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). In the previous articles I went through different interpretations and the current debate surrounding Paul’s message, as I attempt to explore Paul’s answers to these questions:
- Eschatological Hope of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
- An Exposition Of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
- Rapture or No-Rapture, That is the Question
- Evaluating Eis Apantēsin & Eschatological Hope
- Concise Exposition of 1 Thessalonians 4:18-5:11
Edifying as it is, assessing a diverse of competing interpretations of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, I find the rapture debate secondary to the message of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. Paul was not attempting to provide a systematic nor biblical theology on the order or the nature of the last things per se. Paul was simply offering comfort to Christians who were worried about fate of their comrades who died before the return of Christ Jesus. These Christians were not troubled by the nature of the last times, how or when their King would return. They apparently believed that they will be present at the parousia of King Jesus. This is so since their concern was with the fate of their dead comrades, and not the living, missing out the parousia.
Paul’s case ought to be first and foremost understood, then, as a letter to a specific church with a specific need. Christians of Thessalonica feared that their deceased comrades might not fully participate in the glorious parousia of their King. This was the need Paul addressed. Paul eased their worry by reminding them that their King, who died and rose again, He Himself will make sure that those who dead in Him will be risen. Their Lord will come to be with all His people (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Paul not only offered comfort to the church in Thessalonica with this future hope but he also prepared them for that coming parousia of their King (5:1-11).
This, I believe, is the correct way of understanding the primary message of this passage. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 does not offer an orderly or detailed exposition of understanding the rapture, if indeed there is such rapture, but eschatological hope to Christians worried about the fate of their fellow Christians who died before the return of King Jesus.
8 thoughts on “The Message of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11”
Are you familiar with the tradition of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in being baptized on behalf of loved ones who have died? It’s not the same as your discussion here, regarding those who died before Christ, but it is still an interesting approach.
Paul, in Acts 17, spends 3 weeks in Thessalonia establishing a new Church.
Acts 17:1 “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.”
Acts 17:2, note that Paul taught them the same things he regularly taught, “as his manner was”, from out of the Old Testament. We see that Paul’s “manner” was to teach the resurrection on the first day of preaching.
Acts 17:3, we see they were taught the basics, the death and resurrection of Jesus. If Christ must have suffered, then they must have known the reason why, which is to heal us, save us, take away sins, and to provide everlasting life. 1 Peter 2:24. The teaching of the resurrection of Jesus is to show that we will be resurrected. Acts 26:23, 1 Corinthians 15.
Acts 17:5, the purpose of the Church, is to move Israel to envy, or “to provoke them to jealousy.”, Romans 11:11, and this new group of new believers in Thessalonia provoked the Jews in the same way. We see the issue that provoked the Jews the most was the resurrection.
The issue that provoked Israel was the teaching of the resurrection, for which Paul was being questioned constantly by the religious courts, as we see in three other places in Acts, Chapter 4, 23, & 24.
Paul was a former Pharisee, and had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures. Philippians 3:4 But Paul says these things are dung, that he strives to attain the resurrection. Phil 3:11 and Phil 3:21
The point is that Paul preached the resurrection to the Thessalonians, as was his manner, so they knew of the resurrection prior to his writing 1 Thessalonians. In fact, I believe Paul taught them many specific things out of the Old Testament about the resurrection, because of all the Old Testament scriptural references in his first letter to them.
Here’s a good lecture from Sean McDowell that speaks to that question: http://www.firstredeemer.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44&Itemid=194
The phenomenon is controlled by one POINT OF CHANGE, which is open for personal verification even if extremely challenging.
“Many of God’s people who had died” were in the past, are still today and will be in the future raised to life, as complements to Jesus’ Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical death, viz.: “the first-born from the dead” among many brothers, a.k.a., “the God of the living, not of the dead”.
In short, it’s about retroactive co-resurrections with Jesus and nothing more. (Matt. 27: 50-56)
You quote a lot from the bible, but how on earth do you know that any of it is actually true?
The Bible is the best historically attested to Ancient books. It has been meticulously maintained throughout.
Fulfilled prophecy throughout.
The Bible’s precepts work for those following God’s design.
The most important thing for me personally, is not all of the historical evidence for the Bible, but that God has proved Himself to me, time and again in my life. He has turned the dead places in my past to living again. He has given true life, when I trusted His sacrifice of Christ for me.
You can deny the truth of the Bible, because you can refute arguments for it…..but you can’t refute the changes The God of the Bible makes in people’s lives!
Look at how the Disciples changed, Paul changed, Jesus’s own brother changed. All eventually martryed for belief in Christ! You can’t explain that, and you can’t explain the change in me and those others changed by the Word of God!
No one can explain that away!
Seek GOD with your whole heart and He will make himself known to you!
I agree partially.
The POINT OF CHANGE in the lives of people past, present and future is “the kind of death Jesus suffered”, viz.: Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical, completely independent of the Bible and religions as expression of God’s sovereignty.
That is why many Christians are prematurely stillborn rather than truly “born spiritually of the Spirit”, as prescribed, and lack growth in faith.
(John 3: 1-21; 19: 30-37)
I was responding to John Tapsell’s wondering on how a person knows the can believe the Bible.
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