While sitting with my bed-ridden mother during the afternoon, I outlined First Thessalonians after reading her a Psalm.
Paul ends this letter, “I charge you before the Lord to have this epistle read to all the brethren.”
In days gone by, when we received a letter in the mail from family or friends, we read the whole thing. When we pick up our Bibles and turn to any epistle, we should first read the whole thing before we begin a piecemeal reading of it.
Context makes clear the mistakes of that special sect of fellow American evangelicals who find their “Left Behind” drama and movies here in Thessalonians.
3:6 “But Timothy has just now come to us and has brought us good news…He has told us…”
Paul had waited eagerly for news about his Thessalonian converts. That is why they sent Timothy to them, 3:1,2.
This news prompts Paul to “pray to see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (3:10).
His prayer ends: “…so that He may strengthen your hearts that you may be blameless and holy in his presence when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”
This is the New Testament hope, the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ.
Then, Paul begins, “Finally…” (4:1) with exhortations on how to live. The last of these exhortations begins in chapter 4 at verse 13, encouraging them NOT “to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.”
THAT is the key concern of this section which begins at 4:13 and ends at 5:10, which points to Christ “who died for us, so that whether we live or die, we will live together with him.”
“Therefore encourage one another…”
The news which Timothy brought (3:6) must have included the concerns of some of those Christians at Thessalonica regarding fellow believers who had already died. Would they be at some disadvantage at the Coming of the Lord?
Addressing this concern is Paul’s focus in that section. The exposition of this section is here (link).