GOD, THE DEATH REVERSER
During Paul’s short time in Thessalonica, God’s Spirit stirs many people to make the culturally costly decision to turn from dark idols—the Greek and Roman gods—to follow the one true God. Even though they are new believers, God is doing great work in them. Timothy recently returned from visiting them and brings back a glowing report, as well as a couple of questions for Paul. God inspires Paul to write them a letter.
Some of the Thessalonians seem to have misunderstood Paul and thought all believers would live until Jesus returns. Some believers are wondering if the believers who have died will miss Jesus’ return. Paul assures them that those who temporarily “sleep in death” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) will not be left out of Jesus’ glorious return—in fact, they will rise first. Then the Jesus-followers who are alive at the time will be caught up with them in the clouds, and “we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Jesus will come like a thief in the night, but believers have nothing to be scared of. On that day of rescue, God will pour out his anger on what is ugly and wrong, fixing what is broken.
The King’s Heart
Death is one of the most heart-wrenching realities of life. Thessalonican believers were experiencing this. “Christians who have died are not gone forever,” God explains through Paul. “You will see them again. In Jesus’ resurrection, I have reversed death. Death hurts deeply because it is wrong—completely wrong.”
The Spirit prompts Paul to explain an even bigger, more beautiful reality. Not only is God going to reverse the most impossible curse that plagues us, he is going to fix the entire world. When Jesus returns, God will pour out his wrath on all that is sinful and painful in this broken world. On that day he will set the world right again, re-creating it to be what he intended it to be.
“If it’s broken, I’m going to fix it,” God is saying, in essence.
That means this: If it hurts, it’s going to go away. That’s how God turns our “mourning into gladness” (Jeremiah 31:13). Hallelujah! Heartache’s time is limited. God is good, good, good.
Paul stayed in Thessalonica only briefly because of persecution. According to Acts 17:2, Paul taught in the synagogue “on three Sabbath days.” But those few weeks likely represent the time spent in the synagogue reasoning with the Jews, not Paul’s total time in Thessalonica. The Thessalonian letters indicate that Paul had taught them more doctrine than would have been possible in such a short time.
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