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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Wednesday AM Bible Study
March 10, 2004
Paul continues his practical section of his letter; now giving us words
of encouragement and exhortation in the light of the soon coming of our
Savior (4:13-5:11). Repeated throughout is the idea of "comfort". We are
twice encouraged by Paul to "comfort" one another with the doctrine he
presents in this passage (4:18; 5:11).
He teaches two main doctrines concerning the return of the Lord in this
section. The second (5:1-11) concerns the judgment of the wicked at
Christ's return, and of the saints deliverance from that judgment. That
gives us comfort regarding the future. But Paul also draws out comfort for
us for the present as well. He deals with the pain we suffer when a loved
one in the Lord is taken from us through death; and the comfort at such
times is his theme in this first doctrinal presentation (4:13-18).
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCE OF OUR HOPE (v. 13).
A. Hope comes from knowing the truth. The first thing Paul says is that he
does not want his readers to be "ignorant" concerning those who have "fallen
1. The Thessalonian believers were no doubt in need of this information.
They had suffered much for their faith through persecution (2:14-16; 3:3-4).
No doubt, many in the Lord had been taken from them - not only by natural
death, but by murderous persecution.
2. Paul here uses a wonderful way of describing such believers: "asleep".
He uses the word for "death" to describe them in the light of their
resurrection (v. 16); but refers to them as "asleep" in the light of their
hope. When someone "sleeps", they are eventually going to "wake up"; and
so, this phrase emphasizes hope (Matthew 9:24; 27:52).
B. Paul passes this knowledge on to the Thessalonians for a very specific
purpose: that they might not sorrow as others who have no hope.
1. To be apart from Christ is to be without hope (Eph. 2:12). And it's
utterly no appropriate for a believer - whose hope is in the One who was
raised from the dead - to have the outlook of those who are apart from Christ.
2. This is not to say, however, that a Christian should not sorrow and
grieve at the death of a loved one. Paul is careful not to say, "lest you
sorrow"; rather, he says, "lest you sorrow as others who have no hope". Our
sorrow is to be tempered with the prospect of hope.
II. THE BASIS OF OUR HOPE (vv. 14-17).
A. Our hope is based on what we believe about Jesus. This "belief" isn't
merely a wish, but an assured confidence and whole-hearted assent to (1) the
fact of Jesus' own resurrection and (2) the implication of it (Rom. 6:8-9).
B. This "belief" in the resurrection of Christ gives us hope regarding
those who sleep in Him. Their bodies "sleep" only from our perspective; but
they, in fact, live with Him (2 Cor. 5:8).
1. This is a teaching that has full authority - by the word of the Lord
2. This is a teaching that we who are living at the coming of the Lord will
not precede those who sleep in the resurrection.
3. There is a series of events in this teaching:
a. Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
archangel and the with the trumpet of God (Matt. 24:29-31).
b. The dead in Christ will rise first.
C. This "belief" also gives hope to those of us who live; because we who
are alive and remain will then, after the resurrection of those who sleep,
also be caught up in the air to meet the Lord - ever to be with Him (1 Cor.
III. THE APPLICATION OF OUR HOPE (v. 18).
This is to be something that we encourage one another with when death
strikes. It not only encourages us at the loss of a loved one, but also
encourages us when our time of dying comes.