Session 5: AD 49-51: Understanding the Theology of Galatians, James, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

➡ Average Reading Time: 27 minutes

Session 5: AD 49-51: Understanding the Theology of Galatians, James, 1 & 2 ThessaloniansWhen you finish this session you should be able to:

  • Understand the general background of Galatians, James, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
  • Comprehend the flow of the content of Galatians, James, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
  • Interact with the theology of Galatians, James, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
  • Review the theological considerations of Galatians, James, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Galatians is about the inclusion and exclusion of Jesus followers in ecclesia. James “is a collection of proverbial sayings and stories in the form of aphorisms, a tersely phrased statements of a truth or opinion.” [ref]Winn Griffin. God’s EPIC Adventure. Harmon Press. 279.[/ref] First and Second Thessalonians share about eschatology. In each of these books, we will follow this pattern: First, we will review the book’s background. Then, we will overview its content. Finally, we will consider its theology.

Where We Are Going

Galatians
About Galatians
A Quick Look at Galatians
A Theological Glance at Galatians
Theological Considerations
James
About James
A Quick Look at James
A Theological Glance at James
Theological Considerations
1 Thessalonians
About 1 Thessalonians
A Quick Look at 1 Thessalonians
A Theological Glance at 1 Thessalonians
Theological Considerations
2 Thessalonians
About 2 Thessalonians
A Quick Look at 2 Thessalonians
A Theological Glance at 2 Thessalonians
Theological Considerations

Reading Assignment

Ladd. NTT, pp 478-498; 634-639; 595-614

End of Sesssion

GALATIANS
Author: Paul
Date: AD 48/9 [ref]Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. Zondervan Academic; 5 edition (June 24, 2012), Grand Rapids, MI. 572-574.[/ref] after First Ecclesia Planting Mission
From: Antioch in Syria
To: New Jesus Followers in South Galatia
Subject: Another Gospel


 

About Galatians

Galatians is the first of Paul’s letters although there is some scholarly quibbling about the date.[ref]Tom Wright and Michael F. Bird. The New Testament in Its World. Zondervan. 2019.[/ref] After returning from his mission trip to South Galatia, he wrote to the ecclesiae that he had planted. After he departed this area a group, of Jewish agitators, who believed that you had to add the boundary markers of circumcision, food laws and calendar events, arrived in Galatia and began to preach their gospel. When Paul discovered that this group had followed his ministry and tried to destroy it with a distorted gospel, he became rather heated and wrote Galatians. Two problems caused this situation. First, Gentiles had accepted Jesus but not Judaism. Second, Jews who had accepted did not know what to do about having table fellowship with Gentiles. Paul’s intention was to recover anyone who had been lost because of the false teaching about conversion and to keep others from accepting the teaching of these Jewish missionaries.

Boundary markers

In the context of Galatians, the phrase “works of the Law” most likely refers to Torah-observance (practices commanded by the Mosaic legislation), with a particular emphasis in the context of this epistle on circumcision, observing Sabbath and feast days, and dietary restrictions. Scholars exploring sociological dimensions of these specific practices have referred to them as “social boundary markers,” “identity markers,” or “badges of Mosaic covenant membership” since these practices distinguish ethnic Israel from all other peoples of the earth. Paul, in Galatians, vehemently denies that such Torah-observance is required for members of the new covenant, whether of Gentile ethnicity or Israelite ethnicity. Well then, are there any identity markers to distinguish the new covenant people of God? Are there any distinguishing characteristics of those who place their faith in Jesus Christ? Indeed there are! We cite three from Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. [ref]Peter D. Spychalla. “Gospel and Identity Markers in Galatians.” accessed: 3.17.2020.[/ref]

Galatians, contrary to a long tradition, does not address the question about how someone becomes a follower of Jesus or obtains a relationship with God. The problem addressed by Paul was not how people came to be in a relationship with the Creator God, but who they were, the people with whom they ate.

Did this letter solve the problem in the Galatian churches? One could suggest that because Paul did not have to write them again, although he did visit them again, that it did what it was supposed to do. But, more than likely the mixture of Jews and Gentiles did not happen overnight. It was a long difficult struggle. The problem of Judaizing, i.e., what pagans do to become Jews, [ref] N. T. Wright, “Paul, Jesus & The Faith Of Israel” (Vancouver, BC: Regent Audio). N.T. Wright – “Grappling with Galatians” and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZUDuBu1xvY || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLX8daog6mM, || both accessed: 3.17.2020.[/ref] stands behind other writings of Paul like Romans and Philippians.

