1Thessalonians 4:13-18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 29, 2000


Paul is going to address an issue that is of concern to the Thessalonians.

Since the time of Jesus, Christians had been expecting Jesus to return at any moment.  Christians have always been anxious for Jesus to come back and set up His kingdom on earth.

But a question arose with the Thessalonians, “What about people who came to trust in the Lord, but who have now died, will they miss out on His kingdom?”

:13-18  The Rapture

:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep,

ignorantagnoeo – to be ignorant, not to know; not to understand, unknown

asleepkoimao – to cause to sleep, put to sleep; metaph.; to still, calm, quiet; to fall asleep, to sleep; to die.  The verb is a “perfect” tense, meaning that the action happened in the past and has results continuing on into the present.

Paul is talking about Christians who have died. In the New Testament, death for a Christian is compared to “sleep”.


What death is NOT

The Jehovah Witnesses teach a doctrine called “soul sleep”.  They believe that when a person dies, that their soul goes to sleep in their body in the grave until the day of the resurrection. The Bible does not teach this. 
The Bible teaches that when a believer dies, their soul/spirit goes immediately to be with the Lord. Paul said that he preferred to depart and “be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23), and that to be “absent from the body” was to be “present with the Lord” (2Cor. 5:8).



Death for the Christian is compared to sleep because:
1)  A dead person simply looks like they’re asleep.  I’ve done enough funerals, it’s true.
2)  Death is about as harmless to a Christian as sleep.

Jesus said if we believed in Him, we’d never really die (John 11:25-26).  We may experience a separation from our physical body, but we will never be separated from God.


It’s just like naps and growing up.  Kids hate naps.  They detest naps.  They’d rather be up and running around wildly.  But you know you’ve become a mature adult when you grow to love naps.  You can tell a lot about the maturity of a person by how they respond to the suggestion of taking a nap.

Death for a mature Christian should be in a sense something that we look forward to.  After all, it’s when we get to go to be with our Savior whom we’ve waited for.

:13  that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

sorrowlupeo – to make sorrowful; to affect with sadness, cause grief, to throw into sorrow


Our sorrow is different

There’s a vast difference between the funeral of a believer and the funeral of an unbeliever.
At an unbeliever’s funeral, everyone is weeping and wailing.  They say things like, “He died so young, what a waste”.  There is an unspoken sense of uncertainty over the person’s destiny.  People “hope” they’re in a better place.
At a believer’s funeral, there can still be sadness, but it’s a sadness solely because the person is missed.  When talk turns to the person’s current state, there can be joy and happiness because they are in heaven with Jesus.
A few hours before Dwight L. Moody died, he caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him.  Awakening from a sleep, he said, “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go!”  His son who was standing by his bedside said, “No, no father, you are dreaming.”
“No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming; I have been within the gates; I have seen the children’s faces.”  A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle, he spoke again:  “This is my triumph; this my coronation day!  It is glorious!”

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

sleep in Jesus – those who are Christians, but have died.

will bringago – to lead, take with one; to lead by laying hold of, and this way to bring to the point of destination: of an animal; to lead by accompanying to (into) a place; to lead

with him – note that those who have died will be coming “with him”, or, “with Jesus”.  They are not in the grave, but “with Jesus”.

: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.

remainperileipo – to leave over; to remain over, to survive

preventphthano – to come before, precede. Those of us who are still alive in these bodies when Jesus returns (like us right here), won’t somehow “beat out” those who have already died.

Paul is talking about the resurrection, about rising from the dead, when we will receive new bodies.  This is clarified in verse 16 (“shall rise first”).  Those of us who are still alive won’t be receiving our new bodies before those who have already died…

: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:

shoutkeleuma – an order, command, spec. a stimulating cry, either that by which animals are roused and urged on by man, as horses by charioteers, hounds by hunters, etc., or that by which a signal is given to men, e.g. to rowers by the master of a ship, to soldiers by a commander (with a loud summons, a trumpet call)

voicephone – a sound, a tone; a voice; of the sound of uttered words

trumpsalpigx – a trumpet.  This is the event we call The Rapture.

