1 Thessalonians Chapter 4: Christ’s Second Coming
Despite the environment in Thessalonica before Paul and Timothy arrived, the evidence based on Paul’s letters is that the people of the church at Thessalonica were gloriously transformed. For them the Hellenistic creeds were no longer applicable. Increasingly the people were able to act in faith, trusting not only God but also each other. They developed the capacity to care for one another, and their earlier tendency toward self-interest, materialism and natural physical drives and passions were replaced by new values and new desires.
As one can easily imagine, when they were still new and relatively immature Christians, they developed concerns for their loved ones who had died (or had “fallen asleep in Christ”) before Christ’s return. Paul knew of this concern (probably from Timothy’s report) and put them at ease in chapter 4 verses 13–18, in which he indicates that they should not grieve like the uninformed — like the rest of mankind. Paul reassures them that when Christ returns, those who were dead in Christ will rise first. This most certainly put the Thessalonians at ease and gave them much hope in the prospect of being reunited with those who had gone before. Paul took a very understandable concern that might cause their faith to waver and turned it into a message of hope that fortified their faith and their enthusiasm for the future.
A Moment to Reflect:
As early as 50 AD, at the time Paul wrote this letter, believers were expecting Christ’s return to be imminent. In verse 17, Paul himself seems to indicate that he will be among those who will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Paul was answering the questions of the Thessalonians when he said those who died in Christ would rise first, but in reality, the power of Paul’s letters is that they speak as well to us, even today, almost 2,000 years later. Are you concerned that it has taken this long for the Lord to physically return? Or are you encouraged to know that your death before His return won’t spoil your ultimate glory?