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1 Thessalonians Chapter Four                            


I. Content of the Chapter


The Life and Knowledge that Christians Are Supposed to Have

A.  The motivations of Christians’ conversation (v.1-2):

1. Please God (v.1);

2. Keep the commandments of the Lord (v.2);

B.  Three principles of Christians’ conversation (v.3-12):

1. Sanctification (v.3-8);

2. Love one another (v.9-10);

3. Work with your own hands and walk properly toward those who are outside (v.11-12);

C.  The basic knowledge that Christians shall have about the future (v.13-18):

1. The dead in Christ will rise again (v.13-14);

2. The second coming of the Lord and the rapture of believers (v.15-18);


II. Verse by Verse commentary


1Thess. 4:1 “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;

   YLT: “As to the rest, then, brethren, we request you, and call upon you in the Lord Jesus, as ye did receive from us how it behoveth you to walk and to please God, that ye may abound the more,”

   Literal Meaning: “then”, it indicates that Paul will put the matter of the Lord’s second coming mentioned in the previous chapter (3:13) into practice.

“Finally then, brethren, “brethren”, it shows that Paul speaks on the equal status of brothers. “Finally”, this is a conjunction of this book that shifts the topic. The previous three chapters mention the various conditions of Paul and believers in Thessalonica. In the last two chapters, Paul teaches believers in Thessalonica how to live in faith, love and hope in daily life and prepare oneself to meet the Lord’s second coming.

“We urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus”, in the Lord Jesus”, it means that he does not exhort out of himself, but out of the Lord Jesus. And only the exhortations in the Lord will change men. The two verbs “urge” and “exhort” show the humble and earnest attitude of Paul.

“Just as you received from us”, it reveals that the following exhortations are according to his teachings in the past and add something more.

“How you ought to walk and to please God”, “walk” refers to one’s conversation in life. Here, it points that the conversation of Christians is not for the purpose of satisfying oneself, but pleasing God.

“That you should abound more and more, here, it suggests that the conversation of believers in Thessalonica has already been according to the right principle, and yet is not perfect, which requires further improvement.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Success in works and boldness in faith do not represent spiritual maturity. All those who wait for the Lord’s coming again shall prepare themselves in both of these aspects. 

2)    The faith of Christians is bound up with their daily life. If the truth has not been put into practice, it is vain words without any value.

3)    When someone exhorts others, he always regards the other side inferior to him and thus exhorts them in a condescending manner unconsciously. Therefore, he receives little effect.

4)    If Christians have some exhortations and teachings, they shall do in the Lord. And only in the Lord, the exhortations will be effective.

5)    When we exhort others, we shall humbly realize that we are unworthy and we are enabled to speak only in the Lord.

6)    Exhortations and urging are proper to be used concomitantly. A gentle tongue breaks a bone (Pro. 25:15). Let our word always be with grace, seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6) so that the word will enter into men and emit its effect.

7)    The whole of Christians’ life is for the purpose of pleasing God. Therefore, we shall know the will of God and know what pleases God.

8)    If life does not grow, it will be withered. Either one goes forward in spiritual race or he will be left behind. Christians should not be indulged in the satisfaction of the present condition, but shall “abound more and more”.

9)    No matter what degree we Christians have attained to, we shall know that I have not already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christi Jesus has also laid hold of me (Phil. 3:12-14).


1Thess. 4:2 “for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

   YLT: “for ye have known what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus,”

   Literal Meaning: “for”, it shows that “pleasing God” (v.1) is the commandment of the Lord Jesus.

“You know”, here Paul reminds them again the teachings that he has given to them in the past. Such words have appeared in this epistle again and again (see 1:5; 2:1, 2, 5, 11; 3:3, 4; 4:1, 2, 6, 9; 5:1).

“We gave you through the Lord Jesus”, it indicates that Paul’s teachings are based on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

“What commandments”, “commandment” is a military term, which refers to the commandment given by the higher officials that should be kept (see Acts 16:24).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    If necessary, preachers should repeatedly declare the similar messages until they have been deeply inserted into believers’ heart. Therefore, the words will impress believers and influence their conversation.

2)    Many believers hear the word for the sake of hearing only and like to hear various flesh words. Therefore, they appear to be impatient to the words they have heard. Such attitude of hearing hinders them from receiving benefit from the messages.

