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Thursday, May 7, 2015

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In First Thessalonians 5:1-11 the Second Coming is still the primary theme, but the focus shifts. Here Paul is not so much clarifying details about Jesus’ return as he is proclaiming the need for constant readiness in light of the final judgment. Whenever God judges, there is both a positive and a negative side to that judgment. The two sides of judgment are evidenced in First Thessalonians 5 with a series of contrasts such as darkness/light, night/day and drunk/sober (1 Thess 5:4-8).

Preparation for the Second Coming is about investing serious time in the Word of God (5:1-5). There are many distractions in today’s world, from overwhelming jobs to e-mail to entertainment to a cornucopia of mood enhancers. Paul’s appeal is to put the Word of God first in our lives and we will not be overtaken by events, no matter how surprising the timing. 

Paul concludes his first letter to the Thessalonians with a series of seventeen admonitions (1 Thess. 5:12-22) followed by a closing prayer (5:23-28). The seventeen admonitions in First Thessalonians 5:12-22 can be divided into two groups, counsels on ministry in the local church (5:12-15), and counsels on general Christian experience (5:16-22). This natural division is signaled in the grammar of the text itself. The first nine admonitions (12-15) begin with a verb and are ministry oriented. The last eight admonitions end with a verb and are personal life oriented.

In the concluding prayer (5:23-24) Paul summarizes a main theme of this letter: that believers in Thessalonica and beyond would continue to grow in sanctification and holiness all the way up to the Second Coming itself. This growth remains a crucial part of what must continue to take place in local churches around the world today.

 

Jon Paulien

Loma Linda University

United States