1 Thessalonians
1-3 Holiness 4-8 The Will of God 9-12 Brotherly Love and Works 13-18 The Lord Will Come For Us!
Holiness

1Finally then, brethren, 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. 2For you know what commandments we gave you by [the authority of] the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification; [that is,] that you abstain from sexual immorality;

The subjects that Paul deals with in this chapter are connected with three keywords at the end of the previous chapter: holiness, love and the coming. In this chapter Paul speaks about holiness in verses 1-81Finally then, brethren, 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.2For you know what commandments we gave you by [the authority of] the Lord Jesus.3For this is the will of God, your sanctification; [that is,] that you abstain from sexual immorality;4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;6[and] that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is [the] avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned [you].7For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.8So, he who rejects [this] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you., in verses 9-129Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for [anyone] to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;10for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,12so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. about love and in verses 13-1813But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.18Therefore comfort one another with these words. about the coming of the Lord Jesus.

So, in verses 1-81Finally then, brethren, 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.2For you know what commandments we gave you by [the authority of] the Lord Jesus.3For this is the will of God, your sanctification; [that is,] that you abstain from sexual immorality;4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;6[and] that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is [the] avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned [you].7For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.8So, he who rejects [this] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. it is about holiness and in particular regarding marriage. Holiness is in relation with the triune God. In this portion you read about the Lord Jesus, about God and about the Holy Spirit. They are the source that lead to a true life of sanctification. Sanctification is not negative, as if it is only about things that you are not to be doing. It is about what is devoted to God. That is only possible, since sin is in the world, by separating it from what is not devoted to God.

V11Finally then, brethren, 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.. The portion begins with “finally”, which indicates that there is something more added to the letter. The main elements of the faith life have been dealt with, but there are still some things that are also useful for their faith life. It regards the dangers that threatened the Thessalonians as a result of their former habits. The people around them were still living in a way that was fully in contradiction to the heavenly and holy joy that he has spoken about.

Like more often, Paul addresses them with “brethren”, in order to emphasize his relationship with them and their relationship with one another. In this way he clearly makes them feel that he is one of them. That creates the right context for what he wants to “request and exhort”. In order to make it easier for them to heed his exhortation, he points to the Lord Jesus. In Him his exhortation finds its origin and in Him they find the strength to take heed of his exhortation.

Confidentiality resounds in the word ‘request’. He requests something to believers of whom he knows that they are really willing to respond. In the word ‘exhort’, something of his fatherly authority is expressed. With his requesting and exhorting he continues with what he already told them earlier about their walk and the pleasing of God. They not only heard that, they also received it.

“To walk” and “please God” belong together. You also read of Enoch that he “walked with God” (Gen 5:2424Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.) and in that way “had pleased” Him (Heb 11:55By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.). Here you see how strongly ‘walk’ and ‘please God’ are related to one another. Hebrew 11:5 is a quotation of Genesis 5:24, but from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. What is written in Genesis 5:24 “walked with God” is translated there with “pleased God”.

The combination ‘walk’ and ‘please God’ appeared to be very fitting with the Thessalonians. The words “just as you actually do walk” are an addition that keeps the Thessalonians from discouragements which could have possibly arisen. Paul wants to prevent that they become sad because of his remark, which could make them consider it as if they did not bother about his serious instructions.

Nevertheless they still could possibly increase in their walk with God and pleasing Him and therefore Paul exhorts them. It is dangerous to think that everything is alright with you. You want to live with and for the Lord and therefore let yourself be guided by God’s Word and God’s Spirit. You can honestly admit that you do not know what you will still have to confess as a sin. There is nothing wrong with that. Except that it may possibly cause you a feeling of satisfaction, of contentment. Such a feeling may gradually take hold of you, without your realizing it.

When you compare your life to that of the Lord, it appears that there is a lot more to increase in. You certainly do not want to claim that you are an accomplished believer in devotion and dependence, do you? Have you ever experienced a situation in which you feel completely powerless? I think you do. It is about spiritual growth, to grow in holiness. As long as you are on earth the process of growing goes on.

This growing process only takes place when you absorb God’s Word as your daily food (Mt 4:44But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”) and obey it. You yourself will decrease more and more and the Lord Jesus will increase (Jn 3:3030He must increase, but I must decrease.). If you do not feed yourself daily with God’s Word, the old habits will again get foothold. That’s what Paul is warning them for. It is also important for you to take that warning at heart.

V22For you know what commandments we gave you by [the authority of] the Lord Jesus.. Paul reminds them of the orders he had given them. It was not just a personal wish or a friendly request. In that way he fulfilled the will of the Lord. The Lord Jesus is the authority behind his admonition. He wants the believers to please God in their walk. In order to fulfill that, every relationship that a believer begins in his life, should happen in holiness and love. Here you find it focused on holiness in marriage and brotherly love.

V33For this is the will of God, your sanctification; [that is,] that you abstain from sexual immorality;. When we talk about holiness, we talk about the will of God. If you bow to God’s will, if you acknowledge His will as authority in your life, you will abstain from fornication. Fornication is a brutal attack on marriage. Fornication – the Greek word is porneia, from which the word ‘porno’ known to us, is derived – is an unlawful sexual relation, both before and outside marriage. Fornication in marriage is also called adultery.

In the time of Paul, sexual impureness had such a fixed place in the Greek and Roman life that apparently nobody considered it an awful sin against God and their neighbor. It was a part of their ritual religion, like it still is in many parts of the pagan world. Sexual immorality is condemned in many places in the Bible. Whoever does not bother about that, will be judged by God (Heb 13:44Marriage [is to be held] in honor among all, and the [marriage] bed [is to be] undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.).

That it is not considered an awful sin anymore applies also to the Western world, which once was Christian. Whether you’re married or not, you live in a society wherein marriage is incredibly being destroyed. It is not on a slippery slope anymore, but it is thrown into the abyss from the steepness. Sexual morality is declining rapidly. There is hardly any movie without provoking scenes. Commercials are full of it. And the enormous waves of filthiness that are being offered via internet have no end, both regarding the quantity and the horrendous content.

In the light of the developments in our country, this word to the Thessalonians becomes increasingly topical to us. It is absolutely no unnecessary luxury to place this word on holiness of marriage high on the agenda of the standards of life.

The Thessalonians have been freed from this lifestyle, but were surrounded by men who were still living according to the lifestyle. The chance to fall back on an old pattern always remains. In order to prevent that, strong actions are to be taken. It is said that they are to abstain from fornication. That is their responsibility and that goes also for you.

An appeal is made on your self control. Do you feel the urge rising to read sex books or to go ‘online’ and search for porn sites? Don’t give into it – fill your mind immediately with something of the Lord Jesus. Quote some texts from God’s Word. It doesn’t matter which one. Make sure that you have a number of them in store. Remember that you are subjected to the commands that are given here by the Lord Jesus. God wants your sanctification. He wants you for Himself.

In case you’ve gone too far already and have been entangled in it, search for help. Don’t wait too long to do that. Come up with it. Go to someone whom you trust and speak out about it. Confess your sins together with your confidant and make arrangements that help you to get rid of this addiction. Above all things, read God’s Word, for the truth will set you free (Jn 8:3232and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”).

Now read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 again.

Reflection: Look up the following portions and take them into your heart, so that you may use them as a defense for your sanctification: Matthew 5:3-9; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.


The Will of God

4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6[and] that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is [the] avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned [you]. 7For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8So, he who rejects [this] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.

V44that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,. Young believers often ask the question: ‘How could one know the will of God?’ That’s a good question. This question cannot always directly be answered in a particular case. But in the previous verse you have clearly heard about the will of God in a certain aspect of your life. God wants your sanctification with a view to marriage. The concrete application of that will is that you abstain from fornication.

Therefore you need to “know how to possess” your “own vessel in sanctification and honor”. The word ‘vessel’ is also used to indicate a person (Acts 9:1515But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;; Rom 9:22,2322What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?23And [He did so] to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,; 2Tim 2:2121Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these [things], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.) or also your own body (cf. 2Cor 4:77But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;). In this regard it can refer to both your own wife (1Pet 3:77You husbands in the same way, live with [your wives] in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.) and your own body. It doesn’t matter as to the power of this Scriptural word. In both cases the question is whether you deal with it in holiness and honor.

