Explore the Bible: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Without hope life is reduced to a hollow existence.  Through many years of ministry, God has put me in a position to see the vast chasm that separates people of hope from the hopeless.  Perhaps nothing defines being a lost person better than to say that the lost are without hope.  In fact, what hope they do have is totally tied to the world and whatever pleasures the world may be able to give them.  As they cope with the death of a friend or family member, or contemplate their own death they are at a loss to come up with any meaningful encouragement.  I shall never forget a family screaming at one another at a funeral home where there father was lying in state.  They raged about his material assets and the lack of a will.  He was not prosperous.  Their entire focus was on the world.  The few scraps they might gather from their father’s possessions was their only concept of hope.

  The words of our text this week are some of the most precious words God has given us to speak to us of the life to come.  We are assured that the death and resurrection of Jesus not only opens the door to heaven, but prefigures the death and resurrection of all who have received Him as Savior and Lord.  Some mistakenly believe that this text teaches that the soul of the Christian sleeps in the grave awaiting the resurrection at the return of Christ.  Two other passages reveal that this is not correct.  2 Corinthians 5:8 says that when we are absent from our body we are present with the Lord.  Matthew 17 records the first of three accounts in the gospels of an event called the “Transfiguration”.  In that event Moses  and Elijah are talking with Jesus.  That experience makes a powerful parallel to what Paul is saying to the Thessalonians.  Moses represents those who have died.  Elijah, on the other hand, was “caught up.” 

Our text also mentions the voice of an archangel, a trumpet blast, and the loud command of our Lord.  This calls to mind what Jesus said in John 5:28.  He spoke of a time when those who are in their graves would hear his voice.  Paul has in view the time of the rising of those who know the Lord.  Do not think that what happens to our human remains will hinder the Lord.  He has the original pattern.  Like Moses and Elijah, we will be recognizable.  We will finally be like Jesus.  Our fallen nature will be left behind as salvation has completed its final task.  We can take vast encouragement from these words.  The best is yet to be.

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