1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:22-Paul’s Teaching to the Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 4
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8-His teaching on sexual behavior
Paul has previously given them instructions on sexual behavior. And now, he encourages them to “excel still more” (:10). In other words, don’t get lazy or make excuses, but continue to follow his teaching. He makes certain that they understand that this is not just a matter of his personal opinion, but that this is a “command” that comes directly from God (:2), this will “please God” (:1), it is God’s “will” (:3), and to reject this teaching is not just a rejection of Paul, but of God, Himself (:8). You cannot make a point much stronger or clearer than that.
- illicit sexual intercourse
- adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
- sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
- sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12
A key word which Paul uses in this passage is “sanctification”. The word basically means, “to be set apart, separated,” from one thing to another. Here, the believer is to be set apart from the lusts of the flesh, sexual activity outside of that which God has ordained, to a lifestyle that is in keeping with His will.
"sanctification," is used of
(b) the course of life befitting those so separated, 1Th 4:3, 4, 7; Rom 6:19, 22; 1Ti 2:15; Hbr 12:14. "Sanctification is that relationship with God into which men enter by faith in Christ, Act 26:18; 1Cr 6:11, and to which their sole title is the death of Christ, Eph 5:25, 26: Col 1:22; Hbr 10:10, 29; 13:12.
"Sanctification is also used in NT of the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. This sanctification is God's will for the believer, 1Th 4:3, and His purpose in calling him by the gospel, 1Th 4:7; it must be learned from God, 1Th 4:4, as He teaches it by His Word, Jhn 17:17, 19; cp. Psa 17:4; 119:9, and it must be pursued by the believer, earnestly and undeviatingly, 1Ti 2:15; Hbr 12:14. For the holy character, hagiosune, 1Th 3:13, is not vicarious, i.e., it cannot be transferred or imputed, it is an individual possession, built up, little by little, as the result of obedience to the Word of God, and of following the example of Christ, Mat 11:29; Jhn 13:15; Eph 4:20; Phl 2:5, in the power of the Holy Spirit, Rom 8:13; Eph 3:16.
"The Holy Spirit is the Agent in sanctification, Rom 15:16; 2Th 2:13; 1Pe 1:2; cp. 1Cr 6:11.... The sanctification of the Spirit is associated with the choice, or election, of God; it is a Divine act preceding the acceptance of the Gospel by the individual." *
[* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 115, 271.]
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G38&t=NASB
Why would Paul need to address again something that he had previously taught? Perhaps after he left, these new believers had to face some difficult questions from people that they were sharing the Gospel with. In their culture, there were very few limitations on the extent of sexual behavior.
- For this is the will of God, your sanctification: Paul gave these commands to a first-century Roman culture that was marked by sexual immorality. At this time in the Roman Empire, chastity and sexual purity were almost unknown virtues. Nevertheless, Christians were to take their standards of sexual morality from God and not from the culture.
- Paul said this was a commandment (1 Thessalonians 4:2). That word was a military term describing an order from an officer to a subordinate, and the order came from Jesus and not from Paul.
- The ancient writer Demosthenes expressed the generally amoral view of sex in the ancient Roman Empire: "We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day to day needs of the body; we keep wives for the faithful guardianship of our homes."
David Guzik :: Study Guide for 1 Thessalonians 4, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Th/1Th_4.cfm?a=1115003
So, when they told a friend about the Gospel and that person began to inquire about how it would influence their life, they would be quite surprised that there were limitations placed on sexual activity. After all, their religions even had provision for sexual activity as part of their religious practices. Or, it could be that these believers, being previously accustomed to having freedom to express themselves sexually any way that they preferred, were themselves struggling to stay within the parameters that Paul had taught…and just wanted to make certain that they had heard it right the first time. Therefore, to clarify what Paul had taught, it could be that these believers had asked Timothy to have Paul state one more time what God had to say.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10-His teaching on brotherly love
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12-His teaching on relating to the lost
Paul encourages the Thessalonians to "excell" (:1,10) in "sanctification" in three areas of their Christian life (:1-"how you ought to walk and please God") that will help them be more effective in reaching people with the Gospel who do not know Christ…
- Possess Yourself...do not be involved in sexual immorality, "possess his own vessel" ("possess"-from "ktaomai"-present, infinitive-to purchase...to preserve, save...to get under control, to be winning the mastery over-The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 242). As an example of Christian morality.
- Prove Yourself...do not sin against other believers (:6), but love them. As an example of Christian brotherhood and acceptance.
