In one of Gulliver’s travels, he met a man who had invented a device for extracting sunshine from cucumbers. The inventor could store it away in bottles for brightening the house on dark days. Dark days come to us all. Discouragement is an ever-present danger, and sorrow is the stalker of us all. Like the new Christians at Thessalonica to whom Paul addressed this text, sometimes our hopes fade and doubts rise. Why not try Paul’s prescription for those dark days?
What does he recommend? “Encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). And just what words of encouragement are we talking about?  In this paragraph are three strong words of encouragement (or “comfort” if you prefer the King James translation). And these three words are return, resurrection and reunion.

I. Return is a word of strong encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:14-16). 
First, our Lord will return. He will return personally. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).  He will return in power. The word translated in KJV “with a shout” or in the NIV “with a loud command” is a military commander’s authoritative cry to direct his troops. Jesus will return with such authority and “with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). When we are talking about the Lord’s second coming, return is an encouraging word.
Also, our departed loved ones will return. As Paul wrote, “We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). The Thessalonians were new Christians, and Paul was not able to stay with them long enough to give them all the instruction a new believer might need. When some of their number died, they wondered if these would miss out on the grand return of Christ. In fact, Paul assured them the dead Christians will return with Christ.

II. Resurrection is a great word of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:141 Thessalonians 4:16).
Again, in view in this word is both the resurrection of Christ already realized and the promised resurrection of “the dead in Christ.” It is because we do believe “that Jesus died and rose again” (1 Thessalonians 4:14) that we can be confident in any other promise God makes even if it violates natural science and human logic. That includes specifically the promise that “the dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
In another letter to another church, Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. . . . Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only in this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. . . . The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:17-26).

III. The third word of encouragement is reunion (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Once again the reunion anticipates both a meeting with Christ and meeting again with those we have loved and lost for awhile. “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  What encouragement! “Together with them!” We won’t miss out on that glad day nor will they. Even the grave is but a temporary resting place for a body. “With the Lord forever!” Think of it. Those believers who are already dead and any of us who survive until that day of glory will together be with Him forever. These are indeed bright thoughts for dark days.
We are not immune from suffering and sorrow in this life. We are often in need of encouragement. If there is comfort and strength in talking to Him in prayer, how much more when we see Him face to face. If there is encouragement in singing the great hymns of the church and in reading and recalling His promises (and there is!), then how much more when that hope is realized. That will happen when He comes and we are gathered to Him. “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).


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