Verse of the Day Devotion: 1 Thessalonians 4:13
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13
There appears to be in Thessalonica a confusion regarding what happens to someone who dies. Thessalonians were part of ancient Rome and believed as they did regarding the end, which was similar to what the ancient Greeks believed. There were Christians in Thessalonica who were dying, and it appears that an adequate explanation of what takes place had not been given to them. They no doubt had the idea they would be separated from them forever, therefore they grieved heavily, just as was done in Greek and Roman religions. But Paul uses the term sleep rather than death to give them hope. And he uses the idea of informing them of how their prior beliefs have led them astray regarding the death of believers.
First, he tells them they shall see them again. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15. In fact, they will precede us who remain alive till He comes. However, the main point here is that believers will be reunited with their brothers and sisters in Christ at the end. This was radically different than either the Greek or Roman beliefs regarding the afterlife. And this is why Paul said at the end of our focus verse that they did not need to grieve as those who do not believe in Christ, because they would be reunited with them.
He then goes on the explain when this will take place. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. When Jesus comes back, He will first awaken those who have fallen asleep. They will be raised first. Then immediately afterwards, He will bring us who are alive at that time to Him, and together we shall be with the Lord forever, never to be separated.
This was a new idea to the Thessalonians. They were troubled because were dying and they mourned heavily as the Greeks and Romans did, for they believed they would never see them again. This was the reason for these verses, to comfort them with the truth that they would be reunited again when Christ returns. At the time of this writing, they did not understand this completely. Now they did, and Paul encourages them to share this with all believers. “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18.
We must all grasp this truth. Many Christians I know have fallen asleep, including family members, close friends, and fellow workers for the Lord. Yes, I have grieved for them because I missed the opportunities to interact with them. And I think of them often, which does sadden me some. However, I know that at some time in the future we will be reunited, and what a glorious time it will be. The beauty of this event is that we will never be separated again. It will be wonderful, and our fellowship will not be temporary but eternal. This is the promise given us by Christ through Paul in these verses. Therefore, let us do as Paul said, comfort each other with this truth. Many can use some comfort during these times and we will in our lives as well.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.