in your life where you need God to increase in you the gift of hope in Christ?
Hallelujah, Lord Jesus—you said that you will return; those asleep in you and those still living in you will rise to meet you and be with you forever. Indeed the gospel is good news!
Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by kingstar