Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 4:13-19
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For then we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (I Thessalonians 4:14,15)
These words are so encouraging to those of us who have lost loved ones. We will be reunited with them again! In these verses, Paul is referring to those who have died in the Lord. He uses a phrase, “fallen asleep,” to refer to their condition in heaven. He does not mean that they are literally sleeping, for we know there is activity in heaven. It is simply a phrase that describes their deaths — a state of rest from earthly labors, trials, and struggles.
The Bible has very little to say about the intermediate state, which is the state of those who have died until the final state when their souls are united with their resurrected bodies. We are given some information about those who are in the intermediate state now.
We know that the souls of believers immediately go to be with the Lord at their deaths (Luke 16:22; Philippians 1:21-24). Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians — “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8).
Those who are in heaven now are in a state of rest and joy — “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their works follow with them” (Revelation 14:18). They have finished their earthly course and God is satisfied with what they accomplished on earth. They are in His presence where there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
Our loved ones who are in heaven enjoy freedom from all that is evil and painful. They are at perfect peace in the presence of Jesus. But they are active. They worship and serve God — “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence” (Revelation 7:15).
As much as they love us, they would not want to return to earth, for they share with Christ in His royal glory. Paul put it this way — “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Yes, they behold the glory and beauty of Christ.
Lord Jesus, thank You for making heaven possible through Your suffering, death and resurrection. Thank You for the comfort of knowing that those I love, who have died, are safely in Your care and that they are free from suffering, toil, and pain.
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