Will We See Our Loved Ones Again?

// March 10th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series Last Days Christianity

Most of you know that I have a fondness for hockey…  You can listen online or download it and listen later…Will We See Our Loved Ones Again?

…and especially the Calgary Flames.  A while ago, while watching some sports news, the sportscaster said, “So-and-so is listed as day-to-day.”  You know that could be said about any one of us….we are listed as day-to-day.

We have no guarantees that we will be here until a certain age… and we all know that we are not living here, on this earth and in this body, forever.  We are all listed as day-to-day!

Every day people are dying…some die peacefully, others in tragic accidents, some in hospital beds and some die unexpectedly.  George Bernard Shaw put it well when he said, “The statistics on death are impressive. One out of one person dies.”

And, this brings us to the question that is the title:  Will we see our loved ones again?  For most of us, this discussion is not theoretical, it is practical and personal.  The older we get, the company of people that we know who are with Jesus grows and starts to give us an increased longing for heaven.

God has not left us to our speculations.  Our text for this morning reveals some fantastic, “get-all-excited-go-tell-everybody” information.

The believers in Thessalonica were concerned about their loved ones who had died.  What if Jesus would return, what would happen to these loved ones?  And so, in these 6 verses Paul answered their questions and gave them encouragement/comfort with 5 fundamental facts – I like Warren Wiersbe’s use of alliteration:

Fact #1:  Revelation – We Have God’s Truth – v. 13, 15a

From the beginning of time man has struggled with death and the afterlife.  Scientists have studied the clinically dead to find answers, magic has tried their best to replicate what only God can do, and religions have tried to monopolize God for personal benefit.

In v. 13 Paul wrote, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.”  Some translations say, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (referring to believers who have died).”

In v. 15, Paul gives his source – “We tell you this directly from the Lord…” As believers we don’t need to worry and wonder about death or life after death, because we have a revelation from God, in His Word.

God gave Paul a special revelation concerning the resurrection and the pending return of Christ.  And, we need to be very sure that, the teaching of Paul was in perfect agreement with the teaching of Christ.  And God’s revelation is based on the historic fact of Christ’s resurrection.  Since Jesus, as our Savior, conquered death, we need not fear death or the future.  The authority of God’s Word should provide all the assurance and comfort that we need.  Fact #1 – we have God’s truth…

Fact #2:  Return – Jesus Is Coming Back Again – v. 14-15

Paul emphasizes Jesus’s imminent return.  He related Christ’s return to…

  • Salvation (1:9-10)
  • Service (2:19-20)
  • Stability and strength (3:11-13)
  • And now, to sorrow and comfort (4:13-18)

Paul used the word sleep to refer to the believers who died.  Jesus used this same expression in John 11, referring to Lazarus having fallen asleep.  But, notice Paul did not say that the soul went to sleep at death.  He made it clear that the soul of the believer went to be with the Lord – v. 14 – “God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”

We need to be sure – it is not the soul that sleeps, it is the body!  In James 2:26 we read, “For the body without the spirit is dead.”  At death, the spirit leaves the body and the body goes to sleep and no longer functions.  The spirit/soul goes to be with the Lord, if the person has trusted in Jesus, for their eternal salvation.  “Absent from the body, present with the Lord…” (2 Cor. 5:8).

The fact that Jesus is coming back is comfort when we grieve, because we know that He will bring with Him those who have “died in the Lord”.  A man wanted to comfort his friend who had lost his wife, so he said, “I’m so sorry you lost your wife.”  The man replied, “I didn’t lose her – you can’t lose something when you know where it is – and I know where she is!”

So, when will Jesus return?  Nobody knows, and it is wrong to set dates!  Paul said, “we who are alive” – he expected to be alive when this would happen – this is the imminent return of Christ.

Imminent means it could happen at any moment.  In 1 Cor. 15:52 we read, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”.  But according to v. 17, we will meet Christ in the air.

It is important to note that it is “the Lord Himself” who will return.  After Jesus had ascended into heaven, two angels appeared and told the disciples, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven”(Acts 1:11).  I love those three words:  “This same Jesus.”  Not some imposter, not a delegate of Heaven…Jesus will come for us!

And so, as believers, whether we live or die, we have nothing to fear because Jesus will come either with us or for us!  This should be comfort to our hearts.

Fact #3:  Resurrection – Christians Who Have Died Will Rise – v. 15-16

When Paul preached the doctrine of the resurrection to Greek philosophers, they mocked him – Acts 17:32.  To them, being rid of the body was their great hope.  They would say, “Why would anyone want their body resurrected?”  They thought the doctrine of resurrection was foolish and impossible – how could you resurrect something that had already decayed.

