The first century Christian church faced all kinds of trials from within and without. It was a time of much persecution and false teachers and teachings. In Colossians 2:8-12, Paul urged his readers to stand firm in Christ, but also told them why they should do that and in doing so, shed some light on the work of Christ on our behalf and the connection between circumcision and baptism.
Waiting is hard. You only have to look at husbands waiting for their wives outside the shops! Some of the believers at Thessalonica were also having trouble waiting for Jesus to return as he promised. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18 we find that some of them had adopted a passive attitude to the extent that they no longer worked with their hands and were relying on the generosity of others to live. Paul would have none of this. He urged the believers at Thessalonica to live with a sense of the balance, purpose and discipline. The fact that Jesus is coming does not give us an excuse to put our feet up but instead get busy with the work of the gospel.
After Paul had told the believers at Thessalonica to beware of the rise of the Antichrist and the rise in the spread of error in the last days, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5, he then urged them to continue to believe the gospel that he and the other apostles had taught. In believing this truth, the Thessalonians were also urged to not move away from the truth but to hold firm to it, to live it out in their daily experience and also to pray for the spread of the gospel throughout the world. Instead of retreating into their shell, the believers were to be active in letting the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ be known.
Though persecution from the enemies of the gospel had come against the Thessalonians with little negative effect apart from causing their faith to grow stronger, a greater danger that faced these believers was some false teaching concerning the second coming of Jesus. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 we find that this teaching stated that the return of Jesus had already taken place and the Thessalonians had missed it. To allay their fears and to remind these believers of what he had taught them, Paul then reminded his readers of the facts concerning the appearance of the ‘man of lawlessness’ (Antichrist) before the day of the Lord’s return. Much has been written about the identity of this man, but the Bible is far more concerned with our need to remain faithful to the Lord rather than wasting time speculating on identity.
In Paul’s second letter to the believers at Thessalonica, the apostle has much to say about the return of Jesus. Not times and dates, which most people are concerned with, but how to live in the light of his return. In 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Paul commended the Thessalonians who had endured some bitter persecution from the enemies of the gospel. This persecution had only enhanced and intensified their faith in God, their love for each other and their hope in the return of Jesus. Paul also explained that while believers can look forward to the great Day of the Lord, that the return of Jesus will not be a great event for all. Those who refuse to bow the knee to Jesus will only face Him as Judge and not Saviour and the consequences of this will be played out for all eternity. It is vital to respond to Jesus and the gospel now before that glorious but terrible Day comes.