THE BOOK OF FIRST THESSALONIANS
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The books of First and Second Thessalonians cover several areas. One topic included in both books is that of the coming of the Lord. The consistent use of the same Greek term (parousia) for “coming,” in both First and Second Thessalonians, indicates that Paul is referring to the same event in both books.
“What will be the sign of your parousia?” the disciples asked in Matthew, showing that the famous “rapture” passage in the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians is not a special “secret coming” but the historical return of Christ to the earth.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF FIRST THESSALONIANS
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. (I Thessalonians 4:16)
Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. (I Thessalonians 1:1)
Grace is the Presence of God in Christ providing all we need to be conformed to the image of Christ and to enter untroubled rest in the center of God’s Person and will.
Peace comes from God alone. The world is seeking peace but shall never find it apart from the Prince of Peace. Peace is the inheritance of the righteous, of those who walk humbly with God.
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. (I Thessalonians 1:2)
I like to think of the churches Paul wrote to as being small groups of believers meeting in a home. Had they been vast auditoriums I think Paul would not have written as he did, saying he would mention them in his prayers. Perhaps I am mistaken in this, but I get the feeling from reading what Paul wrote that he was acquainted with each of the believers and prayed for him or her by name.
It may be true that because of our cult of “bigness,” in the United States, the local churches are regarded by some of the leaders as businesses rather than families who care for one another. I think a local assembly should be a closely knit family. There is too much anonymity in our large cities, and sometimes the young people do not have the community concern and guidance that is so beneficial during their formative years.
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 1:3)
“Work produced by faith.” “Labor prompted by love.” “Endurance inspired by hope in Christ.”
What are we hearing in the churches today?
Grace; unconditional forgiveness; God is just about to carry us up to Heaven; send your angel to get you whatever you want; if you have enough faith you can be rich.
What should we be hearing and doing?
“Work produced by faith.” “Labor prompted by love.” “Endurance inspired by hope in Christ.”
Work, labor, and endurance. Why have we departed from the faith? Why are we preaching that which does not accomplish God’s purposes?
The Lamb is to have a bride without blemish. This tells me Christ is not going to return tomorrow. The Christian churches must experience a revival of repentance, and also a return to what the New Testament teaches.
How will repentance and biblical doctrine ever return to the American churches? I don’t know, but such a reformation must take place. I rather expect it will require a great deal of trouble before the Christians will awaken to the fact that we are doing something wrong and need to go to Jesus to find out what He desires.
More and more people making an initial acceptance of Christ is not the solution to the present appalling condition. Rather, the people who already are Christians must learn to walk with Christ and must grow to maturity in Him. One such individual will accomplish more good in the Kingdom of God than ten thousand believers who never have moved past initial conversion.
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, Because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. (I Thessalonians 1:4,5)
There is an important principle here. Notice that Paul says, “We know he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you with power.” The evidence that God had chosen the believers in Thessalonica was the power and deep conviction that followed the preaching of the Gospel.
I don’t think we see enough of this kind of confirmation today. In a random, hit or miss manner the Gospel is preached to everyone; we hope many will be converted, but only a fraction of these people will believe.
A careful study of the Book of Act will reveal that God has appointed specific people to eternal life.
But aren’t we to preach to everyone? Yes, because we do not know whom God has chosen. But I believe it is important for us to realize God is guiding the program. It is not democratic. It is not as though all people have the same chance, and some are intelligent enough, or somehow willing, to believe what we say. It is not this way at all.
I think if we go forth with the realization God is going to bring certain people to Christ, we will be looking for confirmation. When Paul saw the results of his preaching to the Thessalonians, he realized that God had chosen them.
The practical import of this understanding is that we will not treat the Gospel as a business undertaking, in which we can bring about success (as measured by planting churches and filling them with people) by means of our computer analyses and skillfully constructed strategies. Rather we will be watching the Holy Spirit and listening to Him so we are working with the Spirit rather than by means of our own understanding and efforts.
But is it true that the Father brings certain people to Christ in His own time and in His own way? This is what the Bible teaches! But what role do we play? Our part is to wait on the Lord continually, praying as the Spirit burdens us, so we always are in the right place at the right time, doing what the Lord is commanding us.
But can’t we just go forth because the Bible says this is what we are to do? We can, I suppose, but we will bring confusion with us because we are not hearing from Jesus.
Jesus is building His own Church. It shall stand forever. But what man is building with his strategies is an Ishmael. It always will fight against the true work of the Lord.
There is rest in this approach to ministry. We do not have to strive and worry. We can rest in the Lord, obey Him implicitly, and understand He is more concerned about the salvation of people than we are.
Paul mentioned that he lived among the Thessalonian believers in a manner that would be most helpful for them. Paul wanted to go home to be with the Lord. But he realized he was on earth to accomplish the Lord’s will. Therefore the way he lived and everything he did was calculated to benefit the Thessalonian believers. May God grant each one of us this unselfish desire to live in such a manner that people are helped in their Christian walk.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (I Thessalonians 1:6,7)
Notice how the Christian influence spread. Paul followed the Lord closely. Then the believers in Thessalonica imitated Paul and the Lord. Then the believers in Macedonia and Achaian imitated the Thessalonians.
It is so important that Christ be formed in the believers! When Christ is formed in us, our behavior becomes godly. When we behave in a godly manner we are as a city set on a hill. People see our good works and glorify God.
There is a tremendous emphasis on evangelism today, but not enough emphasis on the development of Christian character. Consequently there are numerous people “brought to the Lord,” but there is little testimony of righteous behavior. We are substituting numbers of people in place of the godly behavior of the believers.
There is a time to go forth with the Gospel. There also is a time for the Gospel to be spread by the testimony of godly lives.
There is much Gospel preaching in the United States. But the testimony of Christ has been largely destroyed. The television evangelists plead for money; but they and their followers appear to lack basic integrity, let alone the moral image of Christ.
In other words, what we have is a religion, the Christian religion. The Christian religion ultimately will become a part of Babylon the Great, the worldwide, man-centered religion.
Jesus has nothing to do with a manmade religion. Jesus did not say “On this rock I will build my religion.”
Jesus is building a Church. Man is building a religion.
The true members of the Christian Church are growing toward maturity in Christ. They are bearing witness by their lives, not merely by the words of their religion. We can follow them because they are following Christ.
How many genuine Christians are there in the United States? How many disciples? How many who can say, “For me to live and to die is gain? Nothing matters except that Christ is magnified in me by my life or by my death?”
There are not many such people in the churches, but there are some. These are the true Christians. The remainder are a mixed multitude, brought in by the artifices of ambitious religious people.
If we cannot say “Follow me as I follow Christ,” then we are a baby Christian; or else we are nothing more than a churchgoer—a good person, perhaps, but not a witness of God’s Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ.
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, (First Thessalonians 1:8)
Not only were the Thessalonian believers becoming models of how Christ wants people to live, they also were spreading the Gospel everywhere.
This is the way it works in practice. When a local assembly travails until the believers begin to grow toward ministry, we soon see the people active in all sorts of ministry, inside and outside the church building.
When we emphasize growth in righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God, it is not long before the maturing believers are led out by the Lord into fruitful Christian work.
It was their faith in God that bore witness. May it be said of you and me that our faith is contagious.
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. (I Thessalonians 1:9)
In spite of severe suffering, the church in Thessalonica thrived and bore witness to many people.
They turned from idols and began to serve the true God. We find the term “repentance” used several times in the Book of Acts. I think we need to give some thought to the idea of repentance. Is it possible we are telling people they are saved when they never have demonstrated repentance? “Just lift up your hand, or look me in the eye, and you are saved.” Are we bringing people to the Lord or to our religion?
Can someone be saved without turning away from his or her former way of behaving?
First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)
John the Baptist came preaching repentance. The Lord Jesus preached repentance. The Apostles preached repentance.
Today we are not preaching repentance. We are preaching “faith.” But faith can be a dead mental assent. The concept that faith can be “alone” is unscriptural. True faith in Christ demands repentance. Repentance demands a turning from what we are doing that is sinful. We have to prove our repentance by our deeds.
One of the greatest of the spiritual needs in America at this time is for the Christians to repent. We should be walking in continual repentance. We always should be looking to Jesus to see what we are doing that needs changing.
We are giving the Christian people the impression that God is pleased with them. In numerous instances He is not. Since the preaching and teaching that are taking place come from our traditions and not from the New Testament, the believers are not being convicted of their sins. They do not realize they are under condemnation because they are yielding to their sinful nature and are not listening to the Holy Spirit.
A few years ago in a Bible school class, one of the students said she felt convicted of sin. The teacher hastened to inform her she was saved by grace and so she, as a believer in Christ, could not be convicted of sin, and just to forget about what she thought she was feeling.
This is the pitiful depths to which we have fallen in America.
The need today is for repentance to be preached. Sometimes the criticism is made that we are bringing people under condemnation. This is not so. The truth is, the people already are under condemnation and do not realize it. They need to be convicted of sin so they will confess their sin and turn away from it.
The preachers of the New Testament, beginning with John the Baptist, preached repentance. There is no way of coming to Christ apart from turning away from what we are doing wrong. Then throughout our discipleship we must keep ourselves in an attitude of repentance, for the Holy Spirit always is leading us to put to death the deeds of our sinful nature.
