Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2
December 14, 2014
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:
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 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
- I. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 is Paul's Thesis Statement For This Paragraph.
- A. In the previous verse, Paul addressed the problem of grieving because of hopelessness.
- B. In this verse, he sets forth the content of "the hope" that arrests "hopeless grief".
- II. The Content of "The Hope".
- A. Is conditional: "...if we believe that...".
- 1. There is an assumption that he writes to those who do so believe; thus, the "if" is simply a way to differentiate between those in the previous verse: "brethren" and "those who have no hope".
- 2. This condition is very, and emphatically, real.
- a. One cannot live an emotionally stable life if the things "believed" are of a kind of superficial "faith". That there is such a thing is the burden of James 2. It is as clear as can be that people often say that they "believe" something, but, when faced with alternative evidence, or significant loss by reason of that "faith", they jettison that kind of "faith". This, clearly, is not the kind of faith that the Bible enjoins upon mankind, but it is, of necessity, the nature of the early beginnings of "heart-faith" (Romans 10:10). No one gets to "heart-faith" in one session of hearing "truth"; the most one can expect from one such session is an openness to the "truth" expressed. Such openness will result in a mental level of, at least, acquiescence, that can, then, be developed into "heart-faith" if the acquiescence remains, over sufficient time and exposure to the "truth", so that it can become "submission" (in the biblical sense of a cessation of resistance).
- b. Paul is not writing to people who are in the "mental acquiescence" stage of response to "truth". Their enduring commitment in spite of multiple trials is evidence of their "election" by God (1:4): "heart-believers".
- 1) At issue in the phrase "heart-believers" is Paul's concept that "...with the heart man believes unto righteousness..." (Romans 10:10).
- 2) This is no small issue since the "heart" is where the core values of "Love" are embraced.
- a) What Paul is saying is along the lines of Galatians 5:6 -- that the only thing that really matters "in Christ Jesus" is a "faith" that is "energized" by Love. Remove the "Love" and the "faith" ceases to be legitimate conviction. Over-emphasize the "Love" and the "faith" is turned into a legalism wherein "believers" are over-burdened by the flaws in their "Love" with no recourse. Mankind is a kind of knee-jerk legalist that typically falls back upon the default position of "self-production" of those things that only God can produce -- Hagar slipping beneath the sheets. God's grace is the only answer to this knee-jerk default and it must be embraced in order for the "heart" that believes to be rooted in the Spirit of God in His ministry of "convincing" men of the truthfulness of the truth.
- b) It is altogether a mistake of grand proportions to leave the "heart" out of the "faith" discussion.
- 3) That the "heart" has to have been persuaded of those values which are at the core of God's own system of values for "faith" to be legitimate must be understood.
- c. Anyone who attempts to deal with "grief" without this very real concept of "heart-faith" will remain dominated by that "grief".
- B. Is focused: "...that Jesus died and arose...".
- 1. The issues are two.
- a. The "death" of Jesus is one issue, not as to whether, in fact, He died, but what the death was to accomplish for those who "believe" in it.
- b. The "resurrection" of Jesus is the second issue and it is all about whether, in fact, He did rise from the dead, not what that resurrection was to accomplish.
- 2. In regard to the death of Jesus...
- a. There was no question in anyone's mind as to whether Jesus actually died, being subjected to crucifixion by the power of Rome.
- b. The critical issue is why Jesus died. This has at least two parts: Who was He?; and Why did He die?
- 1) That Jesus died automatically assumes His identity.
- a) His death as Jesus is His death as "He [that] shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
- b) Since His death was the termination point of His physical life on the earth in His earthly body, we have to ask whether "He saved" by reason of His "life" or by reason of His death as not only the termination point of His "living" but as an event all on its own.
- i. That His life was sinless ("He Who knew no sin...": 2 Corinthians 5:21) was critical, but His sinless life "saved" no one.
- ii. It was His death that "saved" ("...we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son...": Romans 5:10).
- 2) As an event all on its own, the death of Jesus became the particular "truth" that is to be "believed" (...if we believe that Jesus died...), but not, as we have said, merely as an historical reality as the termination of His earthly life in the flesh.
- a) The point of the "death" of Jesus is the application of that "death" to the Law in its particular identity as the application of the Justice of God against sinners so that those who "believe" in Him are free from that application ("There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus": Romans 8:1). This makes "salvation" a deliverance from the wrath (Justice) of God.
- b) Thus, the point of "believing" that Jesus died is this: "believing that Jesus died means believing that His death delivered believers from the condemnation of God so that they could enter into Eternal Life".
- 3. In regard to His resurrection...
- a. Without dispute, "resurrection" means a continuation of "Life" on a different plane; death is not a termination of existence, per se, but a termination of ability to function in whatever plane is established by the context of its use. Thus, "resurrection" is simply a denial of death's ability to be a terminator. Those "raised" are able to continue to function.
- b. But also, "resurrection" is a matter of Jesus' reality as a testament to the validity of all that He did and said. It is the proof of His identity as the "Savior" (Romans 1:4).
- c. Those who "believe" that Jesus was "raised" cannot be consistent in "faith" if they, in fact, bury themselves in "grief" because they no longer have the continuing function of their beloved in their experiences of living.
- C. Has a clearly intended consequence: "...the God...shall bring with Jesus..." those who have been put to sleep.
- 1. The phraseology of the description of those whom God will "bring with" Him is interesting.
- a. On the face of it, the text says that Jesus has put them to sleep who have believed in Him, but are now "not in this sphere of existence" by reason of the death of their bodies.
- 1) The technical issue is this: the verb "sleep" is an aorist passive participle. It means that the ones under consideration "were put to sleep".
- 2) The "active Agent" of this verbal idea is identified by a dia followed by a Genitive case.
- a) Robertson says that this construction indicates "agency" by the noun in the Genitive case.
- b) Thus, a straightforward reading of the text says, "...those put to sleep by Jesus...".
- b. Paul is unhesitating in ascribing the "sleep" to Jesus, Himself. This compels us to see the "death" of "believers" as the result of Jesus' activity on their behalf.
- 2. Then, we have the promise: God will bring with Jesus those so disposed.
- a. They are "with Him" and will come "with Him".
- b. Thus, the "grief" no longer has any basis in "Love"; its only reason for being at this point is the one "grieving" and the "attachment" that he/she had to the one who died. In other words, "grief" is pretty much a self-absorbed emotion that has little/nothing to do with what happened to the dead; it is only about what is happening to the one grieving.