Belief in resurrection changes everything. Imagine if our belief in a resurrected life was so real that we were regularly concerned about all it entailed. That was the case for the Christians at Thessalonica.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 4:13–15:
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep” (ESV).
The Thessalonian Christians were concerned about Jesus’ return and what that meant for those who had died. Specifically, their worry was that those who would die before Jesus’ return to earth would not experience his glorious return and the eternal blessing of the age to come. This meant that they both had concerns about the resurrection of the dead, which would happen upon Jesus’ return, and what precisely would happen when Jesus came again.
Paul clarifies for the Thessalonians that indeed those who have died will experience the glorious nature of Christ—and so will those who are living when Jesus returns. The glorious age to come, that Jesus will establish, will be experienced by all believers, whether living or dead.
It is not entirely clear from the Greek of 1 Thessalonians 4:13–15 if Paul means that those who have died will return with Jesus to earth or if he will resurrect them prior to his return on the clouds (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16). But based on a few elements in the Greek—and the sequence here—it’s most likely that Christ will resurrect the dead believers prior to him coming on the clouds.
Despite the vagueness of this section of 1 Thessalonians, it’s clear that Jesus’ return and his eternal reign is something all believers will experience. The living and the dead have something incredible to look forward to. That is the power of resurrected life in Jesus. It is hope beyond any despair and grief.
Resurrection gives us the power to not fear death. Resurrection gives us the power of eternal life. Resurrection is a promise for all!
How does resurrection and Jesus’ coming return change your perspective of today’s events? What are some tangible ways you can embrace resurrected life today—to overcome grief and despair?
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