3)    If we desire to keep the word with a pure and honest mind and do not hear the sermons for appreciation, we will find that we really need preachers to remind us the similar messages repeatedly so that we will clearly understand the words and put them into practice.

4)    All the teachings should be preached to others in the Lord. Anyone shall never act on his responsibility or regard his will as that of the Lord.

5)    Paul says, “for I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me” (Rom. 15:18).

6)    The responsibilities of Christians are being chosen and good soldiers of Christ and obedience of His “commandments”.

7)    If Christians receive the words in the Scriptures with the mind of absolute obedience to the Lord’s commandments, they will receive new visions, for the will of God is open to those who truly desire to keep (see John 7:17).


1Thess. 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

   YLT: “for this is the will of God -- your sanctification; that ye abstain from the whoredom,”

   The Background: at that time, the moral concept concerning sex was rather low, holding that chastity was a kind of improper bondage and so sexuality outside of marriage was commonly acceptable, especially in Greece, where the pagans stimulated sexual activities in order to worship false gods. Since believers in Thessalonica were saved in such environment, they might be vague about the concept of sex.

   Literal Meaning: “for”, it shows that verse three is parallel to verse two ---- both “the will of God” and “the Lord’s commandments relate to “pleasing God”.

“This is the will of God, your sanctification”, “the will of God” refers to the will that God pleases (see v.1). The will of God is divided into two sorts: one is the individual guidance, e.g. where to go and what to do (see James 4:13-15; Acts 13:22); the other is the general will to all believers, e.g. He wills us to do good (1Pet. 2:15). Here, the will of God is the latter one, namely, the will to all believers.

“Sanctification”, it relates to the separation from the world in the original. Here it especially refers to the sanctification from the filthy and corrupt customs of the pagans.

The will of God is that He desires that those whom He has redeemed lead a sanctified life according to his divine nature (see 2Pet. 1:4) and are separated from all things outside of God in order to be unto God. For this sake, God grants us the Holy Spirit (see v.8) to help us and sanctifies us completely (see 5:23).

“That you should abstain from sexual immorality”, “sexual immorality”, it refers to any form of sexual union outside of lawful marriage. Believers should utterly abstain from any sexual immorality, including sexual immorality before marriage, sexual immorality outside of marriage, and homosexuality etc.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    God has chosen us to be the people of God’s kingdom for the purpose of making us understand and keep the will of God so that the will of God will be done upon the earth as in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Therefore, believers shall put the will of God at the first place.

2)    When we Christians live on the earth, we shall learn the example of David to keep the will of God in everything (Acts 13:22. 36). Thus, we will live a valuable life (1John 2:17).

3)    May God make us complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what in well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:21).

4)    Though Christians have been justified positionally (1Cor. 6:11), they shall have sanctified testimony in practical life.

5)    God created men according to His image (Gen. 1:26-27) so that men shall manifest Him (see Rom. 9:23). As regards this will, nothing offends God or destroys men more than sexual immorality.

6)    Concerning all things that may defile us, we need never seek whether they are in accordance with the will of God, for they are always against the will of God.

7)    The will of God is our sanctification. Sanctification is opposite to sexual immorality. Nothing destroys believers more than fornication (see 1Cor. 16:18). Therefore, we shall thoroughly abstain from fornication.

8)    Fornication is the cause of every evil. No temptation is more serious and common than other temptation of sins. Believers should be more cautious (see 1Cor. 5:1). The secret of overcoming sins is turning aside from and keeping off temptations.

9)    We shall flee from lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart (2Tim. 2:22).       


1Thess. 4:4 “that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,

   YLT: “that each of you know his own vessel to possess in sanctification and honour,”

   Meaning of Words: “possess”: obtain, provide, purchase, get, acquire;

   Literal Meaning: how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor”, “in sanctification and honor”, “sanctification” emphasizes the condition before God; “honor” emphasizes the status before men; if believers have committed sexual immorality in body, they have become unclean before God and humble before men.

    “Vessel”, the body of each believer is the vessel of the treasure (2Cor. 4:7). If anyone cleanses himself from dishonor, he will be a vessel for honor and useful for the Master (2Tim. 2:21).

