Summary: For the child of God, there is the assurance that Jesus will return for them.
I am so thankful to God that I do not have hope in this life only. For if we do, the Apostle Paul states that we are men that are most miserable. But God gives His children a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. God has taken the misery of our lives and placed it on Christ as He hung on the cross. Now, we are reconciled with God in Christ. We have nothing to be miserable about.
As the Apostle Paul writes to the church of Thessalonica, Paul understands that some are concerned that Christ had not appeared as was promised. Time has passed, and some in their midst had died. Had the return of Christ already occured? Was there no longer hope that they would see their loved ones again? There was great trepidation amongst the church at this time.
As we pick up in our text, Paul switches gears in his writing to address this fear that was gripping the church. He explains to them that they were different from the heathen in that they had hope. Now, this is not a guessing type of hope such as, "I hope I made the right choice." No, this is a guarantee. This hope is a confident expectation. And Paul did not desire that the church be ignorant about the hope of the redeemed, because it was this hope that distinguished them from the world (v. 13 - "that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope").
This passage also pertains to the Christian life today. As believers in the finished work of Christ, we are distinguished from the ungodly in that we have a hope which cannot be moved. A hope which is steadfast and enduring. A hope that assures us and comforts us even in times of deepest grief.
What does this hope consist of? I want to take a look at three things this morning that Paul points out.
I. The Return of the Savior (v. 16)
We have a hope that the world cannot understand, because we know for a certainty that Christ is coming back again. The return of Christ is as sure as any other doctrine of the Scriptures. And what is wonderful about this event is that He is returning for us! John 14:1-3 encourages us to not let our hearts be troubled. Why not? Because Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will return again and receive us unto Himself that where He is we will be also. What an assurance!
When Christ ascended to heaven, the Bible records in Acts 1:11 that an angel told the disciples that "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." The Apsotle Paul also records in I Cor. 15:52 that this coming will happen, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." We have hope as the redeemed of God, because we know that Christ is returning again.
II. The Resurrection of the Dead (v. 16)
Not only is Christ going to return, but another reason that we do not live in misery is that we know that those who died in union with Christ will be resurrected when He returns. Death is not the end. The grave is not the final resting place! Paul states that when Christ returns, it will be these "dead" individuals who will rise first. What an honor!
But what is the foundation of this hope? Why should we know that the dead are going to rise? A couple of places quickly if you’ll turn. First, the entire chapter of I Corinthians 15 gives us a very detailed explaination. The foundation that the dead in Christ will be raised is the fact that Christ Himself was raised. Paul questions in verse 12, "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" We know that the foundation for our resurrection is that Christ Himself raised from the dead first. Secondly, Romans 4:24 states that we are imputed righteousness if we believe that Jesus raised from the dead. God credits Christ’s resurrection to our account if we put our faith and trust in His Son. We become heirs to God and joint heirs with Christ. Just as Christ raised from the dead, so will one day the dead in Christ will also be raised.
III. The Rapture of the Saints (v. 17)
What a source of joy verse 17 is for the believer. Paul discusses the death and resurrection of Christ. Then the death and future resurrection of the dead in Christ. But praise God, he Jesus doesn’t leave out those who are still alive. When Jesus returns in the clouds, He not only raises the bodies of those dead in Him, but also those living are caught up with Him to forever be with the Lord.