WHAT HOPE DO YOU HAVE?
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 January 11 2009
When Paul first preached in Thessalonica, he had
proclaimed Jesus as the King (Acts 17:7). However,
before he could teach the new believers much about
Christ’s return as King of kings, Paul was forced to
flee the city. Apparently in the months that followed
some of these new believers died. Others in the church
were understandably upset. Had those who died before
the second coming missed out on that glorious event?
Were they just dead and gone forever? Would the
Christian dead ever be seen again?
Paul’s purpose in this passage was not to provide
all the details he knew about the second coming.
Rather, he focused on the aspects of the second coming
that would comfort the grieving Christians of
Thessalonica. Other details, such as the judgment of
unbelievers were outside his purpose. We will learn
from this passage how to offer hope to people facing
their own deaths or that of a family member or friend.
1. Our Hope as Christians (1 Thess 4:13)
1Ths. 4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant
about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest
of men, who have no hope.
As Paul began discussing hope in the face of death,
he wanted he wanted his readers to know he was talking
about the hope that only believers in Jesus have. Others
have no such hope.
Those who fall asleep . For the Christian, sleep is a
particularly apt metaphor for death, since death’s finality
and horror are removed by the assurance of resurrection.
Some of the Thessalonians seem to have misunderstood
Paul and thought all believers would live until Christ
returns. When some died, the question arose, “Will those
who have died have part in that great day?” See note on
(1 Thess. 4:15). Who have no hope. Inscriptions on tombs
and references in literature show that first-century
pagans viewed death with horror, as the end of everything.
The Christian attitude was in strong contrast
(1Co 15:55-57; Php 1:21-23).
2. Our hope: Christ’s Resurrection and Return
(1 Thess. 4:14)
1Ths. 4:14 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.
Paul believed in Christ’s bodily resurrection and based
many truths on this certainty (1 Cor 15:14). In this verse
he staked our hope of seeing again the Christian dead on
Died . Paul does not say that Christ “slept,” perhaps to
underscore the fact that he bore the full horror of death so
that those who believe in him would not have to. Rose again.
For the importance of the resurrection (1Co 15), especially
(1 Thess. 4:14,17-22). Those who have fallen asleep in him.
Believers who have died, trusting in Jesus.
3. Our Hope : Christians’ Resurrection and Reunion
(1 Thess. 4:15-17)
1Ths. 4:15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you
that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of
the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen
asleep. 4:16 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. 4:17 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
In these verses the apostle made several prophecies
that he solemnly affirmed were from the Lord Himself.
Whether Jesus had taught these things during His earthly
ministry or whether this was later revelation He gave
directly to Paul is unknown.
According to the Lord’s own word . The doctrine
mentioned here is not recorded in the Gospels and was
either a direct revelation to Paul or something Jesus said
that Christians passed on orally. We who are still alive .
Those believers who will be alive when Christ returns.
“We” does not necessarily mean that Paul thought that he
would be alive then. He often identified himself with those
he wrote to or about. Elsewhere he says that God will raise
“us” at that time (1Co 6:14; 2Co 4:14). Will certainly not
precede . The Thessalonians had evidently been concerned
that those among them who died would miss their place in
the great events when the Lord comes, and Paul assures
them this will not be the case.
The Lord Himself . (Acts 1:11). Archangel . The only
named archangel in the Bible is Michael (Jude 9; Da 10:13).
In Scripture, Gabriel is simply called an angel
(Luke 1:19,26). Will rise first . Before the ascension of
believers mentioned in the next verse.
We who are still alive . (1 Thess. 4:15). Caught up .
The only place in the NT where a “rapture” (from the
Latin Vulgate rendering) is clearly referred to. Some hold
that this will be secret, but Paul seems to be describing
something open and public, with loud voices and a trumpet
blast. With the Lord . The chief hope of the believer
(1 Thess 5:10; John 14:3; 2Co 5:8; Php 1:23; Col 3:4).
4. Our Hope : Comfort (1 Thess. 4:18)
1Ths. 4:18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Verse 18. Here Paul reached the practical goal (therefore)
of giving this "revelation from the Lord" (1 Thess 4:15). In
verse 13 he had announced his subject as "those who are asleep:’
He had explained they will not miss out on any of the glorious
events surrounding the Lord’s return. They will rise! Further,
all Christians-living and dead-will one day be together forever
with the Lord. This is as certain as Jesus’ own resurrection.
Encourage each other . The primary purpose of
(1 Thess 4:13-18) is not to give a chronology of future
events, though that is involved, but to urge mutual
encouragement, as shown here and in ( 1Thess 4:13).
The Greek verb translated "caught up" is harpazo. This
literally means "to snatch" or "to seize by force" (Matt. 12:29;
John 10:28-29). Here is the only time in the New Testament
in which the term is used to refer to what happens to living
believers in connection with Christ’s return.
In the Latin Bible, the Greek word was translated by the
Latin verb rapio. Then much later, the English noun "rapture"
(derived from rapio) became used to refer to the event Paul
Thus when believers discuss "the rapture;’ we are using
a word not found in the Bible. Yet we are talking about an event
as certain as Christ’s own resurrection: at some point in the
future, living believers will be taken up-without dying-and
united with their Lord and with the Christian dead. Over the
years many have debated the timing of the rapture as it
relates to Jesus’ return. Yet all who hold that Scripture
truly prophesies future events believe the rapture will
God Bless My Friend
Robert G O’Haver