Sorrow Not

Foundational to the church’s future hope is the bodily resurrection of believers when Jesus arrives in glory.

Paul’s description of the “arrival” of Jesus is written to comfort believers concerning the fate of their compatriots who died before that event. They need not sorrow “like the others” BECAUSE the dead will be resurrected when the Lord “arrives.”

When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth, both living and newly resurrected saints will “meet him” together as he descends from heaven - (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The answer to grief over the loss of fellow believers is the bodily resurrection, an event that occurs when Jesus “arrives.” While disciples do grieve in this life, they need not succumb to the depths of despair that often overwhelm nonbelievers who are without hope.

Paul addresses the issue of dead Christians in the fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians. Apparently, some members of the congregation are concerned that dead believers might miss out on the glories of that final day. Precisely how they came to this conclusion is not stated.

COMFORT ONE ANOTHER

But the Apostle reassures them. Not only will dead believers participate, but they will rise from the dead “first” and be reunited with believers who are still alive. Then, the entire assembly will ascend to “meet” Jesus as he descends to the earth.

In this way, all congregation members will be together “with him forevermore.” And the Thessalonians are “to comfort one another” with these words.

What Paul links to the ‘parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus is the collective and bodily resurrection of the saints. Where believers go after meeting Jesus “in the air” IS NOT STATED, whether they will accompany him to the earth as he continues his descent or return with him to heaven.

And, as he does elsewhere, Paul bases the future resurrection of Christians on the past resurrection of Jesus - “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”

NOT IN DARKNESS

He continues this subject in the fifth chapter. The Thessalonians are not in darkness, therefore, the “day of the Lord” will not “overtake them as a thief.”

This is so, not because they know all the appropriate “signs” and prophetic timetables of the “last days,” but because they “are all sons of light, and sons of the day” – (1 Thessalonians 5:1-12).

Disciples of Jesus live in the light of the gospel and no longer in the darkness of sin. They prepare for the end by “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.”

And God did not appoint the Thessalonians to “wrath.” Even now, Jesus is delivering them from the coming “wrath.”

Moreover, instead of “wrath,” they are destined for the “acquisition of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”

Implicit in Paul’s declaration is that salvation is received through the future resurrection of believers.

He concludes this section about the future by encouraging the Thessalonians. Indeed, God will sanctify them wholly in preparation for that day:

  • May your spirit and soul and body be preserved whole without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.”

The point of his last statement is not the tripartite nature of man, but that the whole person will be saved on the day when Jesus “arrives from heaven,” including the physical body.

Bodily resurrection is foundational to Paul’s message, and he links it to the “arrival of Jesus.” All dead saints will be raised at that time, and together with those who remain alive, the entire body of Christ will “meet” him as he arrives from heaven.


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