Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1108 MP3 Audio File Video File

Yahweh's Wrath on Christ's Killers - Pt 1

(1 Thess. 2:13-16)

Delivered 03/20/22

We are continuing our study of 1 Thessalonians this morning. And today we will be looking at verses 13-16 of chapter 2. This section of the letter in 2:13-3:13 is a second declaration of Paul's thankfulness for the Thessalonian Christians and is unusual for a Pauline letter. Paul expresses his thanks to God for the community a total of four times in 1:2, 2:13, 3:9 and 5:18. Paul is thankful for their faith and how they received the message as the very Word of God.

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV

"And we also thank God constantly for this." The Greek sentence begins with the words "And for this reason" which is kai dia touto. Scholars are divided over whether "for this reason" applies to what Paul has just said or to what he is about to say. It may mean, "Because God has saved you through the gospel and called you into His kingdom and glory, we constantly give thanks." Or, it could mean, "Because you received the word we preached to you not as our word, but as God's word, we constantly give thanks." According to the context, the Greek construction may look backward or forward, but here the context shows it looks forward to what follows. The following clause begins with "because" (hoti), which introduces the reason for their thanksgiving.

"Thank God Constantly." This is literally "we are giving thanks to God without ceasing." Constantly here is the Greek adverb adialeiptōs which means "without interruption, continually, regularly." It is used in Romans 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13 and 5:17. In each passage it has to do with some aspect of prayer.

"That when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God." What is Paul saying here? Bottom line, he is saying that what you heard from us was not man's word but the word of God.

Paul uses two words for receiving the Word: "received" and "accepted." "Received" is paralambano which means "to receive from another," but it is especially used in the New Testament of receiving a message or body of instruction or doctrine. It is an aorist active participle which shows the necessity of a personal response. It stresses the fact the message was delivered to them and they heard it with their own ears in a teaching environment. The Greek construction lays stress on the nature of the message as being God's message, and not man's.

Paralambano is a compound of the term found in John 1.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, John 1:12 ESV

"You accepted."  This the Greek word dechomai which means to receive in the sense of "welcome." The first word, Paralambo, means the message was delivered to them. The second word, dechomai, means to welcome someone as a guest. In this context, one must welcome the gospel. The New Testament describes the gospel as both a person and a message. These synonymous terms describe the need for a human response to the gospel. Fallen mankind must believe the gospel. The false teaching of universalism says you don't need to believe the gospel; everybody is automatically saved.

Paul says that they received it "not as the word of men." The Bible is emphatically not just the word of men. Men were merely the human instruments for transmission of the message of God, but God Himself was the author.

While the church has other responsibilities, nothing is more important than the proclamation of the Word. The teaching of the Word is fundamental to everything else from the standpoint of truth versus error, authority, direction, motivation, and life itself.

Christ is the foundation of the church, but what we believe about Yeshua comes from the Word. In essence then, knowing the Word is foundational to everything else. Therefore, our number one priority is the Word and not social reform, social ministries, fundraising, programs, or administration.

What I see happening today is that the teaching of Scripture is being bumped and replaced by other interests and concerns. As a result, most of churchianity are biblically and doctrinally illiterate.

This decline has been going on for some time in America. In 1924, 1300 ministers of the northern Presbyterian Church U.S.A. signed and circulated the Auburn Affirmation. The document stated that none of the signers believed the Bible to be inerrant. They agreed with Karl Barth's declaration that the apostles, even in their official Apostolic letters, have made false statements. The Auburn affirmation then added that the virgin birth, the miracles, the atonement, and the resurrection are not essential to Christianity.

The inerrancy of Scripture is foundational to Christianity. If Paul's assertion that the gospel came from God is false, we have no means of knowing how often he and the other biblical writers have deceived us.

In an internet article written in 2019, Andrew Perriman asked: "Would it bother Paul that Jesus still hasn't come again 2000 years later?" He answered that "Paul got it wrong, but not by much" and "He was wrong, as it turned out. The churches endured a precarious existence, with sporadic bouts of persecution, for the next two to three hundred years."

Paul got it wrong? No, he did not. Paul says that what he preaches is the Word of God, and God makes no mistakes.

