“Prophetic & Pastoral”: Study notes on I Thessalonians (as prepared for recent conferences for Israeli & Palestinian pastors)

The church of the Thessalonians was planted during the Apostle Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey.

The church of the Thessalonians was planted during the Apostle Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey.

Last month, several pastors and Joshua Fund colleagues and I had the joy of teaching through I Thessalonians, verse by verse and chapter by chapter. We did so at a conference of Israeli pastors and ministry leaders their wives (both Jewish and Arab) in an Israeli city, and at a conference of Palestinian pastors and ministry leaders and their wives in a West Bank city.

Amidst all the tensions between Jews and Arabs right now, it was so special to see us all come together as brothers and sisters in Christ for fellowship, refreshment, prayer, and the study of God’s powerful Word.

At the first conference, I gave an overview of the Epistle and taught through chapter one.

Here are my personal study notes. I hope you find them helpful.

I THESSALONIANS CHAPTER ONE: VERSE BY VERSE (to read the Epistle, please click here)

Introduction

I love these Epistles to the church in Thessalonica for many reasons. Here are two:

  • First, they are so prophetic
    • Paul and his colleagues are focusing the hearts of this young and growing church on the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in every single chapter.
    • Paul’s explanation of the Rapture is the most detailed in all of Scripture. Indeed, Paul spends more time discussing the Rapture, the “Day of the Lord,” the Anti-Christ, and how to live holy, fruitful, impactful lives in the End Times in these two epistles than in any of his other letters.
    • Yet what is so wonderful is that Paul’s explicit focus in teaching eschatology is not to create discord or division, but to give “comfort” and “encouragement” to these young believers and this young church.
  • Second, they are so pastoral
    • The hearts of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy as true shepherds and disciple-makers – working together to care for and invest in this flock – are so beautifully revealed on each and every page.
    • The honesty and integrity of these shepherds is so clear in all they do.
    • The passion of these shepherds to feed this flock only God’s Word, “the whole counsel of God” – not their own opinions – is so evident.
    • They are both personal and practical, addressing a range of topics:
      1. How do I maintain the highest ethical standards? (chapter 2)
      2. How do I maintain highest standards of sexual purity in a pagan, sex-drenched culture? (4:1-12)
      3. How do I maintain hope in the face of the death of friends and loved ones? (4:13-18)
      4. How do I truly walk in the power of the Holy Spirit in the face of adversity and persecution? (chapter five)
  • This combination of the prophetic and the pastoral is something very special – extraordinary, even. It is easily missed when studying or teaching these two Epistles. Yet it raises several fascinating and important questions: Why did Paul put so much emphasis on eschatology in these two letters, among the earliest of the Epistles? Why, for example, did Paul write about sexual purity and the Rapture in the same chapter? What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell us in the Church today through the combination of these two elements in these two Epistles? And how faithfully are we applying what the Spirit was saying to the church of the Thessalonians in the ministries the Lord has given us today?

Now, let us begin our study by turning to I Thessalonians chapter one….

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

“Paul”

  • Paul doesn’t open the epistle by describing himself as an apostle
  • But he didn’t need to either – all of the believers in Thessalonica knew who he was and knew how much they had been blessed by his ministry
  • It’s also interesting that Paul does not claim sole authorship of the letter.
  • There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is using Paul as the lead author, but there is every reason to believe Silvanus and Timothy were deeply involved in the drafting of this Epistle, and its follow up letter.

“Silvanus”

  • Also known in Scripture as Silas (4 references to Silvanus, 14 to Silas).
  • Roman citizen (Acts 16:37)
  • highly respected by the Jewish elders of the Church in Jerusalem
    • participated in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)
    • one of the “leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:32)
    • thus most likely a Jewish believer (Acts 15:32)
    • chosen by James and the Council with Paul, Barnabus and Judas Barsabbas to take a letter from the Council to Antioch with instructions from the elders (Acts 15).
  • described in the Scriptures as a prophet (Acts 15:32)
  • fellow minister and traveling companion of Paul
    • chosen by Paul after the split with Barnabus (Acts 15:39-40)
    • began traveling with Paul “strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41)
    • was with Paul when the Apostle received the “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16).
    • helped Paul preach Gospel in Philippi and was imprisoned (Acts 16)
    • helped Paul preach the Gospel in Thessalonica, make disciples and establish the church there (Acts 17)
    • escaped with Paul to Berea amidst much persecution (Acts 17:10)
    • trusted by Paul to preach, teach, encourage, disciple, etc.
  • helped write several epistles with Paul
    • I Thessalonians
    • II Thessalonians
  • apparently helped Peter as a scribe writing another Epistle (see I Peter 5:12)
    • considered by Peter as “our faithful brother” (I Peter 5:12)

“Timothy”

  • Name means “honoring God”
  • Fellow minister and traveling companion of Paul
    • born and raised in Lystra (Acts 16:1)
    • Jewish mother who was a believer, and Greek father who was not (Acts 16:1, see also II Timothy 1:5-6)
    • circumcised by Paul (Acts 16:3)
    • “well-spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2)
    • recruited by Paul and Silas, shortly after Paul’s break with Barnabus (Acts 16:1-3)
    • after being driven out of Thessalonica, and ministering in other places, Paul chooses to send Timothy to Thessalonica “to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith” (I Thess 3:2).
    • Paul clearly trusted Timothy, and gave him numerous similar assignments (i.e., served also in Corinth, throughout Greece, in Ephesus, and in Rome)
  • Helped write several epistles with Paul
    • 2 Corinthians
    • Philippians
    • Colossians
    • I Thessalonians
    • II Thessalonians
  • Recipient of two epistles from Paul

“To the church of the Thessalonians”

  • Church – ekklēsia
  • An assembly of called out ones – called out of the world, called out of sin, called into the family of God, into a personal relationship with the One True God.
  • This is a letter to believers – the first of two letters we know of – and we will get to know these believers over the next few days.
  • Now, Paul’s first missionary journey was of a fairly limited scope.
  • But it is on his 2nd Missionary journey that Paul and his team preached the Gospel in Thessalonica, make disciples and plant a church.
  • At this stage, the Lord has called Paul and his team to reach Europe with the Gospel. This was not Paul’s original plan. Paul wanted to reach Asia Minor and/or Bithynia. But the Lord said no to both scenarios. Instead, the Lord gave Paul the famous vision we read about in Acts 16 and the “Macedonian Call.”
  • So this Epistle was written during Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, not long after Paul and his team planted the church in Thessalonica.
  • Scholars generally believe it was written sometime between 50 A.D. and 52 A.D.
  • Thus, it is one of the earliest pastoral letters written by Paul (the letter to the Galatians was likely written first, around 49 A.D.)
  • Paul is about 45 years old when the Lord uses him to plant the church in Thessalonica, and around 45 or 46 when he writes this first Epistle.

Thessalonica

  • Thessalonica was:
    • A large, strategic city in Macedonia.
    • Founded in 315 B.C. by Cassander, the famous general serving under Alexander the Great’s command.“Cassander named the city after his wife, Thessaloniki, who was Alexander’s stepsister.” (Walvoord, p. 11)
    • Inhabited by more than 200,000 people, some say 250,000.
    • Located along the Egnatian Way, a major road running East-West through the Roman Empire that was built in 2nd century B.C.
    • A major seaport at the northern tip of the Thermaic Gulf.
    • Still a large and strategic city today
      • Now called “Thessaloniki.”
      • Second largest city in Greece.
      • Metro population of about one million
  • What do we know about Thessalonica in the First Century?
    • Cosmopolitan – filled with people from all over the Roman empire
    • A sizable Jewish community with a synagogue
    • Idol worshippers
    • Much violence, corruption, sexual immorality

“In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”

  • The eyes of Paul and his team have been dramatically opened. They have come to see and know and understand who God the Father really is. They have come to see and know and understand who Jesus of Nazareth really is – the Messiah, the Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  • Now they have a calling and burning passion to share this good news with everyone between Jerusalem and the ends of the earth, as per Matthew 28:18-20 & Acts 1:8.
  • And they have absolutely no doubts that these Thessalonians are “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – that they are not “near” God or “close to God” but rather they are “in” the family of God. They are “in” the Kingdom. They are truly born again…..more on this in a moment.

“Grace to you and peace.”