   Controversial Clarification: possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor”, some Bible exegetes interpret that this verse indicates each brother shall keep the chastity of his own wife or keep his faithfulness to his wife according to the First Book of Peter, in which “vessel” is interpreted as “wife” (1Pet. 3:7). Such explanation obviously regards the husband as the vessel of the husband, but Peter means that both husband and wife are vessels jointly inheriting the grace of life and the wife is a weaker vessel. Therefore, we should not agree with such explanation.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Each believer should honor and possess his body so as to make it used by God.

2)    Any sexual immorality dishonors others as well as one’s own body.

3)    The bodies of believers are the members of Christ and are the temple of God and are bought with a price (1Cor. 6:19-20). Therefore, we shall not commit any sin of fornication, but use our bodies to glorify God.

4)    We shall not passively flee (v.3) and resist the lusts concerning our bodies, but actively grasp and control and dominate our bodies so as to possess them in sanctification and honor.

5)    The best way for believer to use their bodies is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1) and yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom. 6:14, 19).


1Thess. 4:5 “not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

   YLT: “not in the affection of desire, as also the nations that were not knowing God,”

   Meaning of Words: “passion”: inordinate affection, suffering; “lust”: longing (especially for what is forbidden; concupiscence, desire, lusts);

   Literal Meaning: “not in passion of lust, “passion” in the original contains a kind of active and fierce desire. When God created men, He had given various normal desires and instincts in men’s bodies, e.g. appetite makes men enjoy eating and thus grow up, sexuality makes male and female attract one anther and multiply through marriage, etc. However these desires and instincts are used by sin because of the fall of men and have become shameful lusts, inciting men to do unreasonable things reversely (see Rom. 1:26-31). Such abnormal lust is the “passion of lust” here.

“Like the Gentiles who do not know God”, “the Gentiles” refer to those who do not believer the Lord Jesus (see 1Cor. 10:20; Eph. 4:17; 1Pet. 4:3; John 7);

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Each believer is the master of his own body, so he is supposed to manage his own body and not walk according to the passion of lust in body.

2)    All the lusts in one’s body should be controlled and governed so that he is enabled to have normal and proper conversation. The normal Christians surpass the lust of body without any control of the physical lust.

3)    The ignorance of God is the basic reason for the passion of lust.

4)    The custom of the world is seriously corrupted. When we believers live in such an evil and deprived society, we shall never swim with the tide, but shall manifest the different character and testimony from the world.

5)    Christians should be separated from men in the world in conversation, for they do not know God (see Jer. 10:25; Ps. 79:6) and yet we know God.

6)    The more we Christians know God, the more will we know how to conduct ourselves in the house of God and the more will we manifest the God in the flesh (1Tim. 4:15-16).

7)    We Chinese who have believed the Lord are no longer “Gentiles”, but fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God, (Eph. 2:19); (1Thess. 1:5; Rev. 1:6).


1Thess. 4:6 “that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.

   YLT: “that no one go beyond and defraud in the matter his brother, because an avenger [is] the Lord of all these, as also we spake before to you and testified,”

   Meaning of Words: take advantage of”: be covetous, get an advantage, make a gain; “defraud”: transcend, overreach;

   Literal Meaning: “that no one should take advantage ofin this matter”, “this matter”, refers to the sexual immorality (see v.3); “take advantage of” refers to transgressions;

“And defraud his brother, sexual immorality does not only sin against God but also against men, for it harms not only the persons involved but also their spouses or the fiance or the fiancée (including that of his own and that of the other party). If the object of sexual immorality is believer or believers’ spouse (including the betrothed pair), it is just defrauding brother. “Defraud”, it refers being covetous to make a gain; “brother”, it is a general appellation, including sisters.

“Because the Lord is the avenger of all such, “all such”, it refers to the matter of take advantage of and defraud brothers; “avenger”, it means that the Lord will surely judge those who have committed sexual immorality and chasten them. The fear of the Lord’s vengeance is another motive of our sanctification.

Sometime, the Lord’s vengeance comes upon men when they are alive, e.g. God’s judgment upon David after he has committed fornication (2Sam. 12:11-14; or many people have got venereal disease or AIDS, or they have divorced and ruined upon themselves. Sometimes, it is executed after man is dead. However, no matter when one is living or is dead, men should give an account before the judgment-seat of the Lord eventually (Rom. 2:6).

