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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
1 Thessalonians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

IV.

(1) We now approach the practical portion of the Epistle. The first point on which the Thessalonians need instruction is in the matter of social purity (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).

Furthermore hardly expresses the original. St. Paul is not adding a further injunction, for he has as yet given none. It is literally, For the rest, then; and serves to introduce the conclusion of the letter.

Beseech.—The marginal request is better, the word being one of calm and friendly asking, implying that the person so addressed will recognise the propriety of complying.

Exhort is correct, though “encourage” suits the context a little better, as assuming that they are already so acting, but not with enough heart.

By the Lord.—Better, in the Lord. It is not an adjuration, as in Romans 12:1, but states the authoritative ground of his request. “We encourage you, on the strength of our union in the Lord Jesus.” (Comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:1.)

How ye ought to walk.—Literally, the how. It indicates that part of the apostolic tradition was a systematic moral code, almost as if it were the title of a well-known book. “We gave you the ‘How ye ought to walk, so as to please God.’“ The best texts add immediately after, “even as also ye walk.”

Abound more and more.—Or, still more. “You did receive of us the rules of a holy life; you are living by them, and that to a very large degree; but we beg you and encourage you, on the faith of Christians, to be still more lavish in your self-denial.”


Verse 2

(2) For ye know.—He calls on the Thessalonians’ memory to support his statement, “ye received;” at the same time awakening their interest to catch the special point next to come, by laying stress on “what commandments.”

By the Lord Jesus.—Not as if the Lord were the person who took the commandments from St. Paul to the Thessalonians, but the person by means of whose inspiration St. Paul was enabled to give such commandments.


Verse 3

(3) For.—The word further enforces the appeal to their memory: “Ye know what commandments . . . for this (you will recollect) is what God wants;” “a commandment given through the Lord Jesus,” being, of course, identical with “God’s will.”

Your sanctification.—In apposition to the word this. The mere conversion, justification, salvation of us are not the aim of God: He would have us holy. The general idea of sanctification passes however here, as the following clauses show, into the more limited sense of purification.

Fornication.—The word is often used in late Greek for any kind of impurity, as, e.g., 1 Corinthians 5:1, of incest; but here it must be understood in its strict sense. To the Gentile mind, while the wickedness of adultery or incest was fully recognised, it was a novelty to be told that fornication was a “deadly sin;” hence the strange connection in which it stands in the Synodal letter to the Gentile churches (Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25). This consideration also makes it easier to understand how St. Paul can praise these Gentile Thessalonians so heartily, although they need earnest correction on this vital point. It is a true instance of the sacerdotal metriopathy (or, compassionate consideration) towards the ignorant and deceived. (See Hebrews 5:1-2.)


Verse 4

(4) Should know.—The clause is simply parallel to the last, and, with it, explains the word “sanctification.” The Bulgarian Father, Theophylact, says pointedly in reference to the word “to know” or “understand,” “He indicates that chastity is a matter that requires self-discipline and study.” (Comp. Ephesians 5:17.)

To possess his vessel.—The word rendered “to possess” should rather be translated, to procure, win, gain possession of. The word “vessel” here has been interpreted in two ways: (1) “his wife;” (2) “his body.” In favour of (1) it is argued that (while “gaining possession of one’s own body” is unintelligible), “acquiring a wife of one’s own” is an ordinary Greek expression; that in this context, “a vessel,” or “instrument,” is an expressive and natural metaphor; that the word was familiar to Hebrew speakers in that sense (e.g., Ahasuerus says of Vashti, in one of the Targums, “My vessel which I use is neither Median nor Persian, but Chaldee”); that St. Peter (1 Peter 3:7) uses the word of the wife. But it may be answered that this interpretation does not suit our context; first, because it would be laying an emphatic and binding veto upon celibacy, if “each one” is “to acquire a wife of his own;” secondly, because of the verb “to know,” it certainly being no part of a religious man’s duty “to know how to procure a wife;” thirdly, because the Greek cannot be translated “a vessel (or wife) of his own,” but “his own vessel” (or wife)—literally, the vessel of himself—and to speak of “procuring” the wife who is already one’s own seems unmeaning. Furthermore, although the quotations from the Targums are certainly to the point, that from St. Peter distinctly points the other way, inasmuch as the wife is called “the weaker vessel of the two,” evidently meaning that the husband is also “a vessel.” Thus we are driven to suppose that (2) the “vessel” is the man’s own self. This usage also is well supported. In 1 Samuel 21:5, it is used in precisely this sense, and in the same context, as well as in 1 Peter 3:7. The passages, however, usually quoted in support of this interpretation from 2 Corinthians 4:7, Philo, Barnabas, Lucretius, &c, do not seem quite parallel; for there the word signifies a “vessel,” in the sense of a receptacle for containing something; here it is rather “an instrument” or “implement “for doing something. Hence it approaches more nearly to the use in such phrases as Acts 9:15, “a vessel of choice,” or even (though the Greek word is different) to Romans 6:13. “The vessel of himself” (the “himself” being in the Greek strongly emphasised) means, not “the vessel which is his own,” but “the vessel or instrument which consists of himself.” Thus the body, which of course is chiefly meant here, is not dissociated from the man’s personality, as in the fanciful Platonism of Philo, but almost identified with it: the Incarnation has taught us the true dignity of the body. Thus it becomes easy to understand what is meant by “knowing how to gain possession of” such an instrument as the body with its many faculties, rescuing it from its vile prostitution, and wielding it wisely for its proper uses. So the same Greek verb is used, and mistranslated in our version, in Luke 21:19, “In your patience possess ye your souls.”

In sanctification and honour.—The circumstances in which—almost the means by which—the man may acquire and keep this skilful power over his instrument:—“in a course of self-purification and of self-reverence.” The reverence due to the instrument is brought out in a passage of St. Peter evidently modelled upon this (1 Peter 3:7). (Comp. also 2 Timothy 2:21, “an instrument for honourable purposes, and to be honourably treated, consecrated, and handy for its owner’s use.”)


Verse 5

(5) Not in the lust of concupiscence, for such a method of using one’s faculties, such an attempt to acquire mastery of vital powers, is really to abandon them altogether to others. This notion is involved in the very word here translated “lust,” which is more often rendered “passion,” and implies something which befalls a man, something done to him: “Not in the helpless passivity of concupiscence” or uncontrolled desire.

