We are continuing our study of 1 Thessalonians this morning. We finished our last study looking at verse 18.
But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 ESV
In verses 17 and 18 Paul shares his deep desire to be with these people whom he loved very much. Do you remember what the Greek word translated "torn away from you" means? The word is aporphanizō which was used of being orphaned. By using this term orphaned, Paul is saying that it was an emotionally painful ordeal!
Due to reasons beyond his control, he couldn’t come to them. He tells them that Satan hindered them. We looked last time at the different views of Satan, and I shared my view that Satan, demons, and unclean spirits are real beings but were all defeated and destroyed in AD 70 at the return of Christ when judgment took place.
When Paul says that Satan hindered them, I think he may have in mind the Jews who were constantly persecuting him. But behind those people, was the spiritual power of Satan, the divine being, the fallen watcher.
This morning we will be looking at the last two verses of chapter 2.
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Yeshua at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 ESV
Here Paul continues to let the Thessalonians know that he deeply loves them and would be with them if he could. He is responding to the fact that there were enemies in Thessalonica who were attacking his motives with these new converts. They were saying things like, "If Paul really loved and cared about you, he wouldn’t have left you so soon and his failure to return shows he doesn’t care about you. Paul is assuring them that that is not true.
"For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Yeshua at his coming." The possessive pronoun "our" reminds us that this was a team effort. Hope involves what has not taken place but is confidently expected through faith. The text declares these believers were themselves the hope of Paul and his companions. Their hope is focused on God’s work in the Thessalonians’ lives.
They were also the ministry team’s joy. This is much like John’s having no greater joy than seeing his children walk in truth (3 John 4). As the following verse and 3:9 show us, the Thessalonians are already the joy of the writers. But the orientation of this verse is eschatological. Paul and his companions will have joy at the coming of the Lord because of the Thessalonians and their faith.
Paul and his associates anticipate an eschatological time of boasting in the Thessalonians. At the time of the coming of the Lord, they will receive a crown in which they will boast.
This is similar to what Paul said to the Philippians.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. Philippians 4:1 ESV
He tells the Philippians that they are his "joy and crown." The word "crown" is from the Greek word stephanos. It was a wreath awarded to the victor at an athletic contest. Stephanos is used in 1 Corinthians 9.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:25 ESV
Athletes receive a crown, but this word is also used of a wreath which guests were crowned with when they sat at a banquet during some time of great joy. Paul is saying that the Thessalonian Christians would be regarded as his reward and the proof that his labor had not been in vain in the Lord.
"Is it not you"—the Thessalonian believers were a powerful witness to Paul's effective work as an Apostle to the Gentiles.
"For you are our glory and joy"—many of the New Testament writers talk about the glory and joy that they anticipate at the Second Coming. Peter says,
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 ESV
The revealing of His glory is a reference to the Second Coming. Jude puts it this way.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, Jude 1:24 ESV
And Paul tells the Philippians.
holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:16 ESV
Paul calls the Second Coming the "day of Christ." It is clear from all his letters that Paul expected Christ to return in his lifetime. He believed this because Christ had taught his disciples that he would (Matthew 16:27-28).
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Yeshua at his coming? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 ESV
Commenting on verse 19, Steven Cole writes, "We learn here that Jesus is Lord and He is coming again bodily to be with us." Do you see anything about "bodily" here? There is no Scripture that explicitly teaches that Yeshua would return in a physical, bodily fashion. But there are many texts that tell us that his coming would be "soon" to His first-century audience. An understanding of the language of Scripture will help us see that His coming was not to be physical but was to be a coming in judgment on Old Covenant Israel. The judgment was physical; His presence was not.
"At His coming"—the time of this event, the time when their hope will be fulfilled, the time of their joy, the time of their boasting before the Lord will be "at his coming. "Coming" here is the Greek word Parousia which literally meaning "presence," and by metaphorical extension, means "coming." To the disciples, the "parousia" of the son of man signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship, His glorious appearing in power as Lord. William Barclay says of "parousia," "It is the regular word for the arrival of a governor into his province or for the coming of a king to his subjects. It regularly describes a coming in authority and in power."
