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Jesus’ Resurrection and yours

April 4, 2021

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Series:
Scripture: 1 Thess 4:13–18

Introduction

Scripture Reading: 1 Thess 4:13–18.

Last weekend we buried my mom in a cemetery in Newark, OH. Newark, OH, is the family home for both sides of my family. It’s a working class town 45 minutes outside of Columbus. Two cemeteries up there, one in Granville and one in Newark, that have a lot of my relatives.

Both of them are peaceful places. The one in Granville is especially quiet and beautiful. It has all the appearance of souls at rest.

In fact, the word “cemetery” connects to the Greek word in our passage for “sleep.”[1] The word seems to say that this is a place where souls are at rest.

But there are no souls at rest in a cemetery—only bodies. More later…

But this is yet one more way that what our eyes see doesn’t begin to capture the reality. As quiet as a cemetery might look now, a day is coming when it will be an explosion of activity as Christians who are buried there rise up and join Jesus in the sky.

This reality has everything to do with Easter morning. Jesus’ resurrection. When he rose from the dead, death for the people of God changed.

When Jesus rose from the dead he redefined death for the people of God.

We’re looking at 1 Thessalonians 4, a letter by three men, “Paul, Silvanus [Silas], and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians.” These men planted this church in the city of Thessalonica, a city on the Aegean Sea in modern day Greece. It’s still a city of about a million people. They planted the church just over a decade after the resurrection of Jesus.

Young churches like this are filled with new Christians. And they don’t always think well about things. The letters we have in our New Testament started out as attempts by church leaders to help their churches. But they’re not just the words of men. They’re also the words of God. God is speaking to us in these letters.

Sermon – The Good News that Transforms Life and Death: (1) Present Grief, (2) Past Gospel, (3) Future Glory.

Prayer

I. Present Grief

To understand this passage we have to go back in time a little bit. This is one of the earliest letters in the Bible to be written—maybe only James and Galatians are written before it.

When Jesus was alive he talked a lot about his return and told everyone to “be ready. It could come at any time. Even like a thief in the night.”

As the gospel was preached people were saved. But then months and years started to pass. Christians began to die. It seems that this confused some new believers. If you die before Jesus comes back, do you still receive the same blessings? Is your body raised like normal or is it something different? They were confused about the death of Christians.

John Stott calls this “the problem of bereavement.”[2]

In these Thessalonians there was also a rumor that Jesus had already returned (see 2 Thess 2:1–2). A rumor he’d come and gone and somehow some people missed it. They were confused about the return of Christ.

You get hints of his response to that in chapter 5.

  • Says “the day of the Lord WILL COME” (5:2).
  • “Like a thief in the night” (5:2).
  • Even as some are boasting of “peace and security” (5:3), then “sudden destruction will come upon them.”
  • It’ll come “as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (5:3).
  • In other words, you won’t miss it!

Paul in this passage is speaking to a lot of errors people believed about the return of Christ.

The result of their confusion is that when Christians died they grieved in a way that was like the pagan world around them. The world around them that believed in false gods and false religions.

They were grieving without hope.

It wasn’t GRIEF that was wrong.

  • Remember, Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus and didn’t at all rebuke the others grieving at his death.
  • When Paul’s friend Epaphroditus seemed so sick he was going to die, Paul was bitterly distraught.
  • He told the Philippians that if his friend died he would have faced “sorrow upon sorrow” (Phil 2:27).
  • Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt 5:4).

Grief isn’t the issue. It’s grieving without hope. The world around them faced death without any real hope.

E.g., ancient writing by Theocritus, two herdsmen are talking, Corydon to Battus:

Hopes are among the living; and the dead are beyond hope.

Theocritus, Idyll IV, “The Herdsmen”

Another translation, “While there’s life there’s hope.” I.e., NO HOPE BEYOND THE GRAVE.

But for us death is transformed by Christ. It turns death into “sleep.”[3]

  • A common way for cultures to refer to death.
  • But for Christians especially appropriate metaphor.
  • Why? Means a rest from our labors and trials.
  • Means something only temporary, quickly passing thing.
  • We’re not really asleep, though.
  • Philippians 1, “to depart and be with Christ is better by far” (1:23).

