1 Thessalonians 5 – Eschatology, Gratitude, and Turkish Delight

1 Thessalonians 5 Bible with Madecasse 92 Percent Cocoa Pure Dark Chocolate

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Today’s Passage1 Thessalonians 5

Confession time, guys. The final third of yesterday’s chapter gets into some end-timesy stuff that I declined even to touch with a ten-foot pole. But, knowing that Paul continues his discussion of what he terms “The Day of the Lord” in this final chapter of his first letter to the Thessalonians, I was only postponing the inevitable. If nothing else, I am an inveterate procrastinator, and as regards his return, some would charge Jesus Christ with inveterate procrastination too.

After Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, many first-generation Christians expected that he would return within their lifetimes. If you put yourself in their shoes as you read the gospels, particularly the passages where Jesus talks about his second coming, you can see why they might conclude such a thing; hindsight is 20/20. The Thessalonians, consequently, were concerned that if they died before he came back, they wouldn’t have a place in his kingdom. They wouldn’t have a place anywhere but six feet under, because they’d be dead! On the flip side, they were concerned that their loved ones might die before Christ’s return. Would they have to live the rest of their lives in the kingdom without their loved ones?

Paul aims to reassure them of the reality of the resurrection. He cites Christ’s own resurrection as a guarantee that those who are in him will also be raised from the dead. He further explains: “[T]he dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17-18). Not terribly controversial, right? However, some critics argue that Paul expected the Second Coming within his lifetime, as if he’s assuring his readers that they specifically will be there to ascend and meet the Lord. According to the critics, Paul appears to back off from this position in 2 Thessalonians.

I don’t really buy it, though. I’ve still got questions and concerns about the Bible, but that’s not one of them. When Paul says, “we who are alive” (4:17), I think he’s referring to believers in general, not necessarily himself and his first-century companions. And in today’s chapter, he writes, “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (5:2). As Jesus himself said, no one but God knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). Paul encourages his readers to live as children of light, remaining vigilant and sober-minded, which is good advice whether Jesus Christ comes back within one’s own lifetime or not. If Paul did harbor some expectation of Christ’s imminent return, I don’t think he allowed it to cloud the cogency of his writing here.

So much, then, for the controversy. Now that I’ve spent huge gargantuan paragraphs on that matter, let’s move on to what I probably should have covered to begin with, namely Paul’s commandments and encouragement in the final portion of this letter.

1 Thessalonians is, among other things, a letter about thankfulness and appreciation. Multiple times, Paul thanks God for the believers in Thessalonica, and he’s clearly grateful to have them as a presence in his life, even if he can’t be physically present with them as often as he’d like. He’s grateful for their commitment to the gospel and their good behavior. And in the final chapter here, he encourages them to do likewise, telling them, “[I]n everything give thanks” (5:18), and “[A]ppreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (5:12). One of my readers and a long-time supporter on my Patreon has suggested that I cover thankfulness and gratitude as a potential topic here, and it’s not a bad idea at all. Perhaps I’ll tackle it once I finish up with Paul and his ten hojillion letters. As I’ve noted before, All the Paul is a lot of Paul.

But In all honesty, I had a bad spell last night, and what pulled me out of it and let me get to sleep was remembering the things I had to be grateful for. But I hardly even thought of the people in my life. My mind went straight to the roof over my head, the indoor plumbing in the place where I live, and the food in my fridge. I’m not here today to beat myself up over not sufficiently appreciating my spiritual fam, or to self-flagellate over inadequate love for my fellow Christians, or to give myself a lecture on being thankful for those whom God has entrusted with my spiritual well-being. But I am here to take stock and get my eyes opened to the good things in my life, including how people have invested in it.

So: thanks, investors. Who cares if I’ve been inadequately appreciative in the past? Jesus Christ died to free me from my inadequacies. I just want to give you guys and God the thanks that you’re due, right here and now. That’s the name of the game.

To end on a quasi-tangential note, I wanted to share this article with you: C.S. Lewis’s Greatest Fiction Was Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight. It contains several hilarious anecdotes and scathing indictments of Edmund Pevensie’s taste in candy, but I mention it largely because it discusses England’s sugar rationing during World War II. Turkish Delight is a ridiculously sugary sweet, and as scarcity influences value, it’s not especially surprising that, when asked, Edmund went for the most sugary confection he could think of. The article notes: “[I]n 1950, when Lewis published the first Narnia book, the allowance was half a pound of candy and chocolate per person per month.” Man: here in present-day America, I’m permitted to consume chocolate ’til I’m broke from the medical and dental bills. Now that’s a freedom to be thankful for–and to be thankful that I haven’t plunged headlong into self-destructive chocolate hedonism!

Anyway, that’s enough rambling. See you guys tomorrow with a brand-new letter to exactly the same church in Thessalonica.

 

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2 thoughts on “1 Thessalonians 5 – Eschatology, Gratitude, and Turkish Delight

  1. Speaking of thankful, I’m thankful that you’re doing these studies as a blog where I can read them. I only comment occasionally, but I read them all. You can tell by the date that I’m way behind. I’ve worked my gmail backlog from over 1500 to about 700 unread, but that’s still a lot to go. If only I hadn’t procrastinated…

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