Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. List the clues in this passage that point to the false beliefs in the Thessalonian church that brought unnecessary grief to those who held them.
Within the Judaism of Paul’s day, a variety of views regarding the end time were prevalent. One of these viewpoints, in some form, crept into the Thessalonian church. Though we’re not certain exactly what it was, it seems to have been the idea that though all of God’s faithful would share in the “world to come,” only those who were alive at the end would be carried up into heaven. Those who died before the end would be resurrected and remain on earth.
In such a belief system, it would be a serious disadvantage to die before the end came. But it would also mean a separation between those taken to heaven and those left on earth. If the Thessalonians Paul was writing to lived until the end, they would truly ascend to heaven at the second coming of Jesus, but they would have to leave their deceased loved ones behind on earth (see 1 Thess. 4:13, 14).
It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul begins 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 with a comment about the church’s ignorance, rather than with “you know very well,” which appears elsewhere (1 Thess. 5:2, NIV, see also 4:2). Regarding the prophecy about the Second Coming, there were important things the church didn’t know and other things they would need to unlearn.
As we think about prophecy, we must remember that it is not given to satisfy our curiosity about the timing and details of end-time events. Prophecy has an ethical and moral purpose. God designed it to teach us how to live. It is intended to provide encouragement and purpose, especially in the midst of suffering and loss. Rightly understood, the prophecies of the Bible have life-changing power. In other words, though it’s important to believe like an Adventist (which means believing in Bible prophecy), it’s even more important to live like one.
What does it mean to “live like an Adventist?” Bring your answer to class on Sabbath.