June 18 – Thessalonica – View of Death and the Afterlife

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

The Battle of Trenton was a small but pivotal battle that took place on December 26, 1776 during the American Revolutionary War.  George Washington planned to cross the Delaware River on December 25. He would then surround the Hessian Garrison (German mercenaries hired by the British).  Because the river was icy, only 2400 men crossed under Washington’s command.  A spy reported to the Hessian commander, Colonel Johann Rall, an urgent message of an advancing attack.  But the commander, who was playing poker at the time, took the note and put it in his pocket.  Washington attacked and the Hessian’s encampment began firing, but it was too late. The Hessian Garrison was captured.

Things could have turned out much differently for Colonel Rall, but he chose to remain uninformed, hiding the note in his pocket.  Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians wants them to be informed.

“Brothers and sister, we do not want you to be uninformed

about those who sleep in death,

so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”1 Thessalonians 4:13

Paul doesn’t want the Thessalonian believers to wonder about life after death.  The Gentiles had no hope of a life after their earthly life. Believers can have a confident hope that soothes their grief.

“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that

God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”1 Thessalonians 4:14

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that Christ died and rose again and will return with those who have “fallen asleep”.  Did you catch that?  Christ died!  But believers sleep!  Because Christ experienced death, we won’t! Christ took the penalty for our sin, experiencing death in all its horror, so that we would not have to.  The word “sleep” is not applied to Jesus, because He died.  And because He died, we have no need to fear death.  He died for us so that we may be together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

“Death does not annihilate them. It is but a sleep to them.

It is their undisturbed rest.

They have retired out of this troublesome world,

to rest from all their labors and sorrows, and they sleep in Jesus Christ.

Being still in union with Him, they sleep in his arms and are under his special care and protection.

Their souls are in his presence, so that they are not lost, nor are they losers,

but great gainers by death, and their removal out of this world is into the better.”

(Matthew Henry commentary on 1 Thessalonians)

Because He experienced death, we sleep.  And because He was raised from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:14), and is alive, we have a confident hope of being awakened at His return.  We have the full assurance of a joyful resurrection and life with Him. 

This knowledge removes fear and sorrow.

You have been informed.  You have been given a special message. Jesus died, rose again, and will return for those who are in Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14). What will you do with this message? First Thessalonians 4:18 tells us to encourage one another with these words. Who will you encourage today?  Don’t put this message “in your pocket” hiding it away, risking the lives of those around you. 

This is news that can save lives!

Janene Nagel

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