In writing to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul expressed concern that they did not possess full confidence in victory of death. He therefore wrote to them: “But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (v. 13). The problem the young church had was not fears regarding the joy of witnessing Christ’s return, the timing of the resurrection, or the sequence of the rapture, but rather the fear that only those who were alive when Christ returned would finally be saved. Being uniformed about the situation of Christians who have died, they were tempted to grieve for them without hope.
This problem shows that the early believers expected Christ’s return at moment. Perhaps Paul’s teaching on this and other subjects had been cut short by his hasty departure, so that there were still errors and doubts. In the meantime, some of their number had died, perhaps by violent persecution, and they feared that one had to be alive when Christ returned to experience the resurrection.
Paul’s response to this problem, as with other problems of Christian experience, is instructive. He expressed his desire that “we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers” (v. 13). The answer to questions of doubt, confusion, or distress is the plain teaching of God’s Word. So many problems in the experience of believers today likewise stem from ignorance of biblical truth, so that the great need of God’s people is the careful teaching of Scripture. The way for Christians to be strong in faith was given by Peter at the end of his second epistle: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
What are the biblical truths that give believers hope in the face of death? Paul provides these truths in verse 14: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring him those who have fallen asleep.” Christ performs three great works – two of which have already happened, and one for which we await – that give hope to believers in the grief of death.
The first cause for our hope is the sin-atoning death of Jesus Christ: “We believe that Jesus died” (v. 14). The source of our chief fear in death – God’s just judgment of our sin and the eternal punishment it deserves – has already been removed by Jesus, who bore that punishment in the place of all who believe in Him. Jesus taught, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me…does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). The Bible teaches that the very Lord who will return to judge the living and the dead is the Savior who died on the cross for the sins of His people. Because “we believe that Jesus died,” we know that sinners are reconciled to God by the grace that sent Jesus to the grave on our behalf.
The second cause for the Christian hope in death is the resurrection of Jesus Christ: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again” (v. 14). Christ has conquered death by His own resurrection, and in this way has guaranteed the resurrection of all who confess their sins and trust in Him. The resurrection proves to believers that our Savior still lives and reigns with power to complete our salvation. Paul further stated in 1 Corinthians 15:20 that Christ’s resurrection is proof that all His people will likewise be raised from the dead: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This means that the future resurrection of all believers is the continuation of Christ’s resurrection conquest of death. His resurrection was the firstfruits, and the resurrection of all Christians will be the full harvest.
Finally, and as the conclusion of his sequence, Paul asserts that Christ, having died and risen from the grave, will return with all the souls under His care: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (v. 14). Since the souls of sleeping believers are present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), it follows that His return includes their return to earth. Therefore, when a fellow believer dies, Christians should never say, “We will never see him again!” Instead, Christians should rejoice in the certain hope that we will see beloved Christians when Christ returns, when together with Jesus all the people of God in heaven will join those on earth for the resurrection glory of the Lord.
Paul’s main point is clearly made: believers who die in Christ through faith will return with Christ, by the Father’s will, to participate in His second coming and join their resurrected bodies in the glory of the Lord. Paul urges the believers to “encourage one another with these words” (v. 4:18). This encouragement rests on the solid foundation of what God has done and will yet do: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (v. 14).
Since it is “through Jesus” that God brings souls back from heaven for a resurrection into glory, it is urgent that sinners come now to Jesus in faith to receive eternal life. To those who believe in Him – and to these only – Jesus spoke words of consolation and hope: “I am the resurrection and the life,” adding, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Paul anticipates this resurrection life when he concludes” “And so we will always be with the Lord” (v. 17). This is our hope as well, if only we come to Jesus for salvation now, humbling ourselves in faith and adoring Him as Lord, seeking the eternal life He grants to all who call on His name and believe in Him.
1Thessalonians 4:13-14 Study Questions:
Why do you think Paul was concerned about the Thessalonians possessing full confidence in victory of death?
What is the great need for believers today?
Why is it important to “encourage one another with these words” (v. 4:18)?
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14
Dear Faithful Seed-Sowers and fellow ADVENT adventurers,
We are in the fourth week of Advent! The first week of Advent was the candle of Hope. The second week of Advent was the candle of Love. The third week of advent was the candle of Joy. This week is the candle of Peace.
I have a few acronyms to make it easier to remember what we’re doing:
Who here needs peace? Who needs the peace of Christ to enter into your life, home, workplace, finances, relationships, health?
I encourage you to stop right now and read Luke 2:8-20. Twelve short verses that tell quite a story. Then, when you have read the story, read it again and put yourself into it. Are you a shepherd boy? or maybe you are the innkeeper sharing your barn? Maybe you’re an angel? Maybe you are Joseph or Mary? These last few days before Christmas, let’s work on putting this story, the Christmas story, into us so that we can live the story from a manger point of view.
Peace With God.