A Quick Look At Galatians

Opening Thoughts: Gal. 1.1-5

Faithfulness to One Gospel: An Autobiography: Gal. 1.6-2.21

Paul asserted that his authority as a missionary (which should be the translation of apostolos, one sent as a messenger or agent, the bearer of a commission, messenger) comes directly from God because his gospel came directly from a revelation of Jesus Christ at his conversion. He was not inferior to the Jerusalem brethren because his ministry has been performed with the power of God.

Faithfulness to One Gospel: A Rebuke: Gal. 3.1-4.31

Paul demonstrated to the Galatians that it was not by adding the boundary markers that they are true followers of Jesus. It was because of the death of Jesus on the cross that one’s salvation has been secured. We have become his heir, thus forfeiting our status as slaves.

Faithfulness to One Gospel: A Request: Gal. 5.1-6.10

We can stop living a lifestyle according to this present evil age, because of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Instead, our lives should be Spirit-controlled and lived out according to the age to come, demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

Closing Thoughts: Gal. 6.11-18

A Theological Glance at Galatians

Justification

Tom Wright says:
“Many people, including many supposedly ‘Pauline’ Christians, would say, off the cuff, that the heart of Paul’s teaching is ‘justification by faith.’ What many such people understand as the meaning of this phrase is something like this. People are always trying to pull themselves up by their own moral bootstraps. They try to save themselves by their own efforts; to make themselves good enough for God, or for heaven. This doesn’t work; one can only be saved by the sheer unmerited grace of God, appropriated not by good works but by faith. This account of justification owes a good deal both to the controversy between Pelagius and Augustine in the early fifth century and to that between Erasmus and Luther in the early sixteenth century.”[ref]N.T. Wright. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI. 1991 113.  [/ref]

And Wright continues:

“Justification in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future, and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about ‘getting in’, or indeed about ‘staying in’, as about ‘how you could tell who was in’. In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church” In addition to justification, Paul uses other metaphors to describe the nature of God’s act, namely, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation.[ref]Wright. What Saint Paul Really Said. 119.[/ref]

Faith alone in Christ will set the sinner in a right relationship with God (Gal. 2.1-6.18). This has been the rallying cry for reformers through the ages. Paul wanted the converts at Galatia to understand that the liberty that came in Jesus was not a license to do what they wanted when they wanted (Gal. 5.13). The freedom, which Christ brought to a believer, is a quality of life that causes the believer to care and enter into a life of service in the new community (Gal. 5.22-6.10). He taught them that they as the ecclesia were a direct descendant of Abraham and because of that they should be united (Gal. 3.16ff.). Because of Jesus, there were now no differences which had formerly brought separation. The ecclesia was made up of Jews, Gentiles, men, women, slaves, and free and table fellowship, which included all these together was a true sign of justification. Yet in this new community, there was no difference between these groups because they were all one in Jesus. (Gal. 3.27-29).

Works of the Flesh and Fruit of the Spirit

Faith alone in Christ will set the sinner in a right relationship with God (Gal. 2.1-6.18). This has been the rallying cry for reformers through the ages. Paul wanted the converts at Galatia to understand that the liberty that came in Jesus was not a license to do what they wanted when they wanted (5.13). The freedom which Christ gives to a believer brings a quality of life that causes the believer to care and enter into a life of service in the new community (Gal. 5.22-6.10). He taught them that they as the ecclesiae were a direct descendant of Abraham and because of that they should be united (Gal. 3.16ff.). Because of Jesus, there were now no differences which had formerly brought separation. The ecclesiae was made up of Jews, Gentiles, men, women, slaves, and free. Yet in this new community, there was no difference between these groups because they were all one in Jesus. (Gal. 3.27-29).

Works of the Flesh (Gal. 5.19-21)

In chapter five, Paul talks about two different lifestyles. The works of the flesh, which represent the lifestyle (habits of life) of this present evil age, and the fruit of the Spirit, which represents the lifestyle of the age to come lived out now as the new humanity of God is supposed to express itself. The following is the list with short definitions.

Sexual Sins

  • Sexual Immorality. Sexual intercourse outside the marriage relationship.
  • Impurity. A general word for any immoral activity that shuts a person off from God’s presence.
  • Debauchery. The lack of restraint. A love for sin that is so reckless that the one sinning has ceased to care what God or man thinks of his or her actions. There is no attempt to hide sin, it is committed in the open.

Religions Sins

  • Idolatry. The worship of gods, which humankind has made. It is the sin in which material things have replaced God. One worships what is created versus worshiping the creator.
  • Witchcraft. The use of drugs for magical purposes to bring spells.

