A Life Pleasing to God
4 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
The Coming of the Lord
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.
1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The alarm went off earlier than usual. It was a new day even though pitch black out. I was meeting a friend to walk a very brisk hour of exercise of 3 miles. At times not even able to see the trail of where our feet landed, the covering of the trees and forest made it nearly impossible to make out at times where the path led. It was also a little daunting.
The beauty however was I was not alone. I was walking with another Believer who has been making a life turn around in his eating and exercise. He also passionately loves Jesus and speaks nonstop of what current discoveries he’s processing or wrestling with. 4.30 was not so bad after all.
The letter to the church in Thessalonica penned from the hand of Paul speaks of someone who is walking alongside these in spirit. His heart is drawn to them though he is far away. Even though he sent Timothy in his place to check up on them as he could not bear it any longer, he desires so greatly to see them flourish in their relationship. He calls them not only to maintain what they’ve received but also pushes them forward.
Calling the people further than where they are writes:
“Finally, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”1 Thessalonians 4:1
Continue to walk. Excel still more. Powerful statements.
We need people in our lives that do just this. We need people who are willing to walk the path we are on, even daunting and a bit scary at times, where we have no idea of what awaits around the bend. We need these who are committed to us as people, ask the hard questions, speak encouragement and call us forward. Who do you have in your life that does just that for you? Who are you doing the same for?
I know some who spread themselves too thin. Their roster of friends they hang with is wide and vast. Not many a night goes by they are not with different people. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the question I ponder is of these sets of endless relationships, who are they truly investing in personally? Who is investing in them? Who are they genuinely doing life with and have earned the right to walk alongside and even ask the right and hard questions?
Because let’s be honest, in this day and age, we need to be given the right to be close to someone and speak into their lives. We need to have those whom are not our ‘mission field’ but our field of close relationships. For Paul, even though he was far away, his heart was with them. He continued to encourage across the miles, sending even a representative, in order to encourage and call them forward in their walk. This section of Paul’s writing addresses the issue of sexual purity during a Roman standard of anything goes. So yes, his call for walking is toward staying on the path they have begun and move toward the transformation of sanctification through the Spirit. But it also resonates so deeply that Paul cares deeply for them. Across the miles he’s walking alongside.
Who is doing this for you? Who are you doing this for? Where does investment need to be given and received?
1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
What do we know about the coming of the Lord? Paul gives us a clue at the end of this chapter. Verses 13-18 are controversial, and (surprise, surprise) they center around the end times. I’ll start by saying that many people are more passionate about controversy in Scripture than the overwhelming and obvious foundational truth. I’ve met many people who are quick to argue their opinion on Revelation but really aren’t interested in loving God and loving people.
It’s also worth mentioning that the context of this letter is addressing a real issue that the church in Thessalonica was struggling with. It is proposed, and makes sense, that the church was continuing to lament over the dead. Paul makes this clear in verse 13. They may have been confused over the doctrine of the resurrection, and Paul does not want them to act like pagans with regard to the dead. He was addressing a practical issue facing the church, and the verses should be read in that context..
Rapture or no rapture?
- Those faithful believers who die will share in Christ’s resurrection through eternal life. (Verse 14)
- When Jesus returns, that last living generation will not die, but be transformed instantly. (Verse 17)
- Even though that living generation will be transformed, the dead will rise and transform before them. (Verse 15)
The next obvious question is, does this passage support the rapture? If you look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, you will see a very similar parallel.
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”1 Corinthians 15:50-55 NASB
Both passages mention a trumpet with 1 Corinthians calling it the “last trumpet.” Does this mean the last of the 7 trumpets in Revelation, or is this just a final trumpet before the transformation? The fact that we have so many knowledgeable scholars who disagree on this issue illustrates that it’s unclear. We will probably never know for sure until it happens.
I personally tend to lean toward both of these passages correcting a misconception by the Thessalonian church. Based on Paul’s response, we can assume these believers thought that the last generation alive when Christ returned would be the only believers to witness the glory of it. Paul pulls back the curtain of future events to reveal an amazing truth!
Not only will the last generation on Earth witness Christ’s glorious return and triumph, but believers who have died will “be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17). Paul goes on to write that they should encourage one another with this truth. So, there is no doubt there were some in the church who were disturbed by these thoughts.
Paul’s message and purpose seems to be one of comfort, victory, and bravery. Whatever the case, we are called to face death without fear knowing that we will resurrect with Christ into immortal and flawless bodies as we celebrate His victory over evil. It’s going to be the best experience of our existence!