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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 4

Verses 1-12

  1. Intro:
    1. Life is full of questions: How do I please God? What is God’s will for my life? In a dating relationship, how far is too far? If Jesus is coming back soon, isn’t it more important to evangelize, then to work 40 hours a week? And, chapter 4 is full of Answers.
      1. Ch.4,5 we have the Practicals as is Paul’s style. 1st the Precepts then the Practice.
      2. Our lives must be the sermons to win men for Christ. Barclay [thus my title...]
    2. Title: Purity, Sexuality & Sermons
    3. Outline: Pleasing God; The Will of God; Taught by God; & Work while you Wait for God.
    4. To have a truly Christian view of our own sexuality, we must understand the 4 great acts in God’s drama, the epic poem of God’s saving work. We destroy our understanding of the script if we mix up the order of the Acts. (10,000 Sermons Illustrations. Stanton L. Jones, Christianity Today, July 19, 1993, pp. 20-22)
      1. Act 1 Creation - If we do not understand ourselves first as divine handiwork, created in God’s image, everything else will be distorted.
      2. Act 2 The Fall - The Fall twists & ruins everything except the imprint of Creation.
      3. Act 3 Redemption - Christ is at work in those who love him, redeeming them.
      4. Act 4 Glorification - the final consummation, the blessed hope.
        1. The Christian view of sexuality must be understood within this biblical drama.
        2. God created marriage and intimacy. Everything God created is good (Act 1). But notice that what God created to be good has to be cleaned off; it has been dropped in the mud i.e. the Fall (Act 2). Through Christ, sex can be redeemed (Act 3). We must start with Creation, recognize the Fall, and participate in Redemption.
        3. The heart of Christian sexual morality is this: God made sexual union for a purpose - the uniting of Husband and wife into one flesh in marriage.
          1. God uses sexual intercourse, to weld 2 people together. 1Cor. 6:16
          2. God has a big purpose in mind for sex because he has a big purpose for marriage... something bigger than simply a means for us to get our sexual needs met, have fun, have kids, & not have to be lonely.
        4. In Eph 5:31,32 we learn more of what this bigger purpose is (A man leaves his father & mother & is joined to his wife, and the 2 are united into 1. This is a great mystery, but it’s an illustration of the way Christ & the church are 1).
          1. Marriage is a living parable, a concrete symbol, that models for the world the mystical union of Christ and His people.
          2. According to God’s original design, marriages have grand, even cosmic, meaning. And this meaning remains regardless of how pathetically short we fall of that grand design.
      5. If marriage occupies this place in God’s plan, and if intimacy is so important to God’s plan for marriage, we can see the vital importance of obedience to God’s standards for sexuality.
        1. Sex is a gift, but it is a gift we can abuse. God’s intent is that sex be used rightly inside and outside of marriage.
          1. Inside of marriage, its proper use is for pleasure, procreation, and as something to be shared lovingly & with gratitude to build up the unity of the couple.
          2. Outside of the marriage, the proper use of sex is to honor God by costly obedience in living a chaste life.
            1. Through this difficult commitment, we learn to value obedience over gratification and to serve God instead of serving our own lusts.
  2. PLEASING GOD (1,2)
    1. ​​​​​​​(1) More & more (1,10) – Are you trying to just get by as a Christian, or are you trying to abound more & more?
      1. More & More should be the desire of every Christian.
      2. Prov.30:15,16 says, There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, "Enough!": The grave, The barren womb, The earth that is not satisfied with water; And the fire never says, "Enough!"
        1. Wanting to be more & more like Christ should also be the 5th thing that is never satisfied.
      3. Life is marked by growth or Decay.
    2. Pleasing God is not a matter choice for the Christian, it is a necessity which grows out of a relationship to Christ. Charles Ryrie
    3. What do we know about Pleasing God?
      1. We know: We cannot please God walking in the Flesh.
        1. Rom. 8:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
      2. We know: We cannot please God & be wrapped up in the affairs of this life.
        1. 2 Tim. 2:4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
      3. We know: it takes faith to please Him.
      4. Heb.11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him,
    4. (2) Commandments – (lit.) charges. Denotes a word of command, “instruction which is given by a superior to a subordinate.”
