Informed Hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

Sep 07, 2022 By: David Meyer Topic: Sermon Devotional Series: 1 Thessalonians Scripture: 1 Thess. 4:13-18

As we have seen, the theme of chapter four is Paul’s concern that the young Thessalonian church abound in a walk pleasing to God. Growing in likeness to Jesus in areas of sexual purity, brotherly love and industrious work are a few of the practical subjects that Paul highlighted in verses 1-12.  Then in verse 13, Paul turns to a deficiency in knowledge which the Thessalonians had around death, specifically dead believers in relation to the . Would those who died in the faith before Jesus returned somehow miss-out on his return? It may seem silly or elementary to us, but we have the benefit of 2000 years of theological development on our side. The aim of this section (v. 13-18) is clear: Paul did not want the believers to sorrow or grieve like pagans. He writes to the Thessalonians about death so that rather than grieving about it or being uniformed, they will be encouraged about their future and encourage others with what he tells them.

As Christians, it is right and normal to grieve for our loved ones who have died. However, we do not grieve without hope. We have every reason to be tremendously hopeful about the future because we worship a Savior King that defeated death and has all authority on heaven and earth. Paul did not want the Christians to be ignorant or uninformed about what happens to both Christians who have died as well as Christians who will be alive when Jesus returns. We have a revelation from God that gives us an informed hope that a glorious future awaits us with Christ. Just as certainly as Jesus died and was resurrected from the dead with a glorified, resurrected body, so too will God unite the dead believers upon his final coming with newly transformed resurrected bodies. The logical and practical outcome of this teaching is comfort and encouragement. Paul commands believers to encourage (same word used in 2:12 and 3:2) each other with these words. The truth of a final reunion with all believers at the final resurrection is certainly a reason for rejoicing! Not only are Christians called to not grieve like unbelievers, but we can anticipate and look forward to that day when we will be with all believers throughout history, united in Christ and with Him forever.

Questions for reflection and discussion:

  • What verses in the Bible show a description of legitimate sorrow and mourning for believers? (Jesus in John 11:33, brothers over Stephen’s stoning in Acts 8:2, Paul in Philippians 2:27, others?)
  • Do you think this quote from John Calvin is consistent with biblical theology? Why or why not? 
    “It is one thing to bridle our grief, that it may be made subject to God, and quite another thing to harden one’s self so as to be like stones, by casting away human feelings.”
  • If Christians are to sorrow with hope, what does that mean? What exactly is the sorrow and grief for?
  • There is much biblical imagery found in this section of Scripture (4:13-18). We see cries of command, the voice of an archangel, the sound of a trumpet, clouds, etc. What verses in the Old Testament and New Testament come to mind to color the symbolism? (Joel 2, Exodus 19, others?)
  • How do the dominant views of our culture affect our thinking and living as Christians? (The predominant perspective of the “West” is Secular Humanism which flows from a worldview of Scientism or Naturalism. It says there is no hope or future beyond this life) Why do you think so many professed Christians avoid discussing the topics of suffering and death? Are we more concerned with being “nice” than truly loving our neighbor?
  • What “end times” (eschatology) teaching have you been exposed to in your past? (books, church, movies, etc)  Did the teaching bring you to more joy and hope? Did the teaching bring you to a greater desire to encourage other believers with hopeful optimism for the future? Why or why not?
  • The Scriptures make plain that our ultimate hope is not *simply* to die and go to heaven, but rather the return of Jesus. What do Titus 2:11-14, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Corinthians 15 and this section in 1 Thessalonians highlight to make this clear?  How does it connect to our mission now as a church? (to make and mature disciples of Jesus)

How is John 5:28 a sober reminder that the Lord’s second coming as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15 have to do with every single human being throughout history, whether *in Christ* or not? (See also 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)