The Comfort of Christ’s Coming
Open Your Bible
1 Thessalonians 4:9-18, John 11:11-13, 1 John 4:7-17
Growing up, whenever I heard talk of “the second coming,” “the last days,” or “the Day of the Lord,” I’ll admit I felt anything but comfort. In fact, it freaked me out. The apocalyptic imagery from Revelation, and the interpretations of it from churches and books, didn’t set well, and I became afraid, questioning whether or not I was saved. I remember being crouched next to my parents’ bed, repeating some form of the sinner’s prayer to make sure I didn’t get stuck on the wrong side of the Lord’s coming: Jesus, I believe in you. I’m sorry for what I’ve done. Please forgive me.
Around this time, I also attended my first funeral. It was for a little brown-haired boy, taken early from a family at our church. Although the memorial service was tender, the event left me feeling unwell in my stomach. The truth was this little boy had only “fallen asleep” as the apostle Paul would say (1Thessalonians 4:14–15), but I didn’t yet have enough good theology planted in my adolescent heart to understand why this was a comfort. A sad thing, yes. Grief will also put that feeling inside you. But there was at least comfort in knowing he was with the Lord.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has done a lot of healing in my heart since those days crouched next to my parents’ bed. There’s a settled peace inside now. Because of the redemption Jesus brought through His death and life, we aren’t without knowledge about those who pass. We have the promise of hope.
Paul wrote this first letter to bring comfort to the Thessalonians. The church in Thessalonica misunderstood what happens to those who die. They were confused over the temporary nature of death and, understandably, were grieved and unsettled at the thought of their loved ones missing out on future rest and blessings.
But that wasn’t the message of the gospel. Jesus came to bring eternal life, not eternal death. Correcting their perspective, Paul assured the people of Thessalonica that they were uninformed (v.13). God had not left them to their grief, but had given them hope. Not only would their deceased friends and family rise, but they would rise first (v.16). Can you imagine how this must have alleviated the church’s sorrow? If we choose to exercise faith in Christ, we can secure our hope on the Lord’s return and our eternal home with Him. And we should “encourage one another with these words,” as Paul told the Thessalonians (v.18).
Comfort, comfort, friends. Those who are asleep will awaken first in the presence of our good Father. Even after we pass from life to death, it isn’t the end. “We will always be with the Lord” (v.17). We’ll be together with our brothers and sisters, experiencing the fullness of God’s love in a collective and embodied way. Together, forever, at last.