Relational Sins

  • Hatred. An attitude of total hostility toward humankind. It is the attitude that puts up barriers and is ready to fight immediately.
  • Discord. An attitude that leads to contentions and quarreling.
  • Jealousy. The desire to have what someone else has.
  • Fits of Rage. An uncontrolled burst of temper which flames quickly and dies quickly.
  • Selfish Ambition. The attitude of self-seeking with no concept of serving others.
  • Dissensions. The attitude of disagreement that leads to division.
  • Factions. A self-willed opinion that leads to divisions. It ends in disliking a person’s views as well as disliking the person who holds the view.
  • Envy. This is not the attitude that desires something that someone else has. It is the attitude that grudges that someone else has anything at all.

Sensual Sins

  • Drunkenness. Habitual intoxication
  • Orgies. Sexual orgies.

Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.2-23)

  • Love. The action that seeks the best and highest potential for others—even if the person seeks the worst for us.
  • Joy. The delight that comes from experiencing God’s work in our lives that is not material.
  • Peace. The calm that everything is okay because it is in God’s hands.
  • Patience. The gentle tolerance of others. It is patience in dealing with people, not things and events.
  • Kindness. Treating others the way God treats us.
  • Goodness. Doing good deeds for those within the community of believers.
  • Faithfulness. Being reliable.
  • Gentleness. The balance between excessive anger and excessive patience. The quality of a person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.
  • Self-Control. Allowing the Spirit to control one’s life rather than a person trying to control her or his own life.[ref]Griffin. God’s EPIC Adventure. 276-277.[/ref]

Theological Considerations

  • Justification by faith in Christ is the heart of the message of the gospel.
  • Justification sets a believer free to serve God, others, and themselves by the power of the Spirit.
  • Believers should love and reach out to others even when they are caught in sin.
  • Believers should learn to speak vigorously for the truth.

Questions Galatians Answers

  • Are you justified simply by faith in Jesus or is justification something you earn by following laws and rules?
  • How should Jesus followers live their lives in light of being justified?

Community Discussion Questions

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  • What runs through your mind when you see others who have not received this gracious act of justification?
  • How do you respond to the idea that justification has freed you from the consequences of your sin?
  • How do you use your liberty as a license to do what you want?
  • How are we in the ecclesia the same only different?
  • Pick any one of the works of the flesh and describe how freedom from it has enriched your life?
  • Pick any one of the fruit of the Spirit and describe how it has grown in the life of the ecclesia and in your personal life?

Meditations

  • Salvation is a free gift. You can’t earn it.
  • Salvation gives us freedom and liberty. We are a new creation.
  • We can’t reap the Spirit if we sow the flesh.

Thought to Contemplate

If you are challenged by a rigid religious personality, reading Galatians several times may allow the work of the Holy Spirit to soften your outlook on the freedom of being a Jesus follower.

End of Sesssion

 

JAMES
Author: James
Date: AD 49 (40s or 50s) [ref]Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. 572-574.[/ref] From: Jerusalem
To: Jesus Followers Everywhere
Subject: Conduct for Everyday Life for Jesus Followers


 

About James

The book of James is the Second Testament equivalent of the First Testament Wisdom books. Its recipients are in question. The phrase “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1.1) could be understood as a metaphor (see 1 Peter 1.1) or to Jewish believers who lived outside of Palestine.
It is a collection of proverbial sayings and stories in the form of aphorisms, which is a tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion. James uses about sixty imperatives in his book. An imperative in the Greek language is a place of decision. There is a similarity between James and the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospels (James 1.2 cp. Matthew 5.10-12; James 1.5-7 cp. Matthew 5.48). Some of the sayings in James have a resemblance to the wisdom found in Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha.

There has been a lot of discussion between scholars about the apparent conflict between James and Paul over the topic of justification. These disputes are rooted in the misconception that James was speaking about “works” as a way of gaining salvation, which could, in fact, cause some difficulty if James meant by “works” what Luther meant by works. In fact, Luther was so distraught that James was in the canon that he called it an “epistle of straw.[ref] 44. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 35 (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1960), 362.[/ref]” Even though their language may overlap, “they are addressing different issues without reference to each other.”

A Quick Look at James

Introduction: James 1.1

True Religion: James 1.2-18

True religion comes from the strength that one receives from the attacks that come in life.

True Worship: James 1.19-27

True worship comes from being a doer of the word. Keeping the tongue bridled is a sure sign that worship has occurred.

True Faith: James 2.1-26

True faith is demonstrated by the good works in one’s life. One cannot work into a position of faith by doing good works. One does good works because of faith in and the acceptance of Jesus.

True Wisdom James 3.1-5.20

True wisdom is the experience of the age to come in the present evil age of our life. It is peaceable, gentle, full of mercy, and good fruit.

A Theological Glance at James

Works
When faced with the attitude to dismiss works as unnecessary for Jesus followers, James needs to be heard as he was during the time of Wesley. James exhorted followers of Jesus to demonstrate by their works that they were justified. If one were to ask Paul, How are we justified before God? He would answer “by faith!” If one were to ask James, How are we justified before man? He might answer “by works!” If one were to ask James, How do I know that you are justified? He might well reply, “by works!”

