The death of infants and children seems terrible because the precious ones are gone without having lived a life for Jesus. And, of course, the death of parents and hard-working adults who are giving family members a livelihood and taking care of others are heroes we don’t want to lose.But as we age, the death of adults who are approaching the category of “aged” is painful because we long to be close to those who have lived longer and learned more than we have. Healthy or sick. Strong or weak. Christian or pagan. We all want to live.
But we die.
[Thought Questions for The Dead in Christ August 22, 2012]
1. The Second Coming. Is it any wonder that Paul’s friends in Thessalonica were fearful of death? Are we today immune from such feelings? Was there a conflict between their longing to live until Jesus’ coming and their fear when they realized it wasn’t happening yet? Can you sympathize with them over their distress about dying? How did they respond to Paul’s promises that Jesus is coming back? Does your heart ever feel troubled about the prospects of the final days and the reward to the faithful? Do you ever hear yourself wondering, “What if?”
2. The Situation. Is it inevitable that every grouping of people holds a belief system about death and what happens at the end of time? Why is death so important to us? Did the Thessalonian Christians feel as we do today that all who give their hearts to Jesus will be rescued from a world of sin? What was the main difference in their theology of death compared to what we teach today? What if the alive in Jesus would go to heaven when He comes, and those who had passed through death would stay on a sinless earth? Would that be so bad?
3. No hope. What happens to us when we lose hope? Have you ever spent time at the bedside of one who is dying? Do you hold onto hope that the loved one will get well even when every indication is that he or she will die soon? When my Mom lay dying in the hospital, she would try to cheer her visitors by saying, “Oh, yes, God will heal me. I know that. I just don’t know when.” Can we share that comfort with others? Or should we be careful about speaking of hope because we don’t know what God’s reward will be? How can we show comfort to those in our midst who are dying? Or to their families and friends?
4. Rising from death. Can you imagine the joy and songs of celebration when the dead in Christ are united with those who haven’t died and we all go to heaven together? What reasons can you think of why Jesus would plan the Second Coming in that way? Is Verse 14 of 1 Thessalonians 4 a bit disturbing to you? Does it sound like God is going to raise those who went to heaven when they died and bring them down to earth for the resurrection here? Interpret the word “bring” in “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” so that there is no contradiction with Paul’s assertion the all believers, resurrected or not, will travel to heaven together.
5. Rising in Christ. Can Satan resurrect the dead? Does Jesus resurrect the wicked? Have you ever felt it would be so much better if you could live until the Second Coming? If so, what would be better? How does Jesus manage to raise to life people whose ashes have been mixed with soil or ocean water for thousands of years? And how can He raise people in a new body without disturbing their appearance so much that they can’t be recognized? Do you find comfort in the reality that until the resurrection, we who die before the Second Coming will know nothing about what is going on? Can we hold the hope of the resurrection without understanding how God can make it happen?
6. Comfort. How do we share comfort with others? You have no doubt lost dear friends and family members to the scourge of death. Did someone lend you a comforting thought or in some way help you look up to Jesus when this happened? Can we comfort without preaching? How? Since Jesus is coming to the earth and resurrecting the righteous dead and uniting the righteous living, why doesn’t He set up His kingdom on earth immediately? Couldn’t He destroy all the wicked and end everything at once? Why a thousand years in heaven before the Third Coming? Do you think there will be a role for comfort for or by us during those ten centuries?
7. Changing the faithful. Do you know people who are blind, deaf, crippled, disfigured, in constant pain, missing an arm or foot or other body parts, or otherwise suffering? How can God instantly heal and restore all of those people at the same time? Are you perfect in body or mind? Or will God have work to do as the Master Physician to present you with a healthy body? Does it matter if we don’t know how he’ll do that? Do thoughts of the Second Coming make life on earth filled with more joy and meaning?