Now let’s see what “good news” (what GOSPEL) it is that transforms life and death.

II. Past Gospel

Remember, gospel means “good news.” Paul now begins to tell us the “gospel,” the good news that transforms life and death.

Paul makes it clear why we grieve in hope. Why we can experience the death of a loved one who dies in Christ and still have hope.

Our great hope rests on a bloody Roman cross & an empty Jewish tomb (v. 14).

  • Our great hope stands on the pillars of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
  • John Stott calls these words, “Jesus died and rose again” “the irreducible core of the gospel.”[4]
  • Without Jesus’ death, our sins are not paid for.
  • Without Jesus’ resurrection, the payment for sins isn’t really accepted.
  • We can’t be righteous before God.

Let’s start with Jesus’ death.

Paul speaks of his death first in 1 Thess 2:15.

  • He says “the Jews…killed the Lord Jesus.”
  • There are different ways the NT presents the death of Jesus.
  • But this is one of those ways.
  • Historical fact = It was the Jewish leaders who were the primary human causes of Jesus being crucified = remember Paul is a Jew writing this.
  • They were the ones who accused him.
  • Who badgered the Roman official Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus.
  • They were the ones who chose Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus.
  • Barabbas was a murderer and insurrectionist—but they chose Barabbas.

But he didn’t die just because these Jews wanted him dead. God’s plan!!!

1 Thess 5:9–10:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (1 Thess 5:9–10)

You see that? He “died for us.”

  • He died to save us.
  • He died to save us…from God.
  • From God’s “wrath.”—without his death, there’s only wrath.
  • He died so that we might “obtain salvation.”—without his death, no salvation.
  • He died so that “we might live with him.”—without his death, separated from God eternally.

But “irreducible core of the gospel” is not just about Jesus’ death. It’s also about his resurrection: “Jesus…rose again.”

  • After three days in the tomb, he rose again.
  • He left his grave cloths behind and came to his disciples once again.
  • On that first Sunday after his cross, he rose.
  • There was now a new day of the week, “The Lord’s Day.”
  • Wasn’t just the first day of the work week, it was the first day of a new era of history.
  • Eventually it changed how years were counted—BC to AD.
  • That first Easter he revealed himself first to a few women who had come to care for his body.
  • Then to his disciples.
  • Then to hundreds of people in Jerusalem—Paul says 500 (1 Cor 15).

He ate food with them.

  • He talked with them.
  • He taught them.
  • For weeks he was among them once again…
  • …till he ascended to God’s right hand and then poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

His resurrection established for all the world

  • that Jesus was who he said he was: He was the Son of God (Rom 1:4). And death had no hold on him (1 Cor 15:55–56).
  • The the Father definitively and joyfully accepted the Son and his sacrifice.
  • His resurrection was the Father declaring the righteousness of the Son.
  • And that means everything to us.
  • Our salvation comes from being united with Christ, we are declared righteous because he was declared righteous. Resurrection and ascension was that declaration (Rom 4:25).

This is the “irreducible core of the gospel.” These two pillars, the bloody cross and the empty tomb, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, mean we have a hope never to be taken away from us.

But there’s more good news in this passage. There’s HOPE because of…

III. Future Glory

One of the most powerful elements of our HOPE is the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. ESV says “the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15). “Appearing” is really better.

The Greek word is Parousia. In the gospel of Matthew and in 1–2 Thessalonians it’s used a bunch of times to refer to the appearing of Jesus Christ.

Key idea is not necessarily Jesus coming down from heaven—his vertical descent. He will do that, but that isn’t the main emphasis of the word. It’s the fact he goes from not being seen to being visible to everyone. He goes from not appearing to appearing.

Greg Beale[5] says it’s like stage curtains that have images on the curtains, but then they’re drawn back. And the real reality behind them is visible to everyone. You see the real actors.

