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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 14

Verse 14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again. That is, if we believe this, we ought also to believe that those who have died in the faith of Jesus will be raised from the dead. The meaning is not that the fact of the resurrection depends on our believing that Jesus rose, but that the death and resurrection of the Saviour were connected with the resurrection of the saints: that the one followed from the other, and that the one was as certain as the other. The doctrine of the resurrection of the saints so certainly follows from that of the resurrection of Christ, that, if the one is believed, the other ought to be also. See Barnes "1 Co 15:12-14".

 

Which sleep in Jesus. A most beautiful expression. It is not merely that they have calm repose—like a gentle slumber—in the hope of awaking again, but that this is "in Jesus"—or "through" (dia) him; that is, his death and resurrection are the cause of their quiet and calm repose. They do not "sleep" in heathenism, or in infidelity, or in the gloom of atheism—but in the blessed hope which Jesus has imparted. They lie, as he did, in the tomb—free from pain and sorrow, and with the certainty of being raised up again.

 

They sleep in Jesus and are bless'd,

How kind their slumbers are;

From sufferings and from sin released,

And freed from every snare.

When, therefore; we think of the death of saints, let us think of what Jesus was in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Such is the sleep of our pious friends now in the grave; such will be our own when we die.

Will God bring with him. This does not mean that God will bring them with him from heaven when the Saviour comes—though it will be true that their spirits will descend with the Saviour; but it means that he will bring them from their graves, and will conduct them with him to glory, to be with him. Comp. See Barnes "Joh 14:3".

The declaration, as it seems to me, is designed to teach the general truth, that the redeemed are so united with Christ, that they shall share the same destiny as he does. As the head was raised, so will all the members be. As God brought Christ from the grave, so will he bring them; that is, his resurrection made it certain that they would rise. It is a great and universal truth that God will bring all from their graves who "sleep in Jesus;" or that they shall all rise. The apostle does not, therefore, refer so much to the time when this would occur—meaning that it would happen when the Lord Jesus should return—as to the fact that there was an established connection between him and his people, which made it certain that if they died united with him by faith, they would be as certainly brought from the grave as he was. If, however, it means, as Prof. Bush (Anastasis, pp. 266, 267) supposes, that they will be brought with him from heaven, or will accompany him down, it does not prove that there must have been a previous resurrection, for the full force of the language would be met by the supposition that their spirits had ascended to heaven. and would be brought with him to be united to their bodies when raised. If this be the correct interpretation, then there is probably an allusion to such passages as the following, representing the coming of the Lord accompanied by his saints. "The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee," Zec 14:6. "And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousand of his saints," Jude 1:14. "Who," says Pres. Dwight, (Serra. 164,) "are those whom God will bring with him at this time? Certainly not the bodies of his saints .... The only answer is, he will bring with him "the spirits of just men made perfect."

{a} "even so" 1 Co 15:20

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