Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1120 MP3 Audio File Video File

Blameless at the Parousia

(1 Thess. 3:11-13)

Delivered 06/19/22

Good morning, Bereans. We are continuing our study of 1 Thessalonians this morning. Today we will be looking at the last three verses of chapter 3. These three verses are one sentence in Greek. This is a prayer that contains three rare optative verbal forms: "direct" (v. 11), "increase" (v.12) and "abound" (v.12). The Optative mood is the mood of potentiality used in prayers.

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Yeshua, direct our way to you, 1 Thessalonians 3:11 ESV

The verb "direct" here is kateuthunō. Although it is in the singular, it refers to both God the Father and Yeshua the Christ. So, we have a compound subject of a singular verb. To address prayers to the Lord Yeshua in the same breath with God the Father implies a very high Christology. This prayer would be proper only if the apostles held to the deity of Christ. Yeshua's ability to hear and answer prayer also attests to His deity. And Yeshua's name of Lord (kyrios) underscores his divinity because the name derives from the Greek Old Testament designation of Yahweh. The application of Zechariah 14:5 to "our Lord Yeshua" strikingly confirms this conclusion. The end of verse 13 says, "at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all his saints."And Zechariah says,

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 14:5 ESV

So, Zachariah says, "Yahweh my God will come, and all the holy ones with him."And Paul applies this to "our Lord Yeshua." Yeshua is Yahweh! Which He makes very clear when He says,

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am [he] you will die in your sins."  John 8:24 ESV

The pronoun "He" is not in the text; it is added by the translators. What is He saying that people have to believe so that they don't die in their sins? The conditional clause provides the proper object of faith: "If you do not believe that "I am." Yeshua, in claiming to be "I Am," was asserting equality with Yahweh Himself, who was revealed as the "I Am That I Am" —the self-existent, eternal God. To deny the deity of Christ, to deny that He is in fact Yahweh in the flesh, is to die in your sins.

Paul doesn't explain this because the deity of Yeshua was no doubt at the heart of what he had taught the Thessalonians. The deity of Christ was not some late invention of the early church fathers, as some liberals contend.

"Direct our way to you"— "direct" here is kateuthunō.This is a rare aorist active singular optative verb used in several prayers in the New Testament.Kateuthunōmeans"to make or keep straight, straighten out, direct, guide." Back in 2:18 Paul said that they were hindered from coming to them by Satan. Here Paul was praying for the removal of the obstacles placed in their way by Satan.

So, Paul is asking the Father and Son to make a way for him to visit them! He said in 3:10 that he wanted to be with them so he could, "supply what is lacking in your faith." They were very young Christians and needed more apostolic teaching.

Believers, we also need to be under apostolic teaching. Paul and the rest have graduated to glory, but their writings remain. God has preserved the apostles' teaching for us in the New Testament. We need to be reading it.

Paul prayed for himself in verse 11, but now his petition turns toward the church at Thessalonica.

and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 1 Thessalonians 3:12 ESV

He prayed that their love for one another would increase and abound. The word "increase" is the Greek word pleonazo ("to super abound"). The Greek word used here for "abound" is perisseuo which means "to super abound, to be in excess, to excel." The prayer is not simply that their love would increase but that it would abound beyond limits and be exceedingly great and overflowing. The Lord evidently answered this prayer.

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV

Paul says, "love for one another and for all"—there is a lot of discussion about the identity of the "all." Are we supposed to love unbelievers?

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43-44 ESV

I'd say that this would include unbelievers. But we are to especially love believers.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10 ESV

"For all"—may refer to Christians outside the church of Thessalonica in other cities and areas and it may refer to unbelievers. The Christian community is the school in which we learn to love. If we are not around people, we will never really learn to love. The readers are to learn how to love from Paul's own example— "as we do for you."

so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all his saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV

"Establish" is the same verb (stērizō) that we saw in 3:2 where Timothy was to strengthen them. Here it is the Lord who establishes them at the Parousia. When Paul wrote that "He may establish your heart…at the coming of our Lord Yeshua," he confirmed that it is God who would do this establishing at the Parousia.