The contradiction to how the nations that do not know God deal with it, makes clear how God’s children ought to practice it. Those who do not know God, do not know how to possess their ‘own vessel’ in the right way. The result of denying the Creator is the degradation of the creature. The degraded man uses his wife for the satisfaction of his own lusts.

Paganism has lowered the woman to an object of lusts. Christendom shows that the woman is in the same way an heir of God’s promises like the man (1Pet 3:77You husbands in the same way, live with [your wives] in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.). That she is the weaker vessel, gives the man the opportunity to deal with her in a way that fully complies with her for being a woman. He will offer her safety and protection.

The phrase “know to possess” means that you know that you have received your body, in order to serve God with it. After all, “in sanctification” means separated for God. And “in honor” means that you value your body as a gift from God, in order to use it for His sake. If you value this gift, you will not use it for things in order to serve your lusts in general and your sexual lusts in particular. If you are married you will consider your wife a gift from God. If you appreciate this gift you will not abuse it to fulfill your (sexual) lusts.

V55not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;. If your own body is meant to be a ‘vessel’, it is clear that you should not misuse your body to satisfy your lustful passions. I want to mention masturbation in this context. If masturbation is often a reflection of your emotions, then there is a great chance that you will misuse your marriage for it as a married person. You should not consider marriage to be a solution for sexual desires. To the unmarried or engaged person (which also means: yet unmarried person) sexuality should also be kept in the right place. Therefore it is important to learn how to deal rightly with what God has given in sexuality.

V66[and] that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is [the] avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned [you]..This verse goes still further. Here not only the own body or the own wife is misused, but the wife of the brother. Paul draws a sharp line. The sharing of all possessions may characterize true Christendom, but one should keep his hands from the wife of his brother. She belongs to him. He who ignores that border and steps across that border, does a great injustice to his brother. This injustice is not to be wiped away by a quick confession (Pro 6:32-3532The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense;
He who would destroy himself does it.
33Wounds and disgrace he will find,
And his reproach will not be blotted out.
34For jealousy enrages a man,
And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
35He will not accept any ransom,
Nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts.
), which is often forced after having been caught in the act.

A form of fornication that occurs more and more is the digital form. The internet is the means that offers this opportunity plentifully. There is a gigantic offer and it increases daily in number. Many millions of porn sites are dormant present there. Just a simple mouse click brings them to life. This ‘silent’ fornication is committed by a lot of believers. Sometimes it remains to be limited to only once ‘out of curiosity’. There are also cases, and those cases increase, where it has adopted addictive forms.

Do not think that it cannot happen to you. Therefore take this serious word that also comes to you, to heart. Do like Job, who says: “I have made a covenant with my eyes” (Job 31:11“I have made a covenant with my eyes;
How then could I gaze at a virgin?
), which means, be determined not to look at something that defiles you.

The Lord will avenge everything that has to do with fornication. Paul has said that to them when he was with them, just like he had spoken then about tribulations (1Thes 3:44For indeed when we were with you, we [kept] telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.). Here he adds to it that he had “solemnly warned” them. These particular things need to be emphasized. An exhortation is not enough. This evil is so general and hooks on to our own corruptive nature in such a way that the threat of the vengeance of the Lord needs to be put as a horrifying sight before us. Maybe that will keep us from committing this deed.

I repeat what I said in the previous section: In case it is a fact for you that you have to acknowledge that you have already gone too far, just admit it. Do not go on in this way! There is the possibility for you to turn your back on it. Do not let yourself be kept by any whispering voice inside of you from admitting it. Then search for a person whom you trust and share your need with that person. Let yourself to be helped in order to get to be freed. With the help of the Lord and of others you will succeed. However you have to be willing to, and change your willingness into deeds. If you really trust the Lord, He will make you free to live a sanctified life for Him.

