1 Thessalonians 4-5 The Will of God and the Rapture

TMS Numbers 23:19 God Doesn't Lie
Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Observations: 23:19 Satan is the father of lies, but God is the father of truth. Satan and people can't be trusted, but God is forever trustworthy. He doesn't repent (as in go back on His promises). If God said He'd do it, He will. If He said it would happen, it will. He speaks galaxies into existence, so nothing is too difficult for Him. The only difficulty He has is with us choosing to believe and follow Him or not. Hebrews 11:6 indicates that faith is believing that God is who He said He is, and will do what He said He'd do. So why do we have difficulty believing Him? Because Satan deceives, distorts, and distracts us. By continually focusing on what God has revealed, we can keep His revelation in our thinking, and trust Him to fulfill His good desire for us.

Application: If we doubt God, we're being deceived by the devil and headed for discipline and destruction; if we trust all that God has said, it will be all good.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for being so true and faithful and trustworthy; may I never doubt Your power or promises, but may I stake my life on Your word. Amen.

1Thessalonians 3-5 Paul wanted the Thessalonians to be blameless at the coming of Christ not just for their benefit, but his reward. He tells them how to live according to the will of God so they will be pleasing to Christ when He returns. Paul also gives the major teaching about the Rapture and how believers should minister to each other in light of it.

1 Thessalonians 3 Blameless in Holiness at His Coming
3:1 Therefore, when we couldn’t stand it any longer, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in the Good News of Christ, to establish you, and to encourage you concerning your faith; 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you know that we are appointed to this task. 4 For most certainly, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction, even as it happened, and you know. 5 For this cause I also, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, sent that I might know your faith, for fear that by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor would have been in vain.
6 But when Timothy came just now to us from you, and brought us glad news of your faith and love, and that you have good memories of us always, longing to see us, even as we also long to see you; 7 for this cause, brothers, we were encouraged over you in all our distress and affliction on account of/dia your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we render again to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice because/dia of you before our God; 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you; 12 and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you, 13 to the end he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Observations: 3:1-5 Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians would have been overwhelmed by the afflictions from the Jews that they would abandon the faith. This is not belief that Christ died for their sins, but that God would reward those who diligently seek Him according to the revelation about the Messiah. So he sent Timothy to establish (make firm) and encourage (call alongside as he climbed the mountain) them in the faith they already had. If they succumbed to the pressure from the Jews, they would not be unborn again, but would not progress to glory. At the end of the last chapter Paul viewed the Thessalonians as the basis for his glory, crown/reward and in the Kingdom when Christ returned. If they failed to follow the path of faith, the labor he invested in them would have been in vain. Although he had great love and fondness for them (the chiastic center of the last two chapters), he was very conscious of what he was exchanging his life for. It looks like the higher priority was not their loss of glory, but his own (cf Heb 12:2). This understanding best explains all the facts.
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
3:6-10 Timothy brought good news (same word as gospel) of their faith. They were still believing the good news of the Messiah who would reward His faithful servants (Isa 40:10). Therefore Paul was encouraged that all the effort he had expended and distress he had experienced in the development of their faith was worth it. The apostle who died daily in his service to Christ (1Cor 15:31 -another passage in which Paul anticipates reward resulting from “successful” service) is revived (now we live) by the prospect of the Thessalonians being steadfast in their faith. This is conditional, and not a reference to their justification, but rather their progression in the faith, which would result in joy for Paul at the judgment seat of Christ. When Paul stands before Christ (2Cor 5:9-10) to be recompensed for his deeds, he would have joy on account of the sanctification of the Thessalonians, as a result of his ministry. This is why he was praying exceedingly that he would be able to see them and perfect (bring to completion for service -Mt 4:21 as in mending nets) what was lacking in their faith. To “perfect” is used for restoring someone overtaken in a fault (Gal 6:1), and being prepared for good works (Heb 10:5; 13:21). A fully trained, reproductive disciple is like his/her discipler (Lk 6:40), able to repeat the process with others. The Thessalonians were lacking an understanding of the process of the Christian life which Paul fervently wanted to correct, so they wouldn't go off track under the stress of afflictions. Obviously, they were not deficient in their understanding of Christ's substitutionary atonement, for they were clearly born again. So the lack has to be concerning their progress in the faith (Phil 1:25).
Colossians 1:22...to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight --- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
3:11-13 So Paul prays that God would direct him to see them, and that the Lord would make them increase and abound in love. “Increase” and “abound” are in the optative mood, used to express the strongest possible wish for something to happen. Paul wants their love to abound so they might be blameless in holiness when they stand before the judgment seat. Failure to love as Christ loved is blameworthy. Note the priority of love: one another, fellow believers in the Body, have precedence over others. This is consistent with Jesus' great command for believers in John 13:34-35. The love (agapao – self sacrifice for another's best interest) which Paul modeled for them, in leading them to faith, and guiding them to maturity, is the same love they needed to demonstrate toward others. Only then can their hearts be established blameless and holy before God on the day of judgment (Mt 24:44).

