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1 Thessalonians

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©Michael Player

Chapter 4:13-18 (ESV)

Posted on April 30, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 4:13-18 (ESV) - But 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.

Question to consider: Why do you think Paul took this opportunity to write about those in Thessalonica who died?

Up until this point in the letter, Paul had been encouraging the Thessalonians to continue to grow in their love of Christ and for one another as they faced tremendous persecution for declaring Jesus to be Lord in a culture that worshiped Caesar and bowed down to idols. For those facing persecution, a source of joy from the Holy Spirit was the assurance that Christ was reigning at the right hand of God the Father and would one day return to judge the living and the dead.

I don’t know at this point if there was a written gospel account which contained Jesus’ discussion with the disciples about the judgment that was coming upon that generation, but it most certainly was something that was being taught to the early church. The fall of Jerusalem was one of the most incredible prophetic statements from Christ aside from His death and resurrection.

In His statements on the  Mount of Olives, Jesus gave the following illustration to His disciples, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:29-33)

The Thessalonians were already experiencing what Jesus described, “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” (Luke 21:12-13) In Timothy’s report to Paul, there must have been questions from the Thessalonians regarding those who died before Christ’s return. Did this mean they weren’t saved? How will we know when Christ returns?

Paul reassured them that those who died before Christ’s return would be raised up on the last day and return with Christ to judge the living and the dead. Although it was right and understandable that they mourn their deaths, they could place their hope in their resurrection. The first time that Christ entered Jerusalem in triumph, it was in humility and riding a donkey as the time had come for Him to bear the sins of the world and defeat Satan at the cross. Rather than riding a war horse to defeat Rome in battle, He rode a donkey to usher in His reign of peace as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9-12.

In AD 70, Christ destroyed the city of Jerusalem via the Romans in the exact way He destroyed it via the Babylonians. Only this time, the city and temple had been made permanently desolate, and the kingdom of God began. We can look at it as the end of the earthly temple and the beginning of the age of the kingdom. When Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, the dead in Christ will be raised, and those who are still alive will be caught up with them so that we all enter in the final parade of triumph.

Paul would go on in his letter to the Corinthians to describe our resurrection in more detail. Christ was the firstfruits of our own resurrection along with those whom Matthew described in his gospel account, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:52-53 - emphasis mine)

Today’s passage not only was to reassure the Thessalonians, but it serves to reassure us as well. We can look forward to the day when all the dead are raised, and we can be reunited with them as Christ returns to fully and finally destroy sin and death.


Dear Lord, thank You for the promise of resurrection and the assurance that You are at this moment ruling from Your heavenly throne. May all of this serve to help us stand firm in the faith and look forward to the day when You return. Amen.