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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


In this chapter, the Apostle encourages the Thessalonians to perseverance (1); he delivers a precept regarding the practice of purity, and the avoidance of adultery, and he adduces several motives to stimulate them to fidelity in this matter (3–8). He praises their charity, and encourages the poor to engage in some honest employment, so that by this means they would not abuse the liberality of the rich (9, 10, 11). Finally, he assuages their excessive grief for their departed friends, by propounding the doctrine of the general resurrection, the order and manner of which he describes (12–17).

This and the following chapters are employed in such subjects of morality, as the Thessalonians, according to the information furnished by Timothy, needed instruction in


1. For the rest, therefore, brethren, we implore and exhort you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that as you have received precepts from us, by word of mouth when amongst you, regarding the manner of living and of pleasing God, you would so live, as to observe these precepts, and by advancing in perfection, please him more and more.

2. I have said, as you have received from us. For, you know what precepts of a holy life we delivered to you, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3. Now, this is a summary of God’s precepts, or the expression of his will, that you should lead a life of sanctity, a life free from all sins, but particularly from sins of impurity, or unlawful sensual pleasures.

4. So that every one of you should be able to master and keep under subjection his own body, in sanctification and honour.

5. And not be the slave of the strong, impulsive motions of concupiscence, like the Gentiles that know not God.

6. And let no one exceed the limits of justice or circumvent his brother in this matter, by indulging in unlawful pleasures in violation of the rights of the father or husband; for, the Lord is the avenger of all these crimes, as we foretold, and solemnly assured you, when present amongst you.

7. For in calling us to Christianity, the Lord has called us not to a state, or to the practice of impurity, but to a state, and to the practice of purity and sanctity.

8. Wherefore, whosoever despises these precepts, despises not man who propounds them, but God himself, from whom they emanated, who has given us, Apostles, his holy spirit, authorizing us to announce such precepts.

9. In reference to the subject of fraternal charity, unlike the preceding one, it is unnecessary to say anything regarding it: for, God himself, by the law of Christ, and the internal inspiration of his grace, has instructed you in this love towards one another.

10. For, you fulfil this precept, by excercising fraternal charity towards all the brethren throughout the entire of Macedonia, but we entreat you to make still greater progress in this brotherly love.

11. And to use your best exertions to be quiet, and not be interfering with the peace of others, also to mind your own business, and engage in manual labour, according to the instructions received from us, when amongst you; also to live in such a way in your intercourse with the Pagans as to be without reproach, and not to covet the property of any one.

12. In reference to the dead, brethren, I will not that you should be ignorant of their condition, in order that you may cease from indulging in the immoderate excessive grief, in which the Pagans, who have no hope of a future resurrection, are wont to indulge.

13. For, if we believe (as we really do) that Christ has died and risen from the dead, so (ought we likewise believe) that he will resuscitate with him, and evoke from their graves, those who have died in the faith, and bring them to eternal life.

14. For, this I tell you, on the authority of the word of God, or of divine revelation, that such of us as will be left in life, or shall be alive at the coming of the Lord, will not anticipate in the glory of the resurrection, those who died before us.

15. For the Lord himself (and not an angel, as on Sinai), after issuing his order to the angels to attend his descent, and after the archangel, in a voice louder than the loudest trumpet, shall have evoked the dead from their tombs, shall descend from heaven; and those who died in the faith shall rise in the first place.

16. And after that, such of us as shall live till then, shall be instantaneously drawn up with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and thus we shall be always with the Lord (and enjoying his glory).

17. Wherefore, console each other in your grief for departed friends by this announcement regarding the resurrection.


1. “For the rest”—a form of transition usual with the Apostle, particularly at the close of his Epistles. The Greek copies want the words “so also you would walk;” according to the Greek, the words, “that you may abound the more,” will signify, that, not contenting themselves with mere precepts, they ought to practise matters of counsel.

4. By “vessel” some persons understand, the wife of the married husband. However, as St. Paul refers to the sins of luxury, as well in the unmarried as in the married state, it is better to refer it to the body of each person; of course, not excluding those engaged in marriage; and this meaning of “vessel” is common in SS. Scripture (1 Kings, 16:5), and also with profane writers; because, the body is the receptacle of the soul, or the instrument through which the soul acts. “Possess” is frequently used to signify, holding the mastery over, and is here opposed to the dominion which lust, or his lustful body, exercises over the voluptuous man. “Honour” is opposed to those pollutions and defilements by which the Gentile philosophers (Romans, 1) are said to dishonour their bodies.

5. He shows, by the contrary, what “honour” is.

6. Some Commentators understand this of real property, and of injustice committed in business transactions. The article prefixed to the word “business” shows, however, that he is referring to the matter of chastity, or the exercise of marriage. Besides, “business” has this meaning frequently with profane writers. He assigns a reason why they should exercise justice in such matters, because God will avenge such crimes, “as we have told and testified.” This solemn assurance was required, because the Pagans made light of crimes against chastity.

7. The second motive by which he deters them from the commission of impurities, is the reason upon which the menace on the part of God is grounded, viz., that by calling them to Christianity, he called them to a state of purity and sanctity which they desert, and not to the state of impurity, which they indulge in against his will and ordinances.

8. The third motive is, because such sins of impurity are committed as acts of contempt against God himself. These words, “who also hath given his holy spirit in us,” may also mean, that these impurities committed against God’s precepts, besides the contempt against God, from whom these precepts emanated, also involve a special contempt of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in the bodies of the baptized, as in his temple.

9. The words, “have learned of God,” are expressed by one word in the Greek, θεοδίδακτοὶ and signify, that special unction of divine grace, inclining their wills to the practice of this precept.—(See 1 John, 2:27) “We have no need.” In Greek, ye have no need. The Codex Vaticanus supports the Vulgate reading.

11. The Apostle now cautions them against idleness and curiosity. It would appear that some persons amongst them were going about indulging in idleness and curiosity, searching into the concerns of others, to the total neglect of their own business, and while able to work, contenting themselves with begging, to the great disgust of the Gentiles, and the injury of the faith. Nothing could be so disgusting to the infidels as to see able bodied men going about as mendicants, when they might work, and this they would be apt to attribute to the Christian religion. The Apostle witnessed this irregularity himself, and he was informed by Timothy of its continuance. He treats of the subject more fully in the 3rd chapter of 2nd Epistle. “Use your endeavour,” the Greek word, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι, conveys an allusion to the diligent exertions employed by the ambitious, in pursuit of honours and self-advancement.

12. It appears that the Thessalonians had indulged in immoderate and excessive grief at the death of their near relations, and deplored it as bitterly as they had done when in a state of Paganism, and when they regarded them as lost for ever. The Apostle proposes as a remedy for this abusive practice, the doctrine of the future resurrection of the dead—a doctrine already propounded to them, as appears from his referring to it at the end of the 2nd and 3rd chapters of this Epistle; but they practically forgot it; and hence, he takes occasion here to inculcate it anew and propound it more fully. The Apostle is by no means to be understood as censuring all grief for the dead, as had been done by the Stoic philosophers. Our Redeemer wept for his friend Lazarus, and among the crimes of the Pagans (Romans, 1) the Apostle reckons the want of “affection;” and he himself would have sorrowed for the death of Epaphroditus (Philippians, 2:27). He only censures that excessive grief which would argue ignorance, at least practical ignorance, of the doctrine of the resurrection. “We will not.” In Greek, I will not. The Codex Vaticanus has “we.”

13. The connexion between the resurrection of Christ, and the general resurrection of all, is clearly pointed out by the Apostle (chapter 15 of his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians). It is worthy of remark, that in speaking of the death of Christ, he says, “Jesus died,” lest there might be any mistake about the reality of his death, as if it were merely apparent; whereas, speaking of our death, he says, “those who have slept,” to console those in sorrow, whose friends were not lost to them for ever, but were merely in the condition of persons asleep, to be again roused and resuscitated; and in SS. Scripture, death is frequently termed “sleep.”—(Daniel, 12:2; St. John, 11:11). Hence, the usual form among Christians of saying, he slept in the Lord, to express, that a person died, because death is but a mere protracted sleep, as sleep is but a short death. For the same reason, churchyards are termed cemeteries, or sleeping places.