We are to wait for God’s Son from Heaven: “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
One of the mistaken aspects of the current teaching is that the believers are going to be lifted to Heaven before the Great Tribulation because “Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath.”
Tribulation and wrath are two distinctly different Divine actions. Tribulation is a good and profitable aspect of the Divine redemption. We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation. God chastens us with various forms of tribulation so we might be partakers of His holiness and true sons of God.
Divine wrath is another matter. It is not redemptive. It is an expression of God’s anger and is destructive. We do not enter the Kingdom of God through much wrath but through much tribulation.
Therefore, by no means can I Thessalonians 1:10 be used to prove the believers are going to be carried up to Heaven in order to escape the Great Tribulation.
And what about the Christians of past history who experienced every form of suffering, torture, and death? Are we God’s pets that He should spare us when they suffered so much? This is not reasonable, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for believing such a selfish, unscriptural, unhistorical, self-indulgent doctrine.
Two great aspects of salvation are taught in the New Testament. The first and primary aspect is that of rescue from the coming Day of Wrath. The second aspect is that of change into the moral image of Christ and entrance into untroubled rest in the center of the Person and will of the Father.
We notice the two aspects, which appear to be contradictory, as we read the New Testament.
We find the first aspect, that of rescue from Divine wrath, in the simple “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and your household.”
We find the second aspect where the Apostle Paul says he does not count that he has attained his goal but is pressing forward in order to gain Christ.
The first aspect is a simple, direct statement of faith. The second aspect is an arduous, lifelong struggle.
Well, which one is the formula for salvation? They both are. But they are reflecting different categories, so to speak.
All people must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ if they are to be rescued from destruction in the Day of Wrath.
But from the mass of believers God draws those who are not merely to be rescued from wrath but have been selected to occupy various ranks in the Kingdom of God. As the Lord said, some shall sit on His right hand and left hand in His Kingdom. Such have to suffer a fierce baptism and drink a bitter cup indeed.
So, as Paul mentioned, we are seeking to grasp that for which we have been grasped as an individual.
The Gospel call goes out. Multitudes are gathered in the Kingdom net. From among these will be drawn out kings and priests of the coming world of righteousness. Generals, rulers, eternal intercessors, teachers, and judges will emerge, along with delicate, beautiful ones who delight the eye and adorn the Kingdom, just as flowers adorn spaces between mighty trees.
There shall be stars who have led many to righteousness who will shine as guiding lights for generation upon generation. Musicians, playwrights, artists, singers, musicians, historians—every sort of person from majestic lords of nations to gentle friends and neighbors will compose the eternal Kingdom of God.
A place in the Kingdom has been reserved for you and me from the beginning of the world. But we must overcome the forces that come against us if we are to arrive at our predestined goal.
At the end of the age God’s messengers will go forth—preachers of moral deliverance who will help God’s people rid themselves of all sin. Those who refuse to be delivered will be cast into Divine Fire. Those who are willing to release their sinful bondages will then shine as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
We shall enter our designated role provided we do not lose our soul by yielding to other forces and wills that continually urge us to disobey God.
Every person has been given a soul. But numerous attempts are made to influence us throughout our lifetime. If we yield to these alien forces, we will lose our soul. By this I mean, we will lose our control over our own personality and actions.
Let me explain. Suppose we are tempted by sexual lust. We find ourselves doing things of which we do not approve—watching pornography, perhaps. It is our soul that is disapproving of our actions.
The Lord Jesus will help our soul, take command of our actions, and in His name turn away from sinful behavior. This would be to overcome the dark forces that are seeking to control us.
But let us say we do not take command of our actions but continue to do that which we know is evil and wrong. Eventually we will lose our soul. That is, we will lose the ability to control ourselves. Our uniqueness as a person, our power of judgment and choice, will have disappeared. In its place will be another personality. Our soul has died.
Human beings were designed to be inhabited. We will be inhabited by the Lord Jesus Christ, and God in Him, or we will be inhabited by Satan. We are only intelligent dust. It is not possible for us to inhabit ourselves and to be left alone in the spirit realm. When we do not choose to be inhabited by the Lord Jesus we automatically become the prey of Satan.
This is why the Lord Jesus said if the demons are cast out of a person, and that person is not filled with the Lord, the demons will return in greater force because the room has been left empty.
Our soul is our power of judgment, of choice. Our soul is our unique identity as a person. If we do not choose to permit Christ to enter us when the opportunity comes to us, we leave ourselves in the hands of Satan. There simply is no middle ground.
We were created to be the temple of God, not our own temple. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, not our own temple. We do not belong to ourselves but to Him who died for us.
Notice the following verse:
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving [possessing] of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39—NASB)
We have to possess our soul. It is our soul that is required of us. We have to fight the good fight of faith if we are to prevent our soul from perishing in sin and our body to be possessed by another personage.
You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (I Thessalonians 2:1)
Suffered and insulted in Philippi. Strongly opposed in Thessalonica. In spite of these problems, Paul declared the Gospel to the Thessalonians. Paul’s troubles in Philippi and Thessalonica are set forth in the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the Book of Acts.
Establishing a church is a very serious business in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes the demons view a certain geographical area as belonging to them. Then the Lord will send someone to establish a church in that area. Before the church can be firmly established, much prayer and patience is needed. On occasion the minister of the Gospel has to suffer before the demonic yoke is broken.
Audrey and I are co-pastors of a church in Poway, California. We have been there almost twenty-seven years. During the early years many hours of prayer and patience were required in order for us to survive. Now we are beginning to bear fruit, as people from the church are participating in work among the American Indians, in an orphanage in Mexico, and in a local jail. Also there has been ministry in the Philippines. This is in addition to our Internet, E-mail, book, and tape ministries which have introduced many people to the Gospel of the Kingdom.
I believe there are areas of the world where the demons still reside in relative security. Hopefully, according to the words of the Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the day will come when the light of the Gospel will penetrate every dark corner of the earth. But those who bring the light will have to fight for every inch of ground they possess.
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. (I Thessalonians 2:3)
I do not understand why Paul would defend himself in this manner. Do you? Evidently he was being accused of error, of impure motives, of seeking to deceive the Thessalonians.
You can be assured that if God gives you the privilege of introducing the Gospel to a group of people, you will be accused of all sorts of evil. Your good will be evil spoken of, as was true of the Lord Jesus. In that case you will have to go to God to make sure the accusations are unfounded, and then rest your case in God’s hands. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday, just as He has with the Apostle Paul.
On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (I Thessalonians 2:4)
The man or woman of God must take this stance. We must be pleasers of God, not pleasers of people.
In America at the present time, success in the Gospel ministry often is measured by the number of people who attend our church. A pastor or evangelist usually has a normal desire to succeed, to be popular and successful as measured by his or her culture.
This presents a problem.
The Gospel is both positive and negative, we might say. We are given splendid promises, such as “all things work together for good for those who love God.” Then we are given fiery warnings, such as passages found in the Book of Hebrews that tell us those who sin willfully will perish at the hands of an angry God.
We are promised access to the Tree of Life. But severe demands are made on us. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus each day.
Because pastors and evangelists often judge success by the number of people they attract, they naturally are loath to present the “negative” passages of the New Testament. Yet, these passages are in the Bible. So they say the passages are directed at the Jews, or the unsaved, or claim the actual Greek language is different from what is written in the English translations. Every possible device is used to prove to people that the Bible is only positive, and accepting Christ does not place any unpleasant demands on us. They have “proven” that living righteously is not critically related to our salvation.
This is the condition in many Christian churches of America in the year 2003. We have become pleasers of people. We do not dare tell them the truth out of fear they will not come to our church.
We are selling the Gospel with false advertising. We are not telling people the truth, that the way to eternal life is rugged and few walk therein. We are not proclaiming the fact that many are called but few are chosen. We are attempting to sell something that does not have to be sold.
If we will tell the truth, the Holy Spirit will bring the people to Christ. We have what people need desperately. They do not need our watered-down version. They need the hard truth. They need to know what God has said.
I am afraid many of us are going to be found out to be false prophets. We will stand with our followers at the Judgment Seat of Christ and be sent to the outer darkness.
Our goal should be to please God. If we please God, we will please people. But if we attempt to please people, we will end up pleasing neither God nor people.
You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. (I Thessalonians 2:5,6)
Today we have in the churches an abundance of flattery, and masks used to cover up greed. “Empty your bank account and send me all your money. Then God will bless you.” This sort of thing.
I like Paul’s spirit of independence. “We are not looking for praise from you.” This reminds me of Elisha’s attitude toward Naaman. I do not mean to imply that we should not be courteous or gracious with people. What I am saying is that we represent the King. We have eternal life to give. We do not have to sue for peace or ingratiate ourselves with people. We have what they need, and they will have to sell everything if they are to buy what we have to offer.
As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, (I Thessalonians 2:6)
The “apostles of Christ were Paul, Silas, and Timothy. The three men worked so they would not be a burden to the believers in Thessalonica.
But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. (I Thessalonians 2:7)
This attitude was not like Elisha, was it? These believers were Paul’s spiritual children, we might say, and he cared from them as a mother.
