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Saints Triumphant

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This section clarifies and teaches important truths about what we believe about what happens to us when we die. The Bible teaches us that unlike animals, human beings have immortal souls. There is that invisibly part of us which exists during our lifetime connected with our bodies but at death separates from our bodies and continues to exist even though our bodies die and become subject to decay. This section does not address what happens to our bodies when we die but what happens to our souls.
Why does St. Paul write to the Thessalonians about this? It is so that they would not be ignorant about our souls when we die and what will happen to them when Jesus returns. What were their beliefs that needed to be corrected?
What beliefs do people have today?
No existence beyond the physical life. (Expressed in Ecclesiastes). Atheists viewpoint. Similar to our lack of awareness of what happened before we were conceived because we did not exist.
Various religious views on some sort of after life experience which involves limited awareness to complete awareness including the ability to effect what is happening on earth.

Contrast CATULLUS [Carmina 5.4], “When once our brief day has set, we must sleep one everlasting night.” The sepulchral inscriptions of heathen Thessalonica express the hopeless view taken as to those once dead: as AESCHYLUS writes, “Of one once dead there is no resurrection.” Whatever glimpses some heathen philosophers, had of the existence of the soul after death, they had none whatever of the body (Ac 17:18, 20, 32).

4:13–18 The Thessalonians likely expressed concern that their deceased brothers and sisters in the Lord—and those who may die before His return—will miss out on Christ’s return and the glorious future of the age to come (see v. 14 and note). Paul writes to reassure them that deceased believers will be raised to enjoy Christ’s appearing. Christ will even give deceased believers priority (see v. 16).

Evangelical Commentary on the Bible A. The State of the Dead (4:13–18)

The subject on which they need to be informed more fully is the state of the dead, “those who fall asleep.” “Sleep” is a euphemism for death, found in both the Greek and the Jewish world. Christians took the idea over but with the understanding that death is a sleep from which the believer will some day awake to resurrection life.

In our text those sleeping are the Thessalonian believers who had died after Paul left. Evidently his readers were not sure of their fate, and this led to untold grief. Paul, therefore, wants to enlighten them on this problem so that they do not “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (v. 13b). “The rest” are the unbelievers (cf. Eph. 2:3). All people have hopes and dreams, but those outside Christ have no hope in the sense that they do not have the hope of eternal life. To be without God is to be without hope (cf. Eph. 2:12). To die in Christ is to have the hope of the resurrection, and so believers, though they grieve when they lose loved ones, need not grieve in despair like “the rest.”

This hope of the resurrection is based on the resurrection of Jesus. “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” (4:14). Christian confidence in the resurrection is not the result of speculation; it is not the product of wish-fulfillment. Rather it is based on a historical event—the resurrection of Christ. Of him it is not said that he “fell asleep,” but that he died, perhaps to underscore the reality of his death.

Because the grave could not hold Christ and he rose, breaking the bonds of death, Paul assures his readers that “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (v. 14b). Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of those who die in him. Paul argues this at much greater length in 1 Corinthians 15.

Biblical beliefs (Old Testament somewhat shady compared to New Testament beliefs)
Although the OT generally portrays this as a vague and shadowy existence, often associated with judgment, there are hints of the idea of resurrection to a fuller life which are developed in the NT. The NT points to judgment beyond death and to the believers’ hope in resurrection, to a more complete enjoyment of God’s presence and his blessings and to the promise of a new heaven and earth.
(NIV) — 10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you? 11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?
(NIV) — 21 before I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and utter darkness, 22 to the land of deepest night, of utter darkness and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.”
(NIV) — 8 The eye that now sees me will see me no longer; you will look for me, but I will be no more. 9 As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return. 10 He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more.
(NIV) — 14 They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.
(NIV) — 1 The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. 2 Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.
(NIV) — 19 But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.
(NIV) — 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
(NIV) — 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
(NIV) — 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
(NIV) — 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
(NIV) — 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Heaven and Hell. Introduction of Purgatory. Elimination of Hell.
The ancient Greeks believed that people died and ended up in Hades, a gray and misty place where the lord of the dead ruled. Others believed in a paradise-like place called Olympic pantheon on Mount Olympus, where gods such as Zeus lived and decided the fate of humanity. The people who lived a good life and were constantly in the minds of the living enjoyed sunny pleasures of the Elysium, those forgotten wandered eternally in the bleakness of Hades, while the wicked fell into dark pits called Tartarus. Although the gods decided the fate of every individual on earth, someone could control his fate through divination and sacrifices to them.
Why so many beliefs? We cannot interview people who have died and been resurrected. May be some indication based on near death experiences.
Therefore, as Christians, we are dependent on what the Bible teaches about what happens to us when we die. This section is very often used to give encouragement that we do continue to exist after we die and that when Jesus returns he will raise up our bodies, reunite them with our souls, glorify our bodies, and we will be with the Lord forever.
This Sunday is deemed “Saints Triumphant” to teach us that those who have died in faith have the victory that Jesus won for us by his own death and resurrection and that we have overcome the finality of death and have been saved from the punishment we deserve because of sin.
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