14. “We who live.” He speaks in the person of those who are to be alive at the day of judgment. In this verse, the Apostle meets an error existing in the minds of the Thessalonians regarding the manner of the resurrection; they did not imagine that it would occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”—(1 Cor. 15) They thought there would be in it a succession of time, and that those whose bodies were corrupted would be resuscitated more slowly; and hence, that they would see their deceased friends more tardily in glory. He removes this erroneous impression in this verse. He says, “we who are alive,” not but he knew well, that he would not live till the day of judgment; but, he wishes to teach us by his own example, always to keep in view and prepare for this great day, which virtually happens at our death.

15. He now describes the glorious coming of the Judge, and mentions some circumstances calculated to give us an exalted idea of the glory and majesty that will attend him. “With commandment.” The Greek word, κελεύσματι, properly signifies the shout of sailors or soldiers rushing in concert to battle, or of labourers encouraging each other to some common exertion. The Greeks retain the idea of command, and say, it refers to the command of God, ordering all the angels to be ready. “The trumpet of God,” by a Hebrew phrase, means the loudest trumpet (v.g.) “The cedars of God,” mean, the tallest cedars. It refers to the same thing with the “voice of the archangel.” Whether the archangel shall use a trumpet or not is disputed. The more probable opinion is, that by the agitation or commotion of the air, he will cause a tremendous sound louder than thunder, like that caused by the loudest trumpet, which shall reach the dead in their graves; this by the power of God, they shall hear. Hence, it is called in the gospel, “the voice of the Son of God.” St. Thomas says it shall have an instrumental efficacy in resuscitating by its very announcement. It is commonly supposed, after St. Jerome, that it shall distinctly sound forth these words: surgite mortui et venite ad judicium. “And the dead who are in Christ will rise first.” All the dead will rise at the same time, but the Apostle omits all mention of the resurrection of the reprobate, as it would not serve to console those who were in mourning. “First” does not mean that there will be any priority of time in the resurrection of the dead among themselves; it only means, as the Greek word, πρῶτον, shows, in the first place. This event of their resuscitation shall take place before that mentioned in the next verse, that is, before they are drawn into the clouds.

16. “Then,” i.e., after the resurrection. The order which shall take place in the resurrection, though instantaneous, is conceived in the following way:—The Lord Jesus, accompanied with all his angels, whom he shall command to be ready, will descend from Heaven. He shall issue his command to the archangel, who, with a loud voice, like that of a trumpet, shall sound the signal of the resurrection. At this sound, all the dead shall arise—those who are then alive shall be changed—all the just shall be caught up into the air to meet the Judge, while the reprobate shall be at his left hand on the earth. The other circumstances are more fully recorded in the 1st Epistle to Cor. 15, and by our Redeemer—Matthew, 24:29, &c.; 25:31, &c. From this verse, some persons infer that the men living at the day of judgment will be changed into a state of immortality, without suffering death. This is the opinion of the Greeks, who understand the words of the Apostles’ creed, to judge the living and the dead, in the same sense. Others say, that their death will take place in raptu, or, while they are being caught up into the clouds. The more common opinion, however, is, that they shall die on the earth, probably, by the agency of the fire of conflagration, and that after death, which shall be only momentary, they shall, in common with those, whose bodies were long before corrupted and for ages mouldering in their graves, and who now have come forth from heaven or purgatory to resume them, be caught up into the air, to meet Christ in the clouds. This he says in order to show that the living will not be glorified in their bodies before the dead, and that this shall occur to all at once, “in the twinkling of an eye.”—(1st Epistle to Cor. 15) They shall all, in the first place, arise; after that, they shall be taken up into the air to meet the Judge: he says, “they shall be taken up;” for, although they can go there of themselves by the quality of agility, with which they shall be clothed; still, they shall go thither, owing to a kind of draw or moral attraction to meet their Lord.

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