  3. THE WILL OF GOD (3-8)
    1. ​​​​​​​(3) Alan Redpath wrote, The will of God concerning service is individual; but the will of God concerning character is universal.
      1. God’s will for our life is that we would be conformed into the image of Christ.
      2. Day by day if we are not becoming more like the Lord, & less like ourselves, there is something tragically wrong w/our Christian experience. Alan Redpath
    2. F.B.Meyer was once out at sea on a ship for a voyage. Coming to port one night he was standing on the bridge w/the captain. It was a very stormy night, & as he looked at the entrance of the harbor, it seemed very narrow. He turned to the captain on the bridge beside him & said, “Captain, how do you know when to turn this ship into that harbor?” The captain looked at him & replied, “that’s an art. Do you see those 3 red lights on the shore? When they’re all in a straight line I go right in!”
    3. God has given us 3 red lights for guidance:
      1. ​​​​​​​His Bible +The inward witness of His Spirit in our hearts + Outward Circumstances
      2. When the Word of God & the Spirit of God & outward circumstances are in a line, go right ahead; but until they are...stand still.
    4. SO, what’s God’s will for my life? YOUR Sanctification.
    5. Slide#10 YOUR SANCTIFICATION
    6. Our sanctification involves separation from evil things. In particular here, sexual immorality.
      1. Slide#11a Ryrie said, Your sanctification is not just the ultimate aim, or gradual attainment of the Christian life, but should be the Ruling Condition & Atmosphere in which we live.
      2. Slide#11b Thou shalt not commit adultery builds a wall around marriage that makes the relationship not a prison, but a safe and beautiful garden.
    7. ABSTINENCE
    8. Background: Chastity/moral purity was an unknown virtue of the day.
      1. Slide#13a Jews: ranged from strict to lax Rabbis.
      2. Romans: 1st 520 years of The Republic…no divorce. Then in Rome Morality Died. Seneca said of marriages, Women were married to be divorced & divorced to be married.
      3. Greeks: Demosthenes said, “We keep prostitutes for pleasure; We keep mistresses for the day to day needs of the body; & we keep wives for the begetting of children & for the faithful guardianship of our homes.”
      4. So long as a man supported his wife & family there was no shame whatsoever in extra-marital relationships. [The same goes for the apes at The San Diego Zoo]
        1. Christianity lays down a new code to the relationship of man & women…PURITY!
    9. Years ago Bob Vernon(assist Chief of police LAPD) shared, “If someone isn’t faithful to the closest relationship he has, how will he be faithful to any other relationship after that?”
    10. Adhesive tape is not made for repetitive use. The strongest bond adhesive tape is capable of making is formed with the first surface to which it is applied. You can remove the tape and reapply it to other surfaces several times, and it will still adhere. However, with every application, some of the adhesiveness has been compromised. Finally, if you continue the practice long enough, there will not be enough adhesiveness left to make the tape stick to any surface. God intended that the bond between mates be the closest and strongest one they are capable of forming. (10,000 Sermons Illustrations. Dr. Richard Dobbins in Homemade, Nov., 1987)
    11. Samson is a good example for us of, as Chuck Swindoll put it, A he-man w/a she-weakness.
      1. ​​​​​​​Born of godly parents; set apart to be a Nazarite; elevated to position of Judge in Israel; Yet, he never conquered his tendency toward lust.
        1. On the contrary, it conquered him.
      2. His 1st words, I have seen a woman… Judges14:2
      3. He was attracted strictly on the basis of outward appearance, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.” (NLT 14:3,4)
    12. Control your body(4); subdue your passions(5); treat others fairly(6).
    13. (4) Vessel – Body. [remember, self control is a fruit of the Spirit]
      1. Your body belongs to God: Jesus bought you. The Spirit indwells you. The Father has called you to Holy Living.
    14. (6) Brother…or his sister.
      1. Paul says to treat older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. 1 Tim5:1,2
      2. Single ladies, I recommend Kelly’s wisdom she used when we were dating…she said NO!
      3. When did thou shall not become maybe?
      4. Fornication is like a bee sting, you leave behind in each encounter something of yourself by which you are made to suffer.
      5. Pornography has no place in a believers life/walk.
    15. (8) This section is now Sealed with a Kiss. It says if you walk out of here this evening & don’t take heed to your sanctification, holiness, & sexual purity, you’re not rejecting Brian but God Himself.
  4. TAUGHT BY GOD (9,10)
    1. ​​​​​​​Love is one mark of the true believers. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. 1 Jn.3:14
      1. There was no need to write to them about love because love is one of the birthmarks of the believer.
      2. But it is not enough that we love only those in our own fellowship; we must love all of God’s people and also the lost (3:12) more & more, every day.
  5. WORK, WHILE YOU WAIT FOR GOD (11-12)
    1. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Because they expected the Lord to return any day, some believers quit their jobs & became idlers & meddlers.
      1. What type of testimony would this be to the lost?
    2. KEEP CALM (11a)
    3. Lead a quiet life - the opposite of restlessness. Tranquility of mind.
      1. Interesting paradox: “Restlessly strive to be quiet” heightens the contrasts between the ideals of the world & the laws of Christ.
    4. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS (11b)
    5. Do your own affairs. Don’t be a Christian sponge, a free loader, a parasite, or a leach. Don’t be a barnacle.
    6. Christians are to help others. [for some, it is not their fault because of circumstances]
    7. GO TO WORK (11c)
    8. Work w/your own hands - Not necessarily manual labor, but working as opposed to idling.
    9. God has not spoken of any place for idlers among His children.
      1. To each one is appointed work. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Mark 13:33,34
    10. Even those who will be saved right before the Rapture takes place, God expects to be busy about His business.
      1. Remember the parable of the Laborers in Mt.20? The Landowner goes to hire laborers at 6am, noon, 3pm, & 5pm & even in the 11th hour he hired them to work, even though there was only a short time left.
    11. Be faithful to your job...to your Monday morning Pulpits.
      1. At a bible conference one speaker said “regardless of employment your job is sacred”. A man afterward asked the man next to him, “What’s your job?” He answered “I am an ordained plumber!”
    12. OUR WITNESS (12)
    13. If we do the 3 above (lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands), unbelievers will see the difference between:
      1. Order & confusion; idleness & diligence; sponging & independence.
    14. Again, Our lives must be the sermons to win men for Christ. (Barclay)

Verses 13-18

  1. Intro:
    1. Title: Rapture Reunion
    2. Last Week: The Thessalonians believed that since the Lord’s return was imminent…some deduced, why work? 4:11,12.
      1. Still dealing w/the Lords return they wonder, now that a few of our friends died, do they miss out on the Coming of the Lord? What happens to them?
        1. We will be Reunited to them at the Rapture. Thus the Rapture Reunion.
    3. Interesting so many get stressed out with this portion of scripture, when Paul’s purpose to discuss the topic was for comfort.
  2. THE SLEEPING BELIEVERS (13)
    1. Paul uses this formula I do not want you to be ignorant 5 other times. It means he wishes to introduce a new point.
      1. I do not want you to be ignorant of Gods prophetic plan. Oh, so we can & are supposed to have understanding regarding the end times.
    2. Our Subject, Sleeping believers.
      1. Paul doesn’t want them to be ignorant, sorrowful, nor hopeless.
    3. Sleep = only used of the believers death.
      1. It means that to a believer, death is nothing more than sleep, a quiet resting, the idea of awaking again. When someone sleeps you have contact with them again.
      2. As sleep has its waking, so death has its resurrection.
    4. Jesus said to Jarius’ daughter, The child is not dead, but sleeping. Mrk 5:39
    5. He said of Lazarus, Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up. Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.” Jn.11:11-14
    6. Don’t sorrow – Doesn’t mean we are not allowed to grieve over loss.
      1. Paul would have grieved over Epaphraditus in Phil. 2:27 if he died.
      2. Here is the Heathens Hopelessness in the face of death.
        1. Listen to this letter from the 2nd cent. “Irene to Taonnohris & Philon, good cheer! I was as much grieved & shed as many tears over Eumoires as I shed for Didymas, & I did everything that was fitting, & so did my whole family,…but still there is nothing one can do in the face of such trouble. So I leave you to comfort yourselves. Goodbye.”
        2. Grim Epitaphs were found on heathen tombstones. “I was not, I became, I am not, I care not!” [1st ½ is rt., now he wishes the 2nd ½ were true]
        3. To the Greeks, being rid of the body was their great hope.
      3. We need not sorrow, for we have Hope. What Hope? (14)
  3. THE SLEEPING BELIEVERS w/CHRIST (14)
    1. ​​​​​​​Our resurrection is based on His resurrection.
    2. Note, the sleeping believers are with Him.
      1. So, how are they with Him here & not with Him in vs.16?
      2. The Christian doctrine of resurrection assures us that death is not the end; the grave is not the end.
        1. The body goes to sleep, but the soul goes to be with the Lord (Phil.1:20-24).
        2. When the Lord returns, He will bring the soul with Him, will raise the body in glory, and will unite body and soul into one being to share His glory forever.
          1. Man a 3 part being – 1 Thes.5:23 [trichotomy, or dichotomy debate]
        3. 2 Cor.5:1-5 Msg For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not hand-made—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
    3. Paul also pointed out that the resurrection of the human body is like the growing of a plant from a seed.
      1. The flower is not the identical seed that was planted, yet there is continuity from seed to plant. The dead body is the “seed” that is planted in the ground; the resurrection body is the “flower” that comes from that seed.
    4. Those who sleep in Jesus - refers exclusively to church age saints. The Resurrection of believers of this dispensation.
      1. OT saints raised at end of Trib.
  4. THE SLEEPING BELIEVERS PROMISE (15)
    1. ​​​​​​​We (living bel’s) aren’t going to arrive ahead of them.
    2. Note: Paul includes himself in this group we. He believed so much in the imminent return of Jesus, as he’s called us to.
      1. Phil.4:5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
      2. Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
    3. The Coming of the Lord – is obviously a series of events.
      1. A dramatic beginning. An even more dramatic ending.
      2. Rev.19:11-16 Msg Then I saw Heaven open wide - and oh! a white horse and its Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True, judges and makes war in pure righteousness. His eyes are a blaze of fire, on his head many crowns. He has a Name inscribed that’s known only to himself. He is dressed in a robe soaked with blood, and he is addressed as “Word of God.” The armies of Heaven, mounted on white horses and dressed in dazzling white linen, follow him. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth so he can subdue the nations, then rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the raging wrath of God, the Sovereign-Strong. On his robe and thigh is written, King of kings, Lord of lords.
  5. THE SLEEPING BELIEVERS RESURRECTION (16)
    1. ​​​​​​​So how will this all take place?
    2. The Lord Himself – Not Michael, not Gabriel, not Peter, not a billion angels…The Lord Himself will descend.
      1. That should warm your heart.
    3. 3 Sounds:
      1. ​​​​​​​SHOUT
        1. ​​​​​​​A cry of command is addressed to the dead.
        2. This was used in a variety of ways: The cry made by the ship’s master to its rowers. The cry made by a military officer to his soldiers. The cry made by a hunter to his hounds. The cry made by a charioteer to his horse.
