1 Thessalonians 4:14
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) For if . . .—A reason for thinking that if the Thessalonians knew and believed the truth, they ought not to be so miserable. The “if” implies no doubt: “if we believe (as we do), then,” &c.—merely clearing the ground for a logical deduction. The writer does not care to prove so well-known a fact as the resurrection of Christ; he only argues from the clear faith of the Thessalonians with regard to it.

Jesus died and rose again.—Notice the human name; for though it is true that as God He raised Himself (John 10:18), as man He was no less dependent upon the Father than we are (Acts 17:31): therefore His resurrection is a real argument for ours. And the two verbs are put together because of their contrariety—“really died a human death, and yet rose again.”

Even so.—The structure of the clauses is not quite regular. We should have expected either the omission of “we believe that” in the first, or the insertion of it in the second: it makes the statement of the second, however, more direct or authoritative.

Which sleep in Jesus.—Rather, which were laid to sleep through Jesus. The meaning of the preposition, however, is not widely different from “in.” The simpler words in Revelation 14:13 mean “dying in full communion still with Him.” Our present phrase makes Him, as it were, the way, or door, by which they journeyed to death: He surrounded them as they sank to rest (Comp. John 10:9.) Additional sweetness is imparted to the phrase by the use of the metaphor of sleep; but it is, perhaps, too much to say, as Dean Alford does, that “falling asleep” is here contrasted with “dying,” in this sense:—“Who through the power of Jesus fell asleep instead of dying”—for the word is even used of a judicial punishment of death in 1Corinthians 11:30.

Will God bring with himi.e., with Jesus. In the Greek the word God stands in an unemphatic position—“Even so will God bring,” implying that it was God also who had raised Jesus from the dead. But St. Paul is not content with saying, “Even so will God raise those who passed through Christ to death.” The thought of the Advent is so supreme with him that he passes at once to a moment beyond resurrection. If the question be asked from whence God will bring the dead along with Christ, it must be answered, from Paradise, and the persons brought must be the disembodied spirits; for in 1Thessalonians 4:16 this coming of the Lord with the saints is the signal for the dead—i.e., the bodies—to rise. It must be owned, however, that this manner of speaking is unusual. Jesus is no longer in Paradise, for the spirits to be brought thence with Him; and one would have expected something more like “bringing up” (Hebrews 13:20), as it is always considered a descent into “hell” or Paradise. Because of this difficulty (which however is more in form than reality), some take the words to mean, “God will lead them by the same path with Christ”—i.e., will make their whole career (including resurrection) conform with His, comparing the same verb in Romans 8:14; Hebrews 2:10.

1 Thessalonians

SLEEPING THROUGH JESUS

1 Thessalonians 4:14.

That expression is not unusual, in various forms, in the Apostle’s writings. It suggests a very tender and wonderful thought of closeness and union between our Lord and the living dead, so close as that He is, as it were, the atmosphere in which they move, or the house in which they dwell. But, tender and wonderful as the thought is, it is not exactly the Apostle’s idea here. For, accurately rendered--and accuracy in regard to Scripture language is not pedantry--the words run, ‘Them which sleep through Jesus.’

Now, that is a strange phrase, and, I suppose, its strangeness is the reason why our translators have softened it down to the more familiar and obvious ‘in Jesus.’ We can understand living through Christ, on being sacred through Christ, but what can sleeping through Christ mean? I shall hope to answer the question presently, but, in the meantime, I only wish to point out what the Apostle does say, and to plead for letting him say it, strange though it sounds. For the strange and the difficult phrases of Scripture are like the hard quartz reefs in which gold is, and if we slur them over we are likely to loose the treasure. Let us try if we can find what the gold here may be.

Now, there are only two thoughts that I wish to dwell upon as suggested by these words. One is the softened aspect of death, and of the state of the Christian dead; and the other is the ground or cause of that softened aspect.

I. First, then, the softened aspect of death, and of the state of the Christian dead.

It is to Jesus primarily that the New Testament writers owe their use of this gracious emblem of sleep. For, as you remember, the word was twice upon our Lord’s lips; once when, over the twelve-years-old maid from whom life had barely ebbed away, He said, ‘She is not dead, but sleepeth’; and once when in regard of the man Lazarus, from whom life had removed further, He said, ‘Our friend sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.’ But Jesus was not the originator of the expression. You find it in the Old Testament, where the prophet Daniel, speaking of the end of the days and the bodily Resurrection, designates those who share in it as ‘them that sleep in the dust of the earth.’ And the Old Testament was not the sole origin of the phrase. For it is too natural, too much in accordance with the visibilities of death, not to have suggested itself to many hearts, and been shrined in many languages. Many an inscription of Greek and Roman date speaks of death under this figure; but almost always it is with the added, deepened note of despair, that it is a sleep which knows no waking, but lasts through eternal night.

