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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 4

Verse 1

1 THESS. 4

As in practically all of the apostle Paul's letters, the doctrinal foundation is followed by practical exhortations; although, of course, there is an overlapping in both sections. This chapter begins the second section of the epistle and contains an exhortation to sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8), admonitions concerning mutual love among the Christians (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12), and encouragement regarding the status of their Christian dead (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Finally then, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as ye received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, even as ye do walk, - that ye abound more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)

Finally ... The Phillips translation renders this, "to sum up"; but as Morris said, "This is not the thought; `finally' of English Revised Version (1885) and RSV is better. Perhaps `for the rest' will give us the sense of it."[1]

We beseech and exhort ... Kelcy stated that these two words "are practically synonymous though the second is stronger."[2] Also, there is a distinction in that "beseech" carries a certain note of tenderness which is not in the other.

In the Lord Jesus ... This is Paul's great phrase used so frequently in his writings (169 times) to indicate the status of believers in relationship to Christ. Here the thought is that all of his instructions have been conveyed to them in respect of their common bond "in Christ," and in view of his apostolic relationship to the Lord himself.

How ye ought to walk ... Paul's use of this metaphor for living the Christian life is extensive. Implicit in this remark is the fact that Paul and his fellow-preachers had instructed the Thessalonians at the time of their conversion in the basic requirements of Christian living, making his admonitions here to be a plea that they would continue faithfully in the instructions they had already received.

And to please God, even as ye do walk ... Paul here credited them with being in the right way; and the second clause is to make that clear. One does not say to a Christian, "Do right," except in the sense of growth and perseverance in the course already begun.

That ye abound more and more ... David Lipscomb observed that life is never a static condition. "There is no finality to progressive holiness while the believer remains on earth. Life is marked by either growth or decay."[3] Thus the only way to avoid slipping backward is to move forward.

[1] Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1,2Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), p. 72.

[2] Raymond C. Kelcy, The Letters of Paul to the Thessalonians (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, Inc., 1975), p. 81.

[3] David Lipscomb, Commentary on 1Thessalonians (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1976), p. 45.

Verse 2

For ye know what charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Through the Lord Jesus ... This is best understood as a variant of Paul's famed "in the Lord Jesus." See under preceding verse. Inherent is the truth that Paul's instructions had been those of the Lord himself. As Moffatt said:

The apostles gave their orders on the authority of their commission and revelation from the Lord whom they interpret to his followers .... This appealed to the saying of Jesus which formed a part of "the unwritten sayings." Thus 8a (below) is an echo of the saying preserved in Luke 10:16.[4]

What charge we gave you ... All of the commentators agree that the words here have a military ring, meaning "the orders we gave you," thus accounting for the variation "through the Lord Jesus." Paul was making it clear that his orders were actually those of the Lord, a fact further emphasized by the use of the great Old Testament word for "Lord." As Hubbard put it, "Paul's commandments were stamped with the authority of Jesus, who is Lord, the exalted Ruler of Life."[5]

[4] James Moffatt, The Expositor's Greek Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 33.

[5] David A. Hubbard, Wycliffe New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 816.

Verse 3

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication;

Even your sanctification ... Paul was about to cite three things which entered into sanctification: (a) abstaining from fornication; (b) possessing one's vessel in a state of honor; and (c) refraining from defrauding a brother in this matter. Behold then the true definition of sanctification, which may be summed up in a word, moral living. Sanctification is not therefore some kind of special or second blessing, but an achieved status of upright character. One is truly sanctified when he is converted, believing, repenting and being baptized into Christ; but, as Kelcy maintained, "The state of sanctification is one which the Christian must be careful to maintain."[6]

Verse 4

that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor,

The meaning of this passage is disputed, but it seems to be improperly so. The RSV rendered this passage:

That each one of you take a wife for himself in holiness and honor.