"At the coming of our Lord Yeshua"—the word "coming" here is Parousia.This is the third time in this letter that Paul mentions the "coming of the Lord." He mentioned it at the end of chapter 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

He mentioned it again at the end 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?  1 Thessalonians 2:19 ESV

And now again at the end of chapter 3.

so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all his saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV

Parousia literally means "presence," and by metaphorical extension, it conveys "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.

When was this Parousia to happen? Well, in chapter 1 Paul wrote: "And to wait for his Son from heaven." This is clearly a reference to the second coming of Christ at the end of the age. Nobody argues with or questions that. So, the Thessalonians were waiting for Yeshua to come from heaven at his second coming.

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 which means "upon." Vines Expository Dictionary says that 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 and waiting for one whose coming is expected. BDAG Lexicon says it means "to wait for, expect someone or something."

The Thessalonian believers of Paul's first letter were waiting for the second coming of Christ. Should they have been? If the Lord has not yet returned, as the majority of the church believes, over 2,000 years later, why were they eagerly looking forward to His coming in the first century? Would you wait for something that you didn't expect to happen?

Paul also mentions the Parousia in chapter 2. We don't really have a time indicator in 2:19. This is unusual. But 3:13 says, "that he may establish YOUR hearts…at the coming of our Lord." Paul clearly indicates that they would see the second coming. Just in case the three times that Paul has mentioned the second coming in this letter so far has not convinced you that the Parousia was to happen in the lifetime of the first century Thessalonians, look at what he says in chapter 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. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ESV

"Coming" here is again Parousia. Notice what Paul says."We who are alive…at the Parousia of the Lord." Is that a clear enough time statement? Paul taught that he and many of the Thessalonian believers would be alive when the Lord returned at the Parousia.

The view that the church holds on the Parousia is at odds with Paul's teachings. So, who got it wrong? Was it Paul or the majority of the church?  The Church at large is still waiting for the Parousia, over two thousand years since it was prophesied. But Paul said the first-century believers would see it. Who is right? Before you answer that question, let me remind you that it wasn't just Paul who taught a first-century Parousia. Paul taught it because Yeshua first taught it.

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:27 ESV

This is clearly a second-coming passage. Notice the next verse.

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."  Matthew 16:28 ESV

Yeshua is telling the first-century disciples that some of them would still be alive when the second coming happened.

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34 ESV

In a context dealing with the second coming Yeshua says that everything he had just said about his Parousia would happen in the generation that he was speaking to.         

So, let me ask you again: who is wrong? Yeshua and the New Testament writers or the Church? I think that anyone who is a serious student of the Bible will sooner or later come to realize that there is a problem with Yeshua's predictions of His Parousia. Almost all mentions of the Parousia have a time statement with them that indicate that it would happen soon. If Yeshua didn't return in the first century as He said He would, something is wrong.

Dr. Christopher M. Hays, who is currently Professor of New Testament at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia, has a solution to the problem. In his book, When the Son of Man Didn't Come: A Constructive Proposal on the Delay of the Parousia, Hays states that

"If Jesus' prophecy about the timing of the Kingdom's coming was not fulfilled, then isn't this Christianity thing really just all wrong? Well, no, actually. You see, even though Jesus did prophesy that he would return before the first generation of disciples expired, the important thing to remember is that Jesus was making a prophecy. And prophecies do not purport to forecast fixed future events. Prophecies are, by their nature, conditional. A prophesied outcome may or may not transpire; it all depends on how the audience responds to the message of the prophet. Perhaps the problem of the delay of the parousia is… us."

So, Hays sees Yeshua's statements about His second coming as conditional prophecies that aren't meant to be predictions of future events but are dependent upon us. So, let me ask you: What was to happen to a prophet if his prophecy didn't come true?

when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22 ESV

Let me say this as nicely as I can. What Hays suggests here about prophecy is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard.

Hays goes on to say that "This is kind of a trip for 21st-century believers, because we tend to think of the Second Coming of Christ as being firmly scheduled on the celestial calendar. But that's definitely not what New Testament authors all claimed."

I think that a study in Biblical typology will show that Hays is wrong, and the Second Coming was firmly scheduled on the celestial calendar. The Feasts of Yahweh lay out God's timeline in great detail. The Parousia was to happen 40 years after the Crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The Fall Feasts were all about the Parousia and judgment of Israel.