  • This life, this reality is like those pictures on the curtains.
  • But one day the curtain will be pulled back and the deeper reality of all things will become evident.
  • Invisible things will become visible.
  • Things we hold to by faith we’ll have by sight.
  • Apostle John tells us “he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev 1:7).

And this won’t be some silent moment like watching a beautiful sunrise—sitting and reflecting on life and beauty…

  • It will be loud!
  • 1 Thess 4:16—“cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (4:16).
  • Like the myriad of angels announcing the birth of Jesus.

Hear this same idea in the teaching of Jesus, when he teaches about his appearing:

And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:31)

And Revelation in of its repeated looks at the end of all things:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev 11:15)

When he appears things change radically.

Paul says “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16).

  • Those sleepy cemeteries will explode with life.
  • All those Christians buried there will burst out of their graves in their resurrection bodies.
  • All the weaknesses and diseases and deficiencies that have to do with bodies part of a fallen creation will disappear.
  • Their bodies will be what they were meant to be all along.
  • They’ll be who they were—only in bodies perfectly healthy and removed of all sin and any consequence of sin.

Greg Beale says it’ll be like butterflies bursting out of a coccoon. The body that’s part of this world will fall away and be replaced by a glorified body. A body fit for the new heavens and new earth.

All of these glorified and resurrected saints will rise and join Christ. But they won’t be alone.

Immediately after them, we who are alive and belong to Christ will be “caught up” as well (1 Thess 4:17). That verb is where we get the word, “rapture.”

  • “Rapture” comes from a Latin word raptō, “seizing, abduction, kidnapping.”
  • When Christ returns he will “seize” his people.

Maybe you’ve heard about a coming rapture of Christians. This is the passage.

  • Christ appears and then God snatches up his people and they’re brought up to meet the Lord in the air!
  • That’s pretty cool.

But see that the RAPTURE happens at the final APPEARING of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Throughout Matthew’s gospel and 1–2 Thess this “APPEARING” is his final return.
  • 1 Thess 5:2–3—“day of the Lord,” “like a thief in the night,” “sudden destruction,” “as labor pains.”
  • Matthew combines those same ideas to describe Jesus’ return on the clouds in Matthew 24.

And that begins a whole new dimension of life. Paul tells us, “WE WILL ALWAYS BE WITH THE LORD.” All the people of God from all of history—Always! With the Lord!

  • There’s no greater promise than that.
  • Glorified bodies is a great promise.
  • Being reunited with loved ones who died in Christ is a great promise.
  • But the greatest of all promises is this one: “WE WILL ALWAYS BE WITH THE LORD.”

Paul ends this passage by saying—1 Thess 4:18. He’s given us the good news that transforms life and death.

Conclusion

This passage is describing events that have happened and will happen.

  • It has happened that Jesus died…that Jesus rose again.
  • It will happen that he will come again—every will see him, everyone will hear that trumpet blast and cry of command.

There’s no question, no uncertainty about these.

This is the Good news that transforms life and death…but this is GOOD NEWS only if you “believe that Jesus died and rose again” (1 Thess 4:14).

If you don’t believe, Jesus’ return will be horrible news. Your death will be horrible news.

1 Thessalonaisn 5:1–3:

1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thess 5:1–3)

“Believe that Jesus died and rose again” and your death and Christ’s return will be good news for you.

  • Believe = Understand + Affirm + Trust (Follow!)

Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theol Sem in Wake Forest tells of a tombstone in Indiana, right across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, that has the following inscription: “Pause, stranger, when you pass me by; as you are now, so once was as I. As I am now, so you will be; so prepare for death and follow me.” Some unknown witness came along and added an interesting comment, “To follow you I am not content until I know which way you went.”

Prayer and Closing Song (“Christ Our Hope in Life and Death”)

[1] The verb koimaō is related to the word for ‘cemetery,’ koimēterion (cf. BDAG).

[2] Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, BST, 93.

[3] Stott, 95–96.

[4] Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, BST, 98.

[5] Beale, 1–2 Thessalonians, IVPNTC.

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