1 Thessalonians 4
The Passion Translation
Holiness and Love
4 And now, beloved brothers and sisters, since you have been mentored by us with respect to living for God and pleasing him, I appeal to you in the name of the Lord Jesus with this request: keep faithfully growing through our teachings even more and more. 2 For you already know the instructions we’ve shared with you through the Lord Jesus.
3 God’s will is for you to be set apart for him in holiness and that you keep yourselves unpolluted from sexual defilement. 4 Yes, each of you must guard your sexual purity[a] with holiness and dignity, 5 not yielding to lustful passions like those who don’t know God. 6 Never take selfish advantage[b] of a brother or sister in this matter, for we’ve already told you and solemnly warned you that the Lord is the avenger in all these things. 7 For God’s call on our lives is not to a life of compromise and perversion but to a life surrounded in holiness. 8 Therefore, whoever rejects this instruction isn’t rejecting human authority but God himself, who gives[c] us his precious gift—his Spirit of holiness.
9 There’s no need for anyone to say much to you about loving your fellow believers, for God is continually teaching you to unselfishly love one another.[d] 10 Indeed, your love is what you’re known for throughout Macedonia. We urge you, beloved ones, to let this unselfish love increase and flow through you more and more. 11 Aspire[e] to lead a calm and peaceful life as you mind your own business[f] and earn your living, just as we’ve taught you. 12 By doing this you will live an honorable life, influencing others and commanding respect of even the unbelievers. Then you’ll be in need of nothing and not dependent upon others.[g]
The Appearing of the Lord
13 Beloved brothers and sisters, we want you to be quite certain about the truth concerning those who have passed away,[h] so that you won’t be overwhelmed with grief like many others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who died while believing in him.[i] 15 This is the word of the Lord:[j] we who are alive in him and remain until the Lord appears will by no means have an advantage over those who have already died,[k] for both will rise together.
16 For the Lord himself will appear with the declaration of victory, the shout of an archangel, and the trumpet blast of God.[l] He will descend from the heavenly realm[m] and command those who are dead in Christ to rise first. 17 Then we who are alive will join them, transported together[n] in clouds[o] to have an encounter[p] with the Lord in the air,[q] and we will be forever joined with the Lord. 18 So encourage one another with these truths.
- 4:4 Or “Each of you must possess your vessel equipment.” Some see the “equipment” as a wife, but in the context it is sexual purity, not marriage, that is in view. The “vessel” is our body, including sexual urges that must be kept pure and holy with self-respect.
- 4:6 Although technically Paul uses a term for a business transaction, it is more likely, due to the context, a warning about cheating others by enticing them to sexual immorality.
- 4:8 This is in the present tense.
- 4:9 This “God-teaching” (Gr. theodidaktos) of divine love came to us through Christ. God taught us to love by his example of giving us his Son.
- 4:11 Or “Make it your driving ambition.”
- 4:11 The Aramaic can be translated “Keep your covenants” (promises).
- 4:12 That is, self-supporting (financially).
- 4:13 Or “about those who have fallen asleep.” Paul uses sleep as a euphemism for death.
- 4:14 Or “Through Jesus God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep [died] in Jesus.”
- 4:15 This phrase (“the word of the Lord”) is used in both the Old and New Testament for inspired prophetic speech. See Gen. 15:1; Isa. 1:10; Jonah 1:1; Luke 22:61; Acts 11:16; 16:32; 19:20. It is possible that this was spoken to Paul in his heavenly encounter, for he had never met the Lord Jesus, and what Paul reveals here is not found in any of the Gospels.
- 4:15 Or “those who have fallen asleep,” a euphemism for death.
- 4:16 Or “in the declaration . . . in the shout . . . and in the trumpet blast of God.”
- 4:16 Or “The Lord himself will continue habitually descending from heaven within the midst of a declaration of victory, the chief angel’s shout, and God’s trumpet blast, and the dead in union with Christ will continue raising themselves up first [or one after another].”
- 4:17 Or “caught up together.” The Greek word harpazō is used as a figure of speech in Greek literature during the time Paul wrote this letter. The book of Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls use the same Greek word and imagery to describe spiritual victory, not a “rapture.” The word can describe being caught up in the victory of Christ’s unveiling. Also, there are Jewish apocalyptic texts that use the same phrasing as Paul’s writings but have nothing to do with a physical rapture.
- 4:17 There is no definite article before clouds. It is literally “in clouds.” Where the identifying article is missing, it often speaks of quality, or it is used as a descriptive term. The Greek word for “cloud” is often used in the Greek classics of a large body of individuals, and it is so used in this symbolic way in Heb. 12:1–2, speaking of the “great witnesses who encircle us like clouds.”
- 4:17 The Greek word apantēsis is not a verb (go to meet) but a feminine noun (a meeting or an encounter), and in this context it is the bride of Christ rising to be with Jesus to have an encounter or “[bridal] meeting.” This rarely used Greek word is also used in the parable of the ten virgins, referring to the virgins rising up to meet (have a meeting) with the bridegroom. See Matt. 25:1, 6.
- 4:17 This is the Greek word aer and is not the sky, but the air around us. See Eph. 2:2 where it is also used not in a literal sense.