Jesus Christ brings to the world something it desperately needs: Hope. And by hope, I don’t just mean wishful thinking. I mean real hope. In Scripture when the Bible uses the word “hope,” it’s referring to something we can expect with confidence, a sure thing. (Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
For the believer that hope includes a guaranteed home in heaven, and the sure return of the Lord Himself. That kind of hope should be overflowing our lives. It should be contagious.
(1) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
(2) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
(3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
We Share the Same Hope the Thessalonians Had
Paul assured the Thessalonians that they were “delivered from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). In the Greek, that phrase is in the present tense: “…even Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” It is something in which Christ is actively engaged. It’s why Peter referred to what we have as a “lively hope” (1 Peter 1:2-3). When they served idols, the Thessalonians had no hope. Paul described the Ephesians in similar fashion when he said of them prior to their conversion:
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
Hope in Other Gods is Hopeless
The Greek and Roman gods were much like the superheroes of the movies today, except they were worshipped as real. Worse yet, the gods of Greece and Rome had human vices in god-like proportions. So, in a sense, they were just like the people that worshipped them and worse. In the mythology of the day, the gods were notorious for using their powers to mess with people’s lives, and with vices and tempers in god-like proportions, it was all their worshippers could do to keep them happy. Still, one of the idol-worshippers’ hopes was that one of the gods, any of the gods, would come and actually visit them on earth (Acts 14:11-14). On the other hand, insightful individuals saw the gods for the sham that they were: Just cunningly devised fabrications. So, for skeptic and true worshipper alike, there was no real hope in idols.
Then Paul shows up in Thessalonica and tells them of Jesus Christ: God Who came to earth in physical form to meet with man. Jesus Christ the living God. And he did more than just visit, He appeased God’s wrath against man. When Paul refers to Jesus as the “propitiation,” (Romans 3:25. See also 1 John 2:2; 4:10) he was using a term that idol worshippers knew only too well. The gods were notorious for their wrath. They demanded sacrifices to appease that wrath, propitiations. But no sacrifice could fully satisfy. Christ, not only satisfied God’s wrath, He sacrificed Himself on the cross to make it happen, and His resurrection is proof that God’s wrath was completely satisfied.
In Jesus Christ, the Thessalonians who turned to Him had real hope in a real living God Who was both holy and merciful!
In Scripture, Hope and Assurance Are Synonymous
So, first and foremost, the Thessalonians had the assurance (a.k.a. hope) that their sins were forgiven:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1a).
They also had the hope (a.k.a. assurance) of Christ’s return for His own (John 14:3). Both of these doctrines are evident in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10:
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
(9) For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
(10) And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Christ has saved us from God’s wrath and now we “wait for his Son from heaven.” According to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Lord will come for His church in the air. This will be followed by what is known as the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). Once that is completed, Christ will return to the earth with (not for) His saints (2Thess 1:5-10; Revelation 19:11-21).
When Paul talks about believers waiting for Christ’s return, the word translated “wait” means to “await someone with patience and confidence, expectantly” (Wiersbe, Be Ready, p. 38).
Christ often liked to compare His return for believers to the traditional Jewish weddings of His day. Back then, the focus of a wedding was not on the bride, but on the groom. Ahead of the wedding, the groom would go away and prepare a new home for himself and his wife-to-be (John 14:2). When his preparations were complete, he would return for his bride. The bride had no idea when her groom would come for her. She only knew that he would come for her (Mark 13:33). So, she could only excitedly anticipate. When her husband-to-be finally did arrive, it was with great fanfare, a day to be remembered and celebrated. For her part, the bride needed to be prepared, ready to go at any moment. The need for the bride and those of her entourage to be ready is graphically described in Matthew 25 where Christ gives the parable of the 10 virgins (25:1-13).
To liken this kind of anticipation in terms we can better relate to, think about a couple expecting a child. There is excitement over the news that a child is on its way, and lots of preparation. There are baby showers; there is the process of deciding upon names; there is getting the baby’s room ready, buying the crib, choosing clothes, etc. The excited couple knows the arrival is future, but they prepare now, and they are so excited about the arrival, they are willing to tell nearly anyone about it, sometimes even total strangers!
Waiting for the Lord’s Return in No Way Means Idleness
Luke records Jesus’ very succinct words regarding our part in His return: “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). These solemn words were part of another of Jesus’ parables, the one about the 10 talents that a master had given to his 10 servants, one talent each. The Lord says the “nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.” Prior to his departure, he distributed these 10 talents to his servants. Upon his return, he held each of his servants to account. To their credit, most of the servants had used their talent wisely and produced more. Only one failed to do his part, and what little he had, was taken away and given to the servant who had been most productive (Luke 19:12-26). One of the errors Paul had to address with the Thessalonians was the mistaken idea that the inevitable Lord’s return meant that one could be idle, since He was coming back soon. Paul was very clear that this was not the case (2 Thessalonians 3:11-13). If nothing else, the fact of the Lord’s return is strong motivation to be soul winners!
Are you excitedly anticipating the Lord’s return? Are you doing everything you can to be ready for that time? Beyond preparing yourself, are you encouraging others to prepare themselves? When it comes to the Lord’s return, we should be like a couple expecting a newborn: we should be getting ready and telling anyone who will listen! Are we, as believers, spreading the good news?