Pastor David B. Curtis


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The Resurrection Hope

(1 Thess. 4:14-15)

Delivered 08/14/22

We are continuing our study of 1 Thessalonians this morning. We are in a section where Paul is answering some questions that Timothy brought back from the Thessalonians. It appears some of the Thessalonian believers expressed concern for their departed loved ones. In the few weeks Paul was with the Thessalonians, he emphasized the soon return of Yeshua, and the Thessalonians were waiting on the Lord's return (1:10). While they were waiting, some of them died and those still alive were concerned that the dead would miss the second coming.

They may have been concerned about their dead loved ones because of what 2 Esdras 13 has to say about the second coming of Yeshua. The book of Esdras is an apocryphal work that was included in the canon of the Septuagint but is not part of any modern biblical canon. It is called Greek Ezra by modern scholars to distinguish it from the Book of Ezra written in Hebrew.

Esdras 13:17 For those who are not left will be sad 18 because they understand the things that are reserved for the last days, but cannot attain them.
Esdras 13:24 Understand therefore that those who are left are more blessed than those who have died.

Whatever the reason for their concerns about those who have died was, Paul answered them by assuring them from this text that their dead loved ones would not miss out on the second coming.

We looked last week at verse 13.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ESV

Paul wanted to remove both their ignorance and their grief, but the solution to their grief lay in removing their ignorance. Can you even imagine how much grief has been caused by Bible ignorance? Just think about the people who fear the Tribulation or are worried about the Devil getting them. Or consider those who fear that they may lose their salvation or those who hope that they can earn their salvation through their works. Bible ignorance can cause much grief.

Paul uses the sleep metaphor here for those who are dead. We spent most of our last study talking about death and Sheol. Paul uses the metaphor sleep for a reason. Both in sleep and in death, men are unconscious of time and events that occur around them.

Martin Luther, the great Reformer, wrote this concerning the unconscious sleep of the dead:

We should learn to view our death in the right light, so that we need not become alarmed on account of it, as unbelief does; because in Christ it is indeed not death, but a fine, sweet and brief sleep, which brings us release from this vale of tears, from sin and from the fear and extremity of real death, and from all the misfortunes of this life, and we shall be secure and without care, rest sweetly and gently for a brief moment, as on a sofa, until the time when he shall call and awaken us together with all his dear children to his eternal glory and joy. For since we call it a sleep, we know that we shall not remain in it, but be again awakened and live, and that the time during which we sleep, shall seem no longer than if we had just fallen asleep. Hence, we shall censure ourselves that we were surprised or alarmed at such a sleep in the hour of death, and suddenly come alive out of the grave and from decomposition, and entirely well, fresh, with a pure, clear, glorified life, meet our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the clouds… Scripture everywhere affords such consolation, which speaks of the death of the saints, as if they fell asleep and were gathered to their fathers, that is, had overcome death through this faith and comfort in Christ, and awaited the resurrection, together with the saints who preceded them in death. (from" A Compend of Luther's Theology," ed. hy Hugh Thomson, p. 242)

According to "A Study of M.L. Teaching Concerning the State of the Dead", by T.N. Ketola there are 125 references to "soul sleep" in Luther's writings.

What is wrong with what he is saying? Luther doesn't know what time it is. What he wrote would be true if he had been living in "this age" (i.e., the old covenant age), but he wasn't. Luther lived in the "age to come" in which the resurrection, second coming, and judgment were past. In the "age to come" when a believer dies, he does not sleep. He is immediately ushered into the spirit realm to dwell with Yahweh and the gods.

The Septuagint has an interesting rendering of Psalm 115:17-18:

The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord, nor any that go down to hades. But we, the living, will bless the Lord, from henceforth and to the age. Psalm 115:17-18

Let me make a strong statement. It is impossible to argue a consciousness of the dead in Sheol from the Bible. I know that Luke 16 has Lazarus and the rich man in Hades. The rich man is in torment, but he and Lazarus, who is in Abraham's bosom, are talking to each other. This scenario is totally contrary to everything the Tanakh teaches about Sheol.

The Bible teaches that Sheol is devoid of love, hate, envy, work, thought, knowledge, and wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:6 Ecclesiastes 9:10). Descriptions are bleak: There is no light (Job 10:21-22; 17:13; Psalm 88:6 Psalm 88:12; 143:3), no remembrance (Psalm 6:5; 88:12; Eccl. 9:5), no praise of God (Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17; Isa 38:18)—in fact, no sound at all (Psalm 94:17; 115:17). Its inhabitants are weak, trembling shades (Job 26:5; Psalm 88:10-12; Isa 14:9-10 who can never hope to escape from its gates (Job 10:21; 17:13-16; Isa 38:10). Sheol is like a ravenous beast that swallows the living without being sated (Prov 1:12 ; 27:20; Isa 5:14). Some thought the dead were cut off from God (Psalm 88:3-5; Isa 38:11 ); while others believed that God's presence reached even to Sheol (Psalm 139:8).

