1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not…
I. COMFORT FOR THE SORROWING.
1. The dead in Christ sleep. The Lord Jesus Christ hath abolished death; he has changed it into sleep. "She is not dead, but sleepeth," he said of the little daughter of Jairus. The sting of death is sin, but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. The Lord died and rose again. He died; he encountered the king of terrors in all his awful power; but by his death he hath abolished death to his saints. Stephen fell asleep under the crushing shower of stones. So is it with believers now; they are laid to sleep through Jesus. Through his atonement, through his loving care, through his gracious presence, death is but sleep to them. They die in the Lord; they rest from their labors. They are not unconscious; they do not "sleep idly," for they are blessed; they are "with the Lord, which is far better." Yet that quiet rest of the holy dead in Paradise is as a peaceful slumber compared with the entrancing joy of the glorious resurrection. Yes, they sleep; they have not yet attained unto that perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul which shall be theirs in God's everlasting glory. There the redeemed of the Lord, perfected in strength and gladness, entranced in the contemplation of the beauty of the Lord, the beatific vision, need rest no longer. "They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." But now they rest. They are in peace; they are happy, for they are with Christ.
2. Therefore the Christian's sorrow is full of hope. We must sorrow when our loved ones fall from our side. The Lord wept over the grave of Lazarus. Not to sorrow would be the hard stern temper of stoicism. The Christian sorrows over the grave, but it is a sorrow chastened by faith, cheered by hope. The heathen might envy the very flowers of the field. "They die, indeed, but it is to spring up again with renewed life and beauty; while man, when he dieth, sleepeth on for ever - a still, silent sleep; he waketh nevermore." Such was the wailing of the heathen poet. It is not so with the Christian. He finds comfort himself, he comforts others, with the blessed words of Holy Scripture. His sorrow is not hopeless, like that of the heathen: he looks for a happy meeting in that blessed place where there is "no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying."
3. That hope springs out of faith. We believe that Jesus died and rose again. The resurrection of Christ is the earnest of our resurrection. He is the Firstfruits, the First-begotten from the dead; they that are his shall follow him. The resurrection of Christ was one principal topic of the apostolic preaching; it is now one of the most precious articles of the Christian faith, the very center of our most cherished hopes. He was seen by many, by Mary Magdalene, by the other holy women, by the apostles, by more than five hundred brethren at once. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
II. THE COMING OF THE LORD.
1. Its solemn accompaniments. He shall come, the Lord Jesus himself, with his holy angels. He shall descend from heaven with a shout. His voice will pierce through the universe; all they that are in the graves shall hear it. The trumpet shall sound. The voice of the trumpet, exceeding loud, filled the people of Israel with trembling at Mount Sinai. More awful by far will be the voice of the archangel and the trump of God that wakes the dead. What that trumpet may be we cannot tell; but sound it will, "for this we say unto you by the word of the Lord."
2. Its end and purpose. The dead in Christ shall rise first. They shall hear his voice, though they have lain in their graves, some of them, almost from the beginning. They shall come forth, and that first. Then follows the assumption of the living. Those who are found alive, who have not entered into the deep, quiet rest of Paradise, shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. We shall meet one another; we shall meet him; we shall be for ever with him. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
1. Let sorrow in bereavement be Christian sorrow, softened by faith and hope.
2. The holy dead are at rest. Do not call them "poor;" they are blessed.
3. Let us strive to walk with God now, that we may be ever with the Lord. - B.C.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.