EASTER 2007:  “1 Thess. 4:13-18, He Is Risen Therefore We Do Not Grieve As Those Who Have No Hope

By

Jim Bomkamp

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1.                  INTRO:

 

TEXT:   1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 

2.                  THE REASON FOR MY PICKING OF THIS TOPIC FOR MY TEACHING THIS EASTER SUNDAY SERVICE.

 

Having recently attended the funeral of my grandmother, seen the four year anniversary of my father’s death this past Friday as well as the fourteen year anniversary of the death of a very good friend yesterday, and having friends and family whom I have recently talked and counseled with concerning the loss of loved ones, this morning I wanted to share with you the things that I have been thinking and talking about lately relative to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

 

Part of what I always share at the funerals of believers is the fact that the scriptures tell us that we Christians do not need to grieve our loved ones in the Lord who have passed away because, as our text tells us, we are promised that in the resurrection we will recognize and be reunited with all of these loved ones in the Lord who have passed away before us.  Thus, the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us great hope of the after life that we can have and hold as an anchor for our soul.  All of us as Christians must settle in our minds this concept of the hope that we have in Christ after the grave.

 

3.                  EASTON’S BIBLE DICTIONARY HAS THE FOLLOWING ENTRY CONCERNING THE CHURCH OF THESSALONICA:

 

Thessalonica — a large and populous city on the Thermaic bay. It was the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia, and was ruled by a praetor. It was named after Thessalonica, the wife of Cassander, who built the city. She was so called by her father, Philip, because he first heard of her birth on the day of his gaining a victory over the Thessalians. On his second missionary journey, Paul preached in the synagogue here, the chief synagogue of the Jews in that part of Macedonia, and laid the foundations of a church (Acts 17:1–4; 1 Thes. 1:9). The violence of the Jews drove him from the city, when he fled to Berea (Acts 17:5–10). The “rulers of the city” before whom the Jews “drew Jason,” with whom Paul and Silas lodged, are in the original called politarchai, an unusual word, which was found, however, inscribed on an arch in Thessalonica. This discovery confirms the accuracy of the historian. Paul visited the church here on a subsequent occasion (20:1–3). This city long retained its importance. It is the most important town of European Turkey, under the name of Saloniki, with a mixed population of about 85,000.

 

4.                  THE PURPOSE FOR THE WRITING OF THE BOOK OF 1 THESSALONIANS.

 

The letter of 1 Thessalonians was the first of all of Paul’s epistles which he wrote.  He likely wrote the book from Corinth around 50-52 AD.   Paul’s writing style in this letter does not at all resemble that of his later writings in the books of Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians, and this probably has to do with the fact that at this early date Paul had not yet formulated his doctrinal positions and manner of teaching at this point in time.  However, this book does include some very important doctrinal points.   

 

The letter was written after Timothy had returned from Macedonia and reported that the Thessalonians were confused by and misunderstood some of Paul’s prior teachings, however that they had remained steadfast in their faith and purpose.  Many suspect that Timothy also returned with a list of questions to Paul from the church which Paul addresses in the epistle. 

 

Paul wrote this first epistle to the church then to commend the church for their faith and steadfastness (In the third verse of the epistle Paul remembers their ‘work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’), but also to address their misunderstandings and questions, as well as some accusations made against Paul of doing ministry for profit. 

 

In the letter, Paul likewise exhorts the church regarding their tendency to fall into moral laxity and laziness, and also not respect their teachers.  Paul likewise encouraged the church in this letter to go forward in the Lord.  Finally, Paul encouraged the church about what would happen to believers who would pass away prior to the Lord’s return, telling the church not to grieve for them as those do in this world who have no hope, for the Christian is assured that he will be resurrected along with his loved ones when Christ appears.

 

 

5.                  EULOGIES:

 

At my grandmother’s funerals down in Arizona, I was reminded of the fact that in our American culture that when people die that there is a lot of wishful thinking that goes on.  Every obituary that you read in the paper indicates that the person went to heaven to be with the Lord and is now in a better place.  Lets be honest, have you ever read an obituary that states that so-and-so, “died and now I’ll bet now he is going to really get what is coming to him” ?  I don’t mean to be insensitive but the fact is that obituaries as well as the preaching itself at funerals, even by pastors who are saved, is often full of wishful thinking. 

