1 Thessalonians 1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1-3 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight THE01
The Bible from 30,000 Feet, soaring through the Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.
We're back in the Bible again. [CHEERS] And we have the privilege of being able to look at two short letters tonight, Paul's First and Second Letter to the Thessalonians. So get your Bibles out, or your phones out or iPads out or whatever, and get to 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1.
Sitting next to you is somebody with a broken heart. Maybe not right next to you, maybe in your vicinity, but guaranteed somebody close is going through some difficult waters. And though we sang great anthems of praise and faith, I thought it would be good to begin praying for those that we're sitting next to you.
So, Father, we want to pray for those sitting to our right, knowing that somebody right there is perhaps dealing with heartbreak, loss, difficulty with a parent or a son or daughter, a disease, an event, that has shaken their faith that has caused them to feel even abandoned by you. But, Father, I pray you would reassure them. And, Father, we pray together that you would minister to that one.
And for somebody sitting on our left Lord, in that vicinity or behind us or in front of us, for the same things, Father, we pray for your comfort, your presence to be known. We pray that your Holy Spirit, even through our time together in the Word of God, this Bible study, that you would administer to hearts, you would soothe the rough ground, and pray, Father, that you would bring hope and healing in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now, we can get into 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1. We are dealing with in these two letters perhaps the very earliest writings of the Apostle Paul. Many believe that 1 Thessalonians was Paul's first letter chronologically. Not everyone agrees. Somebody will place Galatians before that, written around 49 some think. And then 1 Thessalonians around 50 or 51, followed by 2 Thessalonians months later perhaps, no more than a year later after that. But we're dealing with some of the earliest writings of Paul the Apostle.
And his subject matter, though we're dealing with an early letter, his subject matter is way far into the future. He deals with end times, last things. He deals with eschatology. That means the study of last things.
I found an interesting article or it came across my reading this week, an article about an 18-year-old from Ecuador, 18-year-old girl. Her name is Angelica Elizabeth Zambrano Mora. Don't know why she has so many names, but she does. 18 years of age. According to the article, she says she was dead for 23 hours, during which time she met Jesus, who took her to heaven, also showed her hell.
And it's interesting-- again, this is just her experience. She said, in hell she saw Michael Jackson, Pope John Paul II, and a host of other celebrities. But what got my attention is that during that time the Lord showed her the glories of heaven, spoke to her about the rapture of the Church, and the end times. And she was then given instructions-- this is, again, just according to her experience-- she was given instructions to warn people that death is a reality and that there is any eternal judgment coming and to warn people of the horrors of hell.
Fascinating article, but honestly, I don't need an article to be told about heaven or hell or the rapture or the end times. We have Paul's letters to First and Second Thessalonians about the end times, about these events. And you might say that 1 Thessalonians is about the gathering of the Church and 2 Thessalonians is about the gloominess of the tribulation.
They are letters that deal with end times. And what's interesting to me is that Paul only spent, at the most, a month, I'm guessing three weeks or just a little bit over, because he preaches for three Sabbaths we're told in Acts, Chapter 17 in the city of Thessaloniki. He's not there long. But he was there long enough to tell them about the coming of the Lord in the future, about the future tribulation period, and then to write letters to remind them of what he had taught them.
So Paul felt it of great importance to tell a church that he just started about the end times. Why is that so important to me? Because I remember the last few years speaking at a place on the East Coast, down in the South. Won't even mentioned where exactly. But I was asked by one of the leaders to speak on the end times.
And then the pastor found out that I was going to speak on the end times. He goes, oh, no, no, no, don't talk about that stuff. My church doesn't know that. yet. That's so advanced. We haven't even gotten there yet. I haven't told them about that.
And I was puzzled by that, because I thought, how can you go through the New Testament at all without going through that? And I said, how long was the church been in existence? He goes, oh, only 15 years. Well, by 15 years, man, you should have the Book of Revelation and Daniel and 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians down pat.
Paul was there for just a few weeks and already he was teaching them about these things and to look for the coming of the Lord. But they were rattled by something. They were bothered by something. And so he writes these two letters.
