A Sample Passage from the Comments on First Thessalonians:

Chapter 4


1.  The remainder (What is left; or: Finally), then, brothers (= fellow believers), we are continuously asking and calling you alongside to encourage, exhort and comfort you folks in the Lord Jesus, according as you took to your side (or: received and accepted) from us how (or: in what manner) it is binding [for; upon] you to normally walk about (= live your lives) and to be continuously pleasing to God –  just as you are even now continuously walking about – to the end that you would progressively superabound to a greater extent (or: can rather habitually excel and surround [yourselves] by more than enough).

2.  For you have seen and are aware what instructions (messages alongside) we gave to you through the Lord Jesus.


It is evident that the message of God's goodness and ease came with some practical instructions about their daily living, and that Paul repeatedly refers to "calling [them] alongside to encourage, exhort and comfort" them in this way of life.  Jesus gave many instructions on kingdom living, as for example, in Matt. 5-7.  Vs. 1 here says that "it is binding for, or upon, [them] to normally live" this way so as to be "continuously pleasing to God."  The verses that follow speak to some general categories that are qualities of "rightwised living," or, "living in accord to the Way (Christ) pointed out."


Yet this is not another "law" that they are to live by, but rather, he is just giving examples of living by what in Rom. 8:2 he called "the law of Life's spirit, etc.,"


For the principle and law of, and which is, the spirit and attitude of 'The Life within Christ Jesus'    


(or: For you see, the Law of Life’s spirit, joined with [the] Anointing of Jesus; or: For the Spirit’s law of life within Christ Jesus; or: the Law from the Breath-effect, which is Life in union with [the] Anointed Jesus)


frees you away from the Law of the Sin (or: the principle of failure and the missing of the target; the code of behavior that produces error; the principle of deviation from the goal) and the Death (or: immediately set you [other MSS: me] at liberty from the law that deals with and has the character of sin and death).


3.  You see, this is the will (intent, purpose) of God: your state of being set apart from the common use or condition (or: holiness; sacredness; = covenant living) you are to continuously hold yourself from (be distant from; abstain from) all of the prostitution [note: figuratively, the worship of idols or false religions, and a break from covenant].


Here is a clear statement of God's will, intent, and purpose for us: our state of being set apart from the common use or condition.  This clause gives the literal meaning of what has become a religious term, "holiness."  The term "sacredness," although also a religious term, has in recent decades been used in a more general way to express the value of life and creation as special beyond mere utility.


Thus, we should hold ourselves away from prostitution, in any of its forms, which makes our lives common and utilitarian, stripping it of its sacredness – as well as breaking covenant with our mates, in the realm of marriage.  But this was a term that the OT writers used of Israel (Isa. 1:21; Hosea 1, 2, etc.) when they turned away from following Yahweh, broke covenant and participated in pagan religions, worshiping idols.  So Paul is also referring to remaining faithful to the true God through Jesus Christ.


4.  Each one of you [is] to have seen and thus learned how, know and be aware of his own equipment (gear; utensils; instruments; vessel; = means of making a living), to progressively acquire (procure for one's self) in set-apartness (or: holiness) and honor (value, worth),

5.  not in a feeling of excessive desire (or: in union with an experience of full-rushing passion), just as also the nations (ethnic multitudes; non-Israelites) [do] who, having not perceived, do not know (aren't aware of; aren't acquainted with) God.


Note here that Paul contrasts the excessive desire of the ethnic multitudes (or, "nations," the term being a figure that is contrasted to a people who have perceived God's way to live) to making a living and procuring goods "in set-apartness, or holiness."  To do the latter is to do so without excessive desire.  Doing so in "honor" means to live honestly, valuing the customer, one's society and the environment.  Paul's theology is very "this-worldly."


6.  Thus, no one is to be continuously overstepping and have more (hold advantage) in his brother's affair (result of doing; transaction-effect; development from a matter; = cheat his fellow believers in business dealings), because [the] Lord [= Yahweh or Christ] [is] a maintainer of right (an executor of justice and equity from the Way pointed out) concerning all these people and things, just as we also told you before and certified with solemn witness throughout.

