1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

TheHopeBut we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Observation

  • Paul wanted the Thessalonians to be aware of the fate of Christians who had died.
  • Paul did not want the Thessalonians to grieve about Christians who died as if there was no hope.
  • Jesus died and rose again.
  • God will bring with Jesus, Christians who have died.
  • Paul knows Christians who died will come with Jesus because God said so.
  • Christians who have died will precede those who are still living.
  • Jesus will descend from heaven.
  • Jesus will come with a cry of command from an archangel.
  • Jesus will come with the sound of a trumpet of God.
  • Christians who have died will be raised before those who are alive.
  • Both the Christians who have died and those who are living will meet Jesus in the clouds.
  • We will always be with Jesus.
  • This teaching is intended as an encouragement.
  • The Thessalonians were to encourage each other with this teaching.

Interpretation

The Thessalonians had not perverted the hope of the resurrection and coming of Christ. That is in contrast to the Corinthians. Paul was harsh when he chastised the Corinthians for doubting the resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15) But here he speaks as if this doctrine is not doubted. Rather he speaks as if it were not completely fixed in the Thessalonians’ minds.

Notice why Paul says he taught the doctrine of the resurrection. He taught it so they “may not grieve as others do who have no hope”. He did not teach it so they may not grieve. Grieving at the loss of a loved one is natural and right. But, we are not to grieve as if they are gone forever. It reminds me of the time, right after my marriage. I needed to leave my wife of just a few weeks. I was in the Marine Corps and needed to report to a new duty station in Salt Lake City. My wife was staying behind to complete school. We knew we would see each other again in about a month. But I still grieved being away from her. I wished we were back together. The grief was intense but different than if I had no hope of seeing her again.

We have the hope of seeing those who have died in Christ again. It is only a temporary separation. Paul’s reasoning is that we believe Jesus died and rose again. If we doubt the resurrection we doubt the resurrection of Christ and thus we deny the gospel. Those of us who have died with Christ in faith will also partake of life with Him. Paul declares this because this came straight from God.

Paul does not mention the resurrection of the unredeemed. Paul intent is to encourage not warn. Paul only mentions the resurrection of unbelievers in Acts 24:15. Yet, he teaches this though his warning of a universal judgment in Acts 17:31 and Romans 2:5-16.

The Lord will descend from heaven with a loud shout or command from an archangel. The angel will call all the living and the dead to the judgment of Christ. The idea of a shout and a trumpet give the impression that the return of Christ will be public. This will not be a secret return.

Paul gives an order for the resurrection. This is not intended to please our curiosity about the sequence of events at the end times. It is a pastoral teaching. It is to give comfort those who have lost loved ones. We will all be united at Christs coming.

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