Living in View of Christ’s Return

Sun and Clouds over the Ocean

The Second Coming of Christ is a recurrent theme in both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. It is discussed in some detail in both letters (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) and is at least mentioned in every chapter but one (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11, 23; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; 2:1, 8). The Holy Spirit wanted these brethren to keep this event in their minds as they walked here on earth. These writings have been preserved for us today for the same reason. Remembering the reality of Christ’s return, what were the brethren in Thessalonica told to do? What they were told to do will apply to us as well. We are waiting for the Lord to return just as they were. Let us consider what we are to do as we wait.

Spread the gospel – The church to which Paul wrote in Thessalonica was a young congregation that had a difficult beginning (1 Thessalonians 1:6; Acts 17:5-8). Yet they were already busy spreading the gospel. Paul said, “The word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Their influence reached far beyond their geographical location. Knowing that the Lord is returning, we should follow the example of these brethren and spread the gospel as far as we can to reach as many as possible in the time we have.

Endure persecution – Even though this was a new congregation, they had already become “imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea” (1 Thessalonians 2:14). Paul said, “You also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews” (1 Thessalonians 2:14). The goal of persecution against Christians is to diminish their influence and, ultimately, make them give up their faith. If there was no hope of a reward or vindication, it would be very easy to give up. But Paul reminded them that God will “repay with affliction those who afflict you, and…give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7). Do not give up in the face of persecution. The Lord is coming back and will make all of our efforts worthwhile.

Stand firm – In addition to facing persecution, these brethren were also warned of “the apostasy” that was coming and the “mystery of lawlessness [which was] already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7). In light of these things, Paul told these brethren, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). We must stand firm upon the truth of God’s word and not be “quickly shaken [or] disturbed” by any other message. Hold to the standard that has been revealed by God, no matter what the cost. After all, His word is the standard by which we will be judged when the Lord returns (John 12:48).

Live holy lives – Since the Lord is coming again and will judge the world, we must make sure we are living as He would have us to. Paul told the Thessalonians, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). In the second letter, he wrote, “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). The Lord is returning and He will come “just like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2), at a time when we do not expect. Therefore, we need to be “alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6) and be ready to meet Him at any time.

Eagerly wait for the Lord’s return – These brethren had left the religious practices of their old life “to wait for [the] Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The Lord’s return was an event to anticipate because it meant they would receive their reward and “always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). So they were to eagerly wait for His return. But in waiting, they were not to neglect other responsibilities and simply do nothing as they waited (2 Thessalonians 3:10-11). They were to continue to serve the Lord and fulfill the physical obligations that are part of life here on the earth. We are in the same situation as the Thessalonians. We are waiting for the Lord’s return. Let us do so with anticipation and also keep busy doing what God would have us to do in the time remaining so that we will please Him and be rewarded in the end.

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