When I say that, I don’t mean every Christian should buy a Ryrie Study Bible, Scofield Reference Bible, or MacArthur Study Bible. I do mean every Christian should think carefully about why the Apostles thought it was of utmost importance to be familiar with the doctrine of Jesus’ second coming.
- and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. 1:10 ESV)
- For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? (1 Thess. 2:19 ESV)
- so 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. (1 Thess. 3:13 ESV)
- For 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.
17 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.
(1 Thess. 4:16-17 ESV)
- For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:2 ESV)
In every chapter, then, Paul brings his readers back to the foundational truth that Jesus is coming again, and that His coming is a reason to not lose hope, to not be afraid. Things were bad in Thessalonica when Paul wrote this. The leaders of the Jewish synagogue had stirred up the population against the Christians and accused them of treason against Caesar. And in the months since Paul, Silas, and Timothy had come to preach the Gospel and plant a church there, the new Christians had experienced a lot of persecution. It’s possible they wondered if that persecution was part of the great tribulation of the end times. To make matters worse, some of their own members had died since Paul had left. And they had somehow arrived at the conclusion that they would never see those Christians again. They didn’t know about the Resurrection at Christ’s second coming. Their idea of salvation did not include life after death for those who died before Jesus comes back.
Although they were Gospel-centred (just look at chapter 1:2-7!) the Gospel they were centred on had some pretty big holes in it: without a firm grasp on the Apostles’ teaching about the end times, their Gospel was underpowered. How does knowing Jesus died to save us help us in the face of intense persecution if we don’t also know that He will rescue us all—believers who have died and believers who are alive when He comes—from death, forever? How does knowing He is coming back to rescue His people give us hope when we bury our loved ones, if someone convinces us He already came back and so maybe we aren’t included in the ones He came to save? I’m not saying these misunderstandings are common today. But I am saying that Paul’s remedy to these misunderstandings—good teaching about the second coming of Christ–will also remedy a lot of other misunderstandings that are common today, or tomorrow, or decades from now.
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