The Gentiles which know not God.—Mind the punctuation. The readers of the letter were “Gentiles which knew God.” Their brother Thessalonians. are held up to them as melancholy examples of men who are trying in the wrong way to show their power over themselves. Remark that this is not one of the crimes which he alleges against Jews.


Verse 6

(6) That no man.—The form of the Greek shows that this is not exactly parallel with the preceding clauses, as if it ran, “this is God’s will, your sanctification, for you to abstain, for you to know how to possess, for you not to go beyond,” &c. It is a final clause, expressing the purpose of such continence as has just been described. Men are to be chaste and self-possessed, not only for their own salvation’s sake, but in justice to their brethren. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, they were to love for the sake of becoming holy; here they are to be holy for the sake of charity—a blessed action and reaction.

Defraud his brother.—The original word implies a rapacious dishonesty, of which any person is guilty who gives the rein to his lusts, especially the adulterer. The substantive formed from it is usually translated covetousness, and is generally thought to be used in this special sense in Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5. When all men are brethren the sin becomes worse.

In any matter should undoubtedly be in the matter. St. Paul chooses the phrase for delicacy’s sake, both here and in 2 Corinthians 7:11.

Because that the Lord.—Again an anticipation of the Advent, for the vengeance meant is that of the Judgment Day, not the natural retribution which carnal sin brings with it. The “Lord,” therefore, in this context probably means more particularly the Incarnate Son, who has a special claim upon men’s bodies (1 Corinthians 6:13).

Have forewarned.—Rather, did forewarn. It was part of the Apostles’ original teaching at Thessalonica.


Verse 7

(7) For God.—This gives the reason for stating that the Lord will take vengeance on such sins; because they are not part of the terms on which His Father called us. It should be “did not call.” These 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, sum up the little disquisition, returning to the principle announced in 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.—The preposition translated “unto” has the same force in Galatians 5:13, “Called unto liberty,” and Ephesians 2:10, “Created unto good works.” It implies not so much the definite end to which we are invited, as the terms on which the invitation will still stand; for the call is not yet accomplished. (See Note on 1 Thessalonians 2:12.) The second “unto” in the Greek is simply “in,” used in the same sense as in 1 Thessalonians 4:4. Paraphrase, “For God did not call us on the understanding that we might be unclean, but by the way of sanctification.”

Holiness is a mistranslation for sanctification. The process, not the quality, is meant.


Verse 8

(8) “So you see that to act contumeliously in the matter is to act contumeliously not only towards your neighbour, but towards God Himself, and that, too, after He has given you a gift which should have preserved you from these corruptions.”

He . . . that despiseth.—The verb means to treat as insignificant either persons or things. Here the object is not supplied in the first instance, in order to heighten the effect of the second clause. If we were to supply it, it would include all the rights which the unclean liver spurns, “the commandments which we (mere men as you thought us) gave you,” the “brother” whose domestic happiness has been invaded, the unfortunate victim herself, and, finally, the “honour” due to the sinner’s own body. Since it was God who ordered the relations in which we all stand to one another, contempt for these relations is contempt for Him.

Who hath also given.—Mistranslated for “who also gave.” St. Paul is looking back to the day when he confirmed them; for the right reading is not “unto us,” but “unto you,” or more correctly “into you”—i.e., “to enter into you, and dwell there” (John 14:17, and many other places). The word “holy” in the original is very emphatically put:” Who also gave His Spirit—His Holy Spirit—to enter you,” thus bringing out the startling contrast between such foul lives and the holiness which befitted and was possible (Romans 6:14; Romans 8:3-4) for men in whom the Holy Ghost, communicated by the laying on of hands, vouchsafed to dwell.


Verse 9

(9) But . . .—This forms the second subject of instruction, following naturally on the first. “We are very glad to hear of so strong a Christian feeling of brotherhood among you, and think it almost unnecessary to say anything more to you about it; still your charity is hardly catholic enough, nor have you exercised it with sufficient sobriety and thrift.”

Brotherly love.—Not love of men at large, but of Christians in particular: in fact, pretty nearly what we call “Church feeling.” It is the natural affection of those who feel that they are children of the same Father and the same mother (Galatians 4:26), members of the same “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). In itself, it is not the most exalted of graces, being to some extent the outcome of community of interests; therefore St. Peter exhorts his readers to make it a means of obtaining the higher grace of charity (1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7). St. Paul in this place does mean the sentiment rather than the practice, but has specially in view the exercise of liberality towards fellow-Christians. The feeling of community can only be known by acts that prove it.

Ye need not.—A sweet rhetorical figure, by which men are encouraged to the performance of a duty in which they are not perfect, by the praising of their imperfect attempts: a specimen of that “courtesy” which is a part of “brotherly love.” (See 1 Peter 3:8.) “I” should be we, or any.

Ye yourselves.—It seems as if St. Paul had intended at first to say, “For ye yourselves know without any instruction,” but suddenly inserts the source of their knowledge instead:” For ye yourselves are divinely taught already.” This seems more natural to the context (though grammatically less easy) than to understand:” For ye yourselves (as well as we) are taught of God.” (Comp., however, the references.) God’s teaching here comes (though perhaps other modes are not excluded) by the direct contact with the indwelling Spirit. (See 1 John 2:27.)

To love.—In the Greek this is not the simple infinitive after “taught;” it expresses rather the result and issue of God’s teaching: “have been so schooled by God as to love one another.” This love is not actually contrasted with the “brotherly kindness” above, but means more.


Verse 10

(10) And indeed ye do it—i.e., “love one another;” but the words seem to imply a very practical form of love. This fact justifies St. Paul in saying that the Thessalonians were so taught of God.

Toward.—Rather, even unto; as far as unto. The Thessalonians’ charity has travelled already a long way from its starting-point at home, extending over all northern Greece. As Thessalonica had been the centre of evangelisation (1 Thessalonians 1:8), so also of the maintenance of the Churches. The words need not necessarily (though they do probably) imply a number of missionary stations besides the three places where the Apostles had preached.

