TODAY’S READING: I THESSALONIANS 1 – II THESSALONIANS 3
OVERVIEW: A model church (I Thess. 1); a model of discipleship (I Thess. 2); a model of faith (I Thess. 3); a model walk (I Thess. 4-5); comfort in tribulation (II Thess. 1); clarification in teaching (II Thess. 2); content on various topics (II Thess. 3).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
In Revelation 2 and 3, our Lord dictated to the Apostle John seven letters to seven churches in Asia Minor. They were seven churches that actually existed historically at the time of the writing of the Revelation, and addressed actual situations that these churches were facing at that time. But students of the Bible have noted for centuries that beyond just the historical aspect of these letters, there is also a prophetic aspect. When placed into the context of the whole of the Book of Revelation, the seven letters also provide for us a panoramic view of the seven stages of church history that basically picks up where the Book of Acts leaves off in the history of the early church, and takes you all the way up to the Rapture of the church, which coincidentally enough is found in the Book of Revelation immediately following the conclusion of the seventh and final letter to the churches (see Rev. 4:1). But there is another amazing coincidence that should be noted. Not only!
did our Lord write letters to the seven churches, but the Apostle Paul also wrote letters to seven churches, or groups of churches (to the church of the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and the Thessalonians). And what’s even more coincidental is that if you were to take the letters to the seven churches to whom our Lord wrote, and lay them next to the letters to the seven churches to whom Paul wrote, you would find an amazing similarity of context. Certainly the most obvious connection would be our Lord’s letter to the Laodiceans, and Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In fact, the only time other than Revelation 3:14-22 that the word Laodicea is found in the Bible is the Book of Colossians, where it just happens to be found five times! The thing to take away from that observation is that though the Book of Colossians was written to address specific situations taking place in that church when the Spirit of God inspired Paul to write it, !
and has certainly had application for every local church in e!
iod of church history, there is also a very specific application of that letter to the church of Jesus Christ in the Laodicean Church Period (approximately 1901 to the Rapture).
All of that is important to recognize because there is at least one other unbelievable coincidence and connection that needs to be observed. Immediately following the Book of Colossians (again, the letter with specific application to the church in the Laodicean Age), comes the letters to the Thessalonians. And do you know what these two letters address specifically? The Rapture and the Second Coming! And again, in the Book of Revelation, as soon as you close chapter 3 with the letter to the Laodiceans, you begin chapter four, and immediately, heaven opens, there is a sound of a trumpet, a voice saying “Come up hither,” and John (who, as we saw several weeks ago, is the disciple who pictures what God intends for a believer in Christ to be) is caught up into heaven to see the raptured church in heaven (Rev. 4 and 5), and to witness four accounts of the Second Coming (Rev. 6-19).
What that shows us is that the Books of I and II Thessalonians are the letters written to teach the church about HOW TO BE PREPARED FOR THE LAST DAYS. In fact, notice that each of the five chapters of I Thessalonians ends talking about the coming of the Lord (1:10; 2:19; 3:13: 4:13-17; 5:23).
But what becomes very clear as you read through the content of these letters is that though they deal with the PROPHETIC concerning the last days, Paul wants to be sure that we don’t approach the Rapture and Second coming as doctrines we sit around and contemplate, talk about, or read novels about, but as doctrines to be LIVED! He wants to be sure that we got these events out of the PROPHETIC and into the PRACTICAL! These Books are really a “How To” manual about how to prepare for the last days: what things we need to emphasize in these last days; how we are to go about the Lord’s work in these last days so that we can be as effective as possible.
It is also worth noting that whereas each chapter of I Thessalonians ends with a reference concerning the Lord’s coming, each chapter of II Thessalonians ends with a reference concerning grace (1:12; 2:16; 3:18). Obviously, as we labor in these dark last days prior to our Lord’s coming, we will need to be sure that we apply and rely upon the grace of God that He promised would be “sufficient” through “infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, [and] in distresses” (II Cor. 12:9-10).
Two other things worth noting from the biblical context of these Books and God’s points of emphasis through-out, have to do with:
1)The Philosophy of Leadership.
It is interesting that the letters written to teach the church about effective ministry in the last days as we prepare for the Lord’s coming just happen to be the only letters in the New Testament written as a team effort. I and II Thessalonians are the only letters written by three authors: Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheous (Timothy).
In Paul’s other letters, he mentions those who are with him in his greeting, but he immediately kicks in to the first person singular, “I.” And as you read through I and II Thessalonians, there’s no getting around the fact that it is the writing style of Paul. They definitely reflect his personality and vocabulary, but what is interesting is that he consistently writes in the first person plural. He talks in terms of “we” and “us.” There are a few places where his apostolic authority surfaces and he uses the word “I,” but by in large, all throughout I and II Thessalonians, he models for us what is to be our PHILOSOPHY of LEADERSHIP in the last days, and that is, it must be a TEAM EFFORT! Paul, Silas and Timothy were a unit. They were committed to teamwork. What we need to learn from their example is that if we’re going to be effective in carrying out the job the Lord has for us in the last days through our local churches, we must work together as a team, and that mus!
t flow out of the leadership. Much more needs to be said about that, but space will not permit.
2)The Priority of Lordship.
I and II Thessalonians begin very similarly: “Paul and Silvanus, and Timotheous, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the LORD JESUS CHRIST” (I Thess. 1:1; II Thess. 1:1). Now, certainly the phrase “the LORD JESUS CHRIST” is not an unfamiliar phrase, or a phrase that is unique to I and II Thessalonians. In fact, the phrase is used 81 times in the New Testament. What is unique, however, is that 20 out of the 81 times that this title is used in reference to Jesus, it is in the Books of I and II Thessalonians. 20 times! By far, more than any other Book of the New Testament, or pair of Books in the New Testament. Almost 25% of the time the phrase is found, it is found in these eight chapters!
Now, from the historical context, Acts 17:7 makes clear why Paul so emphasizes this phrase. Jesus being the “Lord,” or “King” was the issue that got the city so stirred up in the first place! But in the biblical context, remembering that these are the Books that tell us about how to be prepared for the last days, I think God is trying to let us know that it is more important than ever that people understand Who Jesus Christ is, and the position He wants to have in His church as LORD! Revelation 3:14-22 lets us know that His Lordship in the church in the last days is so far from a reality that He is actually standing at the door knocking, wanting to be invited to come in to take His place of preeminence.
Does your life reflect Christ’s LORDSHIP, and are you a part of the ministry TEAM of your local church?