  • Paul and his team experienced the grace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • Greek: charis (Strong’s G5485)
    • “Unmerited favor”
    • Holman’s Bible Dictionary: “Undeserved acceptance and love received from another, especially the characteristic attitude of God in providing salvation for sinners. For Christians, the word ‘grace’ is virtually synonymous with the gospel of God’s gift of unmerited salvation in Jesus Christ. To express this, the New Testament writers used the Greek word charis, which had a long previous history in secular Greek. Related to the word for joy or pleasure, charis originally referred to something delightful or attractive in a person, something which brought pleasure to others. From this it came to have the idea of a favor or kindness done to another or of a gift which brought pleasure to another. Viewed from the standpoint of the recipient, it was used to refer to the thankfulness felt for a gift or favor.” http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?n=2364
  • Grace – this is what Paul wanted the Thessalonian believers (and us) to truly, fully, and always experience, for he had come to experience God’s grace so powerfully.
    • I Corinthians 15:9-10 – For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
    • I Timothy 1:12-14 – “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord was more abundant, with the faith and love that are found in in Christ Jesus.”
  • Because Paul and his team have experienced the grace of God, they have also experienced the peace of God.
    • Greek: eirēnē (Strong’s G1515)
    • Original secular Greek meaning: “a state of national tranquility; exemption from the rage and havoc of war; peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord.”
    • Holman’s Bible Dictionary: “[In the] New Testament, the Greek word eirene corresponds to the Hebrew shalom expressing the idea of peace, well-being, restoration, reconciliation with God, and salvation in the fullest sense. God is ‘the God of peace’ (Romans 15:33; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20 ). The Gospel is ‘the good news of peace’ (Ephesians 6:15; Acts 10:36) because it announces the reconciliation of believers to God and to one another (Ephesians 2:12-18). God has made this peace a reality in Jesus Christ, who is ‘our peace.’” http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?n=4865
  • “Grace to you and peace” isn’t a throwaway line – it is the essence of what Paul wants these believers to understand and experience as a result of what the Holy Spirit is writing through him to them.
    • Romans 1:7 – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”
    • I Corinthians 1:3 – “Grace to you and peace….”
    • I Corinthians 1:2 – “Grace to you and peace….”
    • Galatians 1:3 – “Grace to you and peace….”
    • Ephesians 1:2 – “Grace to you and peace….”
    • Philippians 1:2 – “Grace to you and peace….”
    • Colossians 1:2 – “Grace to you and peace….”
    • I Thessalonians 1:1 – “Grace to you and peace….”
    • II Thessalonians 1:2 – “Grace to you and peace…”
    • Titus 1:4 – “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior….”
    • I Timothy 1:2 – “To Timothy, my true child in the faith, grace, mercy and peace….”
    • II Timothy 1:2 – “To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord…”

We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,  

  • Paul has such a deep love and affection for these believers.
  • Paul is a man who prays constantly for those he ministers to. Why? Because he loves them so deeply.
  • He is enormously thankful for what he sees God doing in and through the believers in Thessalonica. Why? Because he can see the fruit of their lives:
      • Their faith in the gift of salvation Christ has given them is motivating them to work for Christ.
      • Their love for the Lord Jesus – because He first loved them – is causing them to labor for His kingdom.
      • Their hope in seeing their Savior and Lord face to face is giving them to be steadfast – to preserve – in the face of much adversity and persecution.
  • What a beautiful illustration of what we learned last year in the Epistle written by James, the shepherd of the Church in Jerusalem –
    • “[F]aith, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17)
    • “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works: show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)
    • “[Y]ou foolish fellow…faith without works is useless.” (James 2:20)
    • “[F]aith without works is dead.” (James 2:26 
  • What were these works of the Thessalonian believers? We will see in a moment.

knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 

  • KJV: Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
  • Paul says he knows – that he is absolutely certain – that God had chosen and saved these Thessalonian believers and that they are “beloved” by God.
  • The Greek word here : eklogē (Strong’s G1589)
    • “A thing or person chosen
    • From Greek verb: eklegomai (Strong’s G1586) – “to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self”
    • Used a total of 31 times in the New Testament.
  • This is the very same language used by Jesus in John 15:16 — “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
  • It’s the language used by Luke the physician in Acts 9:15, describing the Apostle Paul – “But the Lord said to him [Ananias], “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.”
  • It is the exact same language the Ephesians 1:3-6 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
  • So what is Paul saying to the Thessalonian believers?
    • I know that you are beloved by God
    • I know that you were chosen by God for salvation
    • I know that you have been radically saved
    • How?
    • Because I can see your faith, I can see your love, I can your hope.

