Updated: Feb 4
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for Year A, Proper 27, the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost. It will next be read aloud in church on Sunday, November 12, 2017. This is important as it addresses the issue of death and the soul’s return to God, as understood by an Apostle and Saint.
Again, as I have done previously with the words of Paul, so we are forced to read what is written slowly and ponder translations that are valid, not what has been presented for us, let me simply present the above block (seemingly) paragraph in segmented fashion. Simply read this as the lines of a psalm that is slowly sung and let your mind’s eye see the message being unfolded before you. Read this before I offer an interpretation.
You can read along with the Interlinear breakdown of Greek and English here, and see how the translation above (the New American Standard Bible version) is compatible to the translation below.
13. I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen to sleep [that of death], that not you should be grieved, like are the rest, those not having hope (confidence, trust, expectation). 14. If indeed we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also [we believe in] God, those having fallen to sleep [that of death] for the sake of Jesus, will bring (guide, lead away, go, carry) with him (the same). 15. This [statement of promise] indeed we declare to you in word of [the] Lord, that [declaration] we the living surviving (left behind, remaining), towards the coming (arrival, advent, presence) of the Lord, all not shall proceed those having fallen to sleep [that of death], 16. because himself the Lord with a loud command (arousing outcry, word of command), with the voice of the ruler of angels (archangel), and with trumpet of God. Will descend from heaven (the atmosphere, the starry heavens, the sky), and the dead (lifeless, mortal) in Christ will rise before (at the beginning, first, in the first place). 17. Then we the living remaining (left behind, surviving), together with them, will be caught away in clouds for meeting of the Lord in air (air we breathe); and so always with the Lord will be. 18. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
If you noticed the repeating word, “died,” good for you! The repetition makes this the theme of this reading selection. Certainly, by comparing the two versions of translation, you noticed the word “died” has been replaced with “fallen to sleep” on three occasions, with “died” being maintained the other time.
The use of “fallen to sleep” is used as a symbolic statement of “death.” That translation comes from the words “koimōmenōn” (1x) and “koimēthentas” (2x), which are rooted in the word “koimaó.” The word “koimaó” (which is a variation of “keimai” – “to be laid, lie”) means, “sleep, fall asleep, die,” implying, “I fall asleep, am asleep, sometimes of the sleep of death.”
This is not insignificant, as in John 11:11 we are told Jesus said. about the news of Lazarus being “sick,” “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” In John 11:4, the element of “death” was addressed when Jesus said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Jesus being glorified by one falling asleep is an important message to hold onto as you read here how Paul wrote of that topic.
Jesus used the same Greek word as Paul used, referring to “having fallen to sleep,” with the word “thanaton” (rooted in “thanatos “) clearly meaning “death.” The word maintained in translation here, as “died,” is “apethanen.” Immediately, a completely different word is visible (other than variations of koimaó ) as having been translated exactly the same as if rooted in “falling asleep.” The word “apethanen” is a form of the word “apothnéskó,” which means, “to die,” implying a usage saying, “I am dying, am about to die, wither, decay.”
Because the New American Standard Bible translation has presented a translation of “died” four times, with no indication of differences in the Greek, the reader’s and/or listener’s mind believes the exact same meaning is the intent, creating mental imagery of dead people in coffins, and all the finality that comes from mortal death. It then is important to grasp that the one use of “apethanen” is used in verse 14, where Paul wrote, “If indeed we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” That states the common belief that Jesus died.
While Jesus was the name attached to a body of flesh and blood (like those possessed by Paul and the Thessalonians who had received this epistle), that state of finality (mortal death) did not end Jesus’ life. Because Jesus rose again, Jesus still lives. Jesus lives in the bodies of Apostles and Saints. Thus, the implication in that statement (lost in translation) is that death – to a Christian (Christ Jesus and those filled with the Christ Mind) – is like being laid down to rest on a temporary basis, just like one goes to bed, sleeps, and then rises again.
To read a long-winded sentence that says, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died,” it is easy to come away thinking, “I believe Jesus died and was resurrected, so that belief means God will take my soul when I die.” That is as common a mistake as is thinking, “Jesus died for my sins.”
