1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Sleeping Saints and the Appearing (4:13-14)
Sleep is often used to describe the death of a believer, although it is never used to describe the death of an unbeliever. The original word is ekoimethesan; "a sleep that is induced by another". In 1 Thess. 4 we learn who it is that has induced the sleep; the Lord Jesus. What a precious thought! Death is not an accident. Jesus puts His saints to sleep, and He will wake them up with His own voice (John 5:28-29)! It speaks of a sweet tenderness in our Lord's care for His own, even in death. It reminds us of the tender way in which the Lord Himself took Moses personally aside, put him to sleep, and then buried the body. "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints" (Psa. 116:15). Scripture does not teach so-called "soul-sleep"; i.e. that a person is unconscious in the intermediate state. Both the rich man and Lazarus were conscious in the intermediate state (Luke 16:19-31). Those who teach "soul-sleep" leverage scriptures like Ecc. 9:5 which speak of the ignorance of the dead; "for the dead know nothing". That passage really speaks of ignorance as to things on earth; that which is "under the sun". Quite the opposite, unbelievers who have died are conscious in their suffering, and believers who have died are "present with the Lord".
The Resurrection and Rapture (4:15-18)
- Outside scripture it is used for a general’s call to his soldiers, for an admiral’s to his sailors, or sometimes more generally as a cry to incite or encourage. – Kelly, W. Exposition of First Thessalonians.
- The word here used in the Greek meant originally, the shout raised by the chiefs, on the Greek galleys, to call the men at the time of resuming their work. In our day we mean something similar when we speak of sounding a call to assemble. – Darby, J.N. Notes on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
This "trumpet of God" has nothing to do with the seven trumpets of Revelation. It has to do with the Church period, not with the tribulation. We need to "rightly divide the Word of Truth", or we will get these things mixed up, and think that the rapture will occur at the seventh trumpet of Rev. 11, which is really the appearing of Christ. Note that in Revelation, the 24 elders are seated on thrones in heaven before the seven trumpets are blown. This fact quickly dispenses with the notion that this "last trump" is the seven trumpet of Rev. 11.
- The three things in this verse: the shout, the voice, and the trumpet have been applied to the three companies that will be taken at the rapture; the assembling shout being for the sleeping Church, the archangel’s voice being for the Old Testament saints, and the trumpet of God being for the living saints! This is a nice application, but the context is really the hope of the Christ; i.e. those who are “in Christ”.
- Frazer, George. O LORD, our hearts are waiting. Little Flock Hymnbook #140.
- Frazer, George. That bright and blessed morn is near. Little Flock Hymnbook #244.