Which trumpet?

I think some people get into trouble by trying to match this “trumpet” with one of the trumpets in the book of Revelation.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians that it was the “last trump” (1Cor. 15:52), and so some folks have tried to match this with the last of the seven trumpets in Revelation and make it sound as if we’re going to go through the tribulation.

Though this is a distant possibility, keep in mind that both Thessalonians and Corinthians were written about 30 to 40 years before the book of Revelation was.  I would have a difficult time saying that Paul had the trumpets in Revelation in mind.

Trumpets in the Bible –

The main use for trumpets in Bible times was that of sending signals to people, such as giving orders to an army.  One of the signals that a trumpet was often used for was to gather the people, or to gather an army together.

Judg. 3:27 – the Judge Ehud “blew the trumpet” and gathered the people together to fight the Moabites.
Judg. 6:34 – Gideon “blew the trumpet” and gathered the people together to fight against the Midianites.
Be careful about making the focus of the “trumpet” about when the Rapture will occur, the focus is on gathering God’s people together.

shall descendkatabaino – to go down, come down, descend

dead in Christ – again, Christians who have died

shall riseanistemi – to cause to rise up, raise up; to raise up from the dead

When a believer dies, their spirit goes immediately to heaven to be with the Lord.  If you are a believer and you were to die right now, you would know that you are in the presence of the Lord.  But you would be without a body for a time.

It’s when this trumpet is blown that those who have already died before us will receive their new resurrection bodies.


Resurrection bodies

Jesus said He was going to prepare a “place” for us, speaking of our new bodies:
(John 14:1-3 NASB)  "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. {2} "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. {3} "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
It is a body similar to Jesus’ resurrected, glorified body.
(1 Cor 15:49 KJV)  And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
It is a body perfectly suited for living in heaven. These current bodies wouldn’t survive, much like our bodies couldn’t live in outer space.
(1 Cor 15:50 KJV)  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Jesus was able to fly, glow in the dark, walk through walls, and appear out of nowhere.  I assume we might be able to do the same.  We shall be like Him.
(1 John 3:2 KJV)  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Heaven will be a wonderful place.  We will be with Jesus.  We will be in a new body.
This 85 year old couple, having been married almost 60 years, had died in a car crash.  They had been in good health the last ten years mainly due to her interest in health food, and exercise.  When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite and Jacuzzi.  As they “oohed and aahed” the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost.  “It’s free, “ Peter replied, “this is heaven.”   Next they went out back to survey the championship golf course that the home backed up to.  They would have golfing privileges everyday and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth.  The old man asked, “what are the green fees?”.  Peter’s reply, “This is heaven, you play for free.”  Next they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisine’s of the world laid out.  “How much to eat?” asked the old man.  “Don’t you understand yet?  This is heaven, it is free!” Peter replied with some exasperation.  “Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly.  Peter lectured, “That’s the best part...you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick.  This is heaven.”  With that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly.  Peter and his wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong.  The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault.  If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!” 

The trumpet will blow, those who have died will receive their new bodies, then it’s our turn…

: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:

Thenepeita – thereupon, thereafter, then, afterwards

remainperileipo – to leave over; to remain over, to survive. Those of us who have not yet experienced physical death when the Rapture happens.

caught upharpazo – to seize, carry off by force; claim for one’s self eagerly; to snatch out or away.  Our word “rapture” comes from the Latin translation of this word.

to meetapantesis – to meet one

the airaer – the air, particularly the lower and denser air as distinguished from the higher and rarer air; the atmospheric region.  Flying like Superman? Hmmm.