“As we also forewarned you and testified”, “forewarned”, it means warning again and again;

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    If men keep a slothful attitude toward sexual relationship (see v.5), they may easily overstep the orders and thus sin against God and harm others.

2)    Today, men in the world hold that it is not sin of the sexual relationship between those who love each other, disregarding the supposed right of the spouses of them. This is overreaching man himself in the eyes of the righteous God and He will reward.

3)    We shall never take advantage of brothers in the church in words, deeds, or attitudes. The Lord is the avenger of not only fornication but also all things that harm brothers (see Matt. 18:6, 10; 24:48-51).

4)    Someone have a wrong concept, thinking that preachers should speak more positive words in the church, but avoid negative words. However, Paul is not so. He always repeats the words of warning and exhortations.


1Thess. 4:7 “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.

   YLT: “for God did not call us on uncleanness, but in sanctification;”

   Literal Meaning: “for”, it shows another reason why we believers should “avoid sexual immorality” (v.3).

God did not call us to uncleanness, uncleanness, it indicates the result of sexual immorality ---- sin against one’s own body (1Cor. 6:18) so as to cause his body unclean;

“But in holiness”, “holiness” and “uncleanness” are a pair of opposite words. Believers should be holy in all conversations, for the One who calls us is holy (1Pet. 1:15-16).

The purpose of God’s calling to men is departure from uncleanness and becoming holiness. This is another reason why believers should be kept physically virgin. 

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    God’s salvation is never a kind of guarantee that makes men sin at ease. Therefore, we shall not defile uncleanness with boldness because of the forgiveness of God’s salvation.

2)    In one sense, believers are those whom God has sanctified unto Himself, so they are “saints”. In another sense, they should manifest such sanctified status in their daily life.


1Thess. 4:8 “Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

   YLT: “he, therefore, who is despising -- doth not despise man, but God, who also did give His Holy Spirit to us.”

   Literal Meaning: therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, “reject”, it means rejecting the commandment of our becoming holiness. 

“But God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit”, here, it has two aspects of meaning: 1) the main purpose of God’s giving Spirit to us is sanctifying us; 2) the chief work of the Holy Spirit is making us sanctified.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    We shall not flippantly criticize or reject any fellow worker or brother, lest what he has said or done should be entrusted by God. Thus we have not criticized or rejected men, but God.

2)    He who lives in the immoral sins has just rejected God, especially the Holy Spirit.

3)    Obedience of the Spirit is the secret of living a life in holiness (Rom. 8:6, 13-14). If we walk in Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).


1Thess. 4:9 “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;

   YLT: “And concerning the brotherly love, ye have no need of [my] writing to you, for ye yourselves are God-taught to love one another,”

   Literal Meaning: but concerning brotherly love”, “brotherly love” in the original is only a word, namely, “philadelphia”, which refers to the love among the children who are begotten by one father. And the word is used to refer to love among the children who are all begotten by God the Father, namely, the love of believers in Christ;

“You have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God”, it has two aspects of meaning: 1) believers have the guidance of God’s Spirit and the feeling of God’s life, which make us naturally love one another without men’s teaching externally (see Heb. 8:10-11); 2) when Paul was with them previously, he had taught them concerning brotherly love, so he needed not to teach again.

“To love one another”, “love” in the original is the divine and noble love (agape).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The life in holiness (see v.1-8) should be with love (v.9-10), for only love fulfills the law (Rom. 13:10).

2)    The individual holy life is closely linked with the corporate life in love. Any unholy conversation in life is of selfish and harmful character and goes against the principle of love. On the contrary, if we do not love one another, we will not be able to have personal holy life.

3)    All those who have been truly saved will be enabled to receive direct teaching from God (see Is. 54:13; John 6:45; 1Cor. 2:13). 


1Thess. 4:10 “and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;

   YLT: “for ye do it also to all the brethren who [are] in all Macedonia; and we call upon you, brethren, to abound still more,”

   Literal Meaning: “and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia”, “do so”, it refers to the manifestations of brotherly love. Believers in Thessalonica have become the example of the churches in Macedonia in the work of faith, and also have good performance in the work of love (see 2Cor. 8:1-2; comp. 1Thess. 3:4, 6).

