Hope In Jesus Resource Downloads
Helen Keller was an American author and educator. I am sure many are familiar with her story. At 19 months old, Helen became ill, an illness that would leave her blind and deaf. A remarkable teacher, Anne Sullivan, was sent to work with Helen in 1887. Anne remained with Helen until her own death in 1936.
How would you teach a young child who could not hear or see? How do you describe colors or sounds? Helen learned to feel signs in her hand. She learned to read Braille. She learned to lip read by placing her hands on the mouth and throat of those speaking. Helen later graduated cum laude in 1904 from Radcliffe College. She became an author, advocate, and educator. Her efforts were instrumental in the improvement of life for those who were seen as disabled. Her story has inspired countless others.
As we continue our studies in 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul finds himself in a situation similar to Anne's. How do you describe or put language around the return of Christ and the hope of the resurrection? What pictures bring to color the glorious hope found in the Lord? This is Paul's challenge as he seeks to encourage those in Thessalonica. Considering Paul's words, we will do our best to color in the picture he describes.
Many modern readers of this passage approach Paul's words with a preconceived understanding of the rapture. In popular books and movies, we suddenly see airplanes falling from the sky. We see cars and buses that are abandoned as drivers are snatched away. Friends and loved ones disappear from the dining room table. We bring all of these picture images to the text. In doing so, we often miss the picture Paul presents.
Paul desires Christians to properly understand the hope we have in Christ. Practically, in Thessalonica, some of their loved ones have passed; what will happen to them? Are Christians without hope for their loved ones, and do we grieve and mourn like is typified in pagan funerals? Paul wants us to understand the rich and full hope of Christ.
Hope For Followers of Jesus
1 Thessalonians 4:13–15
"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For 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 word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep."
As Paul begins framing his picture, he starts with the foundation of hope for Christians: the resurrection of Jesus (v14). Those who have died in Christ will be part of the glorious renewal of Christ's return. Those who have died with Christ will also be raised to life as He was. This is in keeping with Paul's understanding of being united with Christ, as he recorded in Romans.
"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his."
Paul paints a picture of hope for those in Christ that is at its foundation based on the resurrection of Jesus.
In Thessalonica, there was a significant concern for their loved ones who experienced death in the Lord. Paul assures them that God's renewal of all things through Jesus includes those who "sleep" in Christ. The Lord's return comprises all those who are in Christ. We who are alive do not gain an advantage, and our loved ones are not forgotten. "[W]e who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep."
With The Lord
Paul's glorious picture of hope is a picture of all things new and those in Christ being with Him forever.
1 Thessalonians 4:16–18
"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 one another with these words."
Paul mixes many colors (or metaphors) to paint his picture of hope. The voice of the archangel and trumpet call of God is a calling of assembly that marks King Jesus' return. Pulling in color palettes from the prophets, Paul employs visual pictures such as those found in Isaiah or Joel:
"And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem."
"Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand"
Paul uses similar pictures in the letter of 1 Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 15:52
"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."
Paul's picture of hope is one of the reigning King's return. His return will be the renewal of all things and all things made right. We, who are alive, will be united with those who sleep. All will be united together in the Lord's renewed creation.
At the sound of the trumpet, we will rush out to meet the Lord. Paul uses the word meeting (ἀπάντησις) the Lord to describe meeting an arriving visitor. Or like the act of honoring an important dignitary or an official. "According to Graeco-Roman customs, citizens went out to meet the dignitary and escort him back to their city amid great celebration."(1)
This word is also used by Jesus when describing the kingdom of heaven:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom."
Paul's picture of hope is one of confidence in the Lord's resurrection, return, and being united together with Him. There are those who sleep in the Lord and we who are alive. We will be united with the Lord forever in renewed creation when King Jesus returns. We will together rush out to greet Him and be present with Him forever.
Crossing The Context
How do you describe the hope that is found in Christ? How do you describe colors and sounds to someone unable to see or hear them? It's not impossible, as the account of Helen Keller proves. However, it may take looking past what we think we know to see the picture.
Paul paints a beautiful and glorious picture of renewal and resurrection—a picture based on the work of the Master. Hope that is found in Christ is unlike hope the world knows. Hope found in Christ overcomes death.
Christians have more to look forward to than death. We await His glorious return, where we all will be united with Him in renewed creation forever.
As we live our lives today, do we share Paul's glorious picture of hope? A hope that comforts, guides, and forms our steps as we await His return?
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), 1 Th 4:17.
resources & downloads
Hope In Jesus Resource Downloads
BibleProject: Guide-Book of 1 Thessalonians
BibleProject: 1 Thessalonians Overview Video