Thursday, June 18, 2009
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Chapters 1, 2 and 3: The Power of the Message
The gospel message is not simply words, but it represents the power of the Holy Spirit as well. This power gives of stronger faith, boldness and assurance- even in the face of persecution and hardship! It has the power to turn the spiritually dead from worship of false gods and idols, to the service of God: it is the power of salvation from death to eternal life, through Jesus. Paul, as an example, did not need special words to deliver the gospel- all that was needed came from the Holy Spirit. With humility, he shared the gospel, forsaking his personal needs. In imitation, we should forsake our own personal gain, seeking to comfort and encourage each other as well as those to whom we share the gospel message. Sure there will be those who persecute those who seek to share the message of the gospel, just as the ancient prophets and Jesus were also persecuted. But, to those who hinder the message of the gospel, the message of salvation, they had better watch out, because they will suffer the consequences! So remember, stand firm in your faith! When you are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, remember you are in good company.
Chapter 4: Worthy Behavior
Remember to strive to please God, and do not be involved in sexual immorality or other offenses. Don’t you know you are called to live in a life worthy of the Holy Spirit that dwells within you! Heed these warnings and flee from transgressions and impurity. Other words of advice: mind your own business- don’t be a gossip or busy-body! That isn’t godly behavior either. Also it is good to be self sufficient and hold a job so as not to be a burden on others. In other words- don’t leech off of someone else’s hard work, get up and work- don’t be lazy!
Chapters 4 and 5: Death, resurrection & Jesus’ coming
Paul refers to death as “sleep”. Unlike those who don’t believe in God, and who don’t believe in the gospel message- death represents fear and the unknown. They are ignorant of death. To an atheist, death represent the end- the ceasing of life. To nonbelievers, death is met with grief and sorrow, because they have no hope whatsoever in eternal life and heaven. But we have hope. For us believers, death does not represent the end, but the beginning of eternal life! Just as we believe that Jesus rose from death, we too will rise from death. Even if we die, we will rise from the dead. And for those who are still alive, when Jesus returns, we will be caught up to meet with Jesus in the air as he descend to earth from heaven. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first”. 1Thesalonians:4:16. So why should we fear death? There is no reason for us to worry about dying- even if we know that death will come soon due to terminal illness or age. Paul says himself- in fact he commands us to “encourage one another with these words”. If this was not trustworthy and true, why would we be told to encourage each other with these very words. So remember, if you are feeling the weight of your mortality, if you are worried or depressed or fearful of your own death, read these words over and be encouraged!
Remember this: the day of the Lord- in other words, the day Jesus returns a.k.a the Second Coming of Christ, will come when we least expect it. We will not know in advance! It will come just as a thief in the night! So we must be alert of this and aware that it may happen when we least expect it. Keep this thought in the back of your mind. Remember the armor of God that was discussed in a previous letter of Paul? We must remember to wear the armor of our Lord. We must remember to live a life worthy of our faith. Weather we live or die it does not matter! Regardless we will be with the Jesus. Those who die are at no disadvantage. Remember that! Those who live have no advantage. Whether we live or die, we will live with the Lord. We should be encouraged by these words and we should encourage each other with these words as well.
In conclusion, live a life worthy of your calling and remain strong in your faith and hope. Pray and be thankful. Test anything you hear so as to make sure it is consistent with the word of the gospel. There is no need to fear death. When you feel discouraged or fearful, remind yourself of the gospel message.
Paul felt the need to write a second letter to the congregation in Thessalonica as a follow up. Apparently after writing the first letter, Paul got word that some members of the congregation were taking the message of the second coming of Christ to the extreme. Furthermore, many opportunistic false teachers were going about, scaring or troubling naive believers with stories of an imminent return.
Chapters 1,2 and 3: The End times
Remember this: those who reject the gospel will “pay the penalty of everlasting destruction away from the Lords presence” 2Thessalonians 1:9 But for those of us who place our faith in the message of the gospel, we will be considered worthy of God’s kingdom. Remember it was said that the return of Jesus will be unexpected, and we will not know when it will happen. Therefore we must be aware of this. But do not be paranoid or naïve either. This does not mean it is happening today or tomorrow either. If someone says with certainty that it is imminent- don’t believe it! On what basis should you believe someone who makes a claim that Jesus will return on a specific date? Furthermore, on what basis should you believe anyone’s claim that Jesus has already returned? Don’t let yourselves be troubled by such stories! (For example the Jehovah’s Witnesses not only claim that Jesus already returned- albeit invisibly and without the knowledge of believers- but they claim that the end of the world is imminent and have made many false prophecies to boot!) Therefore don’t quit your job! Don’t pack up and abandon your homes and families and responsibilities! “Do not grow weary in doing good” 2Thessalonians 3:13 There is no excuse to suddenly become irresponsible! Therefore if you see a fellow believer in faith acting this way, remind him of his priorities. Don’t follow in his footsteps!
Keep in mind, certain things will happen before Jesus returns. Before Jesus returns “the apostasy” and the “man of lawlessness” which is Satan will be revealed. More specifically, there will be a public figure- the antithesis of Jesus, the embodiment of evil and of Satan- who will falsely declare himself to be God. This evil figure will deceive many with miracles and “magical” tricks. He will use every “unrighteous deception” he can, to fool those who are already perishing. Remember the first chapter in Romans, where Paul explained that those who are perishing refused to believe in God, despite the proofs of God that are all around! Remember that the unbelievers willingly exchanged the truths of God, denying them, in favor of lies! As a consequence their conscious was dulled and they succumbed to every base and filthy desire. Well these same non-believers, the spiritually dead- will be the ones who are deceived by Satan. They will fall prey to Satan’s deception and believe his lies! But those of us who are believers, strong in our faith will not be deceived! We need to remember to hold faith to our faith and the gospel message.