What does the future hold for this earth on which we live? People have always been intrigued with this question. Christians have many clues (prophecies) to give us a joyful anticipation. Of course we would like to know more specific details of what will happen in the end and how it will all come down. The only one who knows the full answer is God. We have the broad outline from Daniel and many of the details from the rest of the Bible, but some of the plan is vague. It was not quite clear to the Thessalonians and it is not quite clear to us today.
God has always been faithful to give His people everything they need to know about the future so that they can be fully prepared. We have to learn to work through all of the prophecies to give us the fullest picture possible. Those who love to fit pieces of a puzzle together enjoy the study of eschatology!
Paul has filled in some of the blanks for the confused Thessalonians. He has just spoken about one event – the rapture. Jesus and all of his followers will have a great reunion in the sky in their glorified bodies at some point in time. We are to encourage each other with this joyful information when times are hard.
In chapter five Paul speaks about another event – the Day of the Lord. This is a time when God’s just judgment will fall on the whole earth. It is also a time of great blessing for many who will recognize the true God and become believers. In addition, it is a time when the believing Jewish remnant will finally accept their Messiah. The Old Testament prophets spoke often and with much detail about this time. There are about 60 references to the Day of the Lord in Scripture. We need to know all that God has graciously revealed.
DAY ONE: PAUL SPEAKS OF EVENTS OF THE END TIMES.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
A. PAUL DEALS WITH THE THESSALONIANS’ CONFUSION.
Paul had obviously taught the new believers about end time events, including the rapture and the Day of the Lord. They could hardly wait for Jesus to come and take them out of the coming wrath (1:10). Then false prophets came in claiming to have a report from Paul saying that the Day of the Lord had already come. Could this be true? Was the persecution they were suffering actually part of the day of wrath? Had they missed the rapture?
B. PAUL RE-EDUCATES THE NEW BELIEVERS.
The Thessalonians are much like believers today. They would like to know the exact date for the second coming of Jesus. What is the sign that we can watch for to let us know for sure? Paul reminded them that he did not give them a date. They had general signs, and they were to be ready at all times to meet the bridegroom.
As for the coming Day of the Lord, Paul had already taught them about a day of great wrath. The Day of the Lord is a time when God will judge the Gentile nations and Israel in preparation for setting up His kingdom. It will come suddenly at a time when the world does not expect it. Paul uses an analogy of a thief breaking into a house when the householder is asleep and does not expect trouble. The people of the world will appear to be in a state of long sought-after peace on earth. They will be asleep as far as the Day of the Lord is concerned.
Daniel 9:27 prophesied that a signing of a seven-year peace treaty will begin seven years of Tribulation. People will begin celebrating a time of peace and safety after many years of turmoil in the Middle East. In the midst of this new “peace,” destruction will begin to fall on them. They will not see it coming and they cannot escape.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Jesus revealed that this time will be similar to the days of Noah. (Matthew 24:36-39) What will people be doing?
2. Paul uses an analogy of a pregnant woman whose labor pains begin. What does this teach us about the coming Day of the Lord?
3. Who will be caught unaware according to verse 3? Who is not included in this warning according to verse 4?
4. What reaction do you have when you hear this teaching?
5. Who do you know who needs to be warned?
DAY TWO: PAUL REASSURES TRUE BELIEVERS.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11
A. BELIEVERS ARE TO BE ALERT.
In contrast to those who are asleep in the darkness and unaware of the coming judgment, Paul describes believers as capable of being fully awake and living in the light.
Believers are told to be alert and self controlled.
- To be alert is to be watchful, know the signs and be ready to respond to God’s call wherever needed.
- To be self-controlled is to resist being controlled by the majority who are crying “peace and safety.”
Believers are to remain vigilant as Jesus instructed in Matthew 24:42. They are to daily put on the Christian armor of faith, love and hope. They are to be ready for battle. The Christian army is God’s earthly group to serve in urgent times.
