Jeremiah 18:1-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:3; Psalms 81:1-7; Proverbs 19:24-25
NT: “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. 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. 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words. About the times and the seasons: Brothers and sisters, you do not need anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:3 CSB)
During the first century, pagans did not have a consistent belief of an afterlife, if they believed in an afterlife at all. To some extent, life after death brings a certain level of responsibility into this current life, so belief in and afterlife is something many seek to avoid. For many pagan Greeks, there was nothing after death, so the belief was enjoy life and pleasure the flesh as much as possible now, for when you die, it all ends. Many of the believers in Thessalonica came from a pagan Greek background and were confused by the afterlife. They believed that in Christ, they were given eternal life… and they knew that Christ was coming back to claim His bride – but they were confused and a little concerned about what happened when someone died before Christ returned. Some believers had died, Christ had not yet returned, and they were concerned that their departed friends had missed their forever-after with the Lord.
Because of their confusion and concern, Paul (through a word of wisdom that he had received from the Lord) gave an almost play-by-play account of what will happen when Christ returns. He wanted to make sure that they understood that those who died in Christ did not miss their opportunity. When the last trumpet sounds and Christ returns for His bride, the dead in Christ will be raised to life, just as Christ was raised to life… and they will be joined with Christ in the heavenlies. Then, those who are still alive in Christ will be caught up (raptured) together to meet the Lord in the clouds.
The most important thing that Paul wanted to get across to the Thessalonian believers (and to all who read this letter) is that as long as we remain in Christ, death and the Day of the Lord should not be a scary or confusing thing. If we die in Christ, we will see the Lord. If we live in Christ, we will see the Lord. However long Christ delays His coming, and however many people die in faith before He returns is of no matter of concern, for we will all spend eternity with Him. The most important thing is that we remain in Christ while we live, doing the things He left for us to do, so that when He does return, we will be ready and not taken by surprise.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that in You I have a sure hope and a definite future. As I remain in You, physical death is not an end, but merely the beginning of eternity with You. Help me to not grow anxious about the future, but to place all my days in Your hands, and to live everyday in faith, lovingly obeying all that You have called me to do. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.