Today’s Reading: 2 Thessalonians
Faith, hope and love – Paul opens up his letter to the church in Thessalonica praising God and commending the church on their faithful work, their loving deeds and their enduring hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). So far we have looked at the faithful work and loving deeds. Today, let’s consider the enduring hope we have in Christ.
In the midst of suffering and persecution, God’s Church stays strong in their faith and continues living a life characterized by loving deeds, all the while hanging on to the hope that keeps them looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven – Jesus, whom God raised from the dead (1 Thess. 1:10). Paul’s prayer for them is that God continues to make their love grow and overflow, making their hearts strong, blameless, and holy as they stand before God when Jesus comes again with all his holy people (3:12-13). Paul is referring to those believers who have already died.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
For centuries, we have been encouraging each other with these words, finding hope in the midst of our grief and goodbyes when we lose a loved one. We find hope we will see them again, and also hope we will be together with the Lord forever. Spending eternity with Christ Jesus – now that produces hope! Paul goes on to describe to them how this will happen.
…the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains. And there will be no escape.
…So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
So what our hope goes back to is love – the love of a God who chose to save us instead of pouring out his anger on us; and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us. It gets better. His plan is for us to live with Him FOREVER! So…
Remain strong in your faith even in the midst of persecution, criticism and suffering.
Continue to let God perform loving deeds through you.
Endure with a hope that knows what our tomorrow holds and who holds our tomorrow.