Main point summary
The unshakeable Christian hope! In a spectacular display of his power over death at Christ's second coming, God will command the dead in Christ to come back to life just as he once raised Jesus. And the rest of us? We'll then be joining them to be with the Lord forever!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep,
Now brothers and sisters we want you to know about the future for fellow believers who have died,
And now, dear brothers an d sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.
But a we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who b are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do c the rest who have d no hope.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
g that you may not grieve as others do h who have no hope.
so that you will not despair in your grief as other people do because they have no hope.
For i since we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
Now because we are convinced that death was not the end for Jesus (proven by his resurrection),
For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, a even so God will bring with Him b those who have fallen asleep 1 in Jesus.
For 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.
even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him j those who have fallen asleep.
we are therefore equally convinced that death is not the end for those who have died in Christ. In fact ( rather than being left dead in their graves) we are absolutely certain God will bring them with Christ (to live with him eternally).
For this we declare to you k by a word from the Lord, 1
What is more , we have it on authority from the Lord himself,
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.
For this we say to you a by the word of the Lord, that b we who are alive 1 and remain until c the coming of the Lord, will not precede d those who have fallen asleep.
According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
that l we who are alive, who are left until m the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
that they will not be left behind when the Lord comes for us!
For n the Lord himself will descend o from heaven p with a cry of command, with the voice of q an archangel, and r with the sound of the trumpet of God.
To be more specific the Lord himself will come down from heaven and sound forth a thundering command, accompanied by an archangel's voice and calls from the trumpet of God.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.
For the Lord a Himself b will descend from heaven with a 1 c shout, with the voice of d the archangel and with the e trumpet of God , and f the dead in Christ w ill rise first.
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.
And s the dead in Christ will rise first.
First (the ears of) the dead will hear it (wake from their sleep) and rise from their graves!
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be t caught up together with them u in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,
Only then will those of us still living will find ourselves being suddenly taken up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord,
Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
Then a we who are alive 1 and remain will be b caught up together with them c in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always d be with the Lord.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
and so v we will always be with the Lord.
culminating in a glorious eternal reunion where we will forever be with the Lord!
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
So now knowing these things, ( with new hope), you must comfort one another!
So encourage each other with these words.
Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
God's special revelations to man are not given capriciously. He does not give us knowledge just for the sake of knowledge. (II Timothy 3:16,17) It is meant to give us a solid foundation of doctrine which is then to be lived out. Here the special revelation is for encouragement and comfort - first from God (v 13) and then to give to each other (v18). These are like bookends for this passage which act like reinforcers for the purpose of the teaching.
I love the companion passage in I Cor 15:16-19! It uses the same argument but from a reversed point of view. "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised..." followed by the same line of reasoning as this passage "...but in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep..." The whole of our hope rests on this unshakeable and powerful line of argument! So if we are tossed about by insecurity and anxiety about death, this is where we have to come back to in order to reorient our thinking patterns.
Just as a word from God brought the universe and all of creation into existence. Just a commanding word from God will give life to the dead as he calls them from their graves.
Grief is not to be eradicated by what Paul is about to teach. But it is going to be transformed!
A companion passage that goes well with this one: I Peter 1:4 "According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead ..."
This portion of the passage (v15-17) brings to mind the covenants which God made with Noah, Abraham and David. His covenants are promised fulfillment by oaths God swears by himself! God WILL deliver on his promises!!
First , encouragement about already dead believers!
Second , encouragement for believers who are still alive!
Third , encouragement that both the newly resurrected and the living will be together!
Lastly , encouragement that TOGETHER is eternal and WITH THE LORD TOGETHER is eternal!
The command to encourage one another is also found in 5:11 and 5:14. A favorite passage of mine is II Cor 1:3,4 The comfort (encouragement of God) comes to us specially in our moments of suffering and grief ... so that ... we may be able to comfort (encourage) one another with the same comfort we have received when others are in similar sufferings. We are always to about the business of sharing the mercies of God!
