Fred E. Dennis
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
These are precious words to every true believer. They were written by an inspired Christian; they were written to Christians; and they were written about Christians “which are asleep.” The very fact that the Lord would write about our dead as being asleep is very comforting. What is sweeter than to know that our loved ones and friends are asleep in Jesus? We may speak of death in a cold and harsh manner, even when Christians are involved in that death, but the Holy Spirit writes “concerning them which are asleep.”
You will remember that when Jesus was talking about the death of one of His dear friends here on this earth he said: “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). When our loved ones and friends are taking physical rest in sleep, we can awake them out of sleep. When they are asleep in death, God can awake them out of that sleep. Blessed assurance!
God does not want us to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep. He wants us to know something about them. He does not say for us not to sorrow, but He does say, “Sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” What “others” could there be besides Christians? Of course, the “others” are those who are not Christians. The Christian has a different attitude toward death than those who are not Christians. He has hope even in death. What a terrible thing to die without any hope! My kind reader, that is exactly the condition of those who die out of Christ.
Do you recall the little 12-year-old daughter of Jairus? (Mark 5:21-44). She was dead. Jesus went to this home where the dreaded monster, Death, had invaded. He went into the house, taking Peter, James, and John, and the parents of the little girl. They all wept and bewailed her. But what did the Master say? “Weep not; she is not dead, ‘but sleepeth.” Of course, they knew she was still in death. Jesus put all out of the room, and then, taking the dead child by the hand, He said, “Maid, arise.” And her spirit came again into her. She arose straightway. That is what death is. When the spirit goes out, we are dead. The Lord does not want us to be ignorant concerning this.
There is a resurrection of the dead. When the Christian dies, the ones who are left have suffered a great loss. Death to the Christian is gain. Jesus wept in sympathy at the grave of Lazarus. Thus do we at the graves of our friends. Heathens and others who know nothing of the resurrection make a great show of sorrow at the death of their friends. Christians have a hope. Those who are not Christians have no hope in the resurrection. They are without God and without hope in the world. What an awful thing to be living without God and without hope! (Eph. 2:12).
Every Christian believes that Jesus died and rose again. The fundamental facts of the gospel are that Jesus died for our sins; He was buried; and He arose the third day. (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Jesus was the first fruits from the dead. This shows the promise of the coming harvest when all Christians shall be raised from the dead.
We shall not all sleep (1 Cor. 15:51). There will be Christians on this old earth when Jesus comes again. The ones that are alive will not precede the ones who have fallen asleep. They will not go before the ones who have died. They will not hinder the dead. The dead in Christ will arise before any change takes place in the living Christians. The dead will be raised before the change of the living takes place.
The Lord is now in heaven. When He comes, He will come from heaven. He will come with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. This shout is the shout to Christians. They will come from the tombs when this shout is given. Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28, 29).
H. Leo Boles wrote:
The Lord Jesus Christ will utter his voice, will call from above to his sleeping people, and they shall hear and obey the call and come forth in incorruptible and glorious bodies. At His command they shall rise. Round this planet shall that mighty shout ring, penetrating every grave, piercing even the ocean’s depth, and it will stir into life and call out into the eternal fellowship of the Lord the whole vast host of the righteous dead.
False teachers have taught much falsehood concerning “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” It simply means that the living Christians shall not precede the ones who have fallen asleep in Christ. Then the ones who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.
You will please note that our meeting the Lord is to be in the air. If Jesus ever walks on this earth again, the Scriptures are silent concerning it. He is not coming to this earth to reign here. Jesus is preparing a place to receive his faithful ones.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:49-58).
Are you ready for the change?