4:3 For this is the will of God: your sanctification,
that you abstain from sexual immorality,
4:4 that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel
in sanctification and honor,
4:8 Therefore he who rejects doesn't reject man,
who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.
4:15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive,
who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep.
4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven
with a shout,
with the voice of the archangel, and with God's trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first,
4:17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds,
to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever.
1Thess 4:1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.
Living the Christian life is not just a matter of thinking a certain way about things, it's also about following the instructions of Jesus and his apostles concerning every particular thing we do. There's a lifestyle that pleases God which Christians should strive for. And "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Rom 8:8 "The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." Gal 6:8
For those living a life pleasing to God today, continue to do so and increase in your application of the Word. And let us pray "asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." Col 1:9-12
1Thess 4:3-8 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
When you or someone asks, "What is God's will for me?" Well here it is! One way in which Christians should be distinct from the world is by our abstaining from the sexual immorality so predominant in the world. Inherent in the concept of sanctification is being separated from the world and separated unto God. It is not just a positional concept as justification is. It involves a change of lifestyle.
Christians should characteristically portray the virtue of self-control. Peter writes to add to your "knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance" 2Peter 1:6 It's a learning process, but intentionally so. For the flesh will fight against you. "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other" Gal 5:17 Self-control is particularly challenging in getting a spouse. Beware of defrauding others in this process, overstepping boundaries, or imparting false expectations. And consider the warning in Heb 13:4 "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
To reject Paul's command given by the authority of the Lord Jesus concerning
abstaining from sexual immorality is to reject God. If you are involved
in a sexually immoral relationship and you refuse to apply this command
to abstain from sexual immorality, you are not only doing what is unholy
and dishonorable, you are rejecting God. Don't think you will escape punishment.
Paul is including Christians here when he says, "The
Lord will punish men for all such sins".
1Thess 4:9,10 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
Some things come more naturally to certain Christians than to others. For some prayer comes naturally. For some Bible study. And likewise with character qualities. For the Thessalonian Christians love for fellow Christians cames naturally to them. Some Christians need instruction concerning loving other Christians. Immature Christians often develop illegitimate prejudice towards other Christians. But not so with the Thessalonians. It was intuitively obvious to them that they should love other Christians. They didn't have an "us-versus-them" attitude or competitive attitude towards fellow Christians who were not of their local group - or as we say today, who weren't attending their local church. The body of Christ is one. It is not divide, though it has separate parts. "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." 1Cor 12:12
Therefore let us think and pray beyond the bounds of our local fellowship.
And consider what you might do such that onlookers would say - that person
has been taught by God to love other Christians, even Christians far away.
1Thess 4:11,12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
All character qualities can take on a dark side, becoming corrupted by sin. The Thessalonians were strong in their love for the brethren. But what happens when our insidious sinful nature corrupts it? Notice previously that Paul warned them about avoiding sexual immorality - and in particular among the Christian community. One of the effects of a corrupted love is sexual immorality. Thus he warns them to look out for that.
Another way in which love can be corrupted is by inappropriate meddling in other people's business. The Christian may feel that their meddling is an expression of their love, but in fact it's just that same old deceptive sinful nature misconstruing what constitutes the application of Christian character. It is not helpful to be too helpful or too intrusive into other people's lives. While the Bible affirms that there is a place for interdependency and fellowship among Christians, it also affirms that there is a place for privacy and being independent of others. And these are to be in balance. Like seeking financial independence should not be at the cost of neglecting other significant aspects of the Christian life.
Paul affirms here that it's good for Christians to seek to be financially independent, to have a honorable career, earning money honestly. And thus he also affirmed at the end of his speech to the Ephesian elders saying, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:33-35 To him it wasn't an "Either Ministry Or Secular Job" choice. To him it was Both/And.
And concerning privacy, mostly likely to keep our sinful nature in check,
Jesus affirmed keeping charity a private matter.
"When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right
hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father,
who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Mt 6:3,4
Likewise there should be discreetness in speech. Being too open about everything
- or "oversharing" - often introduces others to unnecessary temptations
or itself may involve gossip or even slander.
1Thess 4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
How should we think about fellow Christians who have died? Of course we should grieve, but not as the world does who have no hope. Rather the grief we suffer is more like that of having a friend move to different place and you never see them again for the rest of your life. It's sad, but not hopeless. For you will meet up again, under much better circumstances, and that for eternity, which kind of takes the rough edge off of the grieving process.
In fact how we feel about our fellow Christians who have died can itself be a testimony - an evidence of our faith. And likewise for those who are near death. Consider Paul's attitude towards his own death. "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." Php 1:20-24
For the Christian "death" is not really "death". In one sense we've
already died. Jesus said, "whoever hears my word
and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned;
has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24 And for
the Christian physical death is a doorway to a better life. Unlike with
the world, for us death does not carry the same negative connotation, and
thus in the righteous who have died are referred to as sleeping. This was
even the case of Old Testament saints. Gabriel said to Daniel. "As
for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of
the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." Dan
1Thess 4:14-18 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. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, 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. 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. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
There has been some debate over the details of the events and order of events concerning the last days and the return of Christ. This area is known as "eschatology". The Rapture is the event which occurs at the return of Christ in which believers who are alive will suddenly be changed, taking on the resurrection body without having passed through physical death. Paul speaks of this extensively in 1Cor 15
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." 1Cor 15:51,52Notice the reference to the trumpet once again. Revelations mentions seven trumpets in chapters 8 to 11. The following occurred at the last trumpet:
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.'" Rev 11:15This sounds consistent with the event Paul has described in 1Cor 15 and here in 1Thess 4.
vs 15 "will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep" indicates that all believers will be raised from the dead before the rapture occurs
vs 17 "Meet the Lord in the air" - remember how He left:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."And so (in this manner) we will be with the Lord forever. Presently we're in a temporary unnatural state physically separated from the Lord. Although we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. But we don't have the physical resurrected presence of Christ before us. This is what we look forward to. Not only our own transformation, but the presence of Christ.
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." 1John 3:2,3vs 18 And what is Paul's purpose in sharing this information. How does the thought of Christ's return affect your behavior? Indeed what is the application of this event that hasn't occurred in 2,000 years? Hope and encouragement. These are encouraging things. No matter what troubles we face in this life, we have a future. And this hope motivates us to labor and to holiness.
"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off." Prov 23:17,18For a more detailed analysis of the Rapture see http://www.bcbsr.com/survey/rapture.html