But God revealed that there would be a resurrection of the dead (Isa 26:19). Sheol would devour no longer; instead, God would swallow up Death (Isa 25:8). The faithful would be rewarded with everlasting life while the rest would experience eternal contempt (Dan 12:2). This theology developed further in the intertestamental period.

Here is what we need to consider: the story of Lazarus and the Rich man is a parable, and, because it is a parable, we must interpret it according to the rules of parabolic interpretation.

In his book, "Protestant Biblical Interpretation," Bernard Ramm says this: "Determine the one central truth the parable is attempting to teach. This might be called the golden rule of parabolic interpretation for practically all writers on the subject mention it with stress."

Dodd writes, "The typical parable presents one single point of comparison, the details are not intended to have independent significance." Others have put the rule this way: Don't make a parable walk on all fours.

In the New Testament there are ten uses of Hades and nine of them say absolutely nothing about either a conscious state of the dead or conscious torment in fire. Instead, these nine references all fit the concept of Sheol in the Tanakh as a place of darkness, silence, and unconscious sleep called death.

At the end of verse 13, Paul said, "that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope."  What was the "hope" that the Thessalonian believers had that the unsaved did not have? It was the "hope" of Israel, something Paul undoubtedly had taught them. It was the resurrection of the dead.

I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. Hosea 13:14 ESV
having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. Acts 24:15 ESV
And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? Acts 26:6-8 ESV

So, the "hope" that Paul is talking about to the Thessalonians is the resurrection.

What exactly did they understand about "the resurrection"? The traditional view that is held by most of the church is this: When believers die, their bodies go into the grave and their spirit goes to heaven to be with the Lord. They are in a disembodied state awaiting the resurrection at the end of time. Then, at the end of time, the Lord returns, resurrects all the decayed bodies of the dead saints, puts them back together, and then changes the physically resurrected bodies into spiritual immortal bodies like Christ's.

One of the major problems with this view is that Paul taught that the resurrection was "about to happen" in his day.

having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; Acts 24:15 YLT

Notice that the resurrection was about to happen in Paul's day. The question that needs to be answered is what is the resurrection? It was Yahweh removing all the Old Covenant dead saints out of Sheol and taking them to heaven to live in His presence. Prior to Yeshua's messianic work, no one went to Heaven.

Prior to Yeshua's messianic work, all who died slept in the grave and awaited the atoning work of Christ and the resurrection from the dead. Until Christ paid for man's sin, He could not go into Yahweh's presence. To be taken out of Sheol and brought into the presence of Yahweh is what the Bible calls "resurrection."

For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so, through Yeshua, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV

"For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again"the ESV's "since" is more interpretation than translation. It's good, but I wish that the translators had stuck to translating! The NASB, YLT, KJV, ASV, CSB, and TS2009 all have, "For if we believe." The Greek here is "ei gar" which would be "if for." The ESV renders this "since" because it is a first-class conditional sentence which is assumed true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

Commenting on this verse J. Hampton Keathley lll Th.M. writes, "A conditional sentence has two parts, the condition (the pro-ta-sis) and the result (the a-pod-o-sis). If the first part is true or assumed to be true for the sake of argument, so is the second part or the result. So, since these Thessalonians believed that Christ really died and rose from the dead, they should likewise believe that He will return, and when He does, He will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus."

We believe"— this is the important theological verb (present active indicative) for human's putting their faith in Christ. This is the Greek verb pisteuō, which is translated into English by "faith," "trust," or "believe."

We have talked a lot about faith. So, what is faith? Can you explain it? Faith is understanding and assent. If you tell me that you're coming to the conference this April, I understand what you are saying. If I assent to it or not has to do with how I view your character. If I believe you, that is faith. I understand and assent to what you told me. Faith in Christ is understanding and assent to the Gospel.

Let's talk for a minute about the Gospel. Paul says, "since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again"— "that" is a hoti clause and gives doctrinal content to the gospel. What is it that has to be believed? Our text says that they believed that "Yeshua died and rose again." That's it? Well, that's the Gospel. Look at what Paul taught the Corinthians.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

That's the Gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The word Gospel comes from the Greek noun euaggelion which becomes EVANGELISM in English. It means "good news," and the Greek verb, euangelizo, means "to bring or announce good news." Both words are derived from the noun, angelos, which means "messenger." In the New Testament, these two words, euangelion and euanggelizo, became technical terms for the message of good news offered to men through faith in Christ.

