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
As the cabbie drove us to London’s Heathrow Airport, he told us his story. He had come alone to the United Kingdom at age fifteen, seeking to escape war and deprivation. Now, eleven years later, he has a family of his own and is able to provide for them in ways unavailable in his native land. But he laments that he’s still separated from his parents and siblings. He told us that he’s had a hard journey that won’t be complete until he’s reunited with his family.
Being separated from our loved ones in this life is hard, but losing a loved one in death is much harder and creates a sense of loss that won’t be made right until we’re reunited with them. When the new believers at Thessalonica wondered about such losses, Paul wrote, “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). He explained that as believers in Jesus, we can live in expectation of a wonderful reunion—together forever in the presence of Christ (v. 17).
Few experiences mark us as deeply as the separations we endure, but in Jesus we have hope of being reunited. And in the midst of grief and loss we can find the comfort we need in that enduring promise (v. 18).
How has loss marked your life? How does Jesus provide the help and hope you need?
Father, there’s nothing on earth that can fill the places in my heart made empty through loss. Draw me to You and comfort me with Your love and grace.
Scholars estimate Thessalonica’s population in the first century to be around 200,000—a huge city for that day. A port community on the Aegean Sea, it was an important crossroads city that was a focal point for both commercial endeavor and Roman military activity. What made it such a challenging environment for the Thessalonian church was the dominance of pagan Greek religion in the city as well as the presence of a vocal Jewish population. These challenges resulted in stiff persecution—particularly from the Jewish synagogue leaders. After Paul preached in the Thessalonian synagogue on three consecutive Sabbaths (see Acts 17:1–4), the Jewish leadership responded with violence, accusing Paul of treason against Caesar (vv. 5–8). From that turbulent beginning would grow one of the truly significant churches in the New Testament era—a church considered by some scholars to be an ideal example of what a faith community should look like (1 Thessalonians 1:7).