Wisdom
We often say that we need the wisdom of God. We quote our favorite passages of Scripture, what I call in my book God’s EPIC Adventure, versitis.[rev]Winn Griffin. God’s EPIC Adventure. Harmon Press. 13.[/ref] We must remember that these are not simply Christian Proverbs to be used to get anything we think we need. There are five areas of wisdom that James discusses. We need to be aware of all five.

  1. There is the wisdom to control one’s tongue: James 3.1-12.
  2. The wisdom of this age and the age to come: James 3.13-18.
  3. There is the wisdom to submit to God: James 4.1-10.
  4. There is the wisdom not to slander one another: James 4.11-12.
  5. There is the wisdom not to boast: James 4.13-17.

James provides six illustrations to demonstrate the need to control the tongue.

  1. Bits. These are used to make a horse go the direction one wishes: James 3.3.
  2. Rudder. A rudder was used to direct a ship where the pilot wanted to go: James 3.4.
  3. Small Spark. From such comes large fires: James 3.5-6.
  4. Animals…Being Tamed. It is difficult if not impossible to tame: James 3.7
  5. Poison. The product of an untamed tongue: James 3.8.
  6. Spring. Water can be both bitter and sweet, but it should not be so: James 3.9-10.

The concluding sentences ask rhetorical questions, which all summarize the need to master the tongue and how difficult it is to do so.

The Wisdom of This Age and The Age to Come: James 3.13-18

James begins with a comparison. First, there is earthly wisdom (James 3.13-16). The word earthly only appears six times in the Second Testament. It has the usual meaning of being godless in source and sphere. Earthly wisdom is the wisdom that is played out in the habits of life in this world, i.e., called by Paul, the works of the flesh in Galatians. James clarifies by telling his readers that this earthly wisdom is unspiritual. This means that the origin is not from the Spirit. Earthly wisdom is from the devil. This means that it proceeds from or is inspired by demons. Thus, earthly wisdom is natural wisdom that is bent on things of the world. It is not of the Spirit but has its source in demons. This advice was good for James’ original audience and is certainly still good for the present audience in time and space.

Second, there is the wisdom of the age to come (3.17–18). James describes the wisdom of the age to come as:

  • Pure. Not being polluted by the values of this evil age.
  • Peace-Loving. Freedom from strife with others and inward peace.
  • Considerate. Being fair, generous rather than rigid and exacting, i.e., reasonableness.
  • Submissive. Yielding To Persuasion: This only appears here in the Second Testament. It is the opposite of disobedient. As Jesus obeyed the Father and only did what he saw him doing, such should be the attitude and lifestyle of his followers.
  • Full of Mercy–Good Fruit. The believer should demonstrate mercy rather than venom, and, thus produce good fruit.
  • Impartial. This word appears only here in the Second Testament and means singleminded.
  • Sincere. To be sincere is the opposite of being a hypocrite.

The Wisdom to Submit To God: James 4.1-10

One of the worst manifestations of false wisdom is the unloosing of passion, which can be seen in the outbreak of strife and the tendency to compromise with the world. True wisdom will lead to submission to God. Resist the devil, change your actions and thoughts, grieve over your sins. Take God seriously. Humble yourself and God will lift you up.

The Wisdom Not To Slander One Another: James 4.11-12

We must all remember that our brothers and sisters are never our enemies. While the real enemy may use our brother to turn against us and even slander us, it is God’s wisdom, which says not to be involved in such actions with our brothers and sisters.

The Wisdom Not To Boast: James 4.13–17

We live life now as if we are going to live here forever. We should take note that bragging about our life today is not a part of the wisdom of God.

The Wisdom of God to Pray

Prayer for the sick: James 5.13-18

Anyone in trouble/afflicted
These words are speaking about misfortune, not an illness. It is a personal situation that causes distress. The antidote to this is not complaining or even bearing the affliction in quiet resignation. Rather, one should pray to God and trust in him to redress the wrong and correct the evil. It is not a time to indulge in self-pity. It is time to pray.

Anyone happy
One should not forget God when the going is smooth and attacks are not prevalent. One should learn to sing and praise God. James wants God remembered in all situations, good as well as bad. God is not just an errand boy to help human need, but one who deserves worship and praise at all times. The good news is that we may relate to him no matter what the circumstances are.

Anyone sick
The person who is sick should call the elders (those older in the faith not a group of folks elected to run an Institutional Church) of the ecclesia to pray and anoint him. The prayer offered in faith will save the sick person. Sickness and sin are often connected. Because of the possibility, Christians are to confess their sins to one another. This is an open and public acknowledgment of guilt.

