Monday, February 11, 2013


1Th 4:9-18  There is no need to write you about love for each other. You yourselves have been taught by God how you should love one another.  And you have, in fact, behaved like this toward all the believers in all of Macedonia. So we beg you, our friends, to do even more. Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living, just as we told you before. In this way you will win the respect of those who are not believers, and you will not have to depend on anyone for what you need. Our friends, we want you to know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will take back with Jesus those who have died believing in him. What we are teaching you now is the Lord's teaching: we who are alive on the day the Lord comes will not go ahead of those who have died. There will be the shout of command, the archangel's voice, the sound of God's trumpet, and the Lord himself will come down from heaven. Those who have died believing in Christ will rise to life first; then we who are living at that time will be gathered up along with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. So then, encourage one another with these words.

Paul, Silas and Timothy had begun the church in Thessalonica, the capital city of Roman Macedonia. This community of both Jews and Gentiles grew rapidly under Paul’s teaching in the synagogue (Acts 17:2). However, they had to abruptly break off their stay because of intense opposition from the Jews in the city (Acts 17:6-9). It seems that this letter - the earliest of Paul’s letters - was written from Corinth to encourage the fledgling church they had left behind.    
In the extract above Paul writes to help the new Jesus-followers to live without fear of death.  Those who had come from a Greek culture would have feared death because of their belief in a journey to Hades. This required crossing the river Styx by negotiating with the boatman Charon, and appeasing Cereberus, the three-headed guard dog. Those who came from a Jewish background  had no idea of life after death at all. The best they could hope for was a life in the shadows of Sheol, without personality or strength. Paul writes to reassures these new Christians that there will be no boatman, no dog, no dissolution into shadows. Instead, “the Lord himself will come down from heaven” and fetch both the living and the dead (1 Thes 4:16).  

Let us be clear – this is not some scientific explanation on what happens after we die. It is written to reassure the people of Thessalonica that they would not die alone. Jesus would be there, to carry them through death to life with God. How this happened not even Paul knew – for he had not yet died! I am suggesting that we take our hope from Paul’s reassurance that Jesus will be with us at our death.  And so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:17).


The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
The Rewards of Ministry
A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.84


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