Summary: The persecution faced by the church of the Thessalonians was causing them to think that Jesus had forgotten them. By focusing on the end times Paul teaches them, and us, that Jesus never forgets and we are always seen - even when we don't fully understand.
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Jesus Never Forgets
When it comes to our faith journey we need to recognise that it never really stays in the same place. We pray that we will keep on maturing and growing … but that is not always the case.
Sometimes we have doubts.
Sometimes we get confused.
Sometimes we forget.
This happens to the church of the Thessalonians.
Let me show you what I mean.
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you.
Now let’s read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
I didn’t need to write to you about times and dates … but now I do.
Paul needs to write because there has developed in the minds of the Thessalonian church the idea that, somehow, they might have missed out on the coming of Jesus.
Which seems like a really strange spiritual doubt to have – doesn’t it.
Today there are differences in the Christian world about things like rapture, and millennial views, and the new heaven and the new earth.
But, when it comes to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, nearly every Christian believes the same thing. When Jesus comes to this earth … we will know.
Not just believers … everyone will know.
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Even to the Thessalonians Paul has said
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God
The coming of Jesus is like a pimple on your nose on your wedding day
Nobody will miss seeing it.
This reality raises a significant question.
Why would the Thessalonians come to the conclusion that they have missed the coming of Jesus?
There are two factors and they are both related to the historical context.
Factor 1:- The Impact of Redemptive History
Redemptive history is a description used to think about when believers are being confronted by the work of God.
The Exodus and Exile happened at a specific time in redemptive history.
The birth of Jesus and the ascension of Jesus are at different times in redemptive history.
Our place is in redemptive history is approximately 2000 years after the resurrection of Jesus when 2 Thessalonians can be found in a Bible which contains all 66 books of Scripture.
The Christians in Thessalonica don’t have any of that. At the most … the very most …
• They may have access to a copy of the Old Testament written in Greek – this book was called the Septuagint and had been available for about 200 years.
• Maybe, by this point, the books of James and Galatians have been written … add to that 1 & 2 Thessalonians. So 23 of the 27 books of the New Testament are still not written. Everything that they learn is being passed on orally.
When we read the Scripture we need to remember the situation. The Thessalonians live in a context where their access to Scripture is nowhere near what we have.
And it doesn’t help that there are people who are making prophecies that the day has already come, or they are hearing reports from others that the day has already come, or they have seen a letter which is being understood as coming from Paul that the day has already come.
My point is this.
Everybody has a place in redemptive history where they are growing and learning.
We don’t know everything at the same time.
That is true even today isn’t it.
Each of us has different areas of struggle, or the need to grow in an area of spiritual discipline, or having an instruction repeated or reemphasised.
When this is the case it doesn’t make us wrong, or immature, or a lesser Christian.
Our journeys all look different.
Even here – think about the journey of the Thessalonians.
You became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thess 1:7).
Your faith in God has become known everywhere. (1 Thess 1:8).
You are standing firm in the Lord. (1 Thess 3:8).
About your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. (1 Thess 4:9).
Among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. (2 Thess 1:4).