Summary: This is the 7th sermon in the 1 Thessalonians series, "Encouragement". What is the Christian's hope?
Series: Encouragement [#7]
A MODEL OF CHRISTIAN HOPE
A desperate need, (the need for hope) exists among Christians. I know, because it is true in my life. Christians need to remind themselves constantly that God is on the throne, in control, and moving purposefully in this world. Today the word hope has been weakened to mean an expectancy that something will happen but with much question as to whether it really will. “I hope” carries almost the same meaning as “I wish.” This is not the meaning of hope in the New Testament. Paul used the word in the New Testament sense of absolute certainty. It has been said that hope means being so sure about the future that we can enjoy it in the present.
Our hope is not like the world’s hope. Our hope is so sure because it is rooted in God’s ability to do what He has promised. Paul said an understanding of this hope will bring comfort in troubled times. I want you to see what our hope is. We cannot be vague at this point. The Thessalonian Christians apparently were experiencing strong anxiety over issues they did not understand. Paul obviously had taught them that Jesus was going to return. From what Paul said in our text, we can conclude that the Thessalonians were concerned about what would happen to believers who died before Jesus’ return. Their ignorance of the hope Paul spoke of had created anxiety for them, and it will create anxiety for us. Hope enables us to remain steadfast in difficult days. Our text suggests 3 things we should fasten our attention on in these troubled days. These things serve as the anchor that gives us hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 (NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, 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. 14For 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. 15According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Our hope is the…
1. Assurance of eternal life.
The Thessalonians were concerned that they never would see their loved ones who had faith in Jesus; but who had died. Very likely they also feared what would happen to them if they died before Jesus returned. Paul made clear to them that death is not to be feared. Our hope is eternal life, and death is a springboard into personal fellowship with Jesus. In fact, Paul said that when Jesus comes, “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Paul used the word sleep to describe the death of Christians. He spoke of the body, not the soul. As a sleeper continues to exist while the body sleeps, so the dead in Christ continue to exist, though separated from the realm of earthly existence. As sleep is temporary, so is the death of the body. That is our hope. We move from this life into a face-to-face relationship with Jesus; but that is not the Christians’ only hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NIV)
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Our hope is the…
2. Resurrection of our bodies.
We have a body, the material part of us; but as I mentioned earlier, we also have a part of us that is not material. The spirit is that part of us that communicates with God. It is this part of Christians that continues on in face-to-face relationship with God after death. This face-to-face relationship is a part of our great hope; but another part of our hope is God’s plan for the body. His plan is to give all Christians another body. The body gets tired; it wears out and breaks down; it is resistant to God’s will. A part of our hope is that when Jesus comes, these bodies of humiliation will be transformed into bodies that are equal to the needs of the spirit, God’s glorious presence, and the glories of Heaven.
Paul said that when Jesus comes, “the dead in Christ will rise first.” The 1st thing that will happen when Jesus comes back is that the saved who have departed this life will receive resurrected bodies. We are going to have a resurrected body like Jesus’ resurrected body. What a comfort to the Thessalonians to know that those who had preceded them in death would not be left out of the glory of the second coming of Jesus. In fact, Paul said, “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” Verse 17 makes clear that both living and dead Christians will be with Jesus in the air and always will be with Him. What a hope.