Now, the Christian thought associated with this emblem is the precise opposite of the pagan one. The pagan heart shrank from naming the ugly thing because it was so ugly. So dark and deep a dread coiled round the man, as he contemplated it, that he sought to drape the dreadfulness in some kind of thin, transparent veil, and to put the buffer of a word between him and its hideousness. But the Christian’s motive for the use of the word is the precise opposite. He uses the gentler expression because the thing has become gentler.

It is profoundly significant that throughout the whole of the New Testament the plain, naked word ‘death’ is usually applied, not to the physical fact which we ordinarily designate by the name, but to the grim thing of which that physical fact is only the emblem and the parable, viz., the true death which lies in the separation of the soul from God; whilst predominately the New Testament usage calls the physical fact by some other gentler form of expression, because, as I say, the gentleness has enfolded the thing to be designated.

For instance, you find one class of representations which speak of death as being a departing and a being with Christ; or which call it, as one of the apostles does, an ‘exodus,’ where it is softened down to be merely a change of environment, a change of locality. Then another class of representations speak of it as ‘putting off this my tabernacle,’ or, the dissolution of the ‘earthly house’--where there is a broad, firm line of demarcation drawn between the inhabitant and the habitation, and the thing is softened down to be a mere change of dwelling. Again, another class of expressions speak of it as being an ‘offering,’ where the main idea is that of a voluntary surrender, a sacrifice or libation of myself, and my life poured out upon the altar of God. But sweetest, deepest, most appealing to all our hearts, is that emblem of my text, ‘them that sleep.’ It is used, if I count rightly, some fourteen times in the New Testament, and it carries with it large and plain lessons, on which I touch but for a moment. What, then, does this metaphor say to us?

Well, it speaks first of rest. That is not altogether an attractive conception to some of us. If it be taken exclusively it is by no means wholesome. I suppose that the young, and the strong, and the eager, and the ambitious, and the prosperous rather shrink from the notion of their activities being stiffened into slumber. But, dear friends, there are some of us like tired children in a fair, who would fain have done with the weariness, who have made experience of the distractions and bewildering changes, whose backs are stiffened with toil, whose hearts are heavy with loss. And to all of us, in some moods, the prospect of shuffling off this weary coil of responsibilities and duties and tasks and sorrows, and of passing into indisturbance and repose, appeals. I believe, for my part, that, after all, the deepest longing of men--though they search for it through toil and effort--is for repose. As the poet has taught us, ‘there is no joy but calm.’ Every heart is weary enough, and heavy laden, and labouring enough, to feel the sweetness of a promise of rest:--

‘Sleep, full of rest from head to foot, Lie still, dry dust, secure of change.’

Yes! but the rest of which our emblem speaks is, as I believe, only applicable to the bodily frame. The word ‘sleep’ is a transcript of what sense enlightened by faith sees in that still form, with the folded hands and the quiet face and the closed eyes. But let us remember that this repose, deep and blessed as it is, is not, as some would say, the repose of unconsciousness. I do not believe, and I would have you not believe, that this emblem refers to the vigorous, spiritual life, or that the passage from out of the toil and moil of earth into the calm of the darkness beyond has any power in limiting or suspending the vital force of the man.

Why, the very metaphor itself tells us that the sleeper is not unconscious. He is parted from the outer world, he is unaware of externals. When Stephen knelt below the old wall, and was surrounded by howling fanatics that slew him, one moment he was gashed with stones and tortured, and the next ‘he fell on sleep.’ They might howl, and the stones fly as they would, and he was all unaware of it. Like Jonah sleeping in the hold, what mattered the roaring of the storm to him? But separation from externals does not mean suspense of life or of consciousness, and the slumberer often dreams, and is aware of himself persistently throughout his slumber. Nay! some of his faculties are set at liberty to work more energetically, because his connection with the outer world is for the time suspended.

And so I say that what on the hither side is sleep, on the further side is awaking, and that the complex whole of the condition of the sainted dead may be described with equal truth by either metaphor; ‘they sleep in Jesus’; or, ‘when I awake I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness.’

Scripture, as it seems to me, distinctly carries this limitation of the emblem. For what does it mean when the Apostle says that to depart and to be with Christ is far better? Surely he who thus spoke conceived that these two things were contemporaneous, the departing and the being with Him. And surely he who thus spoke could not have conceived that a millennium-long parenthesis of slumberous unconsciousness was to intervene between the moment of his decease and the moment of his fellowship with Jesus. How could a man prefer that dormant state to the state here, of working for and living with the Lord? Surely, being with Him must mean that we know where we are, and who is our companion.

And what does that text mean: ‘Ye are come unto the spirits of just men made perfect,’ unless it means that of these two classes of persons who are thus regarded as brought into living fellowship, each is aware of the other? Does perfecting of the spirit mean the smiting of the spirit into unconsciousness? Surely not, and surely in view of such words as these, we must recognise the fact that, however limited and imperfect may be the present connection of the disembodied dead, who sleep in Christ, with external things, they know themselves, they know their home and their companion, and they know the blessedness in which they are lapped.

