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. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV).
In this verse, Paul switches subjects. He moves from living to living again.
You’ll recall that Barbara Bush died last week. Her son, President Bush, said that his mother didn’t fear death because she had faith in God, faith in the afterlife. Here in Texas, this has been a big story. In fact, I can’t remember the press ever making such a big deal about the death of a First Lady, even though Mrs. Bush was indeed extraordinary and famous. Ecology.com says that approximately 151, 600 in the world people die every day. Not to make light of their deaths or Mrs. Bush’s, but that means that 909,600 people have died just since Barbara Bush joined their ranks.
I wonder how many of them died with the surety she had about her ultimate destination. The fact is, Mrs. Bush lived in her faith so dying was simply the next part of living. She knew Jesus, so there was no fear of death. I wonder how many of her fellow dead could have said the same thing.
My Pastor will occasionally remind our congregation that we aren’t just part of eternity when we die: we’re part of it now. Our forever is sealed to be with Jesus by His grace, through His death, in His wisdom, in our world today. We are guaranteed to live with Him forever whether we die now or a century from now. More importantly, what time we have left in this life is guaranteed to be led in His grace, to be inspired by His love, by His forgiveness. The shame, the guilt, the hatred, the ignorance that plagued us before accepting Him is gone. It’s as if it never existed forever, and it will never be held against us again, forever. We are citizens of heaven already because Jesus is our savior, God and brother.
Mrs. Bush understood this. I’m hopeful that many who died in this last week also did, though statistically speaking that’s unlikely. Paul reminds us that those who precede us in death are with the Lord, awaiting the final day of time, when all who have died will be resurrected. Those who died here believing in the Lord awaiting a destiny much brighter than those who rejected Him. This, the purpose of this life is to give glory to Jesus in how we live it, to use our time here to connect others to Him. To prepare, and to love and forgive as Jesus does. It isn’t codes of morality or getting the brass ring. 909600 people, including Mrs. Bush, learned that final truth last week.
For further reading: Romans 11:25, Matthew 9:24, Ephesians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:14.
Lord, I praise You for the life you give. Help me to live it for You.