Increase more and more.—A little too emphatic: abound (or, overflow) still more. The words are identical with those in 1 Thessalonians 4:1. The brotherly kindness of the Thessalonians did not spread over a wide enough area in merely traversing Macedonia, nor was it so unostentatious as true love should be.


Verse 11

(11)And that ye study to be quiet.—The word means more than “study;” “and that ye make it your ambition to keep quiet”—their ambition having formerly been to make a stir among the Churches. It is a strong use of the rhetorical figure called oxymoron, or combining words of contrary meaning in order to give force and point to the style. The warnings in this verse are not directed against defiance of the law of brotherly love, but against a thoroughly wrong mode of showing that love: the unquietness, meddlesomeness, desultoriness with which it was accompanied are not so much instances of unkindness to the brotherhood as scandals to the heathen. Hence the conjunction at the beginning of the verse has something of an adversative force: “We beg you to be even more abundantly liberal, and (yet) at the same time to agitate for perfect calmness about it.” It is commonly supposed (but proof is impossible) that the unsettlement arose from belief in the nearness of the Advent.

Do your own business.—Not merely was each individual to do his own work, but the whole Church was to refrain from interfering ostentatiously with other Churches. In all languages, “to mind one’s own business” signifies rather the negative idea of ceasing to meddle than the positive idea of industry.

Work with your own hands.—Apparently the Thessalonians had been so busy in organising away from home that they had had no time to see to their own industry, and so (see end of next verse) were beginning to fall into difficulties. The words “with your own hands” are supposed to indicate that most of the Thessalonian Christians were of the artisan class.


Verse 12

(12) Honestly.—Not in our modern sense of the word, but “honourably,” “creditably.”

Toward—i.e., ”in reference to,” “in your connection with.” The heathen were certain to be watching the conduct of the members of the new religion, and it would bring down political suspicion if they were seen to be acting more like agitators for a secret society than honest citizens who worked at their handicraft and calling.

Of nothing.—Right: the marginal version is hardly consistent with the Greek. Two purposes will be fulfilled by their industry: (1) to allay heathen suspicion; (2) to be well supplied themselves. It seems as if they had been reduced to begging of other Churches in return for their own expensive charities.


Verse 13

(13) But.—We pass to the third clearly marked point: the share of the Christian dead in the Coming of Christ. Possibly an association of ideas may have caused St. Paul to join these two subjects, of quietude and the Advent, so closely (see Note on 1 Thessalonians 4:11). “You need have no distress about your dead: when Christ comes, they will be there too; they will come with Him, and we shall be caught up to meet them.”

I would not have you to be ignorant.—The right reading is we. St. Paul is still speaking in the name of his companions as well as his own. The phrase is very weighty, and marks how lamentable such a piece of ignorance would be. (See references in the margin.)

Which are asleep.—The best reading is rather, which fall asleep; the grief renewed itself over each successive death-bed. The image of sleep is a mere metaphor, drawn from the outward phenomena of death, and is used as an euphemism for death; therefore no doctrine can be deduced with precision from it. It cannot be said (for instance; on the strength of such passages alone, that only the body sleeps, and not the soul; or, again, that the soul sleeps while the body remains in the grave. That the soul, or at any rate the spirit, still retains consciousness after dissolution is clear from other places; but when the metaphor of sleep is used, it is used of the whole man (e.g., John 11:11, “Lazarus”—not” Lazarus’ body”—“sleepeth”), the explanation being either that stated above—i.e., that the word is simply picturesque, describing the peaceful appearance of the dead—or that the reference is to rest from labour (Revelation 14:13). At the same time, the metaphor suggests (otherwise it would be misleading, and St. Paul would not have used it) a continued (even if partly unconscious) existence, and the possibility of a reawakening: Again, for the same reason—i.e., because the word is metaphorical, not doctrinal—it cannot be limited to the Christian dead: when the writers need to mark specially the departed Christians they annex qualifying words, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:14. Of course, on the mention of “the dead,” the Thessalonians will at once think of their own brethren departed, so that there is no ambiguity.

That ye sorrow not.—The words express St. Paul’s object in wishing them to know the truth. He wants them not to sorrow at all over the dead; sorrow is only fit for Gentiles who have no hope. He does not mean that they are not to sorrow to the same degree as those outside the Church, but that to Christians, who have a hope, and such a hope, death ought to have no sorrows. The Office of Burial in the Prayer-book is as joyous as the Eucharistic Office itself.

Others.—The Greek word is “the others, those who have no hope,” and includes all who were not members of the Church: “That ye mourn not like the rest, which have no hope.” The having no hope does not mean that there is no hope for them, but that they are not cheered by hope.


Verse 13-14

Asleep in Jesus

But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him.—1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.

St. Paul, in the early part of his ministry, with all the Christian disciples, was looking for the speedy return of Jesus. And the question was raised, “If it be so, if Jesus is coming to establish His Church, and we shall be with Him in His glory, then what of our brethren who have passed out of the world before us?” This was the absorbing question. Mothers had lost their children, brothers had lost their brothers. One by one these had passed out of their sight. And those who remained said, “What is to become of those who are taken away from us out of this visible world before Christ comes back here?” St. Paul’s answer was that they who remained and were alive should not “prevent” (go before) those who had passed away. Jesus would bring with Him those who had already died. He would go through the regions of the dead and bring back the souls that had once belonged to this world, and establish their lives. Thus those who had died and those whom Christ should find at His coming would be united and would dwell for ever with God.

The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians are the epistles of immortality. They have vibrated with rich assurance in multitudes of sorrowing Christian hearts, as men have stood on the borders of life and wondered what is to be their destiny in that state of being towards which their thoughts are so constantly pressing. The idea of immortality has given rise to the greatest emotions which it is possible for men to feel. It has caused the highest hopes and the most terrible fears. The immortal soul has anticipated its own immortality, and refused to believe in any specious argument that tells it life will end here. Pictures of that future life come floating down into this present life. Men have lived in that other world years before they went there. Men have kept company with the souls there in closer association than with those who were beside them all the time. Multitudes who have doubted the immortality of the soul in their days of ease have, in days of distress and strain, by the bedside of dear friends, believed with a deep human belief that nothing could shake. The heart of man finds its only satisfaction in the expectation of another life. The reaching after immortality has been the heart’s deepest underlying root in all the ages of mankind. This world is not enough. We put out our hand, and it falls on one little part of the great scenery; we listen, and hear but one note out of the great chorus. The Thessalonians believed in the other life because they found nothing in this life to satisfy them. We, too, lay hold on the great hope in order to forget how cruel, disappointing, and bewildering this life is which we are living here. And when that impulse rises in our hearts, and we look back amidst our cries and struggles and see the same impulse flickering or else blazing in lives gone before, we become stronger by the sight of their faith.1 [Note: Phillips Brooks, The Spiritual Man, 25.]

