As we reach the conclusion of 2 Thessalonians and make our way over to 1 Corinthians, A couple of things occurred to me regarding our hearts and attitudes towards Jesus’ Second Coming.
Growing up I had quite a few immature thoughts surrounding Christ’s return. First of all, when I was young I was incredibly scared of the “Rapture.” To think I would be having fun with my friends at camp, and suddenly they would be sucked up into the sky one-by-one was a frightening notion. The main motivator for me then was to be good enough not to be “left behind,” and I certainly knew I wasn’t good enough.
My understanding of “left behind” got even more jacked up in high school after reading a series of popular books on the subject. Speaking of high school, my prayer shifted from being good enough to, “just wait to come back until I get married…” for obvious reasons. Hey, don’t judge me… you probably had similar thoughts too.
In fact, everyone has their own stories and thoughts about their attitudes towards the Second Coming. I remember in college hearing a professor share that he grew up in an era that Jesus’ return was so imminent that many people didn’t take college seriously. He shared that it wasn’t until his sophomore year that he thought, maybe I should get my act together in case His return is delayed. I appreciated his honesty, especially considering all the struggles I had personally with this teaching.
Now you see why Paul had to write a second letter. His first letter to the Thessalonians was like telling a young christian boy, Jesus’ is coming, you better be good enough and ready, cause He’s going to return like a thief in the night, wearing a black ski mask, and He’ll cover your mouth, drag you away, and you’ll never to be seen again… seriously …nightmares.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Parent’s and Sunday School Teachers, please be careful how you talk to your children regarding this sensitive topic. My parents did a great job, but it was a Sunday School teacher who scared the crap out of me.
(We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.)
Although Paul’s first letter didn’t lead to mass panic and pandemonium, it did lead some believers to take a, lets just wait it out, kind of attitude. Their hearts were leaned more towards, ride it out, than, work it out.
Scripture does have a lot to say about our attitude and preparation for “that day.” Jesus instructs us through his disciples in Matthew 25:13 (NLT) 13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. I think about the parable Jesus shared eluding to His return:
Luke 12:35-40 (NLT) 35 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. 37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! 38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.
We’ve seen “watching” and “waiting,” now Paul add’s “working” to the list as well.
At the end of Paul’s first letter, he warns the idol Christians not to be “lazy,” but rather get busy working and serving. These idol Christians could be blamed for “waiting” to much, and not “working” enough. So here at the end of Paul’s second letter he’s back doing the same thing, but now he’s not “warning” the lazy people, he’s instructing the working Christians to “stay away” from them.
This may seem like excommunication, but you have to remember: These lazy Christians “11…are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business.” So what Paul is instructing is basically the same as Jesus’ instructions to the disciples when they encounter a town or people who refuse to listen, “shake the dust off your feet.” You have to move on and focus on the people who will listen.
Be Found Working, Not Sleeping
Connecting all these dots together, the key takeaway for me today is this: When Christ returns, I want to be found watching, waiting, and yes, working, not sleeping. Besides, even on an eternal level verse 10 is powerfully true, “you don’t work, you don’t eat.”