The phrase "a maintainer of right (an executor of justice and equity from the Way pointed out)" is from the same word family from which we get "righteousness," or as I translate this, "being pointed in the right direction; or: the Way pointed out, which is fairness and equity in rightwised relationships."  Paul is saying that the Lord cares about how we do business, and about our relationship with other people.  Thus does He judge us according to our works and actions.  Life in His reign is much more than just believing that Jesus is the Christ, it involves living as the Christ – which is done by reckoning ourselves dead with Christ and raised up with Him, the life we live being His life living within us: Christ in us, living His life as us.  The resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the new creation and the new arrangement (or: covenant) which brought His reign (sovereign influence and activities; kingdom) to earth in a new way, making all things new (Rev. 21:5).  "Jesus Christ is Lord" is our proclamation; we look to Him to maintain right and equity.

                                                                                                                  7.  For God did not call us on the basis of uncleanness (or: does not invite us [to be] on [a path lived in] a soiled condition or a dirty environment), but rather within the sphere of set-apartness (or: holiness; sacredness; in a manner commensurate with covenant living).


I think that it is noteworthy that Paul uses the word "uncleanness" in the context of how we live our lives in relation to other folks' business and personal affairs, and specifically in having an advantage over others.  It is in the aspects of daily living in solidarity with humanity and our interactions with them that we are called to be set-apart from the System's perspectives, attitudes and way of doing business.  These areas are areas for the expression of love, and the Way that He has pointed out to us.

                                                                                                                                8.  Consequently, then, the person continuously setting aside (or: displacing) is not setting aside (or: displacing; or: = disregarding) a human (or: person), but God, even the One continuously giving His Sacred Breath into us (or: repeatedly imparting His Spirit, the Holy One, unto us; constantly gifting His set-apart Breath-effect [to flow] into us).


Thus we see a strong affirmation of God's solidarity with humanity: how you treat others is how you are in this same act treating God.  The last clause of this verse is similar to what Paul said in Acts 17:25,


"... He Himself being the One constantly giving to all people (or: all things) life and breath and all things (or: everything; the whole [universe])!"


This verse is a summation of vss. 3-7.  Living in covenant is really about living in honor and sacredness with others, treating them in a way that is right and is in love.


9.  But now concerning loving one like a brother (or: brotherly love; = fondness for fellow believers), we have no need to continually write to you, for you yourselves are folks continuously taught by God (God-taught ones) to continuously love each other,

10.  for you are even continuously doing this unto all of those brothers within the whole of Macedonia.  But we are constantly calling you alongside (to encourage, urge, exhort and comfort you), brothers, to progressively superabound to a greater extent (or: rather to habitually excel and surround [yourselves] by more than enough [brotherly affection]).

11.  and then to habitually be fond of honor and value [and] to be repeatedly quiet (or: to be progressively ambitious to live in settled peace), and by habit to be engaged (or: involved) in your own affairs (or: matters), and then to constantly work with your own hands (idiom: = work at it actively), according as we commanded to you,

12.  to the intent that you may continuously walk about in good form (= live your life respectably) toward those without (with a view to outsiders; = face to face with those that are not a part of your community), and then you would continually have need of nothing.


Vs. 9-12 are an admonition to the virtues of love, honor, value and living in good form.  He acknowledges that they presently do this, but that there can be a progression in these "to a greater extent."  He also points out in vs. 9 that God has taught them to do this, and other things not mentioned, for they are "God-taught ones."  Thus we see that God does not only teach us through Scripture, or through teaching and preaching.  There is also his encouragement that they would progressively have an ambition to live in settled peace and that they would work actively at being "engaged in [their] own affairs."  The view is to live a life in God's kingdom, right hear on earth.  This is considered to be in good form, and will result in their having need of nothing.


But to what extent should we just focus on our own affairs?  The answer to this question can have political and international implication.  As in all things, the answer lies in love and the leading of God's Spirit.  It also lies in our capabilities, as the Lord supplies.  But I think that Paul's main thrust in these words is that we not be meddlers, and leave Another's servant to stand before Him.


The next section of this letter turns from practical advice of daily living to concerns about the dead, and their relationship to the eschatological expectations that those in Thessalonica were entertaining.


