1 Thessalonians 4:13
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not…
I. THE TRANSFORMATION OF DEATH.
1. From all the ancient heathen, and even, in part, from the Jewish world, there was a loud wailing of the bodies of the departed as over an utter ruin of life. Christianity teaches us that the dead are only asleep, and therefore in Christian grief there is no excess or despair. There is in this a whole revolution of the faith and hope of the world. The ideas of destruction, loss, unconsciousness, King of Terrors, cruel mower, prison keeper are gone. There is an evening of life as well as a morning. "Man goeth forth unto his labour until the evening," "and so He giveth His beloved sleep."
2. There has been much perplexity through forgetfulness of what sleep is. Men do not cease to live in sleep. It is only the suspension of direct relations with the sensible; a temporary change from which much advantage is derived. Death is sleep —
(1) as it is a cessation of conditions and escape from circumstances which waste power and wear and tire faculty. "The wicked cease from troubling," etc. "They rest from their labours."(2) As there is in it the gain of fresh power for future use. So far from suspending spiritual power, the change in our dependence upon the sensible and material increases and intensifies it. This is proved from dreams; and so is it in the thing signified.
(3) As its separations are to be followed by the resumption of holy fellowship — as its evening withdrawal is to be followed by a morning return.
II. CONSEQUENT ON THIS TRANSFORMATION THERE IS A CHANGE IN THE FEELING OF THE BELIEVER REGARDING DEATH. "We sorrow not," etc. The wail of the heathen was a wail of despair; and the wail of the Hebrew saints, under the light of their imperfect economy, was often heart breaking. And there is much bitter grief in Christian homes arising partly from yielding to the susceptibilities, and partly from ignorance. But it is benumbing to faith, and dishonouring to the Lord of Life. But there is a natural human emotion tempered and directed by the light and grace of the Gospel. Sorrow is nature's tribute to her own weakness and dependence. When Jesus wept He sanctified our griefs. Christianity puts no undue strain on our nature. We may weep for our selves, but it is not to be absorbing, and is not to be wasted upon those who are present with the Lord.
III. THE GLAD ANTICIPATIONS WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE ENCOURAGED TO CHERISH. Mark —
1. Its glorious and stable foundation of fact. What Jesus did and suffered is the ground of a new future for humanity. Despair died when He died, and hope was born when He rose. "Because I live ye shall live also."
2. Complete resurrection glory and escape from helps power. It is impossible to fully explore the abundance of this revelation given by "the Word of the Lord." It was given to meet the actual need of those who mourned that through death their friends would be excluded from the triumph of Christ's second coming. The living will not take precedence, for the dead in Christ shall rise first.
3. The reunion of the dead and living with each other and the Lord (ver. 17).Conclusion;
1. What an attraction the glad and certain future should have for Christian hearts.
2. How glad and calm should our hearts be in anticipation of that future.
(W. H. Davison.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.