Summary: The best way we can encourage one another is to remind one another of the hope we have through Jesus Christ.
We all need to be encouraged. Why? Because we all get discouraged.
Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 (What is Paul’s purpose for writing about Christ’s return? Answer: That the Thessalonians might encourage one another. His purpose was not to answer every question about the future.)
“Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The Big Idea: The best way we can encourage one another is to remind one another of the HOPE we have through Jesus Christ.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we many spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
1. Hope is not optimistic speculation, but CONFIDENT EXPECTATION.
Illustration: An optimistic speculation – “I hope it’s a nice day tomorrow”; a confident expectation – “Tomorrow will be Monday.”
Our expectations of what God will do in the future are grounded in our convictions of what God has already done in the past.
“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” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Or, “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe…”
“…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14).
2. Death is not the end, but a TRANSITION.
In Paul’s day, “sleep” was frequently used as a euphemism for death by both pagans and Christians. In paganism, death was often viewed as a sleep from which there would be no awakening.
Catullus: “The sun can set and rise again / But once our brief light sets / There is one unending night to be slept through.”
Theocritus: “Hopes are for the living; the dead are without hope.”
For Christians, death is no less real, but the hope of resurrection means that death was viewed not as a permanent state but as a temporary condition.
“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23b).
“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Paul does not say that the Thessalonians should not grieve, but that they should not grieve in the same way or to the same extent as those without hope grieve. Christians should not face death with despair but with hope.
3. The best part of eternity is not a place, but a PERSON.
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (4:17).
“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (5:10).
Being with the Lord forever includes:
• The acquisition of a transformed resurrection body that is glorious and imperishable (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, 50-53).
• The enjoyment of a relationship with Christ that is closer, richer, and fuller than the relationship we currently experience—a state of existence that Paul himself considers to be “better by far” (Philippians 1:23).
All believers in Jesus, whether alive or dead at the time of His coming, “will be with the Lord forever.” Death—the one thing that some Thessalonians (apparently still influenced by pagan perspectives) thought would stand as an insurmountable barrier, preventing those followers of Jesus who died before the coming of the Lord from experiencing the presence of Jesus—is in reality no barrier at all. The final destiny of Christians who died before the coming of the Lord is not death, but rather resurrection leading to life with the Lord forever.
4. The future is not a cause of apprehension, but ANTICIPATION.
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9).
First Thessalonians 4:13-18 deals with the fate of the Christian dead at the return of Jesus; 5:1-11 deals with the attitude of the living towards the same event.
“Day of the Lord” – In the OT this was described as a day of judgment for the opponents of God, but a day of deliverance for the faithful (e.g., Isa. 2:1-4:6; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31-32; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14; Zech. 14). The phrase designates the same event as the coming of the Lord (4:15). Paul likely switches terms here because his emphasis falls more on the aspect of judgment than deliverance.