Today’s readings.. Joshua 2, Isaiah 8, 1 Thessalonians 3&4
What do we find encouraging in our lives? Some would find this a difficult question – our Godless world has threatening storm clouds on the horizons – and many are fearful of how serious they might become. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians with which our chapters today conclude contained a positive message, this was that they should not grieve over any of their number who die. Paul writes, “… we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as do others who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” [I Thess. 4 v.13,14].
He then explains how this will happen, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we too who are alive, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” [v.15-17]
As Jesus was about to ascend to heaven he told his astonished disciples, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons that the Father has fixed …” [Acts 1 v.7]. Time has progressed onward for almost 2,000 years and men and women of a great many generations have died. We have to accept this as God’s timetable; it was about 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ – and now – in God’s scheme for human life – another 2,000 years has elapsed.
However, for those who, as Paul puts it, “fall asleep”, let us realize that none of them are conscious of the passage of time. When our Lord descends from heaven – at that time there will be a great awakening and all who have died with this “hope” will, from then on, “always be with the Lord” – and our Lord, as so many scriptures tell us, will be reigning over all the earth. With this understanding we can see how meaningful the last verse is – “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Do you feel encouraged? When your loved one’s ‘in Christ” die may “you not grieve as do others who have no hope.” If this is not going to be the case – now is the time to do what you can, seeking God’s guidance in prayer and through his word, to create a more encouraging expectation.