A Short Summary of 1 Thessalonians

Table of Contents

1. Chapter 1
2. Chapter 2
3. Chapter 3
4. Chapter 4
5. Chapter 5

Chapter 1

The Epistles to the Thessalonians were the earliest written of any of Paul’s writings. They appear to have been written from Corinth after Timothy’s return from Macedonia. Cp. 1 Thess. 3:6, and Acts 18:5. In Acts 17 we have the short account given to us of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica. He appears to have preached for three Sabbath days in the synagogue of the Jews there, reasoning out of the scriptures, proving from them that Messiah must needs have suffered and risen from the dead before setting up His kingdom, and that the Jesus whom Paul preached to them was the Messiah. The consequence was, that some believed the testimony and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks, a great multitude, and of the chief women, not a few. This stirred up the envy of the Jews that believed not, and they took certain lawless men of the city, and made an uproar; assaulted the house of Jason who had received the brethren, and sought to draw the apostles out to the people. When they could not find them, they drew Jason and certain brethren to the rulers of the city crying,
These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, saying, there is another king, one Jesus {Acts 17:6, 7}.
And they troubled the rulers of the city, when they had heard these things; and when they had taken security of Jason and the other, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas unto Berea.
This is the account we have in the Acts of the sojourn of Paul and Silas at Thessalonica. The subject preached seems to have been the Messiah of the Prophets, as dead, risen, and the coming king, that He must needs have suffered before coming to reign; and then the Messiah of the prophets was identified with Jesus of Nazareth. Thus the young converts were just barely converted and instructed in the elements of Christian truth when their fathers in Christ had to leave. After Paul had been sent on to Athens from Berea, Timothy appears after having stayed at the latter place for a while, to have come on to him, and then to have been sent back from Athens to Thessalonica to help on the young converts. He afterward rejoined the Apostle with Silas at Corinth. (See 1 Thess. 3:1-2; Acts 18:5.)
We have a further truth brought out in the first chapter of the 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians, besides that which Paul preached in the synagogue of Thessalonica. There, as we have seen, he identified the Messiah of the prophets with Jesus the Anointed of Nazareth. He was the Christ. He must needs have suffered, for the nation was sinful, and have been raised from the dead, and was coming back to reign. Those who repented and believed were baptized and got introduced into the kingdom. They took distinct new ground, by His death and resurrection, confessing the King that had been rejected and waiting for his return to reign. But here there is added truth which is properly Christian truth. Here we have the revelation of the Father and the Son. The assembly is addressed as being in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ. They had turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son, from heaven, to take them into His Father’s house, before the Messiah came to reign. The truth was the Anointed had been rejected by the Jewish nation and the world; that relationship, therefore, as a public known thing in the world, was put off. He had taken a new position in the heavenly glory as the Son of God, and the Father was now calling out a heavenly family in connection with His Son, who had breathed into them His own Life of resurrection (John 20:22). This change was indicated in His words to Mary Magdalene after He rose from the dead,
Touch me not for I am not yet ascended to my Father {John 20:17}.
The Jewish relationship was put off till after His ascension and return. He was about to ascend to His Father, and she was to carry the message to those whom He now owned as His brethren, saying,
I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God {John 20:17}.
Thus, though these Christians had been brought to the confession of Jesus being the Anointed, and had been baptized into His name, yet that was not the height of their Christian place. Redemption had taken them out of their Adam condition, and had put them into the new place the Son of God had taken: His life, communicated to them, had given them the position of sons before the Father. God was no longer hidden behind a veil, but fully revealed in Christ as being for them.
My reader, Do you know the Son of God? Many make no difference between His name of Jesus, i.e., Savior; the Christ, or the Anointed; and the Son of God; but there is all the difference possible, though all belonging to the same Person, and Himself the object of faith and knowledge under different names.
