The Letters of Paul
Paul writes to encourage an exemplary church. Despite their affliction, they need to stand firm and continue waiting for Jesus.
As we approach the end of the Bible, eschatology or the study of end-times events will become more and more important. It will help us to begin getting a good grasp of the issues now, at this introductory stage. The material we cover today will be foundational to our understanding of all that the Bible says in this area.
The Thessalonian church was eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus Christ, this is evident throughout the letter. But apparently some of their number had now passed away. Did this mean that they would be forever separated from their loved ones if Jesus were to return to set up His kingdom here on earth? Paul writes this section to them to clear things up.
Sometimes we feel like David in the Psalms:
“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”
The believers in Thessalonica were experiencing severe trials and persecution. Paul, who had first preached Christ to them, had to escape quickly from Thessalonica and continue his ministry elsewhere. But God had not abandoned them. They could rely on the Lord in the midst of their trials and troubles.
Consider this assertion by Jon Murray, former president of American Atheists:
“There was no such person in the history of the world as Jesus Christ. There was no historical, living, breathing, sentient human being by that name. Ever. [The Bible] is a fictional, nonhistorical narrative.”
The debate can fairly be stated as, “Is the Bible merely the word of the men who wrote it, or is it truly the word of God?” As it happens this was actually the very question that was faced by the earliest Christians as the gospel message moved out from Jerusalem into the larger Greco-Roman world. It’s the question the Thessalonians faced when they were first visited by Paul.
Many people in America are Almost Christian. That was the title of a book that came out last year by a Princeton scholar, but the data come from a study a few years back. The principal American faith, which the scholars have labeled Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, is almost Christian. Almost, but not quite. To know the true and the living God, we have to give up our idols – the false gods that we now believe in.