From time to time we should remind ourselves that we are not living for the present only. We should always keep eternity in view.
We can be living so comfortably in this world that we may be in danger of losing sight of our blessed hope. Sometimes we may feel that Christ’s coming could be so remote and far removed from reality that it becomes unattractive to us.
After all, the philosophy of today’s society may be summed up in the letters YOLO, which stands for “You Only Live Once.” This echoes the attitude of, “let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die” which Paul was warning the Corinthians against (1 Cor. 15:32). Underlying this philosophy of life is the belief that death is the end of the road. There is nothing to look to beyond death. Such was also the view of the people in Paul’s time. Death was viewed as a sleep from which there would be no awaking. For example, Catullus wrote: “The sun can set and rise again/ But once our brief light sets/ There is one unending night to be slept through.” Theocritus (Idyll, 4.42): “Hopes are for the living; the dead are without hope.”
The Thessalonian believers were also not immune to such fears and hopelessness. In fact some of them still associated death (sleep) with an utter lack of hope. We can understand how distressed they might be by the death of fellow believers prior to Jesus’ return. To them it would have meant the end of any hope of being with the Lord in the future; that the wait for His Son from heaven had been in vain.
In response, Paul offers a profoundly different understanding of death, the future, and the fate of believers. This understanding is grounded solidly in the most fundamental event in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which is the source of the hope for the Thessalonians as well as for us today.
From 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we are reminded that what will happen in the future is not an end, but only a means to an end. The final destiny of Christians who died before the coming of Christ is not death, but rather the resurrection leading to life with the Lord forever.
Knowledge of the future and the coming of the Lord ought to shape and influence how we live in the present.
Finally, we should use what we know to encourage one another to love and good works. Let the words of the refrain encourage us:
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
Rev. Mark Tay