Summary: We make two mistakes when looking for Jesus’ return - tune out or fall into despair. Learn how to occupy and the first of three studies on the Rapture of the church.
People have tried to figure out when Jesus would return for a long time - in fact, the first disciples believed He would return before they died.
In A.D. 204 a Roman Christian named Hippolytus records that a bishop was convinced that the Lord was going to return immediately. He urged his followers to sell all of their land and possessions and following him into the wilderness to await the Lord’s coming. He was wrong and his followers were left homeless and became beggars. (SermonCentral.com)
You might remember a man by the name of Edgar Whisenant. He was a NASA engineer who used his mathematical skills to set a date for the return of Jesus. He wrote a book called, "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Take Place in 1988" The book caused a real buzz in the Christian community.
He was so certain that Jesus would return on Sept 10 that he said, "If I’m wrong then the scripture is mistaken." He knew for certain that Jesus would be here that day.
This is amazing. Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. The angels didn’t know, and Jesus didn’t know, but amazingly enough, Edgar did.
But the day came and passed and Edgar didn’t know half as much as he thought he did. The old saying held true, "If first you don’t succeed, fail and fail again." Edgar wrote a second book the next year claiming that he forgot that the calendar didn’t start with 1 but year 0, so he said he was a year off. Failed again. (From Barry Robinson at SermonCentral.com)
We can make two mistakes - either we are so convinced that He’s coming now that we create a bunch of credit card debt - or sign out from society and sit on the rooftops. Or we give up hope altogether and worry about those who die as if there is never going to be a return. Neither is true - and Paul addresses both extremes in this chapter.
1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
The Thessalonians were doing well - Paul just wants them to continue to move forward in what they already know. Sometimes we Christians make the mistake of thinking that we have arrived. If we’ve studied or read the Bible, if we’ve been around church our whole life - or if we are in vocational ministry - that there isn’t anything for us to learn anymore. Far from it - there are always new things to learn, new ways to grow.
Paul gives us a few here - they involve three areas of life: how you are as a person, how you act towards others, and how others react to who you are and how you act:
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.