The Apostle Paul planted a church in Thessalonica. His enemies were jealous of his success so they drove him out of the city. Paul had planned to stay longer. He was worried that the believers in that new church were not sufficiently established in their faith.
Since he was unable to visit them personally, Paul wrote to the fledgling church in Thessalonica. He was anxious to finish the things lacking in their faith.
One of the issues troubling the believers in Thessalonica was apparently their understanding of Jesus’ Second Coming. They were concerned about Christians who died before Jesus’ return. What happens to them?
“Since we believe that Jesus died and rose,” Paul wrote, “so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.”
Notice that Paul speaks of death as sleep. For those who belong to Christ, death has lost its sting. Death for a Christian is like falling asleep on a journey and waking up at home. Jesus died to defeat sin and was raised by God to defeat death. All who trust in him share in these great victories.
Paul goes on to write that the followers of Jesus who are alive when he returns will be reunited with the believers who have died. When Jesus comes again Christians will be privileged to attend the world’s greatest reunion. What an incredibly joyous time that will be!
The Apostle also writes that we will be with the Lord always after he returns. Jesus warned his disciples just before his crucifixion that he was about to leave them. Their consolation would be God’s Holy Spirit, whom God later poured out on his church.
But when Jesus comes again, his followers will never again be separated from him. We will have all eternity to enjoy his visible presence, finally able to cast our crowns at his feet and marvel at that face which shines like the sun in all its glory.
This uplifting section of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian Christians ends with a command: “So encourage one another with these words.” Paul did not want those men and women who were new to the faith to be ignorant, mourning like the rest of world who have no hope.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. For believers, death is like sleep. As believers, we look forward to the greatest reunion ever imagined. And as followers of the Risen Christ, we have a guaranteed place in his presence for all eternity.
This is a great time of year for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us encourage one another with these great words.
May the power of the Risen Christ carry us forward in the grace of God,
Brother Richard Foster