THE APOSTLE PAUL established a congregation of believers at Thessalonica during his Second Missionary Journey (Acts 17). The congregation thrived, and later when he wrote this letter Paul said: ‘We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ‘ (1 Thessalonians 1:2–3).
Paul’s friend Timothy had brought news of how they fared (3:6), and Paul now wrote to encourage them. Using the imagery of soldiers on watch, he counselled:
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 (5:6–8).
The Return of Christ
Every chapter in this letter, written under Divine inspiration, forecasts the return of Christ from heaven to earth (see 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:15, 16; 5:2, 23). The Thessalonians were evidently expecting his return to be imminent. Some of their number had already died, and the question was being asked, ‘What about those who have died? Will they participate in the great events associated with his return?’
Paul explains (4:13–18) that believers are not like those who die without hope. They will be awakened from their unconscious ‘sleep’ at the return of Christ, and will join the believers who are still living at that time. They will be caught up to meet the Lord—to be with him as he returns to the earth. Those who are then judged by Christ to have been faithful will become his immortal helpers, to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.
By kind permission of ‘The Christadelphian’
Some interesting links with other parts of the Bible:
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10—see Romans 5:9.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:19—see 2 Corinthians 1:14.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:8—see Ephesians 6:14–17.