But another thought which is suggested by this emblem is, as I have already said, most certainly the idea of awaking. The pagans said, as indeed one of their poets has it, ‘Suns can sink and return, but for us, when our brief light sinks, there is but one perpetual night of slumber.’ The Christian idea of death is, that it is transitory as a sleep in the morning, and sure to end. As St. Augustine says somewhere, ‘Wherefore are they called sleepers, but because in the day of the Lord they will be reawakened?’

And so these are the thoughts, very imperfectly spoken, I know, which spring like flowers from this gracious metaphor ‘them that sleep’--rest and awaking; rest and consciousness.

II. Note the ground of this softened aspect.

They ‘sleep through Him.’ It is by reason of Christ and His work, and by reason of that alone, that death’s darkness is made beautiful, and death’s grimness is softened down to this. Now, in order to grasp the full meaning of such words as these of the Apostle, we must draw a broad distinction between the physical fact of the ending of corporeal life and the mental condition which is associated with it by us. What we call death, if I may so say, is a complex thing--a bodily phenomenon plus conscience, the sense of sin, the certainty of retribution in the dim beyond. And you have to take these elements apart. The former remains, but if the others are removed, the whole has changed its character and is become another thing, and a very little thing.

The mere physical fact is a trifle. Look at it as you see it in the animals; look at it as you see it in men when they actually come to it. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is painless and easy, and men sink into slumber. Strange, is it not, that so small a reality should have power to cast over human life so immense and obscuring a shadow! Why? Because, as the Apostle says, ‘the sting of death is sin,’ and if you can take the sting out of it, then there is very little to fear, and it comes down to be an insignificant and transient element in our experience.

Now, the death of Jesus Christ takes away, if I may so say, the nimbus of apprehension and dread arising from conscience and sin, and the forecast of retribution. There is nothing left for us to face except the physical fact, and any rough soldier, with a coarse, red coat upon him, will face that for eighteenpence a day, and think himself well paid. Jesus Christ has abolished death, leaving the mere shell, but taking all the substance out of it. It has become a different thing to men, because in that death of His He has exhausted the bitterness, and has made it possible that we should pass into the shadow, and not fear either conscience or sin or judgment.

In this connection I cannot but notice with what a profound meaning the Apostle, in this very verse, uses the bare, naked word in reference to Him, and the softened one in reference to us. ‘If we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, even so them also which sleep.’ Ah! yes! He died indeed, bearing all that terror with which men’s consciences have invested death. He died indeed, bearing on Himself the sins of the world. He died that no man henceforward need ever die in that same fashion. His death makes our deaths sleep, and His Resurrection makes our sleep calmly certain of a waking.

So, dear ‘brethren, I would not have you ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope.’ And I would have you to remember that, whilst Christ by His work has made it possible that the terror may pass away, and death may be softened and minimised into slumber, it will not be so with you--unless you are joined to Him, and by trust in the power of His death and the overflowing might of His Resurrection, have made sure that what He has passed through, you will pass through, and where He is, and what He is, you will be also.

Two men die by one railway accident, sitting side by side upon one seat, smashed in one collision. But though the outward fact is the same about each, the reality of their deaths is infinitely different. The one falls asleep through Jesus, in Jesus; the other dies indeed, and the death of his body is only a feeble shadow of the death of his spirit. Do you knit yourself to the Life, which is Christ, and then ‘he that believeth on Me shall never die.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again — Namely, 1st, In attestation of the truth of his doctrine, in which he taught expressly the immortality of the soul, Matthew 10:28; Luke 23:43; and the resurrection of the body, John 5:28-29. 2d, For the expiation of sin, and the procuring of justification and peace with God for the penitent that should believe in him, however guilty they had before been, Hebrews 9:26; Romans 4:24-25. 3d, That he might procure and receive for us the Holy Spirit, to work that repentance and faith in us, assure us of our justification and of our title to that future felicity, and to prepare us for it by inward holiness; and, 4th, That he might ascend, take possession of it in our name, receive our departing souls, and raise from the dust our fallen and corrupted bodies, and so exalt us to that immortal, glorious, and blessed state; even so them also which sleep in Jesus — Who die in the Lord, (Revelation 14:13,) in union with him, and possessed of an interest in him; will God bring with him — They will be found in the train of his magnificent retinue at his final appearance, when he comes to judge the world, and reward his faithful servants.4:13-18 Here is comfort for the relations and friends of those who die in the Lord. Grief for the death of friends is lawful; we may weep for our own loss, though it may be their gain. Christianity does not forbid, and grace does not do away, our natural affections. Yet we must not be excessive in our sorrows; this is too much like those who have no hope of a better life. Death is an unknown thing, and we know little about the state after death; yet the doctrines of the resurrection and the second coming of Christ, are a remedy against the fear of death, and undue sorrow for the death of our Christian friends; and of these doctrines we have full assurance. It will be some happiness that all the saints shall meet, and remain together for ever; but the principal happiness of heaven is to be with the Lord, to see him, live with him, and enjoy him for ever. We should support one another in times sorrow; not deaden one another's spirits, or weaken one another's hands. And this may be done by the many lessons to be learned from the resurrection of the dead, and the second coming of Christ. What! comfort a man by telling him he is going to appear before the judgment-seat of God! Who can feel comfort from those words? That man alone with whose spirit the Spirit of God bears witness that his sins are blotted out, and the thoughts of whose heart are purified by the Holy Spirit, so that he can love God, and worthily magnify his name. We are not in a safe state unless it is thus with us, or we are desiring to be so.For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again - That is, if we believe this, we ought also to believe that those who have died in. the faith of Jesus will be raised from the dead. The meaning is not that the fact of the resurrection depends on our believing that Jesus rose, but that the death and resurrection of the Saviour were connected with the resurrection of the saints; that the one followed from the other, and that the one was as certain as the other. The doctrine of the resurrection of the saints so certainly follows from that of the resurrection of Christ, that, if the one is believed, the other ought to be also; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 15:12-14.

