Those With No Hope

Posted on January 19, 2013 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

Rankin-Devotional“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as other who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Having attended three funerals in the last two weeks, I invariably think of this verse as I reflect on the joy and celebration of these occasions. It seems counter-intuitive that a funeral would be a time of joy instead of grief, but that is a proper perspective for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and served Him faithfully.

All of these, my former pastor and two emeritus missionaries, were advanced in age and had a long tenure of Christian service. Most of their peers and colleagues had already graduated to eternal glory. Yes, it was a time of grief for family and friends who would no longer share times of fellowship we enjoy in earthly relationships.

But no one could grieve that these loved ones were no longer subjected to the frailty and pain of physical and mental afflictions. No one would grieve in knowing they had entered an eternal kingdom the Lord Jesus had prepared for them. In fact, the glories of heaven become more of a reality when we think of loved ones being ushered into the presence of Jesus Himself. For those who share such a hope, death is a time of celebration and rejoicing. It is a wonderful family reunion for those who rarely see one another to gather and enjoy the common love and relationships with one who has passed on.

It was apparently in such a context of a deceased brother that Paul put death in its proper context. Yes, we grief with the passing of those dear to us, but not as those without hope. We have all been to funerals of those who did not know the Lord and lived wasted lives. These are sad occasions, indeed. Many of us have lived overseas and witnessed the grief of those who die without hope. For millions who follow other religious traditions there is no assurance of life after death. One’s eternal destiny is uncertain, even after a lifetime of diligence to follow prescribed rituals and devotions.

There is no consolation and comfort for families in times of death. Grief is unabated for those who have no hope. I have heard many missionaries testify to this as a compelling factor in their calling to the nations, that the multitudes who live a lifetime and die without hope might discover there is a hope and reality of life after death.

Our connotation of “hope” is often that of wishful thinking. It is something we would like to be a reality in the future but may or may not be realized. However, that is not what Paul is referring to. The comfort we have in death is not a hope that may or may not materialize, but it is an assured hope–guaranteed. Yes, it is a future hope but it is certain. Often in the Psalms the word for hope is translated “wait.” We are waiting for a future reality; our grief is ameliorated by a hope we know is sure.

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