Q. I wonder about this wording in 1st Thes. 4:15. “For this I say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the the coming of the Lord … ” Is Paul referring here to teaching in the scriptures or to personal teaching which he received from the Lord?
A. Some dismiss verse 15, saying that Paul was referring to a conversation he had with the Lord that doesn’t appear in Scripture. But I think there’s a better answer than that. Remember, 1st Thessalonians was one of Paul’s first written communications, undertaken in 51AD. The earliest Gospels were just being written. None of them enjoyed wide distribution yet. So if Paul was referring to Scripture, as I believe he was, it had to be the Old Testament.
Look at this passage from Isaiah 26:19-21. But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
Notice how the pronouns change from second person when God speaks of His people to third person when He speaks of the people of the Earth. It means the two groups are different. Those called “my people” are told to “enter your rooms” (the rooms of John 14:2-3?) because the others, called “the people of Earth” are going to be punished for their sins in a period of time called His Wrath. Sound familiar? Not by any stretch of the imagination has this passage been literally fulfilled in history. It’s an End Times prophecy that promises a resurrection of the dead and hiding of God’s people while His Wrath is unleashed on the people of Earth for their sins.