Reading the Word
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV)
13 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. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Understanding and Applying the Word
As a pastor, this passage is very familiar. It is a passage that I turn to again and again to give comfort to the grieving when a loved one has died. Paul tells us that Christians should not grieve like the world. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. This is true because we know that Christ died and rose again and has promised that all of his followers would be resurrected just as he was. There is coming a day when all believers will be together with Jesus forever. So, we may grieve when a fellow Christian has died, but we know our time apart is only temporary. We have hope.
The secular world has no hope. In a world where there is no God and no afterlife, everything is meaningless. Some try to take away the sting by saying you live for your children or to be remembered well or to leave the world a better place. However, what will all of that matter in the future when the sun has burned itself out and the earth is a cold rock? None of it will matter and none of it will be remembered. In a world without God, death marks the end of a meaningless existence. Now is all there is. Grief is all there is.
Remember Jesus and the resurrection. It changes everything and gives hope to the grieving heart.
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