We have a lot of hopes in life. I hoped the Dodgers would win the World Series. That didn’t work out so well for me. I grew up in SoCal, going to Dodgers games. So, I was very sad when they lost. Okay, I was only kinda sad. Okay, I was barely sad. I don’t even follow baseball. I follow Marvel movies more than baseball. But I still hoped the Dodgers would win.
But there’s a problem with this hope. It’s not really hope. It’s just wishful thinking. It’s not grounded in any reality. I don’t know any of their players or their strengths or strategies. I just thought it’d be cool if they won.
Now, hope is entirely different. Hope is much deeper, much stronger. In fact, hope is the fuel that drives our decisions.
- You work to earn money because place hope in the promise that money will improve your quality of life.
- You have kids or want kids because you place hope in the promise that family gives life meaning or joy or a legacy. And then once you had them, you wished you could give them back.
- You take your phone into the bathroom because you place hope in the promise that you can be entertained. Or if you have kids, you hope for a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Hope is always based on a promise. Money, family, popularity—all of those things promise something. When you believe the promise, you place your hope in that thing.
There are a lot of things we can put our hope in. Here are just a few:
- Social Justice
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing any of these. I’m not going to do the pastor thing and tell you to only place your hope in Jesus and nothing else. It’s like if you’re in Sunday school and the teacher asks, “What’s white and fluffy with big ears and a cotton tail?” Just say Jesus. In church, Jesus is always the answer to everything. It’s just not there simple.
There are actually two types of hope. Some of you have placed your hope in money. You work hard to provide for your family, live comfortably, maybe help out your parents. All of those are good things. That’s an example of general hope.
I want those things for you as well. I want you to be making enough money to support your family, live out on your own, buy a house. I just don’t want you to sacrifice your family, your integrity, or worse your faith to get that.
See, that’s a different kind of hope, that’s ultimate hope. It’s the thing you believe in that will give your life meaning, give you self-worth, will satisfy you. It’s the big thing that you bank the other little things on. Ultimately, it’s what you put your faith in. And when you put your ultimate hope in any of these things, they’ll always disappoint you.
So, why all this talk about hope? Because the section of the Apostles Creed that we’re going to look at today has been the foundation of Christian hope for the last 2,000 years. And it’s something that the modern church, especially here in America, has lost a sight of. I know I have. So, today, we remind all of us where we can place our ultimate hope.
Today’s section of the Creed is the last two lines: I believe in… the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Today, we talk about the end—the end of time, the end of this world. But it’s also a beginning—the beginning of God’s restored world, the beginning of eternity in God’s presence.
Let’s look at the first part: the resurrection of the body. The resurrection—first Jesus’ and then ours—is a major theme in the New Testament. Jesus talked about it. Peter preached it in the early church. Paul wrote about it in his letters.
Today, we’re going to look at one of those letters. It’s to the church in the Greek city of Thessalonica. There was an interesting situation going on there. The Christians believed that Jesus was going to come back for his followers. But they were afraid that those who had already died would miss it.
I always laugh a little bit when I think about it. It’s like you’re at the Academy Awards and they announce that you’re the winner but you’re in the bathroom. “The 2018 award goes to Meryl Streep. Meryl, are you here? No. Okay, we’ll just give it to Kristen Stewart for her range of emotions.”
So, the people in this church were concerned that friends and relatives who had died would miss Jesus’ second coming. And Paul wanted to ease their concerns.
So, today we’re going look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Like much of Paul’s writings, it’s very structured. He starts with a topic sentence, moves to a statement of theology, then some details, and finally an application. Let’s keep that in mind as we read through.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
There’s his topic sentence, his premise. “I want you to understand death and resurrection.” Because when you don’t, you can lose hope and you grieve, in a sense, improperly. The pagan world at the time saw death as a horrible event, devoid of any hope. So, Paul says: don’t be like them. He set’s the premise that the resurrection of the dead is directly connected to hope.
Now he gives some theology…
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
We see that our resurrection from the dead is because of Jesus resurrection of the dead. He defeated death, so we can do. But only when we are with Jesus.
Next, he gives some details. In particular, he provides a timeline of the events. So, listen for the sequence of events.
According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever.
Here’s the order of events:
- Jesus will come down from heaven (and it’s going to get loud)
- He will first raise the dead.
- Then he will gather up his followers who are still living
- Everyone will go up into heaven together
- And we will be with God forever.
Then he closes with what might seem like an unusual application. But if you remember his focus on hope in the first verse, then it’s not so strange.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Remember, when you see a therefore, find out what it’s there for. This one is saying, because Jesus promises raises his followers the dead, be encouraged and encourage each other. Be givers of hope in the future.
We all have times we lose hope and need encouragement. I was reading the news: crooked politicians, men abusing women, global warming. It was all very depressing. But this headline sent me over the edge: “Man Pulls Out Gun at McDonalds Because They Ran Out of Egg McMuffins.” I turned to Pang Foua and said: “I don’t want to be a part of this world anymore.” She got up and gave me a big hug and reminded me that everything be okay.”
Be encouragers of one another. Give hope to one another, especially with the fact that if you’re a follower of Christ, you will be with God forever. Whatever you’re going through right now, it’s really small when you compare it to eternity. It’s not to minimize it. It’s just to put it into perspective. We will have an eternity with God. The Creed calls that “life eternal.”
What will that life be like? I want to read you a passage from Revelation 21:1-6. It’s probably the best description of what everlasting life is like. It’s what we affirm we when read the last line of the Creed. It’s what we can place our ultimate hope in.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done.”
If you believe in Jesus Christ, there will come a time when all your suffering will end. All your pain, all your weakness, all your failures will be no more. Your body that betrays you as it gets sick or fat—restored and perfected. Our world which is so fallen—renewed, created the way God has intended. Prejudice and sexism and violence and selfishness—all gone. Those old things… all passed away.
You’ll no longer have to long for God or experience Him only through the Holy Spirit. You can sit in his actual presence.
That’s what we can place our hope in. That’s why the resurrection of the dead is the foundation of Christian hope.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “I believe in Jesus. I’m excited about heaven. But that’s a long way in the future (probably). It’s hard to have hope in something that’s so far off. I have problems now. I have pain now.”
I can’t change what you might be going through. But I can help you have the right perspective on it. [Set up bowl] This BB represents a whole year of your life. I couldn’t find one small enough to represent a day of your life. So, this represents 1 year. We have a lot of people at church who are around 30, so this is your life so far. [Pour in BBs.] Let’s say you live a full life, up to 85 or 90. This represents your life [Pour in BBs.]. This is eternity. [Pour in all the BBs.] And that’s just the first day.
So, where do you want to invest your life? Where do you want to place your hope? The reason our resurrection into heaven is the foundation of Christian hope is that it is infinitely longer than anything we experience here on earth. It’s really easy to think that this is all there is. We have work, family, commitments, conflict, maybe a little fun. All of that is just a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.
There’s a classic song called “Turn Your Eyes on Jesus” and it closed with this verse:
Turn your eyes on Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
That is never truer than when we focus on hearts and minds on this: I believe in… the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.