As Barclay says, it was used in secular literature of the first century for a royal visit by a king. It came to have a technical meaning in the church for the Second Coming. This coming of Yeshua is the theological focus of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends on this note (cf. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23).
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Yeshua at his coming? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 ESV
Most references to the Second Coming have a time indicator with them. But here Paul gives no time indicator concerning the Parousia, but we know from chapter 1 that Paul expected it in this lifetime.
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
The Thessalonians were waiting for Yeshua to come from heaven at his Second Coming. If the Lord has not yet returned over 2,000 years later, as the majority of the church today believes, why were they waiting on Him in the first century? Would you wait for something that you would never experience?
Wait is from the Greek word anameno. It is found only here in the New Testament, but it occurs four times in the Septuagint. Anameno is from ana ("upon"). Vines says it intensifies the meaning of meno ("abide or remain"). It conveys the meaning of expectant waiting—sustained, patient, trusting waiting. It pictures an eager looking forward to the coming of one whose arrival was anticipated at any time, whose coming is expected. BDAG says it means "to wait for, expect someone or something." You wouldn’t wait for something that you didn’t expect to happen.
I think that the fact that the first-century believers in Thessalonica were waiting for Christ’s coming from heaven tells us that they expected to see it in their lifetime. Other verses in this letter imply that they expected this coming during their lifetime.
For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ESV
Coming here is also Parousia. Do you remember when I said this letter was written? It was written in A.D. 50/51. So, the imminent coming of the Lord was 19 to 20 years away at the time of the writing. During this time some of them would die, but some would be alive at the coming.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ESV
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 1 Thessalonians 5:4 ESV
The first-century Thessalonian believers looked for the Second Coming in their lifetime. They expected to see it.
We don’t have a time statement in our text this morning, but we know they expected the Parousia to happen in their lifetime. We can get a timeline of the Parousia by looking at what the Scriptures say happens at the Parousia. Parousia is used twenty-four times in the New Testament. Sixteen of those twenty-four, or two out of three, are eschatological and refer to the Second Coming.
What happens at the Parousia? We know from our study in Matthew that judgment happens at the Parousia.
Yeshua left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:1-3 ESV
Matthew uses the word "parousia" for coming. He connects the Parousia and the destruction of the Jewish Temple which was a judgment from God. Then later in the chapter, he reveals that the Parousia would happen "in this generation" (the generation he was speaking to, the first-century generation).
G.K. Beale in his commentary on 1 Thessalonians writes, "The idea of judgment, while not explicit in 2:19, is implicit in the Greek word parousia (‘presence, coming’). The word is used outside the New Testament to refer to the coming visit or arrival of a king to a city, whose ‘visitations’ were revered and sometimes even feared. More to the point, Jesus' activity as judge is in view when Paul and other New Testament writers apply parousia to Christ's final coming."
I think that Beale is right. The idea of judgment is implicit in the Greek word Parousia. The disciples connect the destruction of the temple with Christ's Parousia. They said, "Tell us, when will these things be, (referring to the Temple’s destruction) and what will be the sign of your coming (Parousia)?" The disciples knew the Tanakh and they knew that the destruction of Jerusalem would usher in Messiah's kingdom.
Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. Zechariah 14:1-5 ESV
In the day of the Lord, Jerusalem is destroyed, and the Lord comes with his saints. Also, look at Daniel 9.
And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. Daniel 9:26 ESV
The disciples believed that the coming of Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and the temple. The Temple was destroyed in AD 70 and so we know that that is when the Parousia happened.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7 ESV
This passage speaks of Christ's Second Coming in judgment on Israel. Cloud comings in the Tanakh are frequently prophetic emblems of God's judgment on the nations. The coming spoken of in Revelation is to be upon those "who pierced Him." Who is that? The New Testament continually points out that those who pierced Christ were the first-century Jews. Also, those who pierced Christ are "the tribes of the earth" (or the land), which refers to the promised land, or Israel. The book of Revelation introduces its readers to the theology of judgment and, specifically, God's judgment sanctions against the nation of Israel. Israel had crucified the Lord and publicly called God's judgment down on themselves.
