Sermon: The Power of Hope - 1 Thessalonians 4

This sermon offers hope to anyone who is grieving over the loss of a Christian friend or family member.

Scriptures: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16

This sermon offers hope to anyone who is grieving over the loss of a Christian friend or family member. The message describes the current state of the dead-in-Christ and our hope of the future resurrection and entrance into heaven.

Introduction

What will it be like when I see Jesus face to face?What about my loved ones who have already gone and others who are on the edge of the journey?What kind of comfort and hope does the Bible offer me?How do Christians ultimately enter into His presence?

Outline

I. Some Christians will meet Christ face-to-face through death (13-16)

  • Your redeemed loved ones who have experienced death are with Jesus today! (13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:8)
  • For your redeemed loved one, death is no hindrance now or in the future (15).
  • Being alive at the time of Christ's return does not give you any particular advantage.
  • Don't worry about your loved one missing out of the blessed hope!
  • Your redeemed loved one is scheduled for a return trip to earth's atmosphere (14).
  • Christ will bring your loved one with Him when He comes to receive the living Christians unto Himself.
    After Christ's return, we will enter into the presence of Christ and our loved ones forever.
    Your redeemed loved one's body will be resurrected on the day of Christ's return! (16)
  • Those who are "dead in Christ" will experience this victorious first resurrection.
  • There is a second resurrection - one in which you do not want to participate (Revelation 20:6).

II. Some Christians will meet Christ face-to-face through rapture

  • The word "rapture" is a Latin translation of "caught up" (17)
  • Several characters in the Bible experienced a rapture. Enoch (Hebrews 11:5).Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).
  • Philip was briefly snatched up for a return trip from Gaza to Samaria (Acts 8:37).
  • Nothing else needs to happen before the rapture can happen.
  • Only this end-times position allows for the imminent return of Christ.

Your entrance to eternity - by death or rapture - could occur any moment. Are you ready and eager to see Jesus?

III. After Christians enter Christ's presence, there is no exit!

After death or rapture, the Christian will "always be with the Lord" (17; Psalm 23:6).

When we are with the Lord, where will we be?

  1. First, we'll meet the Lord "in the air" (17)
  2. Second, we'll be in the "Father's House" (John 14:2-3)
  3. Third, we'll be on earth during a thousand-year reign (Revelation 20:1-6)
  4. Finally, we'll be in the "New Jerusalem" (Revelation 21).

Conclusion

Someone once said we're either in the valley of the shadow of death, coming out of it, or headed into it.If it were not for the power of hope we would have no defense against the fear of death.

Illustrations

Buying time

When Richard E. Byrd was stranded in a hut in Antarctica and about to die, he needed to be creative in "buying time". Every day he could stay alive was a day closer to rescue. Byrd's problem was a malfunctioning stove that was filling his cabin with carbon monoxide. If he could not find a way to stay alive until the rescuers would come, his options were to die of cold or of carbon monoxide poison. His goal was to stay alive until the rescuers arrived. Byrd restricted his movements to a minimum in order to save energy and food. He took short naps, fearful of entering a carbon-monoxide induced sleep unto death. He would turn his stove off and on at intervals to reduce the carbon monoxide, enduring several hours of bitter cold when the heater was off. Byrd knew he was in a dangerous situation. Billions of people around the world are as close to death as Byrd, but do not even realize their danger. Christians need to be passionate about the task of evangelism in these last days.

Source: Doug Tsuruoka, "Byrd Flew To Global Heights," Investor's Business Daily, 18 November 2002.

Addicted to growth

At the rate of change in the semi-conductor industry, 18 months from now you can either buy twice the speed at the current price or buy your current speed at half the price! Because of the rate of change, Donald Luskin, chief investment officer at Trend Macrolytics of Melno Park, California, says that semi-conductor companies must be, "absolutely addicted to the idea of growth." Church's could use some of Luskin's advice as well! Too many churches have lost the passion for growth, and with the loss went bold evangelism. Jesus is returning soon. The church must work while it is still day, "night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).

Source: Donna Howell, "How the Chip Industry Copes With Daily Deflation Pressures," Investor's Business Daily, 18 November 2002.

Additional sermon starters

Where the poor say, 'I am rich!' (Luke 16:19-31)

Drawing on the story of the rich man and Lazarus, notice the description of the poor man in heaven after death, in heaven.Heaven is where the poor beggar became the rich man whose every need was met.This world only offers limited opportunities.The next world, for the Christian, offers unending peace and provision.

Paradise restored (Genesis 2)

God's original plan for man is found in the Garden of Eden.Because of sin, man was separated from God and the paradise God made for him.Heaven will remove the separation from God that has occurred since the Garden because of sin.Heaven will also restore the paradise which was God's original intent for man's existence.The Garden of Eden is not heaven, but it is a glimpse of how wonderful heaven will be.

Creative worship idea

Consider enhancing the worship experience with a video clip from Essentials for the On Mission Church. The following video clip can be ordered from the North American Mission Board.

"What Happens When You Die?" People share a variety of opinions about life after death. Volume 2, No. 4 (Length: 1 minute, 22 seconds).

Dr. Randy White is pastor of First Baptist Church of Pampa, Texas.