The Word Made Fresh
1Finally, friends, in the Lord Jesus’ name we beg you and urge you to live in a way that pleases God. We know you are already doing that, but urge you now to do even more 2as you remember what we taught you through the Lord Jesus. 3And this is God’s will for your perfection in the faith: that you do not take part in adulteries; 4that you each learn to control your sexual urges and be holy and honorable, 5putting away all lustful desires like that exhibited by Gentiles who don’t know God; 6that you not cheat or exploit one another in these ways because the Lord will avenge all these things, as we have warned you. 7God calls us to holiness, not sinfulness. 8Whoever denies this actually denies God’s authority, not human authority, for it is God who gives the Holy Spirit to you.
9We don’t need to write you about loving one another because God has taught you to do so, 10and you do love your fellow believers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, friends, to love more and more, 11to learn how to live quietly, to attend to your own business and work with your hands as we taught you 12so that you might treat outsiders fairly and not be dependent on anyone.
13But we want you to understand the truth about those who have fallen asleep, so that you won’t grieve as others do who have no faith. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again. That is why we know that through him God will bring others who die. 15We are telling you by the word of the Lord that those of us who are alive are left behind until the Lord comes; we will by no means go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 16The day will come when the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a loud command and the call of the archangel and the sound of the Lord’s trumpet, and those who have died in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are still living will be swept up with them into the clouds together and meet the Lord in the air, and then we will be with the Lord forever. 18And you should be excited over this and encourage one another!
1-8: As always, Paul is concerned that their lives reflect their faith. Their sanctification (being set apart for sacred use) is God’s goal for them, he says. However, living holy lives was not part of the popular Greek culture of the day, and Paul was concerned that they might fall into the kinds of practices that were all too common in that time and place, and so his emphasis here is on the need for sexual purity. He insists that they cannot reject this teaching without rejecting God and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
9-12: Love for one another was to be the hallmark of the church, and Paul is also concerned with the face that the church presents to the world. “Live quietly,” he tells them. “Mind your own affairs.” He wanted them to be diligent and self-sufficient so that they would not have to depend on non-believers for their sustenance.
13-18: In these verses he addresses one of the issues that bothered some of the folks in Thessalonica. When Christ returns, what happens to those who have already died? He assures them that those who have died (fallen asleep) will not be left out or left behind. All who believe in Jesus will be raised with him, he says — those who have died no less than those who are living. In fact, to reassure them, he insists that the dead will be raised first. Verses 16 and 17 have been the source of some of the most incredible speculation imaginable. Paul’s readers would have understood these words metaphorically. He is using imagery from Exodus 19:13-16 which describes the people preparing for Moses to go up on the cloud-enshrouded mountain to meet with God. They are told that they are not permitted to go up the mountain until they hear a heavenly trumpet sound a long blast. The trumpet blast is emblematic of the invitation God gives for them to join him in the clouds on the mountain which reached into the sky, or into the air, as it were. This is the picture Paul conjures up to describe what will happen when Christ returns and calls his people to himself.
Try to please God. If you do, you won’t have to worry about pleasing anyone else.