But, when Jesus comes…He will issue the shout of command, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  This doesn’t mean He will put the elements of their bodies back together – resurrection is not reconstruction!  In 1 Cor. 15 Paul compared the resurrection of the body to the growing of a plant.  The seed has to die in order for the new plant to grow.

As Christians, we will receive a new glorified body, like the glorified body of our Lord Jesus.  The dead body is the “seed” that is planted in the ground; the resurrected body is the new plant that comes from that seed.  It carries the resemblance – the marks of the previous body – but is a new body.

According to John 5:28-29 and Rev. 20:1-6, there are 2 resurrections.  When we meet Jesus in the air, He will call to Himself only those who are saved through faith in Him.  This is the First Resurrection or the “Resurrection of Life”.  But, at the end of time, just before God ushers in the new heaven and earth, there will be another resurrection.  This is the Second Resurrection or the “Resurrection of Judgment”.  Between these 2 events, I believe that the Tribulation Period will take place and also the 1000-year Millennial Reign of Christ, will occur.

In Paul’s day, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, but the Sadducees did not.  The OT scriptures taught this doctrine, and the fact that Jesus rose from the dead verifies its authenticity.

There are 3 unique sounds involved in this resurrection event:

1)  Jesus will give a loud “shout of command” – like He did outside the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:43).  Those in the graves will hear His voice and be raised (John 5:28).

2)  Secondly, there will be the sound of the trumpet, something also stated in 1 Cor. 15:52.  The Jewish people were familiar with trumpets, because trumpets were used to declare war, to announce special times and seasons, and to gather the people for a journey.  And, before God gave the law on Mt. Sinai, the people heard a loud trumpet blast.  There will be the sound of a trumpet and…

3)  Third, there will be the voice of the archangel.  The only archangel whose name is mentioned in the Bible is Michael (Jude v.9).  According to Daniel 10:13 there is more than one archangel, so we can’t be absolutely sure it will be Michael’s voice.  All this to say that the angelic hosts will share in the victory shout when Jesus comes back.

The Christian doctrine of resurrection assures us the death is not the end.  The grave is not the end.  The body goes to sleep, but the soul goes to be with the Lord.  When the Lord returns, He will bring the soul with Him – He will raise the body in glory and will unite the body and soul into one being to share His glory forever.  Then…

Fact #4:  Rapture – Living Believers Caught Up – v. 17

The word “rapture” is not used in this passage, but that is the literal meaning of “caught up”.  The Latin word rapto means to “seize, to carry off” – this is where our English word “rapture” comes from.

Greek Bible Scholar, Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest explained the various meanings of the Greek word…each meaning adds a special truth to the doctrine of our Lord’s return. Let me share them with you:

“To catch away speedily” – this is the way Acts 8:39 reads, where the Holy Spirit “caught away Philip” after he had led the Ethiopian to Christ.  When the Lord returns in the air, we who are alive will be caught away quickly, in the twinkling of an eye.  We should live each moment expecting our Lord might return, lest He come and find us not ready.

“To seize by force” – John 6:15 – this seems to teach that some of the saints will be so attached to the world that they will literally be dragged away.  Like Lot being delivered from Sodom, they will be saved “by the skin of their teeth”.

“To claim for one’s own self” – a look at the Rapture from our Lord’s point of view as He comes to claim His bride.

“To move to a new place” – Paul used this word when he described his visit to heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-4).  In John 14:1-6 Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place, and so when He comes, He will take us to that glorious place.  We are pilgrims and strangers in this world…our citizenship is in heaven.

“To rescue from danger” – Acts 23:10.  This suggests that the Church will be taken home before the time of Tribulation that will come to the world.  I prefer to believe that, but I’m not dogmatic on that point!

Warren Wiersbe’s commentary says, “Since the shout, voice and trumpet apply to God’s people, there is no reason to believe that the unsaved masses will hear them.  If they do, they will hear sounds without meanings.”

I remember, as a teenager, watching all the movies portraying the rapture and time of judgment – just imagine, when millions of people suddenly vanish – there will be chaos and great fear.  For the believer, great rejoicing.

  • There is one generation that will never see death.
  • One generation that will not have to visit the undertaker.
  • One generation that will be raptured—lifted up—off the face of the earth. And then…

Fact #5:  Reunion – Christians forever with the Lord – v. 17-18

As believers, we will meet the Lord in the air, in person, when He comes for us!  Does that excite you?

The Greek word “meet” carries the idea of meeting a royal/important person.  We have walked with Christ – not with sight, but by faith – here on earth, but in the air we shall “see Him as He is” and we shall become like Him.  What a meeting that will be!

It will be a glorious meeting – because we will have glorified bodies.  Jesus prayed that we might one day see His glory and share in it (Jn. 17:22-24).  The suffering we endure today will be transformed into glory when He returns for us (Rom. 8).

