Words of Faith 3-27-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Thessalonians 4
 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Paul turned his attention to another area in which the Thessalonians' needed understanding. He devoted considerable space in this letter to issues related to the return of Christ. This is the classic passage in the Bible on the Rapture of the church and tells us clearly the relationship of the Lord's return to believers who had died.
Paul wanted the Thessalonians to be neither ignorant nor grieving like the rest of men. Christians do not grieve over the death of fellow believers in the same way that unbelievers do. Christians do not grieve for their fellow Christians as pagans grieve, because Christians have hope.
Most pagans in the time of Paul believed in a shadowy afterlife in the underworld. Pagans grieved with very dramatic and cathartic rituals. The high pitched warble of grief is familiar in the Middle East. These grief rituals pour out emotion, but they offer no hope.
Christians grieve over the loss of loved ones, but it is for a different reason. Christians mourn only the earthly loss and temporary separation from loved ones during this life. We grieve for ourselves. We grieve because of time cut short with those we love. This is a normal human experience which even Jesus shared (John 11:35). The grief of Christians differs from that of unbelievers in that those without Christ have no hope of bodily resurrection to glory with Christ (1 Thes. 4:16).
When Paul speaks of those who "fall asleep" he is talking about Christians who die in the Lord. This figure of speech for death is common in the New Testament (Mark 5:39; John 11:11). We should not understand this to mean the "sleep of the soul." Paul wrote elsewhere that a Christian who is absent from his body is present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; cf. Phil. 1:23; 1 Thes. 5:10). This is the "sleep" of the body in the earth until it is resurrected. At the resurrection, the body will be changed into a glorious body and reunited with the soul (1 Cor. 15:35-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-9).
There are two reasons why Christians should not grieve like unbelievers. Christians have a revelation from God that gives them hope, and they have a glorious future with Christ. Just as certainly as Jesus died and was resurrected by the Father, so God will unite the resurrected dead in Christ with their Savior at His coming.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are among the best-attested facts of history. Since Christians know these events took place, they can be equally sure, Paul said, that the souls of believers who have died will return with Christ when He comes for His living saints. The prophecy of the Rapture is as sure to be fulfilled as the prophecies of Christ's death and resurrection.
So for us, the question is rather simple: Got hope? Do you have the hope of the resurrection in your soul so that you need not to grieve like the rest of men? Have you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as your hope for eternity?
How about your loved ones? Do you have hope for them? Maybe the holidays would be a good time to talk about it. The very best day of Thanksgiving would be one in which we come to know that those we love will be meeting us in eternity. The very best Christmas gift would have to be the assurance of knowing that we share a common hope.
Father God, I thank You for the hope of glory. I thank You for the promise of the resurrection. Give me the words to share testimony with those I love, so that they may also know You and share this hope. In Jesus' name.