I

Sorrow for the Dead

1. There are two very different kinds of sorrow. There is, first, the sorrow which St. Paul here describes as the sorrow of “the rest which have no hope,” and elsewhere as “the sorrow of the world” that “worketh death.” We may hear it in the wail of paganism over the departed. It views life as a vast disorder, a chaos where all is blank, haphazard, meaningless, without a voice to comfort or a mind to explain. Its characteristic attitude is a surrender to the inevitable which treads with tight lips on to a silent grave. The first mark of this sorrow is that it is ignorant; and, as a natural result, its second mark is that it is hopeless, it cannot look forward. This is “the sorrow of the rest,” “the sorrow of the world.”

“If we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead.” How much hinges on this! What step behind the Veil can we take without this? Is it annihilation, or is it metempsychosis, or is it absorption into the Divine Nature, if there be one? Ask all the ages, and you have just a dead silence of six thousand years. You may fancy a ghostly laugh at your perplexity, but it is all fancy. There is nothing so distinct as laughter. It is all blank and world-wide silence. There is a little dust before your eyes, and that is all you know of the matter.1 [Note: Letters of James Smetham, 171.]

2. In strong contrast, over against this sorrow of ignorance and despair, stands the sorrow that understands. It does not deny itself and affect an exaltation of spirit which it cannot feel. It is chastened and humble, accepting the strokes of affliction in patience, because it knows that they must be allowed by Almighty Love. It is a sorrow which develops sympathy, and sanctifies the affections, and breathes strength and nobility into character. It prepares the sufferer to minister comfort to others. It does not become cynical, but all the more tender for its grief, and more kindly in its judgment of others. Its first mark is that it believes and knows; and its second—and this is the result of its knowledge—that it is strong and joyful as it surveys the prospect of “the glory that shall be revealed.” This is the “godly sorrow,” the sorrow which is not as that of “the rest, which have no hope.”

In the catacombs of Rome, that wonderful city of the dead, where several millions have been laid to rest, there is no sign of mourning; everything—picture, epitaph, emblem—is bright and joyous. Although an almost countless number of these early followers of Christ were buried in the periods of bitter persecution, no hint of vengeance on their oppressors is engraved or painted; all breathes gentleness, forgiveness, immortal life. With calm, unwavering confidence these early Christians recorded in a few bright words their assurance that the soul of the departed brother or sister had been admitted to the happy lot reserved for the just who leave this world in peace, their certainty that the soul was united with the saints, their faith that it was with God, and in the enjoyment of good things. Intensely they realized that all the faithful, whether in the body or out of the body, were still living members of one great family, knit together in closest bonds of a love stronger than death. They believed with an intense faith in the communion of saints. And for the departed they knew of no break in existence, no long dreamless sleep, no time, long or short, of waiting for blessedness. The teaching of our Redeemer was remembered well: “To-day,” He said to the dying thief hanging by His side, “to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise!” This was the steady, unwavering faith of the Christians whose bodies rest in the vast cemetery which lies all round old Rome.1 [Note: H. D. M. Spence-Jones.]

II

The New Aspect of Death

1. There is nothing more marvellous in the history of Christianity than the change which it wrought in men’s views of death. The change is one stamped into the very life of humanity, however it may be explained. Whereas men had previously thought of death as only a great darkness, or a dreamless and perpetual sleep, they began to think of it as a change from darkness to light, and as a sleep with a glorious awakening. The brightness and joy were no longer here. This was not the true life from which men should shrink to part. All was brighter in the future; the higher life was above. Death was not only welcome, but joyfully welcome. To die was gain. It was “to depart, and be with Christ; which is far better.” This was not merely the experience of an enthusiastic Apostle; it became the overwhelming experience of hundreds and thousands. Death was swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” was the triumphant echo from Jerusalem to Rome, and from Antioch to Alexandria, in thousands of hearts, that had but lately known no hope and shared no enthusiasm—not even the enthusiasm of a common country or common citizenship.

2. What is the explanation of all this? What was it that sent such a thrill of hopeful anticipation through a world dying of philosophic despair and moral perplexity and indifference? Was it any higher speculation? any intellectual discovery? any eclectic accident or amalgam of Jewish inspiration with Hellenic thought? Men had everywhere—in Greece and Rome, in Alexandria and Jerusalem—been trying such modes of reviving a dead world, of reawakening spiritual hopefulness; but without success. No mere opinion or combination of opinions wrought this great change. Men did not learn anything more of the future than they had formerly known; no philosopher had discovered its possibilities or unveiled its secrets. But there had gone forth from a few simple men, and from one of more learning and power than the others, the faithful saying that “Christ is risen indeed.” “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” And it was this suddenly inspired faith that raised the world from its insensibility and corruption, and kindled it with a new hope—and the joy of a life not meted by mortal bounds, but “incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”

3. It was on the strength of this assurance that St. Paul sought to comfort the Thessalonians. They had been—from what causes are not said—in anxiety as to the fate of their departed friends. They seem to have doubted whether these friends would share with them in the resurrection of the dead and the joy of the second coming of the Lord. The Apostle assured them that they had no need to be in trouble. The departed were safe with God, and the same great faith in the death and resurrection of Christ that sustained themselves was the ground of confidence for all.

Jesus Christ, who knew the universe, whose eye penetrated the unseen, who could not be mistaken, who knew the meaning of every word He spoke and of everything He did, died—died, committing His person and spirit into the hands of a Personal God, that God being His Father. Here is comfort; I feel it, I praise God for it; I see light amidst darkness; simplicity amidst confusion, a path passing through the mysteries of the unseen and going straight up to the throne of God; midnight and great depths are as a wall on either side, but the path itself is beautiful and safe, for Jesus, the very truth and life, goes before as my forerunner. Give me grace only to have this mind which was in Jesus—to be able amidst the agonies of death to see God as my Father, and to know nothing more than this, that I can commit myself into His hands, then, O Death, where is thy sting?—O Grave, where is thy victory?1 [Note: Norman Macleod, Love the Fulfilling of the Law, 219.]

