God will spare his children from the final judgment: eternal suffering. But as John Piper explains, until then, they will have to endure suffering, even what many call the tribulation.
Some questions to ask as you read and study 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18:
- What is the event Christians refer to as the rapture? Do you believe there will be one? Why or why not?
- Will the reality described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 occur so that we can avoid the tribulation? Watch the lab. What are the two main reasons John Piper gives for thinking Christians will not escape?
- How important is it to understand the details of the rapture? Why might wrong expectations concerning the rapture be harmful?
Principles for Bible Reading
Wrestling with a Difficult Text
The apostle Peter said that Paul’s letters were “hard to understand” at times (2 Peter 3:16). Many of us give our hearty Amen. But instead of running from hard passages, God blesses us with understanding as we, like Jacob, wrestle with God in his word.
So when difficult texts have you in a headlock, what can you do? Here are a few options:
- Identify what is clear from the passage. Start with what you can figure out from the passage as a whole, and then return to the unclear parts.
- Find the main point. Often the confusing parts do not contain the main point of the passage. Identifying the main point can give us clues for discovering the meaning of the difficult passage.
- Look for clues within the book and surrounding context. Search the book for key words and phrases found in the tough passage.
- Cross-reference. Utilizing cross-references, especially when a New Testament verse cites the Old Testament, helps us to have a fuller understanding of what the authors were trying to communicate.
- Ask specific questions of the text. Addressing a challenging text as a whole can seem insurmountable. But breaking a passage down by asking specific questions about it can unravel the meaning, question by question and answer by answer.
- Use a trusted commentary. Be careful with commentaries. This caution includes trusting bad commentaries and relying too much on good ones. But commentaries can be used well, and great biblical scholars give helpful insights.