Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so too will Christians be raised. With these words Paul again comforts the people of the church in Thessalonica who have lost loved ones. They will be with Christ in heaven. He has the Lord's word on this.
Paul speaks about the resurrection, "According to the Lord's own word" in 4:15. Either Jesus spoke of this while he was alive and it was not written in the Gospels, being left to the oral tradition, or Paul had a personal revelation of it. Specifically he says, "We tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thess 4:15-17).
So, when Christ returns, the dead in Christ will rise first and then those who are still alive will rise to meet Christ in the air. If those who are alive at that time get to see the rising bodies of those who have died, it will be quite a sight. But I don't think Paul was trying to paint a picture so much as trying to reassure the families of the deceased that there would be a bodily resurrection of both the dead and the living, and they would be reunited with their loved ones. We don't know exactly when that will happen, but happen it will (5:1-3).
Let us pray. Jesus,you were crucified, you died and you were buried. You rose on the third day. You ascended into heaven and are seated at the right hand of the Father. You will come again in glory to judge the dead and the living and your kingdom will have no end. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to being with you in the world to come. Because of you we have hope.
Many may be unfamiliar with the story of a Jewish woman who was forced to watch her seven sons be killed in the space of a single day. The story is told in 2 Maccabees 7 that the king was trying to force the family to eat pork. The account is extremely gruesome.
But the mother is lauded for combining "womanly emotion with manly courage" while she spoke words of encouragement to each of her sons. She reminded them that it was God who created the universe and gave them life, that God was merciful and would reward them with eternal life. She encouraged them to their death.
Lastly the mother died.
For Reflection: For all the mothers who send their sons (and daughters) off to war. For all the mothers who offer encouragement in times of persecution. For all the mothers who receive back the wounded and the dead, let us thank God.
Let us Pray. We do not know your ways, Lord, nor understand why some suffer so much for believing in God the Creator. But we thank you for the mothers who give life and encouragement to their families to keep to the laws of God. We entrust these mothers in their love and their sorrow to your care.
We are special people in Christ. Because of God's great love for us we were brought to life in Christ even though we were dead in sin. That's quite a trade. We traded being dead in sin for being alive in Christ. God is the only one who can bring us from death to life. Just as the Father raised Jesus from the dead and set him at his right hand in heaven, He also raised us from death and seated us in the heavenly realms with Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6).
Is Paul conflating the present with the future? We are alive now and will be seated with Christ in heaven. Or does he say this because, since there is no time with God, we are simultaneously alive in Christ on earth and seated with him in heaven? If we look back to 1:3, Paul says the Father has "blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." We are blessed in the heavenly realms, we are seated in the heavenly realms.
For Reflection: If we are currently blessed and seated in the heavenly realms, what does that mean?
Let us pray. Our Father, Heavenly Father, we do praise your name. You are mighty on our behalf, raising us from death to life, from earth to heaven. You keep us close to you, sitting with you. We are blessed. We are blessed.
In his letters, St. Paul is fond of providing lists of bad things to avoid and good things to do. He also is quite clear that our old rebellious nature died when we were baptized. Speaking for myself, it does not always seem that way. I think I'm just as temped to do things on the bad list as I would have been without baptism - but it's hard to know for sure. I've been baptized a long time.
When writing to the Colossians, Paul tells them that the old rules - don't do this, stay away from that - simply don't work and never did (2:20-23). Instead, since we have been baptized into Christ's death and raised with his resurrection, we should change our mindset. Change what we think about. Put off the old and clothe ourselves with the new ways of Christ. In baptism, this is symbolized by putting on a white garment. And what does this white garment represent? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgiveness, peace and thankfulness (3:1-15).
Some years ago I asked a young boy, who had just been baptized and had on his white garment, what did it mean when the pastor told him to bring it "unstained" to the judgment seat of heaven. He said, "Don't get mustard on it."
For reflection: How is my white garment looking?
Let us pray. Jesus, would you give me a visual on how my white garment is looking today?
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God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because we are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out "Abba, Father." So we are no longer slaves, but sons, and since we are sons, God has made us heirs (based on Galatians 4:4-7).
Because Jesus died and rose, I am able to be a child of God, not a slave. Because Jesus died and rose, I can call God "Father". Because Jesus died and rose, I am able to receive Jesus' Spirit in my heart. Because Jesus died and rose, I am an heir of the Kingdom - the Kingdom of God.
Let us pray. Though I am unworthy, Father, you sent your Son. Though I am unworthy, Father, you call me "son." Though I am unworthy, Father, you place your Spirit within me. Though I am unworthy, Father, you give me the Kingdom. What wondrous love is this?
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.