"We don't want you to be ignorant" about the dead in Christ. The first part of that sentence is for all teachers, the second for preachers in particular. The message: You are going to die. So is everyone you know, love, and everyone else. But what really happens when we die? Our perspective on death is decidedly limited.
Paul, though, does tell us what will happen on the Last Day. Some may doubt him - how do we know he's telling the truth and not a fantasy? What proof is there? Are we now misinformed instead of uninformed? Paul, in answer, gives two points: (1) Jesus Christ's resurrection guarantees ours. (2) He revealed this to Paul directly. Therefore we don't grieve hopelessly or need pity from unbelievers.
Pagans long ago viewed death, as many do today, with pure horror. We grieve as well - but we have a sure hope of resurrection and eternal life at the side of our Lord and Savior. Be encouraged by these words.
The Gospel reading adds: Stay awake. We don't know when He's coming back, only that He is. Be alert, ready, joyful in hope. Share your joy and hope with others so that they may be with us in heaven. Keep your attention fixed on the Bridegroom; rest in Him.
This sermon was particularly appropriate for me today, as I got the news this morning that my aunt, S, passed away late last night.