Looking at 1 Thessalonians 4, with another passage, we find an interesting challenge. Let’s look at Thessalonians 4:13-18:
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.
What this passage is revealing is not some deep eschatological secret about the rapture, but something much better. Paul is telling the Thessalonians why they should have hope. See verse 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.” Here, Paul is saying that he does not want the Thessalonians brothers and sisters in Christ to not be like other people… those who have no hope. In other words, Paul wants to give his readers hope! The question is, what is that hope? Likely, it is not necessarily what you think.
I see two things that Paul points out in this passage as beacons of hope. First, the phrase “caught up” in verse seventeen is constantly getting people caught up in that phrase, but this is the wrong phrase to get caught up in. Paul emphasizes hope in this passage, and it is not about getting caught up, but the key word here is “together.” This is the first beacon of hope in this passage. In other words, Christians will be reunited with their loved ones who have died before them. This is in direct opposition to what the “others” have, who have no hope. The text implies that these people who were not Christians believed that their loved ones will never be seen again. In other words, they believed that their loved ones ceased to exist. This is, like I said, the first beacon. A lack of hope is what Paul is combatting.
Secondly, and this is important as well, Paul is using the Resurrection as an example for our own resurrection in the future. In verse 14, Paul writes, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” Here, Paul points to the Resurrection of Jesus and says, “Look… that is what is going to happen to us when we die, because we lived in Him.” Again, Paul is using the Resurrection as an example of what will happen to those who have died in Christ.
At this point, I would like to introduce a hypothetical syllogism (an argument):
P --> Q
Q --> R
P --> R
1. If the Resurrection is a historical event, then we have an example
2. If we have an example then we have an expectant hope.
3. Therefore if the Resurrection is real and true, then we have an expectant hope.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Paul says, that first of all, the Resurrection of Christ is real and true. At the time of the writing, Paul mentioned all of these people so that the readers of the First Letter to the Corinthians could go and ask these people and interview them for themselves. Think about reading this letter if it were addressed to you. You received it, read it, and it caused you to go investigate. The reason this letter is still around is because the events that it describes is true. If the resurrection did not happen, we would not likely have as many ancient documents that we do have (over 25,000 hand written manuscripts), because people would have gone and spoken with the over 500 brothers and sisters and gathered the information for themselves and found it to be false. Then the documents would have been regarded as embellishment and would have been treated like a tabloid at a grocery store. On the contrary, Paul challenges his readers and says that if the Resurrection did not happen, then we are living a lie. Then everything we speak on the Resurrection is in vain. He goes further and says that we who preach and teach the Resurrection, if this historical event did not happen, then we would be guilty of leading people astray by misrepresenting God. The information for the above syllogism is taken from these two passages (1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15). Now would be a great time to read that syllogism again.
As the syllogism above shows us, as well as the passages in front of us, we have a challenge set before us. That challenge is that we must investigate the Resurrection. Do you want to have hope? Do you want to see your loved ones again? It is time to take ownership in the Resurrection. This is the only way. Jesus even said Himself, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life; No one comes to the Father but through me.”
Friends, the Resurrection is real and true. Set your hope on this example that Paul discusses. Miracles are possible. God created the universe out of nothing. This is the biggest miracle. The greatest miracle is that we have hope and salvation through the life, death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The challenge is to look into the Resurrection. Find that it is a real, historical event, and that we place our faith in Jesus. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but will have everlasting life.” The question is, “how can Jesus say that a person ‘shall not perish?’” The fact is, our consciousness never dies, but only the body. This is where the Resurrection comes in, we are in a disembodied state until the Resurrection at the Last Day (See John 11). Further than this, Romans 6:23 tells us why we must die in the first place: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” This means that the cost of our moral failure is death. This is the biblical reason of why we die. But it is not the end. We can receive a free gift of eternal life through Jesus. This is where we find true hope. How does this work? Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.” This is another syllogism. It is called Modus Ponens:
P --> Q
1. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.
2. I confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.
3. Therefore, I am saved.
This is our only hope. If you do not have Jesus, then you do not have true, real hope (see 1 John 5:11-12). Because the Resurrection is a historical event (which can be investigated), we will see our loved ones who put their faith and trust in Christ alone if we do the same.
Thus, death is just a temporary
setback for those who follow Jesus and call Him Lord and Savior.
Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus