Why Our Hope About the Future Matters

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A sermon idea based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. 

While we may not have perfect clarity about the when and the how of Jesus’ return, because of his promise to do so, we have hope for the future that makes a difference in how we live today!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NRSV

[13] But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. [14] For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. [15] For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. [16] For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Grief is an inevitable aspect of life on earth. But there are two ways to grieve, according to Paul:

  • We can grieve without hope, believing that death is the very end of our existence.
  • We can grieve with hope, believing that Jesus is going to complete his work of saving a fallen, broken world.

And the difference between grieving with hope and grieving without hope depends on whether we see Jesus as a risen King, capable of finishing the redemptive work he began in the world, or not.

The believers in Thessalonica had embraced a slight error in their thinking. They had come to believe that Jesus would definitely return to earth, physically, during their generation, and that there was no possibility he would be delayed.

Paul writes with a message that brings balance to this viewpoint and proclaims that 1.) yes, Jesus will return, and 2.) we don’t know when, so carry on with your life of faith until that day arrives.

Paul challenges us to embrace and hold fast to certain beliefs that would feed our hope throughout the rest of our lives.

1. Jesus died and rose again.

Our hope for our redemption and the redemption of the lost, fallen world around us rests in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Having died for the sins of the world, Jesus rose again and lives forever, having been enthroned as King of God’s Kingdom.

2. Jesus will return.

There are all kinds of theories about when and how Jesus will return, but one belief is central to the historic witness of the church – Jesus will come to complete the work begun by his life, death, and resurrection.

3. We will forever be with the Lord.

There is something beyond this life. Beyond the veil of death. There is more. This is central to the story and message of Christianity.

What lies beyond the grave is very mysterious to us still living in the here and now, but it’s a beautiful mystery, wrapped up in the hopeful message that we will be with Jesus forever.

And why do these beliefs make such a difference in our lives? Because we can look around and see the effects of hopelessness upon the human race.

And we can also look at how God’s people have contributed to the flourishing of humanity and conclude that hope makes all the difference and that it is our hopefulness that changes everything about how we approach life on earth.


Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash.

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