The excuse for such a translation derives from the double meaning of two Greek words in the passage: (1) possess, which in classical Greek is sometimes used in the sense of acquire; and (2) vessel which is capable of meaning either wife or body. The English language has many words with double meanings, as well known to all; but the fault in the RSV derives from their adoption of meanings which would make Paul advocate a low view of marriage in which the wife is the property of her husband! This is contrary to everything in the New Testament. This is an extensive field of study, and we shall concern ourselves here with giving our reasons for preferring the KJV, ASV, the NEB and many other reputable renditions instead of the aberration advocated in RSV.

The difficulty is compounded by the fact that, if vessel means body, the usual meaning of possess (acquire) is difficult to construe in such a sense, because it cannot be said that a man "acquires" his body. This however, is only an apparent difficulty. As Cousins noted, Papyri show that possess can mean simply to have; but here the sense may be to gain control."[7] F. F. Bruce rendered it, "Each of you must learn to control his own body."[8] While allowing the other meaning as possible, Barclay rendered it, "Each of you should know how to possess his own body."[9] As Morris declared, "The big difficulty in the way of accepting the meaning of body is the word acquire (literal meaning of the word possess)"; but he accepted the solution that the word "is found in the papyri with the sense of possess."[10] Moreover, the Old Testament usage is that of "gaining the mastery over that which one already has," thus: "And the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions" (Obadiah 1:1:17). Therefore, there can be no objection whatever from the standpoint of scholarship in accepting the KJV and ASV renditions. Morris, accordingly, gave the meaning of this verse as "Keep your bodies pure."[11]

[7] Peter E. Cousins, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 495.

[8] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), p. 198.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 76.

[11] Ibid.

Verse 5

not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who know not God;

Some have expressed surprise that Paul spoke so forthrightly in this passage regarding the lustful sins of fornication and impurity; but, aside from the fact of every generation's needing such instruction, the low pagan culture of the Gentile world of that era made it especially mandatory that in the matter of sexual purity the Christians should maintain the position of honor which their sanctification required. "The moral sense of the heathen was so perverted and their natures so corrupt that they looked upon fornication as a thing indifferent."[12] Our own age with its loose standards and vaunted "new morality" is hardly any better. As Barclay put it:

The new morality is only the old morality brought up to date. There is a claimant necessity in Britain, as there was in Thessalonica, to place before men and women the uncompromising demands of Christian morality, "for God did not call us to impurity, but to consecration."[13]

[12] P. J. Gloag, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 21 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 74.

[13] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 200.

Verse 6

that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in the matter: because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified.

"There is no change of subject here, from licentiousness to dishonesty. Paul is still dealing with the immorality of men, only, now, as a form of social dishonesty and fraud."[14] Of course, Paul's use of the term "defraud" suggests business dealings; but it should not be overlooked that all sexual dishonesty and indulgence is a fraud perpetrated against another.

Testified ... Again, there comes to view what is meant by "testifying" in the New Testament, the announcement of God's commands with exhortation to obey them; that is true testifying in the New Testament sense.

The Lord is an avenger ... The Lord is an avenger in all wickedness; but here it is especially declared that the Lord will judge and avenge against the sexual vices under consideration. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for gross wickedness, but it was their sexual impurity which precipitated their destruction. America needs the lesson of this in the most urgent sense at this very time. It seems nearly incredible to one brought up in the glory of a ful! Christian heritage that modern man could countenance and even advocate homosexuality as some in our own day are doing. May it be remembered that even if people decide in their arrogance to set aside God's law in this regard, the Avenger will still bring judgment upon them.

Verse 7

For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. Therefore he that rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you.

He that rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God ... See comment by James Moffatt under 1 Thessalonians 4:2, above; also compare Luke 10:16.

Moffatt also believed that "Holy Spirit" in this place does not refer to the Third Person of the Godhead, so much as it does to "the motive and power of the new life."[15]

Verse 9

But concerning love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another;

Love of the brethren ... love one another ... Paul's use of the word [@filadelfia] here, meaning love in the natural brotherly sense of affection that is natural among families, and used even of affection among animals, seems to suggest the word "instinctively"; for it is God who instills all instinctive qualities in man and beast. Nor does the statement "taught of God to love one another" deny this. If, on the other hand, Paul meant the love which he and his fellow-laborers had taught the Thessalonians, that too, in the ultimate sense, is being "taught of God." It will be remembered when Peter confessed that Jesus is "the Christ the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16), a truth Peter had been taught personally by Jesus himself, that the Lord promptly declared, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven."

In any case, Paul here admitted that the Thessalonians were in full possession of the grace of loving one another. Would that all churches were so.

Verse 10

for indeed ye do it toward all the brethren that are in Macedonia. But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound more and more;

Abound more and more ... This is very similar to 1 Thessalonians 4:1, which see. A strong bond of affection had sprung up among the Macedonian Christians struggling against the pagan culture to maintain the faith and purity to which they were committed. A similar bond automatically exists wherever faithful souls are striving to maintain faith and purity in the midst of divisive and contrary influences. This writer often marveled at the strong bonds of affection among members of the Manhattan Church of Christ, New York City, in the long struggles there.

Verse 11

and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, even as we charged you;

The three classes addressed here are fanatics, busybodies and loafers; and, as Hendriksen noted, "Often one and the same person is all three!"[16] Whether or not there were special offenders in these categories, the seeds of such misconduct are in every mortal; and the admonition was needed in the preventive, if not the corrective, sense.

Study to be quiet ... Phillips' rendition of this as "Make it your ambition to have no ambition" seems appropriate; for what is condemned here is the restless striving for attention, preferment and for what is vaguely called "success." The quiet, unostentatious and tranquil life of a true Christian is to be preferred against all the more noisy life styles.

Fanatics are doomed to frustration and defeat. Striving for religious excitement requires that something new and different be encountered constantly; and this inevitably leads the seeker into error. Busybodies are carriers of gossip, disturbers of the peace, troublemakers and thorns in the body of the believers wherever they appear. Loafers are especially detestable. While doing little or nothing on their own behalf, they require attention, goods and services of others that might be far better employed than in the maintenance of idlers and spongers off others.

The antidote for all three classes is concisely stated in the great work ethic of the New Testament:

Do your own business ... work with your hands, even as we charged you ...

A paraphrase of Van Dyke's quatrain is:

Shout it ye lords of creation,

And sing it ye sons of the kirk;

The gospel of God and salvation

Is surely the gospel of work!

As Ward expressed it, "This is the charter of dignity for manual labor ... work is not beneath the dignity of a free man."[17] Among the Greeks, work was despised as the employment of slaves; and it will be remembered that the false teachers of Corinth belittled Paul's teaching because he labored with his hands. No wonder a civilization like that perished. "Christianity did not hesitate to insist on the dignity of common labor."[18]

Even as we charged you ... This identifies the work ethic as one Paul had already stressed among the Thessalonians; and, as already noted, "Paul used a verb often employed in the classics of the orders of military officers. There is a ring of authority about it."[19]

[16] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, 1Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1965), p. 105.

[17] Ronald A. Ward, Commentary on 1,2Thessalonians (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1973), p. 101.

[18] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 81.

[19] Ibid.

Verse 12

that ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without, and may have need of nothing.

May walk becomingly ... Again Paul employed the metaphor in which "walk" is used for living the whole of life.

Toward them that are without ... Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians have a good reputation among the non-Christian population, a goal which should be of concern to Christians of all generations. A good reputation of the saved for minding their own business and conducting holy and blameless lives not only made them more acceptable to their pagan compatriots, but also commended the gospel to persons not yet obedient to it.

