“Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:18
Replete throughout 1 Thessalonians are references to the second coming of Christ and an underlying tone of delightful expectancy. There lies this tension within me that is both eagerly desiring of the Lord’s return and also appreciative that the rapture has not yet occurred in light of the fact that some of my friends and loved ones are not believers in Christ.
The rapture is an event most clearly taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which describes Christ catching believers up in the air to Him and taking us to the glorious eternity that awaits us. One amazing truth embedded in this future occasion is that fact that we will be united with believers who have passed away; we will again see our loved ones who have believed on Jesus for salvation and died. Do you miss your grandparents? Did you ever get a chance to meet your own believing parents? Have you lost a Christian friend in a tragic accident? Let me remind you of the glorious truth that, although it hurts presently to have them absent from this life, that they are enjoying Christ Almighty Himself in heaven with glorified bodies.
I recently had the heartache of being approached by an atheist coworker to ask that I pray for his sister. His sister, at that time, was in what seemed like the final stages of life after suffering from mouth cancer and not recovering from surgery; there was nothing left for doctors to do and she lay bedridden in-and-out of consciousness. I got my coworker’s phone number to continue the conversation after work, and immediately prayed to God for miraculous healing. The reason I got his phone number was to inform him of the truth that, besides prayer, there was something more meaningful and powerful that I could and ought to do: share the gospel with her so that she may believe in Christ and be saved. I texted him a clear gospel presentation and told him to relay the text to his mother who was at his sister’s bedside. Upon reading a text which most likely bewildered him, he enlightened me of what, to him, probably seemed like an insignificant fact: that she was a devout believer already! I was relieved and used it as an opportunity to express my deepest condolences to him for having to have a sister on her deathbed, but also a teaching point about the reality that awaits believers. Although she was most likely going to die, if she did pass away then she was going to enter into an eternal reality that far surpassed living on earth; she was, with certainty, going to be with her Saviour Jesus Christ. My coworker’s sister passed away the next morning. The feeling I, his sister, and his Christian mother shared was one so foreign to my coworker that my instinctual reaction was likely perceived as weird. The reason is because unbelievers do not have the same hope that believers in Christ do, and they grieve differently as they imagine death to be the absolute end of existence. In reality, every soul is eternal and death in this life for a Christian means the beginning of an everlasting life with Jesus.
We do not grieve over the passing of loved ones as the world does, knowing that if they believed in Jesus Christ that they are with Him even as I write these very words. One day, we too will be with Him and see and understand what all of life’s tribulations, testings, and pains were all for. One day, “so we shall always be with the Lord” and our everlasting joy and bliss will outweigh all of the hurt and struggle we endured on earth “for momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16).
Brethren, we serve an amazing Creator and Savior; a Savior who has not forgotten you nor forsaken you, but who deeply cares for you and is presently strengthening you and establishing you in your faith. Personally, I cannot wait for the day when Jesus peers into my eyes with his blazing, penetrating gaze that assesses every motive, action, word, and thought that I ever had, with a look that says, “I know you better than you ever knew yourself, for I created you, and I was with you every step of the way.” In that day, my faith will be made more real as I gaze upon the actual, real Savior of the world that died on the cross for my sins because He loved me that much.
Whatever it is that you are experiencing in this life, whether it be struggles at work or with family, or grieving the passing of a beloved Christian brother or sister, there is hope in Jesus Christ. In the same way that we can be certain that our Lord “Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (4:14).
This is a most glorious truth and the rapture a most real future event that we may rightly expect with eager anticipation. I cannot wait to be reunited with my Christian loved ones who have passed. I know that in the end, everything that has ever happened to me in my life will have been worth what awaits me in eternity. In the meantime, such a truth can most definitely be used to “comfort one another” with such words. Familiarize yourself with the Word of God, for it has the power to transform your heart, mindset, hope, and life and contains in it such breath-taking truths that God has intended to encourage, comfort, inspire, and exhort us with.