The Believer’s Hope in Death

Losing someone can be devastating. The hole left by a loved one’s physical absence from this world is deep; so deep, it feels like you may never be whole again.

For believers, death is not the last word, however. And knowing this can bring great hope to those nearing death and those they leave behind.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica to show them the hope believers have in death and the encouragement that follows:

13 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. 14 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. 15 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.

16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV)

The hardest part about death is that it means separation. When a loved one dies, we are physically separated from them. But Paul tells us that one day there will be a place where that kind of separation does not exist.

Hopeful, Not Hopeless

Believers are to be hopeful about death, not hopeless. Paul says that believers shouldn’t grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope.

If you believe this world is all there is, then death brings you nothing but sorrow. But if you believe this world is just the beginning of greater things to come, then that sorrow quickly turns to joy when you grasp the full reality the death is a coming home, a reunion with the God who made us.

Knowing this reality, believers should be hopeful, not hopeless, in the face of death. If we are to be hopeful, then what is it that we are to put our hope in?

The Coming Resurrection

Well, the second thing Paul tells us is that we will be resurrected just as Christ was resurrected. And this is where our hope rests.

The Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth in the form of a man. He spent 33 years here, was crucified, and buried. Then, three days later, that man Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death in the process.

Friends, we believe in a resurrected, living Jesus. Death did not have the final word for Him, and it will not have the final word for us.

It will not have the final word for us because, as Scripture tells us, we will be resurrected on the Day of the Lord just as Christ was resurrected after three days in the tomb. This will be a physical, bodily resurrection.

The Hope of Eternity

In the end, the decay and death we all face can do no eternal harm to the believer who will be brought back to life to live with Christ.

Paul tells us that we will be in that place with the Lord forever. Forever. 

Just think about that. Cities will rise and fall and nations will come and go, but believers will reign with Christ forever.

A resurrected person cannot die, so there is no death in sight. Christ was resurrected to life and we will be along with him, enjoying the eternal communion with Him that we were created for.

Let The Holy Spirit Change Your Personality

Believers seem to get that the Spirit wants to renew our hearts and minds. But I’m afraid we aren’t allowing the Spirit to do his work on our personalities.

We say we want to be changed from the inside out, but we cling so tightly to our personalities that we squeeze out the Spirit, keeping him to the periphery of our inner beings.

A Christian’s personality is meant to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Once a person is filled with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit begins his work of renewing their personality. With the Spirit’s help, they are meant to become kind, gentle, faithful, peaceable, joyful, and so on (see Gal. 5:22-23).

Personality is a prized possession in our individualized society. We take tests to understand who we are. We read books to learn what makes us tick. And we’re told that God crafted each of us into unique creations.

That’s all well and true. But we don’t often separate out the good and bad parts of our personalities. If we’re not careful, we’ll conflate “introvert” with “impatient,” or “extrovert” with “abrasive,” and end up affirming both.

This is a mistake. While some parts of our personality describe who we are (introvert, extrovert, etc.), other parts of our personality describe how we are (impatient, abrasive, encouraging, helpful, etc.).

God wants to affirm who you are, but he wants to change how you are.

We must understand that God formed each of us with specific personalities, but my personality—just like our fallen world—is not as it ought to be. I am not patient, kind, peaceful, and encouraging like Jesus. I can say that’s “just how I am,” but to do so misses the point of the Spirit’s sanctifying work. And it undersells his power.

The Holy Spirit wants to make me like Jesus—unhurried, loving, tender—but he won’t do so without my participation. This is simply how he works.

I’m afraid too many of us have resigned ourselves to thinking that how we are is how we’ll always be. But I beg you to reconsider.

There are specific aspects of your personality (and mine) that are not the way they ought to be. There are parts of your personality that need to die, just as surely as there are parts that need to grow into full maturity.

But we will never walk in the fullness of Christ if we are not convinced that the Holy Spirit can and will change our personalities if we allow him to do so.