Which sleep in Jesus - A most beautiful expression. It is not merely that they have calm repose - like a gentle slumber - in the hope of awaking again, but that this is "in Jesus" - or "through" (διὰ dia) him; that is, his death and resurrection are the cause of their quiet and calm repose. They do not "sleep" in paganism, or in infidelity, or in the gloom of atheism - but in the blessed hope which Jesus has imparted. They lie, as he did, in the tomb - free from pain and sorrow, and with the certainty of being raised up again.

They sleep in Jesus, and are bless'd,

How kind their slumbers are;

From sufferings and from sin released,

And freed from every snare.

When, therefore, we think of the death of saints, let us think of what Jesus was in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Such is the sleep of our pious friends now in the grave; such will be our own when we die.

Will God bring with him - This does not mean that God will bring them with him from heaven when the Saviour comes - though it will be true that their spirits will descend with the Saviour; but it means that he will bring them from their graves, and will conduct them with him to glory, to be with him; compare notes, John 14:3. The declaration, as it seems to me, is designed to teach the general truth that the redeemed are so united with Christ that they shall share the same destiny as he does. As the head was raised, so will all the members be. As God brought Christ from the grave, so will he bring them; that is, his resurrection made it certain that they would rise. It is a great and universal truth that God will bring all from their graves who "sleep in Jesus;" or that they shall all rise. The apostle does not, therefore, refer so much to the time when this would occur - meaning that it would happen when the Lord Jesus should return - as to the fact that there was an established connection between him and his people, which made it certain that if they died united with him by faith, they would be as certainly brought from the grave as he was.

If, however, it means, as Prof. Bush (Anastasis, pp. 266, 267) supposes, that they will be brought with him from heaven, or will accompany him down, it does not prove that there must have been a previous resurrection, for the full force of the language would be met by the supposition that their spirits had ascended to heaven, and would be brought with him to be united to their bodies when raised. If this be the correct interpretation, then there is probably an allusion to such passages as the following, representing the coming of the Lord accompanied by his saints. "The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee." Zechariah 14:5. "And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh, with thousand of his saints;" Jde 1:14. "Who," says President Dwight (Serm. 164), "are those whom God will bring with Him at this time? Certainly not the bodies of his saints ... The only answer is, he will bring with him 'the spirits of just men made perfect.'"

14. For if—confirmation of his statement, 1Th 4:13, that the removal of ignorance as to the sleeping believers would remove undue grief respecting them. See 1Th 4:13, "hope." Hence it appears our hope rests on our faith ("if we believe"). "As surely as we all believe that Christ died and rose again (the very doctrine specified as taught at Thessalonica, Ac 17:3), so also will God bring those laid to sleep by Jesus with Him (Jesus)." (So the order and balance of the members of the Greek sentence require us to translate). Believers are laid in sleep by Jesus, and so will be brought back from sleep with Jesus in His train when He comes. The disembodied souls are not here spoken of; the reference is to the sleeping bodies. The facts of Christ's experience are repeated in the believer's. He died and then rose: so believers shall die and then rise with Him. But in His case death is the term used, 1Co 15:3, 6, &c.; in theirs, sleep; because His death has taken for them the sting from death. The same Hand that shall raise them is that which laid them to sleep. "Laid to sleep by Jesus," answers to "dead in Christ" (1Th 4:16). As in the former verse the apostle made use of the hope of the resurrection, as an argument against immoderate sorrow, so here he proves the resurrection by Christ’s rising again, &c.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again; he supposeth they did believe that Christ died and rose again; it was that which he had taught them, and which they had received, as being the two first and fundamental points of the Christian faith, without which they could not have been a church of Christ.

