Difficult Texts
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

The first reading of this verse seems to teach that the righteous dead "which sleep in Jesus" will come with Christ when He returns to this earth. But the next three verses make it clear that this could not possibly be the case. Why? Because the "dead in Christ" are raised from their graves when "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven." Verse 16. So it would be impossible for them to come with Christ when He comes to resurrect them. '

The true meaning of the verse is revealed when we read 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." Paul stated that Jesus was raised first as a guarantee that the righteous dead would be raised"at his coming." Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." John 14:19. His resurrection makes it possible for God to raise us as He did Christ.

And this is exactly what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:14: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring [from the dead] with him [Jesus]." The words "with him" do not mean that the resurrected ones will be brought from heaven with Him at His coming, but that God will "bring" up those who will be sleeping in their graves just as He brought Jesus forth from the grave. In Hebrews 13:20, we read that "God ... brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus." The text in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 says that God will bring those who "sleep in Jesus"--an obvious reference to the resurrection.

Paul is simply declaring that because God brought Jesus from the grave, we have a guarantee that He will bring sleeping saints forth in the same way at the time of His coming.