Verse of the Day Devotion. 1 Thessalonians 4:15.
“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, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15
This section in the Book of Thessalonians speaks about the return of Christ for His people. The Thessalonians probably did not know or understand about the end times. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Paul speaks of the departed Christians, those who have died. as having fallen asleep. This has the idea that it eventually will result in a future awakening of those who have died. Jews and even pagans sometimes spoke of death as ‘sleep’, but this is particularly apt for Christians, since for them the whole concept of death has been transformed into the idea of sleep. Therefore, since they are simply asleep, there is no reason to grieve as if a non-Christian dies. The contrast is not between one degree of sorrow and another, but between Christian hope and pagan despair.
Then Paul clarifies this hope. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14. Believers have a hope when Christians die; they will awaken. They will come back with Christ as He returns for the final time. And we see this in our focus verse. “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, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15. This may have been a revelation received from God. But however he received this word, what He is saying is that those who are alive at His return will not meet Jesus first in the air. The living will have no advantage over those fallen asleep; they will not meet the returning Christ ahead of the dead, nor will they have any precedence in the blessedness at His coming.
Then we read how Jesus will return. “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 shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. This is the fullest description of His return in the New Testament, and when we reflect on the little that is said here we are warned against undue dogmatism about what will then happen. Paul’s main point is that it is none other than the Lord himself who will come. The dead in Christ shall rise first, then His followers will join them in the air with those who woke up. And the last part of this verse is the most wonderful. ‘and thus we shall always be with the Lord.’ The end of the age is not to be ushered in by some intermediary, but by God himself. “For behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.” Micah 1:3. This will no doubt be awe-inspiring.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.