And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Matthew 27:25 ESV
God's judgment on Israel in AD 70 matched their crime—the crucifixion of Christ. This crime was the worst in history, so their punishment was also the worst in history. To call anything else "the Great Tribulation" is to downplay the immensity of that generation's crime. At the Parousia in AD 70 judgment came upon Israel.
Another thing that was to happen at the Parousia was the resurrection.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ESV
Here Paul says that "at his coming those who belong to Christ will be resurrected." The word "coming" here is Parousia. When Christ returned the dead were raised. Notice what Yeshua teaches.
Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:40-43 ESV
At the end of the (Jewish) age, the Son of Man returned (Parousia) with His angels to judge the wicked and reward the righteous. We see from verse 43 that this is also a time of resurrection. Verse 43 is a quotation of Daniel 12:
"At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:1-3 ESV
Verse 1 speaks of the great tribulation of Mark 13:19-20, was to be a time of deliverance for the elect of God. We see this same idea in 2 Thessalonians 1.
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
Verse 2 of Daniel 12 tells us that at this time the resurrection takes place. Those resurrected are either given everlasting life or everlasting contempt. We see this same idea in Matthew 25. Verse 3 of Daniel 12 is the verse that is quoted in Matthew 13. Thus, the coming of the Son of Man, in Matthew 25:31, is the same as His coming in Matthew 13:41, which is the same event spoken of by Daniel in 12:1-3. This all happened in AD 70 and was manifested by Jerusalem's destruction.
According to Paul the resurrection was to happen soon.
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. Acts 24:14-15 ESV
Notice how Young's Literal Translation translates this.
having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; Acts 24:15 YLT
The words "there will be" in the ESV are from the Greek word mello. Whenever mello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated "about to." Paul told his first-century audience that "there is about to be a resurrection."
If we are going to understand what Paul is saying about the resurrection, we must understand "audience relevance." Paul is not talking to us; he is talking to Felix, Ananias, Tertullus, and the elders. Paul told them that there was about to be a resurrection. If the timing of the resurrection was "soon," what does this tell us about the nature of the resurrection? It must be spiritual! Time defines nature.
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:23 ESV
Clearly, then, if the resurrection was to happen at the Parousia and the Parousia was to happen soon, in the first century, then the resurrection was also to happen soon. As Paul said, it was about to happen.
We have seen that even though there is no time indicator in our text, we know from many other Scriptures that the Parousia was to happen in the first century. And connected to the Parousia is the judgment which we know happened in AD 70. And we also know that the resurrection was connected to the Parousia, and we see that that also happened in AD 70.
What else is connected to the Parousia in Scripture? We always hear about the big three—the Parousia, the judgment and the resurrection. But something else in Scripture is connected to the Parousia. Salvation (eternal life) is tied to the Parousia.
Salvation is tied to eschatology. I’m not saying that if your eschatology is wrong you aren’t saved. I’m saying that historically salvation was not complete until Christ’s Parousia. How much salvation you currently think you have depends on your eschatological view. If you were to die right now, where would you go? How you answer that should depend on your eschatology. According to the Bible no one goes to heaven prior to the second coming. Look at what Yeshua said.
who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. Mark 10:30 ESV
I want you to notice the last phrase in this verse: "And in the age to come, eternal life." Luke uses these same words.
who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life." Luke 18:30 ESV
What does Yeshua mean when He says they will receive "eternal life" in the age to come? Commenting on "and in the age to come eternal life," Swete says it is "The age which is to follow the Parousia." Is he saying that no one has eternal life until the Second Coming of Christ? Sounds like it.
Commenting on "and in the age to come eternal life," Wuest Word Studies says that "The authorities are silent on all this, and the present writer confesses that he is at a loss to suggest an interpretation. The best he can do is offer the usage of the Greek words in question."
As is obvious, this phrase is troubling to many. To understand what Yeshua is saying, we need to understand that all through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age," and the "age to come." The understanding of these two ages and when they changed is fundamental to interpreting the Bible and understanding when eternal life is received.
The New Testament writers lived in the age that they called "this age." To the New Testament writers, "the age to come" was future, but it was very near because "this age," the age they lived in, was about to end.
