In Thessalonians, He's the Coming King
A few first thoughts...
The city of Thessalonica was an important, strategic city in days of old. It was located near the Aegean Sea which made travel to and from even more accessible to the outside world. As the capital of Macedonia, with 200,000+ people of the Roman Empire, Thessalonica was a self-governing community...a mixture of Jews and Gentiles alike. In fact, the Jewish population was enough to warrant a synagogue within the city.
There were so many people who came to be believers due to the mission trips of Paul, Silas, and Timothy who came from all walks of life. There were converted Jews, converted Greeks, women who led in great spiritual faith, and there were even idol worshiping pagans that came to give their lives in sweet surrender to Jesus.
But, there became some issues with these Thessalonians after some time. The came to the conclusion, due to some false teachings that were permitting entrance into their church. They became disorderly and complacent in their belief, and some even backslid into their former habits of sexual impurity. Some even, because they thought that Jesus would be coming back very soon, in their lifetimes, quit working and became lazy in their worship at church and in their homes. They started grieving again for their loved ones already dead for some time, thinking that their loved ones would not be a part of the resurrection.
In his two letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wanted to encourage believers because they were making great progress in spit of the false teachings and their disorderly conduct. Encouragement that flows for us today even.
Death...to grieve or not to grieve
One of the major issues that faced the Thessalonians was the death of their loved ones. It wasn't so much that family members had passed on from this life but that the Thessalonians fears their loved ones would not be a part of the second coming of Jesus or of the resurrection.
Though death is a part of life, it was not always so. Humankind was created to live forever...perfect beings in a perfect environment created by a perfect God. In their creation, our first parents had but one rule, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17) Just one rule. Enter Satan. Satan tempted the man and woman, and they ate of the fruit. When they ate of the fruit, they experienced two types of death.
- Physical Death. Their human bodies would cease to be.
- Spiritual Death. They would experience a separation from God.
These deaths are mankind's penalty for sin. Romans 6:23--"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in (or through) Christ Jesus our Lord." In the Old Testament, the atonement for sin came through the offerings of the perfect lambs (Leviticus 1-7). In the New Testament, Jesus is the Lamb of God. John 1:29--"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"
When we fear death, just as the Thessalonians did, we become slaves to death. We must trust Jesus as our Savior. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, he rendered Satan powerless and gave us freedom from death. This means that our physical deaths become the gateway to our glory. When we die in the physical, we will continue to live in the spiritual, in Heaven, with Jesus, for those who have accepted His gift of salvation. We have no fear of death, remembering the words of Paul in Philippians 1:21-24--"'For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.'" Paul was stating that he needed to continue in his service to the Lord; but, that even in death, he would not fear, because in his death would be his life in Christ, with Christ, in paradise.
This hope of Heaven, the Blessed Hope that believers have, will transform our perspectives on death. Yes, we grieve and we face sorry and we cry when our loved ones die, and, that's okay; but, for the believer, the grieve is an emotion born of joy because our believing family members have been released from their earthly chores to go home to their rest with the Lord.
Paul ministers through encouragement
The book[s] of Thessalonians reveal to us, and to those in days long gone, the heart of a minister. An encouraging minister/pastor/preacher/teacher/reacher will lay bare his or her concerns for other believers, those new and those seasoned. Paul is an exemplary example as one who encourages and teaches in love but with a firm foundation upon which he stands...Jesus, the Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings. As we all stand as one unit, as one body, let us lift one another up and encourage and edify each other to the glory of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:11--"Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another." (The Amplified Bible)
In Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, we read how Jesus is our Faithful Pastor and our mediator. We read of the church, not from the perspective of the church; rather, from the perspective of our Faithful Pastor, who inspires us through His Word of Truth. Our Faithful Pastor gives us practical solutions for the every day to day problems that we face throughout all areas of our lives. We serve a mighty and awesome God!