Summary: Opposition, Suffering, Hope, Jesus' Return
FOLLOW THE LEADER – The Return of the King
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (pg. 825) September 6, 2015
I think it’s important that we remember that when Paul originally wrote his letters to the churches...including the Thessalonian churches, there were no chapters and verses...These early believers would have no idea what it meant to turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18...The archbishop of Canterbury named Stephen Langton developed the chapter and verse system in 1227 to make it easier to find scripture...and the Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first to publish the Bible in chapter and verse form. Now almost all Bible translations follow Langton’s chapter divisions.
I share that only because it’s important we realize that what we’re studying is a letter. Its God inspired. But, it’s different reading a letter than a text book. When we write a letter to people we love, the ideas tend to flow. We don’t stop after 13 verses and say...New Chapter. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were in the midst of persecution. They’d been jailed right before they came to the Thessalonians...and that persecution followed them to Thessalonica...and these new believers found themselves under the same attack as the churches in Judea, and the same attacks that would kill all the Apostles, except for John.
So when the Apostle Paul writes this letter while facing severe persecution to people who are facing severe persecution...love, compassion and encouragement flow from the ink...it’s not only a book to be studied, but this is a love letter to be felt.
Just a recap of some of the statements Paul made earlier in this letter help us understand. He says, “you became imitators of us and Jesus in spite of severe suffering (1 Thess. 1:6). “We dared to tell you the gospel in spite of strong opposition. (1 Thess. 2:2) Paul knows “that the Thessalonians suffered from their own people.”
(1 Thess. 2:14) but he also knew “in all his distress and persecution he was encouraged because of this churches faith.” (1 Thess. 3:7)
I’m not sure any of us can truly understand “severe persecution, strong opposition.” Real “suffering and distress” in reaction to our faith...but I believe it’s coming.
This Follow the Leader letter to the Church is a “Hang in there” letter. In the midst of difficulty and in the middle of a sexually immoral society...stay on course, keep the faith, trust Jesus. Because the King will return...it’s why we should understand.
I. IGNORANCE ISN’T BLISS
“Brothers and sisters (Paul writes) we don’t want you to be unimformed about those who sleep in death.”
In other words...we don’t want you to be ignorant.
[I remember in a class at Johnson one of my profs. Brad Burnett while teaching on restoration history got frustrated with a student named Dwight...and he said “Dwight, you are one of the most ignorant people I’ve ever met. And Dwight seemed shocked...and replied “I don’t feel ignorant!”]