2016-10-16 - 1 Thessalonians Study
Letters to a Young Church ~ The Reality of His Coming
The Non-Believer's Response
In contrast, the ones who live in darkness are asleep. They are unaware of God’s judgment, which will arrive unexpectedly. They are also drunk, that is not sober, and men are drunk at night. These men are out of control. They have no expectation of God's intervention and couldn't care less. They serve as an example of what we are not to be. They don’t fear God, only what He can do to them. It is those of us who are believers, who are called to fear the Lord.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).
We are to be prepared to serve God. Paul calls us to wear the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. We are to live a life typified by faith in God, and demonstrate of His love for each other.
Notice that these requirements relate back to the earlier part of the letter. What were the believers known for? Paul had remembered them for the demonstration of their faith in the God’s word. He had praised them for the love that was lived out in their lives. They had been faithful and loving, and Paul had called them to continue to grow in these qualities. With the focus on the prophetic, Paul actually is giving support for the need of these attributes he has already called them to encourage.
The “hope” is the knowledge that these believers were not intended for God's wrath, that is His judgment. They were not to confuse the suffering they were undergoing, through persecution, with God’s wrath. They had obtained salvation through Christ; wrath had no place in their lives.
It is the reality taught here, that can help us keep living in this world. As we face the pressures that come upon us at our homes, with children being difficult, with our families, and the problems of dealing with them, with jobs that seem to be nothing but trouble, or even the lack of a job, we can be at peace. No matter what we go through, it is temporal for soon we
will have an eternity with Christ. It is the peace which comes from this knowledge, lived out before those around us, that may cause them to desire what we experience.
Now while Verse 9 doesn't have to be understood as teaching the Rapture, this does seem to be the best interpretation. Paul may be speaking of God's final judgment, which no believer will face, but consistent with the flow of the passage, it seems to be refer to the wrath incurred during the Tribulation. Why are the Thessalonians not to fear the coming wrath? They don't have to be afraid, because Christ died so they would not have to face God's the wrath. Instead, believers - those living and dead - will have an eternity to live within His presence. It is this statement that shows Paul was not only teaching the believer would avoid the wrath of the Tribulation, but also the final judgment.
And what is the result of an understanding of these teachings? Just as in 4:18 Paul calls these believers to comfort one another with these words, they are to be the basis of encouragement by which the believers help one another to have the kind of walk that God expects of them.
The call is the same for us. The knowledge of what we are to expect is to be one basis for the motivation or our obedience to the Lord. We are to be alert and sober, looking for Christ’s coming, having no fear of the coming wrath.
And so the conclusion of these verses is one of promise of encouragement.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1–3).
I know we are all facing difficulties of one sort or another. Some are simply life’s inconveniences, and others are the sources of major pain. There is no reason to feel we can't accept pain from painful circumstances. For it is the hope of an eternity with Christ that can put these issues in perspective. “Life” does not come from having everything go as we want it to, or from the absence of pain. “Life” comes from desiring to live in a way that honors God.
It really can be a comfort to know that one day we may hear the trumpet, and the Lord coming to lift us from a fallen world. But whether we are taken up in the Rapture, or join the Lord through death, one day we will stand before Him and all our pain will end.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1–4).
Series to be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.
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