Paul is writing back to the church in Thessalonica and he reminds them of what has happened and what followers of Christ believe will happen next. He says:
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. 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.1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
I want to start by saying that I believe this. I believe that Jesus died and rose again. I believe that, as his follower, I will follow him in his death and resurrection. I also believe that Jesus is coming again to judge the people of the earth and to fulfill the establishment and rule of his kingdom here amongst his people.
At the same time, I am also cognizant of how this sounds to many people. In fact, on television shows you frequently see people who believe these things portrayed as kooks, as crazy lunatics who should simply be disregarded as simpleton idiots. So if that is how I am regarded, I suppose that is what it is and I can only continue forward living as I believe God has called me to live.
Yet I think that this naturalistic / materialistic perspective comes from the myopic view that imagines that we know everything there is to know already. That we understand the earth, that we understand the universe, its creation, how we arrived here, and where history is leading us.
And yet, none of that is true. We understand very little of our earth, we understand almost nothing of our universe and its creation. We have flimsy theories of evolution that, upon investigation, hedge into the realm of the ridiculous…and somehow we think we think that we know what we are talking about. But we don’t, and we won’t for centuries and many millenia to come, so I can’t feel too discouraged that we would be criticized for “crazy” ideas such as a God that created the earth and each of us, Jesus’s death, resurrection, and return, and much more. That criticism simply comes from those who have arrogantly proclaimed that they somehow know more than the rest of us, when in fact God has been explaining what we see around us and where we are going through his Word.
And so Paul finishes chapter 4 with this:
Therefore encourage one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:18
We should be encouraged that there is a God who is much bigger than each of us. We should be encouraged that our lives aren’t intended to revolve around us. We should be encouraged, instead, that our lives are meant to give praise and worship to the one who created us, who saved us, and with whom we will live forever. May God receive this praise and worship from my life and may we all continue to be encouraged as we look forward to the day that Jesus will return!