Beckett: Encourage One Another with These Words

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do 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. 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 who are alive, who are left, 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. Therefore, encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

These words are why my preaching so often focuses on the resurrection of the dead and, therefore, the new creation—the new heavens and the new earth. The whole point of our faith is that Christ is risen, and therefore that we also shall rise with Him, just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians when certain groups were teaching the heresy that there is no bodily resurrection:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

The Christian hope is not only in this life, but also in the life to come. This hope is why, whenever I hear the news of a brother or sister in Christ who has died, I exclaim, “Christ is risen!” (This is always after some outburst of grief, however, such as, “Lord, have mercy.”) Whenever a celebrity dies, their fans always say, “RIP.” I cannot help but pity the ones who are unbelievers because if they did not die in Christ, they cannot rest in peace. If one does not “fall asleep” in Christ, they perish, for “just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). Yet for the Christian who lives in Christ, and the Christian who dies in Christ, our hope is in the bodily resurrection—in the second advent of Christ. For just as Christ appeared the first time and was “offered once to bear the sins of many,” so He will appear a second time “not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28). Those who eagerly wait for Him in life or death are the ones who Rest in Peace in Him—the living through the Sabbath, the dead through the promise of Christ’s Word.

Therefore, we encourage one another with these words of the resurrection. If you’ve ever been to a funeral of a believer, perhaps you’ve comforted the bereaved with this promise of Christ. If you’ve ever lost someone who believed, perhaps you were the one being comforted with this promise of Christ, whether at the visitation, the Word of God in the liturgy, through the pastor’s sermon, or at the burial site. Whenever death occurs, we must immediately think of the resurrection because for the Christian, when death occurs, the resurrection is soon to follow.

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