1 Thessalonians 4

Present Faithfulness, Future Hope

The Thessalonians' Love

But concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you . . . for indeed you are practicing it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).

The love which the Thessalonian Christians showed toward the brothers in Macedonia may refer to a variety of things, including financial support (cf. 2 Cor 8:1–5). This collection juglet illustrates the possible financial implication of this verse. It is from a synagogue at Horvat Rimmon (Kfar Rimmon) and was found with 12 coins with the image of Christian emperors. Even though this is from several centuries after Paul, it is very similar to the same sort of vessel used to hold coins centuries earlier.

Instructed to Excel

We urge you, brothers, that you excel still more (1 Thessalonians 4:10).

The word “excel” (Gk. perisseuō) means to have an abundance, or even to overflow (cf. 1 Thess 4:1). This spring at Banias (Caesarea Philippi) illustrates an overflow of water. In Paul’s day, this area was well known for its grotto dedicated to the worship of the god Pan. Herod’s son Philip built a city here in 2 BC that was named Caesarea in honor of the emperor Augustus. Tradition holds that Christianity reached this town in the 1st century AD, and there were several bishops from this town in the 4th and 5th centuries.

Ancient Industry

That you aspire to be quiet and mind your own business and work with your hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Banking and record keeping were two such tasks that Paul’s hearers could keep busy with. In this fascinating fresco portrait, the baker Terentius Neo and his wife are portrayed as literate intellectuals. She holds a stylus and folding wax tablet, indicating her ability to read and write (she is thought to have managed the bakery). He holds a rotulus, a parchment or papyrus document that was wound around a wooden rod and written in such a way that the roll would be unwound vertically. Both forms of “books” were common in Paul’s day for everyday business activities.


We do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

There are two different Greek words translated “sleep” in the New Testament; the one that is used here (Gk. koimaō) is commonly used as a metaphor for death. This funerary inscription uses the same word in the same way; the last two lines read, “May they sleep in peace.” Because the death of believers is only temporary, sleep is an apt theological metaphor that points to the day when Jesus will resurrect those who trust in Him (cf. John 11:4, 11-13, 25-26).

The Trumpet Call

The Lord Himself will descend from heaven . . . with the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Trumpets were used in the Bible for gathering an assembly. The inscribed stone shown here comes from the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It marked the place from which the priests blew the shofar to announce the Sabbath. The first two words of the inscription read “to the place (lit. house) of trumpeting.”

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