Have need of nothing ... That person who through indolence or lack of application finds himself continually in need of assistance from others is, in fact, a parasite. It is the Christian's first business to take care of himself and his dependents. As Barclay expressed it:

The effect of the conduct of some of the Thessalonians was that others had to support them. Paul told them that they must aim at independence and never become spongers on charity. It is the Christian's duty to help others; for many, through no fault of their own, cannot attain independence; but it is also the Christian's duty to help himself.[20]

For the better part of a whole chapter devoted to the development of the thought Paul expressed in this verse, reference is made to my Commentary on the Ten Commandments, pp. 53-57.

Verse 13

But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not as the rest, who have no hope.


We would not have you ignorant ... This was one of Paul's favorite ways of introducing a new and important subject. It is also found in Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1, and 2 Corinthians 1:8, in all of which, as here, the term "brethren" is used with it for the sake of conveying the idea of tenderness and affection in what he was about to say.

Concerning them that fall asleep ... This should not be understood in the limited sense of "have fallen asleep" (KJV), because it purposely included those already dead and others yet to die before the coming of Christ. Paul had not departed from Thessalonica a very long time before these lines were written, but already the death angel had descended upon the homes of some of the Thessalonians, accompanied by the inevitable grief precipitated by such an event.


This beloved metaphor was frequently used by our Lord himself, as in the instances of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:39) and of Lazarus (John 11:11), and quickly adopted wherever Christianity was known. The very word "cemetery," "[@Koimeterion], is derived from the word used here, [@koimao], and means `a place of sleep.' "[21]

To what extent, then, may solid doctrinal postulations be founded upon such a metaphor, which is obviously founded upon the superficial resemblance between a dead person and one who is merely asleep? Mason warned that no doctrine "may be deduced with precision, from such a metaphor";[22] and full agreement is felt with this. However, Christ used this metaphor just prior to performing two resurrections, and the apostle Paul would not have used it here, except for the purpose of suggesting "a continued (even if partly unconscious) existence, and the possibility of a reawakening."[23] In this light, therefore, it seems safe enough to construe this metaphor as teaching: (1) that death is not annihilation; (2) that the manner of existence is changed; (3) that there will be an awakening from death in a resurrection; and (4) that there will be a rejuvenation of bodily strength in the resurrection.

That ye sorrow not ... Taken alone, these words do not convey Paul's thought. It is not "sorrow not," but "sorrow not as those who have no hope." Concerning the hopeless state of the Gentile world, it must be admitted that, here and there, a few lonely figures seem to have clung to thin threads of hope; but the darkness and despair which had fallen upon the Gentile nations due to their rejection of God and the consequent debauchery that followed was in every practical sense total. "The belief held generally by the Greeks was that there was no resurrection, that death was the end of all things."[24]

Paul was about to make an argument for the encouragement of the Thessalonians; but in doing so, he did not introduce the doctrine of the resurrection as anything new, but as something they already knew and believed in. "Paul assumes their faith and argues from it. Their vivid and naive belief in Christ's advent within their own lifetime was the very source of their distress."[25] Thus it is certain that faith in the resurrection existed from the very first in Christianity.

[21] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 84.

[22] A. J. Mason, Ellicott's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 140.

[23] Ibid.

[24] James William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 510.

[25] James Moffatt, op. cit., p. 36.

Verse 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.

If we believe, .... "There is no uncertainty implied by the use of the conditional, the same being an idiomatic way of arguing from a certainty, as when Jesus said, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I come again" (John 14:3).

Asleep in Jesus ... Stibbs construed the prepositional phrase in this passage as modifying "God will bring," rendering it: "Even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep";[26] but this would seem to be both arbitrary and awkward. While true enough that the resurrection shall be accomplished "through Jesus," the thing in view here is that community of souls who are "asleep in Jesus." This passage does not deny the general resurrection of all the dead, but the general resurrection of unbelievers is not mentioned. The glorious promises of this passage are for them that sleep Jesus." Thus, again, the supreme importance of being Christ" appears as a mandatory prerequisite of receiving any Christian blessing. The apostle John wrote: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Revelation 14:13); and the same teaching is in Paul's words here.