So, the Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. A Christian, then, is one who believes those things. Now, I hope that some of you are recalling that I often say that one must believe that Yeshua is Yahweh.

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."  John 8:24 ESV

What Yeshua says is that "Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." Unfortunately, the translators add "He" even though it is not in the Greek text. Adding the "he" detracts from the significant thing Yeshua is claiming here. What is Yeshua claiming? He is claiming to be "I Am." And by doing so, He was asserting equality with Yahweh Himself, the "I Am That I Am" —the self-existent, eternal God. Yeshua is Yahweh. To deny the deity of Christ, to deny that He is in fact Yahweh in the flesh, is to die in your sins.

So, if we have to believe that He is God, why does Paul only say we have to believe in his death and resurrection? Why didn't he say we have to believe that he is God? He did say that when he said we had to believe in the resurrection.

concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Yeshua the Christ our Lord, Romans 1:3-4 ESV

"Was declared to be the Son of God"—The word "declared" is translated from the Greek word horizo, which does NOT mean "declare" or "show." Throughout the New Testament it consistently means "appoint, determine, or fix." It literally means to "mark out, set a boundary" or "to decree, to appoint, to set limits." The passive voice points to God the Father doing the appointing. The Tanakh background for this appointing is found in Psalm 2.

"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Psalm 2:6-7 ESV

Here the Davidic Son is decreed to be the anointed King. What Paul implies is that by Christ's resurrection, He was singled out in a distinct way as the Son of God with power.

"In power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead"— it was the resurrection that marked Yeshua out as "Son of God." The resurrection reversed the verdict that the Jews would have placed on a crucified Messiah.

"And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 ESV

The Jews knew that Yeshua had died by crucifixion, on a tree; therefore, according to Deuteronomy, he died under the curse of God. Thus, He could not possibly be the Messiah. Most of the Jewish people in Paul's day expected that the Messiah would come with power and political sway and would defeat the oppressive rulers of the world, the Romans, and establish an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem and live forever triumphant with His people. Messiahs don't get arrested and beaten up and mocked and crucified and leave their people destitute. This was absolutely devastating. But the resurrection changed everything. Notice what Peter preached on Pentecost.

"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Yeshua God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. Acts 2:29-33 ESV

The resurrection signals that the new age has begun. In Judaism, the resurrection of the dead was linked with the return from exile and the fulfilment of God's promises. So, the resurrection of Yeshua indicates that God has begun to fulfill His promises to Israel.

For Paul, the resurrection was something that would happen at the end of the age. Paul saw that the resurrection of Yeshua revealed Him to be the Son of God and also showed that the end of the age was near.

Yeshua claimed to be God, and He proved His claim by conquering death. Do you know what that means? It means that we have to take seriously everything He said. For example, He said that He is the only way to heaven,

Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 ESV

We have to abandon the notions that "all religions lead to the same place" and that "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere." Because of the resurrection, Christ's words carry weight they never would have carried otherwise. If He had remained in the grave, the question of whether or not He is the only way to heaven would be a matter of debate. However, the resurrection answers the question and ends the argument once and for all. Is Yeshua really the son of God? Well, He has power over death, so I guess that means He is everything He claimed to be.

To deny the Resurrection of Yeshua is to destroy the entire basis of the Christian faith. The Christian faith is not based primarily on the teachings of Yeshua, the life of Yeshua, the miracles of Yeshua, or the death of Yeshua. The Christian faith is based on all of these, culminating in the resurrection of Yeshua from the dead. If there is no resurrection, all of these other factors are valueless.

Does a person have to believe in the resurrection of Christ to be a Christian? Yes! If you do not believe that he rose from the dead, you are saying He is a liar.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 ESV

Eternal life is predicated on belief in the resurrection. You must believe: "that God has raised Him from the dead." Why is belief in the resurrection so important? The resurrection proved that Christ was all that He said He was. Yeshua was not just a great teacher, great prophet, or a good example. He is Lord! What you believe about Yeshua will determine where you spend eternity.

The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Believing this, saves us and gives us eternal life.

"Yeshua died and rose again"—Paul uses "Yeshua," the human name of our Lord. He uses this elsewhere in this letter in 1:10, also in connection with His resurrection.