We get, in the 1st Epistle, a beautiful exhibition of the freshness of life exhibited in a young Assembly just planted, as well as the exhibition of the power of that ministry that had planted it. We see also the intensity of affection that existed mutually between the fathers in the faith and the young converts. The first chapter is filled with a song of praise by the Apostle as he remembered the fruits manifested by the Thessalonians of their election of God: the power with which the gospel had come unto them, which they had received with much assurance and joy. These fruits were manifested in the word of God having sounded out from them, so that their faith God-ward was spread abroad around. This commended the ministry of the Apostles, the fruit of which ministry was thus manifested in their turning away from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His returning Son from heaven. Thus they had become followers of the Apostle who, in ch. 2, reminds them of His walk amongst them, and shows them how tenderly he had treated them as a nurse, and exhorted them faithfully as a father, to walk worthy of God who had called them to His kingdom and glory. They had, by receiving the Word, not only followed Paul and those with him, but had become followers of the Assemblies of God in Judea, and had then been persecuted in consequence. He then, ver. 17, shows the earnest desire he had of seeing them, having made one or two attempts, but Satan had hindered him, and at last, chapter 3, when he could no longer forbear, he had sent Timothy to establish them and comfort them in the faith.
He then desires them to abound in love one toward another, to the end their hearts might be established unblameable in holiness in the day of the Lord Jesus, exhorting them, chapter 4, to beware of fornication, to follow after holiness, and to love one another, working with their own hands, thus walking honestly before all. From ver. 13 onwards, he comforts them in regard to their departed brethren, putting before them in a true light the coming of the Lord Jesus, as the day when they should rejoin all their departed brethren by being caught up to meet the Lord in the air; and then chapter 5 shows how, in this way, they would be entirely delivered from Christ’s judgment of the ungodly world, whilst He would come for salvation for them. Thus they were to comfort and build up one another. Also to remember those that laboured in the Lord amongst them, and to esteem them very highly for their work’s sake. Exhortations follow with a short commendation, which ends the Epistle. In the 1st chapter we have the birth of the young believers mentioned; in the 2nd chapter their nursing and care; in the 3rd their standing; in the 4th their walking, and in the 5th their watching.
The second coming of the Lord has a special place in both Epistles, and is mentioned in every chapter. In the first chapter it is put chiefly in connection with the Person coming to deliver the Thessalonians; He was the one they were to wait for. In the second chapter it is put in connection with the labourer’s reward. In the third chapter it is looked at in connection with the daily walk of the believers. In chapter 4 as the place where the saints would rejoin their departed brethren, in chapter 5 as the day of judgment for the ungodly world, from which the saints would be delivered by being caught up first to meet the Lord in the air, and so it was a day of salvation to them. Finally, he prays that their whole spirit, soul, and body, might be preserved blameless till the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ. All this shows what a place the Lord’s coming had in the teaching of the Apostles, how it was connected with the believers’ hope and expectation, the labourer’s crown of reward, the motive for the believer’s walk, the comfort of the sorrowing, and the building them up and their establishment in the knowledge of full deliverance from judgment. Is not the general low state of believers attributable to the fact that this great truth is so much kept in the back ground, and that believers consequently are trembling at the thought of a general judgment, when their cases would be settled as well as those of the ungodly at the same tribunal? This would never be; if the true doctrine of the coming of the Lord was seen. In the first Epistle the doctrine is chiefly pressed in regard to the complete salvation of true believers in Christ, before the day of judgment. In the second Epistle it is seen chiefly in reference to the ungodly and the apostasy of Christendom. Consequently, there it is judgment.
But now let us return and look more leisurely through our Epistle. Paul, Silas, and Timothy address the Assembly. The Assembly is looked at in a different way to that of other Epistles. It is addressed in its relationship to the Father, rather than in connection with Christ the Head of His body.  It is the Assembly of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the thought of God’s family that is here; delightfully suitable to young Christians, babes in Christ, who would be rejoicing in their first knowledge of the Father (see 1 John 2:13). The Son of God, in His place down here on the earth, said to Philip,
Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me (John 14:10).
And then having taken His place at the right hand of God, after having accomplished redemption, He says in reference to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost came down,
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you (John 14:20).