13.  Now then, we are not wanting (or: willing, intending) you to continue ignorant, brothers, concerning the folks who are from time to time falling asleep [other MSS: those having been put to sleep (= passed away; died), and continuing made to be sleeping], to the intent that you may not continuously be made to be sad or sorrowful according as even (or: just like also) the rest (the ones remaining or left), the folks continuously having no expectation (or: hope).


So first of all, there should be no sadness or sorrow about folks who are from time to time dying.  Their attitude and world-view should not be that of either the Jewish world or that of the pagans – those who were without an expectation about those who died.  Things have changed; Christ has been raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15); we have been placed into Christ and are a part of the second humanity (1 Cor. 15:45-47); there is a new creation.


14.  For you see, since (or: if) we habitually believe that Jesus died and then arose (or: stood up again), thus (in this manner) also, through Jesus, God will be leading together with Him the folks being made to sleep.


Note Paul's emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus as the basis of our faith.  He stood up again.  And we see that when Jesus is on the move (the purpose of standing up again), in this same manner these dead folks are lead together with Him, by God.  So the question is: when, where and how does this happen?  Paul addresses this in the following verses.  But let us also consider what he said in 2 Cor. 1:9b, "the God Who is continually (habitually; periodically; repeatedly; or: presently) awakening and raising up the dead ones!"  The Greek verb in this clause is in the present tense of continual or repeated action, as seen in this translation.


15.  For this we are continuously saying to you in a word of the Lord (or: in the Lord's Word; in a message which is [the] Lord; or: in union with an idea from [our] Owner), that we, the presently living (or: the ones continuing to live) the folks presently continuing to be left around unto the presence of the Lord (or: into the midst of the Lord's [= Christ's or Yahweh's] presence) can by no means advance before (precede; have advantage over; outstrip) the folks being made to sleep,


Thus, they can be assured about these dead folks, that those then presently living, who "in a word from the Lord," were to be continuing to be left around unto "the presence of the Lord" would by no means precede or have advantage over those that were presently dead.  The question is then, what is meant by "the presence of the Lord"?  Vs. 16 gives an indication:


16.  because the Lord [= Yahweh or Christ] Himself will descend from [the] atmosphere (or: heaven) within the midst of (or: in union with) a shout of command, within the midst of [the] Chief Agent's (or: an original messenger's; or: a chief and ruling agent’s; or: [the] beginning messenger’s) voice, and within the midst of (or: in union with) God’s trumpet [note: figure of a message or a directive for action], and the dead people within Christ (or: in union with [the] Anointed One) will raise themselves up (or: will stand up again) first (or: in first place).


"The presence (Greek: par-ousia – 'being alongside') of the Lord" in this context means an eschatological event which Paul describes in apocalyptic images.  First of all we need to consider the word "heaven" which also means "the atmosphere of the earth."  Recall that we are presently seated in heavenly places, or atmospheric spheres (Eph. 2:6).  If we take the meaning of ouranos as "atmosphere," the implication is that this realm and sphere is right here, and even touches the earth.  Consider that vs. 17 refers to this place as being in "the midst of air," the realm of "clouds."  I suggest that the idea of "descending" is a relative term that signifies God's specific intervention and involvement in the life of the "earth realm," as compared to the life in the spirit.


His descending is within the midst of, and in union with, "a shout of command, within the midst of [the] Chief, or a Ruling Agent's, voice."  This Ruling Agent would either be Christ Himself, or it would be someone, or a composite group, that is at this time speaking for Him, is His Name and authority, and He descends to us within that voice.  He goes on to describe this as God's "trumpet," which is a figure of a message.  So His message comes, and Christ is encountered within that message.  The result is the dead folks raise themselves up (the voice of the verb is "middle"), or, will stand up again, and this speaks of resurrection.


Here we enter another much debated topic.  Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25).  Paul made other significant statements:


"Thus you folks, also, be constantly accounting (logically considering; reckoning) yourselves to exist being dead ones, indeed, by the failure to hit the target (or: in the Sin; to the deviation), yet ones continuously living by God (in God; for God; to God; with God), within Christ Jesus, our Owner" (Rom. 6:11).


