“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Paul wrote to encourage the Christians at Thessalonica. Apparently many were filled with doubts resulting from persecution, temptations, and the delayed return of the Lord. A few of the brethren had died something which the rest did not expect. They grieved for them and were sad. They wondered what had happened to them. Paul sets out to comfort them in their grief by relating some theological truths concerning the Lord’s return. He uses images and prophetic language that should not be pressed as literal details but figures of the truth. All those who have died and all those still alive when Jesus returns will be reunited at His coming. All will have resurrected bodies. This is great comfort and encouragement because we know that despite what happens in our lives, those in Christ have the assurance of the glorious hope of our resurrection.
Paul’s words give us comfort when faced with our own mortality or when a loved one dies. We need such encouragement especially in the midst of such troubling and violent times. We pray earnestly for the Lord’s return and soon! But what about those who do not know the Lord? Can they extract any such comfort? The return of Christ, an event we look forward to with joy, is not going to be pleasant for billions of people including many of those we love and admire. If we are to judge by the pain and anguish we feel now amidst our current tribulation and anarchy, we can see with horror that the Lord’s judgment will be extremely distressing for those without faith. They have no hope. Therefore we must continue to preach the gospel to all nonbelievers that they will come to faith before it is too late.