It was not till after the Cross that the disciples got their full place as sons, or their full knowledge of that place. Up to Christ the Gentiles were entirely outside; the Jewish nation in the place of privilege, in the place of servant of Jehovah. The believers amongst them were heirs, but in the position of servants. (See Eph. 2:11-12; Isa. 41:8; Gal. 4:1-3). In the fullness of time Christ came, made of a woman, made under the law, and by redemption took the Jewish heirs out of the place of servants and put them in the place of sons. He was the Son of God, declared to be so by the resurrection from the dead, risen out from under the whole power of the enemy and the world, to give every believer the place of sons before the Father. Go, tell my brethren, He said, after His resurrection,
I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God {John 20:17}.
Forty days after, the Lord ascended to heaven, and the Holy Ghost, having come down from heaven, gave them the knowledge of their place according to the Word;
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you (John 14:20).
Blessed place! My reader, do you know it? The Gentile believer, also got the same place through the preaching of Peter to Cornelius; and by Paul afterwards.
Having addressed the Assembly then in their place as connected with God the Father, the Apostle lets out his heart in thankfulness to God, as he remembered their work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God the Father, knowing thus their election of God. The work of faith was manifest, for they were standing fast in their place as saved ones in separation from the heathen and Jews around them, and as an Assembly in conscious relationship with the Father. Whilst the heathen around were going on serving idols and the Jews were formally serving God under the covenant title of Jehovah, here was an Assembly called out from both, confessing together God as their Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, as their Saviour, and knowing their place as children. Surely this was the work of faith of itself. But then faith is not merely a cold objective thing when real; it works by love. Spiritual life is communicated where faith is real in the Son, and this life is a life of love, which manifests itself all around by good works. The believer shows his love by labouring in Christ’s cause, and manifests His life here below. These Thessalonians too had been taught that that Jesus in whom they believed, was coming again to receive them to himself, to give them a bright home in His Father’s house. They had turned to God to wait for God’s Son from heaven, and in the mean time, whilst the delay took place, were patiently waiting for the time, enduring the persecution of their enemies without murmur. Thus faith, hope, and love were in full exercise, showing their reality in their fruits. How could the Apostle doubt their election of God?
Ver. 5. It was a cause of thankfulness then, as shown by its lasting fruits, how the Gospel had not come to them in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, as they knew what manner of men these servants had been amongst them for their sakes. They had become followers of the Apostles and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Ghost; so that they were ensamples to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia; for from them had sounded out the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place their faith Godward was spread abroad, so that the Apostles needed not to speak anything; these Christians themselves showing of the Apostles what manner of entering in they had unto the Thessalonians, and how they had turned to God from idols to serve the living and the true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivered them from the wrath to come.
My reader, what blessed proofs we have here of the power of the ministry of the Apostles, and its real effects on men and women who were before, many of them, but ignorant heathen. It came to them in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. It was received in much affliction, but with joy of the Holy Ghost. It sounded forth to others, as proving its reality. Thus here we have a picture of a people just converted from heathenism, fully assured of their salvation and relationship; knowing the Father and the Son, with whom they were connected; much persecuted, but full of joy, serving the living and true God, and waiting for His Son from heaven to come back again to take them to glory. Happy people! And what could produce this but the power of the Holy Ghost, which dwelt in them? They turned to God with a double object, to serve the living and true God, no doubt in contrast to idols, and to wait for His Son from heaven, Jesus, which had delivered them from the wrath to come.
And now, my readers, permit me to ask you whether this last verse is a picture to you of your own conversion. You will tell me, “Well, I am not a heathen.” True! But still there must be a turning to God in your case. Even a strict religionist like Nicodemus, had to be born again. The disciples themselves were told,
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven {see Matt. 18:3}.
Paul says of every man universally,
There is none righteous, no, not one {Rom. 3:10}.
Every man, Jew, Gentile, or Christian, baptized or unbaptized, have their faces naturally turned away from God, till the preaching of God’s testimony turns their faces towards Him. Then also if not actually worshiping images and idols, has not the heart idols? Covetousness is said to be idolatry. It is much to be feared that many of the professors of the present day have not learnt in the presence of God what idols mean. Anything that keeps a man away from God or Christ is an idol, and when converted the very action of the turning is the turning away from them to God.
