Essay on Interpreting First Thessalonians 4 : 13-18

Essay on Interpreting First Thessalonians 4 : 13-18

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In order to interpret First Thessalonians 4:13-18, it must be understood where it falls in the letter as a whole. Paul spent the majority of the letter encouraging the Thessalonians and proclaiming that they had been doing wonderfully in their faith (1 Thessalonians 1:1-3:13). He then went on to give some instructions to them on how they could do an even better job in their faith as well as teach them correct doctrine (4:1-5:24). He closed the letter by giving some final instructions to the Thessalonians (5:25-28). So, since First Thessalonians 4:13-18 fell in the section of the letter that gave the Thessalonians instructions and correct doctrine, any interpretation of the passage must include correct doctrine and some way this doctrine could have been applied to the Thessalonians lives.
More specifically, this passage followed First Thessalonians 4:1-12. This was the clear turning point in the letter where Paul went from being happy about the Thessalonians faith to instructing them on how to do better. In verse one, Paul wrote, “Finally,” which marked the transition, and went on to write, “we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” Paul then went on to clarify some teachings about sexuality and brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 4:2-12). Presumably, Paul instructed on these topics specifically because some of the Thessalonians had been struggling in these areas. This section immediately followed First Thessalonians 3:6-13 which detailed Timothy’s report to Paul on his visit to Thessalonica. Since Timothy would have told Paul the problems the Thessalonians had been dealing with, it would make sense that Paul wou...


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...onians 4:13), so Paul clarified the correct doctrine (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), and then told them what to do about it (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
First Thessalonians 4:13-18, while being primarily in an epistle, contains both prophetic and apocalyptic writings. Paul used statements such as, “God will bring” (1 Thessalonians 4:14), “will not precede” (1 Thessalonians 4:15), “himself will descend” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and others like it. In each of these, Paul declared, with certainty, events to come in the future. Prophets used foretelling (detailing the future) in order to detail what the people being prophesied to should do about it. This is exactly what Paul did in this passage. He clarified the eschatological message, so that they would not longer grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). None of this prophecy has been fulfilled and still points to the future.

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