(1 Thessalonians 4, Romans 15)
Introduction: This is the last of our series of lessons on hope. What, really, is your ultimate hope? We have discussed the hope given to us by Jesus' life, death and resurrection. What, exactly, does that give us? Where do we end up with that hope? What is your ultimate goal? Let's jump into our lesson and consider some hopeful words about "ultimate things" given to us by God.
- Hope About Death
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Paul writes to the Thessalonians to cure two problems, what are they? (Ignorance and grief in the context of death.)
- Is Paul going to completely take away grief by what he is about to say? (He says they will not grieve like those who have no hope. Our grief will not be as severe as others who do not have the gospel hope.)
- Why does Paul call death "sleep?" Or, is he really speaking about sleep? (Paul is speaking about death. We don't grieve when our friends and family go to sleep each day. Compare Jesus' description of death as sleep in John 11:11-14. Calling death "sleep" conveys a couple of important ideas. First, it tells us this is not a permanent state. Second, it conveys a sense of unconsciousness during death.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:14. On what basis do we have hope that death is not permanent? (Our hope is based on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead - therefore we can be raised from the dead.)
- What hope do those have who believe that Jesus was simply a "good man" who died 2,000 years ago?
- Notice the phrase, "God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." What does this suggest: a) That Jesus will bring the dead from heaven at the Second Coming? or, b) That Jesus will bring the dead from the earth to heaven at the Second Coming? (It would be more logical to use the word "come" instead of "bring" if the dead were coming from heaven. Bring gives the sense that God is retrieving Jesus and the dead back from earth. However, I do not believe there is sufficient evidence in this language to make a theological decision. The Greek word translated "bring" means to "lead" or "guide.")
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Paul's statement assumes the dead in Christ are where? (Now we have enough evidence to make a theological decision. Paul assumes the dead are not in heaven now. His words (v.15) "we who are still alive...will certainly not precede" rebut the idea that those who are alive at the Second Coming will go to heaven first. If the people believed that the dead went immediately to heaven upon death, he would have no reason to rebut that idea that the living would get to heaven first. The Thessalonians did not assume the dead went to heaven first.)
- What does verse 16 say is the timing of the resurrection? (At the Second Coming, the "dead in Christ will rise first.")
- What happens to those who are alive at the Second Coming?
- When verse 17 says we will be "caught up together with them" who is the "them?" (The dead in Christ.)
- With this background, tell me now how you think the term "bring" in verse 14 should be interpreted? (This now makes verse 14 very clear. Jesus is bringing (leading, guiding) both the resurrected righteous and the living righteous with Him from earth and taking them to heaven. He is not bringing the dead from heaven.)
- In what way does this news give hope to you, as one who follows Jesus? (If you are alive when Jesus comes, He will take you to heaven. If you are dead when Jesus comes, He will do the most remarkable thing - He will call you from the dead and you will rise up to meet Jesus in the air. From there, He will take you to heaven.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:18. Does this message from Paul encourage you?
- Aren't Christians generally hopeful anyway? Why would Paul say to encourage each other with these words? (The idea that the righteous dead will arise and go to heaven to live forever with Jesus is the "ultimate hope." While Paul acknowledges (1 Thessalonians 4:13) that death reasonably causes us grief, our grief should not be as severe as those with no hope. Ultimately, we will have no grief at all. Instead, we will have the joy of being reunited with our loved ones forever!)
- Hope About Eternity
- Let's leave heaven out of our discussion for just a minute. What would you like to accomplish in your life? What would you like to be remembered about you after you have died? (Human nature generally wants to be remembered. The worry is that no one will remember that we ever existed. Most want to make "a mark" on life. That is one of the good things about being a lawyer. There are a number of important legal decisions where I was the winning lawyer in the case. These written decisions, which include my name, can be found in just about every town that has a decent law library. As long as the United States exists, these decisions bearing my name will be part of the "law books." Of course, the more practical question is, "Who will be looking?")
- Why do we want to "make our mark?" (This is poor attempt to "live" beyond the span of our life.)
- How does Paul's discussion in 1 Thessalonians 4 impact on our hope of being remembered? (We do not need to worry about being remembered, because we will ( 1 Thessalonians 4:17) be around forever. No need to worry about being remembered if you are still around.)
- Is "being around" a better hope than simply being remembered?
- The concept of living for eternity is mind-boggling. Can you imagine unfinished mansions in heaven? On the earth made new? (If time is no consideration, and you have forever to get it done, perhaps we will see a little "tar paper" along with the gold.)
- The Blessings of Hope
- Read Romans 15:13. This little verse contains a lot of information. If you tried to figure out what you needed to obtain hope, and your study was only this verse, what would you conclude? (We need the power of the Holy Spirit. We also need trust in God.)
- You have a "God of hope," and you have the tools to tap into that hope (The Holy Spirit and trust), what results can you expect in your life? (Joy and peace.)
- Would you like joy and peace in your life?
- Are joy and peace some of the "ultimate things" in life?
- Notice this verse speaks of "overflow[ing]" with hope. Why would you want to "overflow?" Isn't being full of hope enough? (This is where Christian sharing comes in. If you "overflow" with hope, you will naturally share it with others. Joy and peace are highly desired. If you are overflowing with something that brings joy and peace, you can be sure others will want to learn more.)
- Friend, we have a God of Hope. The greatest thing we can hope for, eternal life for ourself, our family and our friends is a central part of our hope. This hope profoundly affects our life now, by giving us joy and peace. This hope also promises life forever with our loving Lord and Creator. Will you accept God's offer? Will you become a follower of the God of hope? Will your life overflow with hope so that others may see and share in your hope?
- Next week: We begin our study of a new topic, "The Promise: God's Everlasting Covenant."