As Christians, we mourn the death of our loved ones, but we mourn as those who have hope. We hope because of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. This is what we learn in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The believers at Thessalonica had written to the Apostle Paul concerning the hope of those who had died. Their main concern: Would they also share in the resurrection? Was there hope for them? They needed God’s knowledge and insight into how to mourn, and what to expect in the future as believers.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13)
As Christians, we mourn, but with hope. Notice in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, the Apostle Paul does not teach us that grieving and mourning are wrong when our loved ones die in the Lord. He does not forbid us to weep, grieve or mourn. Rather, Paul teaches us that we do not have to “grieve as others do who have no hope” (4:13). As Christians who lose our loved ones who were committed to Christ and trusting in His righteousness alone, we can mourn, but with hope.
What is the hope we have in death? Hope for the Christian is a confident and expectant trust in God’s Word, and in the completed work of Jesus Christ for sinners. “Hope” for the Christian is focused on God alone as He keeps His promises; and we simply believe God (Romans 15:13). By God’s grace we can abound in this hope, or confident and expectant trust in God’s Word to us!
Why do we still mourn if we believe that our loved ones are safe and sound in Jesus? Death is still a horrid monster and intruder into God’s good creation. Death is the judgment of God for sinful man seeking His own way and will apart from the way and will of God (Gen. 3). For death to be removed, we must have our sins removed (Rev. 21:7-8). We must have a loving Savior to take away our sins and to reconcile us to God; and we have this in Jesus (Romans 5:6-11). Death is not merely “part of life” as some will say without thinking. Death is the opposite of life that God gave mankind at creation in His presence; it is not supposed to be here.
When our loved ones die, and we attend funerals, we should especially be prayerfully considering the “weight” of loss and separation that death brings to all (Eccl. 7:1-3). We have all gone over to the casket somewhat apprehensively to view the body of our loved one; at this moment, prayerfully think about death. We often say at this moment: “He/She is not here; this is so strange.” This is death.
What does our Lord Jesus think about death? When Jesus our Lord was here in his earthly ministry, even though He possessed the power of life over death; even though He was anointed with the Holy Spirit beyond measure of any man or prophet before or since, he too, mourned death. We are told in John 11 when Jesus goes to visit his dead friend Lazarus’ family after Lazarus had died, he wept (John 11:35). We are also told that Jesus was “deeply moved” in His spirit by the hideous, terrifying specter of death. The word used of Jesus being “deeply moved” is a Greek word that describes the sound of horses “snorting” as in battle. We behold holy outrage in our Lord Jesus. Our Lord Jesus was outraged by death. Yet Jesus came to destroy death (Hebrews. 2:14-18; 1 Cor. 15:26).
This is a proper response to death. Outrage, but hope and confidence in Jesus’s power alone.
Why would our Lord Jesus be so outraged by death? Death separates. Death separates men from God; death separates loved from ones from us; death separates our bodies from our spirits (and/or souls). As humans we were created to live in the Life-Giving power and love of our Creator. We were never meant to live apart from this Life-Giving God and lover of our souls.
God the Father sent His Beloved Son into the world to take upon human flesh with the purpose of becoming obedient to the point of death–for us (Phil. 2:5-11). The Son lovingly and willingly came for His own to live perfectly for us, to die under the penalty of God’s judgment for our sins—to defeat and remove the horror of death from us; to give His people hope. Death will not have the final word. Death is Christ’s enemy to be fully vanquished and destroyed when He returns again.
Let us rejoice! God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who mourn, and the former things will no longer be remembered. This is our great hope in our grieving and mourning now (Revelation 21:1-7; cf. Isaiah 25:6-9).
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” …But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Cor. 15:55,57-58
Dedicated with love to Edith C. Lambert (1929-2016)
“Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18)
In Christ’s Love,