Monday, June 4, 2012

First Thessalonians

First Thessalonians.  The Holy Bible.  New King James Version.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Paul covers several topics in this letter to the church at Thessalonica.  The main theme is that Jesus Christ will return and believers should be reassured in that fact.  He mentions the second coming twice before teaching about it in some detail.

Paul praises the church for their faithfulness and godly character in the face of persecution.  Their behavior was a sign to all of their faith in gospel of Jesus Christ.  They could bear troubles with patience because they new He is coming again and He had already rescued them from the judgment he will deliver on His return.

Part of the persecution the church face appears to involve attempts to discredit Paul and the gospel he taught.  He presents two defenses.  First was his conduct during his time in Thessalonica.  He did not try to take advantage of the people, but worked hard to take care of them.  Second, the proof of the gospel was the endurance and faithfulness of the people who believed it.  Paul concludes this section of his letter with another reference to the second coming, stating how much he will delight in them with the Lord at that time.

The letter was prompted in part by Timothy’s visit to Thessalonica and his report on the state of the church there.  Paul is encouraged by what he hears and encourages the Christians to continue in the faith.  It may seem disheartening that he reminded them to live lives of sexual purity, good order, and peace.  A glance around almost any church even today will show how much we need such reminders.

Before wrapping up, Paul gets deeper into the subject of the second coming.  First, he addresses the question of those who die before Christ’s returns.  Is that the end for them?  Will they not be with the Lord?  They though Christ might return in their own lifetime, and were concerned about Christian brothers who had passed away.  Paul reminded them of Christ’s resurrection, and taught that dead Christians would be brought back to life in the same way.  When He comes again, all of His people, alive and dead raised to new life, will join Him.  We don’t need to worry, those who God calls He will keep forever.

The other question about the second coming, one that people still ask, is: When will it happen?  Only God knows.  The rest of us will be caught by surprise.  For Christians, though, this is no cause for fear.  At any moment we could be with the One we long to be with, our God, our Savior, our Helper, with a kind of unveiled intimacy we have barely tasted.  In the meantime, we should live with faith, love, and hope as we have been called.

Paul’s message to these Christians, and by extension to us, is simple.  You believed the truth and God has saved you.  Keep living well.  Don’t worry.  Jesus Christ is coming and we will be with Him.

Paul also wrote