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Comfort In The Midst Of Discomfort


I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Several times in this letter Paul tells us that Jesus is coming back.

Over and over again the underlying theme of this letter is Jesus is coming back…and here in this passage Paul once again tells us that Jesus is coming back…but this time he tells us to give us comfort.

Let’s look at the passage and hopefully find some comfort in the midst of discomfort.

Look at verse 13 again. Paul says:  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

We have in this congregation many who have had loved ones die.

But in the midst of that hardship, Paul says that if the one who has died fell asleep in Jesus (vs. 14) in the midst of your grief, there is hope!

What is this hope? And that word “hope” literally means “confident expectation.”

What is it that is going to someday happen? Well, in verse 16 Paul says that “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 shall rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.

This is what Paul says that we can be confident of.

So Paul says that he does not want us to grieve like others who have no hope.

But how can we be sure? How can we be so confident about this? How can we be so sure that those who have died who were and are IN Christ are going to be raised again unto eternal life?

Well, look at verse 15 again. Paul says: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord…”

What did Jesus teach about His coming back…do you remember? John 14:2-3:  “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

He said, “I am going to go. But I am going to come back for you.”

In Matthew 24:45 Jesus taught the parable of the Master and Slave and once again He says, “I am coming back.”

And in Matthew 25 in verse 1-13 He taught the parable of the 10 virgins waiting for the coming of the bride groom…and once again He said, “I am coming back…you be ready.”

And one of the clearest scriptures to confirm that this is all going to happen is found in Acts 1:11 and what the angel told the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven.

…and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Listen, Paul says, “This idea of Jesus coming back isn’t something that we made up just to make you feel better.”

But Jesus didn’t just talk about it. He didn’t just teach that there was life after the grave. He proved it! Look at verse 14:

 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.

Our confidence in what God is going to do in the future is grounded in what He has done in the past.

And I want you to notice something here that is very important.

What is the wages of sin? It is death. It is separation from God.

And because He did…because He paid the debt that we owed…we don’t have to experience the penalty.

And His resurrection guarantees His return and assures us of life after the grief.

So we can be confident that these things are going to happen…that all those who are IN Christ we be raised unto eternal life.

Now, let me take you back to verse 13 again:  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.

I want you to notice that Paul does not say that we are not to grieve when a loved one passes away.

Paul does not forbid grief!

There are many examples of this in the scriptures. For example, the very first Christian that we know to be violently killed was Stephen.

Paul does not forbid grieving.

What Paul forbids here in 1 Thess. 4:13 is hopeless grieving!

Paul’s contrast is not between one degree of sorrow and another.

Listen, nowhere is hope or hopelessness more evident than at the cemetery.

Remember what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15: …but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you,

And our hope shining through in our darkest hours provides us opportunity to tell them about the coming of our Lord and what is going to happen at the end of history…and their need to be prepared.

Paul doesn’t forbid grieving…he forbids hopeless grieving…because the hope that we have in the face of death may be the only hope that others have.

Now, look at verse 18. Paul says: “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”

We have got to remind each other of the hope.

Now, if you remember, when I started I said that these words may not be comforting to some. Let me tell you why. Look at verse 14 again. Paul says:

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.

Unless we are still alive when Jesus comes…everyone of us is going to die.

Down in chapter 5:3 Paul says that those who are not “IN” Jesus will have destruction come upon them when Christ comes again.

And that is the question. Are you IN Christ?

So, how can you know if you are IN Christ or not? How do you get IN Christ?

What does the Bible say? Romans 6: 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

Gal 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

This is the way you get “in” Christ.

These promises are only for those IN Christ. If Christ came today…or if death comes for you today…would you be one of those raised to eternal life? Or would you be one that destruction comes upon suddenly?

You see, Hope…is only found in Christ.