The Rapture

1.  It will happen suddenly
(1 Cor 15:51-53 KJV)  Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. {53} For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Paul says it will happen in a

momentatomos – that cannot be cut in two, or divided, indivisible; of a moment of time

twinklingrhipe – a throw, stroke, beat; a moment of time; from rhipto – to cast, throw; to set down (with the suggestion of haste and want of care).  I’ve heard people try to say that a “twinkle” is less than a “blink” of an eye, but I’m not sure I understand what a “twinkle” is.  I think a “blink” is quick enough for me.  We blink so fast and so often that we usually don’t notice our own blinking.  But the idea is that in the time that it takes for your eye to close and reopen, you’ll be in heaven.  Your eyelid will go down and you’ll see me talking to you at church, but when your eyelid raises again, you’ll see Jesus in heaven.  Very cool.

2.  It will happen unexpectedly
One aspect of His Second Coming will be very predictable.

His coming will be preceded by the time known as the Great Tribulation.  This is a time of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth, a period of seven years, with a definite time marker right in the middle, an event known as the “abomination of desolation”.

This is when the man known as the antichrist will enter into the rebuilt Jewish temple, stop the sacrifices to Yahweh, and demand to be worshipped as God.  This will be such an “abominable” thing that it will bring “desolation” to God’s temple.  Jesus said,

(Mat 24:15-16 KJV)  When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) {16} Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

Daniel referred to this same event (Dan. 9:27; 12:11) and said that it would occur 3 ½ years into the 7 year tribulation.  He even said that when it occurs, there will be 1290 days until the end, when Jesus returns.  This sounds very predictable.  If you are alive on planet earth, and you see a rebuilt Jewish temple being desecrated and a man claiming to be the Messiah, you can start counting the days until Jesus returns.

But one aspect of His Second Coming is completely unpredictable.
(Mat 24:32-42 KJV)  Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: {33} So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

When you begin to see the things that Jesus talks about in Matthew 24 beginning to happen, understand that He’s almost here.

{34} Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

The generation that sees the beginning of these signs coming to place will not pass away until it comes to pass.  Are there any folks alive on the planet that were around when the nation of Israel was founded in 1948?

{35} Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. {36} But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

There is an aspect of Jesus’ coming in which no one can know the day or hour.

{37} But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. {38} For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, {39} And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. {40} Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. {41} Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. {42} Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

How could the Lord’s coming be so “predictable” from the timing of the abomination of desolation, and yet be “sudden” at the same time? Because these are two separate events.

The Rapture will happen suddenly, unexpectedly, before the Tribulation occurs.  Jesus will come and snatch away His church. 

Some people believe the Rapture might happen in the middle or at the end of the Tribulation, but to me, this takes away the sense of the unexpected.

But the Second Coming, when Jesus returns with us to conquer His enemies and establish His kingdom on earth, will occur like clockwork from the time of the antichrist’s desecration of the temple.

:17  and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

This is our “blessed hope”

(Titus 2:13 KJV)  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

This is what we are waiting for, to be with the Lord.


The best is Jesus

For some of us, we struggle a little with this.  We’re not quite sure we’re ready for the Lord to come back just quite yet.
Perhaps we want the Lord to come back after we get our Sony Playstation 2 game console.  And that might not be until sometime after Christmas!

Let’s suppose that you were to travel to some isolated tribe in New Guinea, where the latest, coolest game the kids play is a game with twigs and rocks.  Suppose that the kids are all excited because a new game has been invented by a neighboring tribe, and they can hardly wait to see what the game is like.  Meanwhile, someone with a SUV breaks into the village for the first time and offers to take anyone who wants to go for a free trip to America, where their life will be transformed and they will live in luxury for the rest of their life.  “But no!” the children cry, “we can’t go until we learn our new game with twigs and sticks!”

The difference between New Guinea and America isn’t even close to the comparison between earth and heaven, yet it still makes a point.  Why are we so attached to the things on this earth when heaven is going to be so much better?

