Sunday, April 10, 2005

1 Thessalonians 4 - A Preterist View of the Resurrection

1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.
2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;
4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.
7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.
8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,
12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

we do not want you to be uninformed -- The key to the Thessalonian believers was information, understanding the truth of the resurrection.

John 11:21-26

Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Martha held to the current view of the Pharisees of her day that her brother, Lazarus, would physically rise again on the last day. Jesus informed her that, rather than the resurrection being something to look forward to on the last day, He, Himself, is the resurrection and the life. Everyone who believes in Him will live and will never die.

Jesus was saying that the truth is that the resurrection is spiritual and takes place the moment one believes in Jesus. When we believe in Him we are resurrected. We move from death to life, never to die again.

John 5:24

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

those who are asleep -- Sleep is a euphemism referring to believers who have died. Because death has been conquered by Christ it is now as benign as sleep.

John 11:11-13

This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.

1 Corinthians 15:54-56

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;

Revelation 21:4

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

Christ died to render death no more harmful than sleep.

so that you will not grieve -- The Thessalonians church would grieve because they feared their deceased loved ones would not participate in the resurrection. If they had understood the truth of the spiritual nature of the resurrection there would no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.

the rest who have no hope -- The Christian's hope is to be resurrected with Christ.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

if we believe - The “if” does not imply doubt. This is called a first class condition in Greek. It assumes the truth of the conditional phrase. Many would translate this as “since.” Translators translate it as "if" in order to keep its rhetorical value. The sentence has the form, "If A is true then, obviously, B is true also. Perhaps a better translation would be "if we believe (and of course we do)..."

Jesus died and rose again - Jesus' physical death and resurrection is the type of our spiritual death and resurrection.

Romans 6:5-8

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,

even so - If we believe that Christ died and rose physically then we must also believe that we will rise spiritually.

God will bring with Him - Notice Paul doesn't say Jesus will bring with Him. It is God who is coming.

those who have fallen asleep - In the New Testament sleep describes the death only of believers. That is because sleep is a picture of death and resurrection. Falling asleep is like dying to the world and waking is like resurrecting to life again.

in Jesus - In Jesus God has taken the sting out of death. It is now as harmless as sleep.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

by the word of the Lord - There is no teaching like this in the gospels so I think this means that Paul is saying this as a direct revelation by the Lord to him.

The similarity is remarkable between this passage with the word of the Lord in

Matthew 24:29-34

"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door."Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

that we who are alive - Those who are alive would receive the benefits of the Lord's coming.

remain until the coming of the Lord - The coming of the Lord is the day of His wrath to unbelieving Israel and the day of vindication to those who have believed.

Matthew 24:37-39

"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Matthew 16:28

"Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

will not precede - The Greek word for "precede" has the connotation of gain an advantage or benefit. "The Apostle is simply saying that death before the return of the Lord will in no way hamper or negatively affect one’s part in the return of Christ for His church." -- J. Hampton Keathley III, Th.M., a 1966 graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a former pastor of 28 years. Found on www.bible.org.

The Thessalonians were concerned that their "sleeping" loved ones would miss out on the glorious vindication of their trust in Christ.

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

the Lord Himself - I think it is important, at this point, to consider when the Lord Himself said these events were going to take place. I think that the following passage makes it clear that the "coming of the Lord" referred to here by Paul took place before the generation then living passed away. If this is true then the fulfillment of much of this passage must be spiritual rather than literal.

Mark 13:24-30

"But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. "Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. "And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. "Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

will descend from heaven - Paul is creating a military image here. Well, actually, he's recreating an image that has been a recurring theme throughout the Scriptures. Israel is portrayed as a nation occupied by a conquering army. This army, of course, is the powers of darkness under their ruler, Satan. Christ, our Ruler, has gone off to heaven and defeated Satan and his powers. Now He is returning to Jerusalem, Israel, to destroy the last vestiges of Satan's forces and free those who have been held captive.

Mark 14:61,62

But He kept silent and did not answer Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."

The victorious Christ descends from heaven, where he has been granted to sit at the right hand of power and is coming to judge those who have been defeated.

Notice that Jesus said that the high priest would see this happen.

Matthew 24:29-31

"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

The believing Jews had been suffering great tribulation at the hands of the unbelieving Jews.

Acts 8:1

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

with a shout - The shout is the first image of the announcement of the arrival of the victorious army of the Lord.

with the voice of the archangel - The shout is like the voice of an archangel. There is no definite article in the Greek.

with the trumpet of God - Can't you hear in your minds the shouts and blaring of the trumpet heralding the coming of the Lord?

the dead in Christ will rise first - The dead in Christ rising depicts the resurrection of the saints. All of the images of victory we find in this passage describe things that have already happened when Christ was raised. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD is a visible recreation of the invisible victory of Christ over the Satanic forces at Calvary.

Colossians 1:13

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

Colossians 2:12-15

having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

Colossians 3:1-3

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

we who are alive and remain - We know that we have already been raised with Christ as has been shown in the Colossians passages. See also

Romans 6:5-11

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Here, in Romans, Paul is saying that our spiritual resurrection with Christ conveys the truth that we have been raised out of the power of sin through our identification with the death and resurrection of Christ.

will be caught up - As we have seen, all believers have already been "caught up" or raised or resurrected with Christ. The significance of being "caught up" in 70AD is that what formerly had to be taken by faith has now become visible to all. This visible representation vindicated the faith of those who believed that Christ's triumph at Calvary had ushered in a new age, a new way of relating to God in spirit and in truth, instead of the old way of types and shadows. Those who had been persecuted by the representatives of the old way were clearly shown to be following the will of God as the old way with its temple and rituals and commandments was obliterated for all to see in the destruction of Jerusalem. God's wrath came down on those who clung to the shadows and His glory came to those who clung to the reality of His grace.

John 1:17

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

together with them - So no one has an advantage, living or dead. All will be caught up in the visible triumph of Christ.

in the clouds - Clouds are very striking images for the Jewish people. Notice all of the imagery that we find in both Thessalonians chapter 4 and the giving of the Law in Exodus 19.

Exodus 19:16-19

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.

While the clouds are literal in Exodus 19, they are also sometimes a metaphor for judgment as in

Isaiah 19:1

The oracle concerning Egypt

Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

to meet the Lord in the air - The heavens symbolize the presence of God. Meeting the Lord in the air pictures our coming out of sin and into God's presence.

so we shall always be with the Lord - The Thessalonian believers were already always with the Lord. The events of 70AD were confirmation of this fact.

18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Therefore - Because we shall all, both the living and the dead, shall always be with the Lord.

comfort one another - What could be more comforting than the fact that nothing we can do can separate us from the love of God?

with these words - We shall always be with the Lord. Hallelujah!

2 Comments:

At 12:14 AM, Blogger ltate said...

Thanks, Bill. I especially liked your comments on verse 16. Also, concerning verse 18, if these things were a comfort to believers before the resurrection, then they are even more so to us afterward. Much appreciation to you for your ministry to me.

 
At 1:25 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Thanks for your kind words.

I must say that if not for your presence on my journey I doubt I would have come to feel so comfortable with these things.

It's like we can't see God's truth without someone to help us out of our religious blindness. Your encouragement means a lot to me.

 

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