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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

1 Thessalonians 4

Verse 1

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

Furthermore, [ loipon (G3063)] - 'As to what remains.' The transition to the close of his letters (2 Corinthians 13:11).

Then - with a view to the love and holiness (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13) just prayed for in your behalf, we now give you exhortation.

Beseech - `ask' as a personal favour [ erootoomen (G2065)].

By - Greek 'IN the Lord Jesus:' in communion with the Lord Jesus, as Christian ministers dealing with Christian people (Edmunds) (Ephesians 4:17).

As ye have received - when we were with you (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

How - Greek, the "how;" i:e., the manner.

Walk and (so) to please God - by your walk; in contrast to the Jews, who "please not God" (1 Thessalonians 2:15). 'Aleph (') A B Delta G f g, Vulgate, add here, 'even as also ye do walk' (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). These words, which he could say of them with truth, conciliate a favourable hearing for the precepts which follow. Also, "abound more and more," implies there had gone before a recognition of their already in some measure walking so.

Verse 2

For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

By the Lord Jesus - by His authority, not by our own. He uses the strong term "commandments" [ parangelias (G3852)], in writing to this church, not long founded, knowing that they would take in a right spirit this intimation that he spake with divine authority. He seldom uses the term in writing subsequently, when his authority was established to others. 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 12:17; and 1 Timothy 1:5 (1 Thessalonians 4:18, where the subject accounts for the strong expression) are the exceptions. "The Lord" marks His paramount authority, requiring implicit obedience.

Verse 3

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

For - enforcing the assertion, 1 Thessalonians 4:2. Since "this is the will of God," let it be your will also.

Fornication - not regarded as a sin at all among the pagan, so needing the more to be denounced (Acts 15:20).

Verse 4

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

Know - by moral self control.

How to possess his vessel, [ to (G3588) heautou (G1438) skeuos (G4632) ktasthai (G2932)] - 'how to get for himself his own vessel;' i:e., his own wife, so as to avoid fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:2). The emphatic position of 'his own vessel,' for wife, in 1 Peter 3:7, and in Jewish phraseology, and the correct translation 'get for himself,' all justify this rendering.

In sanctification (Romans 6:19; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 6:8). 'His own' in opposition to dishonouring his brother by lusting after his wife (1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Honour (Hebrews 13:4) - contrasted with "dishonour their own bodies" (Romans 1:24).

Verse 5

Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

In the lust, [ pathei (G3806)] - 'passion;' such are unconsciously passive slaves of lusts.

Which know not God - and so know no better. Ignorance of true religion begets unchastity (Ephesians 4:18-19). A people's morals are like the objects of their worship (Deuteronomy 7:26; Psalms 115:8; Romans 1:23-24).

Verse 6

That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

Go beyond - the bounds appointed by God, as to his brother. First, fornication is forbidden; then a holy use of its natural remedy affirmatively inculcated; lastly, the heinous sin, adultery, denounced (Ellicott).

Defraud - `overreach' (Alford).

In any matter, [ en (G1722) too (G3588) pragmati (G4229)] - 'in the matter:' the matter now in question: the conjugal honour of his neighbour (1 Thessalonians 4:4); 1 Thessalonians 4:7 confirms this. "Brother" enhances the enormity. It is your Christian brother whom you wrong (cf. Proverbs 6:27-33).

The Lord - the coming Judge (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

Avenger of all such - `concerning all these things;' in all such wrongs against a neighbour's conjugal honour.

Testified, [ diemarturametha (G1263)] - 'solemnly' (Ellicott); 'constantly testified' (Alford).

Verse 7

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

Unto, [ epi (G1909)] - 'for the purpose of.'

Unto - Greek, 'in.' "Holiness" is the sphere or element in which our calling has place. Saint is another name for Christian.

Verse 8

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. Despiseth, [ ho (G3588) athetoon (G1140)] - 'setteth at nought' such duties of his calling (1 Thessalonians 4:7); in relation to his brother (1 Thessalonians 4:6). He who doth so 'sets at nought not man, but God' (Psalms 51:4). As the verb in Luke 10:16; John 12:48 is used of rejecting God's minister, it means so here.