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Yeshua who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ESV

"Yeshua died and rose again"—"these are both aorist active indicatives which reflect historical facts. The death and resurrection of Christ are among the best attested facts of history. And don't forget the Scriptures predicted these events before they occurred. The Feast of Passover.

These gospel truths are the basis for the believer's hope. They sum up the whole atoning work. If we believe, as it were, in the full implications of the death and resurrection of Christ, then we know that judgment for sin has been satisfied.

For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so, through Yeshua, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV

"Even so, through Yeshua"—this is saying that these believers died as Christians in union with him. The resurrection of Yeshua is put forward as the guarantee of the resurrection of believers.

"God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep"what does this mean? Who are those who are asleep? It's those who have died. This is talking about the resurrection of the dead. At the coming of Christ, the dead were raised.

In an online discussion on this passage in 1 Thessalonians, former preterist Sam Frost writes, "To 'bring' something, or someone means that it, or they, are 'with' you already, so that you can 'bring' it, or them. 'I'll bring the desert with me'. Simple." 'With him' in heaven. Standard answer, been given for thousands of years. Even a Hyper Pret, or a caveman can't screw that up."

This phrase is not really as simple as Sam would make it sound. "God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep"is a difficult phrase because the word "bring" is the verb agō which has such a wide semantic field (to bring, to lead, to lead away, to lead out, to take, to go, to go away, etc.). Does it imply that the dead are with Yeshua in heaven or that the dead will be raised at Yeshua's coming?

Linguists say that the verse may mean, on the one hand, that God will bring from heaven with Yeshua the souls of those who have fallen asleep in him. On the other hand, the verse may mean that God will take with Yeshua the deceased. This second interpretation understands the verb as a reference to the resurrection. This second interpretation is preferable since the concern of this verse and of verses 15–16 is to show that the death and resurrection of Christ becomes the paradigm and foundation for the destiny of believers.

I think we can rule out the first one here (God will bring from heaven with Yeshua the souls of those who have fallen asleep in him). Why can we rule this out? We can rule it out because prior to the second coming, the dead did not go to heaven. This is fundamental to understanding this text, so let's go over it again.

Throughout the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age" and the "age to come." Notice what Yeshua says in Matthew 12.

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32 ESV

The New Testament writers lived in the age that they called "this age." To the New Testament writers, "the age to come" was future, but it was a very near future because "this age" was about to end. The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means " about to be." We could translate this: "the age about to come." About to come for whom? For the original audience. In other words, for those in the first century.

"This age" of the Bible is the age of the Old Covenant that was about to pass away in the first century. It should be clear to you that "this age" is not the Christian age in which we live. In the first century, the age of the Old Covenant was fading away and would end completely when the temple was destroyed in AD 70.

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13 ESV

The book of Hebrews was written at around AD 65-69. At this time, the Old Covenant was still in effect, but it was ready to pass away. It passed away in AD 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. The "this age" of the Bible is now ancient history.

At the end of that Old Covenant age, the following things happened:

1. Christ returned.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Yeshua, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  2 Timothy 4:1 ESV

"Who is"—is the word mello which means, "about to judge."

For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;" Hebrews 10:37 ESV

The Greek is very expressive and emphatic. The clause literally reads: "For yet a very, very little while, and He that shall come will come." Again, the book of Hebrews was written at around AD 65-69.

2. The resurrection occurred.

Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."  John 11:24 ESV

This was the "last day" of "this age." But "the age to come" has no last days. So, the resurrection was to happen at the end of the Old Covenant age when the Lord returned.

3. The judgment occurred.

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. Matthew 13:40 ESV

Since the "this age" of the Bible ended in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Lord, we must be in "the age to come." And if we are in "the age to come," then the second coming, the resurrection and the judgment have already happened.

If prior to Yeshua's messianic work no one went to Heaven, where did people go when they died? In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for where they were prior to the resurrection is Sheol. In the New Testament, the Greek word is Hades. As we saw in our last study, these terms simply meant the grave. Old Covenant believers slept in the grave until the resurrection of the dead at the end of the Old Covenant age. This seems so clear and yet so many are confused about this.

Bob Utly writes, "The NT is not clear about the state of believers between death and Resurrection Day. When this passage is compared to 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8, postulating a disembodied period becomes a logical necessity. Believers are with the Lord, but as yet do not have their resurrection bodies."

This is a typical futurist view. This is the same view that former full preterist Sam is pushing.