If Jesus did not die (he rose again), then Jesus awaits to awaken you from the death that is guaranteed by your sins. Because the man Jesus was released from his physical body, his Spirit can continually rise again in others that die of sinful egos. The ego goes to sleep, so the Mind of Christ can live again.
Nothing Jesus said in the Gospels (especially the parables where people think like that and find out the sad truth) says that anyone can sin all they want, while going to Heaven is guaranteed by belief in Jesus. Paul (even if it seems like he is saying all you have to do is believe and go to heaven) is telling believers you have to be Jesus reborn to get that reward. It becomes a matter of seeing what you want to see, and that seeing then becomes the basis for believing.
Look again at verse 14 broken down into four segments. The first states, “If indeed we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” This segment begins with the Greek word “Ei,” which is a conjunction that relates this segment to the previous statement, “those not having hope,” which is a statement about those who do not have “trust, confidence,” or any “expectation” in eternal life. Thus, this segment depends on “If” that is the case,” “for as much as” that is the case, or as a direct reference to “that” lack of “hope,” then Christians indeed believe in a temporary state of death, because Jesus rose again.
The second segment then states how that resurrection was possible. Only God could cause a dead Jesus to rise again with life. Therefore, to believe in that miracle of the Resurrection, so also God is believed. Jesus did not raise himself from a state of being dead for three days (72 hours). God raised His Son.
Those two beliefs are more than simply the result of someone being told to believe in the resurrection of Jesus and the power of God. Keeping in mind that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and he was writing to Christians in Thessaly who were likewise filled with the Holy Spirit of God, everybody was on the same page when Paul wrote, “those having fallen to sleep for the sake of Jesus,” he meant those who died like Jesus did – filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word “dia” has been translated as “for the sake of” here, but as “through” in the NASB translation. The word means, “through, on account of, because of,” implying “through, throughout, by the instrumentality of, by reason of,” and “for the sake of.” The word is a preposition that is often used as a prefix, such that its use indicates “successfully across” (to the other side). Therefore, Paul was stating that for death to not be without “hope” or “expectations,” then one has become one with Christ Jesus, so one’s soul simply goes to sleep, to be resurrected in Heaven, because of that Christ presence within oneself.
From that realization, the fourth segment is clearly stated, such that we know Christ Jesus “will lead away with him,” “the same” as Jesus Christ “died and rose again.” Even for those who have no “hope,” they too will be “guided through” the soul’s removal from their dead mortal flesh, in an experience that is spiritual and heavenly. However, the impression given above (by the NASB), “God will bring with him those who have died,” is not stated; but to infer that meaning, one then has to realize that God will only keep those who have died as His Son reborn, with the rest recycled back into the mortal realm (reincarnation).
Paul then said that this promise of eternal life in Christ is the “word of the Lord,” which means it comes from God the Father, but was spoken by Apostles as Christ the Son. That “word” is truth, and when Paul then said, “we the living left behind,” “the living” means all those filled with God’s Holy Spirit, so those born of mortal bodies – “born of death” – had been made “living,” because they were then “alive” in Christ. That is the meaning of “towards the presence of the Lord,” as Paul explaining “we the living.”
The last segment of verse 15 begins with a double negative, “no not” or “no lest” (“ou mē”), with “ou” also capable of being an indication of “all” (rather than “no”). As such, this then acts as a statement to be read two ways.
First, it says that “those having fallen asleep” (without the “presence of the Lord”) “will not proceed” to Heaven, while equally saying second, “all [that do] not expect” death, when “those have fallen asleep,” (because of the “coming of the Lord”), they will be the ones to go to Heaven. The double negative is then a reflection that not everyone (“not all”) who says they believe in Jesus and God will be saying “yes” to the “presence of the Lord” (due to the work that commitment involves). That failure to say “yes” means, “no” “not” going to Heaven.
Verse 16 is then Paul telling of that “presence of the Lord” or the “coming of the Lord.” The first segment fails to see the importance of each word, when we think it says “the Lord with a loud cry.” We need to slow down and see the words saying, “because himself the Lord with,” where “himself” is not the Lord, but the one “the Lord is with.”
