“Clearing Up Confusion About Death”
This letter is full of reminders and encouragement to stand fast and keep progressing in the faith! It is not primarily a problem-solving letter seeking to change belief or behavior.
A Quick Review of 1 Thessalonians.(Date of letter:Late AD 50/early AD 51)
This was a model church!
- Truly a church with genuine conversions
- Work of faith, labor of love, patience of hope
- Loved and elect by God
- Imitators of apostles and of Jesus
- Examples to others in the region
- Evangelistic—gospel echoed out from the assembly
- Living transformed lives as they waited for Jesus’ return
Paul’s prayer to God for the Thessalonians (3:10-13):
- That their faith might mature (4: 13-18)
- That their love might abound (4: 9-12)
- That they be established in holiness (4:1-8)
1. A Fundamental Question: What happens to believers who die? (4:13)
- Ignorance creates confusion—but be careful knowledge without love puffs up.
Regarding His return for us—be prepared and be busy. The promise of His coming is a reason to be hopeful and a call to be fruitful.
- Death is a certainty (except for those alive at Jesus’ coming).
Sleep is a euphemism for death (Luke 9:18-26; John 11:11-14)
Paul uses sleep to refer specifically to the physical body— he is not referring to “soul-sleep”.
Upon death, the believer’s soul (eternally conscious) is immediately with Jesus in Heaven. 2 Cor. 5:8;
Phil. 1: 23; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-11
3. Believers grieve differently than the unsaved. Our grief is of a temporary separation. We sorrow but with hope of a future glorious reunion and life with Jesus ever after. Pagans have no hope of a positive afterlife. As a matter in fact, they only face God’s judgment. This should cause us to weep and strive to share the gospel with them.
2. A Foundational Truth: Our Faith is Backed Up by Fact (4:14-15).
- We have a forgiven past—Jesus died.
- We have a future resurrection—Jesus rose from the dead.
- We have a guaranteed Word—the Scriptures.
3. A Future Promise: Jesus is Coming for Us (4:16-17a)
- Jesus Himself is coming.
- His coming will bring a resurrection of the church age saints.
- His coming will bring a transformation of those alive at the time.
- His coming will bring a reunion.
- His coming will bring relief.
4. A Fantastic Reunion—We Will Be Gathered Together Forever with the Lord. (4:17b-18)
- Nothing will separate us from our Savior.
Romans 8: 35-39; John 10: 28-29
- We have hope for the future.
- We have comfort for today.