Hope in Christ's Return
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Back to Monday and Friday posts on 1 Thessalonians
1. Recognize the Context:
Previous context: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
In verse 9, the noun Paul used for love, referred to the love existing between siblings, which was appropriate to describe the relationship that should be present within the believing community.
In verse 11, he used three phrases to indicate how the Thessalonian community should demonstrate love for one another.
1. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life- This phrase meant out of the public eye. Another way to say it, “Don’t live in such a way as to draw negative attention to the Christian movement.” Harmful attention brought negative social consequences for the Christian community, and was, therefore, unloving to fellow believers. There is a lesson in this for Christians today!
2. You should mind your own business- This has a pejorative connotation in idiomatic English, which Paul did not intend in Greek. Another way to say it is, “stick to your own affairs” or “don’t be a busybody.”
3. Work with your hands- Even though many in the Thessalonian community worked in a trade and did work with their hands, here Paul’s emphasis is on work in general. This meant don’t be an economic burden to anyone. If you are able to work, do so.
Paul’s instructions included how to live within the believing community, as well as outside the believing community. The actions and consequences impact both arenas of life.
2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
Paul transitioned to a concern expressed by the Thessalonians. In verse 13, he let them know of his desire to make sure they were informed. He also desired for them to have hope. Paul began his letter speaking of the Christian hope found in Christ Jesus. Christian hope is not merely wishful thinking. It is a certainty of the future, based on the promises of God in Christ. He referred to those who had "fallen asleep” in verse 14. This term was a euphemism for death, much like we would say “passed away” today.
The Thessalonians were concerned about those Christians who died before the Lord's return. He assured them not to worry. Those still alive when the Lord's returns will have no particular advantage over those who have previously died.
Verse 16 speaks of the anticipated Second Advent of Christ. The Lord will come with a "loud command." This is a military term and indicates power and authority. The archangel will be heard as well as the "trumpet call of God," which has Old Testament imagery (Exodus 19:16, Isaiah 27:13, Joel 2:1, Zechariah 9:14).
First, God will raise the dead in Christ. Then those who are still alive will be caught up to meet Him in the air. Second, “we” will always be with the Lord. What happens sequentially after this, Paul does not say here. The primary issue in 1 Thessalonians is that Christ will return someday. When he does, those who have died in Christ, and those who are still alive will be reunited. Since we will be present with the Lord, there is no need for fear and despair. Instead, Christians should have hope and be encouraged.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today prayerfully reflect on the second coming of Christ. Does the thought of his return bring hope and encouragement? Why or why not?
How does the thought of hope in his second coming impact your life today?
What about those around you?
To do: (with the Holy Sprit's help)
Today prayerfully look for the opportunity to share the hope you have in Christ with someone. Be specific.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the passages).
Search biblegateway.com (or another Bible app) on the word hope in the New Testament and write down your results.
Read and reflect on these passages found in the New Testament about Christ’s return: