Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan your host of the Daily Challenges. Here we are in nature. And that’s because this week we’re studying how following Jesus resets our views of death, and in fact, Jesus resets death itself. We saw yesterday how western culture ignores, delays, avoids, fears death.
The result of ignoring it is that we are uninformed! We can be uninformed in a practical sense – having given and received no sense of one another’s funeral wishes, burial options, etc. until it’s too late. But we can be unprepared in a spiritual sense as well.
Paul, one of first Christians leaders wrote this to the first church community in Thessalonica.
13 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. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thess 4:13-14
First, we should deal with what he calls the dead: those who are asleep. What might he be saying? There are various theories about just HOW death is like sleep for Christians, but Paul doesn’t go that far. We can simply note that he’s talking about those who have died, and says there is something akin to sleeping happening with them.
Clearly Paul and these first Christians had expected Jesus to return, usher in the full kingdom, before any of them died. The “second coming” seemed that imminent. The letter was written sooner after Jesus’ death than many other letters, and they were clearly full of anticipation and excitement. Then some died, and you can imagine the questions and discouragement as they realized their expectations were out of line. So Paul tries to explain Christian death, and says they are essentially sleeping.
Why is sleeping good news? Sleeping means time passes unawares. Sleeping is peaceful. Sleeping is part of life, not death. Those who have died in Christ are in many ways alive, but at peace, and waiting patiently for God’s kingdom.
Sleeping is hardly worth grieving about! When they wake, they will be in the fullness of God’s kingdom of heaven. The Bible has lots of imagery about that, but the bottom line seems to be the presence of God. That’s what makes it worthwhile, not golden roads, clouds or cream cheese.
Question: How do you respond to the idea of death being a sleeplike state? How is it different from other descriptions you’ve heard? Does it give you hope, or fear?