Reflecting on I Thessalonians 4: 13-18
Have you imagined your death? It’s hard to do. We can imagine, perhaps, our funerals, and even the illness that will finally do us in. But truly imagining that last breath in our waking state seems as rare as dying―actually hitting the ground after falling from a tall building― in our dream state. The sub-conscious resists it mightily.
The truth is that, somehow, we think we’ll be around to read our own obituaries. We haven’t worked out exactly how that will happen, but humans live in a cognitive dissonance about our own deaths.
St. Paul was a “baby Christian” when he wrote his first letter to the Philippians. This was very early in his own life as a believer, and he was writing to relieve the anxieties of other new Christians. Apparently a rumor had started that Jesus had already returned, and that those who died before his return (or didn’t happen to live in Jerusalem) had missed the Second Coming and wouldn’t experience heaven.
What a terrible rumor. Paul’s detailed assurance about how the “end times” would occur―and he surely believed this would happen before he himself died―was meant to assure this community that the God of the Universe would find them, even if they died before Christ came to earth again.
In less than twenty years, St. Paul and St. Peter were both martyred in Rome. It wasn’t until the leaders of the Christian faith were actually gone that the realization sunk in that the Second Coming may not be any time soon. That’s when St. Mark began to write down what would become the earliest gospel. The Second Coming was delayed, yes, but the Good News had just begun.
How are you preparing for your death while living an abundant life?
Kathy McGovern ©2017