by Mike Ratliff
19 τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἐλπὶς ἢ χαρὰ ἢ στέφανος καυχήσεως — ἢ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς — ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῇ αὐτοῦ παρουσίᾳ; 20 ὑμεῖς γάρ ἐστε ἡ δόξα ἡμῶν καὶ ἡ χαρά. (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 NA28)
19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 NASB)
Over the last few months (or is it weeks or is it days?) it seems those “wolves in sheep’s clothing” we have been warning you about over last several years have become even more bold in their moves away from what we call doctrinally sound Christianity. Rob Bell has been the most dramatic with his teaming up with Oprah. He has accused any Christian who relies on Sacred Scripture as its source of doctrine as being closed minded, behind the times, and not relevant. Andy Stanley has said pretty much the same thing, but not in such a dramatic way while Rick Warren is trying to get all Protestants to come under the Roman Catholic Pope. Of course within all these guy’s teachings we will find elements of universalism and ecumenicalism. This leads them to be soft on the Doctrine of Hell for instance. Why do they all end up in the same place eventually, which is to deny the inerrancy and authority of Sacred Scripture? They must do this because Sacred Scripture condemns what they are doing.
Along with their hatred of the Doctrine of Hell, which they must have in order to be Universalists, they must also greatly mishandle Sacred Scripture in those passages dealing with the state of the dead in Christ and who makes up those who meet the Lord in the air at his παρουσίᾳ or parousia or arrival or coming or presence. In this post we will look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and attempt to unpack Paul’s statement about our Lord’s παρουσίᾳ.
What we must never forget my brethren, Christianity is simply another religion if we ignore our Lord’s παρουσίᾳ, It is vital to our doctrines. It is vital to the meaning and purpose of the Gospel. This is why any form of Christian Liberalism attacks both the Doctrine of Hell and the Doctrine of the παρουσίᾳ of Christ. This should make it evident of the power behind these attacks. He is both a liar and a murderer. Therefore, let us open God’s Word and dig into it to feed, learn the truth, and be encouraged in the Lord.
13 Οὐ θέλομεν δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, περὶ τῶν κοιμωμένων, ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NA28)
13 Now we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep lest you be sorrowful as the rest who do not have hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
13 But 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. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NASB)
This passage is full of key words. The NASB translates κοιμωμένων as “those who are asleep.” This is the Greek word for sleep or slumber and is often used to refer to those who have died, however, this is referring to the bodies of those who have died, not their Souls (cf. vv. 14, 15; 5:10; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20, 51). Paul is encouraging the believers in Thessalonica to ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε, lest you be sorrowful as those do who are still alive μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα, not having hope. In other words, there are those who do have hope and another group that does not. Paul is letting them know that they are among those who do have this hope and it also applies to those in Christ from their community who have already died. On the other hand, this other group does not posses this hope. Why? They and those they loved who have died are not in Christ. They do not possess this expectant blessed hope that genuine believers have.
14 εἰ γὰρ πιστεύομεν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἀνέστη, οὕτως καὶ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἄξει σὺν αὐτῷ. (1 Thessalonians 4:14 NA28)
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose up, even so God will also bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:14 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:14 NASB)
The resurrection of Christ, Ἰησοῦς ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἀνέστη, Jesus died and rose up, is central not only to the Gospel, but also to God’s plan for history. It is the basis for the hope in the future resurrection of the body (1 Corinthians 15:42-57; Revelation 21:4). Paul again speaks of those who have fallen asleep, τοὺς κοιμηθέντας, those who have fallen asleep. These are the Christians who have already died. Their bodies were buried or burned or whatever, but their Souls went to be with the Lord until this great day when our Lord Jesus will return with them according to the will of power of God. Again, the word κοιμηθέντας in v14 refers to the body being asleep, not the Soul.
15 Τοῦτο γὰρ ὑμῖν λέγομεν ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου, ὅτι ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι εἰς τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ κυρίου οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας· 16 ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ κύριος ἐν κελεύσματι, ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου καὶ ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ, καταβήσεται ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστήσονται πρῶτον, 17 ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁρπαγησόμεθα ἐν νεφέλαις εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα· καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NA28)
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remaining to the coming of the Lord, in no way may precede the ones who have fallen asleep. 16 Because the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command with a voice of an archangel and with a trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
15 For 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. 16 For 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. 17 Then 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. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NASB)
These three verses covers the state of those who have already died in Christ now and what will happen to them at this glorious time and the state of those who remain, or are still alive, who are in Christ. Christ will return with the Souls of those who have died and will seize up together with them those are still alive who are in Him. He will gather them together with Him in the clouds. This is their resurrection. It parallels the resurrection of the Lord. He was crucified (died) and His body was buried, but He arose from the dead with His glorified body. For the believer this will also be the case. These who have already died are with Him now, but not with their glorified bodies. He will return with them to meet those who are in Him, but who have not died. These will all be brought together to receive their new bodies just as He did. (1 John 3:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:3). The promise οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα, so we will always be with the Lord, is a tremendous promise for the believer, but it is not for the unbeliever. This passage is only for those in Christ.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18 NASB)
Amen, let us not lose the precious, blessed hope that all in Christ have. We are not of this world, but have been resurrected out of it in our new birth in Christ. We remain here for our sanctification and to obey the Lord in the Great Commission, i.e. making disciples from all nations. Some of us teach and disciple. Others preach the Gospel. Others minister as God directs. We all have roles in the Body of Christ. However, this blessed hope is for us all.
Soli Deo Gloria!