        3. “It was a loud authoritative cry, often one uttered in a thick of excitement.” Morris
        4. Jn.5:25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.
        5. Jesus stood as Lazarus’ tomb & shouted, Lazarus come forth! [if he didn’t call him by name, he would have emptied the graveyard]
        6. So, this was addressed to all those who had fallen asleep in Jesus.
      2. VOICE
        1. ​​​​​​​Maybe Michael? Jude 9
          1. Or maybe another arch angel? Dan.10:13 Michael, one of the chief princes.
      3. TRUMPET
        1. ​​​​​​​I believe this is only heard by those to whom it is addressed.
          1. 1 Cor.15:51,52 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
        2. Trumpet - The Jewish people were familiar with trumpets, because trumpets were used to declare war, to announce special times and seasons, and to gather the people for a journey (Num.10).
          1. When God gave the Law to Israel, the event was preceded by a trumpet blast (Ex.19:18-20)
        3. In the Roman Empire, trumpets were used to announce the arrival of a great person.
  6. THE LIVING BELIEVERS SNATCHED AWAY (17)
    1. ​​​​​​​Next, the living saints are caught up with the deceased saints.
      1. Where? In the clouds. Why? To meet Jesus. Where? In the air. Result? Forever to be with Jesus.
      2. It was just like how Jesus left earth...while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Acts 1:9
    2. Caught up – (Gk. αρπαζω/harpazo) To snatch up, to seize, to carry off by force. Latin rapturo/ rapto rapture.
      1. Greek scholar, Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest
      2. To catch away speedily. This is the translation in Acts 8:39, where the Spirit caught away Philip after he had led the Ethiopian to Christ.
      3. To seize by force. Jn 6:15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
        1. I hope this doesn’t suggest that some of the saints will be so attached to the world that they must literally be dragged away, Like Lot being delivered from Sodom.
      4. To claim for one’s own self. This views the Rapture from our Lord’s point of view as He comes to claim His bride.
      5. To move to a new place. Paul used this word when he described his visit to heaven (2 Cor.12:1-4). Jesus Christ has gone to prepare a home for us (Jn14:1– 6), and when He comes, He will take us to that glorious place.
      6. To rescue from danger. Acts 23:10 this is when Paul was rescued from the mob & brought into the barracks. This suggests that the church will be taken home before the time of Tribulation.
    3. Together with them - Death is the great separator, but JC is the great Reconciler.
      1. This suggests that our Lord will have the happy ministry of reuniting broken families and friendships. :)
    4. And thus we shall always be with the Lord – The place where Christians will be was not so important to Paul as the Person w/whom they will be.
      1. The entire content and worth of heaven, the entire blessedness of life eternal, is for Paul...embraced in the 1 thought of being united w/Jesus, his Savior and Lord.
  7. THE LIVING BELIEVERS COMFORTED (18)
    1. ​​​​​​​We shall all be together as the great family of God & forever be w/the Lord.
      1. Here the thought is continued upon the reunion of those who have gone to be w/ Christ & of those who are living when He returns.
    2. So, what do I do with this info?
      1. Comfort - Who? Those who have lost believing loved one’s, & those awaiting the Lords return.
        1. Repeating these truths will bring assurance to the heart.
    3. Rapture vs. coming for His saints:
      1. At Rapture Jesus comes for His saints. At 2nd Coming Jesus comes with His saints
      2. At Rapture we meet Christ in the air. At 2nd Coming we return with Christ.
      3. At Rapture saints are changed. At 2nd Coming no change to saints.
      4. The Rapture is imminent. The 2nd Coming is proceeded by definite signs & is calculated to the day.
      5. At Rapture deals with the saved. At 2nd Coming deals with the saved & unsaved.
      6. At Rapture Satan is not bound. At 2nd Coming Satan is bound.
      7. At Rapture the world is not changed. At 2nd Coming the world is radically changed.
      8. The Rapture no one sees Jesus. The 2nd Coming all will see Him.
    4. Sundays teaching in Mark 13:28-37...watch therefore…
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". "Bell's Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/1-thessalonians-4.html. 2017.