In the discussion on the web, Sam goes on to say, "Now, the 'dead' in question, who are 'with God' in heaven, and who are to be 'brought' with God when Jesus, son of Mary, born in Bethlehem, descends from heaven, it says that 'the dead who are in Christ shall rise first' (οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστήσονται πρῶτον). Now, use your brain here…if the dead (in reference to their bodies) are 'with God' (in reference to their spirits), and they will be brought 'with him' when Jesus 'descends' from heaven, why is there a need for them to be 'raised'? Aren't they already 'with God' in heaven? Yes. Aren't they, then, 'alive'? Yes. WHAT, then, that is theirs, stands in need of being RAISED? Well…their bodies. Duh."

Really Sam?  You say, "Now, the 'dead' in question, who are 'with God' in heaven." But when did they go to heaven, Sam? If in the Old Covenant believers went to Sheol at death as the Bible clearly teaches, when did they get transferred to heaven? Can you give me a verse on when this happened? I can give you a verse.

Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."  John 11:24 ESV

They were transferred to heaven, to the presence of Yahweh, on the last day of the Old Covenant which was in August of AD 70. So, the book of Thessalonians was written in 50 AD and it would be 20 years until the resurrection. At the time of this writing, the dead were in Sheol, not heaven.

For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so, through Yeshua, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV

This can't imply that the dead are with Yeshua in heaven. It is saying that the dead will be raised at Yeshua's coming. Let's move on to the next verse.

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ESV

"For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord"—Paul is telling them that the hope of Christ's return and the accompanying resurrection of believers is based on God's promises. Paul is relating to us the direct "word of the Lord."

G.K. Beal writes that "Paul is recollecting the words of the earthly Jesus and paraphrasing him. This is apparent from noticing that 4:15—5: 7 has numerous parallels that demonstrate a high probability that Paul is dependent on Jesus' teaching on the last things."

Absolutely right. Paul got his eschatology from Yeshua. If you compare Matthew 24-25 with 1 Thessalonians 4:13—5: 7 you will see this.

"That we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord"—who is writing this? Paul is. When is he writing it? In AD 50. It sounds like he expects to be alive when the Lord returns.

J. Hampton Keathley lll (Th.M.) who is a futurist writes that "Paul first addresses the issue of those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, but in doing this, he says 'we' and not simply 'those.' In the Greek text, the 'we' is slightly emphatic and seems to be designed to bring out an important point. Clearly, Paul included himself among those who could be alive when the Lord returns. There is a clear implication here. Paul believed the coming of the Lord and the things described here were imminent and could have occurred in his day. Any other viewpoint fails to give the needed recognition to Paul's use of the first-person plural pronoun 'we' instead of the third person, 'those.'"

Anyone who doesn't think that Paul and all the New Testament writers expected the Lord's return in their generation is greatly confused.

Commentator Bob Utly also sees that Paul expected the Lord's return in his life-time, but then he writes that "This expectation of an 'any-moment' return of the Lord is the privilege of every generation of believers." Explain this! For over 2,000 years believers have been privileged to expect an "any-moment" return?

Regarding the fact of imminency here, Thomas, in The Expositors Bible Commentary, has this to say: "Had this not been the Thessalonians' outlook, their question regarding the dead in Christ and exclusion from the parousia would have been meaningless. They were thinking in terms of an imminent parousia, expecting to see it before death" (Best, p. 183).

"Who are left until the coming of the Lord"—this phrase "who are left" (hoi perileipomenoi) appears over and again in the literature of the era and often refers to those who had survived a tragedy that left others dead. But the word does not convey this sense in every context. The use of this description of the living believers may imply that some Christians in Thessalonica had died in the persecution driven forward by their unconverted contemporaries. Remember what Paul said to them earlier.

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Yeshua that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV

They were suffering persecution. Maybe this was the cause of some of their deaths.

"Coming of the Lord"— "coming" here is the Greek word Parousia which literally means "presence," and by metaphorical extension, means "coming." To the disciples, the "parousia" of the son of man signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship, His glorious appearing in power as Lord. Most references to the Second Coming have a time indicator with them and the indicator here is that Paul expected it in his lifetime.

"Will not precede those who have fallen asleep"—"will not" is a strong double negative, "never—no, never." "Precede" is phthano, "to precede, go before." It means "by no means will they go before or precede." Those saints who have died will fully participate in all the end-time events as will the believers who are alive at the Second Coming. Young's Literal Translation puts it this way:

for this to you we say in the word of the Lord, that we who are living—who do remain over to the presence of the Lord—may not precede those asleep, 1 Thessalonians 4:15 YLT

Paul is assuring the Thessalonians that Christ would return in their lifetime and that those who were alive at that time would not go into God's presence ahead of the dead saints. Don't worry about your deceased loved ones, they will be raised and ushered into the presence of Yahweh.

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