1. Tone of passage As with the rest of the letter, this passage is one of encouragement 2. Issue being addressed: For whatever reason the Thessalonians had not received teaching on what happens to believers who have died before Christ returns (v13) 3. The purpose for sharing this particular teaching is to give the believers doctrine to base their hope upon so believers would have hope in their grief (v13) so they could encourage one another in their anticipation of death and grief (v18) 4. After Paul states why he is about to share this teaching he builds his argument for Christian hope in the face of death. "For since... even so". Jesus' death and resurrection is the sole argument necessary. If this ... then that! (v14) 5. After building his argument Paul backs it up by declaring that this revelation is directly from God. The revelation is specific in all details that are necessary to Christian faith. Following this passage the readers will be told they don't need other details they may possibly ask for. (5:1ff) 6. v16,17 are military-like in their tone. An authoritative shout and command, a trumpet call - and it is enough to bring resurrected dead from their graves! 7. While the dead in Christ are the most pressing topic in this passage (mentioned 4 times compared to 2 times for those "left alive"), the exciting revelation is that in the end, all are alive and all are with the Lord for all of eternity! 8. What are the Thessalonians to do with this revelation that is new to them? Encourage one another with these words! (v18)
1. Why were the Thessalonians uninformed? 4:13 Was there a new revelation that had been given to Paul that he was now passing on? (v15a) Or had he just not gotten to this part of teaching before he had to leave? (2:17) 2. What are the readers about to hear that is meant to help them grieve with hope? They would certainly already been taught about Jesus' death and resurrection. Is it that they had not been taught about the implications of that when it came to believers' death? ("since ... even so" v14) Or is it the knowledge of more specific order of events at the second coming that is meant to inspire hope? (v15-17) 3. Why the difference in the terms for death? Is there significance to this? In very briefly checking through some commentaries -- some writers make much of what they see as the NT description of death for believers ("sleep") However there are other writers who make a firm point that the distinction is one that is too easily taken to make doctrinal statements. They warn against reading too much into a metaphor. The important use of "sleep" may be just to indicate that death is no more permanent than sleeping at night is 4. 4:13b Are there specific practices of mourning that the Thessalonians are to be relieved of by the knowledge they are about to receive regarding those who have died? 5. "Since .. even so" is the common way of beginning the argument in v14. But NASB which is a literal translation begins the argument using "for if ... even so? Obviously Paul is not open to there being a possibiity that Jesus was not resurrected. Does using "if...even so" help to make a reader think the argument through more closely? 6. v14b "...God will bring with him... Does this mean the spirits of the dead will come with Christ in order to receive their resurrected bodies? Or does "bring with him" refer to 17a where they and the living are brought together to heaven to be with the Lord? 8. 4:16a - Christ is descending from heaven. 4:17a - the living are caught up to meet them in the air. 17b - so all believers will forever be with the Lord. Is this passage talking about the final days of Revelation where the new heaven and the new earth finally arrive? Or is it an interval of time before that?
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Key Words 1 Repeated words and phrases to do with death and resurrection: asleep/ the dead in Christ Jesus died (v14a) Jesus rose again (v14a) Believers' resurrection: the dead in Christ will rise first (v16e) 2. Repeated words/phrases to do with heaven: The Lord ... descend from heaven (v16a) The dead...will rise/ we who are alive ... caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (v16e,17a) 3. Phrases with tone of authority: declare this...a word from the Lord (v15a) the Lord himself will descend (v16a) cry of command, voice of an archangel, sound of trumpet of God (v16) 4. Contrasting words/phrases/ideas: uninformed (v13)/... a word from the Lord (v15a)/encourage...with these words (v18) dead/asleep ... and rose again/rise (various verses) grieve as ... no hope/that you may not grieve as others ... 5. Important conjunctions: that (v13b) for since/even so (v14) For ... this we declare...that (v15) For (v16a) and (v16b)....then (v17a) ... and so (17b) therefore (v18) 6. Commands do not grieve as those who have no hope (13b) ... this is not given as a command yet but what follows could then be turned around on this verse to make it one encourage one another with these words (v18) 7. Big Bible Words/Doctrines: second coming of Christ (v14,15-17) eternity with the Lord for believers (v17) hope (v13) Jesus died and rose again (v14) resurrection of believers (v14,16) authority of God over death (v16)