In 1 Thessalonians, Paul seeks to encourage the Thessalonian believers toward godliness. He has reflected upon their conversion, he is aware of the trials they face, and he has exhorted them toward sanctification. He knows, however, the tendency to lose heart. And as these Christians are losing loved ones and even facing persecution, Paul urges them to the hope of Christ’s second coming. It is really this message of hope and of encouragement that shapes the passage. Paul, with this hope as the backdrop, encourages them with the coming resurrection, and he exhorts them to be ready for the Day of Christ’s coming.
He writes about the resurrection, “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. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14) Paul is speaking to concern about loved ones who have departed, as some were possibly tempted to doubt the hope that they would share in the eternal hope promised in the resurrection of the believer. Perhaps you yourself have lost a loved one in Christ, and it is difficult in the midst of the grief to have the confidence that they will rise. Consider two questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Question 37 asks, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?” The answer provided is, “The souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection.” The believer who dies, according to the catechism, is already present with Christ in glory. But what is sometimes overlooked is this statement: “their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection.” The body of the believer remains in that vital connection to Jesus Christ even in the grave—this union with Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection. Christ has been raised; therefore, each of His people will be as well. Question 38 of the Shorter Catechism goes on to ask, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?” The answer is “At the resurrection, believers, being raised up to glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.”
This is your hope—Christ has borne the judgment; therefore, you will be acquitted if you are found in Him. And, you will be “made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.” This is also the hope you have for loved ones in Christ who have departed.
There is great hope in the resurrection. We ought to look longingly toward the return of Christ. But Paul also gives the exhortation toward being prepared for that Day. The believer ought to look to their great hope of salvation in Jesus Christ and pursue likeness to Him as they await that Day. If you are not a believer, won’t you see this great salvation offered unto you by this Returning King, and look to Him? Then you will have a place to stand on that Day, and you will possess an eternal hope. We will discuss this further this Lord’s Day at 5 PM during worship at The Commons at St. Andrews. For directions, click here, or contact us for more information. You can also join us on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.