"This age" came to an end with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. The New Testament writers lived in what the Bible calls "this age." "This age" of the Bible is the age of the Old Covenant that was about to pass away in the first century. It should be clear to you that "this age" is not the Christian age in which we live. In the first century, the age of the Old Covenant was fading away and would end completely when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.
If eternal life was a condition of the "age to come," then does this mean that the New Testament saints who lived in "this age" did not yet have eternal life? Or we could ask the question this way: When did believers receive eternal life? To answer that question, we first need to understand that prior to Yeshua's messianic work, man did not go to Heaven. When men died, they went to a holding place of the dead and waited for the atoning work of Christ and the resurrection from the dead. In the Tanakh, the Hebrew word for where they were prior to the resurrection is Sheol. In the New Testament, the Greek word is Hades.
If Yeshua has not yet returned in his Second Coming, then no one has eternal life. Look again at 1 Thessalonians 4.
For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ESV
If the dead have not yet been resurrected, which happens at the Second Coming, then no one is yet in heaven. But where do most Christians believe that they go at death? Heaven! Have you ever been to a Christian funeral?
Heaven was not opened until the Second Coming because salvation was not complete until the return of Christ:
so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28 ESV
This is the only place in the New Testament where the return of Christ is called a Second Coming. His appearing is said to be "for salvation."
Peter states that their salvation was not yet complete.
who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5 ESV
When was salvation ready to be revealed? In the last time—which would happen at the return of Christ. If Christ has not returned, salvation is incomplete, and no one has yet gone to heaven.
Salvation is tied to eschatology in that the Second Coming brought the fullness of salvation. Some today believe that your personal salvation is dependent upon a correct belief of eschatology. They believe that if you hold to the preterist view, you are not saved. This means that you cannot be saved without a correct eschatology. This is adding to the gospel.
We Preterists have been labeled as non-Christians because of our view of eschatology. But is eschatology part of the Gospel? This question is easily answered by going to the words that Peter preached to Cornelius. Because Cornelius was saved by these words, we know that they contain the Gospel. Look at what happened.
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. Acts 10:44 ESV
To have the Holy Spirit fall on them is to have salvation. To have the Spirit is to have life. Notice how Peter sees this encounter.
And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. Acts 11:13-15 ESV
In Peter's account we have his side of the story rather than that of Cornelius. Peter furnishes us with one very important detail of the angel's message to Cornelius which is not mentioned in the previous chapter. Notice what Peter adds that the angel tells Cornelius, "he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved." Peter is going to speak words, the Gospel, by which you will be saved. Peter shall declare to you the doctrine of salvation. In this message Peter lays out the Gospel. Do we see anything in this Gospel message about works, or repentance, or eschatology?
And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Acts 10:39-43 ESV
Peter tells them that Yeshua is the Peacemaker who reconciles us to Yahweh through His death and resurrection. God accepts Yeshua's sinless life and substitutionary death on our behalf. We have to believe that Yeshua can do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. We have to believe that He overcame death, and He can do the same for us. Faith is trusting in Yeshua, and in Him alone, for our salvation. We must know Him in order to trust Him, and we can only know Him as He is revealed in the Word.
Eschatology is not part of the Gospel. And to those who say that preterists aren’t saved because their eschatology is incorrect, I ask what eschatology one needs to have in order to believe and be saved? Many in the Church hold to Dispensationalism, pre-trib., mid-trib., post-trib., amillennialism, post-millennialism? Where did Yeshua or any of the New Testament writers make correct belief in eschatology necessary for salvation?
Salvation was tied to the "age to come" which Yeshua connected to the destruction of Jerusalem and his Parousia which happened in AD 70.
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Yeshua at his coming? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 ESV
It is true that our text talks about the Parousia but gives us no time indicator as to when it will happen. But we know that connected to the Parousia is the judgment and we know that happened in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. We also know that the Parousia and the resurrection are connected and we know that the resurrection was to happen at the end of the age, the Jewish age, which happened in AD 70. We also know that salvation/eternal life was given at the Parousia that happened at the end of the age in AD 70. Therefore, we know that the Parousia that Paul mentions in 2:19 happened in AD 70. The Scriptures are clear. The only question is will you believe them?