- Present Yourself...be aware of how you live because it is a witness to non-believers (:11-12). A an example of Christian ethics and values.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18-His teaching on the resurrection of the dead
There must have been a question from the Thessalonians concerning what happens to those who die before Christ returns. Paul answers it here so that they will not be like people who grieve over someone who dies because they have no hope of an afterlife. He begins by saying that it will be similar to what happened to Jesus (:14). This is not based on what he thinks, but on what the Lord has said (:15). When a believer dies (:14-"those who have fallen asleep in Jesus", :16-"the dead in Christ") they immediately go to be with Jesus (their spirit goes to Heaven…the body returns back to the ground), and when He returns He will bring them with Him (:17)...and we will join them in the "clouds...air" (:17). The word "precede" (:15, "phthano") means "to be before-hand with; to outstrip, precede...to advance, make progress" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 424).
There was a concern that those who died before the return of Christ would somehow be left out of the rapture. Paul is explaining that when someone dies their spirit immediately goes to be with the Lord…and their body goes to the grave. Then later, when the Lord returns at the time of the rapture (see below)…their body will be raised from the dead. At the same time, those believers who are still alive at the time of the rapture will be caught up (raptured) to be with the Lord in the air. The words "caught up" (:17, "arpagesometha"-1 person, plural, 2 future, passive) mean "to seize...take away by force, snatch away...to convey away suddenly, transport hastily-The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 52). Our English versions of this word are not a translation…but a transliteration. The Greek word was translated into Latin as “rapturo” (this Latin version of the Bible is called the Vulgate)…then the English scholars transliterated this Latin word into English as “rapture”. To transliterate a word means to write that word in another language by spelling it phonetically (the way it sounds). This answer is intended to bring comfort those who asked the question.
Regarding the term rapture and its use in theology the following should answer your questions. It is taken from Ryrie’s Basic Theology, Electronic Media from Parsons Technology.
Our modern understanding of rapture appears to have little or no connection with the eschatological event. However, the word is properly used of that event. Rapture is a state or experience of being carried away. The English word comes from a Latin word, rapio, which means to seize or snatch in relation to an ecstasy of spirit or the actual removal from one place to another. In other words, it means to be carried away in spirit or in body. The Rapture of the church means the carrying away of the church from earth to heaven.
The Greek word from this term “rapture” is derived appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated “caught up.” The Latin translation of this verse used the word rapturo. The Greek word it translates is harpazo, which means to snatch or take away. Elsewhere it is used to describe how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and to describe Paul’s experience of being caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Thus there can be no doubt that the word is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to indicate the actual removal of people from earth to heaven.
Is it true that the word rapture is not in the Bible?
Yes, that’s true. But neither will you find the Trinity by name in the Bible, nor the word mission and a number of other terms we use to describe theological concepts clearly taught in Scripture.
The word “rapture” in Scripture is taken from the Latin “rapio” for the two words “caught up” used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It has come into popular use today to refer to the Lord Jesus coming for the church, to lift her up into the heavens. One raptured is “lifted up” in love.
When you are studying the rapture of the church, there are several things you need to keep in mind. First of all, the second coming of Christ is in two parts, separated by a period of seven years.
The first part is sometimes referred to as the “Rapture” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:52-58). The second part occurs when Christ physically, bodily returns to this earth on the Mount of Olives from which He ascended. The interval between these two events, known as the Tribulation and Great Tribulation, is divided into two, three-and-a-half year periods each. The seventy weeks described in Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of this.
The Great Tribulation is the “wrath to come” from which the believer is delivered by the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). The children of God, “because they have kept the word of His patience, will be kept from that hour of trial.” (Revelation 3:10).
We believe that the Scripture teaches that Christians will not be judged with the world when God pours out His wrath in the day of the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Scripture teaches us to look for the Lord’s return, not for the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10 and Titus 2:13).
Jesus said regarding His second coming, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” We should live like Jesus is coming today. It may be closer than we dare dream
By Adrian Rogers. © 2006 Love Worth Finding Ministries. Website. www.lwf.org.
Prayer: Lord, I want to live my life in a manner that pleases You. It is amazing that such a life is even possible. I know that I cannot do so alone, so I pray that Your Holy Spirit will give me the wisdom and the strength to do so. And help me to always live with the return of Jesus in mind...knowing that my life here is to be a reflection of my belief in His return and also find great encouragement in that fact.