Before leaving this verse it is important to note the implications that are inherent in it. Moffatt states them thus:

Since Paul left, some of the Thessalonian Christians had died, and the survivors were distressed with the fear that these would have to occupy a position secondary to those who lived until the Advent of the Lord, or even that they had passed beyond any such participation at all.[27]

To these implications, there is another to be added. The Thessalonians who were the object of Paul's concern were not worried about themselves, but only about their deceased members, indicating that they fully expected to live to the Second Advent! Of course, this expectation was erroneous, and it may not be inferred that they had received any such false impression from what Paul had actually taught. The appearance of 2Thessalonians such a short time later to correct their false views proves conclusively that the false views were not of apostolic origin, but due only to their improper deductions. It should be remembered that Paul's instruction of them had been interrupted by persecution before it was concluded.

[26] A. M. Stibbs, New Bible Commentary Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1159.

[27] James Moffatt, op. cit., p. 46.

Verse 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.

By the word of the Lord ... "The most natural explanation of this is that Paul is quoting a saying of Jesus,"[28] and it is not revealed whether it was conveyed to the apostle personally by the Lord, or if Paul had received it through some other apostle, the preferable view being that Paul received from Jesus personally all that Jesus had previously delivered to the Twelve; and that here is a statement Paul included in his writings, but which was not included in any of the writings of the other apostles which have come down to us. There were countless sayings of Jesus that were not preserved for posterity (John 21:25). In any event, the statement Paul here gave is absolutely authentic.

That we that are alive ... Paul used the editorial "we," not meaning at all that he personally intended to survive to the Second Advent; but, as in Lightfoot's paraphrase, "When I say `we,' I mean those who are living, those who survive to that day."[29] Nothing could be more flimsy than the postulations of scholars built upon Paul's famous "we." It was his constant habit to identify himself with the readers, even those involved in sin (Hebrews 2:3; 6:3). Here Paul identified himself with those who would survive to the Second Advent, but on other occasions he identified himself with those who would rise from the dead (1Cor. 6:14,2 Corinthians 4:14). Deductions based on Paul's "we" are most undependable. See "Speedy Return of Christ" under 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

As noted above, it is clear that the resurrection of unbelievers is not under consideration in this passage. As Hendriksen put it:

Anyone can see that the apostle is not drawing a contrast between believers and unbelievers, as if, for example, believers would rise first, and unbelievers a thousand years later![30]

Shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep ... This flatly answered the question that was troubling the Thessalonians. There is no disadvantage to those who die before the coming of the Lord; as a matter of fact, having already undergone the necessary change that must come to all, they are a step nearer the resurrection and shall therefore "rise first" as Paul would say a moment later. Here it is presented negatively. The living shall not precede the dead saints in receiving the glory the Lord has prepared for them.

[28] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 86.

[29] Ibid., p. 87.

[30] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 115.

Verse 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;

Descend from heaven ... This is not to be understood in a spatial sense at all. Paul's words here are still the best way to declare the sudden manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ at the cataclysmic end of this age. The manifestation will be upon the whole earth, and not merely upon some part of it; and there simply are no words which can adequately convey to finite understanding any meaningful description of it. As Kelcy said, "These words are not to be taken, necessarily, in a literal sense รบ . . they are figures of speech";[31] but this is not to deny the historical certainty of the great event here prophesied.

A shout ... Jesus cried "with a loud voice" over the grave of Lazarus (John 11:43); and, in the light of the passage before us, there must be some significance in it. The shout is here identified with the voice of the archangel and the sound of a trumpet; and evidently some fantastically penetrating sound will signal the onset of the Second Advent. Such sounds attended the giving of the Law of Moses on Mt. Sinai; but it is idle to speculate as to the meaning of such things. The Second Advent will also be with the clouds of heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17), the same having been mentioned at the time of the Ascension (Acts 1:9-11), with the metaphor being changed to "flaming fire" in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, and with the Saviour himself having stressed the same thing (Luke 21:27).


