Our Stories: Hope In Death

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In our society, we experience life and death. There is life through births and death due to loved ones dying. In those moments of death, we grieve and mourn the loss. I remember shedding many tears when my grandmother passed away. Her death was painful to watch as cancer ate away her body. Witnessing her pain during that period wreaked havoc on all of our lives. The patriarch of the family no longer provided for our needs. We now witnessed her pain and suffering. My family and I wanted peace for her and not suffering. While we waited for her relief, I wondered about her afterlife. Will she see God in heaven? Will she receive the happiness that she sought for on earth in heaven? My experiences with death are similar to the Thessalonians. They too experienced death. In death, they grieved and questioned the outcome of their loved ones.

In 1 Thess 4:1-13 – 5:11, Paul establishes security and comfort to the Thessalonians about Lord’s coming for those who belong to him. To establish security about the Lord’s coming, Paul compares those who belong to Christ against those who do not belong. Paul indicates that those who grieve death are those who have no hope of salvation. He continues to describe them as drunkards and those of the night or those who reside in darkness. They neither examine the revelation of salvation nor shake off drunkenness; instead, they remain in darkness. Those who behave like this also boast peace and safety. In fact, Paul states that sudden “destruction, ruin, death” will come upon them. Their destruction will be inescapable and will leave them dead in their transgressions. Their death remains eternal as they will not rise with Christ in the resurrection.

In sharp contrast to those who do not belong to Christ, Paul states that those bound to Christ possess salvation through him. He identifies salvation as involving faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. In this faith, God brings those alive and dead to him in Christ. Together they will gather and join God in heaven. The powerful resurrection not only joins believers with Christ, but it also produces a lifestyle of light. This lifestyle also includes faith, love, alertness, and sober living. Now that the Thessalonians are immersed in the powerful resurrection, they are called to comfort and encourage one another with this truth.

Paul reminds us that in our grief, we have hope in knowing that those who belong to Christ will be with him in his resurrection. We possess a confidence that those who pass are united with Christ in his resurrection. Therefore, as we mourn our loss, we still have hope. Despite possessing security in Christ, Paul still urges the Thessalonians to live a life rooted in faith, love, and hope in salvation. Paul’s plea identifies the realities of living in a world, where drunkenness and darkness exist. Drunkenness and darkness do not produce salvation. Salvation occurs by God’s grace and mercy through Christ. Also, salvation is not limited by our shortcomings. However, when the power of the resurrection manifests in our lives, it produces behavior of the light and prompts alertness for Christ’s return. We also remain secure and do not fear death. For those who do not believe, death represents a complete loss of life. But for believers, death represents a resurrected life in Christ.

Author: Kemir Baker