Hope For Death
Do you have 10 minutes free to think about your death? Some of you are like, “I’d love to have 10 free minutes, but even if I did I wouldn’t want to spend it thinking about my death!!” We don’t think about death too often. It’s not all that, well, fun. But that doesn’t change the fact that it IS going to happen. You can think about it now with dread, or with hope. How do you think about it?
Some folks in the Thessalonians church weren’t sure if they could be hopeful about death. Check out 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep.” So what’s going on here, a kanak attack epidemic? That word asleep is actually talking about people who have died. It’s kind of the nice way to say that someone has died, like we say “passed away,” right? We say it that way because we don’t really like to think about death very much. I mean, when’s the last time that you went out to dinner with friends and talked about your own death? For most of us, we kind of ignore the fact that death exists or that it’s 100% coming for us. But here in this church, there’d been some death, and the people were concerned and confused about what it means to put your faith in Jesus and then die. What happens to that person? What’ll happen to them when Jesus returns? Are they gonna miss it? So some different ideas started being thrown out and Paul writes to give the truth of what it means when a believer in Jesus dies. God wants us to know as a church how we should respond to death.
So keep going: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” Ok so he wants us to know the truth, so that we won’t grieve like the rest. The rest is referring to people who don’t have faith in Jesus. There are a lot of people in the world who have rejected Jesus, he’s not their king, and they’re going to grieve a certain way when death happens. Believers in Jesus shouldn’t grieve that way. Now, it doesn’t say that we shouldn’t grieve. Death is something to grieve over. Death is wrong. It doesn’t fit in creation. It’s part of our story because we rejected God and his goodness and death is a consequence of our rebellion. It’s a result of sin. So it’s terrible. We should grieve it. But not the same way as people who don’t have Jesus. Why? Look what it says: “who have no hope.” People without Jesus have no hope when facing death, which really means, they have no hope in life. But someone who HAS Jesus, has incredible hope in life and in death. There’s something that allows us to respond to death differently.
Here’s the truth we see in these verses: We Should Be A Hopeful Church. Because guys if we can respond to death with hope, and death is the worst experience we can have, then we can have hope in every situation happening in our lives. I think we see 5 reasons in this passage that we can be a hopeful church, even in the midst of loss.
OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON JESUS
First, look at verse 14: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” If we believe that Jesus died and rose again. If we believe that, then we must believe that he was born into this world so that he could die and rise again. And we must believe that there’s something unique about him and his death that it could impact us.
You see, after mankind rebelled against God, God promised that he would heal us from sin and death. He made that promise right away. And then he slowly started to reveal how he’d do it. He’d send an offspring through Abraham, that offspring would be a King like David, he would serve the world by suffering God told Isaiah the prophet, he’s be born in Bethlehem God told Micah. All through the Old Testament of our Bibles we read the promises of God about how he’d defeat sin and death as God spoke through prophets and inspired people to write his words down.
But then God went silent. I’ve always been SUPER intrigued by God’s silent years. For 400 years God didn’t speak to the people through the prophets. It was just 400 years of waiting, wondering if God would ever do what he said he’d do. Parents telling their kids to have faith that God would deliver them. Grandparents telling their grandkids. People who had faith in God telling their friends and neighbors, hey God’s gonna come! He promised! 400 years of that.
And then finally God said it was time. The fullness of time had come. He miraculously caused a virgin named Mary to become pregnant, and the God of the universe became a human zygote, a single diploid cell, that would soon become an embryo and then a fetus and then be born on a normal night to a normal family in an unspectacular place. So that most people missed it. It’s what everyone had been waiting for! But I’m sure before it happened, many people doubted that God would ACTUALLY come. Maybe they waited for a long time, and decided that he just wasn’t gonna do it. Maybe it was all fairy tales. Maybe God wasn’t faithful to his promise. And even most people who were still waiting on God to come, saw Jesus in the flesh, and decided that this couldn’t be it. So they looked at the answer to God’s promises and rejected it.
But some believed. And that baby grew and lived the most unique life ever because Jesus never sinned. He lived a perfectly holy life. He taught people that He was God’s solution to the problem of sin and death, but that it meant that he’d die in the place of sinners, he would experience death himself, but then he would have victory over death by being resurrected from the dead. Jesus said that his resurrection would show us what would happen to all of his followers some day. Look at how he said it in John 11: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” He’s inviting this woman to believe that he will be raised from the dead, and that he’ll raise everyone from the dead who believes in him.
And then he backed up his teaching by doing it. He was beaten, he suffered, the holy Jesus took on himself our sin and God punished him with the punishment that we deserve. God punished him to death. And then, just as you’d think that death had the victory like it seems to in all of our lives, Jesus was literally, physically raised from the dead. He came back to life. Not just his spirit, but his physical body was resurrected. Some women saw him, his disciples saw him, two dudes on a road saw him, and then at one point over 500 people saw him, and then a guy named Paul. He saw Jesus in the flesh, alive, after he’d actually died. And now as Paul writes this letter, he says that we can have hope that we will have life after death IF we believe in this Jesus. Verse 14 says THROUGH Jesus God will raise up those who’ve died. So guys this is the most massive source of our hope as followers of Jesus: We have hope because our future depends on Jesus. It doesn’t depend on us. We just have to believe that it’s true. Jesus did the work to make sure that death doesn’t have the final say in your story.
