1 Thessalonians 4:13
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
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(13) But.—We pass to the third clearly marked point: the share of the Christian dead in the Coming of Christ. Possibly an association of ideas may have caused St. Paul to join these two subjects, of quietude and the Advent, so closely (see Note on 1Thessalonians 4:11). “You need have no distress about your dead: when Christ comes, they will be there too; they will come with Him, and we shall be caught up to meet them.”

I would not have you to be ignorant.—The right reading is we. St. Paul is still speaking in the name of his companions as well as his own. The phrase is very weighty, and marks how lamentable such a piece of ignorance would be. (See references in the margin.)

Which are asleep.—The best reading is rather, which fall asleep; the grief renewed itself over each successive death-bed. The image of sleep is a mere metaphor, drawn from the outward phenomena of death, and is used as an euphemism for death; therefore no doctrine can be deduced with precision from it. It cannot be said (for instance; on the strength of such passages alone, that only the body sleeps, and not the soul; or, again, that the soul sleeps while the body remains in the grave. That the soul, or at any rate the spirit, still retains consciousness after dissolution is clear from other places; but when the metaphor of sleep is used, it is used of the whole man (e.g., John 11:11, “Lazarus”—not” Lazarus’ body”—“sleepeth”), the explanation being either that stated above—i.e., that the word is simply picturesque, describing the peaceful appearance of the dead—or that the reference is to rest from labour (Revelation 14:13). At the same time, the metaphor suggests (otherwise it would be misleading, and St. Paul would not have used it) a continued (even if partly unconscious) existence, and the possibility of a reawakening: Again, for the same reason—i.e., because the word is metaphorical, not doctrinal—it cannot be limited to the Christian dead: when the writers need to mark specially the departed Christians they annex qualifying words, as in 1Thessalonians 4:14. Of course, on the mention of “the dead,” the Thessalonians will at once think of their own brethren departed, so that there is no ambiguity.

That ye sorrow not.—The words express St. Paul’s object in wishing them to know the truth. He wants them not to sorrow at all over the dead; sorrow is only fit for Gentiles who have no hope. He does not mean that they are not to sorrow to the same degree as those outside the Church, but that to Christians, who have a hope, and such a hope, death ought to have no sorrows. The Office of Burial in the Prayer-book is as joyous as the Eucharistic Office itself.

Others.—The Greek word is “the others, those who have no hope,” and includes all who were not members of the Church: “That ye mourn not like the rest, which have no hope.” The having no hope does not mean that there is no hope for them, but that they are not cheered by hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13. I would not have you ignorant, brethren — The apostle had intimated, (1 Thessalonians 3:10,) that he desired to make them another visit at Thessalonica, in order to perfect that which was lacking in their faith. Perhaps what he now proceeds to say was part of what he wanted to teach them, as not having seen it proper when he was with them to enter into such discoveries as are here made. But having been informed that they lamented over their dead with immoderate sorrow, and perhaps that they hired mourners on such occasions, and were even apt to repine at the divine providence for taking their pious friends and relatives from them, he here proceeds to give them information well calculated to support and comfort them in such circumstances. Concerning them who are asleep Των κεκοιμημενων, who have slept; who have departed this life. The death of the body is termed its sleep, because it suspends the exercise of all the animal functions, closes all its senses, and is a cessation of all motion and feeling in it; and because it shall be followed by a reviviscence to a more vigorous and active life than it now enjoys. That ye sorrow not — Immoderately: herein the efficacy of Christianity greatly appears, that it neither takes away nor imbitters, but sweetly tempers, that most refined of all affections, our desire of, or love to the dead. As others — Who are unacquainted with the truths of the gospel. It was the custom of the heathen, on the death of their relations, to make a show of excessive grief, by shaving their heads, and cutting their flesh, (Leviticus 19:27-28,) and by loud howlings and lamentations. They even hired persons, who had it for a trade to make these howlings and cries. But this show of excessive grief, as well as the grief itself, being inconsistent with that knowledge of the state of the dead, and with that hope of their resurrection, which the gospel gives to mankind, the apostle forbade it, and comforted the Thessalonians by foretelling and proving Christ’s return to the earth, to raise the dead, and carry the righteous with him into heaven. Who have no hope — Many of the heathen entertained a kind of belief of a future state, but that belief being derived from nothing but an obscure tradition, the origin of which they could not trace, or from their own wishes, unsupported by any demonstrative reasoning, could scarcely be called belief or hope, and had very little influence on their conduct. See note on Ephesians 2:12. Add to this, none of them had any knowledge or expectation that the righteous, or virtuous, would be raised from the dead with glorious, immortal, incorruptible bodies, and taken to heaven; neither had they any conception of the employments and enjoyments of that immortal state. St. Paul’s discourse, therefore, concerning these grand events, must have given much consolation to the Thessalonians under the death of their relations, as it assured them that if they all died in Christ, they should all meet again, and spend an endless life in complete happiness, never more to part. In this light death is only a temporary separation of friends, which is neither to be dreaded nor regretted. Concerning our knowing one another after the resurrection, see on 1 Thessalonians 2:20.4:13-18 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.But I would not have you to be ignorant - I would have you fully informed on the important subject which is here referred to. It is quite probable from this, that some erroneous views prevailed among them in reference to the condition of those who were dead, which tended to prevent their enjoying the full consolation, which they might otherwise have done. Of the prevalence of these views, it is probable the apostle had been informed by Timothy on his return from Thessalonica; 1 Thessalonians 3:6. What they were we are not distinctly informed, and can only gather from the allusions which Paul makes to them, or from the opposite doctrines which he states, and which are evidently designed to correct those which prevailed among them. From these statements, it would appear that they supposed that those who had died, though they were true Christians, would be deprived of some important advantages which those would possess who should survive to the coming of the Lord. There seems some reason to suppose, as Koppe conjectures (compare also Saurin, Serm. vol. 6:1), that the case of their grief was two-fold; one, that some among them doubted whether there would be any resurrection (compare 1 Corinthians 15:12), and that they supposed that they who had died were thus cut off from the hope of eternal happiness, so as to leave their surviving friends to sorrow "as those who had no hope;" the other, that some of them believed that, though those who were dead would indeed rise again, yet it would be long after those who were living when the Lord Jesus would return had been taken to glory, and would be always in a condition inferior to them.

See Koppe, in loc. The effect of such opinions as these can be readily imagined. it would be to deprive them of the consolation which they might have had, and should have had, in the loss of their pious friends. They would either mourn over them as wholly cut off from hope, or would sorrow that they were to be deprived of the highest privileges which could result from redemption. It is not to be regarded as wonderful that such views should have prevailed in Thessalonica. There were those even at Corinth who wholly denied the doctrine of the resurrection 1 Corinthians 15:12; and we are to remember that those to whom the apostle now wrote had been recently converted from paganism; that they had enjoyed his preaching but a short time; that they had few or no books on the subject of religion; and that they were surrounded by those who had no faith in the doctrine of the resurrection at all, and who were doubtless able - as skeptical philosophers often are now - to urge their objections to the doctrine in such a way as greatly to perplex Christians. The apostle, therefore, felt the importance of stating the exact truth on the subject, that they might not have unnecessary sorrow, and that their unavoidable grief for their departed friends might not be aggravated by painful apprehensions about their future condition.

Concerning them which are asleep - It is evident from this that they had been recently called to part with some dear and valued members of their church. The word sleep is frequently applied in the New Testament to the death of saints. For the reasons why it is, see the John 11:11 note; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:51 notes.

That ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope - That is, evidently, as the pagan, who had no hope of future life; compare notes on Ephesians 2:12. Their sorrow was caused not only by the fact that their friends were removed from them by death, but from the fact that they had no evidence that their souls were immortal; or that, if they still lived, that they were, happy; or that their bodies would rise again. Hence, when they buried them, they buried their hopes in the grave, and so far as they had any evidence, they were never to see them again. Their grief at parting was not mitigated by the belief that the soul was now happy, or by the prospect of again being with them in a better world. It was on this account, in part, that the pagans indulged in expressions of such excessive grief. When their friends died, they hired men to play in a mournful manner on a pipe or trumpet, or women to howl and lament in a dismal manner. They beat their breasts; uttered loud shrieks; rent their garments; tore off their hair; cast dust on their heads, or sat down in ashes. It is not improbable that some among the Thessalonians, on the death of their pious friends, kept up these expressions of excessive sorrow. To prevent this, and to mitigate their sorrow, the apostle refers them to the bright hopes which Christianity had revealed, and points them to the future glorious re-union with the departed pious dead. Hence, learn:

(1) That the world without religion is destitute of hope. It is just as true of the pagan world now as it was of the ancient pagans, that they have no hope of a future state. They have no evidence that there is any such future state of blessedness; and without such evidence there can be no hope; compare notes on Ephesians 2:12.

(2) that the excessive sorrow of the children of this world, when they lose a friend, is not to be wondered at. They bury their hopes in the grave. They part, for all that they know or believe, with such a friend for ever. The wife, the son, the daughter, they consign to silence - to decay - to dust, not expecting to meet them again. They look forward to no glorious resurrection when that body shall rise, and when they shall be reunited to part no more. It is no wonder that they weep - for who would not weep when he believes that he parts with his friends for ever?

(3) it is only the hope of future blessedness that can mitigate this sorrow. Religion reveals a brighter world - a world where all the pious shall be reunited; where the bonds of love shall be made stronger than they were here; where they shall never be severed again. It is only this hope that can sooth the pains of grief at parting; only when we can look forward to a better world and feel that we shall see them again - love them again - love them forever - that our tears are made dry.

(4) the Christian, therefore, when he loses a Christian friend, should not sorrow as others do. He will feel, indeed, as keenly as they do, the loss of their society; the absence of their well-known faces; the want of the sweet voice of friendship and love; for religion does not blunt the sensibility of the soul, of make the heart unfeeling. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, and religion does not prevent the warm, gushing expressions of sorrow when God comes into a family and removes a friend. But this sorrow should not be like that of the world. It should not be:

(a) such as arises from the feeling that there is to be no future union;

(b) it should not be accompanied with repining or complaining;

(c) it should not be excessive, or beyond that which God designs that we should feel.

It should be calm, submissive, patient; it should be that which is connected with steady confidence in God; and it should be mitigated by the hope of a future glorious union in heaven. The eye of the weeper should look up through his tears to God. The heart of the sufferer should acquiesce in him even in the unsearchable mysteries of his dealings, and feel that all is right.

(5) it is a sad thing to die without hope - so to die as to have no hope for ourselves, and to leave none to our surviving friends that we are happy. Such is the condition of the whole pagan world; and such the state of those who die in Christian lands, who have no evidence that their peace is made with God. As I love my friends - my father, my mother, my wife, my children, I would not have them go forth-and weep over my grave as those who have no hope in my death. I would have their sorrow for my departure alleviated by the belief that my soul is happy with my God, even when they commit my cold clay to the dust; and were there no other reason for being a Christian, this would be worth all the effort which it requires to become one. It would demonstrate the unspeakable value of religion, that my living friends may go forth to my grave and be comforted in their sorrows with the assurance that my soul is already in glory, and that my body will rise again! No eulogium for talents, accomplishments, or learning; no pegans of praise for eloquence, beauty, or martial deeds; no remembrances of wealth and worldly greatness, would then so meet the desires which my heart cherishes, as to have them enabled, when standing around my open grave, to sing the song which only Christians can sing:

Unveil thy bosom, faithful tomb,


13. The leading topic of Paul's preaching at Thessalonica having been the coming kingdom (Ac 17:7), some perverted it into a cause for fear in respect to friends lately deceased, as if these would be excluded from the glory which those found alive alone should share. This error Paul here corrects (compare 1Th 5:10).

I would not—All the oldest manuscripts and versions have "we would not." My fellow labourers (Silas and Timothy) and myself desire that ye should not be ignorant.

them which are asleep—The oldest manuscripts read present tense, "them which are sleeping"; the same as "the dead in Christ" (1Th 4:16), to whose bodies (Da 12:2, not their souls; Ec 12:7; 2Co 5:8) death is a calm and holy sleep, from which the resurrection shall waken them to glory. The word "cemetery" means a sleeping-place. Observe, the glory and chief hope of the Church are not to be realized at death, but at the Lord's coming; one is not to anticipate the other, but all are to be glorified together at Christ's coming (Col 3:4; Heb 11:40). Death affects the mere individual; but the coming of Jesus the whole Church; at death our souls are invisibly and individually with the Lord; at Christ's coming the whole Church, with all its members, in body and soul, shall be visibly and collectively with Him. As this is offered as a consolation to mourning relatives, the mutual recognition of the saints at Christ's coming is hereby implied.

that ye sorrow not, even as others—Greek, "the rest"; all the rest of the world besides Christians. Not all natural mourning for dead friends is forbidden: for the Lord Jesus and Paul sinlessly gave way to it (Joh 11:31, 33, 35; Php 2:27); but sorrow as though there were "no hope," which indeed the heathen had not (Eph 2:12): the Christian hope here meant is that of the resurrection. Ps 16:9, 11; 17:15; 73:24; Pr 14:32, show that the Old Testament Church, though not having the hope so bright (Isa 38:18, 19), yet had this hope. Contrast Catullus [Carmina 5.4], "When once our brief day has set, we must sleep one everlasting night." The sepulchral inscriptions of heathen Thessalonica express the hopeless view taken as to those once dead: as Aeschylus writes, "Of one once dead there is no resurrection." Whatever glimpses some heathen philosophers, had of the existence of the soul after death, they had none whatever of the body (Ac 17:18, 20, 32).

The apostle now proceeds to a new discourse, about moderating of their sorrow for the dead, not for all, but the dead in Christ. He had either observed their sorrow in this kind excessive, while with them; or else by Timothy, or some other way, he had heard of it. Wherein observe in general, he doth not condemn their sorrow, but the excess of it. Grace destroys not nature, but regulates it; nor reason, but rectifies it; nor takes away the affections, but moderates them; doth not make us Stoics, or stocks. Affections are good when set upon right objects, and kept within due bounds, and this Christianity doth teach, and grace doth effect. And to mourn for the dead, especially the dead in the Lord, is a duty that both nature and grace teach, and God requireth; and the contrary is reproved by God himself, Isaiah 57:1, and to die unlamented is reckoned as a curse, Jeremiah 22:18,19. It is only then immoderate sorrow the apostle here means; and to prevent it, or remove it, gives many instructions and arguments. And he supposeth their ignorance might be a great occasion of it, and so instructs them about the doctrine of the resurrection, and Christ’s personal coming again, which by the light of nature, while Gentiles, they knew nothing of, or were very uncertain in. And the apostle, because of his short stay among them, had not had opportunity to instruct them about these things, and therefore doth it here distinctly and fully; as he doth the Corinthians, hearing there were some among them, even of the church itself, that said there was no resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:12. It is such a mystery to reason, that it is hard to believe it; and the most learned of the heathen doubted of it, and some exploded and scoffed at it, as we find, Acts 17:18, even such as yet held the immortality of the soul. And hereupon in this verse the apostle doth assert two things in general to relieve them against immoderate sorrow.

1. He calls the death of the saints a sleep., {see Daniel 12:2 Luke 8:52 John 11:11 1 Corinthians 15:20,51} whether referring to those that are already dead, or do die, or that shall afterwards die; and why should they then excessively mourn? After sleep we know there is awaking, and by sleep nature is revived; and so it shall be with the saints in death. Hereupon the grave is called a bed, Isaiah 57:2; and the burying place, cemeterium, a place of sleep. And:

2. There is hope in their death, as Proverbs 14:32; there is hope concerning their happy state after death, and hope of their resurrection, and seeing them again at Christ’s coming; it is not an eternal farewell. This the apostle here intends. And they will be then seen in a more excellent state, and probably so seen then as that their Christian friends may know them; else the apostle’s argument would not have so much strength, and so well suit the present case. The heathen and infidels buried their dead without this hope, as they are said to be without hope, Ephesians 2:12; and so were excessive in their sorrows, which they expressed by cutting their flesh, making themselves bald, doleful songs, and mourning ejulations, expressed sometimes upon instruments: and which the Jews had learned from them, as appears by God’s often reproving it, and Christ’s putting out the minstrels, Matthew 9:23,24; and as that which he forbade them, Leviticus 19:28 Deu 14:1. And the apostle may refer to this in the text, as that which is not only grievous to nature, but dishonourable to a Christian’s faith, hope, and profession. We are hereby the betrayers of our faith and hope, and the things we preach will seem false and feigned. Cypr. de Mortalitate. And though man is said to die without hope as to a return to his former state of life here, Job 14:7-10; yet not with respect to the life at the resurrection, in them that die in Jesus. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren,.... As they seem to have been, about the state of the pious dead, the rule and measure of mourning for them, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, the second coming of Christ, and the future happiness of the saints; wherefore the apostle judged it necessary to write to them upon these subjects: the Alexandrian copy and others, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, "we would not have you to be ignorant", &c.

concerning them which are asleep; that is, dead: it was in common use among the Eastern nations, when they spoke of their dead, to say they were asleep. This way of speaking is used frequently both in the Old and the New Testament; see 1 Kings 2:10 1 Corinthians 15:20 and very often with the Targumists; so the Targum on Ecclesiastes 3:4 "a time to weep", paraphrases it,

"a time to weep , "over them that are asleep":''

and in Ecclesiastes 4:2.

"I praised , "those that are asleep",''

the dead: the reason of this way of speaking was, because there is a likeness between sleep and death; in both there is no exercise of the senses, and persons are at rest, and both rise again; and they are common to all men, and proper and peculiar to the body only. The apostle designs such persons among the Thessalonians, who either died a natural death, or were removed by violence, through the rage and fury of their persecutors, for whom their surviving friends were pressed with overmuch sorrow, which is here cautioned against:

that ye sorrow not, even as others that have no hope; the apostle's view is not to encourage and establish a stoical apathy, a stupid indolence, and a brutal insensibility, which are contrary to the make of human nature, to the practice of the saints, and even of Christ and his apostles, and our apostle himself; but to forbid excessive and immoderate sorrow, and all the extravagant forms of it the Gentiles ran into; who having no notion of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, had no hope of ever seeing their friends more, but looked upon them as entirely lost, as no longer in being, and never more to be met with, seen, and enjoyed; this drove them to extravagant actions, furious transports, and downright madness; as to throw off their clothes, pluck off their hair, tear their flesh, cut themselves, and make baldness between their eyes for the dead; see Deuteronomy 14:1 practices forbidden the Jews, and which very ill become Christians, that believe the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead: the words are to be understood not of other Christians, who have no hope of the eternal welfare of their deceased friends; not but that the sorrow of those who have a good hope of the future Well being of their dear relatives, must and ought to be greatly different from that of others, who have no hope at all: it is observed by the Jews (b) on those words in Genesis 23:2 and "Abraham came to mourn for Sarah", &c. that

"it is not said to weep for Sarah, but to mourn for her; "for such a woman as this, it is not fit to weep", after her soul is joined in the bundle of life, but to mourn for her, and do her great honour at her funeral; though because it is not possible that a man should not weep for his dead, it is said at the end, "and to weep for her":''

but here the words are to be understood of the other Gentiles that were in a state of nature and unregeneracy, who had no knowledge of the resurrection of the dead, or and hope of a future state, and of enjoying their friends in it: they are called , "the rest"; and the Syriac version renders it, "other men".

(b) Tzeror Hamnaor, fol. 23. 4.

{9} But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, {10} concerning them {11} which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

(9) The third part of the epistle, which is mixed in among the former exhortations (which he returns to afterwards), in which he speaks of mourning for the dead, and the manner of the resurrection, and of the latter day.

(10) We must take heed that we do not immoderately mourn for the dead, that is, as those do who think that the dead are utterly perished.

(11) A confirmation: for death is but a sleep of the body (for he speaks of the faithful) until the Lord comes.

1 Thessalonians 4:13. Οὐ θέλομεν δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν] but we wish not that ye be in ignorance. A recognised Pauline formula of transition to new and important communications; comp. Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8. In an analogous manner, Paul uses also positive turns of expression: θέλω ὑμᾶς, Colossians 2:1, 1 Corinthians 11:3, and γινώσκειν ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, Php 1:12.

περὶ τῶν κεκοιμημένων] concerning those that are asleep, that is, by means of euphemism, “concerning the dead;” comp. 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20; John 11:11; 2 Peter 3:4; Sophocles, Electr. 509. The selection of the word is the more appropriate, as the discourse in what follows is concerning a revivification. But not the dead generally are meant, which Lipsius (Theolog. Stud. u. Krit. 1854, p. 924), with an arbitrary appeal to 1 Corinthians 15:29, considers possible, but the dead members of the Thessalonian Christian church. This is evident from all that follows, particularly from the confirmatory proposition in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, and from the expression οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

After the example of Weizel (Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 916 ff.), de Wette (though in a hesitating manner) finds in κεκοιμημένων the idea indicated “of an intermediate state, i.e. of an imperfect and, as it were, a slumbering continuance of life of the departed soul;” whereas Zwingli, Calvin, Hemming, Zanchius, in express contradiction to the idea of the sleep of the soul, insist on referring this state of being asleep to the body exclusively. But neither, according to the one side, nor according to the other, are we justified in such a limitation, as οἱ κεκοιμημένοι only denotes those who are asleep as such, i.e. according to their whole personality.

The article in περὶ τῶν κεκοιμημένοι represents the question, to the solution of which the apostle now passes, as one well known to the readers, and discussed by them. The brevity and generality of the statement of the subject, combined with the solemn formula of transition οὐ θέλομεν δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, renders it not improbable that a request was directly made to Paul for explanation on the subject.

ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε] sc. concerning those who are asleep.

καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποί] sc. λυποῦνται. Woken (in Wolf) gives the directly opposite meaning to the words: Absit a vobis tristitia, quemadmodum etiam abest a reliquis illis, qui nempe non tristantur ob mortuos et tamen spem nullam certam habent de felicitate. Erroneously, because then καθὼς καὶ οὐ λυποῦνται οἱ λοιποί, μὴ ἔχοντες (instead of οἱ μὴ ἔχ.) ἐλπίδα would require to have been written: not to mention that Paul would hardly propose unbelievers as an example to Christians.

Theodoret, Calvin, Hemming, Zanchius, Piscator, Cornelius a Lapide, Calovius, Nat. Alexander, Benson, Flatt, Pelt, Koch, Bisping, Bloomfield, Hofmann, Riggenbach find in ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε καθὼς κ.τ.λ. the thought that the Thessalonians should not mourn in the same degree, not so excessively as οἱ λοιποί, because the apostle could not possibly forbid every mourning for the dead. Incorrectly; for then ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε τοσοῦτον ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί would require to have been written. καθώς is only a particle of comparison, but never a statement of gradation. The apostle forbids λυπεῖσθαι altogether. Naturally; for death has no more any sting for the Christian. He does not see in it annihilation, but only the transition to an eternal and blessed fellowship with the Lord. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:54 ff.

οἱ λοιποί] the others, that is, the Gentiles; comp. Ephesians 2:3. It is, however, possible that Paul may also have thought on a portion of the Jews, namely, the sect of the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection.

οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα] namely, of an eternal life of blessedness. Comp. Theocrit. Idyll. iv. 42: Ἐλπίδες ἐν ζωοῖσιν, ἀνέλπιστοι δὲ θανόντες. Aeschyl. Eumenid. 638: ἅπαξ θανόντος οὔτις ἐστʼ ἀνάστασις. Catull. v. 4 ff.: Soles occidere et redire possunt. " Nobis quum semel occidit brevet lux, " Nox est perpetua una dormienda. Lucret. iii. 942 f.: Nec quisquam expergitus exstat, " Frigida quem semel est vitae pausa secuta.

From this comparison with those who do not believe in a future life in general, it inevitably follows that also the Thessalonians feared for their deceased Christian friends, not merely a temporary deprivation of the eternal life of bliss to be revealed at the advent, but an entire exclusion from it. If the comparison is to have any meaning (which Hofmann with great arbitrariness denies), the blessing for whose loss the Gentiles mourn must be the same as the blessing for whose loss the Christians are not to mourn. The solution of the theme περὶ τῶν κεκοιμημένων is therefore already indicated by the objective sentence, and what follows has only the purpose of further explaining this solution.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11. A comforting instruction concerning the advent. This is divided into three sections—(1) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 removes an objection or a doubt; (2) 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 reminds them of the sudden and unexpected entrance of the advent; and lastly, in consequence of this, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 is an exhortation to be ready and prepared for the entrance of the advent.

-11 Thessalonians 4:13-18. A removal of an objection. The painful uneasiness, which had seized on the Thessalonians concerning the fate of their deceased Christian friends, consisted not, as Zachariae, Olshausen, de Wette, Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, 2d ed. p. 649 f., and in his H. Schr. N. T.; Luthardt, die Lehre von den letzten Dingen, Leipz. 1861, p. 138 f., and others assume, in anxiety lest the deceased should only be raised at the general resurrection of the dead, and would thus forfeit the blessedness of communion with the Lord in the interval between the advent and this general resurrection (“the so-called reign of a thousand years,” Olshausen). There is no trace in our section of a distinction between a first and a second resurrection; and the idea of a long interval of time between the resurrection of believers and the resurrection of the rest of mankind (Revelation 20) is, moreover, entirely strange to the Apostle Paul, as it is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:22 ff. correctly understood that the resurrection of unbelievers takes place in immediate connection with the resurrection of Christians. Rather it was feared that those already dead, as they would no more be found alive at the advent of Christ, would receive no share in the blessedness of the advent,[53] and accordingly would be placed in irreparable disadvantage to those who are then alive. See exposition of particulars.

[53] Calvin: Vitam aeternam ad eos solos pertinere imaginabantur, quos Christus ultimo adventu vivos adhuc in terris deprehenderet.

On 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, see von Zezschwitz in the Zeitschr. f. Protestantismus und Kirche, new series, Erlangen 1863, p. 88 ff.1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. περὶ τῶν κοιμωμένων.13. But I would not have you to be ignorant] True reading, we would not,—consistently with the first person plural (“Paul and Silas and Timothy”) in which the Epistle commenced (ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:1). This impressive phrase (“would not—ignorant”) the Apostle employs, as in Romans 11:25 and elsewhere, to call attention to a new topic on which he is especially anxious to have a clear understanding with his readers.

concerning them that fall asleep (R. V.), or are falling asleep: are asleep (A.V.) represents a different and faulty Greek reading. The Greek participle is present, and denotes what is now going on. The Apostle had not been long absent from Thessalonica, and apparently this question had now arisen for the first time. There were members of the Church who were evidently dying; in some instances death had already supervened (1 Thessalonians 4:14-15), in others it was impending. So vivid was the expectation of the Lord’s return, that this contingency had not been thought of till it arose; and it seemed as though these dying men would miss the great hope that had been so precious to them, of seeing Christ return to reign in His glory. The “brotherly love” which St Paul has just commended in the Thessalonians, would make this apprehension intensely painful.

Death is “sleep” to the Christian. Occasionally it bears this title in pagan writers, but only by way of poetical figure. Jesus Christ made it the standing name for Death in the dialect of His Church (Luke 8:52; John 11:11, &c.). This expression indicates the restful (and perhaps restorative) effect of death to the child of God, and at the same time its temporary nature. The use of the word by our Lord in connection with the raising of Jairus’ daughter and of Lazarus brings out strikingly this latter truth. So the early Christians called their place of burial (in Greek) koimçtçrion (cemetery),—i.e. dormitory, sleeping-chamber.

that ye sorrow not, even as others] More precisely, in order that: the Apostle corrects the ignorance of his readers “in order” to remove their sorrow; he would give them “words” with which they may “encourage one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Lit., as the rest: synonymous with “those without” (1 Thessalonians 4:12), and occurring in the same sense in Ephesians 2:3; the expression has a note of sadness, as of those who are left to sorrow and darkness.

Even before Christ came and “brought life and immortality to light” (2 Timothy 1:10), the Church had attained hope in view of death. See the noble passage in the Apocryphal Book of Wisdom (c. 100 b.c.), ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4 : “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.… Their hope is full of immortality.” But of “the rest”—the unconverted Gentiles—it is sorrowfully added, which have no hope. Comp. Ephesians 2:12, “having no hope, and without God in the world.” Hopelessness was a prevalent feature of the world’s life at this time. The more enlightened and thoughtful a Greek or Roman citizen might be, the less belief he commonly had in any existence beyond death. See, e.g., the speeches of Cato and of Cæsar given in the Catiline of Sallust. The loss of Christian faith in modern times brings back the old Pagan despair, and throws over us again “the shadow of a starless night.” Amongst many sorrowful examples, the Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, recently published, supplies one of the most touching. Dying at 24, with her splendid gifts wasted and hungry ambition unappeased, this Russian girl writes: “O to think that we live but once, and that life is so short! When I think of it I am like one possessed, and my brain seethes with despair!” Against this great sorrow of the world the word sleep, four times in this context applied to Christian death, is an abiding protest.

The specific hope which the Thessalonian Christians had embraced and which those they had left behind in heathenism were without, was “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” centring in the prospect of His glorious return from heaven (ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). This hope, the Apostle will show, belongs to all who are “in Him;” and the circumstance of their having fallen asleep before His coming makes no difference in this relationship. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8; comp. ch. 1 Thessalonians 5:10): to be “the Lord’s” is the essential thing.

We gather that it was not their personal resurrection, but their share in the parousia about which the Thessalonians were anxious on behalf of their departed friends. Probably they had sent enquiries to St Paul, through Timothy, upon the subject.

Section VI. The Coming of the Lord Jesus

Ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11This solemn topic, as we have already seen (note on ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and Introd., pp. 18–21), is the principal theme of the Epistles to the Thessalonians. It is not treated by way of argument or indoctrination, but as a matter already familiar to the readers; on which, however, further explanation and admonition were needful. The Apostle’s teaching about this event had been on some points misunderstood, while new and anxious questions had arisen respecting it. Death had visited the Christian flock at Thessalonica since St Paul left them; and this had aroused in the survivors a painful fear lest those who were thus snatched away should have lost their place and their share in the approaching advent of Christ. This apprehension the Apostle proceeds to remove; and we may entitle the remaining verses of the chapter: Concerning them that fall asleep.

St Paul (1) bids his readers be assured of the safety of their departed fellow-believers, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; and he makes the revelation (2) that these will have the first place in the assembling of the saints at Christ’s return, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. He goes on to remind them (3) of the uncertainty of the time of His coming, ch. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; and (4) exhorts them to be always ready for the event, like soldiers on guard and fully armed, 1 Thessalonians 4:4-9.1 Thessalonians 4:13.[17] Ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε, that ye sorrow not) for those who have lately died, being in the faith; for hope in regard to them is well-grounded [is a valid hope]. The efficacy of the Christian religion is even in an especial degree evident from this circumstance, that it does not take away or embitter, but sweetly soothes (modifies), regret for the dead; the finest of the affections, whether their death has taken place recently or in former times.[18]

[17] Περὶ τῶν κεκοιμημένων, concerning those who have fallen asleep) This is consolation offered in a case of recent grief,—not for those who have been long dead.—Not. Crit.

[18] Ἐλπίδα, hope) and joy.—V. g.Verse 13. - With this verse the apostle proceeds to another subject, namely, to comfort those who were mourning the death of their friends. It would appear that the Thessalonians were in perplexity and distress concerning the fate of their deceased friends, fearing that these would miss those blessings which they expected Christ to confer at his advent. Their views of the time and nature of the advent and of the future state in general were confused. They expected that Christ would come immediately and establish his kingdom on earth; and consequently they feared that those who had died would be excluded from it. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren; a phrase often used by the apostle, when he makes a transition to new and important matters (comp. Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8). Concerning them which are asleep; or, are fallen asleep. The death of believers in the New Testament is frequently called "sleep." "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth" (John 11:11). Of Stephen it is said that "he fell asleep" (Acts 7:60). "Many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:30). "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (1 Corinthians 15:18). "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" (l Corinthians 15:51). "He fell asleep" is a common epitaph on early Christian tombstones. It is to be observed that it is not of the dead generally that the apostle speaks, but of the dead in Christ, and especially of those members of the Thessalonian Church who had died. That ye sorrow not. Some suppose that sorrow for our deceased friends is here utterly prohibited; inasmuch as if we had a firm belief in their blessedness we would rejoice and not mourn. But the sorrow here prohibited is a despairing and an unbelieving sorrow; we are forbidden to sorrow as those who have no hope, no belief in a blessed resurrection. The tears of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus have authorized and sanctified Christian sorrow. "Paul," observes Calvin, "lifts up the minds of believers to a consideration of the resurrection, lest they should indulge excessive grief on occasion of the death of their relatives, for it were unseemly that there should be no difference between them and unbelievers, who put no end or measure to their grief, for this reason, that in death they recognize nothing but destruction. Those that abuse this testimony so as to establish among Christians stoical indifference, that is, an iron hardness, will find nothing of this nature in Paul's words." Even as others; literally, as the rest; namely, the heathen. Which have no hope; no hope of immortality beyond death, or no hope of the resurrection. The heathen, with very few exceptions, had no hope of a future life, and hence they mourned over the death of their friends as an irreparable loss. This disconsolate feeling is apparent in their writings (for examples, see Lunemann, Alford, and Jowett, in loco). I would not have you to be ignorant (οὐ θέλομεν ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν)

The Greek is, we would not, etc. A formula often used by Paul to call special attention to what he is about to say. See Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 2:1, etc. He employs several similar expressions for the same purpose, as θέλω ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι I wish you to know (1 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 2:1): γινωρίζω ὑμῖν I declare unto you (1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 1:11): γινώσκειν ὑμᾶς βούλομαι I would have you know (Philippians 1:12).

Them which are asleep (τῶν κοιμωμένων)

Or, who are sleeping. See on Acts 7:60; see on 2 Peter 3:4, and comp. 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 1 Corinthians 15:18, 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:51; John 11:11, etc. The dead members of the Thessalonian church.

Ye sorrow (λυπῆσθε)

Opinions differ as to the possible ground of this sorrow. According to some, the Thessalonians supposed that eternal life belonged only to such as should be found alive at the parousia, and therefore that those already dead would not share the blessings of the second advent. Others, assuming an interval between the advent and the general resurrection, think that the Thessalonians were anxious lest their brethren who died before the advent would be raised only at the general resurrection, and therefore would not share the blessings of communion with the Lord during the millennial reign. It is impossible to decide the question from Paul's words, since he does not argue, but only consoles. The value of his consolation does not depend upon the answer to the question whether the departed saints shall first be raised up at the general resurrection, or at a previous resurrection of believers only. The Thessalonians were plainly distressed at the thought of separation from their departed brethren, and had partially lost sight of the elements of the Christian hope - reunion with them and fellowship with the Lord. These elements Paul emphasizes in his answer. The resurrection of Jesus involves the resurrection of believers. The living and the dead Christians shall alike be with the Lord.

Others (οἱ λοιποὶ)

More correctly, the rest. Paul makes a sharp distinction between Christians, and all others.

Who have no hope

Only believers have hope of life after death. The speculations and surmisings of pagan philosophy do not amount to a hope.

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