Daily Devotional: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Paul does not want the Thessalonians to be uninformed concerning those who are asleep, or their brothers and sisters in the faith who have died. Whatever Paul is about to write is about a particular type of rapture, but not a future, secret rapture of all the saints all at once prior to a greater tribulation of some kind. He is writing about each one’s death in order to encourage Christians who have had their friends and loved ones taken from them. This is meant to be encouragement in the present.

Christians don’t have to grieve like those who have no hope. We will still grieve, yes, but we realize that death is not the end and there is something better awaiting us. We have hope. Though there is a finality to death on this earth, there is an immediate rapture to Christ and a future resurrection. Christ rose again. Those who are in Christ go with Him upon their deaths.

Paul even asserts that we who are alive and remain until the Lord’s coming will not precede those who have died. Those who have died do not have to wait to be with Christ; it is immediate.

Paul explains why those who die will not wait to be with Christ after their deaths. They will not wait “for,” or because, “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 will rise first.” That is, Christ comes to get each one immediately at the moment of death so that they rise first, and those who are alive and remain do not precede them. Paul has not all-of-the-sudden changed what he is talking about. 

Those who have not died, but are alive and remain upon the earth at Christ’s coming will be caught up, or raptured, together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the “air,” a Greek word denoting the lower air we breathe everyday. Paul’s eschatology does not allow for a sudden disappearance of millions or billions. Those who do not die before Christ’s coming will, at Christ’s coming, be elevated but will remain on the earth with Christ. Those who have died throughout the ages will come with Christ. We will see our loved ones again—that’s Paul’s point. You don’t have to grieve like those who have no hope. You will see your loved ones who have died again.

Paul instructs the Thessalonians to comfort one another with these words. Indeed, they are comforting.

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