THE GREAT REUNION
13-14 And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
15-18 And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words. (1Thess. 4:13-18 MSG)
Weddings and funerals, funerals and weddings! The older I get, the more I realize that the only time I see some of my old friends and family members is at a huge life event, like a funeral. Most are married now, so unless someone actually plans a reunion, next time we see each other is at a funeral. How sad is that! The stark reality as I get older is that when we do re-unite for a funeral, there are always fewer of us present. Death has an awful way of separating people from each other. Death is inevitable…it’s coming for everyone…like the tax man. Two thousand years ago, when our passage was written, death haunted those people also. These Thessalonian believers didn’t have 2000 years of Christianity and teaching to understand what happened after death. All they knew was that Jesus died and rose again from the grave, which they were taught by Paul and others. They heard the story, but they really did not have a developed theology nor understanding of life after death as we do. Their time was filled with persecution, sickness, Roman abuse, hostility and death. Medical advances, myriads of doctors, hospitals, drugs and health insurance were non-existent for the most part. When death came knocking, you only had one choice…open the door and let it in.
The obvious question they had, and many of us have is what happens to people after they die. We see the body go into the ground but what’s next? Well, our text answers that question quite plainly. We need to let the scripture speak clearly, and look at the words Holy Spirit uses through Paul:
“Asleep” – In verse 13, Paul says dead Christians are “asleep”, which implies a time when they will wake up. So, we have a hope that one day our dead family members and friends who believed in Jesus will be awoken.
“bring with Him” – verse 14 is power-packed! “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (NASB). We need faith (belief, trust) in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus is going to bring our dead relatives back with Him, then they must be already there…with Him! Indeed, Paul says that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord (Read 2Corinthians 5:1-10). So verses 13 and 14 deal with those who have already died in Jesus – we have a hope!
The fear for the Thessalonians was, “if Jesus comes back for us, what will happen to those who have already died?” Jesus reassures them and us, that the resurrection of the body will happen first for those who have already died in Christ. As they come out of heaven with Jesus, they will receive their resurrected, glorified body. Verse 16 is awesome!!! Jesus will give this loud command, like He did when Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11:43), there will be a loud voice from the Archangel, the trumpet of God, and all those who died in Jesus will rise first! The bodies will come out of the graves, be transformed into a glorious new body, and be reunited to their respective soul/spirit. Then, we who are still alive when Jesus returns, will leave the Earth, and be caught up, raptured into the clouds, to meet Jesus in the air, and we will be with Him, and our loved ones who died in Christ…forever! (vs. 17)
What great encouragement! What great comfort! Friends, this could happen any day now! My brother and father, your daughter and son, your spouse, your friend, your parent. The greatest reunion of all time will take place in the air at the return of Jesus - the rapture of the saints. This, all because of a Savior who died to take away our sins, and rose again to give us eternal life and victory over death. This is what this coming Easter Sunday is all about! Christ’s victory is our victory! Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection! Christ’s reunion with His followers, will be our reunion with our loved ones who have died in Christ! Rejoice and be glad!
51-57 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!Who got the last word, oh, Death?Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! (1Corinthians 15:51-57 MSG)