"Who Have No Hope"
Many primitive people have a custom of making a great show of grief over the death of their loved ones. In ancient times they even hired mourners to lament and bewail the loss of a relation. The idea here was that the grief of the family was so overwhelming it simply could not be expressed by any normal or ordinary outpouring of mournful cries, and must needs have the help of "professionals" to make lamentation.
This was the kind of "sorrow" Paul admonished against when he wrote the Thessalonians, "that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope." (I Thess. 4:13). The Christian does not need hired mourners; in fact, he really does not mourn at all in the sense in which the heathen mourns. For he recognizes that his separation from a loved one is only temporary, and will be followed by an eternity of complete happiness in company with the one who has now gone.
This will be the case if (and what 'a terrific "IF" it is!) both the deceased and the bereaved die as faithful children of God.
Motives For Obedience
Nobody ever acts from a single motive. All the factors lying behind any decision or action have their influence on an individual. His action (or lack of it) is a TOTAL situation. Some of the strongest motivations, of course, can become so dominant in a given situation as to make it seem that a single motive controls the action, but this is not so. Fear of punishment and hope of reward are two of the strongest motives activating the Christian in his service of God. (Psychologists have long since determined that the former is much stronger than the latter — hence, the folly of those teachers who would eliminate all references to hell and eternal punishment from their speech.) But along with these two basic motivating factors, surely the deep feeling of gratitude to God for the gift of his Son is of no small importance. And the blessed relief from the galling burden of guilt and self-reproach for wrongs done all of these are potent factors in a man's obedience.
But a very valid motivation is often overlooked the love a man has for his family. It is perfectly right and proper to appeal to this as ONE influence that should lead a man to obey the gospel. If he does not, and goes into eternity without any promise of salvation at all, think what a crushing weight of grief this brings to the family he leaves behind! It is bad enough for them to be deprived of his person and association through the lonely years ahead. But to know that the separation is FOREVER, and that there can be no hope at all of any kind of reunion — surely, no man who loves his family would want to lay that heavy load upon them!! He will compel his family to "sorrow as those who have no hope."
The much controverted expression "baptized for the dead" in I Corinthians 15:29 may well be another reference to this very motivation. Many scholars (probably most) believe that this means "baptized in the hope of reunion with the dead." If there is no resurrection, obviously such a reason for baptism is meaningless. And any Corinthian who was "baptized in the hope of reunion" with some dead loved one, and then denied the resurrection of the dead, was obviously not thinking very straight!
Those "who have no hope" are the forlorn and broken people whose loved ones have died out of Christ. Theirs is a bitter sorrow, indeed. How brutal and callous the man who would run the risk of subjecting his family to such torture. The faithful Christian who dies leaves his sorrowing family a comfort, a consolation, a "blessed hope" more precious to them than anything on this earth. Their sorrow, truly is not the hopeless despair of the heathen.
This, of course, is not the only motive that should lead a man to Christ. But it is one; and a very powerful one at that. Powerful, that is, for the man who loves his family.