True Hope in Hopeless Times (Part 4)

TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at the topic of true hope in hopeless times. Last week, we looked specifically at Jesus’ command to “let not your hearts be troubled.” We can do this by choosing not to let our hearts be troubled, by choosing to believe in God, and by choosing to believe in Jesus Christ.

Today, as we continue with this theme, we are going to look at how the Christian deals with death. Death is all around us. People who were here yesterday are not here today. People who got up this morning will not be here tonight. You might have plans for this day that you will never get to fulfill because death will come knocking.

President William McKinley was the third American president to be assassinated. He clung to life for several days after he was shot. Towards the end, as his life slipped away, his wife started crying and screaming, “I want to go too! I want to go too!” With his last measure of strength, McKinley turned to her and spoke his final words: “We are all going.”

Yes, we are all going. And it is likely that you will see and hear about a lot of people who go before it is your turn to go. Let’s look at how we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are to handle death. We are going to do this by focusing on three key words in our passage — Sorrow, Sleep, and Spirit.

1. Sorrow. In First Thessalonians, Paul writes to a group of Christians who were particularly enthusiastic about the Rapture. They were eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return. However, when Jesus did not return as fast as they thought He would, and some of their number died, they began to worry. Paul writes to them and says, “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.”

2. Sleep. Why is it that the Christian does not have to sorrow over death? Because for the Christian, death is not final. Death is, as Paul termed it in verse 13, a “sleep.” This sleep refers to the status of the physical body of the believer. When you are asleep, you are out of touch with your physical environment, and that is what will happen to your body when you die. It will be put in the ground, and it will be unable to communicate with its surroundings using its God-given senses.

3. Spirit. This is another reason why Christians do not have to sorrow about death. Second Corinthians 5:8 says, “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” When you die, your body goes down into the grave, but your spirit leaves your body and goes instantly to be with Lord. In reality, you never truly die. Your spirit is always alive, and when your body sleeps, your spirit will go on to do what the Westminster Catechism says is the purpose of man — “to love God and enjoy Him forever” — with the added benefit of being in the actual presence of our Savior Jesus Christ in Heaven.

We must always remember that Jesus Christ conquered death when He rose from the dead 2,000 years ago, so we do not have to fear death as the world fears death. We do not have to sorrow over death as the world sorrows over death. Thank God, we have true hope to cling to in the face of death.

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