Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:50–55, NIV 1984).
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, NIV 1984).
My Musings – Years ago, I sat with my wife as together we held our son Joshua as his life slowly slipped away. Our grip on his frail body could not hold him. Years later, I stood around my dad’s bedside with the rest of my family as he too was called home. Truthfully, their death’s did “sting,” and we did “grieve.” Nevertheless, we did not “grieve like the rest of men,” because we knew that death did not claim the final “victory.” Because, “according to the Lord’s own word” they will be “raised imperishable,” and we who “are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” To be with Him and them forever.
My Advice – Are you encouraged by these words or do you still fear the sting of death? You need not be “like the rest of men, who have no hope.” You can have the assurance of either falling asleep in the Lord and being “raised imperishable,” or of being “changed” and ‘caught up together…in the clouds.” For salvation is a free gift. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21, NIV 1984). This is “the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:8–10, NIV 1984). And that is an encouraging thought.