But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more”, it indicates that the work of love should be abundant exceedingly and endlessly (see 3:12; 2Pet. 1:7).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    No matter to what degree the faith and love of believers have progressed, they should still be furthered more.

2)    Love never fails (1Cor. 13:8), so the increase of love should also never fail. The love of believer shall increase unceasingly, no matter in the purity of quality or in the width of quantity.

3)    Love can be much used or widely used, but should not be abused or against the truth. Today, the church just needs the “increasing” of love more and more.


1Thess. 4:11 “that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,

   YLT: “and to study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we did command you,”

     Meaning of Words: “aspire”: be fond of honor, emulous, eager, strive;

The Background: at that time, some Greek men despised the works of labor, thinking that only the humble salves were suitable to do such works. It was also possible that some believers in Thessalonians misunderstood the teaching of the Lord’s second coming ---- since the Lord’s second coming was so near, they had to put aside their works to wait for the Lord’s coming with whole heart.

Literal Meaning: to lead a quiet life”: to lead a calm and restful life, not stick one’s nose into the business of others (see 2Thess. 3:11-12), nor become the burden of others (see 2:9; 2Thess. 3:8).

“To mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, it indicates that some believers in Thessalonica did not deign to work because of wrong ideas and had to keep their life by others.

“As we commanded you”, it shows that Paul taught believers in truth as well as exhorted them practically when he preached there.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Those who loaf about with nothing to do may easily get interested in affairs of others, impressing others with intermeddling.

2)    Christians should have an aspiration of leading a quiet life on earth without any noise and working and living for the Lord purely without stirring up any trouble.

3)    If a believer does not work with his own hands but counts on the loving almsgiving of others, it just misunderstands and misuses the love of believers. If we do not correct such condition, we have spoiled him and will even destroy him.

4)    Leading a life in love (v.9-10) is not counting on others, but that one shall labor himself and provide others in love.

5)    Believers’ life of loving one another is not creating opportunities to let others love us, but discovering chances to love others. It is not being idle about all the day under the pretext of letting others love, but working with one’s own hands for the sake of loving others.


1Thess. 4:12 “that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

   YLT: “that ye may walk becomingly unto those without, and may have lack of nothing.”

   Meaning of Words: properly”: decorously, decently, honestly;

   Literal Meaning: “that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, “that”, it means result of “working with one’s own hands” (v.11); “those who are outside” refer to unbelievers; “walk properly”: walk honestly and decorously;

“And that you may lack nothing”, you need not the provision of others;

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Unbelievers despise the Christians who are spiritual in their own eyes and able to teach other with tongues only and yet unable to work with hands.

2)    Believers on the earth shall at least attain to the admitted standard of the society and receive respect of those who are outside of the church.

3)    Many Christians have no testimony before the world, for they work in a perfunctory fashion or they are even unwilling to work, thus humiliating the Lord’s name.

4)    If believers do not work with their own hands and rely on the provision of others, they will become parasites of the society. Therefore, men shall despise them and their faith.

5)    Christians who lack because of having not worked well must be Christians who do not love or obey the Lord.


1Thess. 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.

   YLT: “And I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, that ye may not sorrow, as also the rest who have not hope,”

   The Background: believers in Thessalonica received the teaching of Paul to wait with patience for the Lord’s coming from the heaven (see 1:3, 10). However, when Paul left them, they might have wrong understand of the Lord’s second coming or misled by others and have wrong concepts as follows: 1) it was best to do nothing (see v.11) and wait for the Lord with whole heart; 2) they thought the Lord would come again when they were alive, so many believers desired to meet the Lord when they are alive; 3) there was no resurrection after death (see 1Cor. 15:12). Once man had died, everything ended.

   Literal Meaning: “concerning those who have fallen asleep”, “have fallen asleep” refer to believers who are dead; Christians will rise after death (1Cor. 15:22) as those who have fallen asleep will awake again.

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, this is a tone that Paul often use (Rom. 1:13; 11:25; 1Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2Cor. 1:8), showing that he is much willing to share the spiritual truth and experience he has known with others so that they will be benefited together.

