2 Thess. 3 “Watching, Waiting, and… Working?

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 11are 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.”

2 Thess. 2: “It’s the Real Thing”

On July 8, 1971 Coca-Cola aired for the very first time one of the most iconic commercial every produced. The youth of the world gather on a hillside and sing, “in perfect harmony” I might add, about wanting to buy the world a home… fully furnished with love. If only we had listened in 1971 to the desperate plea of the youth to grow honey bees, we may not find the honey bee on the brink of extinction today! The commercial ends with Coca-Cola’s most famous slogan,”It’s the real thing”, and adds the line, “what the world wants today.”

I didn’t originally intend to talk about Coca-Cola, but I got sucked-in doing a Google search for: “spotting the real thing.” You may be asking, what in the world does this have to do with 2 Thessalonians 2? I’m glad you asked.

Warning Signs

Chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians serves as the main body of Paul’s letter. After we get through the greeting and encouragements, Paul begins to land on the point of the whole letter. We find the main point in the first verse:


2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NLT) 1 Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him.  2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun.


Using our inductive reasoning skills we can speculate that the body of the letter to the church will include clearing up confusion regarding the Second Coming. If you thought this too, congratulations, you’re correct!

However, Paul does something a little different. Instead of restating the facts he’s already shared, Paul talks to the church about the warning signs that will occur in the world first.


2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (NLT) Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.


Paul gives the church the warning signs of what to look for in order to indicate the ushering in of the “antichrist:”

  • Great rebellion against God
  • The man of lawlessness (antichrist) is revealed
  • He will exalt himself
  • Defy everything that people call God and every object of worship
  • He will sit in the temple of God and claim he is God.

So basically at this point, Paul says to the church, listen, I know things are crazy and you’re experiencing a ton of persecution. I also know you’ve been concerned about where your loved ones go when they die. Let me explain what happens to your loved ones, and also reassure sure that Jesus won’t return until these things happen. 

The Real, Real Thing

As I was thinking about what Paul was sharing with these young Christians, and I started to think, what would I share? Then it hit me! I would take the same approach as the FBI.

When the FBI trains counterfeit specialists, they don’t have them study all the counterfeit bills in circulation. Instead, the specialists spend all their time studying the real thing. Because they spend so much time studying the real thing, it’s much easier to spot the fake.

This is what I would do! I would tell the church, yes, you do need to know the warning signs, but don’t spend your time looking for the fake, instead, study the real thing so much you’ll spot the fake from miles away.

Let me ask you this: How well do you know the real thing? Meaning, how well do you know what Jesus looks like? Would you recognize if God showed up among you?

I believe the commercial’s right, It is “the real thing the world wants today.” They get plenty exposer to the fake, maybe it’s time to show the world the real, real thing.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Thess. 1: “Our Church, God’s Pride”

Fast forward six months from the last letter, and Paul is feeling the pressure to write another note of encouragement to a young primarily Gentile Christian church. He understands their pain, he too was persecuted by the Jews in Thessalonica: Acts 17:13 (NLT) 13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble.

Not much has changed in the last six months, suffering and growth were still on the menu for the church. Just look at the comparison between the first chapters of both letters:


Suffering

1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NLT) So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 1:4 (NLT) We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.

Growth

1 Thessalonians 1:8 (NLT) And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NLT)  We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.


Church Pride

Continue reading 2 Thess. 1: “Our Church, God’s Pride”