I agree entirely with what you have said of Death in your last letter; but at the same time I know well that the first touch of his hand is cold, and that he comes to us, as the rest of God’s angels do, in disguise. But we are enabled to see his face fully at last, and it is that of a seraph. So it is with all. Disease, poverty, death, sorrow, all come to us with unbenign countenances; but from one after another the mask falls off, and we behold faces which retain the glory and the calm of having looked in the face of God. I know that it will please you if I copy here a little poem which I wrote in April, 1841, and of which I was reminded by what you said of Death in your last letter. It is crude in as far as its artistic merits are considered, but there is a glimpse of good in it.

Sin hath told lies of thee, fair angel Death,

Hath hung a dark veil o’er thy seraph face,

And scared us babes with tales of how, beneath,

Were features like her own. But I, through grace

Of the dear God by whom I live and move,

Have seen that gloomy shroud asunder rent,

And in thine eyes, lustrous with sweet intent,

Have read that thou none other wast but Love.

Thou art the beauteous keeper of that gate

Which leadeth to the soul’s desired home,

And I would live as one who seems to wait

Until thine eyes shall say, “My brother, come!”

And then haste forward with such gladsome pace

As one who sees a welcoming, sweet face;

For thou dost give us what the soul loves best—

In the eternal soul a dwelling-place,

And thy still grave is the unpilfered nest

Of Truth, Love, Peace, and Duty’s perfect rest.1 [Note: Letters of James Russell Lowell, i. 87.]

III

The Victory over Death

“This is the victory that overcometh the world,” says St. John, “even our faith.” And this is the victory, says St. Paul, that overcometh death. “If we believe,” he says. A weight of fact lies behind that “if.” St. Paul writes it in no doubtful mood, as indeed his Greek construction indicates. It is the “if” not of conjecture but of logic, as when we say that such and such results are certain if two straight lines cannot enclose a space. He brings the Thessalonians, anxious about their buried dear ones, back to a certainty of hope by appealing to this certainty of accomplished fact. They knew that Jesus had died and risen. Well then, granting that “if so,” with equal fulness of knowledge were they to say, “Even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Was it a certainty to them that He had risen? Yes; and why? Because, on the one hand, adequate testimony attended the assertion, the testimony not only of the words of many witnesses, but of the moral miracle which those witnesses themselves were; they were transfigured men compared with what they had been before Jesus rose. On the other hand, the Thessalonians had themselves made proof of the transforming power of Him who was presented to them as risen again; they were themselves transfigured men, knowing God, loving God, at peace with Him now, and looking with indescribable assurance of hope for His glory hereafter.

1. It is plainly suggested in the text that in the fact that Jesus died there is a special consolation for those who sorrow for the dead. If Jesus had tasted of all that life brings to us except its close; if through the powers of His Divine nature He had in some way asserted and won for us eternal life apart from death, should we not feel that the darkest tract of human experience was untouched by His sympathy, even if it were transformed by His power? But now, is it not written, “Jesus died”? He is no stranger to the terrors of that mysterious land which one day we all must know. Death is not “the undiscovered country” to Him, for He has explored it for us that we should know no dread. He has stepped into the fast-running waters of that cold river which severs time and eternity, and lo! “a way for the ransomed to pass over” has marked the passage of His pierced feet. Christ died, and therefore Christianity is at home with grief for the dead; and the first condition of an ample comfort is satisfied in the assurance that there is nothing He does not know concerning death.

2. From the fact that “Jesus died,” the Apostle passes on to the triumphant sequel: “and rose again.” Here is the second fact which will illuminate sorrow and rob death of its sting. “We believe that Jesus rose again.” Think what Christ would have been to us, if our faith had been shut up to a bare knowledge that He died. If there had been no stone rolled away on the third morning would not His sepulchre in Joseph’s garden have been, in no small measure, the sepulchre of comfort too? Christian faith, which suns itself in the assurance that “now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept,” knows that it will lose all its brightness, its very vital breath even, if the certainty of that resurrection is broken, and the light and the warmth of that revelation are taken away. In the light of Christ’s resurrection alone does death assume or retain for us any higher meaning than for the ancient world. It is the light of the higher life in Christ which alone glorifies it. And unless this light has shone into our hearts, who can tell whence hope can reach us? We may be resigned or peaceful. We may accept the inevitable with a calm front. We may be even glad to be done with the struggle of existence, and leave our name to be forgotten and our work to be done by others. But in such a mood of mind there is no cheerfulness, no spring of hope. With such a thought St. Paul could comfort neither himself nor the Thessalonians. For himself, indeed, he felt that he would be intensely miserable if he had only such a thought. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Hope in death can spring only from the principle of personal immortality; and this principle has no root save in Christ.

If we quit the living Christ, we quit all hold of the higher life. “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” Heaven becomes a dumb picture; and death—euphemize it as we may—merely blank annihilation. We may say of our dear ones, as we lay them in the dust, that they have fallen asleep; but the gentle words have no true meaning. The sleep is without an awakening. The higher and hopeful side of the image is cut away. The night becomes a perpetual slumber, on which no morning shall ever arise. It is only in the light of the resurrection of Christ that the phrase represents a reality, and the idea of death is transfigured into a nobler life. Let us believe that behind the veil of physical change there is a spiritual Power from which we have come—one who is the Resurrection and the Life—in whom, if we believe, we shall never die,—and we may wait our change, not only with resignation, but with hope, and carry our personal affections and aspirations forward to another and a better state of being, in which they may be satisfied and made perfect.1 [Note: Principal Tulloch, Some Facts of Religion and of Life, 138.]

What do the words “bring with him” signify? Say, if you will, they are too high for us, we cannot attain to them,—and you speak truly. But do not cast them aside because they are too high for you. The sun which shows you all that is at your feet is always too high for you to ascend to it, too bright for you to gaze upon it. These words may be full of illumination to us, in some of our dreariest and darkest hours, though they must be fulfilled to us, before the mists which rise from below to obscure them to us can be entirely scattered.2 [Note: F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day, 405.]

