1 Thessalonians 4

A Life Pleasing to God

Finally then, brothers and sisters,
Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:4.
we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how
As you received instruction from us about how (Grk “as you received from us how”). The Greek word translated received is used for accepting instructions passed on as fixed traditions from teacher to follower. Paul speaks in these terms about doctrinal traditions as well as ethical instruction that he passes on to his converts and expects them to keep (cf. 1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:1–3; Gal 1:9; Phil 4:9; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6).
you must live and please God (as you are in fact living)
This parenthetical clause is absent in several later witnesses (D2 Ψ Maj.), but it may have been expunged for sounding redundant. The longer text, in this instance, is solidly supported by א A B D* F G 0183vid 0278 33 81 104 326 365 629 al co and should be unquestionably preferred.
that you do so more and more.
For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will: that you become holy,
Or “your sanctification.”
that you keep away from sexual immorality,
that each of you know how to possess his own body
Grk “to gain [or possess] his own vessel.” “Vessel” is most likely used figuratively for “body” (cf. 2 Cor 4:7). Some take it to mean “wife” (thus, “to take a wife for himself” or “to live with his wife”), but this is less likely. See J. Smith, ”1 Thess 4:4 - Breaking the Impasse,” BBR 10 (Fall 2000), who argues that “vessel” in this context is very likely a euphemism for the sexual organs.
in holiness and honor,
not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God. In this matter no one should violate the rights of his brother or take advantage of him,
Grk “not to transgress against or defraud his brother in the matter,” continuing the sentence of vv. 3–5.
because the Lord is the avenger in all these cases,
Grk “concerning all these things.”
as we also told you earlier and warned you solemnly.
For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Consequently the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority
Grk “rejecting man.”
but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now on the topic of brotherly love
Grk “concerning brotherly love.”
you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.
10 And indeed you are practicing it toward all the brothers and sisters
Grk “brothers”; this applies to the second occurrence as well. See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:4.
in all of Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more,
To do so more and more. See 1 Thess 4:1.
11 to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you. 12 In this way you will live
Grk “that you may live,” continuing the sentence of 4:10b–11.
a decent life before outsiders and not be in need.
Or “not be dependent on anyone”; Grk “and have need of nothing,” “of no one.”

The Lord Returns for Believers

13  Now we do not want you to be uninformed,
Grk “ignorant.”
brothers and sisters,
Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:4.
about those who are asleep,
The verb κοιμάω (koimaō) literally means “sleep,” but it is often used in the Bible as a euphemism for death when speaking of believers. This metaphorical usage by its very nature emphasizes the hope of resurrection: Believers will one day “wake up” out of death. Here the term refers to death, but “sleep” was used in the translation to emphasize the metaphorical, rhetorical usage of the term. This word also occurs in vv. 14 and 15.
so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that
“we believe that” is understood from the first clause of the verse, which is parallel. Grk “so also God will bring.”
God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians.
Grk “those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.” It is possible that “through Jesus” describes “bring,” but this gives the unlikely double reference, “through Jesus God will bring them with Jesus.” Instead it describes their “falling sleep,” since through him their death is only sleep and not the threat it once was. Also Christians are those whose total existence - life and death - is in and through and for Christ (1 Cor 8:6).
15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord,
The word of the Lord is a technical expression in OT literature, often referring to a divine prophetic utterance (e.g., Gen 15:1, Isa 1:10, Jonah 1:1). In the NT it occurs 15 times: 3 times as ῥῆμα τοῦ κυρίου (rhēma tou kuriou; Luke 22:61, Acts 11:16, 1 Pet 1:25) and 12 times as λόγος τοῦ κυρίου (logos tou kuriou; here and in Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 16:32; 19:10, 20; 1 Thess 1:8; 2 Thess 3:1). As in the OT, this phrase focuses on the prophetic nature and divine origin of what has been said.
that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel,
Neither noun in this phrase (ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου, en fōnē archangelou, “with the voice of the archangel”) has the article in keeping with Apollonius’ Canon. Since ἀρχάγγελος (archangelos) is most likely monadic, both nouns are translated as definite in keeping with Apollonius’ Corollary (see ExSyn 250–51).
and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive, who are left,
The words οἱ περιλειπόμενοι (hoi perileipomenoi, “[the ones] who are left”) are lacking in F G {0226vid} ar b as well as a few fathers, but the rest of the textual tradition has the words. Most likely, the Western mss omitted the words because of perceived redundancy with οἱ ζῶντες (hoi zōntes, “[the ones] who are alive”).
will be suddenly caught up
Or “snatched up.” The Greek verb ἁρπάζω implies that the action is quick or forceful, so the translation supplied the adverb “suddenly” to make this implicit notion clear.
Or “simultaneously,” but this meaning does not fit as well in the parallel in 5:10.
with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

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