If the human race is to survive the known and postulated fate of the terrestrial earth, it can only be by the supernatural intervention of the Creator through the Lord Jesus Christ. In a film, The Universe, shown repeatedly in May and June, 1977, at the Johnson Space Center, Clear Lake, Texas, top space scientists theorized that there are only three possible fates for any star, including our sun. These are: (1) it might become a great red giant with a new mass so gigantic as to envelop the earth;[32] (2) it could become a super-nova flaming to a million times its present size, and (3) it could conceivably collapse altogether with a gravitational field strong enough to draw all the solar satellites into a very small and exceedingly dense core with a magnetic field so powerful that not even light could escape from it, in which case a so-called "black hole" would be the result. Significantly, any of the projected methods of demise that scientists confidently predict, would involve the total "burning" of our earth and everything in it (2 Peter 3:10ff); and no imagination is strong enough to envision the kind of "cloud" that would follow the instantaneous conversion of all the waters on earth into steam! Some such cloud, some such noise (who knows?) will signal the moment when the Son of God shall appear and save the redeemed; and it may be postulated that a new heaven and a new earth will by that time have been prepared. Significantly, the scientific community is as totally unaware of "when" such an event may occur as were our Lord and the holy apostles. It is most amazing that the old passages long known to refer to the end of the world, at which time, presumably, the Second Advent will be, have at last found the scientific world catching up with revelation that was given nearly two millenniums ago!

[31] Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 101.

[32] Kenneth F. Weaver, "The Incredible Universe," National Geographic Magazine, May, 1974 (Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1974), Vol. 145, No. 5, p. 607.

Verse 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.

Caught up in the clouds ... "The Greek word for `caught up' is rendered as "raplemur" in the Vulgate and other Latin versions, whence the event is sometimes called `the rapture,' or snatching away of the saints."[33]

To meet the Lord in the air ... Not to dwell with him "in the air," but then to accompany him to the new heaven and the new earth. All kinds of speculation are postulated on these words. As Hubbard noted:

Endless fellowship with Christ - where? Does the whole retinue ascend to heaven or return to earth? Any answer given will depend on the total interpretation of New Testament eschatology. Pre-tribulationists posit an ascension with a subsequent return to earth. Post-tribulationists hold that a descent to earth follows this reunion.[34]

Chrysostom wrote the following:

When the King cometh into a city, they that are honorable proceed forth to meet him, but the guilty await their judge within.[35]

All the New Testament teachings concerning the things of the end of the world, the coming of Christ and the final judgment. were not given to tease the intellectual curiosity of believers; but they all must be understood in the light of the passage before us, which comes to us in a section of exhortations; and, in the light of the purpose of Paul's words here, the passage supplies faith, confidence and certainty that death cannot rob any child of God of rewards which God may allow to be rightfully his. In the light of such a purpose, the passage does all it was intended to do, but it does not go beyond that.

[33] A. M. Stibbs, op. cit., p. 1159.

[34] David A. Hubbard, Wycliffe New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 820.

[35] A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 141.

Verse 18

Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Moffatt mentions the preservation of a letter dated from the pagan era of the first century, which reads as follows:

[@Eirene] (Peace) to Taonnophris and [@Filon], Good cheer! I was as grieved and wept as much over Eumoiros as over Didymas, and I did all that was fitting, as did all my family ... But still we can do nothing in such a case. So comfort yourselves. Goodbye.[36]

How hopeless is such a letter! And what a world of difference in the pagan "comfort yourselves" and the glowing words of Christian faith, "comfort one another with these words!"

Not only did the words of this passage allay the weeping, dry the tears and comfort the bereaved in Thessalonica, they are still doing so after some nineteen centuries have rolled away; and they are just as appropriate now as when they calmed and comforted the hearts of the bereaved in ancient Thessalonica.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.