The two books written to those in Thessalonica are unique in that the return of the Lord is mentioned in each chapter. Paul commended the believers there in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your WORK OF FAITH, and LABOUR OF LOVE, and PATIENCE OF HOPE in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.” He had another nice commendation of them in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” They obviously were involved in ministering God’s Word to each other. This brought edification to them all.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Paul gives instruction and warning to the Thessalonians. In verses 13-18, Paul speaks of the coming of the Lord at the RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH. Let’s read the verses that were asked about in our question. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Let’s consider these verses phrase by phrase.

“But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep.” Several times in his epistles, Paul tells his audience that he does not want them to be ignorant, or unknowing. We read variations of this phrase in Romans 1:13, Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 10:1, 1 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 1:8, and here in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Here, Paul, wants them to have understanding of what happens to believers who have died, or fallen asleep. This sleep refers only to the body of the believer, for their soul and spirit is with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8). The Lord spoke of the death of Lazarus, using the same language. We read in John 11:11 and 14, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend LAZARUS SLEEPETH; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, LAZARUS IS DEAD.”

“That ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” It is perfectly normal for us to sorrow, or grieve over the loss of a loved one. Paul here shows that we do not suffer in the same way as those “which have no hope.” We who are believers on the Lord Jesus still grieve when we lose someone close, but we are comforted knowing that, if they are saved, we will see them again one day.

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” I can emphatically say that ALL those who are saved do believe that Jesus died and rose again. That is part of the Gospel message. We read in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that GOD HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, thou shalt be saved.” We read in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that CHRIST DIED for our sins according to the scriptures; And that HE WAS BURIED, and that HE ROSE AGAIN THE THIRD DAY according to the scriptures.”

“Even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Those believers who have died will return with the Lord when He comes to meet us in the clouds. We just cannot mourn for a believer who had died. We can sorrow over the loss of our loved one, but how can we be sorry for one who now lives in the presence of the Lord, where Psalm 16:11 tells us, “…in thy presence is FULNESS OF JOY.”?

The rest of this chapter concerns the Rapture. Instead of talking about it, let’s allow the Word of God to speak for itself. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” What a day, glorious day, that will be. A day that true believers long for and pray for. (271.6)

We have often been criticized for speaking of the Rapture, especially when the word ‘Rapture’ is not found in the Bible. I encourage you to click on this “Answers From the Book” link to read about that:

Why do people talk about the rapture when the word ‘rapture’ is not even found in the Bible?