1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
*Intentional about expecting an encounter with the Lord – personal or world-changing*
– *The promise that the Lord will come again, and how it will happen.*
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed…
– *Paul’s phrase to emphasise something particularly important e.g. gifts of the Spirit, the apostles’ experience of extreme difficulties [1 Cor. 12:1, 2 Cor. 1:8](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Cor.+12%3A1%2C+2+Cor.+1%3A8&version=NIVUK)*
…about those who sleep in death,
– *An apt metaphor for death for Christians. Death is not final;
resurrection is promised ([1 Cor.
Paul clarifies resurrection and the Lord’s return, to the church in
Thessaloniki and beyond. Some were apparently confused – thinking
that all believers would live until Christ returned; when some then
died, would they miss out on that great day?*
…so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
– *Grieving for the loss of a loved relative or friend is one thing; grieving without hope (confident expectation of God’s goodness) is another. Tomb inscriptions from Bible times indicate that pagans viewed death with horror at its finality.*
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,
– *Not recorded in the Gospels but perhaps passed on orally*
…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.
– *Paul often identifies with his readers. He is not saying that he expects to be alive at the Lord’s return (also v.17 below).*
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,
– *Promised in [Acts 1:11](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+1%3A11&version=NIVUK), by angels who manifested as visible being on the occasion of the Ascension.*
… 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.
– *The only named archangel in the Bible is Michael [Jude 9, Daniel 10:13](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jude+9%2C+Daniel+10%3A13&version=NIVUK). Gabriel, clearly a high-ranking angel messenger, is not given that title when he appears to Mary [Luke 1:19, 26](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A19%2C+26&version=NIVUK).*
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.
– *This is the only place where a “rapture” is mentioned (from the Vulgate rendering of the Latin word ‘rapio’, which translates the Greek ‘harpazo’, ‘snatch’). Mainline denominations generally hold the view that the triumphant gathering will occur for everyone together in heaven, without some being ‘snatched’ up to heaven and others left on earth for a tribulation period, the ‘pre-tribulation’ view of the end times based on this verse and popularised by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren in the 1830s, and the Scofield Reference Bible. Neither view amounts to a primary Christian doctrine, so it should not be a divisive matter.*
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
– *Paul is drawing attention in more formal language, to a central doctrine of Christian belief, that Christ will come again. He says (v.14 and elsewhere e.g Romans 14:9) that Jesus died, not slept. Jesus experienced death for us before His resurrection.*
#### Intentional about expecting an encounter with the Lord – personal or world-changing
In Thessaloniki the church of relatively new believers were getting hold of the expectation that Jesus, who died and rose again, would come again. In fact, they were concerned that their older saints might come to the end of their earthly lives before it happened!
Too much has been made of the precise way this will happen, when we are not told. Too many have attempted to predict when it will happen, when we are told that no one knows (and no one should be concerned to know). There are better concerns.
Jeremiah tells us in another place that “the heart is deceitful above all things” [Jeremiah 17:9](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jer+17%3A9&version=NIVUK). So we carry on thinking we are the most spiritual people on earth, when in reality there are things God has told us and shown us, which we are not attending to. Then our worship is less than true.
Because we are human, there will always be things we need to put right with God. Many church traditions start worship with a confession of sin and that’s a good priority. But we should do this for ourselves anyway, before attempting to draw close to God in worship, aware of the displeasure of God to hear expressions of adoration when our hearts and actions deny them. This is all part of our ongoing spiritual renewal, recognising that in ourselves we are poor and needy – we need God to step in and help us, and He is waiting to hear that! Then we’re in the right place to live for the Lord, looking to Him – and ready for whatever He might say or do. Or indeed His return.