We get caught up in the imagery of God being this nebulous, separate entity on a cloud somewhere in the sky, but “the coming of the Lord” and “not” having to be recycled at death is “because the Lord is with oneself.” When one experiences God within, then there is a “loud” and clear “word of command” one hears. It is not some sound that is audible, as vibrations registered in decibels. It means that Christians let loose the “word of the Lord, loudly.”
It is then the Apostle who takes on the “voice” of the “ruler of angels,” and it is the “angels” sent by God that bring the whispers of the Mind of Christ. The one filled with the Holy Spirit then becomes the one who “trumpets” their faith in “God.”
At that point, “God will descend from the spiritual heavens,” in the ether that is the breath of life those born “dead,” as “mortals.” By God coming down from above, His entrance into one’s heart means that one “will rise for the first time in Christ.” With that presence within, one stops fearing death and begins living as the resurrection of Christ.
When Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another with these words,” the “words” were about who dies and goes to Heaven. Not everyone gets to go to that spiritually everlasting paradise. Only those who become Jesus Christ reborn get that reward. There are only rooms set aside in Heaven for those who gave up selfishly living their mortal lives, so Jesus could return again, as the judge of who is “living” and who is dead. (See 1 Peter 4:5 and 2 Timothy 4:1)
The Greek word “parakaleite” is translated here as “encourage.” It can also mean “to call to or for, to exhort,” implying “I send for, summon, invite; I beseech, entreat, beg; I exhort, admonish; I comfort, encourage, console.” Paul was sending this letter to drive home the point to the Thessalonian Christians that they need to preach that message. No only should those filled with the Holy Spirit know their deaths are little more than falling asleep, waking up in Heaven; but, more importantly, they need to “encourage” those who are “like the rest” of humanity, “those not having hope,” that becoming a reborn Jesus is the way of “hope.”
This letter, again, was written for all who will read it, through all times, in all places. If you think you have Heaven solved and all you have to do to get there is believe Jesus died and was raised again, it is like thinking your beauty will pass that final exam, the one that will graduate you from the first grade to a doctorate in some field that means early retirement and exclusive homes on a paradise beach. You have to sacrifice to get the things you want in life … put in a lot of work, more mental than physical. Why would you think that same principle would not apply for the attainment of a spiritual goal?
The biggest problem the world has today is thinking. Heads filled with Big Brains ache when they read the epistles of the Holy Bible. To alleviate that ache, brains turn Greek words into English (or any other language, I presume, including that understood by Greek people) that makes Scripture say what they want to hear be said.
Those brains take the word “brothers” and turn it into “brothers and sisters,” so the sex organs of mortals – those born to die – are accommodated. It is so hard to see how all male and female Christians – those reborn as Jesus Christ – are all “brothers,” due to all being reborn as Jesus, the Son of the Father.
Commentaries of this selection that can be found published online focus on the “comfort of Jesus coming” to those who “have died” and to those left grieving the dead. We like to think that faith in Jesus will bring that deliverance, after it is time for us to leave this materialistic place we so fondly call home.
If we are still living to see it, then we expect Jesus to come down on a cloud at the end of the world and Rapture us, so we can watch all the heathen be fried like ants under a magnifying lens.
“Ha, ha, ha, ha,” they can say then, “Told you so, suckers!” “You should have believed!”
Otherwise, we think it is all a matter of “We believe. We die. We go to Heaven.” Since all moms are Saints, we will be greeted by mom, and she will probably have a hot apple pie ready for our arrival!
If you wait until death to find Jesus coming, then expect to be popping out of your new momma sometime soon afterwards. God will review all the common mistakes that mortals make; and, then <poof> your soul is in a mortal body again!
And the recycle of life rises again.
Everyone needs to read all the parables Jesus told and put themselves in the setting as the “fool,” rather than seeing themselves as Jesus talking about fools. The parables all say, “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.” Tomorrow is too late, as tomorrow may never come.
The only way to rest in peace is to know mortal death just means going to sleep, because the soul has a place reserved in Heaven. Those reservations require one’s ego taking a long, deep slumber, so God can send His Son in to make one’s body walk for the Lord and one’s tongue talk for the Lord. Now is the time to secure that reservation, because there is no better time than the present.