Question. But how doth Christ’s resurrection prove the resurrection of the saints? He being the eternal Son of God, might have a privilege above all.

Answer. This first shows the thing is possible, God hath already done it in Christ.

2. Christ rose for our justification, Romans 4:25; and in justification sin is pardoned which brought in death, and which alone by its guilt can keep under the dominion of death.

3. Christ rose not as a private person, but as the Head of the body, his church, Ephesians 1:4,20, &c., and so loosed the bands of death, and conquered the grave, for his people.

4. As the first-fruits, 1 Corinthians 15:20, which was a pledge and assurance of the whole harvest to follow.

5. God hath predestinated the elect, whom he foreknew, to be conformed to the image of his Son, Romans 8:29.

6. He is not complete without them, Ephesians 1:23.

Lastly: They sleep in Jesus, as the text speaks; not only live but die in him, Revelation 14:13, their union remains with Christ even in death.

Even so them also which sleep in Jesus; by which words also the apostle distinguisheth believers from all others; it is only they shall have the privilege of this blessed resurrection who sleep in Jesus. And perseverance in Christ to the end is here also intimated.

Will God bring with him; and though their resurrection is not expressed in the text, yet it is implied in this saying. By God is meant, as some understand here, the Son of God, who is to come from heaven, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and who will bring the spirits of just men, made perfect in heaven, with him, and unite them to their bodies, which cannot be done without their resurrection: whereby the apostle gives another argument against excessive sorrow for the saints departed, they shall return from heaven again with Christ at his coming. Others understand it of God the Father, who will raise the dead, and then bring them to his Son, and bring them with him to heaven. Those that read the text, those that sleep, or die, for Jesus, and so confine it only to martyrs, restrain it to too narrow a sense. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again,.... As every Christian does, for both the death and resurrection of Christ are fundamental articles of faith; nothing is more certain or more comfortable, and more firmly to be believed, than that Christ died for the sins of his people, and rose again for their justification; on these depend the present peace, joy, and comfort of the saints, and their everlasting salvation and happiness: and no less certain and comfortable, and as surely to be believed, is what follows,

even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. The saints that are dead are not only represented as asleep, as before, but as "asleep in Jesus"; to distinguish them from the other dead, the wicked; for the phrase of sleeping in death is promiscuously used of good and bad, though most commonly applied to good men: and so say the Jews (c),

"we used to speak of just men, not as dead, but as sleeping; saying, afterwards such an one fell asleep, signifying that the death of the righteous is nothing else than a sleep.''

To represent death as a sleep makes it very easy and familiar; but it is more so, when it is considered as sleeping in Jesus, in the arms of Jesus; and such as are asleep in him must needs be at rest, and in safety: some join the phrase "in", or "by Jesus", with the word bring, and read the passage thus, "them that are asleep, by Jesus will God bring with him"; intimating, that God will raise up the dead bodies of the saints by Christ, as God-man and Mediator; and through him will bring them to eternal glory, and save them by him, as he has determined: others render the words, "them which sleep through", or "by Jesus"; or die for his sake, and so restrain them to the martyrs; who they suppose only will have part in the first resurrection, and whom God will bring with Jesus at his second coming; but the coming of Christ will be "with all his saints"; see 1 Thessalonians 3:13 wherefore they are best rendered, "them that sleep in Jesus"; that is, "in the faith of Jesus", as the Arabic version renders it: not in the lively exercise of faith on Christ, for this is not the case of all the saints at death; some of them are in the dark, and go from hence under a cloud, and yet go safe, and may be said to die, or sleep, in Jesus, and will be brought with him; but who have the principle, and hold the doctrine of faith, are, and live and die, true believers; who die interested in Christ, in union with him, being chosen and blessed, and preserved in him from everlasting, and effectually called by his grace in time, and brought to believe in him; these, both their souls and bodies, are united to Christ, and are his care and charge; and which union remains in death, and by virtue of it the bodies of the saints will be raised at the last day: so that there may be the strongest assurance, that such will God bring with him; either God the Father will bring them with his Son, or Jehovah the Son will bring them with himself; he will raise them from the dead, and unite them to their souls, or spirits, he will bring with him; the consideration of which may serve greatly to mitigate and abate sorrow for deceased friends.

(c) Shebet Juda, p. 294. Ed. Gent.

{12} For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in {d} Jesus will God {e} bring with him.

(12) A reason for the confirmation, for seeing that the head is risen, the members also will rise, and that by the power of God.

(d) The dead in Christ, who continue in faith by which they are ingrafted into Christ, even to the last breath.

(e) Will call their bodies out of their graves, and join their souls to them again.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 4:14. Reason not of οὐ θέλομεν ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, but of ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε. The Thessalonians were not to mourn, for Christ has risen from the dead; but if this fact be certain, then it follows that they also who are fallen asleep, about whom the Thessalonians were so troubled, will be raised. There lies at the foundation of this proof, which Paul uses as a supposition, the idea that Christ and believers form together an organism of indissoluble unity, of which Christ is the Head and Christians are the members; consequently what happens to the Head must likewise happen to the members; where that is, there these must also be. Comp. already Pelagius: Qui caput suscitavit, etiam caetera membra suscitaturum se promittit. From the nature of this argument it is evident (1) that those who are asleep, about whom the Thessalonians grieved, must already have been Christians; (2) that their complete exclusion from the blessed fellowship with Christ was dreaded.[54]

εἰ γὰρ πιστεύομεν] for if we believe. εἰ is not so much as “quum, since, because” (Flatt), also not equivalent to quodsi: “for as we believe” (Baumgarten-Crusius), but is here, as always, hypothetical. But since Paul from the hypothetical protasis, without further demonstrating it, immediately draws the inference in question, it is clear that he supposes the fact of the death and resurrection of Christ as an absolute recognised truth, as, indeed, among the early Christians generally no doubt was raised concerning the reality of this fact. For even in reference to the Corinthian church, among whom doubts prevailed concerning the resurrection of the dead, Paul, in combating this view, could appeal to the resurrection of Christ as an actual recognised truth; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:12-23.

The apodosis, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, does not exactly correspond with the protasis. Instead of οὕτως κ.τ.λ. we should expect ΚΑῚ ΠΙΣΤΕΎΕΙΝ ΔΕῖ, ὍΤΙ ὩΣΑΎΤΩς ΟἹ ἘΝ ΧΡΙΣΤῷ ΚΟΙΜΗΘΈΝΤΕς ἈΝΑΣΤΉΣΟΝΤΑΙ, or ὍΤΙ ΟὝΤΩς Ὁ ΘΕῸς ΚΑῚ ΤΟῪς ΚΟΙΜΗΘΈΝΤΑς ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ ἘΓΕΡΕῖ.

ΟὝΤΩς
] is not pleonastic as the mere sign of the apodosis (Schott, Olshausen); also not, with Flatt, to be referred to ἈΝΈΣΤΗ, and then to be translated “in such a condition, i.e. raised, revived;” or to be interpreted as “then under these circumstances, i.e. in case we have faith” (Koch, Hofmann), but denotes “even so,” and, strengthened by the following καί, is designed to bring forward the agreement of the fate of Christians with Christ; comp. Winer, p. 478 [E. T. 679].

ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ἸΗΣΟῦ] is (by Chry sostom, Ambrosiaster, Calvin, Hemming, Zanchius, Estius, Balduin, Vorstius, Cornelius a Lapide, Beza, Grotius, Calixt, Calov, Wolf, Whitby, Benson, Bengel, Macknight, Koppe, Jowett, Hilgenfeld (Zeitschr. f. wissenschaftl. Theolog., Halle 1862, p. 239), Riggenbach, and others) connected with τοὺς κοιμηθέντας, and then the sense is given: “those who have fallen asleep, in Christ.”[55] But this would be expressed by ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, as ΟἹ ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ἸΗΣΟῦ ΚΟΙΜΗΘΈΝΤΕς would at most contain a designation of those whom Christ had brought to death, consequently of the Christian martyrs. Salmeron, Hammond, Joseph Mede, Opp. p. 519, and Thiersch (die Kirche im apostol. Zeitalter, Frankf. u. Erlang. 1852, p. 138) actually interpret the words in this sense. Yet how contrary to the apostle’s design such a mention of the martyrs would be is evident, as according to it the resurrection and participation in the glory of the returning Christ would be most inappropriately limited to a very small portion of Christians; not to mention that, first, the indications in both Epistles do not afford the slightest justification of the idea of persecutions, which ended in bloody death; and, secondly, the formula κοιμηθῆναι διὰ τινός would be much too weak to express the idea of martyrdom. Also in the fact that Paul does not speak of the dead in general, but specially of the Christian dead, there is no reason to unite ΤΟῪς ΚΟΙΜΗΘΈΝΤΑς with ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ἸΗΣΟῦ; for the extent of the idea of ΟἹ ΚΟΙΜΗΘΈΝΤΕς in our passage is understood from the relation of the apodosis, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, to the protasis ΕἸ ΠΙΣΤΕΎΟΜΕΝ Κ.Τ.Λ. We are accordingly constrained to unite ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ἸΗΣΟῦ with ἌΞΕΙ.

Christ is elsewhere by Paul and in the New Testament generally considered as the instrument by which the almighty act of God, the resurrection of the dead, is effected; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:21; John 5:28; John 6:39; John 6:44; John 6:54.

