We are starting to head into the home stretch of the Bible, the back Nine, as it were. And today, with Thessalonians Prime we’ll talk a bit about the notorious END TIMES. And who in their right mind doesn’t want to know a little extra something about how the world is going to end? (I am literally saying this with a super straight face.)
But what are we doing here? I think I’ve gotten ahead of myself. So far we have worked our way through 37 books of the Bible, where I read the book, and write at least a thousand words discussing and conversing about what I find there. Years ago now, I saw an atheist doing something similar as he talked about the problems or issues he saw with each book. And I decided to do it to see if I could reconcile the Bible from beginning to end. And so far, so good. If you are new to this experiment and want to see more, you can see them all right here.
Overview of Thessalonians
The last few books have mainly been all about the apostle Paul reaching out to churches that he either helped start or cared very deeply about. Thessalonians Prime is a book to the people of the church of Thessalonia in Greece. And he wrote the letter around year 51AD, while in the city of Corinth. Paul had actually, most likely, just been with the Thessalonian church (think, the last 3 months), but wanted to reach out to them to check in on them. And so Paul sent Timothy out to validate all was well. And when Timothy came back and gave Paul a spiritual high five and a report that they were doing great, Paul wrote the book of 1 Thessalonians. I mean, lets look at just how much love Paul has for the people in this church, take this passage from I Thessalonians 2 –
“For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed-God is witness- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”
And that is how I feel for you mister random web visitor. I am writing each of these write ups solely because I care for you… tenderly. I have such a fond affection for you that I choose to impart this amazing story to you along with stories of my own life, solely because you are so dear to me. I mean that literally. And that is true whether you believe in God, or are hostile to the faith. I mean, my hope (as is God’s) is that NONE should perish. Especially you! hahha.
But Paul knew that the church had been exposed to false teachers. False thoughts and errant philosophies since his leaving. And Paul’s ultimate hope with I Thessalonians was to make certain that the church of Thessalonica kept their eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. But not just the Christ of the Bible (woah… fellow Christians just got all kinds of uncomfortable really really fast with the beginning of that sentence… chill Christian dude, I got this!) but also the returning Christ, the coming King.
The Second Coming of Christ and I Thessalonians
If you are a non-Christian, and just like my writing on movies and errata, and have stumbled your way here… this bit might blow your mind a little. But just as a normal layman, joe schmo Christian, I know A LOT about the second coming of Christ. I grew up in a Pentecostal Church, which means, not only did we do a ton of crazy speaking in tongues, prayer flags, and wild spirit dancing in the aisles, but we also studied maps and charts and diagrams about the second coming of Christ and the end times. I literally kid you not. This is such a unique background and such a fascinating thing to so many, that I have seriously considered writing a book about my upbringing in said Pentecostalism. (If you are a book publisher and want my book pitch? My father and mother were pastors that would fairly regularly cast demons out of people attending the church in our front room. Church camp was a hoot. The learning to speak in tongues sessions? Surreal looking back on it. It’d be a fascinating little book. Trust me on this one! hahah.) Maps like this one:
Not that this will make you like me better, but I could literally speak for 3 hours on this diagram without slowing down. Heck, pretty sure that boast might just get me admitted. What’s the relevant bit here though? In I Thessalonians 4 Paul says this:
“According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
So what is Paul saying here. Throughout the Jewish tradition and history, they were looking for a coming warrior messiah that would vindicate their people. Well, He’s not exactly going to do that, but this warrior messiah will come. And those that are living, will wait and watch as the dead arise to heaven. And then, everyone will meet together in the clouds. And after that, we’ll be together with the Christ in heaven.
But why is Paul even mentioning the end of the world, why is he mentioning this? What is the larger point? He was saying that we need to understand the larger picture here. We need to grapple with the larger story and the larger point. It is a motivation to continue living life as a sacrifice. Putting others first. Loving others. Looking after the needs of the widow, the orphan and the impoverished. These are not goals or measures the world cares a lick about. Paul knew this. He understood it was a difficult call to action. But he offered, a long term vantage, in order to center our thinking and arrange our priorities.
Ok, listen. People wonder why I inject these totally “off topic” posts about God and the Bible into this “movie blog”. Well, first things first, when this blog started I didn’t know what it was. I posted about art, the stars, statistics, random interviews, books I loved, etc etc. Oh, and about God, and the Bible, and God, and God and more God. And now, because I found things that people actually enjoy reading, I write about movies, movies, movies, and God. Now, consider this last quote from Paul, and then consider what it means to me.
Whether you are an atheist, or agnostic, or a long term Christian consider it. I literally believe this will happen. Christ came once. And died for our sins. Yours. Mine. Amazing. I’m such an idiot, and such a hardcore rebel when it comes to living this “die to self daily” life. I try. But I fail more often than not. And yet?!? God died for my sins. My ongoing, perpetual sin. And I also believe, that same day (relatively) soon, Christ will return. So yeah, I dig movies. I dig you guys. I love chatting with you all. But ultimately?!? It’s all about Him. It’s all about Him and how He put everything aside for us in order to restore us to Himself. Crazy.
So I Thessalonians was an encouragement to the Church Paul had just left a few months before. Paul was just saying, I hear you are all about this Godly mission thing. I am so encouraged that you are fired up about Him and living life together in pursuit of this higher calling. Just remember that God is coming back. And when He does? What a glorious day it will be.
To the Christians out there reading this… be encouraged. Reevaluate your life and remember that it is all about sacrifice and love. Giving to others before taking. But only out of love for the one that gave us everything. And to the Atheists out there. God loves you. Whether you think He exists or not. And He has made a way for you. Nothing you have done is too big or too dramatic to keep you separated from Him. I mean, heck, look at Paul! He was a Christian killer before he became one. And God is beckoning you to Himself. He wants to see you forgiven so that when He returns you will rejoice with everyone else.