V77For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.. God after all “has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification”. In the previous verses you were called to live a holy life. That includes the warning that if you do not do that, you will find the Lord as an Avenger on your way. However, doing God’s will is not only determined by the fear for God’s judgment. A positive motive to live a life in purity is to be found in knowing God’s intention for all of His children. When He called you through the gospel, He did that with the intention that you would be holy in your whole conduct, like He is holy (1Pet 1:1616because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”).

The gospel that you have accepted is in sharp contrast to the impurity that surrounds you. By God’s will you have been drawn from it (Gal 1:44who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,). You do not belong there anymore and that does no longer belong to you. God has called you “in sanctification”, which means that you live your life in a holy atmosphere from the moment of your conversion.

V88So, he who rejects [this] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.. With the word “so” Paul introduces the summary of the subject with which he has just dealt. You ought not to reject what God says about sexuality and honor and purity and excellence of marriage. ‘To reject’ something is to put it aside, making it invalid, refusing it. That warning comes to you as a professing Christian. That means that you are capable of that.

This ‘rejecting’ will actually not directly start with the grossest form. Therefore beware that you abide in these things close to God’s Word. In conversations with people from your environment whom do not care about God’s Word, you may get to understand and tolerate relationships that really go against God’s Word. Condemn those thoughts. You reject God in that way if you allow something in your thoughts that He condemns. You’d better reject what people say about that in contradiction to God’s Word.

You see that Paul goes back to the highest authority. He is a servant that passes on God’s statutes. Putting those statutes aside does not mean to put him aside, a human, but God Himself (cf. 1Sam 8:77The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.). To anyone who consider sexual sins as unimportant, God and His Word have no meaning. That should not be the case with you.

God has given you “His Holy Spirit” with the emphasis on ‘Holy’. Through Him you are able to maintain God’s statutes. At your conversion He came to dwell in you (Eph 1:1313In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,). In 1 Corinthians 6 you read that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:18-1918Flee immorality. Every [other] sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?). There He is mentioned in relation to the same subject that we have before us. The portion there concludes with: “For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1Cor 6:2020For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.). When you consider the price that the Lord Jesus was willing to pay for your redemption, is there then more left for you to live for than for Him?

Now read 1 Thessalonians 4:4-8 again.

Reflection: Do you know how to possess your own vessel in sanctification and honor? Are there items in which you can do better? In what way can you do that?


Brotherly Love and Works

9Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for [anyone] to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

V99Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for [anyone] to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;. Here the second section of this chapter starts. After love in marriage you now hear about love among brethren. It is love for the family, a love that goes out to all members of the family. This love is aroused in the soul of a believer as soon as he becomes a child of God and in that way gets to belong to the family of God. Members of a family quarrel every now and then, but they love one another that much that they make up with one another as soon as possible. Family members defend one another, they stand up for one another; you can call on one another. That is naturally all engrained.

You do not have to tell people that they should love their brother or sister. To love a family member lies in the character of nature. In the natural life sin is an enormous hindrance to express or experience love. Family members can do much evil to one another. Though, that is at the same time something that goes against nature. A disturbed relationship in a family hurts much more than when it regards another person. They are both uncomfortable situations, but the family tie always makes itself felt.

The brotherly love was alright with the Thessalonians. With them it was clear that they were born of God and that they had the nature of God. The nature of God is love. That was to be seen naturally with them. Paul does not need to write to them about that. Because they have the nature of God, they are “taught by God”. They have opened up themselves for the teaching of God. Their conversion is radical. There is no room for the old anymore. In that way God gets the opportunity to work in them, so that His love for others who have the same nature, can be shown without any hindrance.

That also goes for you, doesn’t it? Brotherly love is one of the two proofs of a real conversion. The first proof is that you loved the world before your conversion and now you hate the world. The second proof is that you hated believers in the past and now you love them. It can happen that you may not get along well with a certain fellow believer. That however doesn’t change the fact that you love him or her. You may have difficulties with something that a person says or does. Just consider also the other way around, that they may have difficulties with something you say or do. But the point is that you see the other person as a child that is loved by God, just like you are loved by Him!