IV

The Name for Death

1. It is to Jesus primarily that the New Testament writers owe their use of sleep as the gracious emblem of death. The word was twice upon our Lord’s lips; once when over the twelve-year-old maid, from whom life had barely ebbed away, He said, “She is not dead, but sleepeth”; and once when in reference to the man Lazarus, from whom life had removed further, He said, “Our friend sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” But Jesus was not the originator of the expression. We find it in the Old Testament, where the prophet Daniel, speaking of the end of the days and the bodily resurrection, designates those who share in it as “them that sleep in the dust of the earth.” And the Old Testament was not the sole origin of the phrase. For it is too natural, too much in accordance with the visibilities of death, not to have suggested itself to many hearts, and to have been shrined in many languages. Many an inscription of Greek and Roman date speaks of death under this figure; but almost always it is with the added, deepened note of despair, that it is a sleep which knows no waking, but lasts through eternal night.

2. The expression in the text “them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus,” suggests a very tender and wonderful thought of closeness and union between our Lord and the living dead, so close that He is, as it were, the atmosphere in which they move, or the house in which they dwell. But, tender and wonderful as the thought is, it is not exactly the Apostle’s idea here. For, accurately rendered, the words run, “them which sleep through Jesus.” They “sleep through Him.” It is by reason of Christ and His work, and by reason of that alone, that death’s darkness is made beautiful, and death’s grimness is softened down to this. What we call death is a complex thing—a bodily phenomenon plus conscience, the sense of sin, the certainty of retribution in the dim beyond. The mere physical fact of death is a trifle. Look at it as you see it in the animals; look at it as you see it in men when they actually come to it. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is painless and easy, and men sink into slumber. Strange, is it not, that so small a reality should have power to cast over human life so immense and obscuring a shadow! Why is it? Because, as St. Paul says, “the sting of death is sin,” and if you can take the sting out of it then there is very little to fear, and it comes down to be an insignificant and transient element in our experience. Now, the death of Jesus Christ takes away the nimbus of apprehension and dread arising from conscience and sin, and the forecast of retribution. Jesus Christ has abolished death, leaving the mere shell, but taking all the substance out of it. It has become a different thing to men, because in that death of His He has exhausted the bitterness, and has made it possible that we should pass into the shadow, and not fear either conscience or sin or judgment.

We may tell the story of the Christian’s burial no longer in that brief hollow phrase which to the ancients seemed the tenderest allusion that could be made to the deceased, “Non est,” he is not; but in words like those of Bunyan’s, so fragrant of heart’s-ease and immortelle,—“The pilgrim they laid in a chamber whose window opened towards the sunrising; the name of that chamber was Peace, where he slept till the break of day.”1 [Note: A. J. Gordon, In Christ, 189.]

Notice with what a profound meaning the Apostle, in this very verse, uses the bare, naked word “died” in reference to Christ, and the softened one “sleep” in reference to us. “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep.” Ah! yes! He died indeed, bearing all that terror with which men’s consciences have invested death. He died indeed, bearing on Himself the sins of the world. He died that no man henceforward need ever die in that same fashion. His death makes our death sleep, and His Resurrection makes our sleep calmly certain of a waking. It is profoundly significant that throughout the whole of the New Testament the plain, naked word “death” is usually applied, not to the physical fact which we ordinarily designate by the name, but to the grim thing of which that physical fact is only the emblem and the parable, viz. the true death which lies in the separation of the soul from God; whilst predominately the New Testament usage calls the physical fact by some other gentler form of expression.1 [Note: Alexander Maclaren.]

V

The Great Consummation

1. The one great assurance of the New Testament in regard to the eternal world—an assurance that ought to be satisfactory and sufficient—is that those who have gone before are with God. Let that cheer us. Let us restrain our wondering and curiosity, or be willing that they should not be satisfied, so long as we know with certainty that every soul passing out of this mortal life into the immortal is with the great, true, loving, unforgetting Father. Such souls are in the hands of a mercy that never fails, in the hands of a power that can provide for all the wants of that unknown life. Is there not, in this teaching which St. Paul sent back by Timothy to the Thessalonians, a kind of answer to one of the deepest questions which we ask? We have here the assurance that there shall be no separation of those who have passed before from those who are left behind. God will gather together all souls, and they shall be together through all eternity.

Is it not true that the fact that our beloved are with the Lord is assuredly meant to develop a new gravitation of the soul towards “that world”? On earth if a dear friend leaves us for the other hemisphere, for a place perhaps of which we never heard before, there rises for us a new interest there, a new attraction. We busy ourselves to find out all we can about the locality and the life, and we supplement information with imagination for very love. “Where the treasure is, there is the heart also.” We live where our affections are. Even so, will not thought and aspiration be even unconsciously magnetized towards the Home which now holds our holy ones? Shall we not through them be drawn anew towards the Lord with whom they now converse face to face.1 [Note: H. C. G. Moule, Concerning Them Which are Asleep, 18.]

2. There are inevitably some perplexities which result from the finiteness of our nature, and the impossibility of comprehending the infinite. We have looked in imagination into the other world, and seen it thronged and crowded with the millions in all the ages sweeping into it, and we have said, “How shall we find the few scattered souls that we have known on earth?” The doubt comes of finiteness. Those few souls are for us essentially the souls of the everlasting life. Next to the Saviour and the Father and the Holy Spirit, the souls through whose ministry our soul has been helped are to us the dwellers in the heavenly world. We shall go to them there as each soul goes to its own degree and place in the life of the New Jerusalem. We come back to the truthfulness of our first impulse, and know that we are to be not only for ever with the Lord, but for ever with all those we love. The question, “Shall we know each other there?” presses upon the souls of believers in all ages. The Thessalonians longed, as we long, for the everlasting company of those near and dear. And St. Paul’s assurance was that God would bring them who had gone before, and fasten their lives to the lives of those whom Christ should find here at His coming. They who had gone before should come, with all the life opened to them in their immortality, and there should be no separation. We cannot think of ourselves apart from those whom we most intimately love. But that which has laid hold on the spirit is part of the spirit. We know it by the way in which we live continually a part of the life of those who have passed to the eternal world. We are not separated from them now. We live in memory of what we know they once were, and in thought of what they are now in the eternal world. We shall not merely be with those with whom we have had spiritual communion here; we shall be with them as we have never been with them here. The bodily differences will be taken away, the prisons will be broken open, our souls will meet in close union as they have never met here on earth.