Think of 1 Thessalonians as centered on the return of Jesus Christ. And think of 2 Thessalonians as centered on the retribution of Jesus Christ. Think of 1 Thessalonians as dealing with the day of Christ and 2 Thessalonians as dealing with the day of the Lord. One is he's coming for his church, 1 Thessalonians. One he is coming with his Church to judge the world. That's his second coming, 2 Thessalonians.
Paul went to the city of Thessaloniki on his second missionary journey. You can read all about it, not right now, but later on if you don't have the background, in the book of Acts, Chapter 17. He had been in Philippi. Remember, he gets a vision of the man from Macedonia while he's in Troas. Come over to Macedonia and help us. He goes there.
The Philippian jailer is one to Christ. Lydia is one to Christ. A church starts there.
Trouble erupts. He moves on. And he makes his way to the city of Thessaloniki, which was the capital of the Roman colony in that area. Again, he's on his second missionary journey.
There are about at the time of Paul 200,000 people living in this city. I mentioned as the capital of that Roman colony. Sizable population. And it happened to be on a very important route called the Via Egnatia, or the Via Ignacia. It's a stretch of Roman road. You can still see it to this day. Really, it was a continuation of the Appian highway from Rome. And it extended across land. And the Via Ignacia happened to be situated and led you right to the city of Thessaloniki. Very, very important and very loyal town to the Roman Empire.
So Paul goes there. Acts 17 says for three Sabbaths. Three Sabbaths is three weeks. For three Sabbath days, he's in the synagogue. He's telling them about Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. It says, many believed in him. Some Jewish people, many Gentile people, and some leading women of that city believed in him. But, again, wherever Paul went, he stirred it up.
And so it says-- and I love the King James-- I'm reading the New King James. But the old King James says, lewd fellows of the baser sort. Isn't that a great description of creeps. Lewd fellows of the baser sort were hired, a group of thugs were hired, to spread a bad report about Paul and his team, to get him kicked out of town. And it worked.
And here was their report. They said, these men who have turned the world upside down have come here to us also. I wish that the world around us could say that about us. Those people over at that Church Calvary, they've come to Albuquerque and they've turned the world upside down. Good.
Actually, we're here to turn it right side up. It's already upside down. It's in a world of hurt. It needs the gospel.
So Paul was forced after three weeks, maybe four-- he was there three Sabbaths. But let's say he was there a month. He was forced to leave.
He leaves Thessaloniki, goes to a town called Berea, where it says, those in Berea were more fair minded than those in Thessaloniki in that they received what Paul said with all readiness of mind, but searched the scriptures daily to see if those things were so.
So Paul went from Thessaloniki to Berea, finally ends up in Athens. While he is in Athens, he must have heard from Timothy or Silas. Hey, this is what's going on over in Thessaloniki. Paul decides to send a letter quickly, probably not from Athens. My guess is he went all the way down to Corinth, and he wrote a letter. Within several months, he writes a letter back, one of the first letters in the New Testament to the Church at Thessaloniki.
Now, I mentioned that the great themes of First and Second Thessalonians are on eschatology, or eschaton, the final events. It is estimated that one out of every four verses in 1 and 2 Thessalonians deal with the subject of the end times in some way.
I didn't add them up. I just read that. So I can't attest to that personally. But I know there's a lot. I would go with 1 in 4. I do know this. Every single chapter in 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the coming of the Lord, or the end times.
Let me show you that. Look at Chapter 1. Go down to Verse 10. It says, "And to wait for His son from heaven, who He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." Coming wrath, the coming of Jesus Christ mentioned in one verse.
Look over at Chapter 2, in Verse 19, "For what is our hope or joy or crown of rejoicing. Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" There it is again, front and center.
Look over Chapter 3, Verse 13. "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope for if we believe Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."
We'll get to that, but go down to Verse 17. "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord." It's the rapture of the Church.
Go down to Chapter 5, Verse 23. "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Sometimes I will meet a Christian who will say, the coming of Jesus Christ and end time prophecy events really are inconsequential. They're really not central to the New Testament. And I want to say to them, would somebody then please tell that to Paul the Apostle? Because apparently he doesn't know what you know in your advanced knowledge. Poor Paul hasn't caught up to you. He felt it central, that he mentions it in every single chapter of one of the earliest letters he writes. He has passed on this knowledge to a Church in just a few weeks time. And then he writes about the coming of the Lord, the day of the Lord in the following book.