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (I Thessalonians 2:8)
When God wants us to minister to a group of people He gives us love for them. The Divine love coming through us is much stronger than human love. It enables us to overlook all problems and give freely what God has placed in us. It really passes understanding!
Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. (I Thessalonians 2:9)
What an example Paul sets for us! There is so much integrity in the above statement. How different this is from the evangelist of today who begs and pleads for money, even when the evangelist is driving an expensive car and the members of his audience do not have enough money to pay their rent.
The money-raising techniques of some of the prominent ministers in America are an abomination to God, and prove to American people that the Christian ministry is composed of thieves, liars, and peddlers of the Gospel. We know this indictment does not apply to every minister, but it is so common it spreads a reputation of insincerity over every preacher—even the man or woman who has given everything that he or she might serve the Lord.
It has become common for so-called ministers of the Gospel to promise people that if they will give all their money, even money they should be saving for groceries for their family, God will give back to them ten times what they have given to the preacher.
In addition, we have the doctrine that if we have enough faith, we can give all of our money to the preacher and then command any amount we need or want—or better yet, we can send our angel out to get money for us.
Indeed, the love of money is the root of all evil. It has largely destroyed the Christian testimony in America.
We need to flee from all appearance of being covetous. Paul, Silas, and Timothy worked constantly so they would not be a burden to the believers in Thessalonica.
You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. (I Thessalonians 2:10)
If we are to be a minister of the Gospel, we must live so people can see in us the righteousness of God, the holiness of God. Our life must be blameless. Our example is far more powerful than our words.
Sometimes, however, a minister will be living an ungodly life, but he has a genuine gift of God. In this case people will be healed and strengthened by his gift, but the minister himself will be without reward in the Kingdom because he did not control his body but yielded to his sinful nature.
For you know we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, (I Thessalonians 2:11)
It may not be true in every case, but it seems to me that a pastor ought to be a father to his flock. Sometimes pastors are hirelings, or businessmen, who have chosen the ministry as a profession. I do not say such ministers do not accomplish good in the Kingdom. But my belief is that if God so directs, a pastor ought to be in a church long enough to raise up at least one generation. I think the pastor who thus acts as a father provides stability—especially for the young people.
But if he is to be a father, he must set a godly example. Character will be created in the young people as they are exposed from infancy to a righteous man or woman.
I realize putting on a juggling act or bringing a magician on Sunday morning will draw a crowd. But will this build character and integrity in people, especially young people?
Encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (I Thessalonians 2:12)
Encouraging, comforting, and urging people to live lives worthy of God and His Kingdom. This is a perfect job description of a Christian minister.
Notice the expression, “lives worthy of God.” This concept is applied to believers more than ten times in the New Testament.
Because of our misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching of grace, we often hear it said: “I am not worthy, only He is worthy.” We all know Jesus Christ is supremely worthy. But there is a problem here.
We usually do not teach that we have to be worthy of being a part of the Kingdom of God. The New Testament teaches clearly that we do.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
In an attempt to convince the unsaved that they cannot save themselves, the evangelists emphasize that we can be saved only through the worthiness of Jesus Christ. This is the truth.
However, there has entered Christian thinking that it does not matter how we behave. We will never be found worthy of the Kingdom of God. We have to rely entirely on Christ’s worthiness. The result of this unscriptural belief is that American believers, who live under a cloud of demonic urges, do not make the supreme effort necessary to gain victory over sin.
Why should they strain every nerve to resist lust and covetousness when to overcome these two American idols is neither possible nor necessary?
We are relying on the worthiness of Christ to carry us through our discipleship, instead of going to Christ until we can overcome lust and covetousness.
All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (II Thessalonians 1:5)
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)
“Suppose I live as a drunkard, thief, and adulterer, showing myself to be unworthy of the calling I have received. Will I be brought into the Kingdom of God by grace?”
No, you will not.
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
“But surely Paul is speaking to the unsaved or to Jews. This would go against all I have been taught.”
No, Paul is not writing to the unsaved or to Jews. Paul is writing to believers.
We have been taught incorrectly. We have been taught a lie of Satan. The lie is “You shall not surely die.”
Satan understands well that when a Christian believes he can accept Christ, and after that his behavior may be important but not critical, then that Christian will yield to sin if the temptation is severe enough. The Christian has to be absolutely convinced that he may destroy his salvation, lose his eternal life, if he does not gain victory through Jesus Christ. Unless he is convinced of this, he or she will not be able to stand in the hour of temptation that is upon us.
We have to live in a manner worthy of the Kingdom of God if we hope to be received by Christ at His appearing. Any other teaching is reckless, unscriptural, and exposes the teacher and the pupil to agony in the Day of the Lord
The New Testament teaches us how to live a life worthy of God and His Kingdom; and if we want to do this, the Lord will help us every moment of every day and night if we will call on Him without ceasing. But those who despise the Word of the Lord will be turned away empty when He comes with His holy angels.
God is not the foolish Santa Claus we in America seem to believe He is.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (I Thessalonians 2:13)
Paul knew what he was teaching the Thessalonians was God’s Word. I wonder sometimes if Paul realized he was writing what one day would be judged to be Scriptures. Maybe that was part of the revelation he was given when he was caught up to Paradise.
The Word of God works in us who believe. You know, the Lord Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like seed. It is planted in us as a small seed, and then grows into a great tree.
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (Mark 4:26,27)
We have our Christian religion. We have our formula by which people are “saved.” We may write their name in a book. Then they attend our church and learn our folkways. Soon they are skilled in our liturgy and worship. Most will not proceed past this point of religious conversion, but a few will.
This, however, is not the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a Divine Seed planted in the personality. If the individual serves the Lord, the Seed will grow, although we do not know how.
I think we ought to look at our preaching and teaching as sowing seed, not merely as a way of acquainting people with our religious practices. We may write someone’s name in a book as being a new convert. But we really have no idea if this was the important event of our service; or if the Divine Seed was planted in someone who did not come to the altar but who then went forth to serve God until he or she became a giant of the faith.
The Word of God will work in us if we keep on pressing forward in Christ. After all, that Seed came from God and will reproduce the Parent from whom it came.
So we see that the Kingdom of God is not merely a set of religious practices; it is a Seed that grows within the personality of the believer, having the potential of bringing forth the express image of God.
When the Seed is firmly planted, God will send sun and rain. If we will hold steady during the dealings of God, the Seed will grow of itself; for all the Nature of God is in the Seed.
This is why denominational statistics, while they may be necessary for governmental purposes, do not tell the true story of what has taken place.
The Word of God works in us.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (I Peter 1:23)
For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, Who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men In their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so 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 [or, to the utmost]. (I Thessalonians 2:14-16)
The Thessalonian believers were inspired by the Christian assemblies in Judea, who also had suffered from their own countrymen. How we live really affects other believers. If they see us standing strong, then they are encouraged and stand strong. But if they see us becoming careless and casual concerning our salvation, going back into worldly pursuits, then they also are tempted to go back into the world.
I call this retreat “weakening the hands of the men of war.” Some Christians strengthen the hands of the men of war. Other Christians weaken the hands of the men of war by not pressing forward diligently each day.
The Jews killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove out the apostles. The Jews displeased God and were hostile toward everyone. They attempted to keep the apostles from speaking to the Gentiles so they may be saved. They have heaped up their sins to the limit. These actions have made them subject to the wrath of God.
The Jews in America have done what they can to prevent any exhibitions of Christianity on state-owned property. In spite of this, numerous Christians feel compelled to return to the land of Israel and do what they can to assist the Jews.
The Jews have suffered much, and still are subject to murderous attacks by the Palestinians. As yet they appear to be placing their trust in America and other sympathetic nations. We do not hear much from them about repenting and turning to God.
We must keep in mind how much we owe the Jews, and that Jesus was raised in a Jewish household. Our Bible was written by Jews. They are the only race, and their land the only land, that God has chosen. And God never changes His mind. We Gentiles are not a new olive tree. We are grafted onto the original Olive Tree, which is Jesus Christ. If we are part of Christ we are of the one Seed of Abraham.
There are not two churches, a Jewish church and a Gentile church. There is only the one Body of Christ composed of elect Jews and Gentiles.
Paul taught us that in the last days, as soon as the full number of Gentiles have been grafted on the one Olive Tree, God will turn His attention to the people and land of Israel. Then He shall remove sin from the Israelis and they once again shall be His people.
We Gentiles who love Jesus shall be with Him when He is reunited with His countrymen.
But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. (I Thessalonians 2:17,18)
We see from this how much Paul cared for the Thessalonians, just as he did all the churches which he fathered. This is the way it should be. The ministry should never become a business, an attempt to build an organization as though we were selling shoes.
How is it that Satan could stop Paul? My personal opinion is that Satan cannot stop anything unless God is permitting it to be stopped. How can Satan resist the almighty Christ?
We see the struggle of the angels, in the Book of Daniel. There certainly is a genuine war taking place in the spirit realm.
All of us who are serving the Lord know what it is to be harassed by demons. Many frustrations and prisons come our way. But God remains in control. He always is in control. The problems and trials the enemy puts in front of us always work out for good, if we refuse to blame God or people. Our task is to keep praising and worshiping God, in the meanwhile letting our requests be made known to the Lord. When we do this, even the most evil intentions of people and Satan succeed only in driving us further into Jesus. Isn’t this so?
Sometimes Christ permits Satan to hinder us, to put us in some kind of prison, or to afflict us. You remember that Paul was afflicted by a messenger of Satan. But Christ remains in control. These hindrances serve to press us more closely into Christ if we don’t waste our time and strength on the misdirected effort of deciding who is to blame.
When we are abiding in Christ we learn to not spend time and strength blaming people. Rather, when we are suffering for some reason, we keep pressing into Jesus; pressing into Jesus. When we take this attitude, that which was meant to harm us succeeds only in building us up in Christ.
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. (I Thessalonians 2:19,20)
Sometimes Christians talk about their mansions in Heaven; how they are going to walk on streets of gold; how they are going to have all the jewels they desire. How wealthy they are going to be.
Such talk reveals an ignorance of the true riches. The true riches of the Kingdom consist of relationships—our relationship with God and our relationships with people.
What was Paul’s hope, his joy, his crown? It was, of course, the people to whom he had brought the Gospel.
Some day you and I will stand before Christ and receive our reward. What will it be like to have people come up to us and say, “It is because of you that I am here today. You are the one who taught and inspired me so I would not be destroyed with the world.”
How do gold and diamonds compare with this reward? To me, there is no comparison.
But suppose, in the Day of Resurrection, you can see people who are languishing in the outer darkness because you did not do what God had commanded you. They were supposed to be your inheritance, and now they are facing agony. Suppose they are members of your own family whom you betrayed by your selfishness. How would you feel then? What would gold and diamonds mean to you then? This is a real issue you and I are facing this very moment.
Regardless of the numerous pressures and concerns that trouble each one of us, the only issue of importance is how we treated other people. In the Day of Judgment we may have to face each person we have known. The Day of Judgment will be a time of the greatest joy we have ever experienced or the greatest remorse we have ever experienced. Right at this moment we are deciding whether we are facing joy or terror.
Life is short for all of us. We do not realize it until we are elderly. Then we can see that life is brief, while eternity is long. Only a foolish person ignores the future and lives to please himself or herself without regard for the needs and desires of other people, including his or her own family members.
I have seen instances where a man leaves his family in order to go to another person with whom he became infatuated. What burning coals of torment, what unspeakable agony this individual is creating. What eternal horrors are awaiting him as the demons wait to lay hold on his spirit while it is leaving his dying body. His son or daughter will say “Dad, you betrayed Mom and us.”
How will he feel then? Was this interlude with an unscrupulous woman, who turned on him after a few months, worth the bitter, bitter remorse that is inevitable?
How quick we are to throw away the true riches in exchange for the ashes of a few hours of frantic, conscience-ridden pleasure! God will remove that which He has entrusted to us and give it to another who will appreciate it and use it to glorify God.
What is our treasure in Heaven? Is it not those to whom we have ministered the Presence and will of God?
So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. (I Thessalonians 3:1-3)
Paul was so anxious concerning the spiritual welfare of the believers in Thessalonica that he was willing to forego the pleasure of Timothy’s company so Timothy could strengthen and encourage them.
I don’t see that there is significant persecution of Christians in America. However, those who have a prophetic anointing keep telling us we are on the verge of an outpouring of God’s Spirit. I believe they are speaking the truth. If we do indeed have a renewal of God’s Presence among us, and the unscriptural doctrines that weaken our resolve to live a godly life are swept away, then I think we can expect persecution.
I wonder if there has ever been a time when the Christian ministry was so given to compromising the Gospel in order to attract people, or so dedicated to becoming rich in worldly goods. We American believers are sorely in need of a visitation in which righteous, godly behavior is stressed, and the covetous and lukewarm are either converted or purged from our midst.
Our problem in America is not persecution, it is lack of cross-carrying obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ! The spirit of the world, and worldly thinking, have entered and corrupted the churches.
In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. (I Thessalonians 3:4)
“Arm yourselves with a mind to suffer.” Recently we have had doctrines that emphasize we Christians are not to suffer. Perhaps the most widespread of these is the unscriptural “pre-tribulation rapture.” None of these doctrines are of the Lord Jesus.
The Christian churches have suffered throughout the Church Era. All who will live a godly life in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. The Apostle Peter exhorts us to arm ourselves with a mind to suffer. Paul tells us that he desires to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.
As long as we are in the world we shall have tribulation. But every such pain that comes upon us will bring us closer to the Lord, if we refuse to blame people and instead press into Christ.
If the day should come in America when we are persecuted viciously, the result will be purified believers. The churches will be stronger spiritually. The current unscriptural, man-pleasing doctrines no longer will be preached. The preaching will be sincere and totally scriptural. The Kingdom of God and His righteousness shall be pursued, consisting not of imputed righteousness primarily but of actual righteousness of word and deed. The Kingdom of God is in actual, visible righteousness of conduct.
The moral light of the Christian churches in America is dim because of the misbehavior of the believers. There is much talk about “testifying to the lost.” While it is necessary to bring the Gospel to the lost, the testimony, the light set on the hill, is the righteous works of God’s people. But these works often are lacking because we are preaching unscriptural traditions. A repetition of grace-rapture-Heaven is not designed to build Christ in the believers!
For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. (I Thessalonians 3:5)
There is a lesson here for us. Just because an individual has made a profession of Christ does not mean he is going to stand. Baby Christians are susceptible to spiritual diseases. They need much support and advice until they grow strong in the Lord. Kingdom life begins as a shoot coming out of the ground. An animal passing by could step on it and crush it. But if it is cared for long enough it will become an oak of righteousness.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. (I Thessalonians 3:6)
We can tell from the Epistles that Paul did not always hear good news after he had left one church to go to another. Teachers came in who sought to gain followers after themselves. They may have attempted to discredit Paul.
It has been a puzzle to me why people who are not led by the Lord want to do church work. Often these are competent, talented individuals who would make a success in other lines of work. What is it that draws them into an area for which they are not qualified?
Paul spoke of such, saying their god is their belly. All they succeed in doing is to prevent the believers from growing to the stature of the fullness of Christ. They are not ready to give their lives for the Lord’s flock, as did the Apostle Paul.
But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. (II Corinthians 11:5,6)
You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. (II Corinthians 11:19,20)
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4)
Although the believers in Thessalonica were suffering persecution, they were standing steadfastly in the faith, and longed for Paul to return to them.
Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? (I Thessalonians 3:7-9)
When we stand firm in the Lord, we encourage others to do the same. Paul’s reward for preaching the Gospel was the joy he received because of the faithfulness of the believers in Thessalonica. These believers were giving Paul joy then, and will be Paul’s crown of glory and joy in the Day of the Lord.
I myself have learned by experience that the love of people whom we have helped is the greatest of all rewards.
Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. (I Thessalonians 3:9,10)
Paul lived a hard life. He wanted to go home to be with Christ. But he realized that as long as he lived he was able to strengthen the saints.
The average person living an average life is like grass. He flourishes for a while, and then withers and dies. In America we prepare for the withering years with retirement funds. Ordinarily we do not expect an elderly person to still be contributing something of value. We provide him or her with a home, food, and shuffleboard equipment.
It is not so with a disciple of Jesus Christ. His learning curve, unlike that of other people, does not round off and decline as he grows older. It goes straight up into eternity.
The older he gets, the more he has to give to the believers. He began as an adamic individual. When he is at the age when most people retire he is becoming a prophet. He walks with the Lord. Sometimes he is under an open Heaven and can see dimly the people and angels dancing and rejoicing before the Throne of God.
More and more his life is occupied with the next world. Every day he gains in the knowledge of the Lord and is able to impart wisdom to other people.
So it was with the Apostle Paul. He groaned to be released entirely from the sinful nature and to be clothed upon with his body from Heaven.
Yet there were to be a few more mornings to awake in a Roman prison; a few more lashes; a few more physical hardships. But from this faithful Jew came the Epistles that have altered the course of civilization.
Let us cast from us the American concept of retirement, that is, of looking forward to the day when we can sit back and do nothing, to bear no responsibility. This is to look forward to dying while we still are alive physically. Instead of being a wealth of the Presence of God for younger people we will be one more selfish American, expecting the government to provide for us and people to wait on us.
In my life I have met few elderly people who have inspired me to press forward to the best Christ has for us. Most of them have gotten off the Kingdom bus and are spending their days in ways little different from the people of the world. They were not visiting with God in the night hours so the next day they could come down with glowing embers from the Fire of Israel.
All of us have the opportunity to grow old, wither, and die; or we can go on to be a prophet. It is up to us to choose what we want to become as the years go by.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 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 you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (I Thessalonians 3:11-13)
When Paul came to Thessalonica the first time, the Jews started a riot. Paul and Silas barely escaped with their lives.
But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. (Acts 17:5)
In spite of the danger, Paul desired to return to Thessalonica.
Paul prayed for their love to overflow to other people, just as his love overflowed for them.
Notice that Paul prayed they would be blameless and holy when the Lord returned. I believe there is evidence in the Epistles that Paul believed the Lord would return during His lifetime, or at least in the near future.
