“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Paul was not telling the Thessalonians anything new when he said, “We shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” That’s precisely what they expected and had been waiting for. They longed to “greet Him in the air”. They longed to prepare a “joyous entry” into the new earth under a new heaven. Every day they had been listening for the voice of the archangel signalling Christ’s return and the end of time as they knew it.
Then something happened for which they were totally unprepared: death entered their midst and took some of their members away. Death is always painful for those who remain behind, but those deaths in the Thessalonian congregation were exceptionally painful and confusing for the church. They had believed that Christ would come soon, and would find them all alive, waiting for Him. Then death entered the picture. They had not expected that and were confused. What was most painful for them was the question: what would happen to those who died before Christ returned? They did not know where the dead would be when Jesus returned.
Paul sets their mind at ease. Paul declared that “we who are alive, we who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep”. The dead will not be left behind. They will be awakened and then the living and the dead will be taken up in the clouds together. Comfort one another with those words.
Suggestions for prayer
Thank God for that glorious prospect of joining Him for all eternity. When death approaches a loved one or even yourself, give thanks to God that death is not death, but is your entrance into eternal glory.
Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com.