Does 1 Thessalonians 4:14 say God will bring His saints?

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By BibleAsk Team


1 Thessalonians 4:14

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus”.

1 Thessalonians 4:14

Some teach that Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4, is speaking of disembodied souls, which ascend to heaven at death and return with Jesus when He comes at the second coming. But the Bible nowhere teaches that the soul of man is immortal and that it ascends to heaven at death.

According to God’s Word, humans are souls, and souls die. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). People do not go to heaven or hell at death. They go to their graves to await the resurrection day. “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth” (John 5:28, 29).

Even the prophet “David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:34). The saints will be raised, given immortal bodies, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death. Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).

“The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, … and the dead in Christ shall rise … and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). “We shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, … and the dead shall be raised incorruptible … For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). Paul is not speaking of immortal souls, but of “them which are asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13), “them also which sleep in Jesus” (verse 14), “the dead in Christ” (verse 16).

Paul said, the “dead in Christ” rise (verse 16), not descend. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” (verse 15). All the saints enter the kingdom together (verse 17). If the dead preceded the living and spent some time with the Lord prior to the resurrection, then the apostle’s language would be quite inappropriate.

If, as some claim, the saints are already in heaven why would Paul comfort the Thessalonians? Paul’s teaching was in harmony with that of his Lord (John 14:3). Paul simply wanted to emphasis the fact that as God brought forth Christ from the grave, even so would He bring forth the sleeping saints from the graves. “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Death – A State of Sleep

Here are some Bible verses (NKJV) that refer to death as a state of sleep:

  1. Job 14:12: “So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep.”
  2. Job 14:14: “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes.”
  3. Psalm 13:3: “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;”
  4. Psalm 76:5: “The stouthearted were plundered; They have sunk into their sleep; And none of the mighty men have found the use of their hands.”
  5. Daniel 12:2: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
  6. Matthew 27:52: “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;”
  7. John 11:11-14: “These things He said, and after that He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’”
  8. Acts 7:59: “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’”
  9. 1 Corinthians 11:30: “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”
  10. 1 Corinthians 15:6: “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.”
  11. 1 Corinthians 15:18: “Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”
  12. 1 Corinthians 15:51: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—”
  13. 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”
  14. 1 Thessalonians 5:10: “who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

These verses emphasize the depiction of death as a state of sleep, often coupled with the hope of resurrection and eternal life.

The following comparisons in the NKJV demonstrate the suitability of sleep as a figure by which to represent death: 

  1. Sleep is a state of unconsciousness. “The dead know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6).  “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?” (Psalms 6:5).
  2. Sleep is rest from all outward activities of life. “there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). 
  3. Sleep renders conscious thought impossible. “His spirit departs … in that very day his plans perish” (Psalms 146:4).  “For Sheol cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth” (Isaiah 38:18).
  4. Sleep continues until one is awakened. “So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep” (Job 14:12). 
  5. Sleep prevents association in the activities of those who are awake. “…nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:6b). 
  6. Sleep renders inoperative the emotions of the soul. “Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished” (Ecclesiastes 9:6a). 
  7. Sleep comes normally and inevitably to all. “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
  8. Sleep causes all praise of God to cease. “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence” (Psalms 115:17).

These verses suggest that after death, there is no consciousness or awareness, and therefore, the dead do not engage in praise or any activities.

For a study on the state of the dead, check: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/112-the-intermediate-state/

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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