In our last post, Paul Takes Another Trip, we followed the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. At the end of his trip, Paul stayed eighteen months in the church of Corinth. It was at that time, (~ 50 A.D.) that Paul wrote the letters [with a little help from Silas (also called Silvanus) a prophet and elder of the church in Jerusalem) and Timothy – a Christian acolyte whom Paul was mentoring] that would become the Bible books 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
Paul writes the first letter in response to a report from Timothy; Timothy said that there was confusion in the church of Thessalonica. The congregants were afraid that if they died before Jesus’ return, they would lose their salvation. The church was also concerned about secular persecution that they were experiencing in their region.
Paul begins by commending the church for their exemplary walk in Christ: For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you; in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 1 Thess. 2:19 NASB
He also reminisces fondly of his prior ministry there, and speaks to his own method of preaching – one that sets a good example for all of us:
But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 1 Thess. 2:4 NKJV
Paul is telling us that it is only God’s approval of our behavior that ultimately counts; and that approval only comes when we speak the truth (God’s word) and live by it.
He continues by telling the church that he had sent Timothy to them previously, to strengthen them in their faith, so that they may face their trials and tribulations with courage. Then he reminds them of their calling: For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 1 Thess. 3:3 ESV
(Jesus told us that we would be hated for following Him. We are the ‘peculiar people’ in the world who have chosen to walk the narrow path – the only path that leads to an eternity of complete love. It’s the path where we walk in love):
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thess. 3:12, 13. NKJV
Paul then reminds them of when he had previously taught them how to walk on that path:
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 of all these things…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. 1 Thess. 4:3 – 8. ESV
Now, Paul gives them a few more pointers from God for staying on the love path:
Be at peace among yourselves…admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess. 5:13 – 22. ESV
Paul then addresses the main event – bringing clarity to their confusion over the return of Jesus Christ:
Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest who have no hope [beyond the grave].
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death]. 1 Thess. 4:13 – 15. AMP
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV
How cool is that? God is letting us know that we don’t need to worry about the followers of Christ who die before He returns – because they will be the first ones that Jesus will rally to Him. Those who are still living when He returns, get to become airborne to join the eternal throng.
Jesus’ ‘second coming,’ the ‘day of the Lord’ will be wondrous for the followers of Christ, but it will be decidedly disastrous for those who have chosen not to:
…the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and Safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains…and they will not escape.
But you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith, and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 1 Thess. 5:2 – 8. NASB
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should be together with Him. 1 Thess. 5:9, 10. NKJV
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thess. 5:24 NKJV
Paul, again with some help from Silas and Timothy, sends off the second letter to the church, shortly after the first, because there was a false teacher in their midst who was circulating a counterfeit letter, supposedly from Paul, that said the day of the Lord had already come and gone.
He begins by encouraging them to endure in the face of persecution. Then he tells them that when Jesus returns, it will be a day that cannot be mistaken for any other:
God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thess. 1:6 – 10. ESV
Paul is taking about the ‘great sifting.’ That’s the time to be on the side of Jesus.
He then instructs the church not to put any faith into this counterfeit letter in circulation, stressing that indeed the day of the Lord has not come:
Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. AMP
What Paul is saying is that there will be unmistakably distinct events that presage the second coming of Christ. One of those will be the revelation of the identity of the lawless one (the Antichrist) – who will be worshiped by most of humanity as he proclaims himself to be God. (This will be revealed in great detail when we visit the last Bible book: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.) However, Paul gives us a few teasers now:
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work… 2 Thess. 2:7 NKJV (i.e. there is already a force of evil at work in the world.)
And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming. 2 Thess. 2:8 AMP
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they have refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:9 – 12. ESV
Thus, the Antichrist will be empowered by Satan himself – to be able to work false miracles, bringing him the adulation and worship of a rebellious world. It is then that God will begin the extraction process of those who pandered to themselves – separating them from the children of God. We also see that when Jesus returns, the curtain is coming down for the Antichrist.
Paul then changes focus in his narrative to encourage the church (that would be us) to be steadfast in our faith:
…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught… 2 Thess. 2:13 – 15. NKJV
(God chose you before you took your first breath.)
Finally, the apostle writes his parting remarks:
Yet the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen [you] and set you on a firm foundation and guard you from the evil [one]. 2 Thess. 3:3 AMP
…do not weary of doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thess. 3:13 – 15 NKJV
God is always on your side. When you stick with Him, the devil hasn’t got a chance against you.
We see too that God is always about practicing love. Even if a brother or sister in Christ backslides, you are to distance yourself from them – not to punish them, but in a loving way that encourages their return to the arms of God through Jesus Christ. It’s always about the love.
If we remain at the side of God, ‘the day of the Lord’ is something that we can look forward to with rapt expectation…
Goodnight and God bless.