The apostle Paul, writing about 51 AD to believing Christians living in the Roman city of Thessalonica, expected with them, an imminent, soon return of the Lord. How can I say this?
That’s easy: Paul wrote that these Thessalonian believers had ‘turned from idols to serve the living God and to wait for his son from heaven’ (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Please read that again. Paul believed they (and Paul himself) were waiting for Jesus to come from heaven. Let the implications of that sink in. Yair I know. That’s a challenge.
As we read this letter today, bear in mind we are reading mail written to believers living 2000 years ago.
We must resist the temptation to think we are being addressed by Paul or by the Holy Spirit.
This was not about us!
Let me ask you, who still await Jesus’ coming, a very important question.
Do you really, seriously, logically imagine that those same real believers who eagerly read Paul’s words, were then terribly disappointed because as they continued to notice others of their community, one by one, passing away while Jesus still had not come, as Paul said!
If Jesus still had not come then–which is what many modern believers seem to hold—and when the last one of those original Thessalonian believers would have passed away, can you imagine the consternation, the feelings of utter despair and loss of trust in God that would have followed?
Today, some 2000+ years have passed since those original Thessalonian believers were alive. So if you hold the view that Jesus is yet to appear a second time, then their faith must have been totally in vain.
Totally in vain.
Come on. Think about it for a minute: If Jesus’ coming was near for these believers, it cannot be near for us, can it? And if Jesus’ coming is still coming near for us today, you must conclude Paul was in gross error.
Do you see the problem? Your problem?
Ask yourself this question: if those Thessalonians were wrong by expecting Jesus to come within their lifetime, why didn’t Paul correct them? Why didn’t he write ‘no, you’ve got it wrong, Jesus won’t be coming for a long, long, time!’
But Paul did not correct them, instead he continued to encourage them as he wrote this letter to encourage them and then followed it with another letter, which we call Second Thessalonians, with further encouragements.
Can you see the dilemma for you today if you are still expecting Jesus to return?
That is logically impossible if you trust Paul’s letters are the word of God.