Now, here's what we know about the coming of the Lord. Paul tells us that it will happen. He never tells us when it will happen. You get into trouble when you try to guess by your charts the exact time of the Lord's coming. We know seasons. We know we're in the season of the end days. We don't know when.
I didn't think we would last past the 1980s. I'm sure glad we have, because I'm looking at people who wouldn't be bound on their way to heaven if the Lord would have come back then. I'm glad for his patience. I rejoice in it.
Now, before we get into these chapters-- and, again, this is just a survey. So we're going to just be touching down on a few of these things throughout these two books. There's something that is noteworthy to me about church planting in Paul. It evidently doesn't take long to start a church.
Now, I know, kind of modern approach to church planting is that you go into an area, do a demographic study, find out who's interested and who's not, tailor a church around that demographic. Paul just would go to the place and unleash the word of God, just let the Gospel out of its cage, just proclaim to whomever happened to be at the riverside or in the synagogue, and just watch with the Lord might do.
So he started it. It was growing. It was flourishing. Chapter 1 of 1 Thessalonians-- if you're looking for themes of this book or divisions, it's about the transmission of faith, the transmission of faith. I'm going to take you to Verse 2.
"We give thanks to God always for you making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and Father, knowing beloved brethren, your election by God. For our Gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit. So that you became examples to all in Macedonia and in Akaia who believed. For from you, the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Akaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come."
Notice the three tenses of the Christian faith. Past tense, you turned to God from idols. Present tense, to serve the living and true God. Future tense, and to wait for His son from heaven.
The Christian life is a dynamic life. It's not something that happened to you once way back when. It's something that must be translated into present day experience. It will carry you to a hopeful future.
I think we see that if you go all the way back now to verse 3 and notice this. "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope." Your work of faith, that's past tense. That happened in your past. You believed, you were saved.
But then your work of faith led to the present experience of your labor, or serving, of love, which also leads you to the future, the patience of hope. So faith calls us back to a crucified Savior. Love calls us up to a crowned Savior. Hope makes us look forward to a coming Savior. Faith, hope, and love. Or faith, love, and hope. You turned from idols to the living God to serve Him. And you wait for His son from heaven. So those are the three tenses of the Christian faith-- past, present, future.
Now, notice the two directions of the Gospel. And let me just sum them up. The gospel comes to you. But then the gospel must go through you from you. Those are the two directions. So I want you to notice this in the text, Verse 5.
"For our Gospel did not come to you"-- but it did, it came to you-- "in Word only, but also in power." And then look at Verse 8, "For from you, the Word of the Lord has sounded forth."
So it must come to you. That's how you get saved. But then when it really has done its work in you, it moves through you. And that's where life gets fun, man. That's where it's really exciting is when you just make yourself a vessel. Like, Lord, who do you want me to talk to today? How do you want to use me today? Through you.
By the way, when it says the word of the Lord sounded forth. It's an interesting word-- exechetai is the Greek word. It's from the Greek word echos, or echo. It means to reverberate. So picture the Gospel reverberating through the valleys in that area and through the canyons and mountains. It began in those disciples, but then it echoed through them. The word of Lord came to you. The word of the Lord echoed forth from you.
Remember, Jesus said, "What I tell you in the darkness, proclaim it in the daylight. What I whisper in your ears, tell it, shout it from the rooftops." That's the echos, the echoing narrative of the Gospel "For from you, the Word of the Lord sounded forth."
Let's suppose we had an unlimited budget. We often talk about generosity multiplies capacity. And it's true. But let's say we had an unlimited budget, and we could rent stadiums around the country every night of the week and fill it with crowds of people to preach the Gospel to them from the stadium. Suppose we're renting stadiums that seat 50,000 people. And every night there's bands. There's evangelism. We call people forward. And let's say every single night, 1,000 people come forward to receive Christ. You go, wow, that sounds exciting.
But actually in 35 years time, it is estimated, with all of those new converts, every night, 365 days, for 35 years, in 35 years you will be further behind the task of world evangelization than the day you started. You go, well, I don't understand. How is that possible? Because of the birth rate, we would never be able to catch up saving that many souls every night, 365 days a year, 35 years. We'd never be able to catch up with the exponential growth of populations around the world.