Who hath also given unto us. So A C f g, Vulgate. But 'Aleph (') B G read 'who giveth (present) unto you' (not "us"). The "also" in 'Aleph (') C G g, Vulgate. Besides having "called us in holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7), He 'also gives us His Spirit' to realize it. The giving of the Spirit is continually going on.

His ... Spirit, [ To (G3588) Pneuma (G4151) autou (G846) to (G3588) hagion (G40)] - 'His Spirit, the Holy (one);' emphatically marking "holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7) as His Spirit's attribute; and so His Spirit's office to impart to believers. 'Unto you,' as its objects; given unto, into, or within, and among you (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9; Ephesians 4:30). Giveth: sanctification is, not merely once for all accomplished in the past, but present and progressive. So the Church of England Catechism, 'sanctifieth (present) all the elect people of God.' "His:" He gives you that which is essentially identical with Himself, that you should become like Himself (1 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 1:4).

Verse 9

But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.

Brotherly love (Romans 12:10; Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 3:8; 2 Peter 1:7) - shown in relieving distressed brethren. A C support 'YE have.' 'Aleph (') B Delta G f g, Vulgate, read 'WE have.' We need not write, as ye yourselves are taught, and that by God, in the heart, by the Holy Spirit (John 6:45; Hebrews 8:11; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27). Paul indirectly exhorts, while formally omitting exhortation. It is so obvious a duty that it will occur to yourselves. Moreover, you will be the more zealous not to fall off from the high character you already have as to it.

To love, [ eis (G1519) to (G3588)] - 'with a view to your loving one another.' Divine teachings have their confluence in love (Bengel).

Verse 10

And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

Toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia. From one and a half to two years had elapsed between the conversion of the Thessalonians and the writing of this letter, allowing time for their liberality to their Macedonian brethren.

Verse 11

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

Study to be quiet, [ philotimeisthai (G5389)] - 'make it your ambition to be quiet, and to do your own business.' In contrast to the world's ambition 'to make a great stir,' and the restlessness of fanatical 'busybodies' (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12).

Work with your own hands. B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit "own" [idiais]. A 'Aleph (') have it. The Thessalonian converts were, it seems, chiefly of the working classes. Their expectation of Christ's immediate coming led some enthusiasts to neglect their daily work, and be dependent on others (end of 1 Thessalonians 4:12). The expectation was right so far as that the Church should be always looking for Him; but they were wrong in making it a ground for neglecting daily work. The evil, as it subsequently became worse, is more strongly reproved (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12).

Verse 12

That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

Walk - a continuous course.

Honestly - in the old English sense, 'becomingly:' as becomes your Christian profession: in contrast to "disorderly" (2 Thessalonians 3:6): not bringing discredit on it before the world, as if Christianity led to sloth and poverty (Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 2:12).

Them that are without - outside the Christian Church (Mark 4:11).

Have lack of nothing - not have to beg from others for your wants (cf. Ephesians 4:28). Ellicott, with Syriac and Vulgate, 'have need of no man.' So far from needing to beg from others, we ought to work, and get the means of supplying the needy. Freedom from pecuniary embarrassment is to be desired by the Christian on account of the liberty which it bestows.

Verse 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.

The leading topic of Paul's preaching at Thessalonica having been the coming kingdom (Acts 17:7), some perverted it into a cause for fear as to friends lately deceased, lest these would be excluded from the glory which those found alive alone should share. This error Paul corrects (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:10).

I would not. A B Delta G 'Aleph (') f g, Vulgate, have 'we would not:' Silas, Timothy, and myself desire that ye be not ignorant.

Them which are asleep. So Delta G [ kekoimeemenoon (G2837)]. A B 'Aleph (') f g, Vulgate, read (present) 'them which are sleeping' [ koimoomenoon (G2837)]: the same as "the dead in Christ" (1 Thessalonians 4:16), to whose bodies (Daniel 12:2, not their souls; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:8) death is a calm and holy sleep, from which the resurrection shall awake them to glory. Repose, continued existence, and awaking are implied in 'sleep.' 'Cemetery' means a sleeping-place. The full glory is not to be realized at death, but at the Lord's coming: one is not to anticipate the other, but all are to be glorified together then (Colossians 3:4; Hebrews 11:40). Death affects the individual; the coming of Jesus, the whole Church. At death our souls are invisibly and individually with the Lord; at Christ's coming the Church, with all its members; in body and soul, shall be visibly and collectively with Him. As this is here the consolation to mourning relatives, the mutual recognition of the saints at Christ's coming is implied.

That ye sorrow not, even as others, [ hoi (G3588) loipoi (G3062)] - 'the rest:' all the world besides Christians. Not natural mourning for dead friends is forbidden; for the Lord Jesus and Paul sinlessly gave way to it (John 11:33; John 11:35; Philippians 2:27): but sorrow as though there were "no hope," which indeed the pagan had not (Ephesians 2:12). The Christian hope, is the resurrection. Compare Psalms 16:9; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 73:24; Proverbs 14:32, show that the Old Testament Church, though not having the hope so bright (Isaiah 38:18-19), yet had this hope. Contrast 'Catullus,' 1 Thessalonians 4:4, 'Once our brief day has set, we sleep one everlasting night.' The tomb inscriptions of pagan Thessalonica express this hopeless view. AEschylus, 'Eumen.,' 638, 'Of one once dead there is no resurrection.' Whatever glimpses pagan philosophers had of the soul's existence after death, they had none of the body (Acts 17:18; Acts 17:20; Acts 17:32).

Verse 14

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

For if (not doubt: the indicative follows) - confirmation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13, that the removal of ignorance as to sleeping believers would remove undue grief respecting them (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13. "hope"). Our hope rests on our faith ("if we believe"). 'As surely as we believe that Christ died and rose again (the very doctrine taught at Thessalonica, Acts 17:3), so also will God bring (not only raise, but bring) those laid to sleep through Jesus with Him' (Jesus. The order and balance of the members of the Greek sentence require this translation). Believers are laid in sleep by Jesus (through Him death to them is sleep), and so will be brought back from sleep with Jesus in His train when He comes. The reference is not to disembodied souls, but to the sleeping bodies. The facts of Christ's experience are repeated in the believer's. He died and then rose; so believers shall die, then rise with Him. In His case death is the term (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Corinthians 15:6, etc.); in theirs, sleep. His death has taken for them the sting from death. The same hand that shall raise is that which laid them to sleep. 'Laid to sleep for them the sting from death. The same hand that shall raise is that which laid them to sleep. 'Laid to sleep by Jesus' answers to "dead in Christ" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Verse 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.

By ('in') the word of the Lord - i:e., in virtue of a direct revelation from the Lord. So 1 Kings 20:35; Haggai 1:13; 2 Corinthians 12:1; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2. This is the "mystery" once hidden, now revealed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Prevent - i:e., anticipate. So far were Christians then from regarding their departed brethren as anticipating them in glory, that they needed to be assured that those who remain to the Lord's coming 'will not anticipate them that are asleep.' The "we" means whichever of us remain alive (literally, we, the living, who are being left behind [perileipomenoi]) unto the Lord's coming. The Spirit designed that believers of each successive age should live in continued expectation of the Lord's coming, not knowing but that they should be among those found alive (Matthew 24:42). It is a fall from this blessed hope, that death is generally looked for rather than the coming of our Lord. Each successive generation represents the generation which shall actually survive until His coming (Matthew 25:13; Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51; James 5:9; 1 Peter 4:5-6). The Spirit subsequently revealed that which is not inconsistent with the expectation of the Lord's coming at any time-namely, that His coming would not be until there should be a "falling away first" (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3). As symptoms of this soon appeared, none could say but that this precursory event might be realized, and so the Lord come in his day. Each successive revelation fills in the details of the general outline first given. So Paul subsequently, while looking mainly for the Lord's coming to clothe him with His body from heaven, looks for going to be with Christ in the meanwhile (2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:23; Philippians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:5). Edmunds, 'The "we" is an affectionate identifying of ourselves with our fellows of all ages, as members of the same body, under the same Head, Christ Jesus.' So Psalms 66:6, end; Hosea 12:4, end. Though neither David nor Hosea was alive at the times referred to, yet each identifies himself with those that were present.

