Lord, let this Your Word edify us, make us steadfast in faith and glad in hope. Amen.
Text: First Thessalonians 4:13–18
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
As surely as Jesus is arisen, so also all His disciples now fallen asleep shall arise from the dead and be glorified. For Paul the connection between these two things, Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, is so sure and firm that he says: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen” (1Co 15:13). Christ died; that was for us. And He arose; that was for us. His death is our death; His resurrection is our resurrection. The believers are His members; how then could He with His vivified and glorified body be seated in heaven and their bodies remain in the grave? When sadly you close in death the eyes of a believing friend, then consider that this friend shall hear the Lord’s voice, and these eyes shall open again and see Jesus’ glory. He is in the Lord’s hands and bosom just like a sick child who is carried in his mother’s arms until he falls asleep and later wakes up healthy and happy.
When our Lord Jesus on the last day comes down from heaven with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, all who are in the graves shall hear His voice and arise. We who are still alive shall see this. The graves shall be opened, and the dead shall come forth, and the sea shall give up the dead who are in it. Just as Christ, in the moment He was made alive again, found the way from paradise to His body in the grave, so also the souls of His saints shall find their bodies and put them on again. And at the same time that the dead arise, we who are alive shall be changed, and what is mortal in us shall be swallowed up by life. Then the final perfect separation between good and evil described in Matthew 25 takes place, and then the saints all together shall be forever with the Lord. “But your spirit must be separated from the lusts of the world. Entrust yourself to the heavenly desire of the soul! Sanctify yourselves for heaven where you want to be!”
Lord Jesus, give us Your Holy Spirit’s grace to believe Your Word and to wait for Your glorious return. Let me indeed listen to You, living Savior. Let me be a member of Your Body and live with You in eternal glory. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! Amen.
Sorrow not for those now sleeping
In God’s peace by Jesus’ grace;
They the Lord’s sweet peace are reaping,
Grateful thanks to God they raise
For the vict’ry over dying
And eternal life supplying,
And for op’ning heaven’s way,
Joy that never fades away.
Since He has for us revealed this
For the comfort of our heart,
And with thund’rous voice declared this,
Sounding forth in ev’ry part,
When the trumpet sounds, He raises
All the dead, and thus amazes
All the world, that we may be
With the Lord eternally.
Christians, what a glorious morning,
Chasing darkness, bringing cheer!
Dead and living, we are joining
To be with our Lord so dear.
Then in heaven’s wondrous splendor
To our Savior thanks we render,
Praise God with angelic song
For His comfort sweet and strong.
Grundtvig: Sørger ei for dem, som sove L 575 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: O du schönes Weltgebäude (ELH 336); alternate hymn: Rise, children of the kingdom ELH 105