Instructions with regard to the expectation of the second coming of Jesus Christ

T. J. de Ruiter, pastor & Bibleteacher in Hilversum, The Netherlands

The apostle Paul gives in the two letters to the Thessalonians important instructions about the behaviour of Christians and what they can expect with regard to the coming of Jesus Christ. I look at five relevant passages in these two letters.

1. In 1 Thessalonians 4:12-18 Paul wrote about the hope of meeting deceased Christians at the return of Jesus Christ. At the coming of Jesus the dead will first be raised and the living believers will be changed into the immortal state in the twinkling of the eye. Together we will meet the Lord in the air and be forever with Him. Surely a blessed hope that offers great comfort.

2. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Paul taught that Jesus will suddenly return as He himself had said; please read Matthew 24:43,44. Paul further taught that Christians should stay awake and remain sober so that the coming of Christ should not surprise them as a thief in the night. This 'staying awake' is evidently not physically but spiritually. We should spiritually stay awake and remain sober in order to know what is happening around us in the world and to be able to interpret the signs of the times.

3. In 1 Thessalonians 5:22-24 Paul wrote about sanctification and holiness of our entire humanity, body, soul and spirit. The purpose of sanctification is to be able to stand in purity before the Lord when He comes. Please notice what he wrote in chapter 4:3-8 about holiness with regards to our sexuality. He admonished Christians to remain faithful to their marriage partner and to abstain from (all kinds of) sexual immorality.

4. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 Paul taught again that it is very important to watch the developments in the world because this will prevent that Christians stimulate an unspiritual and unhealthy expectation which will only produce confusion and frustration. The apostle points at some developments that must precede the return of Jesus Christ.'

a.  First there will be a falling away from the faith, a great apostasy.

b.  The man of lawlessness, that declares himself to be god and will sit in the temple, must first be revealed.
      Here are two interpretations possible:

    - That a man will set himself in the temple of Jerusalem (which evidently must first
       be rebuild) and declares himself to be (a) god. He is that man of lawlessness, the antichrist, a ruler of the world.

    - That men will regard himself to be a god in a physical body. But the Bible teaches that our body should be
       regarded and respected as the temple of God, the Holy Spirit.
       In these days there are New Age and Eastern religious movements - and they are  increasing in adherents -
       that teach that man is god himself. They teach: "God is in you but you are not  conscious of this great truth.
      You must be taught this great secret and become conscious of it. Then you will know "I am a god."

5. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 the apostle urges Christians once again that they should fulfil their daily responsibilities and duties (please see also 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12). Anybody that does not want to work - possibly because he wants to pray and meditate, preparing himself for the second coming of Jesus - is not living as the Lord wants it, how spiritual his behaviour may seem. I remember a saying of the great Reformer Luther. He once said that even if he knew that the Lord was coming again the following day, he would still plant a tree. The message of Paul and Luther is clear: Continue with normal daily life until the Lord is really visibly returning.

Questions for discussion:

About prophetic messages that tell that the second coming of Christ is very near.

   a.  How do prophets themselves interpret the nearness - sometimes with a date - of the second coming?
   b.  What should be our attitude to these prophecies and should we take them seriously?
   c.  Do these prophesies contribute anything to the message of Biblical prophesies?

T. J. de Ruiter, 3 January 2007

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