We do not hear much today about being blameless and holy. The idea seems to be that if we believe in Christ nothing else is critically important, as far as the Day of the Lord is concerned.
Our heart needs to be strengthened if we are to be blameless and holy. In too many instances today the preaching does not strengthen us. Rather it offers excuses to us, declaring even though we keep sinning God keeps on forgiving us and will bring us to Heaven. This sort of preaching will never produce saints who will be blameless and holy in the Presence of God when the Lord Jesus comes with His holy ones.
Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. (I Thessalonians 4:1)
“We instructed you how to live in order to please God.” How often do we hear today that it is necessary to live in a certain way if we are to please God?
Did Paul tell us how to live in order to please God? Yes, in many passages.
For I am afraid when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (II Corinthians 12:20,21)
What do we often find among the Christians of our day?
Quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, divisions, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder, sexual sin, and debauchery.
I don’t believe many ministers of the Gospel would disagree that such conduct is not acceptable for Christian people. But such behavior is widespread among American Christians, for two reasons.
- Because we have been taught we are saved by grace no matter how we behave.
- Because we do not know how to stop behaving this way.
The very nature of salvation is deliverance from such behavior. This is what salvation is. Salvation is the change from the sinful nature to the Nature of Christ. Therefore to teach that we are saved even though we continue in quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, sexual sin, and so forth, is to say we are saved even though we haven’t been saved. How can we say Christ has saved us when we still are behaving this way? It is the new creation that inherits the Kingdom of God and is the Kingdom of God. Do we truly believe there is quarreling, jealousy, sexual sin, in the Kingdom of God? Are such behaviors part of the new righteous creation?
Obviously they are not. We surely must know there is something amiss in our thinking. What is amiss is we have been taught that to be saved is to go to Heaven, to another place. This is not scriptural. We are not saved by going to another place. We are saved from sin as the Lord delivers us. We are saved and part of the Kingdom of God no matter where we are, whether on the earth or in Heaven.
The second reason we continue to sin is that we do not know how to be delivered. Perhaps we would stop behaving this way if we knew how to be delivered.
I will tell you how to be saved from quarreling. Go to the Lord. Ask Him to deliver you from quarreling. Confess your sin. Christ will forgive you and cleanse you from the sin of quarreling.
I will tell you how to be saved from jealousy. Go to the Lord. Ask Him to deliver you from jealousy. Confess the sin of jealousy. Christ will forgive you and remove jealousy from your personality.
Do you want to be delivered from outbursts of anger? Go to the Lord. Ask Him to deliver you from outbursts of anger. Confess the sin of anger. Christ will forgive you and remove anger and rage from your personality. Try it and see.
If you are a divisive person, quick to take sides, ready to divide the church into factions, ask Christ to deliver you from this sin.
Do you slander other believers and gossip about them? This is sin. Do you truly believe there are such practices in the Kingdom of God? There are not! There is no slander or gossip in the Kingdom of God. These behaviors are not permitted in the Kingdom. If you are bound with them you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Ask the Lord Jesus to deliver you from these chains, and He will.
Are you proud and arrogant? If such attitudes are called to your attention, confess them as sin. Ask the Lord to remove them from you and make you humble. He will do this, and you shall enter the Kingdom as a child.
Are you a disorderly person? Does your entrance into a situation bring confusion and lack of harmony? This is not characteristic of the Kingdom. The sons of God are peacemakers, not troublemakers. Ask Christ to save you from this.
Are you bound with sexual lust? Numerous American Christians are bound with sexual lust. Satan is sexual lust personified. The demons will work unceasingly to bind you to lustful thoughts, words, and actions. But Christ is greater. He can deliver you from sexual lust, and He will if you confess your sin and ask to be delivered.
Are you given to partying, drinking alcohol, revelry, taking drugs, gluttony? Confess your sin to Jesus Christ. He shall deliver you. He has the power and the willingness to do so, but you are going to have to ask sincerely and repeatedly until you are released.
Today we claim we are saved by grace and such moral deliverance is not necessary. The truth is, none of these behaviors are permitted in the Kingdom of God.
We have come, after Pentecost, to the Day of Atonement. The Year of Jubilee is proclaimed on the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement. This is the Jewish calendar, but it applies symbolically to the Christian Church.
If you doubt me, start confessing your sins to the Lord, asking Him for deliverance, and see what happens. Once you start on the road of moral deliverance, pursue it with all your might. It is the next move of God after Pentecost, and it is operational today.
Saying we can be saved apart from moral deliverance is to claim we can be saved without being saved. The common understanding is that we are saved in order to go to Heaven. The truth is, we are saved (delivered from sin) so we can have fellowship with God and join with Christ in setting up the Kingdom of God on the earth.
What we have believed and experienced in the past has brought us to the present hour. Now we are in the time of deliverance. The darkness is past. The true Light now is shining. Let us walk in it. We are entering the Jubilee as we are delivered from our sins.
For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. (I Thessalonians 4:2)
The following instructions came from the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is claimed that the moral instruction given by Christ in the four Gospel accounts applied only to the Jews of His day. After the resurrection of Christ, however, these moral instructions have lost their relevance. They no longer apply to us because we have been saved by grace.
But we see in the above verse that this point of view is not correct. The following admonitions to righteous living came from the Lord Himself, not just from the Apostle Paul.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; That each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, Not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; And that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (I Thessalonians 4:3-8)
It is God’s will that we should avoid sexual immorality
We are to control our own body. Today, in America, if we are to escape being bound by sexual lust, we have to pray continually. Sexual lust is a powerful demon.
We are to treat other people fairly, not taking advantage of anyone. We are never to obtain what we want by harming or defrauding other people. In the world it is common for ambitious, strong people to push others out of the way as they pursue their goals. We are not to be like this. The Lord will not honor such self-centeredness and will punish the evildoer.
God is calling us to live a holy life. To live a holy life means to live in the Presence of God, avoiding sinful behavior, doing only that which pleases the Lord. Whoever does not behave in this manner is not a true Christian, regardless of his or her religious affiliation. To think otherwise is to be deceived.
The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)
Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. (I Thessalonians 4:9,10)
We cannot be exhorted too often to love one another. Satan’s principal device is to enter an assembly of Christians and set one against the other. He is the accuser of the brothers. We have to pray constantly if we are to maintain a loving attitude toward other believers.
Sometimes a church is divided by bitterness and anger. Such a church is ill. It will not be able to function in the Kingdom of God until the Holy Spirit is able to heal the division and restore love and unity to the congregation. It will continue year after year, never bearing fruit; never bearing a true testimony of God.
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so you will not be dependent on anybody. (I Thessalonians 4:11,12)
Here is behavior that is worthy of God and His Kingdom.
A quiet life. Minding our own business. Working with our hands. This type of behavior usually is respected by unsaved people. It is a good witness of Christ.
We should work hard for as long as we can so we can support ourselves and others who are dependent on us.
Now we come to a passage that is the basis for the unscriptural tradition known as the “rapture” of the saints. The clear meaning of the passage has been altered to support a “revelation” that appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century. As far as I know, it was not taught prior to that time.
Let us look carefully at what Paul actually wrote, setting aside for the time being any preconceived interpretation we may have.
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13)
One of the principles of Bible interpretation is to attempt to get the general sense of what the writer is conveying. In this instance, Paul is writing to the believers in Thessalonica that they not grieve when someone close to them dies. People who are not Christians have no hope of seeing their loved ones again, and so their grief is intense. We are not to be like them.
We would expect Paul to comfort the grieving saints by telling them their loved one is now with Jesus in Heaven. This is what we might say today. But notice carefully that Paul says nothing about how we are going to go to Heaven to see our loved ones again. The hope of the Gospel is not that we will go to Heaven to see our loved ones again. It is a far better hope than this!
We believe Jesus died and rose again and so we believe God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)
We will see our loved ones again because God will bring them back to earth with Jesus. Isn’t this what it says? So the passage is not emphasizing our going to Heaven but our deceased loved ones returning to the earth.
“God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.” Where will God bring these deceased people? He will bring them from the spirit realm to the earth, and so we will see them again.
The greatest hope we have when someone dies is that we will see him or her again. This is why I refer to deceased believers in the present tense. Not he was a generous person, or she was a diligent person, but he is a generous person; she is a diligent person. We shall see our loved ones again on the earth.
The passage is about the coming of the Church from Heaven, not the going of the Church to Heaven.
Can you see what deception is being preached today?
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15)
There will be believers alive on the earth when the Lord returns. According to Matthew, the Lord’s return will take place after the Great Tribulation. As destructive as that period will be, for the sake of God’s elect it will be shortened.
We who are alive on the earth will not precede those who have returned with Christ. Not precede in what manner? What is the issue here?
It certainly is not speaking of preceding them into Heaven for the deceased have just returned to earth from Heaven.
Since John the Baptist, Christ, and the Apostles preached the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, I would suggest Paul meant the living saints would not enter the Kingdom of God before the deceased saints did. Perhaps the living believers were under the impression those who had died before the Kingdom appeared might somehow be left out. Paul is telling them not to worry, for the living saints will have no advantage over those who have died.