The subject of the prayer of faith often brings more heat than light. The context of this passage centers around the ministering of Jesus followers one to another. In regard to sickness, James does not conceive of sickness and suffering being of the same substance. He offers different remedies in thoughts marked 13 and 14 (see RSV for more clarity). The Good News Bible gives the most accurate translation of these sentences when it says,

…This prayer made in faith will heal the sick person; the Lord will restore him to health, and the sins he has committed will be forgiven. So then confess your sins to one another, so that you will be healed.

One must note that the confession of sins is important in the process of healing. There is nothing in this passage that implies that if one only has a sufficient degree of faith, then one can receive healing. Third belief, i.e., that one has to garner enough faith to be healed is a dreadful misunderstanding held by many in the holiness and pentecostal churches. Rather, the passages draw attention to what is emphasized—there is no circumstance of life where faith is impossible, therefore, there is no situation in which one cannot resort to prayer.

The prayer of Elijah serves as an illustration of the effectiveness of prayer.

A Bit More Technical

James enforced the practical duties of the Christian life. The Jewish vices against which he warns them are:

  • formalism, which made the service of God consist in washings and outward ceremonies, whereas he reminds them (1:27) that it consists rather in active love and purity;
  • fanaticism, which, under the cloak of religious zeal, was tearing Jerusalem in pieces (James 1:20);
  • fatalism, which threw its sins on God (James 1:13);
  • meanness, which crouched before the rich (James 2:2);
  • falsehood, which had made words and oaths playthings (James 3:2-12);
  • partisanship (James 3:14);
  • evil speaking (James 4:11);
  • boasting (James 4:16);
  • oppression (James 5:4).

The great lesson, which he teaches them as followers of Jesus is patience:

  • patience in a trial (James 1:2),
  • patience in good works (James 1:22-25),
  • patience under provocation (James 3:17),
  • patience under oppression (James 5:7),
  • patience under persecution (James 5:10);
  • and the ground of their patience is that the coming of the Lord draws close, which is to right all wrong (James 5:8).

The justification by works that James contends for is justification before humankind, the justification of our profession of faith by a consistent life. Paul contended for the doctrine of “justification by faith;” but that is justification before God, a being regarded and accepted as just by virtue of the righteousness of Christ, which is received by faith.

Some Theological Topics

Some of the topics on which James shares wisdom are:

  • attacks (James 1.2, 12-27),
  • the tongue (James 3.1-18),
  • slander (James 4.11-12),
  • boasting (James 4.12-17),
  • treatment of the poor (James 5.1-12)

Theological Considerations

  • Salvation is a gift of God received by faith: you cannot be saved by your works.
  • Works are the genuine demonstrations of salvation.
  • You work because you have become a child of God, not in order to become God’s child.

Questions James Answers

  • How do I/we know that I/we are Jesus followers?
  • What is the right attitude toward suffering and wealth?

Community Discussion Questions

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  • How does this theological insight remove legalism?
  • How does controlling your tongue help you do the works of the kingdom better?
  • How do the metaphors listed above express what your tongue is like or suggest what your tongue needs?
  • How does using the wisdom of this age make one unspiritual?
  • How does this throw new light on the idea of being unspiritual?
  • How does using the wisdom of the age to come bring you to spiritual maturity?
  • Pick any one of the works of the flesh and describe how freedom from it has enriched your life?
  • How do you treat your brothers and sisters in the Lord in the privacy of your heart?
  • How does boasting set us squarely in the lifestyle of this present evil age?
  • How can you improve in praying for those who are in distress?
  • Which is easier, remembering God when things are rough, or remembering God when things are smooth? Why?
  • Do you think sickness and sin are connected? Why? Why Not?

Meditations

  • Seek God’s wisdom, not the world’s wisdom.
  • Genuine salvation brings us to a life of obedience to God and a ministry to our neighbor.
  • Failing to do good is a sin.
  • You can successfully resist the pull of the world to accept its standards.

Thought to Contemplate

True religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1).

End of Sesssion

 


1 THESSALONIANS
Author: Paul
Date: AD 50-51[ref]Gundry, Robert H.. A Survey of the New Testament. 572-574.[/ref] From: Corinth
To: Ecclesia at Thessalonica
Subject: The Pattern for Ecclesia Life and Correction of Misunderstanding about the Second Coming


 

About First Thessalonians

Paul received word from Timothy and Silas while in Corinth that the Thessalonian’s ecclesia was being persecuted by the local synagogue. Paul had only been able to stay with this new ecclesia for three to four weeks. That did not give him very much time to establish a firm foundation for these new Jesus followers. Apparently, Paul had taught them about the Second Coming of Jesus because there were some misunderstandings and questions that had arisen about this theme. He wrote the ecclesia to encourage them during their time of persecution and to answer the two questions that they had raised.

A note of explanation. Sometimes you can read what answers are being provided in Scripture and deduce what the questions may have been. Think of it as listening to one side of a phone conversation and trying to figure out what the other side is saying. It is with that scenario that we proceed to understand Paul in this letter. After Paul congratulates the Thessalonian believers (chapter 1), he turned to answer the two questions that may have precipitated the writing of the letter.

These following two questions were offered as a way of thinking about the material of 1 Thessalonians by Dr. James Kallas in a course on Pauline Studies in which I was a student during my days at Fuller Seminary in the 1970s.

Questions about the Second Coming

What happens to those who die before the return of Christ?
This question suggests that Paul must have taught about the Second Coming while in Thessalonica and after he left, some of the new followers of Jesus died. Death before the Second Coming may have been viewed by them as chastisement for sin, or even a loss of ones’ salvation. This may have sparked the question above. Paul’s answer is in the section that is marked out as 4.13-18.

When will Christ return? (An often asked question even today.)
There had not been enough time with this congregation during his stay with them to allow Paul to teach fully on this subject. So, he answered the above question in the section that is marked out as 5.1-11.

It is interesting to observe that when this church needed valid information to help them continue in their journey, they did not hesitate to ask the person who was foundational in their formation as followers of Jesus.

A Quick Look at First Thessalonians

Introduction: 1 Thes. 1.1

In Suffering Become Imitators: 1 Thess. 1.2-10
Paul suggested that the life of a believer will have suffering.

Imitation of Paul’s Ministry: 1 Thess. 2.1-4.12
As the ecclesiae continues in ministry, they should look at Paul’s ministry as a model.

Instruction about the Second Coming: 1 Thess. 4.13-5.24
Paul answered the two questions the ecclesiae had about the Second Coming.

Conclusion First Thessalonians: 1 Thess. 5.25-28

A Theological Glance at 1 Thessalonians

First Thessalonians makes an important contribution to our knowledge of eschatology.

Second Coming
There are three words in the Second Testament used for the event of the Second Coming. They are:

parousia
This word can be translated presence (1 Thess. 3.13 NIV) and arrival (1 Cor. 16.17). The word is often used in a semitechnical sense of a visit of a person who has a high rank, especially of emperors or kings who were visiting their provinces. Jesus is pictured in the Second Testament as seated at the right hand of God in heaven. He will visit the earth again in person (Acts 1.11) at the close of the age (Matt. 24.3). He will come in power and glory (Matt. 24.27) to raise the dead in Christ (1 Cor. 15.23). He will gather his people (2 Thess. 2.1; see. Matt. 24.31) and destroy evil (2 Thess. 2.8).

apokalypsis
This word is translated by revealed (2 Thess. 1.7 NIV). It could also be translated unveiling or disclosure. The Second Coming will disclose the Lordship of Jesus to the world (Phil. 2.10-11). His apokalypsis will be “the revealing” to the world of the glory and power that are now his (2 Thess. 1.7)

epiphaneia
This word is translated coming (2 Thess. 2.8 NIV). This word could be translated appearing and would indicate the visibility of the return of Jesus. While largely limited to the so-called Pastoral Letters, Paul used the word to tell the ecclesia at Thessalonia that Jesus will slay the man of lawlessness by the breath of his mouth and destroy him “by the epiphaneia of his parousia” (2 Thess. 2.8). The return of Jesus will not be secret or hidden but will be a visible breaking into the history of the glory of God.

The Second Coming is the personal and visible return of the same Jesus who departed as recorded by Luke in Acts 1.11. The first time Jesus came, he brought the kingdom of God and defeated Satan. The second time he comes there will be a full restoration of the rule of God in the world. The classic position found in the early church creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed is different from the position taken by modern dispensational theologians. Dispensational theology teaches that the coming of Jesus will occur in two parts: the first, a secret rapture of the church; the second, some seven years later. Often called pretribulational dispensationalism, this view is espoused in the Scofield Reference Bible and modern teachers like Hal Lindsey. Dr. John Walvoord, the former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, admitted in his book The Rapture Question (1957 first printing) that pretribulationism, a coming of Jesus for the church before the great tribulation, is not explicitly taught in Scripture. This admission which appeared in the first printing of the book in 1957 was deleted from later printings.[ref]Ladd. Theology… Revised Edition. 602.[/ref]

Rapture
The most commonly used term about the catching up of Christians at the Second Coming is rapture. This event is described in 1 Thessalonians at 4.16-17. The catching up of believers is Paul’s way of expressing the sudden transformation of the living for the weak, corruptible body of this physical order to the powerful, incorruptible body that belongs to the new order of the age to come. It is the sign of passing from the level of mortal existence to immortality.[ref]Ladd. Theology… Revised Edition. 610-611.[/ref]

Theological Considerations

  • We live between the time of the first coming and the second coming of Jesus. Our task is to be faithful to the missionary role of the ecclesia to spread the gospel to everyone.
  • Jesus followers are not immune to bereavement (4.13). We do not have to fear death. It does not rob a believer of any of the benefits of the coming of Jesus.
  • It is a waste of time to try and figure out the time of the Second Coming of Jesus (5.1).

Questions 1 Thessalonians Answers

  • Do believers who die before the Second Coming miss the blessings of the return of Jesus?
  • When will Jesus return?
  • While waiting for the Second Coming, what should a Jesus follower be doing?
  • Questions in Galatians for your community of faith and you personally to answers
  • In what way does your belief about the Second Coming influence your present lifestyle?

Community Discussion Questions

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  • In what way does your belief about the Second Coming influence your present lifestyle?

Meditations

  • Do not be deterred by opposition.
  • Your life bears testimony to the power of God to meet human needs.
  • That Jesus will return is certain.

Thought to Contemplate

Staying in touch with those who provided a spiritual foundation in your life can be a good habit.

End of Section
 

2 THESSALONIANS
Author: Paul
Date: AD 50-51[ref]Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. 572-574.[/ref] From: Corinth
To: Ecclesia at Thessalonica
Subject: Suffering and Second Coming


About 2 Thessalonians

Paul wrote a second letter to the ecclesia at Thessalonica that arrived only weeks after the first letter from Paul. After this second letter was delivered to the ecclesia at Thessalonica, the courier returned to Paul with more concerns to which he responded. Together, First and Second Thessalonians contain the primary teaching about the Second Coming.

A Quick Glance At 2 Thessalonians

Introduction:  2 Thess. 1.1-2
Encouragement During Suffering: 2 Thess. 1.3-12
Paul told the Thessalonians that they would be vindicated for their suffering.
Enlightenment About Christ’s Return: 2 Thess.  2.1-17
The Day of the Lord had not yet arrived. When others try to persuade you by means of letters, prophetic words, etc., that the Day has arrived, don’t believe it!
Exhortation To Steadfastness: 2 Thess. 3.1-15
Paul asked the ecclesia to pray for him and keep the community disciplined.
Conclusion: 2 Thess. 3.16-18

A Theological Glance at Second Thessalonians

Paul fashioned this second letter to answer three problems, which faced the ecclesiae.

Suffering
Paul told these new followers of Jesus that they should set their hearts and minds to endure the suffering which they faced, knowing that the one who was causing the suffering would suffer one day.

Second Coming
Some in the ecclesia believed that the second coming of Jesus had taken place and they had missed it. Paul told them that the day of the Lord had not occurred by referring to the events which must occur before the day will arrive.

Steadfastness
The believer must not become lazy and continue not to work if he expects to eat, and not meddle in the business of others as he waits for the day to arrive.

Rebellion and the Man of Lawlessness
The day of the Lord—the second coming of Jesus—will not occur until these events materialize. Paul does not intend his readers or us to take these events in some kind of chronological order.

| Rebellion
The word rebellion is apostasy and has been translated by some Dispensational Theologians as departing. There is no support for such a translation in ancient literature. The word usually means outright opposition to God. This is not a falling away as has often been suggested by the likes of Hal Lindsey[ref] https://www.hallindsey.com/hlr-5-1-2015/[/ref] or Tim LaHay and Jerry Jenkins[ref]Wikidepia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Behind[/ref] as much as it is apathy toward God and his authority (1 Tim. 4.1). See a parody that I created here: “The Rapture Manifesto.”

The Man of Lawlessness Revealed (read 2 Thess. 2.1-17)

This is usually understood as referring to the Antichrist. Here is an interesting thought in this regard. If verse 1 means the rapture of the saints before the tribulation as stated by John Walvoord in The Rapture Question (p. 152), and in verse 2, the day of the Lord is the second coming of Jesus, and the rebellion and man of lawlessness are revealed during the tribulation when the ecclesiae has already been raptured, then Paul is telling the Thessalonians something they did not really need to know because they would already be gone in the rapture. Obviously, he is telling them something that they should observe has not happened, so they may be calmed about the report which they had received. Paul leaves his readers with a description of the character of the antichrist. The spirit of antichrist is always here (1 John 4). At the conclusion of this present evil age, all evil will be embodied into one human being—the antichrist. He will arrogate to himself all authority both secular and sacred. He will demand total submission including worship. His character is lawless. His destiny is to be doomed to destruction. His activity will be to set himself up against God. I do not believe that Paul is referring to a rebuilt temple here or elsewhere. The temple had not yet been destroyed and the word he uses is not the whole temple but the innermost shrine. He uses this word later in his book to the Corinthians to mean the ecclesiae (1 Cor. 3.16ff.). It is a metaphorical way of expressing defiance to God by the antichrist.