“Lest you sorrow”, it does not mean that believers should not have sorrowful feeling when their family members pass away, but that believers shall not be as those men in the world, who consider that they are separated because death and will never see again and all hope are shattered because of death and are sorrowful exceedingly.

“As others who have no hope”, “others who have no hope”: unbelievers who do not believe the Lord. At that time, the Greek pagans deeply feared death, thinking that all hopes of life end when death comes. 

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Even a normal man likes to share goodness with those whom he loves, let alone Christians ---- how shall not they be more willing to share what they have received from God with one another?!

2)    To the death of the death of family members, on one hand, Christians will feel reluctant to part in emotion. However, on the other hand, they have an assurance in the depth of spirit ---- they will surely meet in the heaven and share the eternal blessing together.

3)    In the sight of Christians, death is joy and victory (see 1Cor. 15:57).


1Thess. 4:14 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

   YLT: “for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also God those asleep through Jesus he will bring with him,”

   Literal Meaning: for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is one of the reasons why we believers shall rise (see 1Cor. 15:12-16). Since we believe that He died and rose again, we shall die and rise in like manner. Note that here Paul does not use the word “die” instead of “sleep” in order to emphasize a fact on purpose ---- since the Lord Jesus had sufficiently borne the dread and penalty of death, those who believe the Lord will no longer fear death (see Heb. 2:14-15).

    “Those who sleep in Jesus”: those who are dead in Christ (see v.16);

“Even so God will bring with Him”, “bring with Him”, it shows that those who have been dead shall rise firstly (see v.16) and then meet and be with the Lord.

   Controversial Clarification: “those who sleep in Jesus”, some Bible exegetes think it is “those who have fallen asleep by the Lord”, so here “those who sleep in Jesus” shall be explained as “those who are martyred for the Lord”. Therefore, only those who are martyred for the Lord are qualified to be brought by the Lord. In fact, such explanation is too forced, for it is only according to the preposition and yet ignores the context. Moreover, all believers come to the Father “by Jesus” (John 14:6), so it is still proper to explain as “all the believers who have been dead”.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The faith of Christians is living faith and is the faith by which we can apply the principle we believe into our practical life.

2)    Not only is the Lord Jesus Christ with us today and brings us to walk in the way of life, but also he will be with us in the future and bring us into glory (Heb. 2:10).


1Thess. 4:15 “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.

   YLT: “for this to you we say in the word of the Lord, that we who are living -- who do remain over to the presence of the Lord -- may not precede those asleep,”

   Meaning of Words: coming”: a being near, advent, presence;

   Literal Meaning: for this we say to you by the word of the Lord, by the word of the Lord, what Paul will say has not been mentioned in the Four Books of the Gospel: 1) the Lord directly says to Paul and reveals him (Gal. 1:12); 2) when the Lord on the earth, He had mentioned this, which was then orally passed down by the disciples whom heard it.

“That we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord”, it refers to believers who are alive when the Lord comes again. Note that here it mentions not only “alive” but also “remain” (see v.17). Indeed a man “remains” while alive on the earth, so there is no need to mention “remain”. However, the wording of the Scriptures often has deep and specific meaning. “Remain”, according to the original, it can also be translated as “leaving all around”, which indicates that these believers who are alive and remain are left by the Lord, so they are supposed to be the believers who have not been “taken away” by the Lord and yet are “left” before the Great Tribulation (see Matt. 24:39-41).

“We”, it is the identification of the writer with the receiver, which does not mean Paul believes he will be alive until the Lord comes, for he also mentions in other epistles that God will raise “us” up from the dead (see 1Cor. 6:14; 2Cor. 4:14).

“Will by no means precede those who are asleep”, it points out the order of believers’ rapture when the Lord comes again and settles a kind of possible doubt among believers in Thessalonica at that time ---- they were afraid that believers who had passed away before the Lord’s coming again might lose the blessing of being caught to meet the Lord.

According to these scriptures (v.15-17), the order of the Lord’s being caught when the Lord comes again is as follows: 1) the second coming of Christ; 2) believers who have been dead rise; 3) believers who are alive are transfigured (1Cor. 15:52) and the risen believers will be caught together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.


1Thess. 4:16 “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.