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. (I Thessalonians 4:16)
This is hardly a secret “rapture.” Rather, it is the return of the Lord in thunderous power and glory to establish His Kingdom on the earth.
“The dead in Christ will rise first.”
Now, exactly what does this mean. Does it mean the dead in Christ will rise into the air? Or does it mean the dead in Christ will rise from the dead? Remember, there was a period of forty days after Christ rose from the dead before He ascended into Heaven.
What is the Greek term for “will rise”? It is anasteesontai, derived from anistemi.
Anistemi means “to stand up.” The Strong’s number is 450. The term is used to refer to Christ being raised from the dead. I have found no instance in Strong’s where the word is used to mean to rise off the ground.
One major error found in the “rapture” teaching is that the resurrection is not emphasized. We will not be caught up to meet Christ in the air until after we have been resurrected or transformed. It is the resurrection or the transformation that is so utterly important and signals the completion of the work of redemption. Being caught up into the air is not a part of the program of redemption but merely an exercise of the kind of freedom we shall be enjoying during the coming Kingdom Age.
The reason I mention this is because I imagine when people read this account in First Thessalonians they think it means the dead will rise into the air; especially when it states “the dead in Christ will rise first.” This gives a mental picture of the dead in Christ rising into the air before the living saints do.
However, since the living saints are changed into immortality, rather than rising from the dead, Paul must mean before anything else happens, the deceased saints who have returned from Christ will rise from the dead and stand on their feet on the earth.
My personal belief is that the dead will not rise and then be caught up into the air immediately. This was not the case with Jesus. After all, think what it will mean for the living believers to see their deceased loved ones once more. The purpose of the passage is to relieve their grief and probably their apprehension that their loved ones would not enter the Kingdom of God when the Lord returned.
Our doctrine is so Heaven-oriented today we cannot picture that the Kingdom of God is coming to the earth, and that it is here we will enter the Kingdom. We would suppose because they were in Heaven they were in the Kingdom. Isn’t that true?
Just as the Lord had forty days in which to visit His disciples and give them great joy, I believe the same will be true in our case. The deceased and newly resurrected saints will have the joy of seeing their loved ones on the earth. The people still alive on the earth will have the great joy of seeing those who had been taken from them for a season.
Does this make sense to you?
Remember, the purpose of what we are studying is to relieve the grief of believers who are sorrowful over the death of loved ones. Today, we would say that we are not to grieve because they are with Jesus and we will see them when we die. Paul did not say that. He said they would return with Jesus and be raised from the dead, thus entering the Kingdom of God. Then we who are alive on the earth shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye and also enter the Kingdom of God. So there is no need to grieve.
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. (I Thessalonians 4:17)
Those who have returned with Christ have been raised from the dead. We, the living, have been changed into immortality. Now the power of Christ will reach down and by His mighty power catch all of us up in the clouds to meet Him in the air.
We shall meet Him in the air. Why in the air? Because the thrones that govern the earth, which had been occupied by Satan and his lords, are in the air. The victorious saints will occupy those thrones.
This is the coming of the Lord, the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. We will be caught up to be with Him so when He appears to the world we will appear with Him. Followed by His army on the white war-stallions, Christ will descend and set up His Kingdom on the earth.
This is a simple, clear picture. It is the coming of Christ spoken of in the Old and New Testaments.
The current teaching of a “rapture” to keep the believers from being harmed by Antichrist and the Great Tribulation is, as I said, an unscriptural doctrine that appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century. It does not resemble the above passage from First Thessalonians. It is a special, secret appearing, a deception. Its purpose is to prevent the growth of the believers by turning their attention to a change of location instead of to the necessary transformation of their personality.
One way that a false teaching can be identified is that it does not teach righteous, holy, obedient behavior. It directs the mind to some sort of interesting novelty. The faith and prosperity doctrines are like that. So is the current emphasis on sending out our angels to get whatever we want. Satan keeps the believers occupied with anything that will keep them from seeking Christ fervently and following Him every day.
I do not know what the next novelty will be, but you can be sure it will not be a call to righteous, holy, obedient living.
The great harm done by the “rapture” error is that it is preventing the believers from preparing themselves to stand during the age of moral and physical horrors that is on the horizon. They believe, and sometimes state, they will not be here and have no need to prepare themselves to stand in the day of trouble.
Therefore encourage each other with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:18)
Why are we encouraged? Why are we strengthened by the true meaning of the above passage? Because we know whether we live or die, when the Lord returns we will once again be with our loved ones on the earth. Then all of us together will be caught up to meet Christ in the air. This is the time when the Lord Jesus sets a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
It is not an occasion of flight from the enemy but of tremendously increased power and glory. It is the hour when we shall possess the earth. All sin shall be driven from the earth. Christ shall be crowned King on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
There is no authority or power in the heavens, on the earth, or in the prisons under the earth’s surface, that can in any manner prevent the reunion of the saints and the establishing of righteousness and justice on the earth. It is the complete vindication of Calvary, and of our faith in Jesus Christ.
The Church is not going to Heaven. The Church is coming to the earth. When it does, the curse shall be lifted and Paradise shall be restored. This is the vision of the future. Those who choose to live victoriously in Jesus Christ shall inherit all this and much, much more. We all, beginning with the Lord Jesus, shall see the fruit of the travail of our soul, and shall be deeply and eternally satisfied.
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, (I Thessalonians 5:1)
When discussing the fifth chapter of First Thessalonians, and also the first and second chapters of Second Thessalonians, it is important to keep in mind that Paul is speaking of the one return to earth of the Lord Jesus. There is no evidence in either book that Paul is jumping from a special, secret appearing to the general coming of the Lord that is described throughout the Bible.
Neither the four Gospel accounts nor the Book of Acts nor the Epistles nor the Book of Revelation sets forth two comings of the Lord. There is only one coming of the Lord, and that coming (the parousia), is presented in both First and Second Thessalonians. Any other “coming” must be regarded as an extra-biblical “revelation that is to have no place whatever in Christian thinking.
For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (I Thessalonians 5:2)
Remembering that Paul did not write in chapters, the fifth chapter of First Thessalonians is continuing the comments made in the fourth chapter concerning the one coming of the Lord. Paul now refers to this single event as “the day of the Lord.” As soon as Paul describes the famous passage in the fourth chapter as “the day of the Lord,” we know of a certainty that the fourth chapter is not speaking of a special, secret disappearing of the saints, a topic so dear to the heart of the writers of Christian fiction.
When we realize we are speaking of the one Day of the Lord, an event found in both the Old and New Testaments, the delusion of a special, secret appearing of the Lord to whisk away the believers so they will not be troubled by Antichrist or the Great Tribulation vanishes as the dew of error when the sun of truth arises in the heavens.
And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. (Acts 2:20)
While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (I Thessalonians 5:3)
Why will people be saying “Peace and Safety”? Because by the time of the Day of the Lord the Antichrist will have established world peace, and probably cradle-to-grave security. We see the forerunner of the Antichrist government, as many governments of the world reject God and seek to solve all social problems by human means.
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so this day should surprise you like a thief. (I Thessalonians 5:4)
I think the above verse is especially important because the “rapturists” of our day teach that at any moment, as a complete surprise, we shall be carried up to Heaven.
This is not the case. Those who are walking each moment of each day in the Presence of Christ know the times and seasons. They will be prepared for His appearing. They will have been made ready for the awesome change that shall occur as our physical body is changed from flesh-and-blood metabolism to Holy-Spirit metabolism.
I wonder how many of those who today are jumping up and down next to their pew in order to be ready for the catching up, actually have enough faith to sustain the dying of Adam as they receive a body of new, resurrection life while standing on their feet. Surely this shall require more faith than we have ordinarily.
(Have you ever tried to imagine John the Baptist, or the Apostle Paul, jumping up and down in preparation for the “rapture”? Kind of ridiculous!)
Sometimes people lose their healing because when the Lord touches them and they feel the strangeness in their body because of the Divine miracle, they do not press forward in faith. They draw back in fear and unbelief. When they draw back, their healing is lost.
Enoch was translated by faith. If we are to be ready to pass from physical life to spiritual life without going by way of the grave, we must have a great deal of faith. Otherwise when the process of death to the old life and entrance into the new life begins we will look back, like Lot’s wife, to that which is familiar.
Audrey and I know of a case where a highschool girl, who was crippled in one leg, lost her healing because she was so surprised when her leg was instantly healed. She asked to return to the familiar condition, and her prayer was granted.
All progress in God occurs as we press forward in faith, nothing doubting. We have to wait for the Lord to move. When He does, we are to press forward in faith. This is how we enter into total victory in Christ, no matter what kind of miracle it is. Think about Peter walking on the water.
You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. (I Thessalonians 5:5)
We are sons of the light, sons of the day, if we are conducting ourselves in the light of God’s perfect will. As we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.
But if we, Christian or not, are not conducting ourselves in the light of God’s perfect will, then the blood of Jesus Christ is not cleansing us from all sin. Even though we may be a member of the Christian religion, we are of the darkness. In that case, the coming of the Day of the Lord will catch us unprepared. We will be busily performing our customary tasks and will by no means be prepared to pass from death to life while standing on our feet.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. (I Thessalonians 5:6)
The world is asleep in the lap of Satan. So are numerous Christians. I believe we will see in America in the near future a rapid descent into moral filth that a generation ago would not have been tolerated or even imagined.
