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Future Glory | Present Trial : 1 These. 4:15-18

Future Glory / Present Trial :: June 6, 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 :: The Dead in Christ

After a long introduction in his letter to the young church in Thessalonica, Paul now turns to directly answer their questions or address their concerns (chapters 4-5). He likely got this information directly from Timothy (3:6) and is concerned enough to address it in this letter and the next (see 2 Thessalonians 1-2).

The question or problem in the church is rather simple. When one or some of the new believers in Thessalonica died - obviously before Jesus’ powerful return, they wondered what this meant for both the dead and the living in light of the imminent end and redemption of all things in Jesus. This issue doesn’t seem to be based on misinformation, but in fact lack of information. “With these words (4:13-18) we come at last to the first (and only) matter in the this letter on which the Thessalonians are receiving instruction for the first time. …This also means that, although clearly related, the present material is but one aspect of the much larger eschatological picture to which he turns (returns?) in 5:1.” Gordon Fee

There is much more to come from Paul on end times, the order of end time events and application from these truths. For now, in this text, let’s pause and focus on the simplicity of the question, and the simplicity of Paul’s answer. There are lots of “sights and sounds” in this text and others, but try hard not to be distracted by those details at this point. They will become more central later, in due time.

Group Discussion Questions:
1. Share a time with your group that you feel like you almost died or were close to death. It could be a short story about an accident or a prolonged sickness. Share it briefly.
2. Have you ever been fearful of death? Are you now? Why?
3. The young Thessalonian church seemed to have many questions, if not some disagreements, on matters related to Jesus’ return and death. Refresh your memory by reading 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 out loud with your group. What are the major topics that Paul brings up in this chapter?
4. What seems to be the problem/question and Paul’s simple answer in 4:13-14?
5. Why do Paul (and Jesus in John 11) refer to the death of a believer as “sleep”? What theological implications do you see in this picture?
6. What seems to be the main question in 4:15-18? Identify it as simply as you can with your group.
7. What is Paul’s answer to this simple question? Identify it with your group as simply as you can.
8. What main evidence does Paul offer for his answer?
9. Relationally speaking, what is Paul’s main purpose or application in this text?
10. How might this subject (the question and Paul’s answer) lead to distraction, disturbance and deception instead of comfort? How has it for you?
11. Identify at least three ways that you will continue to strive for mutual comfort and encouragement as Paul instructed. Discuss with your group.
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