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:

Himself - in all the majesty of His personal presence, not by deputy.

Descend - even as He ascended (Acts 1:11).

With - Greek, 'in:' one concomitant circumstance attending His appearing.

Shout, [ keleusmati (G2752)] - 'signal-shout.' Jesus, as a victorious king, will give the word of command to Shout, [ keleusmati (G2752)] - 'signal-shout.' Jesus, as a victorious king, will give the word of command to the hosts of heaven in His train for the last onslaught, at His final triumph over sin, death, and Satan (Revelation 19:11-21), and will call the saints' bodies to life (John 5:28-29).

The voice of the archangel - distinct from the 'signal-shout:' Michael perhaps (Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7), to whom especially is committed the guardianship of the people of God (Daniel 10:13). The archangel's voice seconds that of the Lord (Matthew 25:6: cf. Hebrews 2:2 with Exodus 20:1).

Trump of God - which usually accompanied God's manifestation in glory (Exodus 19:16; Psalms 47:5); here the last of the three accompaniments of His appearing. As the trumpet was used to convene God's people to solemn convocations and to war (Numbers 10:2; Numbers 10:10; Numbers 31:6), so here it summons God's elect together, preparatory to their glorification with Christ (Psalms 50:1-5; Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52).

Shall rise first - previously to the living being "caught up." The "first" here does not directly express the first resurrection, as contrasted with that of "the rest of the dead" (Matthew 13:41-42; Matthew 13:50; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24; Revelation 20:5-6): it simply stands in opposition to "then," 1 Thessalonians 4:17. FIRST, "the dead in Christ" shall rise, THEN the living shall be caught up. The living shall not anticipate the dead saints. The Lord's people alone are spoken of.

Verse 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.

We which are alive and remain shall be caught up - after having been "changed in a moment" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Again he says "we," recommending the expression to Christians of all ages, each generation bequeathing to the succeeding one a continually increasing obligation to look for the coming of the Lord (Edmunds). If Christ's servants be secretly caught up (as some think) before the judgments upon the earth, how shall the Gospel be preached up to the end? (Matthew 24:14) Also, the gathering of the elect succeeds the great tribulation through which, though shortened for their sakes (Matthew 24:21-22; Matthew 24:29-30), they have to pass: but the elect there are probably Jews: the vintage of judgments on apostate Christendom succeeds the harvest of the righteous (Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 61:2; Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah 2:3; Malachi 4:1; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 11:11-15; Revelation 14:15; Revelation 14:18: see note, Jude 1:14).

Together with them - all together: the raised dead and changed living forming one joint body.

In the clouds - Greek, 'in clouds.' The same honour awaits them as their Lord. He was taken in a cloud at His ascension (Acts 1:9), so at His return with clouds (Revelation 1:7) they shall be caught up in clouds, as His and their triumphal chariot (Psalms 104:3; Daniel 7:13). Ellicott explains, 'robed round by upbearing clouds' ('Aids to Faith').

In the air, [ eis (G1519) aera (G109)] - 'into the air:' caught up into the region just above the earth, where shall be the meeting (cf. Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:6) between them ascending and their Lord descending. Not that the air is to be their lasting abode with Him. When a king enters his city the loyal go forth to meet him, the criminals in confinement await their judge (Chrysostom).

And so shall we ever be with, [ sun (G4862): not merely in company with, meta (G3326), but in coherence with (Ellicott)]

The Lord. No more parting, no more going out (Revelation 3:12). His point being established, that the dead in Christ shall have equal advantage with those found alive at Christ's coming, he leaves undefined the other events foretold elsewhere (as not necessary to his discussion) - Christ's reign on earth with His saints (1 Corinthians 6:2-3), the final judgment, and their glorification in the new heaven and earth.

Verse 18

Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Comfort one another - in your mourning for the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.