B. BEING READY MEANS UNDERSTANDING THE SIGNS AND THE TIMES.
We are to wait expectantly, but what does that look like? From Paul’s teaching we know that we are not to quit our jobs and go wait on a hill!
How then should we live?
- Centuries ago the prophet Ezekiel first asked this question when the Jews were losing their independence and their land. This was the beginning of the times of the Gentiles (Ezekiel 33:10). The lives of the Jews changed drastically, and they had to learn a new way to live under Gentile rule.
- At the last quarter of the 20th century (1976) Francis Schaeffer wrote a book and did a film series with a similar title – How Should We Then Live. He addressed modern man’s crisis. The western world had moved away from a Christian worldview. We moved into what has been called the post-Christian era or the modern age. Society changed and challenges changed drastically for the modern Christian church.
- At the end of the 20th century (1999) Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearsey wrote a book called How Now Shall We Live? We had moved into the post-modern age. This is a time when many of the anti-God worldviews seemed to be collapsing all over the earth. New age mysticism was coming in. This could be a time of greater challenge and greater opportunity if the church will step up.
There are great periods of opposition for the church in every age but also great periods of opportunity. We need to be alert and be ready for whatever comes as we wait for Jesus to return. Jesus has work to do in us and through us. We are to encourage each other and build each other up. We are to be the light in the darkness to help those who are perishing.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What does being alert mean to you personally?
2. How does being self-controlled help you to face the world’s ever- changing philosophies?
3. What does the parable of the ten virgins tell us about the coming of Jesus for his bride? (Matthew 25:1-13)
4. What in your life indicates that you are waiting expectantly for the bridegroom?
5. What do you want to be doing when Jesus comes?
DAY THREE: PAUL GIVES MORE ADVICE ABOUT READINESS.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
A. PAUL TEACHES ABOUT CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITIES.
We all want to be living well when Jesus comes. Paul had already taught some things about life choices – about sexual morality, loving the brethren, working hard to support themselves, and encouraging each other. Now Paul gives new instruction. There are five categories we can remember:
1. Respect your spiritual leaders. v.12
- The role of local leaders is to guard the flock (against false teachers), feed the flock, and admonish the flock when they stray. This is the responsibility of elders and pastors.
- They are to be respected in love because of the huge responsibility they have and not because they are great personalities or successful in the business world. Local church leadership is God’s idea. The leadership is responsible for the spiritual growth of the individual believers.
- Our responsibility is to be cooperative followers. We must support and respect their leadership. It is very difficult to lead effectively if people do not follow well.
2. Live in peace with each other. v. 13
- We need to work hard to get along with leaders and with each other. Don’t be a troublemaker. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers!” (Matthew 5:9)
- The Devil often attacks at this level. Fighting churches are destructive to individual believers and to our witness in the world. Those who have been involved in a church split know the pain and damage this kind of activity causes.
3. Help each other. v. 14-15
- Warn those who are idle. (1) Every believer needs to be responsible to physically take care of themselves and their families as nearly as possible. (2) Every believer needs to be serving in the Kingdom of God. We always have work to do.
- Encourage the timid. Timid people often have a harder time getting involved and feeling valued in the church family. We need to be sure they are drawn in.
- Help the weak – physically or spiritually weak. All people need physical help or mentoring at times.
- Be patient with everyone. We all make mistakes. We are all at different maturity levels and have different strengths & weaknesses.
- Don’t be vindictive but be kind to everyone –don’t pay back wrong for wrong. Instead, forgive freely.
One of the keys to helping each other is to really get to know each other so that we know how to encourage, admonish, or help each other. We all need accountability and help in our spiritual walks. The place to get it is in the spiritual body. Of course, this takes an unselfish giving of our time.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Paul has admonished us to respect leaders, live in peace, and help each other. In your opinion, which of these things is lacking in our churches today?
