Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
December 7, 2014
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope.
14 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.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first;
17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
- I. The Abrupt Change of Mental Direction.
- A. Paul has been dealing (in general) with "loving others".
- B. He has been dealing (specifically) with "sexual restraint".
- C. And he has been dealing with the issue of making two things matters of personal sacrifice: the "brethren" and "honor" ("phileo" plus "brethren" and "honor").
- D. Now, and suddenly, he turns to the "loss" of some believer who had "been put to sleep" and what believers are to hold on to in the light of that "loss".
- E. The "flow of thought" that brings on this abrupt change of mental direction.
- 1. The original thought focuses upon sacrificially loving others and that issue exacerbates what happens if the "beloved" is "put to sleep".
- a. If we have genuinely come to "love" someone sacrificially, are we not emotionally tied to their welfare?
- b. If we are emotionally tied to someone, does it not tear our souls to have them "ripped from our hearts" by death? It doesn't really matter if they are "put to sleep" or "put to death" if our focus is upon our emotional state: gone is gone. But, it makes a great deal of difference if our focus is really "loving" -- i.e., we are not focused upon our emotional state, but theirs.
- 2. The more immediate context has two highlighted issues.
- a. The first is sexual restraint as a matter of taking ownership of our "vessels" so that we do not do damage to, particularly, our "brothers". This is a focus upon the body and its appetites.
- b. The second is the place "brethren" and "honor" have in our system of values; they are both matters that call for personal sacrifice (not simply "restraint", but "active pursuit of the matter"). This is a focus upon the soul and its emotional stability in the face of such sacrifices.
- 3. Thus, it appears that Paul has turned a corner in terms of specifics, moving from the body to the soul.
- a. This means that he has determined to address the most difficult issue of a properly committed "soul".
- 1) In the preceeding issue, he addressed sexual issues as, perhaps, the predominant issue of the body in terms of its fixation upon pleasure.
- 2) Thus, this abrupt change of direction is not really an abrupt change of direction: he is dealing with the soul as he did the body -- addressing the most crucial issue facing the soul in terms of its commitment to relationships.
- b. A properly committed "soul" is heavily invested in personal relationships. This automatically means that emotions are significantly involved. Thus, the loss of such a relationship means "grief". However, the "grief" is, inevitably, the reaction of a person with a given value system and faith system in the light of a specific circumstance. Thus, "ignorance" is a significant issue/problem.
- II. The Issue of "Ignorant Brethren".
- A. The context is fixated upon "brethren" and whether they "love one another". Thus, because Paul "loves" as he ought, he will take whatever steps he needs to take to address their "grief".
- B. The problem issue is possible "ignorance".
- 1. This paragraph is the single most detailed block of information in the New Testament about the specific particulars of what is going to happen to those who have been put to sleep. There is no other text/context in the New Testament with these particular details.
- 2. Clearly the apostle's interest is the emotional state of the Thessalonians in the face of the physical death of their loved ones.
- 3. Just as clearly, that emotional state is directly tied to what they know and do not know. Emotions are reactions. The issues involved in the reactions consist of "loves", "beliefs", and "whatever circumstance" has generated the reaction.
- 4. 2 Thessalonians 2:5 declares that Paul had taught the Thessalonians some things regarding the future events, but, apparently, not the particulars contained in this present paragraph.
- C. There are two kinds of "grief" in the face of death.
- 1. The "grief" that is diminished by a knowledge of the facts.
- 2. The "grief" of those who have "no hope".
- a. This makes "hope" and "hopelessness" a very critical issue of one's emotional life.
- b. And the underlying issues of "hope/hopelessness" are "values" and "beliefs" that rest upon "knowledge" or "ignorance".
- III. The Specific Issue.
- A. "Concerning those who are being put to sleep...".
- 1. The participle is present tense and passive voice: those who are being put to sleep.
- 2. The verb has no examples of an active voice in the New Testament and Robertson says that this is likely because the action of verbs which have no active voice make the action "an act of God". It may well be that "sleeping" is always viewed as something that a person does involuntarily; sleep "comes over one" rather than "one putting oneself to sleep".
- B. Since the paragraph has to do with the people of God, there is no commitment here to give comfort for those whose "sleep" is actually the death of the wicked. Whatever "hole in the soul" one has because of the loss of an unbelieving "loved one" is simply there: there is no "hope" for such. This highlights the New Testament reality that true brethren are not of "blood" but of "faith". Even Jesus' "...you are of your father, the devil..." rests upon the reality that "blood bonds" are of little to no significance to the true believer whose loyalty to Christ is above "blood" (Matthew 10:37).