13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
fallen asleep (v.13) — John 11:11-15 — referring to the death of the body, the time between physical death and the physical resurrection. The soul doesn’t sleep but goes immediately to be with the Lord when the believer dies (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23)
those who have fallen asleep (v.13) — tense is “that are lying asleep” — The Thessalonian believers were apparently expecting the Lord to return at any moment and were concerned about one or more of their congregation who had died after Paul left. — 1 Corinthians 15:20
The object of the metaphor is to suggest that as the sleeper does not cease to exist while his body sleeps, so the dead person continues to exist despite his absence from the region in which those who remain can communicate with him, and that, as sleep is known to be temporary, so the death of the body will be found to be. Sleep has its waking, death will have its resurrection.
When the physical frame of the Christian, “the earthy house of our tabernacle,” 2 Corinthians 5:1, is dissolved and returns to the dust, the spiritual part of his highly complex being, the seat of personality, departs to be with Christ.
The “unclothed,” or “naked,” (2 Corinthians 5:3-4) state of the believer is not final, for man without the body is not complete. When “this corruptible,” the decayed and crumbled body, “shall have put on incorruption,” then, but not till then, shall the victory of Christ over death be manifestly complete (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
the early Christians adopted the word koimeterion (which was used by the Greeks of a rest house for strangers) for the place of interment of the bodies of their departed; thence the English word “cemetery” = “the sleeping place,” is derived. — Vine, pages 62-63.
hope (v.13) — 1 Corinthians 15:19
if (v.14) = ei — “if, as is the case,” or “since”
died (v.14) — Death, in Scripture, is used of:
a) the separation of the spiritual from the material part of man, i.e., of the soul from the body, and the consequent cessation of the functions of the latter and its disintegration into dust: Adam’s body died at the age of 930 years (Genesis 3:19; 5:5; cp. Acts 5:10. Death, in this sense, is an experience that awaits men (Hebrews 9:27).
b) the separation of man from God, cp. Romans 8:6: Adam died in the day (i.e., when, cp. Ezekiel 33:12) he disobeyed God (Genesis 2:17), and all mankind “descended from Adam by ordinary generation” are born in the same state of separation from God.
Death is the opposite of life. Said of man, life is never = existence; death is never = nonexistence. It is stated explicitly that God created man, i.e., called man into existence (Genesis 1:27), but Scripture nowhere states that man will ever cease to exist. — Vine, page 64.
Verse 14 reads “if we believe, as we do, that Jesus died and rose again, even so we believe also that …”
those who sleep (v.14) = tense is “fell asleep”
in Jesus (v.14) = through Jesus — “those who fell asleep will God, through Jesus, bring with Him,” i.e. with Jesus. — Vine, page 66
by (v.15) = on the authority of
word of the Lord (v.15) — Paul is referring to a new, direct revelation to him from God. There is no previously-written passage of Scripture that can be a source of what Paul is about to say. That’s why, in 1 Corinthians 15:51, he refers to this truth as a “mystery.”
precede (v.15) — with the sense of “have any advantage over”