Most NT Scholars acknowledge 1 Thessalonians was written by Paul and dated around A.D. 50. The recipients were new converted Christians in Thessalonica where Paul newly built the infant church on the second missionary trip. To understand the reason why Paul wrote the letter, we need to explore into the situation of Thessalonians’ church has dealt with.
Acts 17 describes the church of Thessalonica was being non-stop attacked since it was set up. The attacks reflected in Paul wrote some “bad word” against the oppressors (1 Thess 2:14b) and reminded the Thessalonians he had warned them in before (3:4). The oppositions and attacks became so severely that Paul and his companions had to leave Thessalonica suddenly. They were continually chased in Beroea until they furthered to Athens. Since Paul has not spent much time in this infant church, he was so worry about the newly converters faith. Paul tried to go back to Thessalonica but he was blocked. (2:17-18). Then, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to pasture them. Timothy finally brought back good news by reporting the church was standing firmly in faith (3:6), but might need “more teaching in certain area and of encouragement in trials.” Paul obviously could not go back at that time and in this context he wrote the letters of 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
The 1 Thessalonians consists two halves: the first half (1:6-3:13) concerns Paul's original visit to Thessalonica and the converters responses to the Gospel. The second half (4:1-5:22) is Paul's teaching on the Thessalonian believers about the issues of conduct and beliefs. In Chapter 4, Paul begins with “Finally, brother” (v.1) obviously indicating he is turning to a new set of topics to advise. After making advice on maintaining sex conduct (1-8) and keeping brotherly love (9-12), Paul start to deals with the problem of the Dead and Resurrection (13-18) and The Lord’s coming. (5:1-11) In fact, Paul succinctly advice “work with your hands” (4:11) reflecting some believers has misunderstood the Parousia will come very quickly therefore they stop working and simply wait for the second come of Jesus. Therefore, Paul simultaneously moves to advice on the topic of “Dead and Resurrection (4:13-18) which puzzling the Thessalonica church. And after explain to all the believers that they will be with Christ no matter they have died or still alive; Paul further to advice the unpredictable date of Parousia (5:1-11). Paul completes the letter by adding “Final exhortations and Greetings.” (5:12-28)
Observations and Opinions on 1 Thess 4:13-18
In 1 Thess 4:13-18, Paul has used some words and concepts which need clarification before simply drawing theological insights from it.
In verse 13, Paul wants those Thessalonians to aware that they should not grieve about those who have fallen asleep, as others do who have no hope. Apparently some Thessalonians believers have died and some of still alive believers starting worry of their state at the Parousia...