Upsidedown Living: Death (1 Thess 4:13-14)

–          Simple words have significant meaning – movement (influence)

  • Sunshine
  • Ice Cream
  • Pizza
  • Chocolate
  • Vacation
  • Pay Day
  • Hello
  • I love you
  • Divorce
  • Cancer
  • Death

 These words are simple yet they move us toward significant meaning and memories. Words carry a weight of influence upon us; they direct us toward what to believe and how to behave. This message will remind us that simple words have powerful meaning for life and we must take them seriously.

 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Death was a stunning word and reality for these Thessalonians. Paul continues his instructions from 4:1 (authoritative military orders) in speaking about a Christian perspective of death. Apparently, they had questions or concerns about those who died and the after-life. Paul writes to clarify and educate so that there is no grief. Throughout this letter, Paul offers hints on the meaning of the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection and why this is the basis for hope after death.

 1:10    “ – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”

2:16    “The wrath of God has come upon [those that displease God]”

3:13    implied need to be “blameless and holy in the presence of God the Father when the Lord Jesus comes”

4:6       “The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told and warned you.”

4:14    “Jesus died…” what is the reason?

5:3       “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

5:9       “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

5:23    “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

An underlying theme through this letter is that there is a wrath to suffer for those who do not trust in Jesus Christ, as well as the reality that this suffering wrath was somehow experienced in Jesus’ death. To understand a proper perspective on death you must understand God’s wrath and how it was displayed in the death of Jesus.

 JESUS DIED (1 Thess 4:13-14).

Paul writes to these believers so they will not be uninformed. In a sense, all of Scripture is written so that we would be informed and even more, inspired to know and trust Jesus. He affirms that death brings a grief like no other circumstance in life. Paul is not saying that Christians do not grieve in death. No, being a Christian does not mean you are spared emotional highs and lows, sadness, sorrow and setbacks. However, Paul is saying the contrast is determined by the destination after death. The destination for the unbeliever is hell leaving no hope, whereas the destination for the believer is “with Jesus” offering much hope. Your eternal destination is determined by your belief in Jesus.

The Bible says that Jesus died. What exactly does this mean?[1] To understand the significance of Jesus’ death we must understand Jesus’ identity. This is the most debated subject in all of history, yet it is the most substantiated from historical records.[2] A simple reading of the Gospels tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to reveal God the Father (John 1:14) and take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Even more explicit is his own claim that he is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

C.S. Lewis summed it up like this,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”[3]

 

In other words we may ask:

Was Jesus a Lunatic? Jesus’ claim to be God could have been a mistake or case of insanity.

Was Jesus a Liar?  Jesus’ claim to be God intentionally misled people about his identity and salvation.

Was Jesus Lord? Jesus’ claim to be the Christ, the Son of God is true, therefore to reject him is to reject God.

This is only half of Paul’s statement. After understanding Jesus’ identity it is even more profound to grasp that He died.

JESUS DIED (1 Thess 4:13-14).

Paul instructs the Thessalonians for those who fall asleep that have believed in Jesus’ death they will rise and be “in Him”. Paul uses significant word choices contrasting the believers as “sleeping” but Jesus “died”. Paul’s intention is to show that Jesus fully endured the horrors of death, the wages of sin only to conquer it through His resurrection and thus transforming death for his followers into sleep.[4]

A fuller picture of Jesus dying is seen in the biblical word “crucifixion”. The events of this historical happening are recorded in each of the Gospels. Crucifixion was the most painful mode of execution reserved for the most despised criminals.[5] Jews viewed crucifixion as being under God’s curse.[6] The agony of crucifixion is due to the fact of its prolonged means of death. Those crucified would often hang on a cross for days, passing in and out of consciousness as their lungs struggled to breathe, while laboring under the weight of their dying body. Due to the fact that timber was so expensive, the wood of the cross was typically recycled wood, therefore layered with the blood and sweat of many others.

The crucifixion process was started with the victim being stripped naked, humiliated and then attached his hands and feet across a wooden beam to expose the victim’s bare back. A Lictor, a professional executioner, would yield a cat-o’-nine tails, which was a whip with tentacle-like straps having heavy scraps of metal, bone and glass attached to the end of the straps. The intention of the Lictor was to tenderize the flesh of the shoulders, backs, buttocks and legs of the victim. As skin, muscle, tendons and even bones were ripped off the victim some would die from this scourging itself.

After this scourging, there was placed on Jesus head crown of thorns. Long thorns that would pierce into his forehead, ears, brow and even skull.

All of this was done publicly, thereby bringing utter shame and making an utter spectacle of the victim. Sweaty, sun-baked, nailed naked to a cross, bloodied and body fluids oozing was an atrocious sight. The crowds gathering around this sight today would be like viewing an execution in front of a local mall. Females were mostly withheld from this form of execution but when such they were turned to face the cross so the public did not have to view a woman’s facial expressions, as it was harsher to see females suffer. In fact, today we have the painful word – excruciating – which literally means “from the cross”.

On this cross, nails/spikes were driven into Jesus’ hands and feet – the most sensitive nerve centers on the human body. He was then lifted up as the cross was placed into a pre-dug hole. Further mockery would take place as the crowd hurled insults and spat into his face.

It is no surprise that it was prophesied about Jesus’ death in
Isaiah 52:14, 53:3-6 “Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness… He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

*****JESUS DIED – – – SO YOU MAY LIVE!!! *****

  • He lived the perfect life required of you
  • He died the death you deserve
  • He rose again calling us to believe in Him.
  • The gospel has happened for you, has it happened to you?
  • Martin Luther calls it the great exchange
    2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • By trusting in Jesus’ blood sacrificial death on the cross you can be forgiven and made righteous.

 


[1] For a greater study of this subject see 50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die by John Piper or Death by Love by Mark Driscoll.

[2] A couple of resources on this subject are The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and Jesus, More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell.

[3] Mere Christianity, 54-56.

[4]Morris, L. (1984). Vol. 13: 1 and 2 Thessalonians: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (88). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Much of the following information on crucifixion comes from Driscoll’s Death by Love pp 17-34 and John Stott’s The Cross of Christ.

[6] Deuteronomy 21:23

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