The world around us seems to be devoid of hope. In Great Britain many are worried about leaving the European Union – after all, for most people, this is all they have known. ISIS continues to cause people around the world to worry, as well as the unstable situation in Korea. People worry about what is ahead of them in life. Perhaps the problem is that they see this life as all there is.
When Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, we find Christians who were worried about the Christians who had already died. Paul wrote, “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NET).
These Christians were worried that those who had died would miss out on eternal life with Jesus. Paul went on to explain what would happen when Jesus returned.
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, 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, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
Just because Christians had died, there was no reason to worry. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead when he died could also bring the Christians who had died back to life. God had them taken care of! They wouldn’t be left out of eternal life.
This is how it will happen. First Jesus will come down from heaven with a “shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” In other words, everyone is going to know what is happening. It is going to be LOUD!
Then the dead will rise and come back to life – not in our old corruptible bodies but in a new body that is suited for living eternally with Jesus (Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15). Then those who are still alive will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air! Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 15 that we will also be changed to have the new bodies needed to live with Jesus. Together, all those who belong to Jesus will “always be with the Lord.”
Notice that there is nothing here about Jesus coming back and setting foot on the earth – we meet him “in the air.” This is the beginning of living eternally with Jesus. The cares of this world will be gone. We will finally realize what we have been living for. No wonder Paul told them, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The worries and cares of this life are not worth worrying about. They are temporary. They will be gone before we know it. We have something to place our hope in: living forever with Jesus. This is real hope! That gives us the encouragement we need to get through each day.
May we live this year as a people who don’t despair about what is going on around us, but as a people who have real hope.
Readings for next week:
8 January – Colossians 2
9 January – Colossians 3-4
10 January – 1 Thessalonians 1-2
11 January – 1 Thessalonians 3-4
12 January – 1 Thessalonians 5