Application: If we abound in our love toward each other, we'll do well when Christ returns.

Prayer: Lord, thanks that following You is worth it, regardless of the cost; help me love others as You have loved me. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 4 The Will of God and the Rapture

4:1 Finally then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, that you abound more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4 that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don’t know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and wrong/defraud a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. 7 For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. 8 Therefore he who rejects this doesn’t reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.
9 But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, 10 for indeed you do it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more; 11 and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; 12 that you may walk honorably/honestly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.
13 But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in (union with) Jesus. 15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in (union with) Christ will rise first, 17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort/encourage one another with these words.

Observations: 4:1-8 Paul exhorts the believers to live so they please God. This is parallel to his instructions in Colossians 1, and consistent with the OT righteousness God blesses/rewards (careful to do what is right in His sight). Most people are curious about the will of God for aspects of their life, such as school, job, spouse, house, etc., known as the “subjective will of God” (things that vary from person to person). The attitude is sometimes: “Well, I want to know God's will, and then I'll decide whether or not I like it, and will do it.” God's will is what is good, acceptable/pleasing, and perfect (Rm 12:1-2), because those are characteristics of God. “Perfect” implies that anything else is second best. “Good” implies that anything else is not so good. “Pleasing” implies that if we knew all that God knows, we would be as pleased with suffering as with comfort. Most people don't know or experience God's will because they are not committed to doing it (Jn 7:17). God is not going to communicate His subjective will to us if we're not obeying His objective will (what He's commanded). See the sermon on the Will of God on Truthbase.net.
One revelation of the will of God is clearly specified in this passage: our sanctification-holiness, the second aspect of our salvation, necessary for glorification. We can chose to sanctify ourselves by obeying the truth (1Pt 1:22) or remain unholy. The specific will of God Paul commanded is sexual holiness, as in abstaining from immorality/fornication. To be holy is separate or distinct from those around us. Paul elaborates that this means possessing or controlling one's passions-emotions-desires so that one lives honorably, not in the passion of lust, as the Gentiles do. Those who lack this holiness will not see God (Heb 12:14), and will lose their inheritance in the Kingdom (1Cor 6:9; Eph 5:5). God will particularly avenge those who take advantage of or defraud a brother/sister in this area. To defraud is to promise one thing and deliver another. Many people use sex as a means of boosting their worth and value at the expense of another. Paul solemnly testifies that God will discipline those who defraud. God has called us to uncleanness, but glory and virtue (2Pt 3:1) which have their root in holiness or sanctification. Sexual sin, as do all others start in our mind/value system, when we falsely believe that our desires are better and more important than God's desire for us. God isn't withholding something good from us (remember Satan's lie in Genesis 3?), but is keeping us from something that isn't good for us at the present time. If we trust that God will give what's best, when it's best, we'll avoid a lot of trouble and scars that can hamper us for the rest of our lives. Beware of defining your spirituality by your sexuality, or any single benchmark. Success or failure in this area does not equate with being godly or ungodly. However, causing others to stumble and sin will reap judgment. See comments on 1Corinthians 6:18. The person who rejects the revelation of Scripture doesn't reject man, but God, because the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth. The natural man/woman who follows only animal passions is not following the Spirit, but has quenched Him (1Thess 5:19).
4:9-12 Paul says that his audience doesn't need instruction in philos (friendly love) or in eros (erotic love), a Greek term not used in the NT.  In contrast, Paul says they need philadelphia (brotherly love), because God has taught them to love each other by His example of sacrificing Himself for them. Note another of the one another passages. The priority is fellow members of the family of God.
John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. 17 I command these things to you, that you may love one another.”
Paul also instructs them to lead exemplary lives toward unbelievers, working to provide for their own needs so they are self-sufficient. This does not mean that believers should all engage in manual labor, but that one does productive rather than speculative labor. See comments on Ephesians 4:28.
4:13-18 This is the famous Rapture passage. Paul had heard of their faith and love from Timothy in 3:6, but their hope wasn't mentioned. So Paul corrects their wrong thinking, which was that those who had died have missed the return of Christ, and they would not be with them in heaven. Believers grieve when a loved one dies, but should not grieve like worldlings do. We grieve when we lose something of value, and don't think it can be replaced or restored. But God is more than adequate for any of our needs (see “Can God Meet Emotional Needs” on Truthbase.net), and can replace any relationship with Himself or another person if that were best. Believers will also see each other again when Christ returns. Those who have fallen asleep, Paul's way of describing death, since physical death is a temporary condition, will be resurrected (Dan 12:3). When Christ returns to set up His Messianic Kingdom, those who died “in union with Christ” will first be resurrected, then those who are living will be raptured to meet the Lord in the air (Acts 1:9), together with them. The word “rapture” means to be caught up, used in Acts 8:39 of Philip being taken away from the eunuch, and in 2Corinthians 12:2-4 of Paul's visit to heaven. Revelation 12:5 is also applicable.
There are three different major views on the timing of the rapture, all in reference to the Tribulation: Pre, Mid, and Post Tribulation. The Tribulation is the Seventieth Week (period of seven years) of Daniel's prophecy in 9:27. The Pre-trib people believe Christ will return and the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation. The Mid-trib folks argue that the Rapture will occur in the middle of the seven years. And the Post-tribs believe believers will go through the Tribulation and be raptured at the end of it. Amillennialists, who don't believe that there is a future Messianic Kingdom, consider it all poetry to be ignored.
Although it doesn't make a huge difference in how one lives to please God, the Pre-trib position has the best support, both logically and Scripturally. Why would Christ come to take believers up to heaven (John 14:1-3) only to immediately return to earth again for the Kingdom. The marriage feast of the Lamb, with His Bride, the Church in heaven, would be an appropriate way to pass the time of the Tribulation on earth. Ancient wedding feasts often lasted seven days. The imminency of Matthew 24:36, 42-46, Revelation 3:10, and an argument we'll see in 2Thessalonians 2:6-8 are good places to start your study. Don't spend too much time studying the issue; making disciples is much more profitable and pleasing to God. But if you want to study the issue in more depth, see J. Dwight Pentecost's “Things To Come.” The teaching of the Rapture should encourage and comfort believers (4:18).

Application: God's will is our sanctification/holiness; develop it as you await His return.