That’s what Jesus’ first coming was all about. Check it out in Titus 3: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us —not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy — through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” Jesus came, to save us, it’s totally his work, so that now we may become heirs, people who inherit a fortune because we have the hope of eternal life.
Your life after death doesn’t depend on you and what you do. It doesn’t even depend on the strength of your faith. It depends on WHO you have faith IN. This is a massive source of hope. Do you have it? Do you believe in Jesus? Like I mean really believe that he is God and that he really died for you? This hope can be yours today if you believe it.
But wait, there’s more…
OUR FUTURE IS A REUNION WITH OTHER FOLLOWERS OF JESUS
Look at verse 15: For we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still 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. God says that anyone who’s made that decision to put their faith in Jesus, and then died, they will be raised physically to be with Jesus forever. And anyone who has put their faith in Jesus and is still alive will also be raised physically to be with Jesus forever. So anyone who has ever put their faith in Jesus will physically have life with Jesus forever. And that will happen at an event where the Lord himself, that’s Jesus, will come again. So guys here’s the second reason we can have hope: we will be reunited with every follower of Jesus!
Maybe you have a family member who has died. Or a friend. Or you’re really stoked about seeing, meeting, and getting to know people you’ve read about in history or in the Bible. You’ll have forever to be reunited to family, friends, Abraham, Noah, Samson, David, Mary, Martha, Paul, Dietrich Bonehoeffer, Henry Opukahia, EVERYONE who has EVER put their faith in Jesus! God promises that you’ll live with them. You will be with them forever. That’s incredibly hopeful.
JESUS WILL COME AGAIN
Look at verse 16 again: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” This is specifically talking about when Jesus returns again. Now, here’s the thing, Jesus promised that he’d return and do this. And it’s been about 2,000 years. Christians have been reminding each other about this. Big sign in Kalihi from the H1: Jesus Coming Soon. Telling their friends and family that’s gonna happen, so believe in Jesus now! But, I think for the most part, people don’t think this is really gonna happen. Even serious followers of Jesus who believe that EVERYTHING in the Bible is true sometimes look at this and say, “yeah, sure, but it’s probably not gonna happen in my lifetime if it hasn’t happened yet.” And that always brings me back to that 400 years of silence before Jesus was born. People must have been saying and thinking the EXACT same thing. But then it happened, right? God showed us that he IS faithful to his promises. He’s already shown us. He doesn’t always do it on our timetable or the way we’d expect, but he always keeps his promises. So guys thirdly, we can have hope that Jesus will come again. He’s not gonna leave us in this world to just live and die. He’ll come back, and when he comes, it’s gonna be very different from when he came the first time.
Look at how he’ll do it in verse 16: descend from heaven, with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, the trumpet of God, those who are dead will rise. Guys this isn’t the humble baby in the manger that most of the world missed. This is like a victory parade. He’s not returning secretly, he’s out in the open, boldly coming back. No one will miss this!
JESUS HAS WON THE WAR
Why’s he coming back this way, in this parade of glory? Because Jesus has won the war against sin, death, and Satan. And this will be the validating proof of it. Jesus will return in a victory parade, and death will be defeated because all these people who’ve put their faith in Jesus will be resurrected to life. Satan can’t do anything about it. Sin can’t do anything about it. The victory of Jesus will be final. So number 4, We have hope because Jesus has won the war. And what’s great about that is, Jesus winning the war, is the same as you winning the war.
Look at what God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 20: “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” God goes with you to fight for you to give you the victory. You couldn’t have the victory in this war without God, but God fights for you and you actually get the victory that he won. At the end of your life there won’t be one final test, one final battle, one final hurdle. God has done it all. Even if you die in this battle of life, you STILL get to meet him in the air to be a part of the victory parade because he won the war.
How awesome is that?
WE’LL NEVER LOSE THIS NEW LIFE
So what happens to us if Jesus comes today and we’re still alive? Look at verse 17: Then we who are still 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’ll go too. Those who have died will go first, we’ll go meet them, and then it says that we’ll all be together and we will always be with Jesus from that point on. Always. We’ll always be together, and we’ll always be with Jesus. Always. That’s the fifth reason: we have hope because we’ll never lose this new life. There’s no way that Satan can mess it up, there’s no way that we can mess it up. We’ll just be able to enjoy being with Jesus and with each other forever.
It’s easy to look at passages like this in the Bible and get bogged down with trying to figure out when Jesus is gonna do these things. People start to put together timelines and try to find exact dates and all that. But Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians so that they’d encourage each other with these words.
I hope this is encouraging to you. If Jesus is your Savior, and the King of your life, this should be the most encouraging stuff you could hear. So encourage each other with this. When death comes, and it will, cling to these truths. Grieve, but grieve differently. Grieve with hope.
If he’s is not your Savior and the King of your life, this should be very unsettling. Because you’ve heard that you’re not part of either of those groups: you’re not part of the victory parade.
You can be. You can have this hope.
I’d invite you to pray, talk to God, tell him why you’re struggling to believe, listen to what God tells you. Maybe you know really clearly that he’s telling you to believe in Jesus right now.