ἌΞΕΙ] will bring with Him, is a pregnant expression, whilst, instead of the act of resuscitation, that which follows the act in time is given. And, indeed, the further clause σὺν αὐτῷ, i.e. σὺν Ἰησοῦ (incorrectly Zacharius and Koppe = Ὡς ΑὐΤΌΝ), is united in a pregnant form with ἌΞΕΙ. God will through Christ bring with Him those who are asleep, that is, so that they are then united with Christ, and have a complete share in the benefits of His appearance. Hofmann arbitrarily transforms the words into the thought: “that Jesus will not appear, God will not introduce Him again into the world, without their deceased brethren coming with Him.” For the words instruct us not concerning Jesus, but concerning the κοιμηθέντες; it is not expressed in what manner the return of Christ will take place, but what will be the final fate of those who have fallen asleep. The apostle selects this pregnant form of expression instead of the simple ἘΓΕΡΕῖ, because the thought of a separation of deceased Christians from Christ was that which so greatly troubled the Thessalonians, and therefore it was his endeavour to remove this anxiety, this doubting uncertainty, as soon as possible.[56]

[54] Hofmann’s views are very distorted and perverted. He will not acknowledge that from the fact of the resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of those fallen asleep in Thessalonica is deduced; and—against which the οὕτως καί of the apodosis should have guarded him—he deduces the aimless platitude, that “the apostle with the words: ὁ Θεὸς τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἄξει σὺν αὐτῷ, gives an assurance which avails us in the case of our death, if we believe on the death and resurrection of Jesus.” As Hofmann misinterprets the words, so also does Luthardt, supra, p. 140 f.

[55] Also Alford connects διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ with κοιμηθέντας; but then arbitrarily (comp. οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ, ver. 16) pressing the expression κοιμηθέντας (οἱ κοιμηθέντες are distinguished from the merely θανόντες. What makes this distinction? Why are they asleep and not dead? By whom have they been thus privileged? Certainly διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ), and inappropriately regarding the constructions εὐχαριστεῖν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, Romans 1:8; εἰρήνην ἔχειν διὰ Ἰησοῦ, Romans 5:1, καυχᾶσθαι διὰ Ἰησοῦ, Romans 5:11, as analogous expressions, he brings out the following grammatically impossible meaning: If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, then even thus also those, of whom we say that they sleep just because of Jesus, will God, etc.

[56] The idea of “a general ascension of all Christians,” which Schrader finds in this verse, and in which he perceives a mark of un-Pauline composition, because Paul thought “only on a kingdom of God on earth,” is, according to the above, introduced by him into the passage.1 Thessalonians 4:14. Unlike some of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:17-18), the Thessalonians did not doubt the fact of Christ’s resurrection (εἰ of course implies no uncertainty). Paul assumes their faith in it and argues from it. Their vivid and naïve belief in Christ’s advent within their own lifetime was the very source of their distress. Paul still shares that belief (17).—διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ is an unusual expression which might, so far as grammar is concerned, go either with τ. κ. (so. e.g., Ellic., Alford, Kabisch, Lightfoot, Findlay, Milligan) or ἄξει. The latter is the preferable construction (so most editors). The phrase is not needed (cf. 15) to limit τ. κ. to Christians (so Chrys., Calvin), for the unbelieving dead are not before the writer’s mind, and, even so, ἐν would have been the natural preposition (cf. 16), nor does it mean martyrdom. In the light of 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (cf. Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 15:21), it seems to connect less awkwardly with ἄξει, though not = “at the intercession of Jesus” (Rutherford). Jesus is God’s agent in the final act, commissioned to raise and muster the dead (cf. Stähelin, Jahrb. f. deut. Theol., 1874, 189 f., and Schettler, Die paul. Formel, “Durch Christus,” 1997, 57 f.). The divine mission of the Christ, which is to form the climax of things, involves the resurrection of the dead who are His (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Any general resurrection is out of the question (so Did., xvi. 6: ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· οὐ πάντων δὲ, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐρρέθη, ἥξει ὁ Κύριος καὶ πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι μετʼ αὐτοῦ).14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again] The faith of a Christian man in its briefest and simplest form. So in Romans 10:9 the Apostle declares the faith that “saves” to be the belief of the heart that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” This involves everything else; it carries with it the conviction that Christ is Divine (Romans 1:4), and that His death brings “justification of life” for men (Romans 4:25). Such faith St Paul assumes, for himself and his readers, as a fundamental fact. He speaks of “Jesus,” thinking of Him in His human Person and in the analogy of His experience to our own. He is “Firstborn of many brethren, Firstborn out of the dead” (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18); and what we believe of Jesus, we may expect to see fulfilled in His brethren.

even so them also which sleep in Jesus] Rather, which fell asleep. The verb is past (historical) in tense. The Apostle is looking back with his readers to the sorrowful event of their friends’ decease, that he may give them comfort; comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

in Jesus is in the Greek through Jesus,—or more strictly, that fell asleep (possibly, were laid to sleep) through the Jesus just spoken of,—Him “Who died and rose again.” For the force of the preposition, comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:2 and note. The departed Thessalonian Christians had “fallen asleep;” for them Death was robbed of his terrors and transformed to Sleep. “Through Jesus” this came to pass—the Jesus of their faith, the dying, risen Saviour! Trusting in His Name, remembering and realising what it meant, they had met the last enemy, and conquering their fears they “laid them down and slept.” Such is the power of this Name in the last conflict:

“Jesus! my only hope Thou art,

Strength of my failing flesh and heart!”

