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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 15

Verse 15. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord. By the command, or inspired teaching of the Lord. Prof. Bush (Anastasis, p. 265) supposes that the apostle here alludes to what the Saviour says in Mt 24:30,31. "And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven." etc. It is possible that Paul may have designed a general allusion to all that the Lord had said about his coming, but there cannot have been an exclusive reference to that passage, for in what he says here there are several circumstances mentioned to which the Saviour in Matthew does not allude. The probability, therefore, is, that Paul means that the Lord Jesus had made a special communication to him on the subject.

That we which are alive. See this fully explained See Barnes "1 Co 15:51".

From this expression, it would seem, that some of the Thessalonians supposed that Paul meant to teach that he himself, and many of the living, would survive until the coming of the Lord Jesus, and, of course, that that event was near at hand. That this was not his meaning, however, he is at special pains to show in 2 Th 2:1-10.

And remain unto the coming of the Lord. Those Christians who shall then be alive.

Shall not prevent them which are asleep. Shall not precede; anticipate; go before. The word prevent with us is now commonly used in the sense of hinder, but this is never its meaning in the Scriptures. The word, in the time of the translators of the Bible, was used in its primitive and proper sense (proevenio,) meaning to precede, or anticipate. Job 3:12, "Why did the knees prevent me?" That is, why did they anticipate me, so that I did not perish. Ps 79:8, "Let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us;" that is, go before us in danger. Ps 119:147, "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried;" that is, I anticipated it, or I prayed before the morning dawned. Mt 17:26, "Jesus prevented him, saying;" that is, Jesus anticipated him; he commenced speaking before Peter had told him what he had said. Comp. Ps 17:13; 59:10 Ps 88:13; 95:2; 2 Sa 22:6,19; Job 30:27; 41:11.

The meaning here is, that they who would be alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus, would not be 'changed' and received up into glory before those who were in there graves were raised up. The object seems to be to correct an opinion which prevailed among the Thessalonians that they who should survive to the coming of the Lord Jesus would have great advantages over those who had died. What they supposed those advantages would be—whether the privilege of seeing him come, or that they would be raised to higher honours in heaven, or that they who had died would not rise at all, does not appear, nor is the origin of this sentiment known. It is clear, however, that it was producing an increase of their sorrow on the death of their pious friends, and hence it was very important to correct the error. The apostle, therefore, states that no such disadvantage could follow, for the matter of fact was, that the dead would rise first.

{*} "asleep" "go up before them which are asleep"

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