   YLT: “because the Lord himself, in a shout, in the voice of a chief-messenger, and in the trump of God, shall come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise first,”

   Literal Meaning: for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven”, it fulfills the words the Lord said before his ascension. “He shall thus come in the manner in which you have beheld him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11);

“With a shout, with the voice of an archangel, when the Lord comes, there are three kinds of different voices, reminding men to note that some earth-shaking things shall happen. “With a shout, it is a kind of commanding shout, just like the rallying shout; “with the voice of an archangel, possibly, it may be the voice that the angels out of the temple in the heaven shout to the Son of man who sits above the clouds (see Rev. 14:14-16). “And with the trumpet of God”, this is the last trumpet (1Cor. 15:52). Possibly it is for the purpose of assembling those whom God has redeemed (see Num. 10:2).

Since here it describes the conditions when the Lord comes ---- there are three kinds of attractive voices, it must raise the attention of the whole world. There will be “the trumpet of God”, so it refers to the Lord’s second coming in the second public phase (see Matt. 24:27-31), not the first hidden phase (see Matt. 24:36-44). The first phase may happen before the Great Tribulation, and the second phase during the Great Tribulation. 

And the dead in Christ will rise first”, it indicates that Christians who have been dead before death will rise after hearing the voices.


1Thess. 4:17 “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.

   YLT: “then we who are living, who are remaining over, together with them shall be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in air, and so always with the Lord we shall be;”

   Meaning of Words: be caught up”: seize, pluck, take (by force), pull; “meet”: encounter;

   Literal Meaning: then we who are alive and remain”: believers who are alive and remain on the earth (see v.15);

“Shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”, “them”: the risen believers (see v.16); those who overcome will be caught to the throne of God in the third heaven (Rev. 12:5-6, 14) when the Lord comes privately before the Tribulation of the three years and a half at the end of the generation. And the most of believers will be left (Matt. 24:39-41) until the Lord’s open coming at the end of the Tribulation, and will be caught together with the risen believers in the clouds in the air.

And thus we shall always be with the Lord”, this is a general word. From being caught to meet the Lord to being with the Lord forever, there are still many details therein.

   Controversial Clarification: shall be caught up together with them in the clouds”, this is one of the scriptures that refer to the “rapture”, which is seldom clearly mentioned in the New Testament. And the rapture here is accompanied with three big voices (see v.16). Therefore, traditional Bible exegetes think the rapture is not secret, but open and obvious. And they even regard believer’ being caught up as all believers’ “being caught up together”, that is to say, the whole church shall be caught up together at the same time. And those who believe the church will be caught up at the same time are divided into three schools, namely, Pre-tribulation Rapture, Mid-tribulation Rapture, and Post-tribulation Rapture. Each school is supported by some renowned spiritual giants. However, such three kinds of interpretation have flaws and contradictions with many scriptures. Gradually, many Bible exegetes believe “Partial Rapture”, e.g. James Hudson Taylor, Austin Spark and Watchman Nee etc. The complier of this book also agrees with such interpretation for reasons as below: 1) when the Lord Jesus prophesies the coming of the Son of man, He has clearly mentioned that “one is taken and one is left” (Matt. 24:39-41). He that is taken is the one who overcomes (see Rev. 3:10), and he that is left is the common believer. And the Lord describes his coming comes as the coming of a “thief” (Matt. 24:43), so it may refer to his secret coming in the air before the Tribulation; 2) this paragraph mentions “those who are alive and remain” (v.15, 17), suggesting that those who are caught up are alive then and yet were “left” previously, namely, believers who are left, so here it may refer to the open taking of the rest of the believers after the Tribulation; 3) in the Book of Revelation, it reveals those who overcome in different phases (Rev. 14:1-5; 15:2-3) and those who are caught up in different groups (Rev. 12:5; 14:15-16; 16:15). Therefore, there will be still believers who overcome and are caught up during the Tribulation.

And thus we shall always be with the Lord”, many Christians misuse this verse, thinking that the differences between “victory and failure” exist only when believers are alive. Once believers have dead or have been raised to meet the Lord, there will be of no difference, and all believers “shall” be with the Lord immediately. Therefore, “there is no judgment for Christians after death”. This is misunderstanding of the Scriptures. The conversations and works of Christians after being saved shall still be judged by the Lord (see Matt. 5:22; 7:21; 24:51; 25:19; 1Cor. 3:13; 2Cor. 5:10; 1Pet. 4:17 etc.).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    To be with the Lord is the main hope of believers (see 1Thess. 5:10; John 14:3; 2Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Col. 3:4).

