Day 346: 1 Thessalonians 4-5; The Day of the Lord

One of the things that Paul addresses here in First Thessalonians has to do with the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.  In the first century after Jesus ascended into heaven, when he said that he would return soon, they thought that meant within their lifetime.  For some, this meant that there was a bit of necessity to stay alive until Christ’s return.  When Christ’s return didn’t happen right away and believers started dying, it constituted a crisis within the Church as they all grappled with what that meant for these believers that had “fallen asleep.”

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  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.  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.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This exhortation comes within a greater discussion about Christian living.  From my perspective, what I see here is an encouragement from Paul that the believers take the faith and hope in which they living from day to day and take it with them as they deal with the death of their loved ones who are believers.  Paul has given them some instruction in how they should be living as believers, walking according to the Word of God and keeping away from the things of this world like lust and sexual sins.  The way in which we are called to live as Christians is that of a transformed life, as we talked about yesterday.  Again, this doesn’t come to us by way of a set of rules and legalism, but as a response to the grace that we have found in Christ Jesus and in an effort to live a life of faith out of gratitude for this wonderful gift.

For Paul, this is just a natural extension of his understanding of the second coming of Christ.  He has addresses this in a metaphor of those who live in the day and those who live at night.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

The assurance and hope in which we live as believers in Christ Jesus is also the assurance and hope which we take with us into death, whether the death of a loved one or our own death.  This is not to say that there is nothing sad about a loved one dying, and that we shouldn’t mourn the loss.  Indeed death is not what we are created for, neither was sin.  But we do not approach it as others do either, without hope, in the same way that Paul encourages the Thessalonian believers to not live in the way that others do.  The transformation takes place through the grace of Jesus Christ is one that should be pervasive throughout all of our life.  Again, salvation is not some sort of cosmic fire insurance, but an event that makes a life of transformation, which we call sanctification, that happens continually over the course of the life of us as believers.


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