The Blessed Hope Realized

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Lesson 5 -- second quarter 1997
March 30, 1997

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1997, Christian Light Publications

Is grief at the death of a Christian wrong?
"We which are alive and remain...."

I have seen people collapse physically at funerals, utterly overcome by the deep grief and shock brought on by the death of a loved one. I know people who have also collapsed emotionally, and at least one who collapsed spiritually. Some of these people were Christians, others were not; all, of course, were human. And, generally speaking, the human constitution does not deal with death very well.

How shall the Christian grieve the death of another Christian?

Honestly. The shock of seeing a person we knew in life lying cold and still in death should not be denied. It just isn't normal and, in some cases, doesn't even seem right to see such a familiar body in this condition. Neither should we try to deny ourselves the sense of loss. We counted on this person's friendship, prayers, advice, companionship, help and so many other things--now he's gone. We have been deprived. Sometimes our grief also comes from recalling the abrupt unexpectedness of the passing, or the plodding but acute suffering that preceded it, or the unnatural circumstances that provoked it. All these things hurt and are natural and proper causes for grief.

Empathetically. Most often, we are called to grieve with those who, by this death, suffered greater loss and deprivation than we. We need to learn better to weep with those that weep, not just at the time of the funeral, but afterward also. May the Lord lead us in somehow, someway filling in a little bit of the void left by death.

Objectively. Hebrews 6:19 speaks of a steadfast and sure anchor for the soul. Death places many demands on the souls of the living--thoughts and emotions are often flighty and volatile. The hope we have of life can stabilize the Christian like few other things can. The body before us is empty! The person is not dead, but alive, really alive, more so than anyone else beholding the physical remains. Theirs is a singularly blessed lot! Who would bring them back to experience this life any more? We have suffered loss, but theirs is the ultimate gain. They may have lost the battle with physical death, but that loss was merely the final boost to final and complete victory! This perspective allows us to grieve, and then to lay aside grief and move forward. Praise the Lord for His hope and comfort!

"We which are alive and remain" appears twice in our text today. These words bring to my mind two intriguing concepts: (1) Paul believed in the imminent return of the Lord, and (2) those who are alive should remain.

Over 1900 years ago, Paul lived in the expectation that the Lord would return shortly! I doubt whether he denied the possibility of his own death, but that didn't mean he couldn't expect the Lord's return also. Death should remind us that we might have our turn, but it should also jolt us with the fact of the Lord's soon return. Either way, are you ready?!

Those living remain behind. How obvious. The living should also remain faithful, loyally faithful! "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). "...Hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6). " thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

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