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1 Thessalonians 4

 

Try not to let your life be filled with restlessness, turmoil, or anxiety. Then Paul says: … mind your own business. That is, don’t always be criticizing other people and interfering in their affairs. Next Paul says: … work with your hands. That means: Earn your living through the labor of your own hands. Perhaps the Thessalonians were surprised at this last piece of advice, because most Greeks, being highly educated, despised working with their hands. They gave such work to their slaves! But Paul says to them: … work with your hands! (see 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12).

When Christians become educated, they too, like the Thessalonians, begin to look down on manual labor, such as farming and crafts. But let this not be. Paul made tents for a living (Acts 18:3). And Jesus Himself spent most of His life as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).

In all things our daily life must win the respect of outsiders—that is, non-believers (verse 12). In all things, our lives must be honorable and praiseworthy. Let us not be people who are lazy, who waste time, who indulge in idle gossip. Rather we must apply ourselves diligently to the work which God has given us to do. We must not always be hoping that someone will help us, or give us a handout. We should not be dependent upon anybody—except God.

13 The Thessalonians had supposed that Christ was going to return again before any of them died. However, a few of the Thessalonian believers had recently died. Therefore, the Thessalonians were perplexed, and wanted to know what was going to happen to those who had died. In this section, Paul gives them the answer to their question.

When Paul mentions those who fall asleep, he is referring to those believers who have died. They will not remain “dead” forever. We Christians have the sure hope and faith that after our earthly bodies die, we shall live again. Therefore, the Thessalonians do not need to have any anxiety about those who have died. They are “sleeping” now, but will soon “wake up.”

In one sense, then, we don’t need to grieve for believers who die. When we grieve over the death of a fellow believer, we are really grieving over our own loss, and that is natural. But even as we grieve, let our hope of eternal life overcome our grief. Let us rejoice that our loved one is now in Christ’s hands.

14 How do we know that we will be raised? We know, because Christ Himself died and rose again. If Jesus died and rose (and we know that He certainly did rise), then we too, after we die, shall certainly rise again (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:1718,20,22-23; 2 Corinthians 4:14).

15 Here and in verse 16, Paul says that when Christ comes again, believers who have fallen asleep (who have died) will rise and be carried into heaven first; then, after them, those who are alive at Christ’s coming will be taken up into heaven. Thus, those who have died will enter heaven first of all; they are at no disadvantage! The Thessalonians don’t need to be anxious about them.

Paul says that what he has written here is according to the Lord’s own word. This is the only place in the New Testament where the Lord’s word on this subject is mentioned.

16 In this verse, Paul briefly describes what will happen at Christ’s second coming (see Mark 13:24-27; John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and comments).

17-18 Those who are alive at Christ’s coming will be caught up and taken to heaven. At that time, those who are living will be joined again with those who have died, and from then on, all believers will live together with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words (verse 18).

The New Testament does not tell us in detail what will happen when Christ comes again. In fact, the New Testament contains very little teaching on this subject. We simply do not know all the things that will take place; and it is pointless to speculate and argue about it.

No one knows the day when Christ will come again. But there is one thing we do know, and that is that all believers must always be ready for that day (see Mark 13:3233; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 and comments). What will the Lord find us doing when He comes?

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