 

The fact is that there is a heaven and a hell that a person is going to go to after they leave this life, and it is only through faith and commitment to Christ as one’s personal Lord (Master) and Savior that will allow anyone to go to heaven (with the exception of young children whom most believe are covered by Christ’s atonement).  Even Jesus in John 3:16 tells us that this is a perishing world and that unless a person believes (that is has saving faith) upon Christ that he will perish for eternity along with this world:     16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

 

Having said that, for the Christian we know that God’s word promises us that we will not only have eternal life in heaven with God when Jesus returns, but also that we will be reunited in glorious reunion with all of our believing loved ones when we pass away or Christ returns.

 

6.                  REASONS FROM THE SCRIPTURES FOR BELIEVING THAT WE WILL RECOGNIZE OUR LOVED ONES AFTER WE PASS FROM THIS LIFE.

                                                                                                                              

6.1.            EXAMPLES FROM THE GOSPELS.

 

6.1.1.      In correcting the Sadducees who believed there was no resurrection, Jesus told them that the Lord was not the God of the dead but the God of the living (Mark 12:26-27).

Mark 12:26-27, “26 But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.”

6.1.2.      In Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus who had died and respectively gone to Hades and torment, and Abraham’s Bosom, both of these men had kept their identities and personalities and were clearly distinguishable (Luke 16).  Even their words in that place are recorded for us.

 

6.1.3.      When Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the Mt. of Transfiguration and Moses and Elijah appeared, note that everyone recognized them, and that Moses and Elijah recognized and talked with each other (Luke 9:30).

 

6.1.4.      In Matt. 27:52-53 we read that after Jesus had been raised from the dead that many tombs were opened and that many of the Old Testament saints were spotted and recognized by many in the surrounding areas.

 

6.1.5.      After Jesus was raised from the dead we see that in His resurrected body that there was enough of a resemblance to His former body and appearance that He was recognized and that He showed others His wounds He incurred in His body from being crucified (John 20:20, 27).

 

6.1.6.      In Matthew 22:23-32, when asked a question about whose wife a woman would be in the resurrection who had been married to several brothers in this life, Jesus taught that though we will recognize and know our loved ones in heaven that we will no longer be bound in marriage in heaven.

 

6.2.            TEACHING FROM THE EPISTLES.

 

6.2.1.      In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we are told that now we see through a mirror dimly but that in heaven we will know fully just as we are also known.

1 Corinthians 13:12, “12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

6.2.2.      In 1 Peter 1:3-9 we are promised that we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, a hope that we hold for our lives beyond the grave.

 

1 Peter 1:3-9, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

 

6.2.3.      2 Corinthians 5:1-5 tells us that when our earthly tent (body) is torn down that we will have another building (body) from God in heaven, and thus we will not just be disembodied spirits or merely be absorbed into the all.

 

2 Corinthians 5:1-5, “1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.”

 

6.2.3.1.Thirteen years ago we had a blessed friend of ours from our home fellowship pass away from lung cancer after a little over a two year battle and having been in remission for two years.  This woman who was a new believer when she first had contracted the cancer, just after moving to Seattle and becoming part of our church and my home fellowship.  It was incredible how that she grew in her faith and was used by the Lord during that period time after first contracting the cancer.  Being a hair dresser she had a huge rolidex full of customer names, and every day when she was very sick and on oxygen she used to call person after person and spend hours on the phone telling them that she had cancer but that she had such great peace and joy because she knew that she was going to be with Jesus.  Well, after her relapse from the cancer, she passed away on the very day that our home fellowship met.  I thought about canceling our meeting that night because everyone was grieving so heavily, but then decided to hold it anyway.  That night the house was filled with people, both from our home fellowship and the church at large.  The night began very somber with lots of tears as we sang and worshipped the Lord.  Then, since I had just previously been preparing to teach this first chapter of 1 Peter and because the verses fit what we as a fellowship needed to think about at this time, I decided to go ahead with my study.  I read this first chapter of 1 Peter and then in very simple terms spent just a few minutes talking about what the passage meant in our lives as Christians regarding the great hope that we have in Christ when we pass from this life.  Suddenly something totally unexpected and miraculous happened right in our midst.  God dried every eye in the house and turned all of our grief and mourning into peace and joy in the Lord.  This even happened to the woman’s husband and her children.  The Lord took away our grief because we had embraced the great hope that we have in the Lord after this life of seeing and being united with all of our departed believing loved ones.

