I hope you are profiting from this study of I Thessalonians. Do you remember the five characteristics of a simple life?
Let me call your attention to I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. Paul felt sure these people were really Christians; he saw the result of the Holy Spirit, especially their love for others and patience under afflictions. They would be honored when Christ came back “with all his saints,” all dead believers from Adam to the present (3:11-12). Does your life reflect the fruit of the Spirit, giving you assurance of your salvation?
THINKING CORRECTLY IS LIKE WEARING A HELMET
Paul recommended they continue living the simple, quiet life he had outlined, but he wanted to be sure they understood how the Lord Jesus’s Second Coming affected their life now. Some of their friends and relatives had died, probably from persecution for clinging to the gospel. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, rightly understood, is an encouragement and a reinforcement during times of troubles and death. Paul was not saying they would not feel sorrow and grief, but they could have hope and comfort amidst these emotions if they armed themselves with right thinking about the Second Coming.
All of his reasoning and exhortation in this passage is based on the reality of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again…” (4:14). The death and resurrection of Jesus was not a matter for debate. Eye witnesses of both were still alive at the time this letter was written. Jesus had walked along with disciples, talked and ate with them just days after his death. He had walked through a locked door into a room of his followers. He fried fish and ate them with others. He had a restored and changed body. Thomas had felt the scars in his hands and side. Jesus had been to hell and back. Hundreds witnessed his ascension into the clouds.
We don’t know when it will happen, but He is coming back, not just as spirit, but in his restored body.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command,…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 (I Thessalonians 4:16b-17).
Why is this such an encouragement to a widow? A spirit or soul might be hard to recognize. But, a body and face that you have loved?. Wow! That is where the hope lies. The loud command will be for the bodies of the dead believers to unite with their souls. Abraham, David, Matthew, Mary, Peter, your mother, grandmother, husband. son….. Those who have died will, in an instant, receive their bodies back.
WHEN? Our quest for knowing when has taken the edge off these verses making them less useful. We have concentrated on when and loss the hope of a bodily resurrection of believers. Paul said, You aren’t going to know when. So be serious, …think,… reason about what this bodily resurrection means and remind one another of it. It would be like logic on fire where thinking results in a warmed heart. You will be made stronger and have more hope in spite of death, persecution, or other troubles.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation…Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, (I Thess. 5:8,11).
I Corinthians 15:12-19, II Cor.5:1-5, , II Thessalonians 2 add further details, but don’t get caught up in speculations about when. That will rob you of both the strength and hope you need for the trouble you are in. This hope strengthens a grieving person to rebuild a simple and quiet life in spite of their loss and pain.
Want to know how to help someone who has lost a Christian loved one? Remind them that because Jesus rose from the dead physically and promised to return in the same manner, we know He is watching over the remains of the dead and will loudly command their resurrection accompanied with the sounds of an angel and a trumpet. Their body will instantly change and rejoin their soul. If you die, it will happen to you. If you are alive when you hear and see Jesus coming back, then your body will also be changed an instant later and you will join them in the air prepared to love God and enjoy Him forever.
Unfortunately, the Bible affirms that an eternity away from God’s presence and glory awaits any who have rejected the Lord Jesus and what He accomplished by His death, burial, and resurrection. If Jesus were to come back today, what would happen to you?