Now, you hear that. You go, well, Skip, why did you share that? That's discouraging. Why should I get involved in evangelism?
Here's why. Let's say you were the only person alive on Earth who is saved. No one else, just you. In one year, you decided, in the next year, I purpose in my heart to share the Gospel and by God's grace lead one other human being to faith in Christ. Let's say a year goes by, and you've led one person to Christ. You take that person and you say, brother or sister, let's covenant together in the second year that we're each going to lead someone to Christ. And let's say you do by God's grace. That's year two.
Then year three, each person does it. You get the drift, right? So every year, each person who's saved leads another person to Christ. In 35 years, you'll be looking for heathens. You won't be able to find them.
It's estimated the whole world has that potential of being converted through holy gossip, through the Word of the Lord echoing forth from your life, reverberating through you to somebody else. So I'm not saying do one or the other. I'm saying do it all.
Yeah, let's rent stadiums. Let's do freedom celebrations. Let's do special events and concerts and bring people in and get evangelists. But let's also gossip, holy gossip, tell somebody about Jesus. From you, the Word of the Lord sounded forth. Not from Timothy. Not from Paul's greater evangelistic crusade of Thessaloniki. Through you. Through you. So that's Chapter 1, the transmission of faith.
Chapter 2 is the demonstration of love. So Paul leaves. And he goes down to Berea and then eventually to Athens.
Go down to Verse 5, "For neither at anytime do we use flattering words, as you know, or a cloak for covetness as God as witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ." We had the authority, but we didn't abuse it. We were not authoritarian, even though we have authority.
"But we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cherishes her own children." It's interesting that the Apostle Paul uses a feminine metaphor for his apostolic authority. We were like a nursing mother who cherishes her own children. Verse 8, "So affectionately longing 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 dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil for laboring day and night that we might not be a burden to any of you. We preach to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses and God also how devoutly and justly and blameless Lee we behaved ourselves among you who believe. As you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you as a father does his own children."
So Paul compares himself to both a mother and a father. The authority of a father, the leadership of a father, the strong voice, the strong example. But at the same time, a nurturing mother. And here in Verse 7, "a nursing mother." Mothers don't intimidate. Fathers can be intimidating. I was intimidated sometimes by my father. Never by my mother.
Oh, she could be firm. Trust me. She could hold her own, this little 5 foot 1 German lady. And she had a she had a strong backhand. And I don't mean at tennis. But I could always approach my mom. I could tell her anything.
And then, I love Verse 8, "So affectionately longing for you, we were pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives." Typically, a mother is the epitome of selflessness. And when I think of affectionately longing, have you ever seen a mother separated from her children for any period of time? Not fun to be around. They want to be-- they should be, they're places nurturing those children. When they're not able to do that it's difficult.
So here's Paul-- again, he's only been there-- he doesn't know them long-- he's only been there a few weeks. But such a bond has developed, of a nursing mother, of a nurturing father. And he says, "I affectionately long for you."
I have the privilege from time to time to speak in places around the country and around the world. Some of them have been exhilarating and fun and great opportunities. But by and large, my general rule is-- it's the exception rather than the rule-- I really don't enjoy it like I enjoy being here. I'm not just saying that to butter y'all up. There's just something about being with your own family. Right? You can relax. They know you. You're not impressing them. They're not impressed by you anyway. So you can just be yourself. It's family.
And though I've had the opportunity to speak in a number of places, to a number of congregations, there's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. Paul had that instant connection with them.
Now, I'm going to take you over to Chapter 3. And I would call Chapter 3-- and, again, it's not like from Verse 1 to the end of the chapter, there's a little bit of fudging in these divisions. But I would call Chapter 3, exhortation to godliness.
Now, he gets direct with him. I'm going to take it down to Verse 7. "Therefore, brethren, in all of our affliction and distress, we were comforted concerning you by your faith. Now, we live if you stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we rejoice for your sake before our God night and day, praying exceedingly that we may see your face and prefect what is lacking in your faith."
It's not far off from what John wrote in that little epistle of 3 John, Verse 4. It's just a one chapter book. 3 John, verse 4, "I have no greater joy than to know or see that my children are walking in the truth." That's what got Paul by, man. That's what made Paul or John so filled with joy. That makes ministry worthwhile. Especially when there are those that you know who leave the faith or they get shipwrecked in their relationships or whatever, there are those who are growing and are vibrant and are reproducing. And that gets you through the hard times of ministry, Paul included.
Down in Verse 12, "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your heart's blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints."
"Finally then, brethren," Chapter 4, verse 1, "M we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more just as you've received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification."
If you ever wonder, man, how do I know the will of God? I really want to know God's will. Start with those Bible verses that tell you exactly what to do. Start there. This is the will of God, your sanctification, start there. And then move from there.
So this is the will of God, your sanctification. Now he expands on that, that "you should abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel, that is His own physical body in sanctification and an honor, not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God."
Interesting that in Thessaloniki, there were two deities that were worshipped called the Cabiri or the Cabeiri. They were really demonic manifestations. And they were worshipped by sexual activity. That was part and parcel of the background if you lived in Thessaloniki. You knew about that sensual kind of worship.
And Paul knew that. He had visited there. He's writing to them and says, look, here's part of God's will that you stay sexually pure and you know how to possess your physical vessel.
Again I just want to underscore this. I am amazed that it was only three weeks that Paul was there and a vibrant church, to the extent that Paul says, man, I have a longing for you, and, man, we are linked, and, boy, we have a special bond. And that he in such a short period of time was able to transmit the truth of the gospel to the extent that they were loving and vibrant and he could speak these kind of truths into their life. They had blossomed that much.
What is the secret? This is the question it brings up. What is the secret of growth if after three weeks, you can a church that has grown to this extent? What is the secret to spiritual growth?
It's how you hear. It's the condition of the heart. It's the condition of the soil. Jesus said, "Take heed how you hear."
You can say the same thing to one person, say the same thing to another person, and get two entirely different results. Some latch onto it and grow immediately, put it into practice, mature almost instantaneously. Others, not so much. It takes a long time. You got to say sort of the same thing. And maybe after the 28th time, they go, oh, yeah, now, I'm getting it. So Jesus said take heed how you hear.
I remember going to India, and I'm about to speak. And I said to the pastor, so how long is your church service? He said, well, it depends, but on average, it's about four hours. Excuse me? Does that include like parking? He goes, no, no, no, people walk to church here. And many of them walk for hours to get to church. If you try to end it in 30 minutes, they're going to think, why did I walk all day for that? You've got to give them something.
So we expect you to give a sermon, preach for an hour, hour and a half, take a break, have a little time of fellowship, then do it again. The whole thing lasts about four hours. Now, I wasn't used to that. You know, in America, we're used to people checking their watches. Make it good. You have a little bit of time. You have a little window. Drop something really good in there.
Now, in the book of Proverbs, it says, "To the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet." So I just thought, Lord, here goes. I'm glad they have hungry hearts, because I feel like I'm giving them better things, you know, I mean to go that long. But I saw it was sweet to them. They laptop it up. They ate it up. They were hungry for it.
Let me take it down now to Verse 13. And let me just say that from Verse 13 to the end of the book is instruction for the end times. Verse 13, "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep." That's a euphemism for physical death. Why? Because, well, you've seen a dead person. When you close their eyes, they look like they're sleeping.
"Concerning those who have died, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you, by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep."
Here it is, "for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, with a trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words."
Now, this is called the Doctrine of the Rapture of the Church. First time I was told about the rapture of the church, I was a month old in the Lord said. And somebody said, yeah, you know, we're going to get raptured. I go, what does that mean, rapture? The Lord's going to actually just snatch us up, take us up into heaven from Earth.
And I said, I remember saying, here then going, no way, that's not in the Bible. That's like the goofiest thing I've ever heard. And I didn't believe it. And I didn't believe it for a while, I mean for like days and days, until finally somebody said, can I just show it to you in the scripture? And I remember reading this, and reading it over a couple of times. And after reading, I said, you're right. I was wrong. It's unmistakable. That's exactly what it says.
There's coming a time in history where at that time the Lord will descend and catch up, take up, remove instantly those who are believers on the Earth for a whole new chapter in redemptive history. It's called the Doctrine of the Rapture of the Church.
Now, look at the words in Verse 17, look at the words caught up, caught up together. The Greek word for caught up is harpazo. Harpazo. When it's used in the New Testament 13 times, it is translated to catch up. Four times it is translated to take by force. Three times it is translated to catch away. Two times it is translated to pluck or to pluck up, et cetera.
So there is a New Testament translation called the Wuest translation, the Kenneth Wuest. He was a Greek scholar who expanded it so you can understand it in all of its fullness. And he translated this verse this way. This is from the Greek Kenneth Wuest expanded translation. "We shall be snatched away forcibly in masses of saints having the appearance of clouds for a welcome meeting with the Lord in the lower atmosphere."
Now if somebody says, well, the rapture, the word rapture isn't found in the New Testament, it depends on which New Testament you happen to be reading. You're right, if you're reading the English translation, like the New King James, you'll never find the word rapture. But if you happen to be reading the Latin Vulgate as translated by Jerome, you find this word harpazo, the Greek word, translated into Latin rapere, which means to seize by force or to be carried off.
Yeah, the word rapture isn't in the English translation. It is in the Latin. But the doctrine of the rapture is certainly here. It's here in these verses.
What is the rapture? Think of it as a near coming, a flyby, where the Lord descends from heaven into the atmosphere around the Earth and instantaneously takes up those believers who are on the Earth at that time. We join those who are in heaven. They get resurrected first. And then those who are on the Earth get resurrected second.
The rapture is where Jesus comes for his bride, the Church. The second coming is when Jesus comes with his bride, the Church, all the way to the Earth. That's the second coming.
At the second coming, not the rapture, that's when eye shall see him, as Jesus referred to it in Matthew 24. OK, we've gone through that before. Don't have to get into depth. I can answer questions on that later on. We have to finish this, and go to the next book.
Verse 1, Chapter 5, "But concerning the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you for you yourselves know perfectly"-- now, he's writing a church that he's spent only three weeks starting, and writes a letter says, you guys, know perfectly "that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren are not in the darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light, sons of the day. We are not sons of the night nor of the darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as others. But let us watch and be sober."
For believers, the Lord does not of like a thief in the night. For unbelievers, he comes like a thief in the night. They don't expect Him. Nobody expects a thief.
So believers, you know, here's the analogy, if you expect a thief, you're going to do something to prevent the thief. You're not going to have a little note, Dear thief, just in case you're wondering, I keep my wallet by the kitchen door in the second drawer from the top. Enjoy the coffee on your way out.
Nobody expects a thief. So the contrast between unbelievers-- he comes suddenly like a thief, oh, no. But we are waiting for him. We are looking for him. We are anticipating him.
Verse 8, "But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation, for"-- Verse 9-- "God is did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." Now, I believe Paul is referring not only to eternal wrath, judgment away from God forever and ever in hell, but also temporal wrath, which is what the tribulation is. The tribulation period is God pouring out his wrath upon the Earth for a 7-year-- really 3 and 1/2 year period technically, the last part of that 7-year period is the tribulation period, the great tribulation period. That'll be a time of great wrath.
We're not appointed to eternal wrath. We're not also appointed to temporal wrath. Notice the contrast between this whole section between us and them, light, darkness, watching, thief in the night. So that's 1 Thessalonians.
Now we have 2 Thessalonians, three short chapters. 2 Thessalonians is the sequel to 1 Thessalonians. Now, usually sequels aren't great, I found. Very rarely. It's like, you know, by the time you have like Spiderman 53, I get the storyline. It's sort of hard to keep going. So it's like the first go around is great, but the sequel not so much. Not here. Paul packs his big punch in the SQL.
Now, he writes this letter-- I mentioned he was only there for a few weeks. He writes the church, 1 Thessalonians, probably within the first year. And within just a couple more months he sends him this letter to clarify. If the theme of 1 Thessalonians is the church and Jesus Christ, then the theme of 2 Thessalonians is the world and Antichrist.
So we have a few names for Antichrist in this book. Look in Chapter 2, Verse 3, "Let no one deceive you by any means for that day will not come unless a falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition." Look at Verse 8, "Then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth."
So in two verses, we have three titles for what we call the Antichrist. That's what most of us refer to that coming world leader as, call him the Antichrist. Even though the New Testament has like 50 different titles for him, we have latched on to that one. It's referring here to the same person.
I want to take you to a Chapter 1, Verse 7, because I want to get to something as we bring this to a close. "And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and then those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." These things or these people, "these shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power when he comes in that day to be glorified in his Saints and to be admired among all those who believe because our testimony among you was believed."
Chapter 2, Verse 1, "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him"-- remember that was this theme in 1 Thessalonians, the rapture of the church that's going to take place before the day of the Lord-- "not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled either by spirit or by word or by letter as if from us as though the day of Christ had come."
Now let me throw something out at you. It is believed by New Testament scholars that there was another letter, a forgery. So Paul writes 1 Thessalonians. Somebody else writes a letter in Paul's name, confusing them greatly, filled with false doctrine. So that is for the sake of analogy and argument, 2 Thessalonians. But it's a forgery. Paul writes this letter. Let's just call it 3 Thessalonians, even though Paul only wrote two letters.
They thought that there was a second letter, Paul writes this third letter, which is really his second letter, saying, look, somebody is telling you something that's not true. You've heard about it, or maybe you read about it in that forged letter "as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one"-- Verse 3-- "deceive you by any means for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed. The son of perdition who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped so that he sits as God in the temple of God showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I told you these things?"
Evidently, somebody wrote him a letter. That plus persecution has grown from the first letter to this letter. Here's a tidbit of information that will help. It was first in the town of Thessaloniki that emperor worshipped became a thing, where you had to stand in front of an altar and you were given a libellus that said you were devoted to Caesar. You would say Caesar is Lord, put a pinch of incense on the fire. That was first demanded in the city of Thessaloniki.
So Christians were fiercely loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ, even though it was a brand new church. They weren't doing that. Persecution was arising. So the persecution was getting worse and worse. And Paul had talked about the tribulation period. Some of them are thinking and perhaps this letter, even said, don't you guys know, you're in the tribulation period. The day of the Lord, you're experiencing that now. You're experiencing the wrath of God.
So they were shaken by this, because that means what Paul told them was wrong. And so he's writing shortly after 1 Thessalonians this corrective letter. Don't be soon shaken in mind. Don't be troubled by spirit or by word or by letter as if from us as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you for that day will not come unless a falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.
So he's saying chillax. You're not in the tribulation. The Lord still is going to come at some point.
Verse 4, "He opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. We call this the abomination of desolation. Do you not remember that when I was so with you I told you these things."
Three times in the book of Daniel, he speaks about the abomination of desolation. It happened historically-- I'm going to make this brief-- under a guy by the name of Antiochus IV, Assyrian ruler, desecrated the Temple, worshipped false gods, put the juices of a pig all over the altar in the Temple desecrating it-- the Jews called that the abomination of desolation-- demanded worship for Rome. And even though that happened historically, Jesus comes along in the New Testament and says, yes, but what happened in the past is only indicative of something greater in the future.
For he said this. This is Jesus' words, red letter. "When you see the abomination of desolation as spoken by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place you who are in Jerusalem flee." So he said that he had future. So if you want to know what that looks like eschatologically-- we don't have time now. I was going to do it. But don't have time. Go through the Book of Revelation, Chapter 13, on your own, not now. And you'll find out that what happened historically will be repeated but on steroids in the future, much greater degree. Revelation 13.
Verse 6, "And now you know what is restraining that he may be revealed in his own time." He being the Antichrist, a man of sin, son of perdition. "And now you know what is restraining that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only He"-- noticed that it's capitalized in my Bible. Is it in some of your translations, He capitalized-- "He who now restrains will do so until He"-- also capitalized-- "is taken out of the way. Then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with a breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan with all power signs lying wonders, with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie. That they all may be condemned who did not believe in the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
Who is the one that restrains? It's a He. It's capitalized. At least these translators decided to capitalize it. That is because most theologians believe that He, the one who is restraining, is the Holy Spirit-- the Holy Spirit-- but in a very particular sense. The Holy Spirit in the believer, in the church.
So there comes a point in the future where God removes the he. He takes him out of the way, takes the Holy Spirit out of the way. In what sense could that ever be possible? The rapture of the Church, when all of the Saints, the church, is taken out of the world at the rapture, then the Holy Spirit is taken, not out of the world, but out of the way.
Now I know the Church is not perfect. But the presence of believers in ungodly societies, Jesus said it's like the salt of the Earth. It's like the light of the world. You remove the salt from the meat, it corrodes quickly. You remove the light out of the room, it gets dark instantly. So you remove Christians and the Holy Spirit uniquely living within them, their witness, their presence, out of the world, the Holy Spirit is now out of the way. The restraining influence of the Spirit in the Church is removed.
By the way, Genesis, Chapter 6, the Holy Spirit was working before the flood. But He said, my spirit will not always strive with man. So the spirit of God strives by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. The Church is taken out of the world. The Holy Spirit is taken out of the way. And this will unfold in the future.
Now I'm going to take you to Chapter 3, the last 20 seconds of our study. "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified just as it is with you, that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, for not all have faith." Verse 6, "But we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition, which he received from us."
I'm going to take it down to Verse 12. "Now those who are such we command and exhort through the Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now, may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all"-- the salutation to Paul-- "with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle, so I write the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Historically, the church has looked for what we call the imminent return of Jesus. You know what that means? It means he can come at any moment. The soon return of Jesus Christ. Historically, the church has held to the imminent return of Jesus.
Why? Because of letters like 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians and Titus. I'm going to read one verse out of the book of Titus, Chapter 2, Verse 13. "Looking for"-- what are we looking for? "The blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." We're looking for that.
You say, well, they've been doing that for 2,000 years. Paul and John talked about being in the last days. Yeah, I have a whole explanation for that. I just can't get into it right now, unfortunately. But there are a few more weeks left in the Bible from 30,000 feet. I trust that I'll be able to do that.
Put it this way. There is nothing standing in the way for Jesus to come back tonight. There's nothing that has to be fulfilled. There's not one little piece that has to be. I know people say, well, actually the Gospel has to be preached all around the world because Jesus said that Gospel will preached and then the end will come. They greatly misunderstand that text of scripture. I have elicited that on other occasions.
But there's nothing at all standing in the way for the Lord to come back. We are on borrowed time. And if you don't think that that's the historic position over the Church, you need to study church history. Alexander McLaren couple centuries ago said, "The primitive church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus than about death or about heaven. They were not looking for a cleft in the ground called a grave, but for a cleavage in the sky called glory. They were not watching for the undertaker. They were looking for the uppertaker." I can hear McLaren sang the upper taker in Scottish.
Charles Spurgeon said, "The Lord's coming is possible any day. It is impossible on no day."
G. Campbell Morgan, "I never begin my work in the morning without thinking that he may interrupt it with his work. I'm not looking for the grave. I'm looking for him."
Dwight L. Moody was asked the secret of his success. He said, "For many years I have never given an address without the consciousness that the Lord may come before I have finished."
I would love before I end this prayer tonight for Jesus to rapture us up into heaven. Come on.
Now in closing, there's a difference between looking at the coming of the Lord and looking for the coming of the Lord. Every Christian looks at it. Every Christian reads the same text, makes the same observation. Observation is different from anticipation. It's one thing to look at. It's another thing to look for it, to long for it.
Here's the difference-- a wedding. At a wedding, there are people who are in the audience. They're observing. But then there's the bride. They're looking at it. She's looking for it. She's longing for that day to be joined to her husband.
As members of the bride of Christ, I hope you are longing. I hope, like John, you say even so, come, Lord Jesus, and that you anticipate. I hope you never get tired of that imminent return. I mean, I've been looking for the Lord Jesus for years as a pastor. The older I get and with events that happen, I can't wait. And the undertaker may come. But I'm not looking for him. Looking for the uppertaker. How about you?
Father, the hour is getting late, both literally and spiritually. We are living in the end of days. Lord, we are longing for your return. We want that next chapter to be kicked into gear. The time when Jesus takes over, purges the Earth of wickedness, brings a kingdom age, and all the glories that we read about in scripture become reality. I pray you get us ready for the return. I pray if somebody's here tonight who doesn't know you, that they would say yes to you. They would invite Jesus into their life, into their heart, as Savior and Lord and Master. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from "The Bible from 30,000 Feet."