on great expectations (sermon summary 11.22.06)

We looked at 1 Th 4-5 on Wednesday evening, considering the topic ‘Great Expectations‘. Of course, the big thing that people turn to 1 Thessalonians for is the Rapture, found in chapter 4. I recall the tragedy of sitting at a funeral for a lost friend of mine, dead at 19 (my age at the time) who was killed in a head on collision just before I returned to BJU for my sophomore year. They read this passage at the funeral. But they had no hope. The funeral was held in the Elks Lodge, and conducted by members of the Royal Canadian Legion – well meaning, but no God and no Lord Jesus. What a tragedy.

When we consider these verses, and the whole of eschatology, we have to ask ourselves what they are intended to do for the believer. The context of 1 Th 4-5 gives us the answer. Paul says in 1 Th 4.1 that he wants to exhort the Thessalonians about how to walk and to please God. Then he proceeds to deal with two subjects, sexual purity and loving your brother. If a man lives clean and pure in both these areas, he will be well spoken of even in the secular world. But life isn’t just about success in the secular world, and our motivation isn’t the praise of men or the hope of the good life here and now. First, our hope is in the Lord who will come back with a shout (the Rapture – 1 Th 4.13-18) and our promise is escape from wrath (the day of the Lord – 1 Th 5.1-11). From eschatology, Paul turns to concluding with his wonderful exhortations in 1 Th 5 (the second reason people turn to 1 Th). All of these are meant to guide believers to a life ‘well pleasing to God’. Our motivation ought to be the hope of heaven and the promise of God’s approval for a life lived for him.