I see good coming from this. To the present hour the Christians in America to a great extent have been asleep, not realizing that the spirit of the world has entered their lives. When they hear increasingly foul language on the television and see the vulgar displays, they may wake up to the fact that we no longer compose a Christian nation. The Christians who do wake up will take steps to guard their families against the encroachment of moral filth no matter what the United States government deems acceptable.
The Spirit of God is calling the American believers to the confessing of their sins accompanied by a diligent turning away from them. We must come out from among the people of the world and have nothing to do with that which is morally unacceptable. Otherwise God will not be with us even though we profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a new day for us in America. That which satisfied God in time past is as yesterday’s manna. It will not be sufficient to keep us in God’s will during the period of moral and physical horrors that is on the horizon.
We must remain alert, because the drums of Hell are beating to the attack. Satan is determined to deceive the saints. Self-control is needed, because the demons are everywhere, seeking to seduce us into committing sin.
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. (I Thessalonians 5:7)
Sad to say, many believers in Christ are drunk on the things of the world. Their lives are not much different from the people of the world. They are not set apart by works of righteousness. They are not keeping themselves holy. They go to moving picture productions that promote moral filth. Christ would not be seen in such a place.
A Christian should never go anywhere that Christ would not go. If you want the Lord’s Presence to be with you, then do not go where He would not go. Do not do what Christ would not do.
We are not of this world. Christ has chosen us to be saints, that is, holy ones. We are not of this world just as He is not of this world. But multitudes of American believers are asleep spiritually. They have become part of the Antichrist system and do not realize it. If they do not wake up and begin to serve the Lord, they will be condemned with the wicked. At the present time they are drunk with the American excesses and asleep spiritually, thinking that at any moment they are going to be caught up to Heaven.
But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (I Thessalonians 5:8)
Notice that the evidence that we are of the day is not in our belief in the facts concerning Jesus Christ. The evidence is in our behavior. Self-control, faith, love, the hope of salvation.
Self-control is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. God has given us a soul. Our soul is our unique personality. It is the ability to make moral choices.
As Paul pointed out in Romans, we may love the laws of God but there is a law of sin that urges us to break God’s moral laws. This is where our soul comes in. Our soul chooses to obey the laws of God or to yield to our sinful nature. When we are unable to obey God’s laws, we are to go to the throne of grace for help so we can keep on doing what is right.
If we do not make an effort to do what is right, if we continue to yield to that which we know to be wrong, we lose our soul. This means we lose the ability to make moral choices. We did not possess our soul faithfully. Then God will demand an accounting of us as to why we did not choose to do right when we were given the chance.
Faith is the way in which we live. There are only two ways in which an individual can live. He can live according to his own desires and abilities, or he can choose to live in total dependence upon Jesus Christ. He can walk with the Lord, committing all his ways to the Lord.
I suppose most Christian believers attempt to look to the Lord for some areas of life and to their own devices for other areas of their life. I believe the Lord wants His paths made straight today. We are going to be forced to trust in the Lord completely or we are going to default to trust in our own ways.
Love is the highest law and power of the Kingdom of God. All the works of redemption lead us to the place where we are able to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.
God is love and love permeates His creation. God also is a consuming Fire, and all that is wicked and lawless shall suffer endless torment. We can choose to live in love, as the Spirit helps us, or we can choose to live, as Satan does, in self-will and hatred. Our eternal destiny is determined not by our theological belief system but by our choice to live either in love or in self-centeredness. All sin proceeds from self-will and is the opposite of love.
The hope of salvation. Our teaching today is incorrect when it presents salvation as something we gain in a moment of time, like the purchase of a ticket. Salvation is past, present, and future. We received Christ at some point in time past. Today we are struggling to work out our salvation as we continually are brought to a place of decision—whether to obey our sinful nature or God’s Spirit. But our actual salvation, that is, our complete release from the power of sin, will come in the Day of the Lord. If we endure to the end, never ceasing to press forward in Christ, we will be saved from sin and rebellion and given immortality in the body.
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5:9)
God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but He did appoint us to suffer tribulation. I mentioned this previously. We will be spared from wrath in the Day of the Lord provided we walk in the light of God’s will. To be spared from wrath, we must exercise self-control, faith, and love while keeping before us the hope of being spared in the Day of the Lord.
Today it is taught that if we make a profession of belief in Christ we will be saved from wrath. This is true in one sense. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
However, it usually is true that we live for one or more years after we receive Christ, depending on our calling in the Kingdom of God. During that time we must pursue the life of godly behavior in Christ if we are to be spared in the Day of Wrath. This is a tremendous error in today’s Christian thinking, in which the idea is if we once make a profession of faith in Christ we are forever protected from Divine wrath.
Salvation always is today. Either we are serving God acceptably today or we are not. We cannot appeal to a decision we made years ago, or attempts to live righteously during a previous period. If we have lived righteously, and then turn from our righteousness and act wickedly, our righteousness will not be remembered by the Lord. If however we have lived wickedly, and then turn and live righteously, our wickedness will not be remembered. We either are acceptable to God right now or we are not.
And the idea that an initial acceptance of Christ protects us forever is unscriptural and unrealistic. This belief, termed “eternal security,” invites us to play games with God. We make a profession of belief now, and then we can live as we please. Whoever would play games with God always loses the game.
God has appointed us to receive salvation, that is, immortality in our body and life in the Presence of God in our spirit. But it is up to us to continually lay hold on this immortality and eternal life.
He died for us so, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (I Thessalonians 5:10)
Living together with the Lord. When Christ appears, those whose life He is shall appear with Him.
Such is the central goal of the Christian salvation. It is to live together with Christ. To think with Him, act with Him, speak with Him, plan with Him, to be with Him and in Him in all things. This is God’s rest into which we are to enter.
So many forces conspire to keep us from simply living together with Christ: the world, evil spirits, our own sinful nature—especially our self will. We have to fight every day to beat off these “birds” that urge us to live in a manner other than with Christ. To do nothing, say nothing, think nothing, desire nothing apart from Jesus Christ, whether we are awake or asleep, is the omega of salvation.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:11)
We Americans esteem “bigness.” The more people who attend a church, the better the church is, in our opinion. A church of five thousand people is really going somewhere, but a church of seventy-five members has our sympathy.
It seems to me that when a church becomes very large in numbers something of the greatest value may be lost. It might not be easy for the members to know each other well enough to encourage and build up each other in Christ. It would seem to be easier if the church was a relatively small family of people who were closely knit to each other.
But even if a small assembling was composed of people who knew each other well, there is no guarantee they would do anything except gossip about one another. A sincere effort would be required if people were to obey the Apostle Paul by encouraging and building up one another each day.
The amount of backbiting and malicious gossip that takes place in small Christian churches is well known.
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. (I Thessalonians 5:12,13)
I don’t believe one finds in the New Testament the pastor-congregation arrangement that we are accustomed to. Notice in the above verse that Paul says “respect those who work hard” not him who works hard.
I have observed examples where churches were governed by a “plurality of elders.” I have yet to see this arrangement work well. Sooner or later there was one person who emerged as the head elder, or else there was continual confusion.
Since the New Testament does not emphasize the pastor-congregation arrangement, in which one man makes the major spiritual decisions for the local body of believers, I cannot say much about this. I can only speak from what I have seen over nearly sixty years.
Perhaps in the early churches there was one senior pastor and several elders who worked with the pastor. This is a workable arrangement, provided there is one person who is ultimately responsible.
It may seem as though it would be better if a number of people were in charge, but it just does not seem to work out in practice. Perhaps part of the problem is that people come to the assembling looking for “the man.” They want to know who the “pastor” is. It may have been different in the first century.
The Roman Catholic church adopted the concept of the priest, which was true of the Old Testament leadership and of pagan religions. Under the new covenant we have the Body of Christ, with every member being as holy as every other member, and just as significant in the sight of the Lord. The concept of “Body ministry” will grow increasingly important as time goes by, I am persuaded.
In the present hour, it appears the pastor-congregation pattern is being used by the Lord. However, I think the wise pastor will do all in his power to encourage the members of the congregation to be active in ministry, as the Lord leads, and will impress on them that while he is leading the assembly at this time, he is nothing more than a member of the Body of Christ the same as they.
It may be true that the Spirit of God is ready to lead us into a fuller Body ministry, and we need to keep following the Spirit until the Body of Christ is operating to its fullest potential.
In the meanwhile, the saints are encouraged to hold in high regard those who are laboring to guide them as they grow to spiritual maturity.
Live in peace with each other. (I Thessalonians 5:13)
Whenever Satan can find anyone in an assembly who is self-willed, he will enter that person and use him or her to stir up trouble. It is a constant battle to overcome strife and bitterness in a local church. But this victory must be won and maintained, because once hatred and division enter a church it is of little or no use in the Kingdom of God.
And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (I Thessalonians 5:14)
Tell the idle to get busy and work diligently in a productive manner. There is no place in the Kingdom of God for laziness.
