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Treasures from Paul Thessalonians

Treasures from Paul Thessalonians

The King Is Coming

Eager anticipation of the return of Christ is one of the marks of a true Christian. Paul says that real believers will be known by their love of Christ and by their longing for his glorious appearing (2 Ti 4:8); and Peter declares that we should be “looking for and hastening toward the coming of the day of God” (2 Pe 3:12).

Both “looking” and “hastening” are strong words in the original text. They contain the same urgency, desire, and love (say) as a mother hurrying down the street looking for her wandering infant, or anxiously waiting for news that the child has been found.

“Hastening” suggests also, not just pressing toward a goal but doing all in our power to shorten the distance or time between us and the object of our desire. In that case the preferred translation would be: “hastening the coming of the day of God.” Scholars and translators disagree about the rendering of the Greek word, so, I’ll choose both sides: we are indeed pressing eagerly toward that great day; but also doing all that we can to make it happen sooner!

So, a true Christian may be described as a person who, above all else, is looking for, longing for, and doing everything to advance the magnificent day of the Lord’s return.

Eager anticipation of the return of Christ is one of the marks of a true Christian. Paul says that real believers will be known by their love of Christ and by their longing for his glorious appearing (2 Ti 4:8); and Peter declares that we should be “looking for and hastening toward the coming of the day of God” (2 Pe 3:12).

Both “looking” and “hastening” are strong words in the original text. They contain the same urgency, desire, and love (say) as a mother hurrying down the street looking for her wandering infant, or anxiously waiting for news that the child has been found.

“Hastening” suggests also, not just pressing toward a goal but doing all in our power to shorten the distance or time between us and the object of our desire. In that case the preferred translation would be: “hastening the coming of the day of God.” Scholars and translators disagree about the rendering of the Greek word, so, I’ll choose both sides: we are indeed pressing eagerly toward that great day; but also doing all that we can to make it happen sooner!

So, a true Christian may be described as a person who, above all else, is looking for, longing for, and doing everything to advance the magnificent day of the Lord’s return.

The city of Thessalonica

The site of Thessalonica [2] has been continuously inhabited for some 2500 years. It first became prominent during the 4th century BC, and it is still flourishing today. In the time of Paul, it was the largest city in Macedonia, and the capital of the eponymous Roman province. Even under the 500-year rule of Turkey (15th – late 19th centuries), it retained a large measure of its wealth and prosperity. Today a million people live in its metropolitan area.

Across that same half-millennium, the Greek Orthodox church resisted every attempt by the Turks to suppress it and did so with such success that now the most visible evidence of Islam’s long dominance are the mutilated statues and sculptures that are scattered across the country. Apart from those disfigured works of art, the casual visitor would hardly observe any sign of five centuries of Ottoman rule.

The church in Thessalonica was planted by Paul around AD 50, during his second missionary journey (Ac 17:1-9). His efforts were successful, and a flourishing congregation quickly developed. What happened then is uncertain. Some say that Paul was driven out of the city by persecution after only three weeks; others argue for a longer stay of several months before he was obliged to leave (vs. 10). In any case, about twelve months later, the apostle was anxious to learn how the infant church was progressing and if, despite the short time he had spent with them, they were remaining steadfast in their new faith. So, he wrote them his first letter, which is remarkable for the way it is illuminated by the shining promise of Christ’s return.

That stunning theme runs through the entire letter, and every chapter ends with a reference to it –

You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1:9-10, ESV)

What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. (2:19-20, ESV) )

Oh! that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (3:13, ESV) )

The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (4:16-17, ESV)

May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (5:23, ESV) 

Paul does not describe the sound of the trumpet and the shout of God, the sundering heavens and the dazzling appearing of the King, just to tickle the ears of his readers. He had a very practical purpose – he wanted his readers to learn how they should shape their lives in harmony with the certainty that Christ will return to our planet as King of kings and Lord of lords.

The second letter takes up the same themes but with more passion and intensity of feeling. Paul corrects some mistaken ideas the Thessalonians had embraced, gives them some further signs that will show when the Second Advent is near, and begs the church to pray for him. He also warns them to remain diligent in serving the Lord, so that when Christ comes they will be able to welcome him with joy.

Likewise, we too want to be sure that we will be ready to meet the Lord, and to greet him joyfully, when he comes!

1 review for Treasures from Paul Thessalonians

  1. Paul Selwyn Otway

    A very challenging study.
    I do recommend it

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