God is set forth in His character, light and love. The light beams down from the face of God’s glorified Son. The heart, formerly set on idols, is turned to the reality of God; judges itself. Idols are left; God’s heart of love is understood as meeting every thing in the gift of His Son, and finds rest, perfect rest in the blood and in the person of Christ. God is now the object of the soul, not idols: His righteousness, as seen in His glorified Son, has been fully vindicated by the Cross, which has fully met His claims against the sinner, whilst it has been so positively glorified by that same work (Christ’s obedience unto death), that it has glorified the man who accomplished it. It is therefore manifested for the believing sinner in the person of God’s Son in heaven. The righteousness of God claims his complete justification, whilst the love of God gives him that Son of His, as His own present gift, setting him in present connection with Him by the communication of His own life to the soul, so that in spirit he is already beyond death and judgment. Such a God is the God to serve; a blessed service, a service of liberty instead of a service of bondage and fear.
The Thessalonians, besides this, had been taught that God’s Son had been rejected of this world, and was, in consequence, in heaven, and that before He came again to judge the world, He would come and take them away to heaven. Consequently they waited for God’s Son from heaven, Jesus the Saviour, who had already actually delivered them from the wrath to come by His death on the Cross, and would finally and eternally deliver them at His coming for them before He came to the world for judgment.
And now, my reader, you only want to apprehend in power those two titles, “God’s Son,” and “Jesus,” to send a thrill of joy through your soul. You are not told to wait for a judge coming to judge you. None of Christ’s judicial titles are here. He is the judge; but for believers He is God’s own Son set forth in His own relationship to the Father, coming to fetch them into the Father’s house. (See John 14:1-3.) God’s Son, too, has been raised from the dead, after He had fully met God’s claims, raised from the dead out from under our sins, and the judgment they deserved, victor over the whole power of the enemy; the sure pledge, foundation, and assurance of our own triumph, and that His life of resurrection will be then applied to our bodies as it is now to our souls. And His name is “Jesus,” i.e., Jehovah, Saviour; telling of complete salvation. Now we are saved from the imputation of sin and its consequences. Now we are saved from sin’s power by present faith in His name; then we shall be saved from the very presence of sin; our vile bodies will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and fashioned just like unto His glorious body. How, then, can judgment touch the beloved saints of God? Truly we are thus delivered from coming wrath by God’s Son, the Saviour coming, before He comes to judge the world, to take every believer to glory. But chapter 4 will give us further instruction on this point.
In chapter 1 then, we have had the Apostle’s song of praise in view of the fruits manifested in this dear young Thessalonian Assembly. And we can rejoice in our far distant day in reading it, learning by it the secret of the freshness of love manifested in the early church, and longing that some such fruits may be seen in our day.

Chapter 2

The Apostles’s entrance in amongst the Thessalonians had not been in vain as witnessed by the Christians that had met with them, ( see 1:7-9), and now in 1 Thess. 2 he recalls to their own memories that his entrance amongst them, and that of his fellow-labourers, had not been in vain. These servants of God remind these young saints; for their own instruction and blessing, of the characteristics of their own service amongst them. First, after having been shamefully entreated at Philippi, they had been bold to preach the Gospel of God with much contention. This exhortation had not been of deceit nor of uncleanness, nor in guile; but as God had put them in trust with the Gospel so they spoke, not as pleasing men, but God that tried their hearts.
Neither had they at any time used flattering words, nor a cloak of covetousness; nor of men had they sought glory, neither of themselves nor of others; when they might have been burdensome as the Apostles of Christ. But they had been gentle among them as a nurse cherished her children. So being affectionately desirous of them, they had been willing not only to impart to them the Gospel of God, but their own lives, so dear were the Thessalonians to them. As a proof of this they remind them how, in order not to be chargeable, they had laboured with their own hands night and day. Holily, justly, and unblameably, had they walked before the Thessalonians that believed, exhorting and comforting, and charging them, as a father his children, that they would walk worthy of the God that had called them unto His kingdom and glory. Blessed character of the servants of God of that day. Thank God for its written picture. May God raise up men like-minded, with the double character of nurse and father as is exhibited here.
God was the object put before the Thessalonians. He had been their Savior. They had turned to Him from idols. God was likewise their object to serve in contrast to idols, and now God is put before them as their pattern for walk, who had called them to His kingdom and glory. We know how He was manifested, (viz., in His Son), but it is blessed to see how the Apostle Paul led back the young converts to the source of all, so that they might be in happy communion with God Himself. He had begun his song of praise in ch. 1:2; and the stream had run on joined together with many “for’s” till ch. 2:13. And now he repeats again for this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when the Thessalonians had received the word they had received it not as the word of men, but as the Word of God; who effectually worked in all that believed; and so they were not merely followers of Paul, but of the churches of God which were in Judea. It was the same Word that had had common effect on their hearts; consequently they had suffered like things of their own countrymen, even as these Assemblies had of the Jews, who had both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets; and had persecuted the Apostles, neither pleasing God, and also acting contrary to all men, forbidding the Apostles to preach even to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway; for wrath had come upon them to the uttermost.
Thus in ver. 6, chapter 1, we see how the young Christians had been followers of the Lord and the Apostles, who put before them their own character in chapter 2 as a pattern, and also of the Assemblies of Christ in Judea; suffering like persecutions. And God, manifested in His Son, was the great pattern of all; who had called them to His kingdom and glory.
Ver. 17. The Apostle then goes on to tell them how earnestly since his departure he had longed to see their faces, and had made one or two efforts to do so, but Satan had hindered him; for what was the hope of these servants of God, their joy, and crown of rejoicing? Was it not even these dear converts in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. Yes, they were the Apostle’s glory and crown? Sweet joy to take place at the coming of the Lord, when all the converted ones, and the servants of God who have been used to them shall meet together with the Lord!

Chapter 3

So, when he could no longer forbear, he thought it good to be left at Athens alone, (cp. Acts 17:16-34,) and sent Timothy, his brother and servant of God and fellow-labourer in the Gospel of Christ, to establish them and comfort them concerning their faith, that no man should be moved by afflictions: for they themselves knew that they were appointed to the same. The Apostles had warned them of this indeed when they were with them, and it had come to pass as Paul had said. It was for this cause then that he had sent Timothy; that he might know the steadfastness of their faith, lest by any means the tempter should have tempted them successfully, and the Apostle’s labour should have been in vain.
Afflictions, then, are the portion of the saints, by which the tempter might take advantage, and the servant of God is sent at such a time for the comfort and establishment of the saints of God. (Cp. 2 Cor., where this double thought of ministry is largely set forth).
Timothy, however, came back, and brought the Apostle glad tidings of the young saints’ faith and love, that they remembered their fathers in the faith, desiring earnestly to see them, as they also did them. This greatly comforted the hearts of the Apostles, who were also suffering for Christ’s sake. They lived if the young converts stood fast in the Lord.
These glad tidings that Timothy brought so filled the Apostle’s heart with joy that he burst out, “What thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God, night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith.”
Satan had hindered this joy being fulfilled (see ch. 2) and the Apostle is thrown on God and the Father, that He would direct his way to them. Mysterious power to hinder, but only producing increased dependence on the part of the servants of God on the superior power and direction of God and the Father, who would, in His time, bring to naught the devices of the enemy.
We had the coming of the Lord brought before us in the first chapter in connection with our introduction into the Father’s house and our full salvation, in the second, as the joyful meeting place between the labourers and their children in the faith, their hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing. Here in 1 Thess. 3, it is brought in in connection with the walk of the believers, to stir them up to increased love one towards another. The Apostles pray that the Lord would make the dear young converts to increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all, even as the Apostles love abounded toward them, to the end He might establish their hearts unblameable in holiness before God and the Father at the coming of the Lord with all His saints.
