NT Eschatology—Letters 03
We don’t need to write to you about the timing and dates, brothers and sisters. You know very well that the day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. When they are saying, “There is peace and security,” at that time sudden destruction will attack them, like labor pains start with a pregnant woman, and they definitely won’t escape. But you aren’t in darkness, brothers and sisters, so the day won’t catch you by surprise like a thief. All of you are children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to night or darkness. So then, let’s not sleep like the others, but let’s stay awake and stay sober. People who sleep sleep at night, and people who get drunk get drunk at night. Since we belong to the day, let’s stay sober, wearing faithfulness and love as a piece of armor that protects our body and the hope of salvation as a helmet. God didn’t intend for us to suffer his wrath but rather to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with him.
Don’t you find it humorous that we’re so intrigued by “timing and dates” of the “Second Coming”? I know I am. In the passage above, Paul starts out by saying that he doesn’t need to inform the Thessalonians about the “timing and dates” of the Lord’s return. That they know full well that “the day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night.”
Reflect on that.
Remember, Paul’s not writing to us. He’s writing to those people following Jesus in the first century. Before the Roman/Jewish war. Roughly fifteen years before the war.
As we noted before, the prophecy of Jesus concerning the war (Matthew 24 and parallels) hadn’t been fulfilled by the time Paul wrote this letter. So we’re on good, solid ground to assume that Paul’s admonition to these followers at Thessalonica is about that coming day — not some supposed “end of the world” as we imagine that phrase.
But make no mistake — Paul is definitely telling those first century brothers and sisters that the “day of the Lord” will come upon them while some of them are still alive. And to drive this point home, notice verse 23:
Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.
There is no doubt that Paul taught the Thessalonians that the “coming” of Jesus would be within their lifetime. I submit that Christ did come but that coming is altogether different than what we think it means. I hold that Paul (and the other writers of the New Testament) was spot on with his prediction. The “coming” of Jesus that Paul referred to here is seen in the soon coming war of the Jews and the Romans in less than 20 years. Some of the Thessalonians would live to witness that event.
Next time, we’ll turn to the second letter to the Thessalonians. Click here for the next post in this series.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC