Sermon – August 2, 2020

1-2 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – Grief and the Gospel (mp3)

Death is hard to reckon with. It is a great unknown, and brings in its wake trepidation and uncertainty. We will face it someday, and probably have already faced it as we have lost others. The Thessalonians have great cause for grief, as several of their own have died. Their grief, however, is somewhat misplaced, and their misunderstanding is causing them harm. Today, Paul seeks to encourage the Thessalonians in the Lord, giving them, even in their grief, a sense of hope in the gospel. Let us take these words to heart, learn from them, and use them well in our lives. Death might come for us all, but we have reason to hope even in our sorrow because Christ himself lives.

1. Temper your sorrow in the Lord
While much of Christianity, at least in practice, seems to imply that sorrow and grief are wrong emotions for believers to have, Paul understands that sorrow is a natural and right reaction to much of what goes wrong in the world. However, our sorrow must look different than other’s. We have a hope that is certain and unshakable, that ought to quiet and temper our sorrow.

2. Trust your solidarity with the Lord
But what is the reason for that hope? What makes us so different from the rest of the world that believes they will see their loved ones even outside of faith in Christ? The reason for this is that, somewhat oddly, Jesus died and rose again. Because of these facts, we will likewise be raised after we have died. This is because we have been united with Christ in an inseparable way. What happens to him, according to his human nature, happens to us. So, because he has been risen, so will we. Our hope in the future is secured by what has already happened to Christ in the past!

3. Triumph in the splendor of the Lord
The rest of the passage is straight-forward. The dead will rise, and we will come afterwards to be with Jesus and others forever. One detail, not to be missed, is the nature of Jesus’ return. It is the return of a conqueror, a victorious general as he leads his troops into battle. The command of cry, shout of the archangel, and the trumpet all testify to this fact. This is not just a family reunion, it is the announcement of the victory of Jesus over the world, and his people over death. We get to experience his victory forever, and enjoy the wonder of his presence – praise be to our God!