Rescuing Us From Wrath

Even now, Jesus is “rescuing” his people from the coming “wrath” that the unrighteous will receive when he arrives in glory

Storm Clouds over farm - Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash
Paul was compelled to leave Thessalonica early by opposition from the synagogue and city officials. He later attempted to return but was thwarted “
by Satan.” Due to his anxieties about the congregation, he sent Timothy to investigate matters. His letter to the Thessalonians is his thankful response after hearing of the continuing faithfulness of the Thessalonian church - [Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash].

After his opening salutations, Paul reiterates how the assembly had welcomed him and turned from “idols to serve the true God.” The reference to idolatry suggests the church consisted primarily of Gentile converts:
  • (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10) - “And you became imitators of us, and of the Lord, giving welcome to the word in much tribulation, with the joy of Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all who were coming to the faith in Macedonia and in Achaia. From you, in fact, has sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only m Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith which is toward God has gone forth so that no need have we to be saying anything; for they themselves concerning us do tell what manner of the entrance we had to you, and how you turned to God from the idols to be serving a living and true God, and awaiting his Son out of the heavens, whom he raised from among the dead, Jesus, who is rescuing us out of the coming wrath.
Here, Paul anticipates the subjects he will discuss in the remainder of the letter, including the persecution of believers, the basis for Christian hope, the “arrival” or ‘parousia’ of Jesus, and the impending “wrath” of God against the ungodly and the persecutors of the Thessalonian saints.

SERVING THE LIVING GOD

Paul does not provide any chronological information regarding the return of Jesus or any sequence of events that will precede it.  Instead, he describes how the life orientation of believers has been altered since coming to faith in Christ.

No longer serving idols, they are now serving the “true and living God.” Two infinitive clauses are employed to express how disciples are to live in this new reality.  First, they must turn from idols “to serve a living and true God.” Second, they are now “to await his Son from heaven.”

HIS ARRIVAL

The Son of God will "arrive from heaven.” This subject is developed further in the letter, especially in its fourth and fifth chapters.

On the final day, Jesus will “descend from heaven with a shout” to gather his followers, and unlike the false gods that the Thessalonians formerly worshipped, he is the son of “the living and true God” and not another dead idol. Moreover, he is the one whom this same living “God raised from the dead” – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

And Jesus is “rescuing” his disciples even now as they are serving him. This term translates the Greek present tense participle for “rescue, deliver, save” (rhuomaiStrong’s - #G4506). The present tense signifies an action in progress.  While Paul has a future event in view, already, Jesus is in the process of rescuing his people from the “coming wrath.”

WRATH

What this “wrath” consists of is not stated.  In the Greek sentence, it has the definite article or “the” wrath, which indicates a specific and known event, not “wrath” in general or as an attribute of God. This coming event will be characterized by wrath.

And the “wrath” is “coming” even now. Just as Jesus is now “rescuing” his people, for the unrighteous, this “wrath” is in the process of “coming.”

The two present tense participles contrast the two processes that will result in rescue for some, but wrath for others. Both will reach their inevitable conclusions at his “arrival.” His death and resurrection set both in motion, and both are linked to the same future “arrival” of the Son of God.

In describing these impending events, Paul uses language from the book of Isaiah commonly associated with the “Day of the Lord.” This connection will be developed more fully in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians - (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
  • (Isaiah 59:18-20) - “According to their deeds, so Yahweh will repay, WRATH TO HIS ADVERSARIES, recompense to his enemies; to the coastlands, he will make recompense. So, they will fear the name of Yahweh from the west and his glory from the rising of the sun, for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of Yahweh drives. And A RESCUER WILL COME TO ZION, and to those WHO TURN FROM TRANSGRESSION in Jacob, declares Yahweh.”
Christians must not be dismayed by persecution and afflictions. While the “Day of the Lord” will bring wrath upon the unrepentant, it will also mean the rescue of those who wait patiently for his return.

Paul does not promise deliverance from suffering in this life. For that matter, the Thessalonians first received the gospel “in much tribulation.”

Wrath,” on the other hand, is something reserved for rebellious men who do not heed the gospel, and especially for the persecutors of Christ’s church. This “wrath” will be consummated when Jesus arrives.



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