Christ of the Andes is an impressive symbol of peace. Once Chile and Argentina were enemies and fought constantly. At last they decided it was in their mutual interest to live in peace. So, high upon their natural boundaries, the Andes Mountains, they erected a great statue of Christ with outstretched arms. The inscription reads: “Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust than the Argentines and Chileans break the peace sworn at the feet of Christ the Redeemer.” Christmas reminds us of the coming of peace to earth.[i]
Have you ever stopped to ponder and pray about why Jesus came to earth? Why did Jesus come as a little baby? Surly the people of Israel were not looking for newborn baby born in manger. They were looking for a Prince of Peace coming in as a conquering King, riding a white horse and setting them free.
The world that Jesus entered was filled with pain, problems, trails, trouble, tribulations, despair, desolation, and depression. The people were held captive by their Roman rulers and they wanted to be free. More importantly, they were also being held captive by their sin that separated them from God. The Prince of Peace came to bring Peace to the world through his reconciling life, death, and resurrection. Right here in this second chapter of Luke, the God of Peace breaks through the cosmos and walks into our broken world.
The angels sing — “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
God sent His one and only Son into this broken world to reconcile us. “Reconcile: to cause friendly relations between, cause to exist in harmony, to become compatible with.” You heard that right. God sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to the earth when the time was right. God’s plan A? To reconcile the people who believe. Because of Jesus Christ, we can be in a right relationship with God, we can exist in harmony and we can be compatible with God, and others and ourselves.
In Isaiah 53 we have one of the prophecies called the Servant Song. Listen to how the prophet Isaiah puts our peace. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Pause and ponder those words as we reflect on the little baby born in dirty, dusty, smelly, non-heated, cold, dark, stable; outside, in a cave of rock. Brrr. This baby will be pierced for our transgression and sins. This child born to us will be crushed for our iniquities and immoralities, for our half-truths, lies, gossip, jealousy, shame, guilt and foolishness. The punishments that will be laid upon this baby boy will bring us peace! By His wounds we will be healed. Sounds quite unfair, one-sided, and lop-sided to me.
The God of peace broke through our world in order to bring peace between you and me and between us and God. RECONCILE—compatible, harmony, friendly relations—like Argentina and Chile!
Jesus is our peace, not in some wily-nilly emotional way. Jesus is our Prince of Peace in a real and concrete way. Jesus is our Prince of Peace by coming into this broken world and making us whole and complete by forgiving us, healing us, and restoring us back into a relationship with God who created us and loves us. RECONCILIATION—a good word in the story to put into your heart this morning.
When I was serving a church in Texas, I worked a grace weekend called Walk to Emmaus. I was one of the three clergy, pastors, or spiritual directors as they called them on the weekend. I gave a talk about God’s Justifying Grace. The talk centers on the fact that God has sent His one and only Son Jesus to justify us and set us free. Justify—just as if I’d never sinned. That’s how God sees us as soon as we believe in Jesus Christ.
After giving that talk, a man in his 80’s, came up to me asked me if he could talk with me. He told me that he had been a bomber pilot in WWII and flew combat missions over Germany and France. He told me that he could never forgive himself for dropping bombs that hurt and killed innocent people. He said that after hearing the talk about Justifying Grace that somehow God had given him a peace that surpassed all his understanding. He cried and cried in my arms. This man had peace as Christ entered his life.
P — Peace
E — Exists
A — As
C — Christ
E — Enters
Real peace is knowing that no matter what I do, God will never stop loving me.
Real peace is knowing that no matter what happens, God will never leave me alone.
Real peace is knowing that no matter what will happen in the New Year or the years to come, the Prince of Peace will be with me.
Real peace is knowing that the guilt of the past failures, mistakes and sins are forgiven.
Real peace is knowing that grief of the losses we have experienced will be overcome by the Prince of Peace.
Real peace is knowing that we can give up the grudges that cause us to become resentful and give them to the Prince of Peace.
Peace exists as Christ enters.
The “SO WHAT?” for you today, this final week of the Advent Season, is for you to allow the Prince of Peace to enter into your life. No matter what you have done. No matter where you are. No matter what your circumstances, difficulties, failures, faults sins, guilt, grief, and grudges are.
Peace exists as Christ enters. Pray it with me: Everlasting Father, Mighty Counselor, Prince of PEACE…enter your story into my heart—right now…and every second after…and remind me of the greatest story ever told. The story where God prepared the world for the most magical night of all: CHRISTMAS…and may I sing with the angels, may I scream with the angels: GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND PEACE..PEACE..to His people on earth! I choose right now to live in harmony with you—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Forgive me for my sins. I am so very sorry for my selfish choices. Thank you, Jesus, for your birth…your life…and your death and resurrection. I am a NEW creation. BORN AGAIN…to live out your story in my story. WOW. Amen.
See you Saturday night, 5 pm, online or at church as we gather to remember CHRISTMAS EVE!
Merry Christmas! I pray you are prepared for the birthday of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Hey! I’m thinking of having ANGEL FOOD CAKE on Christmas Day; a concrete way of putting myself into the story and putting the story into me! GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE!
God loves you and so do I,