1 Thessalonians 4:13

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul next moves on to talk about the believers who have died and are thought to be “asleep”. “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.” Paul had been talking with the Thessalonians in his brief time with them about the coming return of Jesus. After Paul suddenly left, the church was wondering about those Christians who died before Jesus came back. They were troubled by the idea that these Christians might miss out on that great future event and that they might miss the victory and blessing of Jesus’ coming.

Guzik wrote “It is with some interest we note that four times in his letters, Paul asked Christians to not be ignorant about something:

  • Don’t be ignorant about God’s plan for Israel (Romans 11:25).
  • Don’t be ignorant about spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1).
  • Don’t be ignorant about suffering and trials in the Christian life (2 Corinthians 1:8).
  • Don’t be ignorant about the rapture and the second coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Remarkably, these are areas where ignorance is still common in the Christian world.”

Christians in Paul’s time called death sleep, but they emphasized the idea of rest. But this is not the idea of being in a state of suspended animation awaiting a resurrection to heaven. Early Christians began to call their burial places “cemeteries,” which means, “dormitories” or “sleeping places.” Yet the Bible never describes the death of the unbeliever as sleep, for there is no rest, peace, or comfort for them in death. Hiebert explains “Since to depart from this world in death to ‘be with Christ’ is described by Paul as ‘very far better’ (Philippians 1:23) than the present state of blessed communion with the Lord and blessed activity in His service, it is evident that ‘sleep’ as applied to believers cannot be intended to teach that the soul is unconscious.”

As a Christ Follower, death is dead and when we die it is like laying down for a nap and waking up in glory. We are merely moving from one place where we live in our physical body to another where we will spend eternity in our spiritual body. We should not act as if there is no hope when in fact we have eternal hope as a believer in Jesus. We will mourn the loss of those we love, but our sorrow should be like the feelings we have when we say goodbye to someone going on a long trip, knowing that we will see them again after some time. Our grief is for the short term as the long term outcome of death for a believer is eternity with Jesus Christ in heaven, and we’ll be reunited as Christ Followers there one day!

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