But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (ESV)
James Grant writes:
We should begin with this observation: Christian hope does not ignore the pain and grief. These are a normal part of life, and the hope that we have as Christians does not ignore pain but redeems it. Two central notions are bound up in the command of verse 13 that we need to realize as Christians. First, grief is part of life. God created human-beings with the capacity for relationships. So when we lose a relationship to death, there will be intense grief. We must not allow the pagan philosophy of Stoicism to sneak into the Christian faith by denying our emotions. Christians need to acknowledge the struggle of grief because it reflects the reality of loss in this sinful world. This also means, contrary to popular opinion in Christian circles, that death is not a celebration. Death is not the way it is supposed to be. Since Adam’s sin, death is a judgment by God.
Second, although we must realize that grief will be part of the struggle of this life in the face of death, we must also grieve with confident hope. That is why Paul explains that we should “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (v. 13). Paul does not forbid us to grieve. On the contrary, he acknowledges the grief and tells us to grieve with hope. John Calvin says, “[Paul] does not, however, forbid us altogether to mourn, but requires moderation in our mourning.” Our Christian hope transforms the pain and grief to the point that we realize that death does not have the final word. This is why Chrysostom says, “Weep, then, at the death of a dear one as if you were bidding farewell to one setting out on a journey.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 37
Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.