V1010for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,. In other churches in Macedonia like Philippi and Berea, they knew the warmth of the love of the Thessalonians. In a hard, cold world you and I need the warmth of the brotherly love, something that we are exhorted to give to one another (1Pet 1:2222Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,). We are given to one another for that reason and by allowing one another to feel it, we can make one another happy. To love is not something you do with your mouth, but with deeds (1Jn 3:1818Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.). Love cannot remain hidden.

When there is brotherly love and it is being experienced, then problems among believers will not quickly get the chance to disturb the relationships among them. Brotherly love keeps the difficulties at a distance or even eliminates them. Just as the warmth of the sun makes an icicle melt, brotherly love brings a change in cold relationships among believers. Love for the truth, which is very important, may however lead to such cold relationships when also the individual is being rejected together with the error. Therefore it is important to practice the truth of brotherly love.

The brotherly love of the Thessalonians was not on a selective basis, it was not limited to their own church and even less to a small group of like-minded people within the church. They loved “all brethren who are in all Macedonia”. Sectarianism was strange to them. Nobody escaped from their love. An unbelieving historian who saw the mutual love among the first Christians, wrote the following about that at the end of the second century: ‘It is unbelievable to see the fire with which these people of this religion help each other in their needs. They spare nothing. Their first legislator [which is the Lord Jesus] has imprinted on them that they are all brethren.’ Would the people around us also testify of us like that?

However much the Thessalonians might have been examples in brotherly love, they apparently can still increase therein. Brotherly love is not a matter of which you can say that you practice it perfectly. You can always become better in practicing it. Paul says that not to discourage them, but to stimulate them and to keep them from self-satisfaction.

V1111and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,. It may also be the case that they were a little bit overzealous in their brotherly love, that it started to look more like meddling. That could be the reason why he in verse 1111and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, switches from brotherly love to life in society. Taking care for one another includes the danger that we may want to control one another and dictate how the other person should act. We should not spend time on that. Every Christian ought to have a full daily schedule, without becoming restless about the course of affairs of other fellow believers. (Of course this doesn’t apply in a case where you clearly observe sinful practices with a fellow believer.)

Paul had given them clear commands on this. It appeared to be necessary to remind them of that. It is also good for you to know that you do the work that the Lord has commanded you to do (Mk 13:3434[It is] like a man away on a journey, [who] upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, [assigning] to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.). It occurs often that young believers in their first enthusiasm only want to do bible study and preach the gospel. I can recognize that, but that is not God’s will. He wants you to work with your own hands.

It is a misunderstanding to think that people who fully devote their time to the work of the Lord, are holier or find themselves on a higher spiritual level. This thought is a purely pagan thought. You find such people in India for instance. There must be evident reasons and reasons to be judged spiritually by others before one gives up his job in the society, in order for him to be fully engaged with spiritual work. Paul shows here that holy people simply work with their hands. He is the example himself here to them (1Thes 2:99For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, [how] working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.).

Some believers in Thessalonica did not work anymore. They might have used pious motives for that, for example that they were looking forward to the coming of the Lord. He could after all come any time, couldn’t He? Why would one then be occupied with earthly things? But the result is that they started to get occupied with other people’s business. It is spiritually not healthy to passively look forward to the coming of the Lord. It is a good thing to look forward to the coming of the Lord, but at the same time we should do our work, otherwise we will do things that may spiritually harm other people.

V1212so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.. You must also consider that those “who are outside”, namely the unbelievers around you, are watching you. They see how you spend your life. It would be a downright disgrace for the Name of the Lord Jesus if they would see that you are sitting with your arms folded, doing nothing, and in the meantime only expecting that others will take care that you have no lack of food and drink. That’s totally wrong of course.

Especially in a work environment you have the opportunity to show for Whom you live and to Whom you are looking forward. The Lord Jesus will consider you to be blessed and say: “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes” (Lk 12:4343Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.). In your daily activities you may find a great opportunity to adorn the doctrine of God your Savior in all things (Tit 2:1010not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.).

Brotherly love is only to be found within the family of God. All unbelievers find themselves outside of it. You do not need anything from them. I don’t mean that arrogantly, but you will give them a wrong idea about what a Christian is if you would live at the expense of others, the society.

