August 4, 2010

Building Strong Friendships in Christ

Hoping for Resurrection Today

“But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

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Eternal Life

     This passage forms the basis for comforting one another regarding the death of believers in Jesus Christ.  Sometimes referred to as the Rapture, Jesus will return in the clouds with those dead in Christ.  With the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, the dead in Christ will be raised.  Paul also describes the order of resurrection: (1) all those believers who have died in Christ before the moment of the Rapture; and (2) those believers who are alive on the day of the Rapture. Friendships in Christ: Hoping for Resurrection

      In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul turns to the subject of teaching hope.  Every Christian should be hoping based upon revelation from God concerning the future of those who have died.  Jesus wants us to know and to hope in Him.  Paul makes three important points here. Friendships in Christ: Hoping for Resurrection

      First, God wants you to know about all the believers who “are asleep.”  Jesus used this same symbolic speech to describe Lazarus: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep” (John 11:11).  John explained that Jesus meant: “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they [His disciples] thought He was speaking of literal sleep” (John 11:13).  In front of His disciples, and others, Jesus called Lazarus to come out of the tomb, and Lazarus came out still bound hand and foot with wrappings, and a cloth wrapped over his face (John 11:44).  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and, in the same way, Jesus will awaken every person in Christ at the Rapture.  I have met many people who tell me that they either died or had a near death experience, and now they have seen the other side.  They said it was nothing to fear, but peaceful.  The only reliable source of knowledge about the after-life is the revelation of God contained in the Bible.  I have never met anyone who had the power to resurrect the dead.  I am sure many people are quite sincere in telling me what they saw, or felt, when they were near death, but often they were hearing Satan comfort them, and not Jesus.  Believers do not rely upon our own experience to know the future, but rather upon the Word of God.  He wants you to learn from Him about the future, and He has a lot to say about the future.  Jesus holds the future, and controls the whole universe to follow His pre-ordained plans.  We must listen to Him, and not the experience of people who have no real view of the future.  Remember, that Jesus called Himself the first fruits of the resurrection, because He was the first person to have a glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:20).  When He raised Lazarus and others during His earthly ministry, they did not get a new glorified body, that would never decay, but they were restored to their old body, destined to die again and undergo decay.  Friendships in Christ: Hoping for Resurrection. When Christ returns at the Rapture, He will raise His own children, and give them glorified bodies that will never decay.

      Second, Jesus does not want you to grieve hopelessly over your deceased Christian friends.  They are only sleeping in the sense that their bodies have been placed in a tomb, to undergo decay.  At the moment a believer dies, they are “absent from the body,” but immediately “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).  Remember that resurrection always refers to bodily resurrection, because your spirit has been present with Jesus in Paradise from the moment you die (Luke 23:43).  Friendships in Christ: Hoping for Resurrection. Therefore, you leave your body on earth, but your spirit goes home immediately to be with Jesus.  Spiritually, you are present and at home with Jesus from the moment you die.  We do not grieve over them because we know they are with Jesus, and nothing could be better than that assurance and fact. 

       Third, like Jesus, Christians grieve over their dead loved ones.  Our grieving, however, will never be with the sense of permanent loss, or complete desolation, felt by unbelievers.  They have no assurance, but in fact, have lived in fear of death for a lifetime (Hebrews 2:14).  Jesus has freed us from the fear of death, and has broken the bondage of sinful slavery.

        Therefore, we do not grieve as unbelievers, but live in freedom and knowledge coming from Jesus alone.

         So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.

     ●  Strong bonds of friendship form when we know that Jesus lives forever, and our Christian friends have only fallen asleep in their bodies.  Spiritually, they live with Christ today. 

     ●  Strong bonds of friendship grow when we encourage each other to know and remember that we do not grieve as Gentiles over those who sleep in Christ.   

     ●  We harm our bonds of friendship when we fail to remind our friends that bodily death only means our Christian friends are at home with Jesus.   

Application for Today

        Today, I want to encourage my Christian friends to avoid grieving for dead Christians, because death only refers to being absent from the body, and present with the Lord.  Who will you lift up with the knowledge of death and resurrection today?

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