for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 

  • Paul continues by saying “our gospel” – this good news that we brought to you – is that God loves you and chose you to know Him and live with Him for eternity.
  • And when we preached this Gospel to you, we didn’t make careful or clever human arguments. Rather, we taught you the Word of God.  We preached the actual Scriptures to you about who the Messiah would be. Then we explained who Jesus really was and is. And this wasn’t an empty intellectual exercise.
  • Paul says there is great power in the Word of God, the power of the Holy Spirit to drive the Word deep into the human heart and convict men of its truth, their sin, and their need for salvation through Messiah Jesus and Him alone.
  • What’s more, Paul says, the Holy Spirit used our witness, our example, our testimony to convince you that the Word of God – the Jewish Scriptures, the TANAKH – is absolutely 100% true, and to persuade you to follow our example as you began your walk with Christ as His new followers. 

You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

  • You faced much persecution and tribulation, Paul writes, but you became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ anyway.
  • Because you knew the Scriptures were true. You knew “our gospel” was true.
  • You received the Word with joy, and you let us disciple you – “you…became imitators of us and of the Lord” – a sign of true and deep conversion.
  • Indeed, what an amazing account we see of their conversions in Acts 17.
    • [Read Acts 17 and recount the drama of their conversion.] 

so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God….  

  • Paul is overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving because these Thessalonians been so radically saved by Christ in the midst of much persecution.
  • But he is also overwhelmed with joy because they have been bold and brave to share the Gospel and preach the Word.
    • They’re preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica.
    • They’re preaching the Gospel all throughout Macedonia (northern Greece).
    • They’re also preaching the Gospel throughout Achaia (southern Greece).
  • And they are making an impact – “the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you….”
  • People can see how radically transformed these Thessalonian believers really are – “how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God….”
  • Paul and his team saw excellent fruit among Jews and Gentiles
    • “[S]ome of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.” (Acts 17:4)
    • Paul and his team faithfully taught the Word of God to anyone who cared to listen, Jews & Gentiles, but mostly Gentiles.
    • Paul and his team discipled these young believers – modeled the Christian life for them.
    • Paul and his team loved them and cared for them like a mother and a father (I Thessalonians 2)
    • Paul and his team trained leaders and deployed them for the Kingdom.
    • Jason was part of this excellent fruit (Acts 17:5-9)
      • Welcomed Paul and Silas into his home regularly.
      • His home very likely was the base of Paul & Silas’ ministry in the city.
      • Suffered for his new faith and his public identification with the Apostle – his home was attacked by a violent mob, he was dragged out of his house with other brothers, delivered up to the “city authorities” and accused of treason (17:7)
      • Becomes a disciple of Paul and a faithful member of Paul’s ministry team – Romans 16:21 tells us, “Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.”
      • A Jewish believer (one of Paul’s “kinsmen” – Romans 16:21; see Holman’s Bible Dictionary, http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?n=3266)
    • Aristarchus – (name means: “the best ruler”)
        • Acts 19:29 – “The city [Ephesus] was filled with confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.”
      • Acts 20:1-4 – “After the uproar ended, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and had taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. When he had gone through those districts and given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Phyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians….”
      • Acts 27:2 — “Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica” traveled with Paul from Caesarea to Rome.
      • Colossians 4:10 – “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings….”
      • Philemon 1:24 – “Aristarchus…my fellow worker…”
      • Most likely a Gentile believer.
      • “Later church tradition said Nero put Aristarchus to death in Rome” (Holman’s Bible Dictionary, http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?n=448
    • Secundus – (name means “second”)
      • Acts 20:1-4 – “After the uproar ended, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and had taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. When he had gone through those districts and given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Phyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians….”
      • Probably a Gentile believer, but not entirely clear.
  • This raises a question: How long was Paul and his team actually in Thessalonica?
    • Some scholars say only three Sabbaths.
    • Some scholars say several months, at least – reasons:
      • Depth of the relationships.
      • Fruit of the discipleship.
      • Paul had time to get a job and work.
      • The church at Philippi had time to send at least two financial gifts to support Paul’s work in Thessalonica. (“…for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs….” — Phil 4:16]

