1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)
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. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
We all experience the loss of loved ones to death. The early church was told by Paul, that they did not need to grieve as the pagans who had no hope. Paul was expressly told by the Holy Spirit that those who fell asleep in Christ, would be resurrected first, then those who remained here on earth at the time of Christ’s return in all His glory.
I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort that those who die with faith in God–Jesus–will be able to rejoice with Him at the end of time. It helps me to remember that this is the short life, and really just a warmup.
Paul says to comfort–encourage–one another with these words. Clearly God meant this message as a comfort for those who lose beloved friends and family with faith in Christ Jesus.
I am certain that we have all heard at funerals and wakes, “At least he isn’t suffering anymore” or, “She is in a better place.” Keep the faith. Know that our loved ones who go before us, will also precede us to meet Jesus. But they will not precede us by much, if I understand this passage correctly. This will all happen in the twinkling of an eye.
by Virgil Stripes