If we think much of those whom we have loved on earth, and who have passed out of sight, we try to follow them, to be imitators of those who now “inherit the promises.” They are above us, but not too much above us. They are still branches of the same vine, members of the same Body. The branches of the tree are equally near to each other, whether the moonlight shine on all or only on one branch. The hand in the shadow and the hand in the light are not more near to each other, than we are to them. If one hand is in the light and one hand in the shadow, they are not really more separated than when both were in the light or both in the shadow. The union remains, the union with Christ, and with each other.1 [Note: G. H. Wilkinson, The Communion of Saints, 25.]

To our child as she approached eternity, there was given (I cannot use a weaker word than given) a conviction—I may venture to call it an intuition, so calm and balanced was the certainty—that in that new life “with the Lord” she would still be near to us and “know about us.” Of course we do not treat her expectations as a revelation. But when we put them into context with the intimations of the written Word, we find in them a gentle light in which to read those intimations more clearly. That “cloud of witnesses” who are seen in the glass of Scripture (Hebrews 12:1), watching their successors as they run the earthly course, are assuredly permitted to be cognizant of us and of our path. And the same great Epistle informs us, on our side, in the same chapter (Hebrews 12:23), that we, in Christ, “have come,” not only (wonderful fact) “to an innumerable company of angels,” but also “to the spirits of the just made perfect.” “In vain our fancy strives to paint” the conditions of contact and cognizance. But it is enough to have even the most reserved intimation from the Divine Book that a contact there is. And the subordinate evidence of experience is not wanting. Instances may be few, but instances there are, as trustworthy as sound evidence can make them, of leave given to mourning Christians to know, mysteriously but directly, that their beloved have indeed been near them in full and conscious love.2 [Note: H. C. G. Moule, Concerning Them Which are Asleep, 14.]

Not mine the sad and freezing dreams

Of souls that, with their earthly mould,

Cast off the loves and joys of old.…

No! I have Friends in Spirit-land,

Not shadows in a shadowy band,

Not others but themselves are they.


And still I think of them the same

As when the Master’s summons came;

Their change, the holy morn-light breaking

Upon the dream-worn sleeper, waking—

A change from twilight into day.1 [Note: J. G. Whittier.]

Asleep in Jesus

Literature

Bell (C. D.), The Name above Every Name, 220.

Brooks (P.), The Spiritual Man, 20.

Burrell (D. J.), The Morning Cometh, 277.

Cleife (H. H. T.), Mutual Recognition in the Life Beyond, 22.

Ellicott (C. J.), Sermons at Gloucester, 135.

Gordon (A. J.), In Christ, 185.

Hicks (E.), The Life Hereafter, 1.

Holland (C.), Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, 293.

Hood (P.), Dark Sayings on a Harp, 369.

Kuegele (F.), Country Sermons, New Ser., iii. 282.

Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Philippians, etc., 190.

Macnutt (F. B.), The Riches of Christ, 207.

Manning (H. E.), Sermons, i. 308.

Maurice (F. D.), Christmas Day, 392.

Moule (H. C. G.), Thoughts for the Sundays of the Year, 73.

Ogden (S.), Sermons, 126.

Paget (F. E.), The Living and the Dead, 307.

Purves (P. C.), The Divine Cure for Heart Trouble, 295.

Shettle (G. T.), Them Which Sleep in Jesus, 1.

Spencer (I. S.), Sermons, i. 144.

Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, liv. (1908), No. 3077.

Symonds (A. R.), Fifty Sermons Preached in Madras, 90.

Tulloch (J.), Some Facts of Religion and Life, 129.

Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), iii. (1862), No. 387.

Watson (F.), The Christian Life Here and Hereafter, 220.

Wray (J. J.), Honey in the Comb, 91.

Christian World Pulpit, xxxiii. 277 (F. Temple).

Church Pulpit Year Book, 1908, p. 217.

Church Times, Nov. 10, 1911 (J. G. Simpson).

Homiletic Review, lxiv. 61 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones).

World’s Great Sermons, i. 25 (St. Chrysostom).


Verse 14

(14) For if . . .—A reason for thinking that if the Thessalonians knew and believed the truth, they ought not to be so miserable. The “if” implies no doubt: “if we believe (as we do), then,” &c.—merely clearing the ground for a logical deduction. The writer does not care to prove so well-known a fact as the resurrection of Christ; he only argues from the clear faith of the Thessalonians with regard to it.

Jesus died and rose again.—Notice the human name; for though it is true that as God He raised Himself (John 10:18), as man He was no less dependent upon the Father than we are (Acts 17:31): therefore His resurrection is a real argument for ours. And the two verbs are put together because of their contrariety—“really died a human death, and yet rose again.”

Even so.—The structure of the clauses is not quite regular. We should have expected either the omission of “we believe that” in the first, or the insertion of it in the second: it makes the statement of the second, however, more direct or authoritative.

Which sleep in Jesus.—Rather, which were laid to sleep through Jesus. The meaning of the preposition, however, is not widely different from “in.” The simpler words in Revelation 14:13 mean “dying in full communion still with Him.” Our present phrase makes Him, as it were, the way, or door, by which they journeyed to death: He surrounded them as they sank to rest (Comp. John 10:9.) Additional sweetness is imparted to the phrase by the use of the metaphor of sleep; but it is, perhaps, too much to say, as Dean Alford does, that “falling asleep” is here contrasted with “dying,” in this sense:—“Who through the power of Jesus fell asleep instead of dying”—for the word is even used of a judicial punishment of death in 1 Corinthians 11:30.

