Is there hope for Christians who have passed away? Will they participate in the eschatological hope, the parousia of the second advent of King Jesus? How ought the living Christians live their lives as they awaited the returning of their Lord and God? These were roughly the questions Paul attempted to address in his first epistle to the Church in Thessalonica (4:13-5:11).
Luke provided us with background information of Paul’s relationship with the church in Thessalonica. We learn that Paul spent three Sabbath days explaining the gospel to the Thessalonians. His labor resulted with a great number of God- fearing Greeks placing their present and future hope in the lordship of the coming king. King Jesus (Acts 17:1-4).
1 Thessalonians is an epistle Paul wrote to a church formed in Thessalonica. This church, under great persecutions and trials, became anxiously troubled by the fate of their comrades who died before the return of their King and Lord, Jesus Christ, whom they had pledged their alliance. These Thessalonians feared that their deceased comrades might not fully take part in the glorious parousia of their King (Woosley 1997: 77) What caused this worry is unknown (Schreiner 1999: 7).
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, assured the living Christians in Thessalonica that those who are physically dead in Christ will surely not miss the second coming of their King. They will equally participate in this second advent of Jesus (Dallas 2009: 94). Paraphrasing Tracy L Howard, Paul comforted them from their already held belief that Christ Jesus died and rose again. They, thus, needed not feared nor be troubled by the fate of their comrades who dead in Christ because through Lord Jesus, God will not only rise them up on that Day but they will also precede those who are living in meeting their returning King (Howard 1988: 170).
Paul, as Gordon D. Fee insightfully put it, provided them with “reassurance and hope for beleaguered believers” (Fee 2009: 190). Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16- 5:11, did not only offer reassurance to the church in Thessalonica but he also prepared them for that second visitation of her King.
This series of articles considered 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 contribution to the doctrine of eschatology. They explored how this passage has been interpreted over the years and which views I believe best provided a correct understanding of Paul’s discourse.
“One short sleep, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”
– John Donne ( 1966: 270)