Verse 13 implies that to know God better, we must know his word in Scripture because as we get to know his word, we begin increasingly to think God's thoughts after him and to do what pleases him.

If you truly believe that God's word is not the word of men, but rather, the word of God, you will read it to learn what it means and how it applies to every area of your life. If you're going through trials, the word gives real life stories of men and women of faith who endured trials and persecution so that we can imitate their faith. The explicit teachings of God's word can only perform their work in you if you are in the word.

John Stott stated that "If this book is indeed the Word of God, then away with slovenly, [slov-in-ly] slipshod exegesis! We have to make time to penetrate the text until it yields up its treasures. Only when we have ourselves absorbed its message, can we confidently share it with others." [John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds, The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1982, p. 182].

On the other hand, here is what the Catholic Church has to say: "As a result, the church to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence" (Dei Verbum, 9; CCC82).

At the heart of verse 13 is the nature and character of the Bible as the living Word of God. Without this book as the Word of God, we have no real message and we are left to the everchanging ideas of men and human reasoning.

"Which is at work in you believers."  This is a present active adjectival participle and describes the Thessalonians as believers. It is equivalent to the words "you believers." The word "work" is related to the English cognate "energy." Paul personified the gospel as continuing to energize believers! The verb "work" is almost always used in the New Testament of some form of supernatural activity. God’s Word works. It doesn’t simply bring information or produce feelings. There is power in the word of God to change lives.

Jonathan Edwards is known for his early eighteenth-century sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," a message he preached on one occasion at Enfield, Connecticut, by reading from a manuscript in a monotone voice. As he preached the sermon, there was a rousing effect of repentance in the hearers, which was not due to his oratorical ability but to the power of God working through the words he preached. The same was apparently true with Paul's ministry of the word at Thessalonica.

Before we leave this verse, let me ask you a question. Why is Paul thanking Yahweh for what the Thessalonians did? They received and accepted the Word of God so why does Paul thank God for this? Thanking God for something assumes that what Paul is thanking him for is something he has done for us and not something we partly brought about by ourselves. Men are deft dumb and blind to the Scriptures until God gives them life.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV

Notice carefully what this verse says: "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God…". That would definitely include His Word. Paul says that "He is not able to understand them." Who is the natural man? The word "natural" comes from the Greek word psuchikos. Jude uses this same Greek word.

It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. Jude 1:19 ESV

Jude says, "worldly people, devoid of the Spirit." The natural man, then, is the man without the Spirit of God. God's effectual calling (i.e., regeneration) is absolutely necessary because apart from it, man has no ability to understand or desire the things of God.

Two things are true of the natural man. First of all, he does not "accept" the things of the Spirit of God. The word that is used here for "accept" is dechomai, a word used for receiving guests. This is the same Greek word used in our text in 2:13 where Paul writes "you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God." Paul says that the natural man cannot "accept" the things of the Spirit but the Thessalonians did "accept" them because God had given them the Spirit and life.

Secondly, the natural man is not able to "understand" the things of the Spirit. He can't know them because they are spiritually discerned. The word "discerned" is a legal term that was used for a preliminary hearing, and it came to mean "scrutinize, to examine, or make a judgement." The natural man has no capacity to spiritually evaluate these things because he does not have the Spirit of God. The natural man is like a man trying to pick up a radio station without a radio receiver—he cannot do it. He does not have the equipment to receive spiritual things because he does not have the Holy Spirit.

Paul thanks only God because without God's prior inward work the readers would not have been able to receive the word. They had listened to the voices of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, but they heard what their proclamation actually was—the word of God.

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Yeshua that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV

Paul comforted these suffering Christians with the assurance that they were not the first to suffer this way. The Lord Yeshua faced persecution, and the Christians in Judea faced it first. Additionally, Paul and his associates were also persecuted. The Thessalonian Christians became imitators of those who had suffered before them.

"For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Yeshua that are in Judea." Paul had already said that the Thessalonians’ sufferings were an "imitation" of the apostles and the Lord in 1:6. Now he says they were imitators of the experience of the churches in Judea that suffered for their faith.