(Chas. Wesley’s Dying Hymn.)

them that fell asleep through Jesus, God will bring with Him. God (expressed with emphasis) is the Agent in their restoration, as in ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 in the “raising” of “His Son from the dead.” He “Who raised up the Lord Jesus, will raise up us also with Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:14; comp. Ephesians 1:19-20). But the Apostle does not say here “will raise them with Jesus,” it is not the resurrection of the dead that is in question, but their relation to the Parousia, their place in Christ’s approaching kingdom. Therefore he says: “God will bring them with Him,”—they will not be forgotten or left behind when Jesus comes in triumph.

The argument of this verse is condensed and somewhat subtle. When the Apostle begins, “If we believe” &c., we expect him to continue, “so we believe that those who died will, by the power of Christ’s resurrection, be raised to life, and will return to share His glory.” But in the eagerness of his inference St Paul passes from the certainty of conviction in the first member of the sentence (“If we believe”) to the certainty of the fact itself (“God will bring them”) in the second. In the same eagerness of anticipation he blends the final with the intermediate stage of restoration, making the resurrection of Jesus the pledge not of the believer’s resurrection simply (as in 2 Corinthians 4:14), but of his participation in Christ’s glorious advent, of which His resurrection is the prelude (comp. ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “to wait for His Son from the heavens, Whom He raised from the dead,” and note). The union between Christ and the Christian, as St Paul conceives it, is such that in whatever Christ the Head does or experiences, He carries the members of His body with Him. The Christian dead are “the dead in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:16); they will therefore be in due course the risen and the glorified in Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:12); comp. 2 Timothy 2:11, “If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.” The point of the Apostle’s reasoning lies in the connection of the words “died and rose again.” Jesus has made a pathway through the grave, and by this passage His faithful, fallen asleep, still one with the dying, risen Jesus, will be conducted, to appear with Him at His return.1 Thessalonians 4:14. Γὰρ, for) The Scripture, from among so many topics of consolation in regard to death, generally brings forward this one concerning the resurrection, as principal and pre-eminent.—ἀπέθανε, died) This word is usually applied to Christ; whereas to fall asleep is applied to believers, 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:51.—οὕτω) in like manner, as Jesus Himself rose, so we believe that we shall be conducted alive by the path of death.—διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, in Jesus) This is construed with κοιμηθέντας,[19] who have fallen asleep. For the verb, will lead [bring], which follows, has accordingly the with Him standing in apposition, and answering to the words, διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, in Jesus.

[19] Lit. Those lulled to sleep by Jesus.—ED.Verse 14. - For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again. The apostle's argument proceeds on the supposition that Christ and believers are one body, of which Christ is the Head and believers are the members; and that consequently what happens to the Head must happen to the members. Our knowledge and belief of a future state, and especially of the resurrection, is founded on the resurrection of Christ (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:12-20). Even so them also which sleep in Jesus; or more literally, through Jesus. Will God bring with him; namely, with Jesus. These words are differently construed. Some read them thus: "Even so them also which sleep will God through Jesus bring with him" (De Wette, Lunemann); but this appears to be an awkward construction; as we must then render the clause, "will God through Jesus bring with Jesus." It is, therefore, better to refer the words, "through Jesus," to the first clause. It is through Jesus that believers fall asleep; it is he who changes the nature of death, for all his people, from being the king of terrors into a quiet and gentle sleep, from which they will awaken to eternal life. Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him (καὶ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ ἄξει σὺν αὐτῷ).

(1) Which sleep should be, which have been laid asleep or have fallen asleep, giving the force of the passive.

(2) Διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ can by no possibility be rendered in Jesus, which would be ἐν Ἱησοῦ: see 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:16. It must mean through or by means of Jesus.

(3) The attempt to construe διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ with τοὺς κοιμηθέντας those who have fallen asleep by means of Jesus, gives an awkward and forced interpretation. It has been explained by supposing a reference to martyrs who have died by Jesus; because of their faith in him. In that case we should expect the accusative, διὰ τὸν Ἱησοῦν on account of or for the sake of Jesus. Moreover Paul is not accentuating that idea. Κοιμηθέντας would be universally understood by the church as referring to the death of Christians, so that by Jesus would be superfluous.

(4) Διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ should be construed with ἄξει will bring. Rend. the whole: them also that are fallen asleep will God through Jesus bring with him. Jesus is thus represented as the agent of the resurrection. See 1 Corinthians 15:21; John 5:28; John 6:39, John 6:44, John 6:54. Bring (ἄξει) is used instead of ἐγειρεῖ shall raise up, because the thought of separation was prominent in the minds of the Thessalonians.

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