Online Bible Commentary
Lest You Sorrow as Others
1 Thessalonians 4: 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing these words of encouragement to the Christians at the church in Thessalonica, and to all Christians. He wrote this in response to the church’s concern that those believers who had already died would miss the second coming of Christ. He wanted to assure them that they would not. So he begins this passage by writing that he did not want them to be ignorant of that situation and that he did not want them to “sorrow as others who have no hope” (v.13b).
Christians have hope of eternal life in Heaven, unlike non Christians. The word translated “hope” is the Greek word “elpis” which means hope or expectation. It is more than wishing something to happen.
There is an expectation that Christians will go to Heaven that is affirmed by Scripture. The proof is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven (v.14a), so will Christians. Their souls will be resurrected and will ascend into Heaven and some time later they will be reunited with their bodies.
The word translated “fallen asleep” (v. 13a) comes from the Greek word “koimao” which means to sleep or slumber. In this context it means sleep of the body, not the soul. It is referring to bodily death. The soul ascends to Heaven at the time of bodily death. The soul encompasses all that we are, our personality and our spirit.
Paul writes that, at the second coming, Christ will bring with him from Heaven the souls of all Christians who have already died (v.14b) and will raise their bodies. Their bodies will then be reunited with their souls and will join Christ in the clouds. All of the dust of Christian men and women, whether in the earth or sea, will be recreated and formed into glorified bodies (vv.14-16).
Those Christians who are alive will then also be “caught up” with Christ in the clouds (v.17a). This act of being caught up is the “rapture”, the first phase of Christ’s return. It is a word derived from the verb in the Latin Bible meaning “caught up.” Christians in Heaven and on Earth will then be with the Lord forever (v.17b).
How do we know this to be true? Because all scripture is divinely inspired (2 Tim. 3:16). However, Paul, in an unusual act, decides to give us even more assurance. He writes that this is “by the word of the Lord” (v. 15).
Paul received this knowledge directly from the Lord at some point. The Lord, realizing the importance of this information, spoke to Paul directly. His reason was so that we all can be comforted in this knowledge and can encourage others in the faith (v.18). He did not want any of us to worry about our future. Our future is with the Lord. We have that assurance, directly from the Lord Jesus Himself!