God has determined that you should work for your food. He gave that command already to Adam. He had to work, in order to be able to enjoy the blessing that God had for him (Gen 2:1515Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.). After the fall of man, God gave that as a commandment (Gen 3:1717Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
).

Now read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 again.

Reflection: How are you doing, concerning brotherly love and how do ‘those who are outside’ consider you?


The Lord Will Come For Us!

13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words.

V1313But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.. Paul had already told the Thessalonians several things about the coming of the Lord. They had received teachings about the fact that the Lord Jesus will come with all His saints (1Thes 3:1313so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.). But how was that going to happen? Then there was the question about those who were already asleep. How was that going to be with those if the Lord came right now? Imagine that they would miss the coming of the Lord!

Paul puts an end to this ignorance. In that way he also makes an end to their despair. They were sad, like there is always sorrow when a loved one dies. But if you have no hope, like the unbelievers, then that sorrow is a desperate, inconsolable sorrow.

V1414For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.. The answer leaves room for sorrow, but with a shimmering hope. This hope is the result of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (1Pet 1:33Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,). That’s what Paul is pointing at. Just as He has risen, also all who have died in faith in Him will rise. He will return together with them.

Here you find four important truths of faith:
1. Jesus died and has risen.
2. You ought to believe that, because otherwise you are not a Christian (Rom 10:99that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;).
3. He will return and
4. will then bring all with Him who have fallen asleep in Him (in the following verses the apostle will tell how He will do that).

“Fallen asleep” is a nice expression. The believer doesn’t die, but falls asleep, because death has been robbed from its power. Death has become a servant to bring the believer to the Lord Jesus (Lk 23:4343And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”), in order to be with Christ (Phil 1:2323But I am hard-pressed from both [directions], having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for [that] is very much better;). After falling asleep the believer comes into an interim situation. That doesn’t mean that he has no awareness of anything in such a way that he finds himself in a so-called soul-sleep. That is in contrast to the Scriptural places that I just mentioned. Also the history in Luke 16, where the Lord Jesus grants us to have a look inside the hereafter (Lk 16:19-3119“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.20And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,21and longing to be fed with the [crumbs] which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.22Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.23In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.24And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and [that] none may cross over from there to us.’27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’29But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’30But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’31But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”), makes crystal clear that the doctrine of soul-sleep is a false doctrine.

V1515For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.. It must have been a great comfort for the Thessalonians to learn that their loved ones will be united again with them by the resurrection. But still the question is left about how the Lord Jesus will return with all His saints. To be able to respond to that question, Paul received a word from the Lord, that is a revelation.

Paul tells about it in what you could call a parenthesis (verses 15-1815For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.18Therefore comfort one another with these words.). It is something that in Old Testament times was a mystery (1Cor 15:51-5251Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,52in 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.). Briefly said, he tells that the Lord Jesus can return with all His saints (including you and I), because He will have caught up all those saints in heaven before that time.

There was not a special word needed from the Lord concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus to the earth. In the Old Testament it has already been said about that (e.g. Zec 14:3-53Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.4In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.5You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, [and] all the holy ones with Him!). But there nothing is said about the coming of the Lord for catching up the church first. Only the New Testament speaks about that.

You find that in four places:
1. In John 14, where is emphasized that He will come personally (Jn 14:1-31“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.3If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, [there] you may be also.);
2. In 1 Corinthians 15, where the emphasis is that those who are alive will be changed (1Cor 15:51-5751Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,52in 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.53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.54But 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.55O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.).
3. In Philippians 3 that deals with the redemption of the body (Phil 3:20-2120For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.).
4. Here (1Thes 4:15-1815For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.18Therefore comfort one another with these words.), where the emphasis lies on the fact that the dead will be there also and that they will even precede those who are alive, for they will rise first.

It appears that Paul already expected the coming of the Lord in his days. He speaks about “we who are alive”. Still, many ages have already passed and the Lord has not come yet. That is not because He is slack with the fulfillment of His promise “I will come soon”. The reason why He has not come yet is because of His longsuffering, for He does not want that any should perish, but that all will come to repentance (2Pet 3:99The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.).

