One of the strong emphases of Scripture when it comes to the return of Jesus, is the important question of ‘how we live’ in the light of His coming. As Paul concludes his letter to the Church at Thesalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, this emphasis can be clearly seen. While Paul has established the fact of Jesus’ return, especially the unknown hour of that return, he does not finish the letter without calling God’s people back to living in the world, with their feet on earth, so to speak. And as he closes the letter, he does so with some practical instructions, so that the time we have while we wait for Jesus to come in spent the right way – in living for Him and not for lesser things.
There are certain events in life that we must all get ready for. As I write this, Christmas isn’t too far away – and we all know what that means! Some events, like Christmas, are expected. Others are not. The return of Jesus certainly fits into this second category. His return will not be announced beforehand, but like a ‘thief in the night’ He will come unexpectedly. What should we do then, in response to this? In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 we find what the Apostle Paul encourage us to do in the light of Christ’s return – so that we will not be caught unaware and we can be ‘be prepared’ for the inevitable.
If there’s one thing we all need to survive in this world and in order to ‘keep on, keeping on’ it’s hope. Not a vain ‘pie-in-the-sky’ hope that people have when they believe something that isn’t true to lessen the pain of reality, but a hope that is based on something outside of us, something that is tangible and real. God’s people have such a hope, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul speaks about that hope – a hope that says ‘we will be with the Lord forever’. How that hope works out in relation to the reality of death and in relation to the Lord’s coming is spelled out in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It’s a great passage and one that should remind us that our hope in Christ is not just something for the present. It’s for tomorrow and every day and for eternity!
The ability to walk is something that most of us take for granted. It’s only if and when we lose that ability we realise that learning to walk all over again is hard. The Bible also lays emphasis upon how God’s people should ‘walk’ -in the sense of how we conduct ourselves as ‘chidren of the light’. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Paul lays down some practical teaching for these believers to follow. Even though they once lived in a different kind of way – that is, like the rest of the world – now they were called to live and to ‘walk’ in a way that pleased God, and by doing this, they would show to the world around them that the gospel really had made a difference in daily living.
One theme stands out in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, and that is the close relationship that Paul had with these believers. This is reflected in so many ways, but is eviden mainly in the language Paul uses to describe the depths of his feelings towards them. In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13, it is apparent that Paul truly loved these people and was encouraged that they loved each other and those around them. This kind of love can never be taken for granted, when it is the kind of fruit that Jesus taught his disciples that would show the reality of the gospel to the whole world.
When the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he was full of praise for the way in which these people had received and welcomed the gospel. Their lives had been transformed from worshipping idols to turn and wait for Jesus to return from heaven. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5, in describing the characteristics that pleased the Apostle about these believers Paul paints a ‘portrait’ so to speak of what people transformed by the gospel look like. His ‘portrait’ therefore asks us the question, are we ‘gospel people’ in this sense?
The Scriptures tell us many things about the Apostle Paul – his conversion and calling, his missionary journeys, his leadership and also his letters to the churches of the first century. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, it becomes apparent that when Paul writes about his example among the believers at Thessalonica, and explains tsome details about his example, he is not boasting about himself. Nor is he boasting when he invites his readers to follow his example, for he himself was seeking to imitate and become like Jesus. The challenge remains for all God’s people to imitate Paul regardless of whether we are in full-time (paid) gospel ministry.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, we read the first chapter of the first letter of the Apostle Paul to the church at Thessalonica. The church there began through the preaching of Paul, but according to Acts 17:1-9, the Apostle couldn’t stick around too long to make sure that all went well with the believers there. Perecution from the emeies of the gospel drove him away. After some time, Paul sent Timothy to see how the church at Thessalonica was fairing and this resulted in his first letter to the church there, a letter which reveals the depth of the transforming work that the gospel had caused in the lives of these believers – turning them away from worshipping idols to worship and to wait for God’s one and only Son and Saviour, Jesus.
He died, he rose, what’s next? Keith spoke from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 about how Jesus’ return should fill us with joy and hope; even govern our actions. The Christian has great comfort that there is more beyond our earthly life because we will be raised to eternal life. As children of the light, we are to live in the world but not to be of it. We are to live in readiness of his unexpected return. Is that obvious in your life now? Are you ready?