Here we have the second aspect of the coming of the Lord. He comes for His saints into the air, as we have seen. This part of His coming is connected wholly with grace and privilege. Second, He comes with His saints to judge the world; this is connected with walk and responsibility. Wherever in the Word the coming of the Lord is brought forward in connection with the hope of the children of God and their salvation, it is seen in the first stage. Whenever it is connected with responsibility, it is seen in the last stage. If all Canada were in rebellion against her Majesty the Queen, except a few loyal ones, and she was to send an army under the Prince of Wales to re-conquer the Dominion. Supposing he was to stop at Bermuda on the way, and send for all her loyal subjects in Canada to meet him there, that would be a figure of the first stage of the coming of the Lord. He would then go on to Canada with them, re- conquer the Dominion, and distribute rewards to those who remained loyal to the Queen. This would represent the second stage, of the Lord’s coming. At that day, before the whole world, the saints will be manifested unblameable in holiness, and will receive the rewards of the kingdom. (Cp. ch. 3:12 with 4:9-10.) “Towards all” means all the brethren. This explains the connection with holiness or separation from evil in the next verse.

Chapter 4

In the second chapter the Apostles had put their example before the saints, for them to follow; now they beseech the saints and exhort them by the Lord Jesus, that according to that example and teaching, they should walk and please God, and abound more and more in it. They would have them be like Enoch, who walked by faith, realizing death passed for him on the slain lamb, and looking to be translated that he should not see death, and whilst waiting, walking with God, and having this testimony that he pleased God. (Cp. Heb. 11:4-5.)
The young Thessalonian converts knew what commandments the Apostles had given them by the Lord Jesus. It was the will of God, their full sanctification, which is divided in the following verses,
1st, in their being separated from fornication and all evil lusts;
2nd, to holiness; and
3rd, to love one another, which learning practically as we have seen above, their hearts would be established unblameable in sanctification before God and the Father at the coming of the Lord with all His saints.
Fornication was rife in those heathen countries, a common sin; but the saints were to keep their vessels in sanctification and honour, not allowing their passions and lusts to have dominion over them as the heathen who did not know God; much less for any one to overreach his brother in such a matter, for the Lord was the avenger of all such; God had not called them to uncleanness, but to sanctification. It was not despising man, but despising God to do such things, who had given them His holy spirit.
But, 3rd, their sanctification was bound up with brotherly love. We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren, and this carried out would be practical separation from the world. In fact it was to own the Father in contrast with the world. This was positive sanctification, they were taught of God to love one another, and indeed all the brethren in Macedonia (cp. 3:12,) but he besought them that they might increase more and more, and to do good and study to be quiet and to do their own business, and to work with their own hands (as the Apostles commanded them) that they might walk with honesty towards them that were without, and that they might have lack of nothing.
The coming of the Lord is now brought before the young saints to comfort them in connection with their departed relatives (1 Thess. 4:13-18), and in connection with this the two stages of it are distinctly brought out, 1st, to illustrate how the Lord will bring back with him to His kingdom those that have departed before, and 2nd, ch. 5, to show the saints full salvation from the day of the Lord—the Day of Judgment—to the world (ch. 5:1-11).
The Thessalonian believers had evidently but an indistinct notion of the Lord’s coming. Paul and his helpers, as I have shown before, had left them at a very early stage, having given them the general hope of the Lord’s coming without detail. Some of their brethren had in the mean time died. What had become of them? Would they partake of the blessings of the coming of the Lord? These were some of the questions that would arise in the young believers minds. They were taught about the Lord’s coming back to take the kingdom. Would their departed brethren lose their reward? The Apostle now writes to comfort them and gives them full instruction. He would not have them ignorant concerning those that were asleep, that they might not sorrow as those that had no hope of seeing them again; for if they believed that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that slept in Jesus would God bring with Him, when He returned to set up His kingdom over the earth.
But how return with Him, if they had died? The following verses are a parenthesis to show how this would take place. He said this to them by the word of the Lord, it was a revelation to him that, they which were alive and remained on the earth, at the time of the Lord’s coming should not go before those that were asleep; for the Lord Himself would descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ should rise first; then those that were alive, and remained on the earth at this time, would be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so should dead and living be together for ever with the Lord. They would be thus all translated to the glory first, and then return together with the Lord when He came to set up His kingdom on earth. Thus instead of sorrowing, they were to comfort one another in this hope. They would rejoin one another in that day, yea the dead ones would be first to rise.