2)    Death is only a gateway for Christians to eternity (someone even needs not to go through death). Our union with Christ is built by faith, which can not be conquered by death.


1Thess. 4:18 “Therefore comfort one another with these words.

   YLT: “so, then, comfort ye one another in these words.”

   Literal Meaning: therefore”, this verse is the conclusion of the words from verse 13 to 17.

    “Comfort one another with these words”, “these words” refer to the teaching from verse thirteen to seventeen. If someone in the church passes away, such words would be profitable to mutual comfort and encouragement.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Christians need not be sorrowful (v.13), for the words of God are the best comfort, which are far effective than men’s own words of comfort.

2)    Believers shall often comfort one another by the words of the Lord’s coming again, for this is what the present church is waiting for.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


Exhortations in Love

A.  The attitudes of exhortation (v.1-2):

1.  Stand in the position of brothers ---- “brethren” (v.1a);

2.  Be humble ---- “urge in the Lord Jesus” (v.1b);

3.  Be genuine ---- “urge and exhort” (v.1b);

4.  Expect earnestly ---- “you should … more and more … just as you…” (v.1c);

5.  Remind ---- “you know” (v.2);

B.  The contents of exhortation (v.3-12):

1.  Sanctification (v.3-8);

a.Sanctification is the will of God (v.3);

b.Possess one’s own vessel in sanctification and honor (v.4);

c.  Not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles (v.5);

d.Not take advantage of or defraud his brother (v.6);

e.God called us in holiness (v.7);

f.   He who rejects has rejected God who has also given us His Holy Spirit (v.8);

2.  Love one another (v.9-10);

3.  Aspire to lead a quiet life (v.11-12);


Reasons Why Christians Should Be Sanctified

A.  For sanctification pleases God (v.1);

B.  For sanctification is the commandment of the Lord Jesus (v.2);

C.  For the will of God is our sanctification (v.3);

D.  For sanctification makes us separated from the Gentiles (v.4-5);

E.  For sanctification makes us not take advantage or defraud brothers (v.6a);

F.   For sanctification delivers us from the vengeance of the Lord (v.6b);

G.  For sanctification is the purpose of God’s calling upon us (v.7);

H.  For sanctification makes us not reject God who has given us His Spirit (v.8);


The Relation of the Works of the Divine Trinity with Believer’s Sanctification

A.  God the Father:

1.  Sanctification is His will that pleases Him (v.1, 3);

2.  He reveals His holy disposition to believers (v.5);

3.  He calls believers in holiness (v.7);

4.  He has given the Holy Spirit to sanctify us (v.8);

B.  The Lord Jesus:

1.  He commands and exhorts believers to be sanctified (v.1-2);

2.  He shall reward the disobedient believers (v.6);

C.  The Holy Spirit ---- help each believers to be sanctified (v.8);


The Procedures that God Makes Believers Sanctified

A.  The first step ---- God has firstly had the will of our sanctification (v.3);

B.  The second step ---- God then calls us in holiness (v.7);

C.  The third step ---- God has given us the Holy Spirit to sanctify us (v.8);


The Lord’s Coming again and Believers’ Being Caught up

A.  The Lord’s coming again is the hope of believers who have been dead (v.13-15):

1.  They need not mourn for the dead believers or lose hope (v.13);

2.  Believers who have been dead shall rise (v.14-15):

a.    The first proof: Jesus dies and rose again;

b.    The second proof: God will bring believers who have dead with the Lord together;

c.    The third proof: the words of the Lord;

B.  The conditions of the Lord’s coming again and the order of believers’ being caught up (v.16-17):

1. There will be three voices when the Lord comes again (v.16a);

2. The orders of believers’ being caught up (v.16b-17):

a.    Those who have dead in Christ shall rise firstly;

b.    We who are alive and remain will also be caught up with them;

c.In the clouds to meet the Lord in the air;

d.    We shall always be with the Lord.

C.  The words concerning the Lord’s coming again and believers’ being caught up shall be used to comfort one another (v.18);


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou