1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:18 Sermon Notes

By January 30, 2022Sermon Notes

Edgar Whisenant, was a former NASA engineer who published two books that declared the rapture, would occur in 1988.

 Rapture is an idea, that Christians will be secretly snatched up before a world-wide tribulation…this idea was first popularized in the late 19th century.

He sold 4.5 million books.

Many people completely altered their lives based on his predictions…taking kids out of school, not ordering materials for their business, essentially checking out of life.

But did people learn their lessons?

Harold Camping predicted the end of the world around Sep 6, 1994.  When that failed to occur he revised the date to Sept 29, then Oct 2.

In 2005 he predicted May 21, 2011 would be the date and again, many people altered their lives…and not in positive ways. 

These two guys are in a long line of failed prognosticators…going back throughout history.

Camping later admitted that it was wrong to try and predict the timing of the end…it’s interesting that it took him so many years to admit what Jesus clearly said 2000 years ago in Matt 24:36.

How are we to think about the end?

What does the Bible teach?  Why is it so confusing?

How come some people are so confident about their views?  Should I be?

Well, some, I think, are more confident about knowing what you can’t know than they should be.

Others are less confident about knowing what you can know than they should be.

I’d like to suggest…a personal strategy that includes growing in confidence in what is clear and growing in humility in what is, I think, intentionally on God’s part…left unclear to us.

The technical term for ideas about the end of time is “eschatology”…eschaton is a Greek word that means “end” and “logy” is simply a suffix that means “the study of something”.

The study of the end.

Some are under the impression that is only some nutty Christians or other religious oddballs that have these “end-time” viewpoints.

Everyone has a personal and historical eschatology…some view of their own end and the end of human and cosmic history.

They may not have thought much about it, and it may have come from a combination of Marvel, Dr. Who, and their own general ideas…but they have one.

Everyone has a worldview…and a part of that framework is an answer to the question…what happens when I die? (personal eschatology)…and where is the cosmos going?(historical eschatology)

The answer could be its/I’m going… “nowhere” or “I don’t care”…both are eschatology viewpoints.

If someone were to mock Christians for their view of history having an end…ask them what they believe happens when they die (they will have a view, even if it is “well you cannot know”)

Then ask them what will happen to human history, or the cosmos…and they will have a personal point of view.

Everyone has an eschatology…a view of the end.

Today we are going to begin to look at some of what the Bible teaches regarding the end…from the last two chapters of 1 Thess…then we will look at it some more in Paul’s second letter to this church…over the next few weeks

I’ll say this up front…as a summary of this topic.

The Bible gives us information about the end in order to inspire faithfulness born of enduring hope

John Frame, says it like this…“So far as I can see, every Bible passage about the return of Christ is written for a practical purpose –not to help us develop a theory of history, but to motivate our obedience.”

Before we go to 1 Thess…let’s look at the “three main” positions that Christians hold on this topic.

The Millennium Falcon was a starship from Star Wars

Millennium comes from some Latin words that mean “a thousand years”

Besides being associated Han Solo’s cool ship…It is one the words associated with the end of time.

It comes from Revelation 20 where a thousand year period of time set in the (then) future is depicted where Christ will reign.

There are three main views of thought regarding that thousand years…all three views take the Scripture seriously and are held by various scholar and non-scholar Christians alike.

So, you don’t have to agree with these views…but all three are technically “biblical views”…and people who walk with God…can agree to disagree on them, because they are considered “non-essentials” for the faith.

They are distinguished by their prefixes: ah, post, and pre.

One view is “amill”… prefix “A” meaning “no”…actually no literal 1000 years, but there is a reality symbolized by the number 1000 in Revelation 20.

Clearly there is plenty of symbolic language in Revelation and especially in Revelation 20…these folks believe the number is a symbol of a reality…Christ’s reign. 

Just like the “chains” that tie up Satan in that chapter are symbols of reality…not literal pieces of metal…since he is a Spiritual being.

Another view is “postmill”…post, of course meaning “after”

This view sees things improving until the end…many people coming to Christ, the world getting better.

Sounds great.

The third, of which there are some sub-categories is “premill”…pre, of course means “before.”

Christ will return then a thousand-year reign will ensue.

Some think Christ’s return is multi-staged, like folks who believe in a secret rapture…it’s what is called “dispensational premillial-ism”

Some believe his return is a single event…often called “historic premillial-ism”

It’s okay if you hold to any one of the three…or have no strong opinion regarding them.

What is important is that you have a conviction regarding the future…both your future and history at large.

It is important that you have confidence that your own future is secure if you are a follower of Christ.

It is also important that you have confidence that history is being directed by God…that it is not random, ultimately purposeless.

Which brings us to other common views of history.

I would lump these views into linear and cyclical.

Some Eastern religions as well as some atheist scientists…hold to a cyclical view of cosmic history.

Some religions as well as some atheists hold to a linear view.

Some believe that history is linear and without purpose…it’s line going nowhere.

Some believe it is cyclical and without purpose…cycles going nowhere.

There are nearly endless combinations of all of this.

The Bible teaches that history…yours, human history, and the cosmos…is linear and directed.

God is in charge, and his purposes will stand…it is all going somewhere…this is true for your life as an individual as well as the world of humans and the entire cosmos.

Let me summarize the first 10 verses of chapter 4

Paul wrote…Here is what it looks like to live a life that pleases God…you are already doing this, do it “more and more”…grow.

  1. Keep on being sexually pure
  2. Keep on loving one another

Two things that marked off believers in that time and place were: sexual purity and love for each other.

That culture, like ours was marked by much sexual brokenness…as people tried to use sex completely outside its design parameters…it messed them up.

Fire is a gift for humanity…useful to cook food, warm homes

But if not “controlled” that same gift destroys life rather than enhancing it…if fire leaves the stove, fireplace…it brings death and destruction.

 Paul says they were to continue to “control” their bodily desires (self-control is a gift of the Spirit and a choice we make…interesting partnership isn’t it?)…one key way this is seen in sexual purity.

That culture, like ours was also marked by much relational brokenness…people put their own interests first and this never works out well in human relationships.

Paul zeroes in on these two things…purity and love…because they were counter-cultural…and culturally impactful.

They gave evidence that these Christians were living an entirely different kind of life…and that this life had a power source that was more than merely human.

So, in a real sense the “eschaton”…the end, the age to come…had invaded this age now.

These believers…were living this “already/not yet” kingdom kind of life now.

It showed up in holiness (sexual purity) and love for each other…remember last week? same themes.

Now, look at verse 11…it is my favorite verse in the bible on how to think about the end of time…either your own personal “eschaton” or the cosmic end.

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

That’s such great advice…make it your ambition to not have foolish ambitions.

This is not advocating for passivity or boredom…but rather for eternal perspective in daily activity…normal life, lived faithfully…is how to live with an of time perspective.

Be faithful with the normal…so you will draw people to Christ and be able to take care of yourself and others.

**My guess is there were people in the church who were reading a first century version of “Why Christ will return next year” and concluding…why work? 

It’s all about to end…let’s hang out, sing songs, go to church…but no planning, no hard working…after all…what’s the point?

Here’s why I think that is what he was addressing…look at what comes next.

13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

“Fall asleep” was a euphemism, or a common idiom for death.

So, these young Christians had believed that the return of Christ was imminent…meaning could happen at any time.

But they had extrapolated from there that no one would die before he came again…but then folks were dying and Christ had not returned.

“Hey Paul, what about our loved ones who have already died?”…

“they will be fine.”

“Okay, good, what about us…did we get this right…he is coming back right?”

“Yes, he is.”

15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

 

A few things about this passage, what Paul is saying and what he is not saying.

  1. There will be a reunion…so don’t grieve like those who have no hope.

-Grieve, yes…death is bad

-But grieve with hope…death is not final for the believer.

  1. Paul does not say when the reunion will occur…that is not at all his focus…his focus in verse 18.

When Christ comes the dead in Him and those who are still alive…will all likewise live forever with Christ.

18 THEREFORE, encourage each other with these words.

Encourage each other “TO” what?

To live pure, beautiful lives.

To live lives of growing love for one another.

To enjoy and not merely endure life…working faithfully at your calling.

To engage daily life and even death itself…with enduring hope.

Encourage each other to be faithful.

A biblically balanced approach to “eschatology” leads to a biblically beautiful life.

Christians have done this well for centuries…they have left enduring legacies for succeeding generations by living day to day faithful lives.

Those who have lived “unfaithful” lives…because they have misapplied the reality of the end…well, they have left little for the next generation to work with.

God is just way too smart to tell folks the timing of the end…imagine what kind of fools that would make us…just look at how people have lived who think they can predict the end.

He is also way too smart to NOT tell us that there is an end…look at how foolishly people live who don’t contemplate their own end…or have no confidence in how the end will turn out.

Let’s move quickly through chapter 5…it continues these themes.

5          Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

Recently a friend commented “The more I read of what is happening in the world, the more I think every day…this must be the end.”

He’s a smart guy…good guy…and a committed Christian…but I commented on this passage.

When people are saying “peace and safety” is when the end is going to come.

Which, by the way, was the common theme of that day for non-believers.

The Roman empire had brought about this “Pax Romana” or Roman Peace…it was unprecedented peace and safety…confidence in the Roman emperor/god

Crime was low, financial security was high…and yet in just a few years there were be a terrible persecution, AD 70…where blood would run in the streets of Jerusalem.

Paul’s point here is clear…don’t concern yourself with dates and times…just live in a state of faithful readiness.

The Lord will come when he is not expected…he uses the analogy that has been turned into some weird movies…he will come like a “Thief in the night”

By this analogy he simply means that a thief is able to steal because you are not expecting him…if you expect him…you get the jump on him.

You, are to live with expectancy…what does this faithful expectancy look like?

Again, self-control…live our lives with faith and love because of our enduring hope.

Because…“We will not suffer wrath but we will receive salvation”…we don’t fear the end, so we don’t live as fools in the meantime.

And whether you are alive when he comes or dead…all will live together with him. 

9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.

Okay…so again, what is his main point?

 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Don’t argue over details, don’t make end-time calendars, don’t fight and act stupid…don’t live without self-control.

Do…encourage and build each other up.

If someone believes certain things about the end…there is a single question as to whether they understand what do with that certainty.

Is it making them into a more humble, content, self-controlled, loving person?

Then great…carry on.

If not…then, whatever they are believing…they are missing the point.

Then he gives some more practical advice:

  1. Respect those who have spiritual authority and teaching ministry

12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

-Why, because truth is essential. 

-Beliefs shape values shape behaviors.

We have to start with right thinking…truth…if we hope to get to right living.

  1. Life in peace with each other:

Here’s how…live in relationship with each other according, putting each other’s needs first.

*To put others first, requires Situational awareness:  What does this situation/person most need from me?

 -Is your friend idle? Warn them.

Are they hanging out…”Kumbaya…Jesus is coming back…chill out!”

Warn them.

Idle was a military term…someone who had broken rank…well they are in danger, and it’s not good.

-Hey…get busy, this is not how you are supposed to be living.

-Warn them…that being idle will not work out well for them.

-Are they timid? Encourage them

Timid could be translated “fainthearted”

Pour courage into those whose hearts are faltering.

-Maybe they are discouraged by difficult circumstances, maybe friends had died…maybe they are disoriented by suffering.

-Pour courage into them…come alongside them.

-They don’t need warning, they just need courage…keep going, because history is going somewhere…all this matters.

Are they weak in their faith, help them become stronger.

This is about being weak in faith not physical weakness.

They need to know they are not alone and they need the support necessary to hang in there and grow up in their faith.

Help them continue to walk faithfully.

Monday I took my 5 year old grandson, Ellis, to the “mountain” at Sedgwick country park, about a 100 yard incline…so he could climb it.

He is such a little guy, it looked a mountain in comparison.

He ran halfway up and looked back to see if I was there… I called out “keep going”

He got close to the top and started walking…I came up beside him.

He didn’t need warning…he wasn’t idle.

He wasn’t even discouraged…he was just tired…weak…he needed my help…in this case, I came alongside him.

Then I held his hand as he wanted to walk down the steep side of the hill.

So, living in peace in community means living with each other according to each other’s needs…this is Phil. 2 in practical application.

Then, the great catch all…that really sort of sums up the key to interpersonal peace.

Be patient with everyone. (doesn’t mean “put up with anything”). 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Be patient with everyone…give them grace, just like you want and need grace from them.

Then those power packed three verses we spent an entire morning on back on November.

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

No calendars, no end time maps…no acting the fool.

Joyful. Prayerful. Thankful…this is God’s will for you.

Let’s finish there and move to application:

Let’s go back to favorite “end time verses”

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

If you are a sports fan you have seen the win probability graphics that follow the predicted outcomes of a game…as the game goes on.

If teams evenly matched beginning the game…it’s a 50/50 win probability.

As the score changes, time goes on…that probability shifts.

The Chiefs-Bills game last week has a graphic that has gone viral. 

As the game goes on the probability prediction ought to become more accurate, more sure.

Like a hurricane Cone predictor that a week out is wide, but just before it hits the coast becomes very specific.

But the Chiefs game showed that predictions from humans…even of something like a football game outcome can’t take into account all the possibilities.

No way the Bills can win.

Oops, no way the Chiefs can win.

Oops.

What if the players had gone back to the sidelines and studied the probability graphics?

See players on the sideline with iPad…What if instead of looking at what had just happened, making corrections…what plays to run…they are looking at the ESPN website for the probability of them winning?

I think sometimes, in their minds, they do, consider probabilities…and it doesn’t lead to good outcomes.

What you do, or at least what they did…is play hard to the end…you remain faithful.

It was sort of a NFL version of verse 11…not that it was a quiet life…but it was certainly taking care of business, working with their hands…not worrying about probabilities of future outcomes.

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you

God has, I think, left the timing intentionally outside our ability to discern so that we would pay attention to what matters the most.

What matters most at the end (my end, America’s, the worlds, the Cosmos)…matters most now.

What will matter most then…love God, love people…that what Paul has zeroed in on.

That matters most now.

How do I do that well?

Be faithful…take care of business.

Be humble…know what you know, trust with what you can’t

Be content…make it your ambition to be content with daily life.

It is ironic and tragic that the very thing that should make us wise…there is an end, and God is charge of it.

Often makes people fools.

Sitting around looking at news all day…

Worrying about the future…as people who confess to believe that God is in charge of that future.

Predicting the timing of things…way, way above any human’s pay grade.

Be wise…encourage one another with these words…tailor your encouragement to fit the needs of your friends and family. 

And, I’ll concur and pass on what Paul wrote to that church…it applies to you.

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 

Confused by all the end times terminology…maps, charts.

Look, I’ll tell you how to be an expert on eschatology…live this way, it’s pretty much all you need to know about living in light of the end of time…history’s and your own.

“Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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