Will God bring with him—i.e., with Jesus. In the Greek the word God stands in an unemphatic position—“Even so will God bring,” implying that it was God also who had raised Jesus from the dead. But St. Paul is not content with saying, “Even so will God raise those who passed through Christ to death.” The thought of the Advent is so supreme with him that he passes at once to a moment beyond resurrection. If the question be asked from whence God will bring the dead along with Christ, it must be answered, from Paradise, and the persons brought must be the disembodied spirits; for in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 this coming of the Lord with the saints is the signal for the dead—i.e., the bodies—to rise. It must be owned, however, that this manner of speaking is unusual. Jesus is no longer in Paradise, for the spirits to be brought thence with Him; and one would have expected something more like “bringing up” (Hebrews 13:20), as it is always considered a descent into “hell” or Paradise. Because of this difficulty (which however is more in form than reality), some take the words to mean, “God will lead them by the same path with Christ”—i.e., will make their whole career (including resurrection) conform with His, comparing the same verb in Romans 8:14; Hebrews 2:10.


Verse 15

(15) By the word of the Lord.—Literally, in. A most direct claim to plenary inspiration (see references). It does not mean “According to certain words which Christ spoke,” nor yet “By means of a revelation from the Lord to me,” but “By way of a divine revelation:” “I tell you this as a message straight from God.” In what way apostles and prophets became conscious of supernatural inspiration we cannot tell; but elsewhere also St. Paul speaks of possessing the consciousness sometimes and not at others. (See 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40.) He means this declaration here to hold good of the details, which are such as no one would invent and teach with such solemnity; at the same time it must be remembered, with regard to the details, that it is the very idiom of prophecy (which St. Paul here uses) to express by material imagery spiritual facts.

We which are alive and remain.—Literally, We, (that is) the quick, those who are left over. There is not the least necessity for supposing from these words that St. Paul confidently expected the Advent before his death. Very likely he did, but it cannot be proved from this passage. Had the “we” stood alone, without the explanatory participles, it might have amounted to a proof, but not so now. His converts are strongly under the impression that they will be alive at the Coming, and that it will be the worse for the departed: therefore, St. Paul (becoming all things to all men) identifies himself with them—assumes that it will be as they expected—and proves the more vividly the fallacy of the Thessalonians’ fears. It would have been impossible, on the contrary, for St. Paul to have said “we which are dead” without definitely abandoning the hope of seeing the Return. Besides which, St. Paul is only picturing to imagination the scene of the Advent; and for any man it is far easier to imagine himself among the quick than among the dead at that moment.

Shall not prevent—i.e., “be before,” “get the start of.” If it were not for these words, we might have fancied that the Thessalonians had not been taught to believe in a resurrection at all; which would have been a strange departure from the usual apostolic gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1, et seq.). We here learn what was the exact nature of the Thessalonians’ anxiety concerning the dead. They were full of excited hopes of the coming of that kingdom which had formed so prominent a part of the Apostles’ preaching there (Acts 17:7); and were afraid that the highest glories in that kingdom would be engrossed by those who were alive to receive them; and that the dead, not being to rise till afterwards, would have less blessed privileges. This would make them not only sorry for their dead friends, but also reluctant to die themselves. The negative in this clause is very emphatic in the Greek, and throws all its force upon the verb: “We shall certainly not get the start of them that sleep;” i.e., “if anything, we shall be behind them; they will rise first.”


Verse 16

(16) For.—A justification of the statement that we shall certainly not prevent the dead; therefore, the words as far as “trump of God” are logically parenthetical; and the proof only begins at “They shall rise first: then we shall be caught up.”

With a shout.—The Greek word means a shout of command or encouragement, such as a captain gives to his soldiers, or a boatswain to his crew. It is not necessary to inquire what the command may be, or to whom issued, inasmuch as the word does not always imply any particular orders; nor who is represented as uttering it: the intention is only to convey the notion of the stirring noise, in the midst of which (for the original has “in,” not “with”) the Lord will descend. It is, however, somewhat particularised by what follows: two notes amid those sounds of mystery strike the ear—the archangel’s voice, and the trump of God. Probably, therefore, the “shout of command” is uttered by the “leader of the angels;” and the trump (called “the trump of God” because used for God’s purposes) is blown to summon the mustering hosts. In favour of supposing the Lord Himself to utter the cry, may be adduced John 5:25; but, on the other hand, it suits the dignity of the scene better to imagine the loud sound to come rather from one of the heralds of the great army. The preposition “in” is more effective than “with:” it calls attention to the long blast. (Comp. Exodus 19:19.)

Shall rise first.—Not as meaning “shall be the first to rise,” as contrasted with non-members of the Church who are to rise later; though that is a scriptural thought (Revelation 20:5-6), the Greek here refuses to be so explained. Rather, “the first thing will be the rising of the dead in Christ,” contrasted with what follows—“then, and not till then, shall we be caught up.” The same order is carefully observed in 1 Corinthians 15:52.


Verse 17

(17) Shall be caught up.—“Our Assumption,” as Bishop Ellicott well calls it. The spiritualising of our natural bodies without death, as described in 1 Corinthians 15:50, et seq., will enable us to be “caught up” equally well with, and in company with (both of which thoughts are included in “together with”), the resurgent dead. “Clouds” and “air” will be support enough for material so immaterial. Theodoret says, “He showeth the greatness of the honour: as the Master Himself was taken up upon a shining cloud, so also they that have believed in Him.” The absolute equality, then, of quick and dead is proved.

To meet the Lord in the air.—St. Chrysostom says:” When the King cometh into a city, they that are honourable proceed forth to meet him, but the guilty await their judge within.” The phrase “in the air” certainly does not mean “heaven.” The word “air”) in itself properly signifies the lower, denser, grosser atmosphere, in which the powers of darkness reign (Ephesians 2:2); but here it is only used in contrast with the ground, and means “on the way from Heaven whence He comes,” of course not to dwell there, but to accompany Him to His Judgment-seat on the earth.

And so.—Now that St. Paul has settled the question of disparity between the dead and the living, he does not think it necessary to describe what is immediately to follow; that, the Thessalonians were sure to know (see Hebrews 6:2): it only remains to say that having once rejoined the Lord, they would never be parted from Him.


Verse 18

(18) Comfort one another.—Here is a balm for the “sorrow” of 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Bather, “in these words” than “with;” “Repeat these very words to one another, and you will find the comfort.” What bereaved Christian has not found this true?

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-thessalonians-4.html. 1905.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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