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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Christ's coming, or heaven? Paul's letters to the Thessalonians

All the passages in Paul's letters to the Thessalonians, which are about heaven, or the second coming, are given below:

1 Thessalonians 1:9b how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn’t it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? 20 For you are our glory and our joy.

1 Thessalonians 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you; 12 and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you, 13 to the end he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 3 For when they are saying, “Peace and safety,” then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape. 4 But you, brothers, aren’t in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. 5 You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don’t belong to the night, nor to darkness, 6 so then let’s not sleep, as the rest do, but let’s watch and be sober.

2 Thessalonians 1:5 This is an obvious sign of the righteous judgment of God, to the end that you may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which you also suffer. 6 Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 giving vengeance to those who don’t know God, and to those who don’t obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus, 9 who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired among all those who have believed (because our testimony to you was believed) in that day.

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now, brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him, we ask you 2 not to be quickly shaken in your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by letter as from us, saying that the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 he who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped; so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself up as God. 5 Don’t you remember that, when I was still with you, I told you these things? 6 Now you know what is restraining him, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness already works. Only there is one who restrains now, until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will kill with the breath of his mouth, and destroy by the manifestation of his coming; 9 even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 and with all deception of wickedness for those who are being lost, because they didn’t receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

The passages above were taken from the World English Bible, which is public domain. I have quoted all the passages, in Paul's letters to the Thessalonians, that refer to either heaven, or the second coming of Christ. The only use of "heaven" that I found was as the location from which Christ will return to earth. There are, as you can see, abundant references to the return of Christ. I guess that somewhere between a third and a half of these two short books deal with that subject.

This post was triggered by a comment, by someone, on the books, saying that the Second Coming was an important theme of both of them. It is. However, one thing that struck me is that, at least in the circles in which I move and read and listen, we emphasize heaven much more than the Second Coming, and, I fear, we talk about heaven as if it were an extended vacation, or an escape from hell, rather than as if it were an opportunity to be with the Risen Lord. That wasn't the attitude of the New Testament writers. God help me, and us.

Thanks for reading.


Weekend Fisher said...

" ... an opportunity to be with the Risen Lord."

Now there's something to look forward to. Thank you for writing that.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anne! said...

I agree … thank you for pointing that out.

I'm not so sure that many Christians get that the reward isn't just heaven, later …. it's liberty in love NOW … preparing you for your humble service and devotion in the afterlife.

Many of us forget that the focus shouldn't be the paradise or the reuniting with relatives, it's the opportunity to finally meet and serve and love and bow before the Risen Lord.

It seems many of us think we'll love Jesus until we get there and then do something else. I think that philosophy has seeped in from the Mormon faith.

Martin LaBar said...

We don't know much about what we'll do, or be like, in heaven, except that the Bible seems to say that whatever we'll do, or be, it will center on Christ.

I've been told that there are more people in North America who believe in heaven, and that they'll get there, than believe in God.