Setting

In the previous passage, Paul urged the believers to abstain from sexual immorality and to abound in love. Now, he continues his exhortation, turning to the topic of hope. The coming of the Lord must always be on the mind of believers, for that is the ultimate goal of our salvation. Expectation of the Lord’s return also has direct bearing on a Christian’s daily living. It brings comfort to the bereaved and demands a sober life.

Key Verse

(4:16-17)

Did You Know...?

  1. “Archangel” (4:16): Michael is the only archangel named in the Bible.
  2. “The times and the seasons” (5:1) “are well-known words describing the end times from two perspectives. The former conceives more of elapsed time and hence a particular date or dates when predictions will be fulfilled. The latter word, while including some reference to extent of time, gives more attention to the character or quality of a given period, i.e., what signs will accompany the consummating events” [ref] (cf. Acts 1:7; 3:19- 21).
  3. “The day of the Lord” (5:2): This is a biblical term for a period of time in the future in which God will pour out His wrath and exercise judgment (cf. Isa 3:16-24; 13:6-11; Jer 30:7; 46:10; Ezek 30:1-4; Joel 2:1-32; Amos 5:18-20; Obad 15-18; Zeph 1:7-18; 2:1-3; Zech 14:1-21; Mal 4:5; 1Thess 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; 2Pet 3:10).
  4. “Not” (5:3): An emphatic double negative in the Greek, a construction Paul uses only four times in all his writings. [ref]
  5. “Son of” (5:5): In Semitic languages (such as Hebrew) to be the “son of” a quality meant to be characterized by that quality. [ref]

Outline

  • Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep
    (4:13-18)
  • The Coming of the Day of the Lord
    (5:1-5)
  • Living in Expectation of the Day of the Lord
    (5:6-11)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    How are the endings of 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 similar?

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    Both paragraphs end with the instruction to encourage each other.

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  • 2.

    How are the endings of 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 similar?

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Segment Analysis

  • 4:13-18

    1.

    What is Paul’s purpose in writing this paragraph?

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    He wants to inform the believers concerning those who have fallen asleep so that they will not sorrow as others who have no hope (1).

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  • 2.

    How do those who have no hope view death? What emotions result from such a view?

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    Those who believe that death is the end of all existence would think that they have been forever separated from their loved ones and will mourn in despair. Those who believe that the dead enters into an unknown world may be taken by fear and pity for the deceased, not knowing what state of affairs their loved ones are in.

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  • 3.

    What does Paul call believers who have died in Christ? Why?

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    He calls the dead in Christ those who “sleep in Jesus.” (13-15). Even though believers may die physically, this death is only temporary. Unlike the unsaved, who will face the second death, believers in Christ do not experience spiritual death (Rev 20:6,14-15). Even now, believers who have died physically are with the Lord in spirit. On the last day they will rise again to everlasting life (Jn 5:28-29; Rom 6:5; 1Cor 15:22).

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  • 4.

    Record what this passage teaches about what will happen to those who sleep in Christ.

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    God will bring them with Jesus (14). When the Lord descends from heaven, they will rise first (16). They will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord (17).

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  • 5.

    What will happen to believers who are alive when the Lord descends from heaven?

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    They will be caught up with those who have fallen asleep in Christ to meet the Lord in the air (17). The Bible also tells us that at the last trumpet, believers who are alive shall be changed and be clothed with an imperishable body (1Cor 15:50-53).

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  • 6.

    How can we be certain that the dead in Christ will rise?

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    We can be certain about our resurrection because we know that Jesus died and rose again (14; 1Cor 6:14; 15:12,13; 2Cor 4:14)—a historical fact confirmed by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1Cor 15:3-8) and irrefutable by Christ’s enemies. Today, the Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead also lives in us (Rom 8:11), guaranteeing our future resurrection (2Cor 5:4-5).

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  • 7.

    This passage reveals in detail the events at the Lord’s descent. How does Paul know about these future events?

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    What Paul writes here are the words of the Lord Himself (15). It is quite likely that the Lord had personally revealed the details about His coming to Paul or some other believers in the church.

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  • 8.

    Paul tells the believers to comfort each other with these words. What aspects of this passage do you find comforting?

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  • 5:1-11

    9.

    In what sense is the coming of the day of the Lord like the coming of a thief in the night?

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    Just as a thief comes unexpectedly, so will the day of the Lord (Mt 24:43- 44; Lk 12:39-40; Rev 16:15).

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  • 10.

    What contrasts does Paul make here?

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    Night vs. day (2,5,7,8); peace and safety vs. sudden destruction (3); darkness vs. light (4,5); destruction and wrath vs. salvation (3,9); sleep and be drunk vs. watch and be sober (6-8); died and live (10).

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  • 11.

    What characterize those who are of the night?

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    They are complacent and self-deceiving (3). They live in darkness, sleep, and get drunk (4-7). Darkness, sleep, and drunkenness are to be taken in the spiritual sense to mean godless behavior, hardening of the heart, indulgence, and superficial, stagnant faith (Rom 13:11-14; Eph 4:17-19; 5:8-14; Rev 3:1-3)

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  • 12.

    According to Paul, what does it mean to be sober?

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    To be sober means to put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation (8). To stay awake spiritually requires constantly examining our faith in the Lord Jesus, living out our faith through works of love, and eagerly looking forward to the salvation that the Lord will bring to us when He comes. With this breastplate and helmet in place, we can guard ourselves against the forces of darkness.

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  • 13a.

    How does verse 10 define salvation as mentioned in verses 8 and 9?

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    Salvation means being able to live with the Lord whether we wake or sleep. This salvation is made possible by the death of the Lord Jesus for us (10).

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  • 13b.

    What does it mean to live together with the Lord, whether we wake or sleep (10)?

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    As believers of Jesus Christ, we have a new life with Him in God (2Cor 5:17; Col 2:11-12; 3:3-4). Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have passed from death into life (Jn 5:24). Even death cannot separate our union with Christ. In this life, we have the life of Jesus Christ in us. When we die, we will depart from this body to be with the Lord. One day, we will be caught up and be with the Lord forever.

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  • 5:1-11

    14.

    What is the importance of Christian fellowship in light of the Lord’s coming?

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    As Paul exhorts the Thessalonians, we are to always comfort and edify each other concerning the coming of the Lord and in view of the day of the Lord (4:18; 5:11). Seeing that the return of the Lord is imminent, we need to all the more meet together in fellowship to encourage one another so that we would not forsake the faith (Heb 3:12-14; 10:25).

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