Summary: This message is about the Christians hope in the face of death.
This morning we turn our attention to a subject that has confused and divided more churches and Christians over the century then perhaps any other. Today we are going to look at the second coming of Christ.
As a child, our death and the second coming of Christ, it seems to me was used to “Scare us Straight.” Churches would host a movie night, with the promise of refreshments and a good family movie. You would come expecting a nice cartoon, instead you were confronted with scenes of death and destruction. You remember those bait and switch movies like, Thief in the night or image of the Beast, or a real crowd pleaser, year of the Beast. I remember setting in the pew watching the horrific action flash before my eyes, cars wreaking, planes crashing, people crying. My palms were sweating, my stomach churning, my eyes watering.
I would not sleep for days after one of those family friendly movies.
I recall vividly waking in the middle of the night, and sneaking over to my parents bed room door and easing it open, so I could see them in bed and had the assurance the rapture had not happened, and I had been left behind.
As I began to work on this message, I relived those feeling of fear, fear of losing my parents, fear of being alone, and fear of trying to survive against all odds.
For a long time the concept of my pending death or the second coming of Christ created panic.
However, most of us have memories of the death or second coming being used as an instrument of fear. Preaching yelling, “you may not live to see tomorrow.” Many of you have read books like, The Late Great Planet Earth, or more recently, the Left Behind series.
Some of you came away from those books with a little fear.
But that is not how Paul tells us to look at our death or the second Coming Christ. In fact, he says, it should bring us comfort.
Death comfort us? Did he really mean that?
Lets look together at what he tells us about death, and the second coming.
Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:18 “18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
The word encourage here in the Greek language that Paul was writing in is really two words put together. The first word is para which means “beside of” and the second word is keleto which mean “to call.” So together it means to call along side, to give aid, to encourage.
What could Paul possible say about this thing called death that would give aid to us or encourage us.
First, Your death is not the end, it is a transition.
Listen to chapter 4 verse 13, 13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
When Paul wrote this, people believed there was no life after death.
In face of death the pagan world stood in despair. They met it with grim resignation and bleak hopelessness. Aeschylus wrote, “Once a man dies there is no resurrection.” Theocritus wrote, “There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.” Catullus wrote, “When once our brief light sets, there is one perpetual night through which we must sleep.” On their tombstones grim epitaphs were carved. “I was not; I became; I am not; I care not.”
Into that dark night of despair comes Paul promise of life after death.
It has been that promise that has lifted the church time and again.
Martin Luther King Jr. expressed this with promise in a sermon at the funeral of the four young girls killed by a racist’s bomb in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963:
I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.
As Christians we rest in knowing death is not the end, it is a transition.
That is not to say we will not experience grief, because if you love some and then loss them, you will grieve.
Erich Fromm the internationally renowned social psychologist and psychoanalyst was right when he said, “To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.”
The first thing Paul would say should encourage you, is your death is not an end, but a transition.