First Thessalonians 4:13f
‘I would not have you…ignorant, brethren!… Don’t sorrow like others who have no hope!… We believe that Jesus died and rose again, so that God will bring with Him those who died in Jesus…. The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the Voice of the Archangel!… The dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive…shall be caught up together with them in the clouds…, ever to be with the Lord!’ First Thessalonians 4:13-17.
Calvin comments: “The Thessalonians” upheld “the hope of the resurrection…. However…, this conviction was insufficiently firm in their minds…. Accordingly, they retained something of their old superstition in mourning the dead….
“We must not grieve inordinately for the dead! Because we are all to be raised again…. He says…’You (should) sorrow not like the rest who have no hope.’ He forbids them to mourn after the fashion of unbelievers, who give free reign to grief — because they look on death as the final destruction…. But since believers know that they depart from the world in order finally to be gathered into the Kingdom of God, they do not have a similar reason for sorrow….
“He speaks of the dead as being ‘asleep’…. There is a great difference between sleep and destruction. The reference, however, is not to the soul but to the body. For the dead body rests in the tomb as on a bed, until God raises the person up. Those therefore who conclude from this that it is souls which sleep, lack understanding!…
“Paul…is lifting the minds of believers to consider the resurrection, lest they should indulge in excessive grief on the death of their dear ones…. Let the sorrow of the godly be mingled with comfort!… The hope of blessed immortality…will accomplish this….
“They might…think that only those who remained alive until the coming of Christ, would share in the resurrection — and that those who had previously died, would have no part in it. ‘The order of the resurrection,’ he says, ‘will begin with them! We therefore shall not rise, without them!’…. Paul gives first place to the dead, and then teaches us that those who at that time will still be alive — will follow them!…
“He knew…that Christ would come at a somewhat later date…. ‘For the Lord Himself (shall…shout with the Voice of the Archangel)’…. ‘The dead in Christ (shall rise first)’… Those who are left, will be ‘caught up’ together with them…. ‘So shall we ever be with the Lord’….
“These words more than sufficiently disprove the aberrations…of the Chiliasts. When believers have once been gathered together into one Kingdom, their life will have no end — any more than Christ’s. To allot Christ a thousand years, so that afterwards He would cease to reign — is too horrible to speak of. Those however who limit the life of believers to a thousand years, commit this absurdity!”
Do you sorrow for the dead, like those who have no hope? Don’t! For Christ has risen!