1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 comment (0)
January 8, 2009
By Robert Olsen
Related Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHAT HOPE DO YOU HAVE?
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
Hope Based on Informed Understanding (13)
At this juncture in the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul addressed their concern over those Christians who die before the return of Jesus Christ (His Second Coming). Apparently these believers were uncertain of the destiny of these dead brethren. Since Christ had not yet returned, it is possible that they wondered if they would miss out on the Kingdom and not be able to be with Christ at His return. Paul wanted to encourage these Thessalonian Christians so they would not be upset. Believers, unlike non-Christians, have the hope of eternal life. Even though we still grieve over the loss of friends, we do not grieve as if we have no hope. On the contrary, we have a confidence that we will see our Christian loved ones again. Paul even insinuated this in his use of the term “asleep” in place of “died.”
Hope Based on Christ’s Resurrection and Return (14)
Paul asserted that since Jesus died and rose again, so shall we all who believe in Christ, even these dead Thessalonian believers. The actual death and resurrection of Jesus is an important issue here. There are some who would argue that it doesn’t matter if Jesus rose from the dead, because what is important is that we love God.
Paul here (and in other areas of Scripture) spoke of the resurrection as an actual fact. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then we have no hope, because this means Christ did not defeat death. We have hope because Christ defeated death and is able to bring us back from the dead into everlasting life.
Hope Based on Christians’ Resurrection and Reunion (15–17)
In this section, Paul explained how the resurrection of the dead in Christ would occur. This is often called the “Rapture,” referring to when Christians will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. There are many different views regarding the Rapture — some Christians believe this will come at the end of a time of great tribulation; others believe it will come before a time of trials. Paul’s purpose was not to provide a systematic treatment of the Rapture.
It is important to keep in mind that among devout believers, there are many different views on what will happen when Christ returns. Since the Bible is not clear on exactly how events will unfold and in what order, it is important to treat others’ views with respect and hold our own views with humility. It is far more important to present a clear gospel message than to become involved in arguments over the end times. The main point to emphasize regarding end-time speculation is only Christians will receive everlasting life. Those who do not believe in the atoning death and resurrection of Christ will be judged and eternally punished.
Regarding Christ’s return, Paul did present us with some clear teaching. First, Christians who are still alive when Christ returns will have no advantage over those who have already passed away. Second, Christ’s return will be marked with the archangel’s voice and then a trumpet blast. After the trumpet blast, those Christians who have already died will rise from the dead and meet with Christ in the air, followed by those Christians who are still alive.
In the air, there will be a great reunion of all believers of all time with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And this reunion will be one for eternity.
Hope Brings Genuine Comfort (18)
Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to encourage one another with these words. The word “encourage” can also be translated as “comfort” and comforting words these are. All of us have experienced the death of a loved one. For those who believe in Christ, death is not the end. On the contrary, upon death, Christians are relieved from the stresses and tragedies of this life, and this is a comforting thought. We can encourage and comfort those who have lost loved ones with the knowledge of this eternal life. These words are also comforting for the believer who is facing death, knowing he or she will be reunited with loved ones and be in the presence of Christ.