Letters to the Thessalonians

Let’s go. To the time of the end.

Blake_ancient_of_days

They focused on the ending. Him, the beginning.

The poor Thessalonians were convinced it was all coming to an end. While the Romans needed to be reminded to love, and the Corinthians to stop drinking during mass, the Thessalonians needed to be still.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone
1 Thessalonians 5:12-14

The reason for this is that the Thessalonians were expecting the LORD of Hosts.

And the Army in the Sky is terrifying.

Jacob was afraid

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Genesis 28:16-17

Mary was afraid

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God
Luke 1:28-30

Israel Himself, and the Mother of Israel’s salvation, had the same reaction to the heavenly host: fear.

So who can be scorn the Thessalonians for fear and trembling?

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

But Paul says, do not be afraid

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Paul’s words echo the Book of Daniel, a book about the end of the world written a century or two before .

Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”

So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Daniel 10:18-19

The Book of Daniel is apocalyptic. It is about the end of the world. And to Paul, half of its message is this: FEAR NOT! THE ONE HAVING THE LIKENESS OF A MAN IS WITH YOU!

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Let’s go. To the time of work.

Paul is aware he is writing apocalyptic literature. To the Thessalonians he borrows the Book of Daniel’s rhetoric style, which is cryptic with meaning just out of reach.

In the Book of Daniel, the angel angel is delayed by the “Prince of Persia”

Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
Daniel 10:12-13

And paralleling this, Paul was delayed by Satan

For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:18-20

Paul writes this to emphasize the words of the Book of Daniel, Fear not! Peace be to you! The response to the nervous street side preacher is not scorn or condensation, but joy. Yes, all these wonderful things will happen, but not don’t be afraid, there is work to do.

The Thessalonians were most open to the visions of the end, to the mysterious and cryptic. So that is how Paul wrote, speaking of a “Restrainer” as mysterious as Daniel’s “Prince of Persia”

And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming
2 Thessalonians 2:6-8

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Let’s go. To the time of death.

Whatever happens at the end of all of this, odds are we will see the end of this particular this first. Christ may have conquered death, but in this world, the Angel of Death still takes us.

Our work continues through death.

There’s something heartbreaking about the Thessalonians. Paul’s words do not mean grieve for the dead — that would be inhuman and ungodly.

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

Don’t worry, Paul reassures. You’ll be there to guide them too.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thesalonnians 4:13-18

The dead learn from the living, and the living from the dead.

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Let’s go. To the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets, wrote through the evangelists, and proceeded from the Father and the Son to give us the truth. But our ears aren’t much for hearing, and our eyes aren’t much for reading.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
2 Thesalonnians 2:5

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it… Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:1,4-5

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:17-18

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-9

Maybe after we get this right, we will learn what is next

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
John 16:12

Let’s go. Time to work.

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