Prayer: God, thanks that You know what's best for me, and have communicated it in a way I can understand; don't let me be deceived but help me delight in doing Your will. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5 Sanctified Compeletely
5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 3 For when they are saying, "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape. 4 But you, brothers, aren’t in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. 5 You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don’t belong to the night, nor to darkness,
6 so then let’s not sleep, as the rest do, but let’s watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night. 8 But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God didn’t appoint/set us toward wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11 Therefore exhort/encourage one another, and build each other up, even as you also do. 12 But we beg you, brothers, to know/acknowledge those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, 13 and to respect and honor them in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, comfort the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all. 15 See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all.
16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Don’t quench the Spirit. 20 Don’t despise prophesies. 21 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. 22 Abstain from every form/appearance of evil.
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it. 25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the holy brothers. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Observations: 5:1-10 Regarding the timing of the rapture the Thessalonians knew what many today forget, that no one knows the day or hour. Since the Mid-trib position posits the rapture in the middle of the Tribulation which begins with the establishment of the covenant with Israel at the beginning of the Tribulation, there would be a three and half year advance announcement of the rapture. Similarly, the post-trib position posits the rapture at the end of the Tribulation; thus the making of the covenant would give a seven year advance notice, and the breaking of the covenant with Israel by the man of sin (Dan 9:27; 2Thess 2:3) in the middle of the Tribulation would yield another three and half year notice. The Day of the Lord can refer to a day or period of God's activity or judgment (Isa 2:12; 13:9-11; Jer 46:10; Joel 1:15 2:28-32; Zeph 1:14-18; 3:14-15; 1Cor 3:13;), or the Second Coming of Christ (Joel 3:9-16; Zech. 14:1-5; Phil 1:6,10; Rev 16:12-16; 19:11-21;) the specific indication being determined by context, and sometimes multiple events are in view. Here the context would argue for judgment, which could be at the return of Christ for His saints. Coming like a thief has both the connotations of loss (2Pt 3:10; Rev 16:15); and unexpectedness (Mt 24:43; Rev 3:3). When people, like the false prophets in the OT were pronouncing peace, destruction would ruin them. Those who walk in the light, have nothing to fear. Those who slink in the darkness should fear. Since believers don't belong to the night, but the kingdom of light, they should live like it. They should watch and be sober-minded (a proper perspective on reality that leads to having one's passions governed by reason and noble objectives). The fact that Paul had to remind the Thessalonians of this indicates that there are believers who don't walk in the light. Those who do are prepared for the day, wearing the breastplate of faith and love, and have their thinking guarded by the hope of salvation/glorification. This is a reference to the defense against the dark arts (see comments on Ephesians 6). God didn't appoint (literally “set or place”) believers on the path to wrath but on the path to salvation/glorification, living together with Christ in His Kingdom. The glorification that is in view here is clear when we view Paul's two other uses of the word for “obtain” in Ephesians 1:14 and 2:13 in the next epistle:
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
Those who keep on their guard and live in faith, love and hope, will reap their reward. The same cannot be said for those who sleep in the dark.
5:11-15 In light of the fact that faithful believers will live with Christ and the unfaithful won't, Paul tells the believers to exhort one another (not evangelize the sleepers) and build each other up. A number of questions about whether a passage is addressed to believers or unbelievers can be resolved by looking at the corrective action for the “bad” behaviors. It is almost always, “obey and behave,” and almost never “believe that Jesus died for your sins.” In verse 10 Paul affirmed that Jesus did die for the Thessalonian audience so that they might live together with Him. How do you encourage and build up others in light of the return of Christ? By warning of dangers and helping others understand and obey so they will please God and do well at the judgment seat of Christ. Being a good example helps as do the appropriate words, as Paul outlined in 2:10-12, and specifies in 5:14-15 below.
Paul begs them to know or pay attention to those who minister to them, are over them in the Lord, and admonish/warn them of inappropriate, dangerous temporal values and actions. The normal reaction to being corrected is to find fault with those who have exposed our faults. Instead, Paul says we should respect, honor them in love for their willingness to risk rejection to help us.
Psalm 141:5 “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.”