"The churches of God in Christ Yeshua." This is a very interesting little phrase. Notice that it is plural ("churches"). There is one church in the sense that we are all one in Christ, but the Scripture is very clear that there are also local assemblies identified as individual churches.

The phrase "in Christ Yeshua" is the locative of sphere case which means "in" or "surrounded by"—an atmosphere, like a fish in water. A very common Pauline expression, it speaks of the believers’ union with Yeshua. We live and move and have our being in Him. For an example of Paul's use of this form look at Ephesians 1:3-14.

Exactly how the church in Thessalonica imitated the churches in Judea is explained in the last part of the verse: "For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews." Paul also compares their suffering with the persecution of the Christians in the churches in Judea. This was a severe persecution which included the deaths of the Christian martyrs, Stephen and James, son of Zebedee. The persecution against the Thessalonian church began during the time when Paul and his companions were in the city and continued afterward. Listen to what he is saying. This brand-new church in Thessalonica was dealing with persecution the same as an older mature church because they too were abiding in Christ. They were walking in obedience to the Spirit of God and the Word of God.

A major key to the ability to handle suffering is understanding what the Bible says about it. The Bible teaches us that suffering is a tool that God uses like a master craftsman to promote our growth, build our faith, transform our lives, change our sources of trust, change our values and priorities or remove the dross, demonstrate His power, and enhance our testimony to both men and angels.

The Bible teaches that suffering is a gift from God (Philippians, 1: 29), a gift for which one can and should give thanks. Believers, we need to understand that suffering is the "stadium" in which we run the race of faith.

Corrie ten Boom relates in The Hiding Place an incident that taught her to be thankful continually. When she and her sister, Betsy, were taken to a horribly inhumane German prison camp named Ravensbruck, they had to live in flea-infested and overcrowded barracks. The morning they arrived, they read together 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, "be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances. " Afterward, Betsy told Corrie to thank God for every aspect of their new lodgings. Corrie initially would not thank God for the fleas, but her sister persisted, and Corrie finally gave in. As the ensuing months passed, they were surprised to discover how freely they could conduct Bible studies and prayer meetings without the guards interfering. Later they found out that they could do so many things openly because the guards would not come into the barracks for fear of becoming infested with fleas (cited from Green 1989: 376-77).

"Your own countrymen." Many see this as referring to Gentiles. But the word "countrymen" is the Greek sumphuletēs. This is it’s only use in the New Testament. Strong defines it as "a co-tribesman, that is, native of the same country: - countryman." This term does not define a people racially but embraces all who live within a locality. We might understand that it was not only the Gentiles but also the Jews who continued to oppress the church.

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Yeshua that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV

Both of these words, Judea and Jews, are from the Greek Ioudaios. They were imitating the suffering that the churches in Judea suffered from the Judeans. They were suffering from their countrymen just like the Judeans suffered from their countrymen.

Now watch the sudden switch of topic. As Paul mentions the word "Ioudaios" at the end of verse 14, it triggers something in his heart and in a passage initially designed to commend the Thessalonian church and thank God for what they are, he launches a tirade against the Ioudaians.

who killed both the Lord Yeshua and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last! 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 ESV

Paul’s strong words here against the Jews have led some Scholars to argue against the authenticity of this section, saying that it is an interpolation into the letter. They think that Paul didn’t write this but that it was inserted by a later scribe. But there is no manuscript evidence to support such a conclusion. Others accuse Paul of being anti-Semitic, but that’s ridiculous. If he was anti-Semitic, then so was Yeshua, who pronounced judgment on the Jewish leaders and on the Jewish nation for their sin of unbelief.

The accusation against the Jewish opposition is laid out in six points. The first indictment is "Who killed both the Lord Yeshua." Paul says that it was the Ioudaians that killed the Christ. Yeshua predicted this in his parable of the tenants of the vineyard.

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Matthew 21:38-39 ESV

Peter taught this as well.