10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

  • Paul and his colleagues end this first chapter with eschatology – the things concerning the end of this age.
  • Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle and his disciples want to focus this young and growing church congregation on the coming of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ from heaven to save us, to rescue us from the wrath to come, the wrath of hell and eternal damnation, to be sure, but also from the “wrath of the Lamb” that will be unleashed during the Tribulation (the time of Jacob’s troubles).
  • Indeed, 13 times in I Thessalonians – and in each and every chapter – Paul and his colleagues focus these young believers on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to save us, to rescue us, to snatch us out of this world one day before “the day of the Lord” – the Tribulation the Second Coming – comes to pass.
  • What’s more, in II Thessalonians, Paul and his colleagues write about eschatology in 18 of the Epistle’s 47 verses.
  • Why?
  • Isn’t Bible prophecy divisive? Isn’t eschatology controversial? Haven’t false teachers twisted Bible prophecy and sensationalized it? For all these reasons, isn’t it too risky for a pastor to teach eschatology to his congregation?
  • Yes, prophecy can be taught in a way that divides, that discourages, that distracts.
  • Yes, prophecy has been badly taught, twisted, and sensationalized.
  • But too often the Gospel is badly taught or twisted, yet we don’t avoid preaching the Gospel, do we?
  • To the contrary, because we know how important the Gospel is, we endeavor to preach it clearly and accurately – all the more because of the liars, lunatics and charlatans out there.
  • So, too, we must faithfully and carefully and accurately teach that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming for His Church (the Rapture), and that the Lord Jesus Christ coming with His Church (the Second Coming).
  • These are two separate but related elements of eschatology – and they are both vitally important.
  • I count at least twenty passages in the Gospels where the Lord Jesus promised to return either for His Church, or with it.
  • And of course the Apostle Paul and his colleagues set a beautiful example here in this Epistle – and in their second letter to the believers in Thessalonica – of the vital combination of the prophetic and the pastoral.
    • Paul is not trying to divide or discourage – just the opposite. His mission is to build them up, encourage them, and comfort them.
    • As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 14:3, “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.”
    • That’s why in I Thessalonians 4:18 – after explaining the Rapture – Paul writes, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
    • That’s why in I Thessalonians 5:11 – after discussing the coming “day of the Lord” and the “destruction” and “wrath” to come, Paul writes, “Therefore, encourage one another….”
    • That’s why in II Thessalonians 2:16-17 – after discussing the horror of the coming apostasy and the horror of the coming Anti-Christ, “the man of lawlessness…whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,” Paul writes, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father…comfort and strengthen your hearts….”
  • A wise shepherd knows his flock needs hope – especially in hard times, especially in times of affliction and persecution.
  • And what greater hope is there than that Jesus is coming back for His Church – for His bride – and that He could come for us at any moment?
  • Indeed, the Bible calls this “the blessed hope.”
  • Remember back to our study of Paul’s letter to Titus at the first Preach The Word/Shepherd The Flock conference here in 2012?
    • Titus 2:11-15 – “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard [or dismiss] you.”
  • The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for His Church – the coming and glorious event we know as the “Rapture” – is not a diversion. It is not a distraction. It is not some strange new doctrine introduced by John Darby or by Tim LaHaye or by any modern preacher or teacher.
  • This is the “blessed hope” – this is a vital element of the Gospel message, the good news.
  • And this is what Paul and his colleagues were so determined to communicate to these young and growing and hard-pressed believers in Thessalonica.
  • Why? Because they were good pastors. They were good shepherds.
  • They knew this hope of Christ’s coming inspires us to live godly lives.
  • They knew this hope warns us to avoid sin and cling to Jesus for holiness.
  • They knew this hope encourages us to keep short accounts with the Lord, to confess or sins often, and to ask the Lord on a daily basis to fill us with His Holy Spirit and help us to walk in the Spirit and His power.
  • They knew this hope motivates us to be bold in sharing the Gospel, preaching the Word of God, and making disciples.
  • They also knew – deep in their hearts, deep in their bones – that this blessed hope strengthens us to preserve against great trials, tribulations, suffering and persecution.
  • Why? Because someday soon – perhaps much sooner than we think – we will be standing before our Savior and Messiah face to face. And we don’t want to be ashamed on that day. We want to be found faithful on that day.
  • This is why Paul writes in II Thessalonians 1:10-12: “when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed. To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • This is why the Apostle John writes in I John 2:28 through 3:3: “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
  • And this drives back to verse 1 – that we truly understand God’s amazing grace.
    • That we embrace grace.
    • That we walk in grace.
    • That we rest in grace.
    • And in so doing, we experience not only His grace, but his divine peace, as well.
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