8. The Believer's Hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Day One Study
1. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. After reading this passage, what general concerns of the Thessalonians was Paul addressing?
2. Paul described three groups of people in verses 13-15. Name the groups and differentiate between them.
3. What does Paul mean when he talks about “the rest who have no hope?” See Ephesians 2:12 also.
4. Jesus Himself defined for us what “fallen asleep” means. Discuss His comments in Luke 8:51-55 and John 11:11-15. See also Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.
Scriptural Insight: This is not sleep of the soul, however, because Paul wrote elsewhere that a Christian who is absent from his body is present with the Lord. It is rather the “sleep” of the body in the earth until it is resurrected, changed into a glorious body, and reunited with the soul. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 703)
5. So, what happens when a believer dies? See Philippians 1:20-23; Ecclesiastes 12:7 and Romans 14:7-9.
Day Two Study
6. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-57. Paul is addressing the Thessalonians’ specific assumed concern (verses 15-17) that Christians who have died would miss the Lord’s gathering of believers. Paul gives us a glimpse of what will occur. From the two passages, summarize the general sequence of events that will happen.
Historical Insight: “Early pagans thought of graveyards as the dwelling places of departed spirits, but they had no pleasant names for these places. The Latins cremated bodies and placed the ashes in urns set in niches. These niches looked like dovecotes, so they were called columbaria. But the Christians used the name koimatarion, from which we get cemetery. The koimatarion was the barracks of the soldiers. Thus, at death the believer falls asleep as at the sounding of Taps. But the angel will blow the trumpet of resurrection, just as the bugler sounds reveille. Then the dead in Christ will come out of the barracks of the dead, to be forever with their glorious Captain.” (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans Book VI, p. 113)
7. The modern phrase “The Rapture” comes from the Latin rapturo which is translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Describe the experience of all believers upon meeting the Lord in the air. See also Philippians 3:21 and 1 John 3:2. Paul calls this our “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13.
8. What will the resurrection body be like? See also Luke 24:13-43 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.
9. Gaining Perspective: Doesn’t that make you excited about what He has planned for you? Feel free to use any creative means (poem, prose, song, drawing, craft) to describe your anticipation of this glorious event.
Day Three Study
10. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-57. To the Greek mind, the resurrection of the body was an absurd idea. Check out the reaction to Paul’s sermon in Athens in Acts 17:31-32. Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 again. Why is it absolutely essential to the Christian faith?
11. Then, where does the believer go? Glean your answer from all the passages above as well as John 14:1-3.
12. Deeper Discoveries (optional): Contrast the Christian view of afterlife and the dead with several other religions.
13. How would Paul’s words have encouraged the Thessalonians?
14. Gaining Perspective: What have you learned from this lesson so far to give you assurance and comfort about death of a believer, including your own death?
Day Four Study
14. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Read 1 Peter 1:3-9. Discuss what is promised to believers.
15. Gaining Perspective: Discuss your willingness to trust God and be content not knowing when Christ will return but living as if it were today. See Matthew 24:36-42.
16. Gaining Perspective: Remember a time in your life when you had lost hope? This is what the Thessalonians were going through. What renewed your hope? Read Hebrews 6:17-20.
Think About It: The man who has lived and died in Christ is still in Christ even in death and will rise in Him. (William Barclay)