For Ethel Crunkhorn
July 23, 2009
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Today we have come in honor and memory of Ethel Crunkhorn, beloved mother, sister, and friend. It is a time of grieving but it’s also a time to celebrate a life well-lived.
I’d like to begin this afternoon by reading a few verses from the Bible, verses which speak to us at times such as this. I’ll read verses 13 through 18 of 1 Thessalonians chapter: And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope.
For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.
I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.
Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.
So comfort and encourage each other with these words.
At a time like this, we can be overwhelmed with anguish; the grief, depression, despair, anger, and sorrow can almost drown us. But one thing bears us up and keeps us going—the biblical truth of the resurrection. If only we can focus our minds on 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, we’ll be all right; so I’d like to look at that passage today phrase by phrase.
Brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant …
This is information God wants us to know. It isn’t just Paul speaking; the Lord is speaking in the first person to you and me. He says, “My child, I don’t want you to be uninformed about something that’s going to happen or about those who have fallen asleep.” When we die in Christ, the Lord doesn’t think of us in terms of being dead, but asleep. When you and I die in Christ, we won’t be dead. We are not dead. Our bodies are sleeping and our spirits are still alive with Christ. That’s what Jesus taught, and that’s what Christians of all the ages have believed. The very word cemetery literally means “sleeping place.”
… lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
This information keeps our sorrow from becoming despair. Jesus doesn’t tell us to grieve, because there’s an understandable sadness when a Christian passes away. We miss them terribly, and we long for “the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still,” as Tennyson put it. Jesus Himself wept by the tomb of Lazarus. But we’re not to grieve as non-Christians do, like those who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
Since God raised Jesus for us all, He will raise all in Jesus when He returns, and our souls will be reunited with our resurrected bodies on that coming day of gladness and grandeur. That’s the basic fact He wants us to know.
We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
Somehow the Thessalonians were concerned that their loved ones who had passed away would miss out on the return of Christ, but Paul said, “Not at all. It would be wonderful to be alive when Jesus returns, but those who are alive at that moment will really have no advantage over those who are sleeping in Christ. In fact, the ones asleep in Christ will rise to meet Him first. Four great events will occur almost simultaneously at the moment of our Lord’s return for His children.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven …
First, the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven. At this very moment, our Jesus is seated in the heavenly realms at the right hand of the Almighty Father. But when the moment comes, He will literally rise from the throne, step into the corridors of light, and descend to the atmospherics of earth.
… with a shout …
Second, He will shout a loud command. The Greek word used here for “shout” or “loud command” was the word the classical Greek writers used for the shout of soldiers as they charged toward the enemy. It was also the word chariot drivers used to spur on their horses. It was like a wild cry of command and forward charge.
… with the voice of an archangel …
As Jesus issues the command for the saints of all the ages to rise from the dead, the archangel will issue commands to all the host of angels under his authority as they participate in the process and escort God’s children into the skies.
… and with the trumpet of God.
Fourth, there’s going to be a blast from a trumpet that will stun and startle the whole earth. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, the Lord will descend, He will shout a loud command, the archangel will summon his troops, and a trumpet will blast with a retort loud enough to make the whole world tremble. And then what?
And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Try to visualize that day. Suddenly in an instant, a billion people will disappear from the face of the earth. You’ll be walking around the office or school, and suddenly it’ll appear to be de-populated, and those left behind will ask, “Where did everyone go?” Well, this passage tells us that we will be reunited with our Savior and our loved ones forever.
At a time like this, it’s appropriate to ask: Are you ready for that day? Are you ready for His return? Have you claimed Jesus Christ as your eternal Lord and Savior? For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, 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 shall we ever be with the Lord.
Now may the Lord Jesus Christ be with you, for He came to bind up the brokenhearted, to comfort all who mourn and to provide for those who grieve. He has promised to grant you a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Go in His peace. Amen. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Dear God of eternity, life is so precious to each of us that all within us says no to death. We see death as the dark, mysterious enemy that destroys the good that You have created.
Help us to see death as you see it: not the end but the beginning, not a wall but a doorway, not a dark road but a path that leads to eternal light and life.
We will miss Ethel, but we thank You, Lord, for memory. May our minds and hearts be filled with the wonderful recollections of the past.
Help our sadness to wear a smile as the passing of time wipes the tears away. Time can be a great physician, healing the void that we now feel.
Every life is a gift from You dear Father. Thank you for sharing Ethel’s life with us. We will cherish the memories forever.