There always are timid people, and all we can do is pray for them and encourage them.
There are weak believers who are taken captive readily by the devil. They have to be supported continually.
Patience is needed, and it is rewarded. Sometimes we must exercise patience with a believer for many years. He or she may suddenly become fervent in the Lord, surprising everyone. Or he or she may leave the assembly. We are never to forbid anyone to approach God’s Throne, for we do not know how God is dealing with that individual. Let him seek God in his own way, as long as he does not disrupt the assembly.
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. (I Thessalonians 5:15)
This is good advice, isn’t it? Our sinful nature wants to pay back wrong for wrong done to us. We are never, never, never to do this. Vengeance belongs to God. He will take care of those who act spitefully. We have to pray until we have the strength to be kind to all people, saved and unsaved alike. This is a mark of maturity.
Be joyful always; (I Thessalonians 5:16)
I think sometimes we look to the Lord to make us joyful. There is a time for this. But ordinarily we can make up our mind to be joyful. Most situations in life can be an occasion for misery or an occasion for joy. The glass is either half full or half empty, depending on how you look at it. Actually the whole earth is full of the Lord’s Glory, if we choose to see it.
If I am not mistaken, many events of the future will cause us to fret if we are not careful. In America there is a debate about how much moral filth should be permitted in the media and on the Internet. Some people are attempting to hold the line, but I expect eventually every sort of moral depravity will be allowed because of the concept of freedom of speech. This can be a cause for fretting. I see it as a good thing, in that it may wake up Christian people to the fact that Satan is making serious inroads into our culture.
Our God always remains in control of His earth. We can rejoice over this fact and continually give glory to God for His wisdom. Or we can mourn and weep over what we perceive to be evil.
Pray continually; (I Thessalonians 5:17)
If there is a key to the Christian life, this is it. Pray continually. Pray without ceasing. Pray about everything. Pray during every waking moment.
To the young Christian the idea of praying all the time may seem impossible. Like so many things in life, praying about everything requires practice. As we make the effort to pray over everything we are doing, it soon becomes second nature. Whatever arises, we look to Jesus in order to know what to do about it.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. It does not matter what the problem is, the Lord will help—down to the smallest detail of life.
How wonderful it is to be in contact with the Lord at all times.
Practice the Presence of Jesus. He will speak to you in the manner best suited to you. Just realize He hears every prayer. He never, never, never gets tired of hearing you ask for wisdom and strength.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18)
Sometimes it is easy to give thanks. Sometimes it is difficult to give thanks; but it is an act of nobility when we give thanks when it is hard to do so.
Don’t forget to give thanks when a specific prayer is answered. There may come into our life a problem that appears to be unsolvable. Then we pray and ask help. The problem somehow resolves itself so simply it seems there was no difficulty to begin with. Then we are tempted to forget to give thanks, thinking we only imagined we had a problem.
Beware of this! Be like the leper who remembered to return and give thanks.
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; (I Thessalonians 5:19)
We have two problems today. One is putting out the Spirit’s fire. The other is being afraid to stop fleshly demonstrations.
Some of the denominations that were born in the flames of Pentecostal power are now trying to be made perfect by the flesh. Because of their lust for power and prestige they are resorting to modern administrative techniques to gain new members and build new church buildings. The result is a spiritually dead enterprise, trying to build enthusiasm and success with human talent and industry. They need to repent, abandon their lust for power and prestige, and seek the face of Jesus.
Then we have the other extreme. God’s people are so hungry for the Presence of the Lord that they receive every spirit that comes along. Sometimes they bark like dogs or neigh like horses. Sometimes they roll on the floor at inopportune times. The elders are afraid to say anything because of their fear of quenching the Spirit.
A good question for the elders to ask themselves is, “What does it profit, my brothers?” If there is no profit in barking like a dog, or neighing like a horse, or pretending we are drinking the Spirit, or rolling on the floor during the preaching, then it is the responsibility of the elders to courteously and as gently as possible ask the individual to refrain from this behavior. This is not putting out the fire of the Spirit. The Bible maxim is, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
So we do not endeavor to build the Kingdom with our administrative techniques, nor do we do whatever pops into our head. In all things we look to Jesus for direction, obey the Lord in the use of our gifts and ministries, and seek to build up the members of the assembly into the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Do not treat prophecies with contempt. (I Thessalonians 5:20)
Why anyone would want to treat prophecies with contempt I do not know. Perhaps this is something that was taking place in the early churches.
I do know after the second or third generation of a Spirit-filled movement, the pastors and elders like to formulate a program, print it in a bulletin, and adhere to it rigorously. Woe to any poor soul who interrupts the predestined program!
This is not an acceptable church service. While there must be a plan for the service, that plan should allow for the Spirit of God to move. Otherwise the service smells of the death of fleshly enterprise.
It is better to have some fleshly fire than no fire at all. If there are people acting in the flesh, you can guide them into acceptable behavior. But what can you do if there is no fire at all? Just put a sign over the church door: “Rest in peace.”
Test everything. Hold on to the good. (I Thessalonians 5:21)
Always test the spirits. Test them against the Word, and in prayer. You can ask God a hundred times if something is from Him. He will never rebuke you or be insulted.
Jesus told us there would be deception in the last days. There certainly is! We have to pray constantly to keep from being deceived.
We are to pray, pray, pray and glean from our circumstances that which is of God, and then hold onto it.
Avoid every kind of evil. (I Thessalonians 5:22)
Pray always that you not be led into temptation. When you know something is wrong, walk away from it. Avoid even the appearance of evil. We could overcome many sins by simply refusing to yield to them. Do everything in your power to keep from being tempted to sin, and the Lord will assist you.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5:23)
We have been called. This is a sovereign act of God. We have been justified. This is a sovereign action of God. We shall be glorified when the Lord comes, if we have lived in victory over sin. This also is a sovereign action of God.
Sanctification however requires God to work and us to work. God leads us by His Spirit, and then we have to make the effort to confess our sins and turn away from them. I don’t think our role in sanctification is being emphasized adequately. I believe we are expanding justification until the need for sanctification has been eclipsed.
There are numerous commandments in the New Testament, beginning with the Gospel accounts. We are to obey these commandments, always looking to the Lord for help. This is how we sanctify ourselves, cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
If we trust in justification to do the whole work, not applying ourselves to the duties of sanctification, we will never inherit the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is for people who have shown themselves worthy by obeying the Lord.
God wants us holy in spirit, soul, and body. He will accomplish such thorough holiness in us if we will cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (I Thessalonians 5:24)
If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We never have to worry about God doing His part. It is our faithfulness that is in question. If we do not do our part God cannot do His, in spite of current teaching to the contrary.
Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (I Thessalonians 5:25-28)
As we think back over what we have read in the Book of First Thessalonians we realize this letter has to do largely with righteous, holy, obedient conduct.
It was probably forty years ago, while I was writing a chapter on the holiness of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, that I realized I had been taught incorrectly.
I entered the program of salvation while in the United States Marine Corps. I became acquainted with Dispensational theology. I somehow knew a Christian was supposed to live a clean life, and so I stopped drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. I knew it was wrong to use profanity.
But there was nothing in the doctrine I had been taught that said anything about drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, or swearing. The prevailing concept was that the New Testament contained many commandments whose purpose was to show us we needed to be saved by grace.
While writing about the holiness of the Tabernacle, something clicked in my brain. I began to go through the New Testament to see if it taught that the purpose of the exhortations and commandments was primarily to show us we needed to be saved by grace because we were not expected to actually do what was said.
I discovered that the New Testament did not say this. It did not have much to say about imputed (assigned) righteousness. It was clear we were supposed to do what was commanded, and that with the Lord’s help it was not impossible. In fact, a change in our behavior was seen as what salvation is all about.
Since then the New Testament has become increasingly clear to me. The doctrine of the “pre-tribulation rapture” was revealed to be error. The concept that the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant is that the new covenant offers a better, more lasting forgiveness did not stand up under a careful reading of the Book of Hebrews. In fact, the superiority of the new covenant was seen to lie in the fact that it possesses the authority and power to demolish the sinful nature.
So here we are today, in 2004, with the traditional errors remaining unexposed. But if we listen we can hear a new sound in the modern choruses. They are beginning to talk about war in the spirit realm; about the Kingdom of God; about actual righteousness. God is on the move, bringing us past Pentecost into the Blowing of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and finally the feast of Tabernacles.
Many are hearing the new sound. Many are responding. This is a massive move in the Kingdom of God, a whole new way of viewing the plan of redemption.
It is not a new revelation. It always has been in the Bible. It’s just that we have not been able to see it.
But the seals are coming off today as never before. There is “grass in the field” for everyone, because it is the time of the harvest rain.
The American culture wars against us with its endless supply of every sort of attraction, from the development of modern electronic hardware and software, to access to the filthiest of moral practices. It is a fight, no doubt about that, and to the victors go the spoils.
Let each one of us join with King Jesus. He is standing at the right hand of God, because it is time for the Father to put Christ’s enemies under His feet.
You too can have a glorious place in the Kingdom if you care enough to seek it with all your heart.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)
(“The Book of First Thessalonians”, 3839-1)