Death is real. As the COVID-19 pandemic has reached our island, we have started to feel its effects. For many of us, we may know coworkers, classmates, friends or loved ones we have lost because of this outbreak. For many of us, we may have treated death as something that was far away. It’s something we can deal with when I get older. In the meantime, we try to live life by enjoying life. But when death is nearby, it has a sobering effect. Suddenly entertainment doesn’t seem so important when we may not see tomorrow.
But for the Christian, the fear of death has been blunted. There is still a small aspect of death that remains such as the physical pain of death and the separation of loved ones. But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the ultimate sting of death has been defeated. As believers, we believe that Christ will one day return and bring with him those who have died. This is one of the gifts that has been released for those who believe in Christ. We see this hope described in today’s passage.
This question of how Christians should see death was something that the Christians wrestled with in Paul’s day. Many members of the church were anticipating that Christ would return at any moment (which we still do today). But there were those who were dying before Christ returned. Many were wondering what happened to those believers.
Paul wrote to the church to comfort them and remind them about the promise of Christ’s death and resurrection. They were not to grieve as those who have no hope. But Paul wasn’t just telling them to do something that they didn’t feel like doing. Instead he gives them the reason. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep (14).”
In other words, Jesus died and rose again and afterward ascended to heaven where rules over all things right now. But Jesus will not remain there forever. The Scripture tells us that Jesus will one day return and will come back as a victorious king who returns back to claim his own people. He also promises to bring with him those who have put their faith in him. “For the Lord 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. 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.” Paul ends the paragraph with a practical application. “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
How are these words encouraging? They are encouraging for a few reasons: first, it is a reminder that we have not been abandoned. There are times of suffering and loss when we feel as we have been abandoned by God. But the same Christ who came to save us from sin and death will be faithful to us. Second, it is a reminder that death will not be the end. Those who die in Christ belong to Christ. That is why we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We mourn as those who are separated from our loved ones for the time being, but will one day see them again. Third, the way the world is, is not the way the world will be when Christ returns. We are reminded from this passage that Christ will return to make all things right again. Sin and death will truly be defeated. There will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more sin.
Questions for Meditation:
- How are the disappointments you face in life sometimes an indication that you are longing for something greater than what this world can offer?
- How can we appreciate the truth, beauty and goodness of this world and allow those things remind you that there are even greater things to come?
- Does Jesus’ return excite you or do the things of this world excite you more?