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Yeshua of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Yeshua, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:22-23 ESV

Peter accuses the Jews of killing the "author of life."

and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. Acts 3:15 ESV

Over and again the Gospels and Acts show the responsibility of the Jewish community in Jerusalem for this deed, including both the religious authorities and the populace in general (Mark 3:6; 14:1; 15:14–15; John 5:18; 7:1; 8:59; 11:45–53; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13–15; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52).

Notice that the Jews killed Yeshua "according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." God the Father, by His predetermined plan and for His redemptive purposes, killed His own Son. Put another way, without God’s plan and permission, Christ would never have died on the cross.

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Yeshua, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:27-28 ESV

Yahweh is sovereign and everything that happens is according to His perfect plan.

The second indictment is "Who killed…the prophets." Not only were the Jewish people responsible for the death of Yeshua; they also had a long history of killing the messengers of God.

When Yahweh asked Elijah why he was hiding in a cave, he answered Him,

He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." 1 Kings 19:10 ESV

The rejection and martyrdom of the prophets are presented as the evidence of the rebellion of Israel against his plan. In Acts 7, Stephen says to the Jewish leaders, "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the righteous One whose betrayers and murderers you have now become."

Indictment number three, "and drove us out." From the earliest days after his conversion, Paul had faced almost continual opposition from the Jews. They would have killed him while he was still in Damascus immediately after his conversion, but he narrowly escaped (Acts 9:23-25). When he first went to Jerusalem, they again tried to kill him so that he had to flee to Tarsus (Acts 9:30-31). While he served the church in Antioch and then wherever he went, the Judaizers dogged his steps, trying to undermine his gospel. As we have seen in our study of 1 Thessalonians, the same fierce opposition happened in Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth.

Indictment number four, "and displease God." The present tense of the verb used here stresses this as a constant condition for the Jewish nation as a whole (excluding the believing remnant). The sad thing is that they thought they were actually pleasing God when they persecuted Christians while in reality, they were doing the opposite. Yeshua said to his disciples.

They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. John 16:2-3 ESV

The Jews believed they were His servants defending the faith against false teachers (Paul knew these feelings well). Tragically ironic, they were the false teachers who were displeasing God.

Indictment number five, "and oppose all mankind." The hostility of the Jews against the rest of humanity was a characterization that frequently appeared in ancient authors. Tacitus, the Roman historian, says that they were loyal to one another "but toward every other people they feel only hate and enmity" (Histories 5.5).

Philostratus, (called "the Athenian"), was a Greek sophist of the Roman imperial period. He stated: "For the Jews have long been in revolt not only against the Romans, but against humanity; and a race that has made its own a life apart and irreconcilable, that cannot share with the rest of mankind in the pleasure of the table nor join in their libations or prayer or sacrifices, are separated from ourselves by a greater gulf than divides us from Susa or Bactra or the more distant Indies" (Vita Apollonii 5.33).

Diodorus Siculus, an ancient Greek historian, observed that the Jews "alone of all nations avoided dealings with any other people and looked upon all men as their enemies" and that "the Jews had made their hatred of mankind into a tradition" (34.1.1–2; and see 40.3.4–5; Juvenal, Satires 14.96–106).

by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last! 1 Thessalonians 2:16 ESV

This is indictment number six, "By hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved." The fierce opposition of the Jews was due to the fact that Christian missionaries offered salvation to Gentiles without demanding that they first become Jews.

Yahweh announced through the prophets his intention to extend his salvation to the Gentiles.

he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6 ESV

Nations here is goy, referring to Gentiles. This plan was realized through the apostolic mission to the Gentiles that became one of the most significant and problematic issues in the early church.

"So as always to fill up the measure of their sins." The exact Greek phrase is found in the Septuagint of.

And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." Genesis 15:16 ESV

The statement echoes a theme that appears over and again in biblical and extrabiblical literature, namely, that the sins of a people come up to their complete measure before divine judgment is poured out upon them.