The best part about this resurrection is that we’ll be with the Lord, whether through death or through Rapture.
A child of God who was seriously ill and lacked assurance of salvation said to his physician, “Doctor, although I’m a Christian, I’m afraid to die.  Exactly what happens to us in the hour of death?” The surgeon, who was also a believer, thought for a moment and then replied, “I’m afraid I can’t give you an exact answer to that question!”  As he walked across the room to leave, he desperately wished he could say something comforting.  Pausing briefly before opening the door, he heard the sound of scratching and whining on the other side.  Suddenly he realized that he had left his car window open and his little dog had jumped out.  With the patient’s permission he let in his pet poodle who leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.  In a flash the doctor’s mind was awakened to a scriptural truth he had never before put into words.  Turning to the sick man, he said, “Did you see how my dog acted?  He’s never been in this room before.  He had no idea what was inside; yet when I opened the door, he sprang in without fear, for he knew his master was here! As Christians we have not been told about the glories that await us on the other side of death.  But one thing we do know; our Master is there, and that is enough!

:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.


There was a story about a man named Fred, who inherited 10 million dollars, but there was some catches, he had to make some choices, and he made the wrong ones. The will provided that he had to accept the 10 million either in Brazil or in Chile. Well, he chose Brazil, unfortunately it turned out that in Chile he would have received his inheritance in land on which uranium, gold and silver had just been discovered. Once in Brazil he had to choose between receiving his inheritance  in coffee or nuts. Well, he chose the nuts. And that was too bad, because the bottom fell out of the nut market, but coffee went up to 5.34 a pound wholesale. And poor Fred lost everything he had to his name, he went out and sold his gold watch for money, and he did that so that he could get enough money to fly home. It seems that he  had enough money to buy a ticket to either New York or Boston. But he chose Boston. When the plane for New York taxied up, he noticed that it was a brand new super 747 jet with red carpet and chic people and wine popping hostesses. The plane for Boston arrived and it was a 1928 Ford tri motor with a swayback, it took a full day to get off the ground. And it was filled with crying children and tethered goats. Well, over the Andes, one of the engines had fell off. And our man Fred had made his way up to the cockpit and captain said, Look I’m a jinx on this plane, let me out it you want to save your lives, give me a parachute. And the pilot agreed and looking at him said, “Okay, but on this plane, anybody who bales out must wear two chutes.” And so Fred jumped out of the plane whirling through the air, trying to make up his mind, which ripcord to pull. Finally he chose the one on the left, it was rusty and the wire pulled loose. So he pulled the other handle, the parachute opened but the shroud lines snapped. In desperation, the poor fellow cried out, “St. Francis, save me!!”   A large hand reached out of Heaven and seized the poor fellow by the wrist and let him dangle in mid-air. And a gentle but inquisitive voice asked, “St. Francis of Xavier or St. Francis of Assisi?”

Sometimes we get this feeling that our life is a lot like Fred’s.  We can feel like we’re just narrowly missing all the good stuff by making bad choices, choices that we couldn’t have foreseen.  We can feel like nothing is ever going to go right.  Life is so unsure.

But the real decision to make in our life is, “Am I going to follow Jesus or not?”  There is not much choice beyond that.  And with Jesus, even when life gets tough, you have hope of a place in heaven that is reserved for you and one that you don’t have to worry about having “missed it by that much”.  We have a sure, solid hope.


Comfort from the rapture

comfortparakaleo – This word has more than just the simple idea of “comfort” to it.  It means – to call to one’s side, call for, summon; to admonish, exhort; to beg, entreat, beseech; to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort; to encourage, strengthen
How can understanding the Rapture give us “comfort”?
It encourages us to keep going.
Last week we talked about the “patience of hope” (1Th. 1:3), about how hope can help us to keep on moving ahead in life.  As long as we know that there is an end to the tunnel, as long as we know that there is light up ahead, we can keep going.