Their Reputation in Every Place: Part 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

The second purpose, “to wait (see note 10.1) for His Son from heaven,” strikes a doctrinal note prominent throughout the remainder of the Epistle. Paul’s second missionary journey as gauged by his preaching at Thessalonica and as reflected in these two Epistles stressed eschatological events surrounding the return of Jesus Christ from the Father’s right hand in heaven (Acts 17:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:2, 23; 2 Thessalonians: 2:1, 8). Primitive Christianity universally held that the resurrected and ascended Christ would return and their expectancy of this event implied its nearness. For Paul to include himself and his readers among those to be rescued from wrath at this future moment (“us”) shows that they expected this to happen before death. Had Jesus never been raised from the dead, He could never return, but since He had been raised, His future reappearance is guaranteed by that very resurrection (just as is His divine sonship, Romans 1:4).

It is not some mystical spirit but the historical personage “Jesus” who will return as the rescuer of living Christians from the period of divine wrath at the close of the world’s present age of grace. Used technically, as it so frequently is in the New Testament, “wrath” is the title for the period just before Messiah’s kingdom on earth, when God will inflict earth’s inhabitants with an unparalleled series of physical torments because of their rejection of His will (Matthew 3:7; 24:21). That the wrath is pictured as “coming” or “approaching” indicates that it is already on its way and hence quite near. Throughout the Epistle, the events of Jesus’ future coming are eminent (“we who are still alive, who are left,” 4:15, 17). So near was the world to being plunged into an unexpected time of trouble (1 Thess. 5:2, 3) that it was on the brink of disaster. Such was the outlook of early Christendom and such was always a proper Christian anticipation. For John, this wrath was not an “any-moment” possibility, even though quite near. For Paul, however, prophetic events to precede the wrath had now been fulfilled⸺ “who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way, they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last” (1 Thess. 2:15, 16). This future wrath should be distinguished from the present wrath of God currently being poured out against rebellious humanity (Romans 1:18-32). However, when the Gentile bride is taken out of all peoples the Lord Jesus will return and build again the tabernacle of David. He will sit on the throne of David, and the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters now cover the sea. There will be peace on earth, goodwill toward men; but this can happen only when Jesus returns for His Church, and that is the event for which the believers at Thessalonica are waiting. Study Acts 15:13-18, and you will find a clear blueprint of God’s program for this age and His program to immediately follow the day of grace.

Rather than fearing this time, however, Christians find an incentive to persevere (“endurance inspired by hope,” 1:3), because for them it will mean rescue rather than doom. Not even the

stepped-up persecution of Christ’s followers that will mark this future period will touch them, for their deliverer will remove them from the scene of these dreadful happenings. Day by day, through His grace and power, we are also kept and delivered from the power of sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 13:5, 6). Finally, when Jesus comes in the Rapture we will be delivered from the very presence of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 3:1, 2). We are justified by His blood, reconciled to God through His death, and we shall be saved from God’s wrath when Jesus comes to take-up His jewels . . . when He catches the true Church up in the clouds in the air to meet Him, where we will sit down at the marriage supper.

10.1 The word “to wait” occurs only here in the New Testament; it “implies sustained expectation.” Jesus who died to become the Deliverer of His people is shown to be one and the same with the glorified Son whose advent they await in the confidence that God has not appointed them to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through Him (5:9).

I would like to look at these verses from a little different point of view. Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he preached Christ. When he preached Christ, they turned to God from idols. Notice that he doesn’t say they turned from idols to God. Someone will say, “You’re splitting hairs.” I surely am. These are hairs that need to be split. We need to do some straight thinking about this.

We hear today that repentance is essential to salvation. Repentance and believing are presented as two steps in a process. Actually, they are both wrapped up in the same package, and you have them both right here. When Paul preached Christ, they turned to God from idols. I want you to see something that is very important. When they turned to God that is the work of faith; that is what faith did. The Lord Jesus said, “This is God’s work: to believe in the one whom he has sent” (John 6:29). These people turned to God from idols; they turned from idols, too. That’s right—and that is repentance. The repentance followed the turning to God. It didn’t precede it. When they turned to God, they automatically turned from idols. You cannot turn to Christ Jesus without turning from something, my friend. That turning from something is repentance.

I am sure that when the Thessalonian believers turned from their idols, they wept over the time they had wasted in idol worship. After they had turned to God, there was a real repentance over the misspent years. The turning to God came first, then they realized that turning to God meant turning from idols.

Now I want to point out that Jesus Christ the Savior of the world is to be preached to the world of lost sinners, but the message of repentance is preached to the church. Read the messages to the seven churches of Asia as recorded in Revelation, chapters two and three. The message of the Lord Jesus to the churches is to repent. Today it seems that the church is telling everyone outside the church to repent. The Bible teaches that it is the people in the church who need to repent. We need to get down on our faces before God and repent. That is not the message for us to give to the unsaved man down the street. He needs to know that he has a Savior!

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