The Thessalonian Correspondence, Part 3

Discussing prophecy is a fascinating activity, often with far-reaching implications. Back in the 1980s, there was a group of Christians that was convinced that the Lord revealed to them that there was going to be a nuclear explosion over Chicago, with destruction covering a 300-mile radius. So these folks all made arrangements to be in northern Wisconsin for the fateful event – some selling their homes and quitting their jobs. Needless to say, most of them were embarrassed when the cataclysmic event did not happen and life as they knew it resumed. Admittedly, this is an illustration of a fringe group, but it illustrates what happens when prophecy is taken for more than God intends it – which in my opinion is to call his people to righteousness and ethical integrity, even in the midst of great difficulty, even persecution. (A survey of the major OT prophets reveals that their message was for God’s people to repent and reject their sinful ways – not to predict the future, although future events were revealed in order to motivate repentance and provide assurance and comfort in the truth that God was sovereign). When Paul taught the believers in Thessalonica concerning the Day of the Lord, his purpose, likewise, was to bring assurance and comfort his readers. But as I noted last time, certain false teachers were confusing the believers and causing quite a stir. Some were teaching that the Day of the Lord had already come, the fallacy of which I discussed last time. However, it seems that there were others who were convinced that the second coming was so close that they need not work. After all, why work if Jesus is coming soon? Paul is firm with these people.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. (2Th 3:6-13 NIV)

Whatever your view of eschatology (the study of End Times events) I encourage you to take seriously our current mandate, which is to make disciples and live in such a way as to glorify God. The extremes of not caring at all about prophetic material because God has it all figured out and we can’t do anything about it anyway, and getting all upset by looking for prophetic fulfillment in every news headline that comes across the media, are not helpful.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. (1Pe 4:7 NIV)

Peter continues:

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (2Pe 3:14 NIV)

The study of the End Times is a fascinating enterprise, but it must be in the context of ethical motivation. It is true that no one knows the day nor the hour (Matt 24:36), but we do know it will happen. Therefore, when it does, how will Jesus find us? That is the question. Will it be running from the realities of life in this world or will it be with our hand to the plow, working and trusting God to use us, so that when we are taken to heaven, we might take others with us!!

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