Resurrection in Thessalonica

Foundational to the hope of the church is the bodily resurrection of believers that will take place when Jesus arrives from heaven

Alpine sunrise - Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash
Paul wrote the Thessalonians on the “
coming” to comfort Christians concerning the fate of believers who die before that day. Disciples must not sorrow “like the others” BECAUSE dead Christians will be resurrected when the Lord "arrives,” and both the living and now resurrected believers will “meet him” as he descends from heaven - [Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash].

The answer to Christian sorrow over the loss of fellow believers is the bodily resurrection at the end of the age. While disciples of Jesus still grieve when other believers die, they need not do so as do nonbelievers who have no hope.

FATE OF THE DEAD


Questions about the fate of believers who die before his “arrival” are dealt with in the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians. Apparently, some members of the congregation were concerned that dead believers could miss out on that day’s glories. Precisely how they came to that conclusion is not addressed by Paul.

But the Apostle reassures them. Not only will dead believers participate in the events of that day, but they will also rise from the dead “first” and be reunited with Christians who are still alive. Afterward, the entire company will ascend to “meet” Jesus as he descends to the earth. In this way, they will be together “with him forevermore.” And the Thessalonians are “to comfort one another” with these words.

What Paul links to the return of Christ is the collective and bodily resurrection of the saints. Precisely where believers go after meeting Jesus “in the air” is not stated in the passage, whether they will accompany him to the earth as he continues his descent or return with him to heaven with the newly raised saints.

And 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.”

He continues on this subject in the next chapter. The Thessalonians are not in darkness so the day will not “overtake you as a thief,” not because they know all the appropriate “signs” and chronologies of that day, but because “you are all sons of light, and sons of the day” – (1 Thessalonians 5:1-12).

LIVING IN THE LIGHT


Believers live in the light of the gospel and no longer are in darkness. 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 them to “wrath.” Even now, Jesus is delivering them from the coming “wrath.”

Instead of “wrath,” they are appointed to 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 the passage is that salvation is acquired through bodily resurrection.

Paul concludes the subject by encouraging the Thessalonians. Certainly, God will sanctify them wholly in preparation for that day - “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.”

The point of this 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 was foundational to Paul’s gospel, and in First Thessalonians, as elsewhere, he linked it to the “arrival of Jesus from heaven.” All dead saints will be raised at that time, and together with those Christians still alive, the entire body of Christ “meet” him as he arrives from heaven.



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