Words Of Comfort – 1 Thessalonians 4

1 Thessalonians 4

Throughout history there have been failed predictions about the end of the age and the return of Jesus. Dates set which are meant to conjure fear and panic in the heart of Christians everywhere. But when the apostle Paul speaks of death and the Rapture, his words are used for comfort and hope.

Thessalonian believers, who knew through Paul’s teaching that Christ would indeed return, struggled with many questions. They worried about the fate of those who died before Jesus came back, and those who were still alive on that glorious day.

Paul tackles first the subject of death with, “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. For if we believe that Jesus Himself died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (vs. 13-14) I love how Paul uses “asleep” to describe death.

For Christians death isn’t a final destination, but rather a beautiful transition from this world to heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:8 tells us “To be absent from the body is to be home with the Lord.” What a wonderful declaration! After all, isn’t that our hope? Not only to see our loved ones again, but to be with our Lord and Savior for all of eternity! And that’s just what Paul wants us to remember so that unlike unbelievers who grieve with no hope, we have the assurance of the promises of God.

Next Paul goes on to describe what will happen when Jesus returns for His church. “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.”

Jesus will bring with Him the spirits of those who died as believers. Their bodies will rise and be reunited with their spirits, and they will receive new glorified bodies. And those who are alive will be gathered directly into His presence, and also receive the same glorified bodies. This is known as the Rapture, and is the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made in John 14:1-3  to prepare a place where we will be with Him forever. And in God’s perfect timing, Jesus will come for us and take us to our eternal home.

Could there be a more wonderful promise? In our new glorified bodies, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk. No more will we experience pain, sickness, or decay. Our bodies will be perfect in every way! Paul ends with this encouragement, “Comfort one another with these words.” (v. 18) Even though “we do not know the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13) of Jesus’ return, we know He is returning. So “lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” (Luke 21:28), and cry, Maranatha, Maranatha!

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