 

6.2.4.      In our text for this message (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) we are told that we who are believers should not grieve like the rest of the people of this world who have no hope, because we know that in heaven we will recognize and be with our departed loved ones. 

 

6.2.4.1.Notice in this passage that Paul states that when the Lord returns that it is the dead in Christ who will rise first from the dead, then the rest of us who are alive when He returns.

 

6.2.4.2.Notice also how Paul reiterates this hope we have in Christ for ourselves and our loved ones right near the end of the epistle :  1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, “9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.”   

 

6.2.5.      Dr. J. Rodman Williams has written, “Hebrews 12:23 speaks of "the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven." The glorified church in heaven means, along with much else, a common recognition.  Yes, heaven will be a fulfillment of all human relationships without earthly limitations. Truly we will know one another fully and completely and rejoice in the Lord's presence forever!

 

6.2.6.      Revelation 7:9 tells us that there will be a great multitude in heaven, including people from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue, “9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.”

 

6.2.7.      1 Corinthians 15:35-57 describes the type of body and life that we will have in the resurrection.

 

1 Corinthians 15:35-57, “35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 36 You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

 

So, our loved ones will be transformed with a glorified body that is sinless, spiritual, and raised in power.  There will be enough of their previous form and personality to recognize them however.

 

I don’t know how much of this life that we in heaven will discuss.  Perhaps we will be so taken up with and in awe of the Lord that He will capture most of our attention and the things of this life will not occupy us too much.  There is also a verse that tells us that the Lord is going to remove from us some of the difficult and sorrowful memories of this life.  He promises also in that place to remove all sorrow, crying, and tears.

 

7.                 CONCLUSIONS:

 

7.1.         In conclusion, funerals are for the living really, not for the dead.  When one of the saints passes from this life don’t feel sorry for them, they are face to face with the Lord and experiencing the greatest of blessings.  They probably don’t want you to pray for them to be raised from the dead either!  We will grieve when someone in the Lord that we love passes away, this is the natural reaction.  However in the midst of our grieving and disappointment we must have great peace in our hearts knowing where they are and that we shall see them soon, and, we must also be very happy for them and rejoice in the Lord.

 

7.2.         I have been to funerals of the loved ones of those who do not know the Lord, such as that of my great grandmother when I was about 12 years old, and I have seen how that for unbelievers who have no hope that the death of a loved one is the greatest of tragedies and that there is no conciliation or comfort for their grief.  However, as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, we Christians are not to grieve as do those in this world who have no hope.

 

7.3.         The scriptures tell us that we can know that we have eternal life through trusting in Christ as our Lord and Savior, for it is written, “…These things were written that you might know that you have eternal life.”  Do you know that when you pass from this life that you will spend eternity in heaven?

 

7.3.1.  If you are not sure you would spend eternity with the Lord, or sure today that you would not, I would like you to invite you to receive the free gift of eternal life in Christ.

 

7.4.         If you were to die today and you were to stand before the Lord and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”  What would you reply to Him? 

 

7.4.1.  Man is sinful and, “all have fallen short of the glory of God,” therefore no one will ever be good or righteous enough to get to heaven based on our own merits and deeds, no matter how hard we may try to do and be good.

 

7.4.2.  Salvation comes through the grace of God when we simply receive by faith the gift of eternal through Christ and trust completely and only in what Jesus did on Calvary’s cross to pay the full debt of your sins.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this not of yourselves for it is the gift of God, and not as a result of works lest anyone should boast.”  Accepting Jesus as your Lord (Master) and Savior and trusting in Jesus alone in this way you can know also that you have the gift of eternal life and that you will spend eternity in heaven with the Lord.

 

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