But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
The end of the world is going to be in a hairs breath of the blink of an eye. In other words it will be so fast no one will know it happened until it is over. As a thief in the night without warning Jesus’ return will be incredible and powerful with the holy angels of God shouting forth the arrival of judgment upon a world filled with sin. No one knows the day including Jesus Christ. What a day that will be.
Waiting for the coming of Lord is filled with the continued march of death. The first century disciples were amazing people. They lived with the knowledge of Jesus’ return as if it would happen at any moment. While they looked for the coming of the Christ they had concerns for people who died. What will happen to them? Will they be forgotten in the coming of the Lord? They were so filled with the excitement of the return of Jesus, death was a real struggle to understand. Today we live in the continued presence of death and rarely think about His return. We should regain the spirit of the early disciples.
Paul wanted to assure the brethren that God had not forgotten their loved ones. FIRST death is nothing more than a sleep. Death normally brings fear and uncertainty. Christian’s know death is only a transition from mortality to immortality. When we think of death as sleep we realize that it is peaceful slumber with a ‘waking up’ on the other side. That is joy.
SECOND, there is hope in death. When life leaves the body it is not the end but the beginning. For those who live without God life is meaningless and death is greatly to be feared for it brings nothing. The child of God realizes that death is the beginning of something wonderful. Hope inspires life to live for death so that life can be realized in dying. The sleep of death is the awakening of our spirits in the presence of God. Now that is something to live for.
THIRD, because we believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and He arose from the dead – all of God’s saints will be raised in the final day in victory. Death does not change the place of the child of God in the resurrection. If anything there is a sense of priorities. Paul goes on to explain that when the Lord comes again those who died in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still living will be raised to meet Him in the air. The dead rise first; the alive will raise second. Why? Because that is the will of the Father.
FOURTH – here is the really exciting part: we will ALL be together with the Lord. Death does not keep us from our brethren. We are united with all the saints who have passed through the veil of death and we will all share together in the glory of God. Death is nothing. It is defeated. It is not to be feared. The lake of fire will contain death and hades and we will never again live in fear. So today we can remove the fear of death because nothing will separate us from the love of our Father.
The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the knowledge that we have hope beyond measure that takes away the fear of death. Hope reigns supreme in the knowledge that whether by death or the coming of the Lord we can comfort one another in the knowledge that we will be with the Lord forever. Praise God for His grace and His mercy. Lord come quickly.
Feared of dying? Were you feared of being born? (Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1943)