The Expository Files

The Return of Jesus in 1st Thessalonians

Number 8 of 12 in the Second Coming Series

Each letter of the New Testament focuses on certain themes. One special theme of Paul's first letter to the church of Christ at Thessalonica is the return of Jesus Christ. In addition to discussing specifics surrounding the second coming, there is also very practical information about the effect this ought to have on our lives right now. Every chapter in First Thessalonians deals with the return of Jesus in some way, and the wise and discerning person will understand how important it is to consider these matters as he/she determines how to prioritize his/her life. The Bible is not a dead book filled with dead issues. It is the living word of God, with applications to be made today, and what we do with the counsel given in its pages will effect our lives now and in eternity.

The Thessalonians knew very little about the second coming, but it was very important for them to know more about it for several reasons. First, in the face of severe persecution, they needed encouragement (1:13-16). Second, they needed motivation to overcome temptation (4:1-8). Finally, they needed to understand the need to always be watchful as they labor in the kingdom (5:14-19). And since their time was, in many respects, similar too our own, what they needed is what we also need.

Waiting For Deliverance
"...and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

When things are going well, it is easy to "wait" and sometimes even to forget. But waiting when times are difficult is not so easy (Psalm 13:1-3). The more faith we have, the better we are at "waiting". Abraham is probably the most often used example of what faith is in the Bible. He waited 25 years for the son God had promised him to be born.

Also, we must understand that "waiting" does not mean "relaxing", "ignoring" or "sleeping". The waiting we are to be doing is active; described by such words as "watching", "preparing" and "doing" (see also Matthew 24:45-49).

Rejoicing In Bringing Others to Christ

"For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

It is reason for joy when we work hard to bring someone to Christ and they come. The joy does not come because we gain some material wealth, or better health, or our society honors us. Rather, it is because a soul that was lost is found. The Shepherd exclaims, "Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep!"

Paul looked forward to rising into the air to meet Christ, and the joy he would experience in watching those he had taught rise with him. Friends, neighbors, relatives, even those who had once been enemies rising from the earth in new bodies, rejoicing and greeting one another! Do not ever give up! Do not quit! Jesus is coming. Teach the lost.

Stability in Faithful Living
"Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

Living a faithful life is easier if we understand the importance of living "blameless" and "holy" (1 John 3:1-3). This would include treating others with righteous love. Deceit and abuse are out. When Jesus returns, we need to be found dealing with others in the way He showed us we ought when He was here the first time.

Paul wrote this letter to encourage stability. The acceptance and obedience of god's word brings a "rock-solid" foundation to the lives of those who will have it (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Comfort In Sorrow
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Death is grevious. But my death does not have to be the source of sorrow to my loved ones as it is to those who "have no hope." Death's victory has been annulled by Jesus' own resurrection, and on that basis it is promised to His disciples that they, too, can defeat death (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 54,55).

Thanks to the grace of God, we can put the fear of death to death, Do not live another day unprepared for eternity (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

Entirely Sanctified
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who called you, and He will bring it to pass." (1 Thessalonains 5:23,24).

"Sanctify" means to "set apart". This "setting apart" entails both the positive as well as the negative. We are to set ourselves apart from sin by "abstaining from every form of evil." and to set ourselves unto that which is righteous by holding "fast to that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22).

This passage also suggests that we are to be completely involved in the sanctification process; "body, soul and spirit." Does that sound fanatical to you, to be so completely dedicated to your faith? It is what the Lord requires. Let both your outward as well as your inward person be sanctified as belonging to God. Get serious about it! Jesus is coming!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 6.8; August 1999