Sadly, Hays is not the only one confused about the second coming. Steven J. Cole writes that "We live that way (meaning holy) in view of the fact that we will soon stand before 'our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.'" Cole is a contemporary writer and he says that "we will soon stand before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."  In the first century Yeshua said,

"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. Revelation 22:12 ESV

What Cole is saying, then, is that what was "soon" for the first-century Christians is also "soon" for us two thousand years later. Does that make any sense to you?

Gene L. Green, commenting on 1 Thessalonians 3:13, writes: "This divine and royal event will take place at the final moment of history as we know it (1 Cor. 15:23–24) and will usher in a time of terrible judgment for those who do not obey the gospel." So, to Green the Parousia will mark the end of history. This is why he doesn't believe that it has happened yet.

Tim Shenton writes that "The Thessalonians must look beyond the trials and tribulations they are enduring to the great day of Christ's return when all their troubles will be overcome and when they will be perfectly united with their Saviour forever. Nothing comforts us more in our distresses than the knowledge of Christ's second advent. It will be a day of great rejoicing and victory, when all we have strived to achieve is accomplished. Let us lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near." So, he says that the first-century Thessalonians' troubles will all end at the Parousia but then he adds that this is a comfort to us also. How was it a comfort to them if it still hasn't happened?

What did Paul say was to happen at the coming of the Lord?

so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all his saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV

Paul said that the first-century Thessalonians would be "blameless in holiness…at the coming." Many see this as a practical holiness. But the text says that "He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness." The "he" refers to God. I see Paul as speaking here of positional holiness, especially in the light of 5: 23 which uses many of the same words and phrases.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV

What I see Paul saying here is that their hearts will not be established blameless until the Parousia of Christ. That is when the body of Christ is mature. It is when the New Temple is complete. Notice what Paul says to the Philippians.

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—Philippians 3:9 ESV

Paul sees only two kinds of righteousness: (1) self-righteousness which leads to damnation and (2) God's righteousness given through faith which equals salvation. This is the righteousness that Paul wanted to have—that which comes by faith in Christ. This is speaking of justification by faith alone.

I think that we understand that when we trust Christ, we receive His righteousness. As Christians we are as righteous as Yeshua. We stand complete in Him. Knowing this, Paul's next statement can be very confusing.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Yeshua has made me his own. Philippians 3:12 ESV

What was it that Paul had not yet attained? The Greek word used here for "attained" is lambano. It means "to receive, to grasp, to seize, to acquire." Paul wrote "I don't have it yet." What is it that he doesn't have yet? The verb lambanois is transitive, but the object is not expressed. Is it the resurrection that he mentioned in verse 11 that he has not attained? Yes, the resurrection is included, but it is more than that. Verses 4-11 are a unit speaking of justification. Verse 9 is the key verse.

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—Philippians 3:9 ESV

I think that what Paul is saying is that his justification had not yet been consummated, thus he was not yet "blameless in holiness." That might not fit your theology, but it fits the context of what Paul has been talking about. As a side note, let me add that the manuscripts P46 and D*, with Irenaeus (Latin translation) and Ambrosiaster, insert the clause "or have already been justified" (dedikaiomai) for the phrase "or am already perfected." Paul was saying "Not that I have already attained, or have already been justified."

Yeshua the Christ took our sin and bore its penalty on the cross and he gives us his righteousness. We have been declared righteous by God for all eternity. It will never be reversed or changed. Christ's righteousness has been imputed to our account. Justification involves the imputation of Christ's righteousness. But, at the time of Paul's writing, righteousness was still a hope. Now, you might ask, "Didn't Paul and the New Testament saints already have the righteousness of God? Yes and no. The futuristic perspective of God's righteousness was clearly expressed by Paul.

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5 ESV

If righteousness was already a fulfilled or completed event, Paul made a big mistake in making "righteousness" by faith a matter of hope. You don't hope for what you have.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25 ESV

If righteousness was a present reality, why would Paul hope for it? But Paul also talks as though it was a present possession.

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, Romans 4:5 ESV

Did Paul have Christ's righteousness or was it still future to him? Yes and yes. He had it, but it was also still future to him. How can this be?

Most believers don't understand that we live in a different age than Paul did. Paul lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"—they were the last days of the Old Covenant. Those "last days" began at Pentecost and ended at A.D. 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed. We now live in what the Bible calls "the age to come" which is the New Covenant age. This forty-year period from Pentecost to Holocaust was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period, the New Covenant had been inaugurated but not consummated. It was a time of "already but not yet." We can also see this in Ephesians 2.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 ESV

Paul says that they "have been saved." This seems to be saying that their redemption is complete. Yet, later in the same chapter, Paul writes:

So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Yeshua himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV

"Grows into a holy temple"—the present tense verb along with the preceding participle shows that continuance of the growth process indicates a living organism that continues to increase. It's not the future tense looking forward to some eschatological temple, but it is the present tense dealing with a present temple that is not finished and continues to grow. The Greek word for "temple" here is naos. It denotes the inner sanctuary. The word is not hieros, which would be the temple with its porches and outbuilding.

"Being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit"—the ongoing process results in a building where God dwells. The verb is a present indicative with the tense again indicating the continuance of the building. The process was still occurring. But the clear blessing of the New Covenant was that God would dwell with His people.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:1-3 ESV

The New Jerusalem is the New Covenant according to Galatians 4:24-26 ("For these are the two covenant… . but the Jerusalem above is free"). So, Paul tells the Ephesian believers that they are "being built" for a dwelling place of God. It was a process that was taking place but was at that time still unfulfilled.

Later in Ephesians, Paul writes the following:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV

According to this passage, the gifted men of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were given by God for the purpose of "equipping of the saints." They were to bring the church from a state of infancy to adulthood. The word translated "mature" in verse 13 is the same root word used in Philippians 3:12 (teleios). In this passage in Ephesians, "maturity" is defined as "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ"This happened at the Second Coming.

Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 ESV

When Christ returned, all believers were made like Him. Notice that it says, "we shall see Him as He is"- NOT we shall see Him as He WAS. To be like Him is to have His righteousness.

God's goal for the church was that it be like his son.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 ESV

This took place in A.D. 70 when the Lord returned and brought in the New Heaven and Earth, the New Covenant. So, the coming again of our Lord for his people brought them to full maturity or perfection. To be perfect was to have Christ's righteousness. It was to be "blameless in holiness."

Salvation was not a completed event in the lives of the first-century believers; it was their hope as they looked forward to its soon arrival.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:11-12 ESV

Paul equates their salvation with the "day" which was at hand, referring to the day of the Lord. "Know the time" is the Greek word kairos. It means "season, a special critical strategic period of time." It is used of a season of great importance in redemptive history. The completion of redemptive history was at hand, and with it would come salvation.

Peter also 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

Salvation was ready to be revealed. When? In the last time, which would happen at the return of Christ. The incompleteness of believers during the transition period (A.D. 30-70) does not contradict Paul's affirmation that "ye are complete in Him" (Col. 2:10). The certain completeness of Christ's work was the basis and confidence of the transformation already at work, with the future fulness drawing near.

I think that it is safe to say that most believers think redemption was completed at the cross. But this is not what the Bible teaches. Redemption is tied to the second coming.

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. " Luke 21:27-28 ESV

When Christ returned, he brought redemption. As long as the Old Covenant existed, the believers were not "blameless in holiness" and did not have access to God.

By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. Hebrews 9:8-10 ESV

Under the Old Covenant, they were never made perfect (i.e., blameless in holiness). And because they were not perfect, they could not enter God's presence.

Once the Old Covenant was destroyed, the believers were perfected and entered into the presence of God. What the saints had in the transition period was the down payment of the perfection that was to come.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

The word "guarantee" is the Greek word arrhabon which means "a pledge, i.e., part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest:- earnest." We see this same idea in 2 Corinthians 1.

and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:22 ESV
He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:5 ESV

The transition saints had a pledge for what we now have. They had a guarantee of what was to come. They were to be made "blameless in holiness" at the Parousia of our Lord which happened in A.D. 70. If the Lord has not yet returned, we still wait for salvation and righteousness. But He has returned, and we are waiting for nothing; we have it all now.

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