Judgment will come upon Israel, as upon the other nations, when they "fill up the measure of their sins." This perspective is based on the teaching of Yeshua, who said,

Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to Gehenna? Therefore, I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, Matthew 23:31-34 ESV

By the time of Christ and Paul, they had reached the apex of their apostasy. It wasn't the beginning of their rebellion. It was, in a real sense, the end of it. They rebelled against God's Word and God's salvation in the wilderness as soon as they had left Egypt when they started worshiping an idol, resulting in thousands of them being killed and a whole generation never entering the Promised Land. No sooner were they in the Promised land than they were seduced into idolatry. God gave them promises of blessing or cursing in Deuteronomy 28 and tragically they chose the curses. They gave themselves to the worship of Baal and other gods. The whole story is one long tragedy as they continually turned away from God, ultimately ending up captive to pagans. And even after they came back to their land, it was never like God wanted it and by the time Christ came, they were apostate hypocrites.

"But wrath has come upon them at last." The commentators and Scholars have many opinions as to what wrath this is. Some say it refers to Israel’s present hardening. Some say it is an eschatological wrath (which I agree with) but they mean an end-of-the- world wrath. A number of authors have noted that during A.D. 49, the Jewish people suffered greatly, including their expulsion from Rome by Claudius’s decree and the massacre of thousands of Jews in the temple during the Passover of 49.

I believe that the wrath here is referring to the judgment of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. But notice that the translators say here that the wrath "has come." That is referring to something in the past. The verb here is phthanō, an aorist indicative. This use of the aorist tense, I believe, affirms something that is so inevitable and so certain that it can be spoken of as if it has already come to pass.

The verb phthanō could be used like some past-tense verbs in the Old Covenant called "prophetic perfects." Such verbs in the past tense would be used in prophetic sections to refer to future events—events so certain to happen that the prophet would underscore this certainty by referring to them in the past tense, as if they had already happened. This future event described with the "prophetic" aorist tense is the destruction of Israel in A.D. 70

Daniel B, Wallace says "The aorist indicative can be used to describe an event that is not yet past as though it were already completed. This usage is not at all common, though several exegetically significant texts involve possible proleptic aorists." [Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics]

S.L. Johnson writes, "They were described in the past tense because it was so certain that they would come to pass and so that use of a tense of completed action, a perfect tense, to describe events of the future, clearly from the context they were future, was called in Hebrew grammar as the prophetic perfect. Now that is what we have here."

The "wrath" here refers to the judgment meted out against the nation of Israel for her constant stiff-necked condition as prophesied in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. This "wrath" is the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of A.D. 70 when the Roman armies would march on Jerusalem and burn it to the ground.

This is the same "wrath" that Paul mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 1.

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Yeshua who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ESV

"Yeshua who delivers us from the wrath to come." What wrath is this? This is the wrath that Yeshua predicated would come upon Jerusalem and all who reject Yeshua at the second coming. Who are the "us" that Yeshua delivers from the wrath? It is Paul and the Thessalonians. If they are going to be delivered from the wrath, they must be around when the wrath happens.

Paul also mentions this wrath in 1 Thessalonians 5.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Yeshua the Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5:9 ESV

Again the "us" are Paul and the Thessalonians. This wrath was coming in their lifetime.

Notice what Paul tells them in the second letter.

since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Yeshua. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 ESV

They are going to get relief "when" the Lord Yeshua was revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (e.g., the Second Coming). The NIV Cultural Background Study Bible states that the Theme of this letter is: "Unable to physically be with the new believers, Paul encourages their faith and strengthens their hope in view of Christ's imminent return."

This was written in the first century to suffering believers promising them relief at the Second Coming. If that Second Coming is still future, how would it give relief to the believers in Thessalonica? Their relief was to come at Christ's return.

by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last! 1 Thessalonians 2:16 ESV

Using the aorist indicative, Paul says, "But wrath has come upon them at last" because the Jews killed both the Lord Yeshua and the prophets, because they drove us out, because they displease God and oppose all mankind, and because of they are hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles about the wrath that has come upon them. This is the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and Judaism in A.D. 70. This is what Yeshua called the "great tribulation."

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21 ESV

This judgment of the great tribulation was complete and irreversible for Israel. The Old Covenant is no more, there are no more racial Israelites, and there is no more a national Israel—not now, not ever. Yahweh’s wrath in A.D. 70 destroyed the Christ killers. We’ll look more at this wrath next week.

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