“She’s gone.” After being awake for more than 24 hours, this was the moment we had expected. There in the hospital room my Grandma St. John had taken her last breath. She had passed and was now in the Lord’s care. Yet, the time of grieving and weeping over the loss had just begun. This was my third grandparent I had lost in eleven months. Moreover, this was going to be the second funeral I would be officiating for a grandparent in the matter of merely four months. I did not know what I was going to speak about. I wanted to honor my grandmother well as she had honored me in choosing me to officiate her funeral.
After some considerations, I began reading 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It was the text I had read briefly at my first grandmother’s funeral. Yet, this passage struck me as it had never done before. Verses 13-14 say,
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
The last few months of my life had been filled with grief. There is nothing wrong with that. In our remembering of our loved ones, there will be times of grieving and that is fine. Scripture tells us even Jesus wept (John 11:35). Yet, and this is what the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage really taught me, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve as those who have hope. We grieve as those who believe. We grieve and we believe.
- We believe…Jesus died and rose again (verse 14)
See, our hope is ultimately in the next life, not this one (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). The truth is, as my three of my grandparents as well as your loved ones have experienced, we will all pass away. We will all die. If our hope is in this life only, it is in vain. We grieve as those without hope. We grieve without any belief beyond this life. However, if we believe in the gospel and believe Jesus came to live a perfect life as God the Son, die on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, be raised on the third day, and ascend to the right hand of the Father as Lord of all, then we grieve as those who believe. We grieve as those who have hope in the gospel. Christ’s death and resurrection should cause us to repent of our sins and turn to our Lord and Savior in faith and trust. It should cause us to grieve as those who believe.
- We believe…our loved ones are no longer in pain (Rev. 21:3-4)
While it is hard to let loved ones go, there is a comfort in knowing if they have trusted in Christ as their Savior and have been born again, then they are no longer in pain. This was especially true for my grandmother. The last couple of years were rough on her and pain was filling her life. Yet, at the viewing the comment was how peaceful my grandmother looked. Although she had lost her battle with life here on earth, she was rejoicing in the presence of God as somebody who is no longer in pain but in the joyous fellowship with God as never before.
- We believe…Jesus is coming back (vv. 15-17)
As Christ-followers, we do not believe only that Jesus died and rose again. We also believe He is coming back. He is coming back for His people. Those who have died and those who are still alive will meet together at the time of His coming and will dwell with one another in abounding fellowship forever. Most importantly, though, when Christ comes back to join all of the saved with Him, there will be eternal dwelling with our Savior. What this means for you and I is we will be reunited with our loved ones, in accordance to whether they repented and trusted in Christ, and be with them and be with God. If your loved one has passed on and you are confident they believed in Christ, then be encouraged they are with Him. And one day we will be too!