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that it will last a lot of centuries more. A lot of signs indicate that the Lord Jesus will soon start again His dealings with His people Israel. Before this could possibly happen it is necessary that the church is caught up. So that event is even closer!

V1616For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.. Now the church is seen in a special way in this portion. You may imagine that the Lord Jesus takes the church as His bride with Him. In itself it is true of course, but still I imagine that differently than I read here. Here I read that the Lord will catch up the believers with “a shout”. That doesn’t seem much to me like a way to approach a bride, don’t you think so? Therefore the believers are represented here as an army of warriors that is commanded by the Commander to leave the battlefield, in order to enter into the rest.

Isn’t that remarkable to you too that in this portion the word “Lord” appears five times? That indicates the relationship between all who belong to the church and their Lord. The Lord Jesus is not Lord of the church, but of each individual believer. And who are the ones that are called by the Lord? All the believers who belong to the church and all believers from the Old Testament.

I think that “the voice of an archangel” especially regards the believers of Israel. In the Bible there is mention of just one archangel, which is Michael (Jude 1:99But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”). He is specially related to Israel (Dan 10:13,2113But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.21However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these [forces] except Michael your prince.; 12:11“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands [guard] over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.).

And then you hear also “the trumpet of God”. Just like the shout, this is a normal language that is fitting for an army. In the Roman army there used to be three trumpets. The first trumpet meant: ‘Pack all your things’; the second meant: ‘Stand on the front line to march out’; the third and final trumpet: ‘Forward march!’

The trumpet of God is the final trumpet. The silence of God is broken. The moment of the entry in heaven of all who are His, has come. The shout, the voice and the trumpet are the supporting sounds for the coming of “the Lord Himself”. How wonderful is that: the Lord Himself. He doesn’t send his principal angel, that is a mighty prince, no, He Himself is coming.

His first act is to raise the dead in Christ. That’s how mighty He is (Phil 3:20-2120For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.). He has shown His power by His victory over death by His resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:44who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,). It is as David defeated Goliath. Due to His victory they sang about him to have defeated his ten thousands (1Sam 18:77The women sang as they played, and said,
“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”
). He actually defeated only one person, but he who ever defeats such an enemy, defeats the greatest army.

He Who has defeated death, will therefore raise those from the dead, who went into death. Here it is yet limited to the “dead in Christ”. All the unbelievers will rise at the end of the millennial kingdom of peace (Rev 20:55The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.) to appear before the great white throne and to be judged (Rev 20:11-1511Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.12And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one [of them] according to their deeds.14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.).

V1717Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.. By His commanding shout (cf. Jn 5:28-2928Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,29and will come forth; those who did the good [deeds] to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil [deeds] to a resurrection of judgment.; 11:4343When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”) they will appear from all places wherever they may be, wherever the separate body parts may be scattered. The might of His shout merges all parts together and gives them a new appearance. That new appearance will also be received by the living believers. Paul doesn’t speak about that very transformation here. He does that in 1 Corinthians 15 (1Cor 15:51-5751Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,52in 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.53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.54But 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.55O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.). You need to have both portions, in order to see what is going to happen when the Lord comes.

Then the resurrected and the living transformed believers will be “caught up” together. This word ‘caught up’ is connected with the thought of ‘the sudden vigorously taken away and bring from the one place to the other place’.

And then the great encounter with the Lord will take place “in the air”, in the space between heaven and earth. The air is the territory of satan and his demons (Eph 2:22in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.). It will take place in their power territory. The Lord shall approach us.

“And thus we will always be with the Lord.” You can be sure that you will never ever be separated from Him anymore. There will never be any situation in which you have to find your way in faith without seeing Him and tested by evil spirits. The war is over. The rest has now come.

V1818Therefore comfort one another with these words.. We can encourage one another by pointing at the near coming of the Lord, to persevere the struggle until the moment comes that our duty time is over. Maranatha! (which means: the Lord is coming).

Now read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 again.

Reflection: Do you expect the Lord daily?


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