The following six very encouraging scriptural verses were written to comfort the grieving Christians over the loss of their family in Christ. Often this truth is overshadowed and even missed completely by the rapture passage, but the rapture verse was actually cited as part of the comfort for the grieving:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13)
Even though the saints knew the martyr Stephen went to Paradise, godly men still mourned deeply for him.Godly men buried [the martyred] Stephen and mourned deeply for him. (Acts 8:2)
Because Jesus is alive now (because he rose again), God will bring with Jesus (when he returns to earth) the departed saints. They will come back together.
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. (1 Thess. 4:14)
The saints who are still physically alive when Jesus does return will not precede those who have died earlier, but what does that mean? It is revealed in the next verse.
According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess. 4:15)
There is absolutely no question about it -- Jesus will come back. Since heaven is up and that is where Jesus ascended into (Acts 1:11), he will come down from heaven. When Jesus returns, he will descend with:
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. (1 Thess. 4:16)
After the dead saints get their new glorfied bodies, then the saints who are still physically alive will be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (with our new bodies too)! What a moment that will be! At that point we will be with the Lord and our departed family and friends in Christ forever. Never again will we be separated from them by death. This is also called the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6) also referred to in John 5:29.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them [the departed saints] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess. 4:17)
The bodily resurrection of both types of people (saints and wicked) will be at least 1,000 years apart from each other for the wicked dead are not raised until after the 1,000 reign of Christ (Rev. 20:7-15).Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
Note how the saints are described there -- those who have done good. The hope mentioned in 1 Thess. 4:13 is now apparent and will be reality at that point. That hope (Greek: expectation) is to be reunited once again with the Christians who died. So there is no jusified reason to grieve in heavy sorrow, as they were and is so commonplace. It is only a temporary separation before being reunited again forever. (What amazing mercy God has.)
Sound doctrine is encouraging (Titus 1:9). The Greek word for encourage in 1 Thess. 4:18 also means comfort. The saints were to comfort each other with the aforementioned truths, that is, the living saints will be reunited forever with their departed loved ones in Christ. Hallelujah, thank you Jesus.
Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thess. 4:18)
This information is perfect for a funeral sermon or to share at a funeral for the ones grieving over their loss of a Christian family member or friend. You now know how to comfort grieving Christians with God's word. It's reality. Overcomers in Christ WILL be reunited with departed Christians in paradise.