2. In your opinion, which of these things is hardest to do?
3. Who has helped you in a weak time in your growth?
4. Examine yourself honestly. Do you follow well? Do you accept help graciously?
5. Choose one of these areas in which to take some specific action this week.
DAY FOUR: PAUL TEACHES ABOUT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITIES.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
A. TWO MORE CATEGORIES ARE GIVEN.
4. Regarding our personal behavior v. 16-18
- Be joyful always. (The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
- Pray continually. (Don’t neglect your prayer life.)
- Give thanks in all circumstances. (God can bring good from everything.)
We don’t always feel like doing these things but if we discipline ourselves to obey, we will be making a strong statement about the sufficiency of God. Joy comes from the indwelling Spirit when we are trusting God and are in fellowship with Him.
5. Regarding corporate church life v. 19-22
- Don’t ignore any of the spiritual gifts. They are all vital in ministering to the whole body of Christ. Paul compares it to the human body in Romans 12. Every part has its role and function.
- Don‘t treat prophecies with contempt. But test everything. All prophecies must line up to the light of Scripture. Any that do not line up with the written Word of God must not be accepted. There are many warnings about false prophets. Believers must be vigilant. But hold to the good. Today we have the written prophecies. We must hold fast to the belief that every prophecy will come to pass.
Someone has said – In order to be emotionally healthy we need:
- Something to do,
- Someone to love,
- Something to hope for.
We could apply this to our lives in the church.
- Something to do – We need to be busy supporting our families and supporting the church family.
- Someone to love – We need to work hard at creating an atmosphere of God-like love for every person in the church family.
- Something to hope for – We need to preach the Word, study the Word, and study prophecy in order to have spiritual hope. One day life will be more beautiful – in God’s time.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Look up the word “joy” in the dictionary. How is it possible to be joyful always?
2. How can we become more joyful within the church family?
3. What does it mean to pray continually?
4. What does Peter say about prophecy in the last days? (2 Peter 3:3-4)
5. What are two specific things for which you can thank God this week?
6. How much time have you given to the study of prophecy?
DAY FIVE: PAUL ENDS WITH A MEANINGFUL SALUTATION.
READ: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28
A. PAUL PRAYS FOR THE THESSALONIAN BROTHERHOOD.
Paul ends with a closing prayer for his beloved brothers in Thessalonica. It is possible to have a church fellowship that operates like a warm, loving, supportive family. But each person needs to learn to live well and contribute to the family. Each person also needs to learn to cooperate with God in the sanctification process. God will help you. He is faithful.
B. FINAL FAREWELL SHOWS PAUL’S LOVE.
Paul ends the letter with expressions of hope and love and good wishes. This should be a model for us as we leave the corporate gathering of the church and go back out into the world. If we don’t get our love needs met in the family of God, we will be left wanting and vulnerable.
We don’t usually practice holy kisses in our culture, but bear hugs and warm handshakes along with heartfelt greetings and salutations add to the love of the body.
C. ANY SUFFERING CHURCH NEEDS PAUL’S MESSAGE.
How do you help a church that is hurting in any period of time? What is the universal truth that we can glean from Paul’s letter?
- Give them the truth. Our greatest strength as Christians is our worldview of absolute truth. We must be taught how to live in the will of God. We must be taught about our “blessed hope” of our future with our Lord.
- Teach them how to be strong as a body. The key to success in any period of time and with any level of opposition from the world is to maintain a strong, healthy, thriving family life in the local church.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. How does this letter make you feel – hopeful, fearful, anxious, joyful, etc.?
2. What kinds of benedictions or words of comfort can we speak to each other as we leave our church gatherings?
3. What is one new truth that you have learned from this last chapter?
Paul’s letters are full of teaching information, but they are also full of encouragement. Remember – God will have His way, and He is able to transform me along the way.
PRINCIPLES FOR THE WEEK
- God has given us a great work to do as we await the glorious end.
- The loving body of believers functioning well is our great treasure.
Begin a habit of speaking words of comfort to someone in your church body each week.
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