Those who don't acknowledge anyone over them in the Lord, nor are submitted to a Biblical Body of believers (Eph 5:21) are usually deceived and headed for well-earned destruction.
It is not only the job of leaders to minister, it is the responsibility of all of us to encourage and build up others (5:11). All believers are charged to admonish/warn the unruly (those out of line), comfort (this word means to “speak alongside” as opposed to encourage which means to “call alongside”) the feeble-souled, and support (restrain/hold back) the weak. Comforting the feeble-souled is not the “there there now” but a speaking of the words or stories that move them from weakness of soul/will, to strength. Restraining the weak or those without strength to resist sin on their own is probably the better translation in light of upcoming judgment at the return of Christ. Being patient/long-suffering (fruit of the Spirit) is necessary in ministry because people have spent so many years developing and ingraining wrong values and habit patterns. God intended that the sociological dynamic of a Body of believers would provide incentive, examples and encouragement to make the Christlike changes. But when the church culture is that of sit, soak, and sour, it's time to start anew (short of an unusual Holy Spirit inspired revival of sleeping saints; usually they only wake up to throw rocks). The whole Body has the responsibility to see that no one repays evil for evil (much more evil for good, which usually happens when sin is exposed). The Body should chase after what is good for one another, and all.
5:16-22 Parallel to the section referring to being filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul gives additional instructions concerning the will of God:
  • rejoicing always, because we know that in all things we are more than conquerors, headed for glory;
  • pray without ceasing, because that is how we express dependence upon God and draw grace from the Vine to live contentedly above our circumstances;
  • in everything give thanks, because we know that whatever God has allowed into our lives is for our benefit and He will work it together for our good;
The above three items, as commands, are God's objective will for believers, particularly since Paul specifies them as such. If we're not obeying His objective will, we won't be able to discern His subjective will for our lives. Verse 19 gives instructions regarding the more subjective will. The first is to not quench the Spirit. “Quench” is used of extinguishing a fire. In the early church, before the NT was written, the Lord made His will known through the Spirit via prophecy (see comments on 1Cor 12 and 14). The Spirit also worked then, as now, in prompting a desire to do God's will (Phil 2:13). Those who followed their own desires rather than the Spirit were “natural” rather than “spiritual” people (1Cor 2-3). To quench the Spirit was to resist His will in their lives. This was done by despising prophesies that revealed God's authoritative will to obey. This happens today when people reject the revelation of the Spirit of Truth recorded in the OT and NT. Instead of quenching the Holy Spirit and His revelation, believers should examine, test, and prove all things to know what is truth, and then hold firmly to it. Anything less is quenching the Spirit, our agent in sanctification (Rom 8:13). Paul's final warning is to abstain from every appearance of evil. There are some things which might be legitimate, but can compromise our testimony and ability to minister to others. On the other hand, Jesus partied with pagans, and was a friend of sinners, so wisdom is required to know and do God's will.
5:23-28 Paul's benediction is a commendation of peace and grace, sandwiching a desire for their sanctification (the will of God -4:3). He asks that God would sanctify them completely, so their entire being: spirit (the part of us that relates to God), soul (mind, will/values, emotions), and body would be guarded/preserved (optative mood -strong wish) blameless at the judgment seat of Christ when He returns. God is faithful to provide all we need, and His will/desire is such, since He calls us to it, but it's not automatic. God will not sanctify us against our will. We need to yield and submit to His Spirit and truth for it to occur. Otherwise, there would have been no need for the warnings and instruction in the letter. Only those who apply what Paul wrote will be blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus the Messiah. God is always faithful; we need to be too. Paul closes with a request for prayer, a reminder to express affection to all with a holy kiss, and a solemn command to read the letter to all. Finally he wishes the grace of the Lord Jesus the Messiah to be theirs.

Application: God wants all that we are to be holy, including our ambitions, thoughts, attitudes, values, feelings and actions, because that is what is best for us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may every aspect of my life be brought into conformity with Your will for me, so I may be blameless at Your return. Amen.

Digging Deeper:

God in a nutshell: God has a perfect will for His people that extends to every aspect of their life. He is faithful to provide all we need to bring it about if we submit to Him in every way, every day.

Build-a-Jesus: The Lord Jesus, the Messiah will return as promised, first for His Bride, the Church, and then to set up His Millennial Kingdom after the Tribulation.

Us in a nutshell: We are to be holy and blameless at the return of Christ if we know and do all that His Spirit has revealed as His will for us.

Where to Go for More:

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