Chapter 5

The day of the Lord {1 Thess. 5} would indeed come to the world as a thief in the night. When they say peace and safety then sudden destruction should come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they should not escape. But the brethren were not in darkness that that day should overtake them as a thief. They were all the children of the light and of the day; they were not of the night nor of the darkness. Therefore they were not to sleep as the others, but to be vigilant and sober, for they that slept, slept in the night, and drunkards were drunken in the night; but let those who were of the day be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation, for God had not appointed them to wrath, viz., the second stage of the Lord’s coming, but to obtain salvation [the first stage] through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for them that whether sleeping or watching, they might live together with Him. Wherefore they were to comfort themselves with this blessed hope of a full salvation, of being caught up to meet their Lord in the air, before even the day of the Lord came. They were to build up and stablish one another in this thought. Blessed hope for the saints of God.
The day of the Lord is a common expression in Old Testament Scripture, and invariably refers to the return of Messiah to the earth, to set up His kingdom. The Jewish hope was always connected with this, which went together with the destruction of their enemies (see Isa. 2:12 and 13:6-9, Joel 2:31, Zech. 14:l-21, Matt. 24:29-31). The New Testament shows that the judgment of the living will take place then (Matt.25:31), as well as of all who have rejected Christ and followed Anti-christ, who still live in that day (Rev. 19 and 20). But before that day, as we have seen, the Church will be safely housed in the Father’s house by His returning Son, and completely saved as to their bodies by Jesus the Savior, who will descend into the air, as we have seen at the end of chapter 4, and catch up all His own to meet Him there. The world and professing church who have rejected Him will be left behind to the delusions of Anti-christ and to the judgment at the day of the Lord. But more of this in the 2nd Epistle.
The Apostle concludes by beseeching his dear Thessalonians to know those who laboured in the Lord amongst them, who were over them in Him, and who admonished them, and to esteem them very highly for their works sake.
The Spirit of God had already raised up such in the midst of the Assembly, and the young saints were to know them. At the same time they were to be at peace amongst themselves.
The disorderly were to be warned, the feeble-minded comforted, the weak supported, whilst patience was to be shown towards all. There is more instruction as to the disorderly in the 2nd Epistle.
See that none render evil for evil unto any, but ever follow that which is good, both amongst yourselves and all. Rejoice evermore. (Cp. Psa. 34, and the occasion of its being written; also Phil. 4:4.) Pray without leaving an interval, not merely at stated times. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you. These were individual exhortations to them.
The next three exhortations refer to their corporate place in the Assembly. The Holy Ghost had come down from the ascended Christ, who had been crucified on the Cross, and had builded these disciples together to be part of God’s Assembly, to be locally expressed in the place. He was then present in the Assembly to guide it. The Thessalonians were not to quench His action, which was like fire and light. Brethren might be endued with the gift of prophecy (cp. as to this 1 Cor. 14). The saints were not to put an extinguisher on His workings, to despise them. At the same time they were to prove all things, try the spirits whether they were of God, and hold fast that which was good. What a picture of an individual saint! An ever-rejoicing ceaseless praying, in all things thanking saint! What a picture of an Assembly! Ever guided by the Spirit; never despising ministry, at the same time proving all things and holding fast only the good! Lastly, they were to avoid every form of evil.
He prays that the God of peace might sanctify them wholly, and that their whole spirit, soul, and body [the whole man in his component parts] might be preserved blameless until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. God was faithful who had called them who also would do it (cp. instruction as to sanctification with ch. 3:12-13, 4:1-10). Blessed confidence for the servant of God in regard to his children in the faith. These blessed servants lastly ask the saints for their prayers. They were to greet the brethren with an holy (set apart) kiss. This letter was to be read to all the holy brethren, a needful word to young saints,
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen {1 Thess. 5:28}.