It will be an everlasting meeting – for we shall “forever be with the Lord”.  Jesus said, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may also be” (John 14:3).  The goal of redemption is not just to rescue us from judgment, but bring us into His presence.

Our meeting will be a time of reckoning – the Greek word is bema meaning the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Our works will be judged and rewards will be given.  Please don’t confuse this with the Great White Throne of Judgment, where sin is judged.  If you are a believer, your sins are gone, you have no sins to judge, but your works…what you have done with the resources God has given you…that is judged.  A quick comparison:

 

Bema-Judgement Seat of Christ                               White Throne Judgment

– Only believers                                                                        – Only unbelievers

– Immediately after the Rapture                                           – After the 1000-year Kingdom

– Determines reward for service                                            – Determines extent of Judgment

We will not only meet our Lord Jesus at the Rapture, but will also be reunited with our believing friends and loved ones who have already died.  “Together with Christ” is an incredible statement of encouragement.  Death is a harsh separator, but Jesus is the Great Reconciler.

The Bible doesn’t tell us all the details of this reunion, but I wonder if Jesus, when He raised the widow’s son from the dead, He tenderly “delivered him to his mother” – I wonder if He intended to convey His blessed ministry of reuniting broken families and friendships.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, the 3 disciples – Peter, James and John – knew and recognized Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:1-5).  I choose to believe that the saints will know each other, and we will know believers that we never even met.  1 Cor. 13:12 – “Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

In the next chapter, we will see how Paul related this doctrine of the return of Christ to the unsaved.  But it would be good for us now to examine our own hearts to see if we are ready to meet the Lord, when He comes.

One mark of a true Christian is his eager looking for the 2nd Coming of our Lord Jesus – Paul mentioned this back in ch. 1:10.  As we grow in the Lord, we not only look for His appearing, but we love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).  Because we have this hope in Him, we keep our lives pure so that we may not be ashamed at His coming.

Robert Murray McCheyne, the godly Presbyterian preacher who passed away before his 30th birthday, used to ask people:  “Do you think Jesus Christ will return today?”  Most would reply, “No, not today.”  Then McCheyne would say, “Then, my friend, you had better be ready; for He is coming as such an hour as ye think not” (Luke 12:40).

Death is a fact of life.  The only way we can escape death is to be alive when the Lord Jesus returns for us, His bride.

Death is not an accident – yes, using this world’s language – accidents happen, but death is not an accident, it is an appointment.  Heb. 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…”  We need to regularly ask ourselves, if I should die today, which judgment would I face?

As Christians, we have a wonderful assurance and hope…because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His promised return.

Do you have that hope today?

Do you know which way you are going?

And now, to wrap up by looking at that title question . . .

Will We See Our Loved Ones Again?  The true answer:  It depends.  It depends on them and it depends on us.

  1. It Depends on Them We will only be reunited with our loved ones if they were saved through faith in Jesus Christ. We need to know that not everyone goes to heaven. Those who in this life had no time for Jesus will find in the next life that He has no time for them.

That’s why, at every funeral service, I make sure to preach to those who alive…share hope and hopefully help them see their desperate need of Christ.

If our loved ones have died without Christ, as hard as it may be, there is no biblical reason to think we will ever see them again.  May that fill us with an urgency to do all we can to win them to Christ, before they die.  Secondly,

  1. It Depends on Us

Where do you stand with Jesus?  Is he your Savior and Lord?  Have you ever trusted Him and Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins?  Make sure you know Jesus!

Wouldn’t it be horribly sad if our loved ones went to heaven and started looking for us, and we weren’t there?  Make sure you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

So, will we see our loved ones again?  The answer from Scripture is clear.  We will see them again if we know Jesus as our Savior and if they know Jesus as their Savior! 

Paul ends the chapter with, “Let us comfort each other with these words.  Our hope is in the Lord.  Paul said we sorrow, but not as those who have no hope.  Unbelievers and believers both die and both are buried.  Side by side in cemeteries around the world the bodies of saved people rest with the unsaved.

What makes the difference?  The only thing standing between unbelievers and us is the Word of God.  We have the Word of the Lord that Jesus died and rose again.  If God raised Jesus, He will also raise those who trust in Him.  God has promised it, and it must be so.  If we reject the Word of the Lord, we have nowhere else to go.

We tend to think that we are going from the land of the living to the land of the dying.  No, not true!  We are going from the land of the dying to the land of the living!

The old gospel hymn says it this way:

On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,

And the glory of His resurrection share;

When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

That’s our hope!  That’s God’s promise!

If the Lord tarries, we will have to be buried in a cemetery.  But, count on it – we won’t stay dead!

Let’s pray…

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