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What Should We Say When a Christian Has Died?

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A friend of mine died recently.

Have you ever wondered what to say to the family when someone dies?  Some people say, “He’s up there looking down.”  Some add that he’s smiling or even laughing at us.  Some simply say, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

But don’t those all seem hollow?

If you have no hope of Christ’s return, I suppose that’s the best you can do.  But for Christians, who know Christ is coming back, we can do better.  We can go to God’s Word and see what He would have us to say.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall 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.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Notice verse 13 says, “concerning them which are asleep,” verse 14 says, “them also which sleep in Jesus,” and verse 15, “them which are asleep.”  Whether Christians who have died are asleep or fully awake has been the subject of sometimes intense debate for centuries.  What has not been debated is verse 18, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Ever wondered what to say when a Christian dies?  Well, here it is!

Verse 13:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

Notice it says that God does not want us to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep.  Why?  So that we don’t sorrow like others who have no hope.

Yes, we sorrow because it’s a loss.  A believer’s death is a loss to us and a loss to God.  But we don’t sorrow like those who have no hope.

What hope are we talking about?  If you look up the word “hope” in the New Testament, you’ll find it refers, many times, to Christ’s return.  That’s our great hope and that’s what it’s talking about here.

Verse 14:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

Jesus died and rose again.  If God can raise Jesus from the dead, He can raise you and your loved ones from the dead.  And that’s exactly what He will do.  Not only that, but God will bring all Christians (“them also which sleep in Jesus”) with Christ when he comes back.

Verse 15:
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

“Prevent” is old English for “precede.”  We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede or go before them which are asleep.  We will not meet Christ in the air before those who are now asleep.

Verse 16-17:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall 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.

In a moment of time, Christ will descend from heaven, the archangel will shout the command, and the trumpet of God will sound the call.  Then the dead in Christ will rise first and we who are alive will be caught up together with them and go with them to meet the lord in the air.  After that, we will always be with Christ.

That’s our hope.  That’s our comfort.  That’s why verse 18 can say:

Verse 18:
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

So what do we say when a Christian has died?

Don’t say, “He’s up there looking down.”  Don’t even say, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Say, “Christ is coming back!”  Say, “The dead in Christ will rise first and we will go together with them to meet Christ in the air and we will be with them and Christ forever.”  Say, “Christ is coming back!”

“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.

Jeffrey Moore

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