So we are to logically consider ourselves to exist being dead, which would put us in the category of those in vs. 16, above, who were then "sleeping," and yet at the same time continuously living by and in God (having been joined to Christ in His death and resurrection – Rom. 6:4-5)?


"even us, being continuously dead ones by (or: in; to; for) the stumblings aside (wrong steps; offences) He made alive together by (or: joins us in common life with and in; [p46, B: within; in union with]) the Christ – by Grace and joyous favor you continually exist, being folks having been delivered (rescued and saved, so that you are now safe; made whole)! – and He jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to sit (or: seats [us]) together within the things situated upon [thus, above] the heavens (or: in union with the full, perfected heavenlies; or, although neuter: among those comprising the complete and perfected heavenlies; among the ones [residing] upon the atmospheres; in union with the celestials) within and in union with Christ Jesus," (Eph. 2:5-6).


We should also keep in mind that in Christ, the bearer of the New Being, there is a new creation,


"Consequently, since someone [is] within Christ (or: if anyone [is] in union with [the] Anointed One), [there is] a new creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of creation having a fresh character and a new quality): the original things (the beginning [situations]; the archaic and primitive [arrangements]) passed by (or: went to the side).  Consider!  New things have come into existence (have been birthed; or: It has become new things; or: He has been birthed and now exists being ones of a different kind, character and quality)." (2 Cor. 5:17)

                                                                                                                            17.  Thereupon (or: After that; As a next step) we, the presently living folks, the ones presently continuing to be left around, will – at the same time, together with them – be seized and snatched away within clouds (or: carried off by force, in union with clouds,) into the midst of [the] air (the air that we breathe in; the mist; the haze; the atmosphere around us; [note: this would be in the earth's lower atmosphere, the place where there is air]) – into the Lord's meeting ([Christ’s or Yahweh’s] encounter).  And thus (in this way and such a manner) shall we always be (or: exist at all times) together with [the] Lord [= Christ or Yahweh].

Paul here is speaking of an event that those then living, "we," would experience: being "seized and snatched away within clouds into the midst of [the] air."  Much of Christianity believes this to be a future event, and some have considered Paul to have been misguided to have expected it to happen in the then near future.  But others, among them those of the preterist paradigm, believe that this happened when the Lord returned to Jerusalem in judgment, both through the agency of the Romans and in a literal "snatching away" and resurrection during the period of AD 66-70.


It should be noted that Paul did not say that the Lord would take everyone off to heaven, but that they would be with Him "in [the] air."  Thus would they be in our atmosphere – close enough to touch.  That, of course, is putting a literal spin on the interpretation of his words.  A figurative interpretation – since he spoke in apocalyptic terms of a shout, the blowing of a trumpet, and descending – would speak of the joining of the heavens and the earth in the realm of spirit, and thus catching folks up into realm of spirit, similar to the descending of the New Jerusalem as symbolically pictured in Rev. 21:2, and its existence upon earth in ch. 22.  This, of course, was a figurative description of the Lamb's wife (21:9), the bride of Christ, God's tabernacle (= His temple, His body) dwelling with humanity (21:3).


I should also point out that this same word "seized and snatched away" is used in Matt. 11:12 in the context of the reign of the heavens, where I render it as "grasping it and drawing it up,"


"Now from the days of John the Immerser until right now, the reign of the heavens (or: sovereign rule of the kingdom of the atmospheres) is itself continuously pressing (or: is progressively pressing and forcing itself) forward with urgency, and those urging and pressing forward [toward the goal] are constantly grasping it and drawing it up [to themselves]."

                                                                                                                                                             18.  So that (or: Consequently) you must constantly call each other alongside to give relief, encouragement and comfort, as a paraclete, within these words (or: thoughts; reasons).


This would have been a real comfort to them, and so it can be to us, since He is repeatedly coming to us and walking among us (pictured as lampstands, among which He constantly walks: Rev. 1:20 and 2:1).  Note that the One who constantly, or repeatedly, walks among us speaks with "a great voice (or: = a loud sound), as of a trumpet..." (Rev. 1:10).

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