1 Thessalonians 4 Study Notes


4:1-2 These verses do not express a degree of dissatisfaction with the Thessalonians. Rather they emphasize the progressive nature of the Christian life.

4:3 Sanctification refers to the consecration of the believer to God in holy and proper behavior in regard to sexual purity. God’s will is clear—to keep away from sexual immorality. The passage does not say to abstain from sex practiced in the context of marriage but from sex that deviates from God’s standards. This includes premarital sex, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, and adultery.

4:4-5 The phrase control his own body probably refers to the idea of controlling the body’s lustful sexual desires that might lead a Christian to sin. An alternate but less likely view is that it refers to obtaining a wife.

4:6-8 When a person commits a sexual sin, the result is to transgress against and take advantage of one’s brother or sister—that is, fellow Christian. A sexual transgression defrauds one’s brother in the sense that sexual sin is a form of theft: you take something that does not belong to you. It defrauds both the partner of the illicit relationship as well as a spouse or future spouse who alone has rights in sexual matters. In this manner points back to the discussion of sexual purity in vv. 3-5. Paul gave two reasons for Christians to abstain from sexual immorality. First is that the Lord is an avenger who will judge the offense. Second is that sexual impurity violates God’s call to live in holiness. The implication of God’s giving us his Holy Spirit is that a person should not mix human sexual impurity with God’s holy nature in the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the Christian (1Co 6:19).

4:9-12 The reference to brotherly love (Gk philadelphia) seems to govern the content of these verses in encouraging fellow Christians to lead a quiet life, mind one’s own business, and work with one’s hands. To do otherwise places a burden of dependence on the community of faith and gives a poor testimony to outsiders (5:14; 2Th 3:7-12). Paul demonstrated this work ethic by providing for his own needs (1Th 2:9).

4:13 The term asleep in this context is a metaphorical reference to Christians who have died. This metaphor is particularly appropriate because of the future resurrection of the body. Just as a sleeping person expects to rise in the morning, Christians who have died will experience a bodily resurrection and will rise again (v. 16; Jn 11:11). Until this happens, for deceased believers to be out of the body is to be at home with the Lord (2Co 5:8). Apparently the cause of the Thessalonians’ grief was related to the misunderstanding that dead Christians would miss the events and subsequent blessings associated with the Lord’s coming. Paul corrected this misunderstanding by teaching that the dead in Christ will rise first (1Th 4:16). In contrast to unbelievers who grieve over the loss of loved ones, Christians who grieve over a fellow believer can do so with hope because of the future glorious resurrection.

4:14 Jesus’s resurrection revealed what resurrection will be like for those who have fallen asleep. We can partially understand the nature of our bodily resurrection by reading about his (Lk 24:36-43).


Greek pronunciation [hahr PAH zoh]
CSB translation caught up
Uses in 1 Thessalonians 1
Uses in the NT 14
Focus passage 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Harpazo (catch up, snatch up) is often invested with the idea of force. In this sense, harpazo refers to a rescue (take away, Ac 23:10) and to the near forceful capture of Jesus by a crowd (Jn 6:15). The term is not limited to the physical realm. The evil one snatches away the message of the kingdom sown upon men’s hearts (Mt 13:19), Jude exhorts believers to snatch some men from the fire (Jd 23), and no one is able to snatch the sheep belonging to the good shepherd from our Father’s hand (Jn 10:11,28-29). Elsewhere, the term is used of supernatural phenomena and does not carry the concept of force. Paul received glorious revelation after being caught up into paradise (2Co 12:2,4). The Holy Spirit carries Philip away and transports him to Azotus (Ac 8:39). Believers will one day be caught up to meet their returning Lord (1Th 4:17).

4:15-17 The word that Paul received relates to what has been called the “rapture.” It refers to the event when believers who are alive at the Lord’s coming are caught up (Gk harpazo) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The term rapture is derived from rapturo, the Latin translation of the Greek term. The Greek term means “to snatch or take away suddenly.” Paul referred to this event as a mystery (some truth previously hidden but now known) in 1Co 15:51-52 and said it will happen in the twinkling of an eye. We who are still alive implies that Paul thought the rapture could occur at any moment, even during his lifetime. The “archangel” or chief angel is probably a reference to Michael (Dn 10:13; Jd 9).