For an introduction to this series, click here.
These Thessalonians must have been right where they ought to have been, because after a very long greeting, Paul says, "Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more." (4:1) In other words, just keep doing what you have been doing. This is different from most of Paul's other letters.
But Paul does have a few words of advice, beginning with this:
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you." (4:3-8)
Sexual temptation has always been a problem throughout history. Immorality was considered normal and natural by many in the Roman world. We know from archeology that large portions of the culture were obsessed with sex and were more out in the open with it than we are today, if you can imagine.
"Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one." (4:9-12)
This passage is pretty self-explanatory, as Paul encourages the believers to continue in what they are doing.
Paul then leads us into the most detailed discussion of the Rapture to be found in the Bible:
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (4:13-18, ESV)
This is of course something that has yet to happen in history. The Rapture is only mentioned in a couple of other places in the New Testament. There are many theologians who discount the doctrine of the Rapture. While I agree that it is not as essential that we agree on this doctrine as it is that we agree on the deity of Christ, this passage is very clear that something is going to happen.
The obvious question is when will this happen. Most of the debate revolves around when the Rapture will occur with relation to the Tribulation. I am not sure the Bible gives us a 100 percent clear answer. I have always been taught a "pre-trib" rapture, and I still hold to that, just because I haven't seen any indisputable proof to the contrary, but I have some friends who hold to a "mid-trib" view. I must admit, the "mid-trib" arguments actually make more sense to me than the "pre-trib" arguments.
I really don't know for sure, and it's not something I'm honestly very interested in debating. I know that whether I see this happen in my lifetime or if I die here on earth that I will be in heaven with the Lord. That's the important thing. He could come any time as far as I am concerned, but I know that He will come at the right time, whether or not He comes in my time frame.