Holding Him Back
This person of antichrist will not be revealed until a restraining influence is out of the way. In 2 Thessalonians 2.5, Paul reminds his readers that he has told them all this before. The text marker 2 Thessalonians 2.6 warrants an understanding that they knew what the restraining influence was. The question is: Can we? Paul’s vagueness should make everyone hesitant to use this part of Scripture as proof of the pretribulational rapture of the church. There have been several views set forth as to the meaning of the restraining influence:

The Roman Empire and its Emperor
The early church fathers may have held this view. The restraining influence is referred to as a “what” in 1 Thessalonians 4, placemarker in Thessalonians 6, as well as a “he” in placemarker 2 Thessalonians 7.

Human Government
This view comes from the one above. When “human” government fails in its effort to restrain rebellion, the Antichrist will step in and begin to rule.

The Holy Spirit
Most who hold to a pretribulational rapture theory believe this as the correct view. The Holy Spirit will no longer be active in the world because the believers have been taken out.

The Ecclesiae
This is akin to the view immediately above. When the ecclesia has been raptured, then the antichrist can be revealed. It often amuses me as to how much time some teachers spend trying to figure out who the antichrist is, while at the same time holding to the view that they are not going to be here when he appears. My question is: So what difference does it make who it is if you are not going to be here?

There are grave difficulties that attend these last two positions. In fact, they teach a regression back to First Testament times. It denies the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit and the ecclesia. It is a matter of Biblical record that the greater the activity of Satan, the greater the activity of the Holy Spirit—there is no theology of reduction in the Second Testament.

If the Holy Spirit is the restraining influence as he fills the ecclesia, then here is an interesting situation. Within the pre-tribulation rapture theory, it is taught that there will be 144,000 Jews evangelized in seven years without the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Thought: What the ecclesia has been unable to do in centuries with the presence of the Holy Spirit, these Jews will do in seven years without the presence of the Holy Spirit.

One cannot know for sure what this passage really means. I do believe that whatever it means, that the ecclesia will be around to see its full revelation.

The coming of the lawless one has the power of Satan behind him (1 Thess. 2.9a). This power is displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders (1 Thess. 2.9b). The power of the lawless one will result in the seduction of the wicked (2.10). Here is an interesting thought: God uses the very evil that men and Satan produce for working out his own purpose in the lives of people who have been seduced (2.11-12).

God had chosen from the beginning, the process he would use for salvation. Notice the idea of Trinity in placemarker 13—Lord, God, Spirit. This must have been the accepted view. Paul encouraged these believers to stand firm. This means to get a firm grip by holding to the teaching he has given them concerning the second coming both in person and in letters. He concluded this book with a prayer that God would provide for us eternal encouragement and hope which will, in turn, strengthen us in every task we do and every word we utter.

Theological Considerations

  • The Second Coming of Jesus will complete the overthrow of evil in the world.
  • The Second Coming will be a wonderful experience for believers and a dreadful experience for those who do not believe (see: 1 Thess. 1.7-10).
  • It is important to work while we wait.

The Question 2 Thessalonians Answers

  • Has the Second Coming already occurred?
  • Why do you think that suffering is a part of the Christian experience?
  • How do you feel each time you hear a forecaster tell you when Jesus will return or in this present age at the beginning of the twenty-first century that the world will collapse because of climate change?
  • What qualifies you for being steadfast? How does this understanding of steadfastness change or expand your belief about being faithful?
  • What causes apathy toward God and his authority?
  • In what ways can you see the spirit of antichrist at work in the world today?
  • Is the world any worse today than it was in past times?
  • How would knowing what or who this restraining influence is, help you in your daily life?
  • If standing firm means to get a firm grip by holding on to the teaching Paul has presented them, why do you think that the primary way of studying Scripture today is “Let me see what the Holy Spirit says it means”?

Community Discussion Questions

➡ |[glossary_tooltip term_id="6367"]CDQ Info[/glossary_tooltip]|

  • Why do you think that suffering is a part of the Christian experience?
  • How do you feel each time you hear a forecaster tell you when Jesus will return?
  • What qualifies you for being steadfast? How does this understanding of steadfastness change or expand your belief about being faithful?
  • What causes apathy toward God and his authority?
  • In what ways can you see the spirit of antichrist at work in the world?
  • Is the world any worse today than it was in past times?
  • How would knowing what or who this restraining influence is help you in your daily life?
  • If standing firm means to get a firm grip by holding on to the teaching Paul has presented him, why do you think that the primary way of studying Scripture is “Let me see what the Holy Spirit says it means”?

Meditations

  • Jesus will return to bring relief to those who suffer for him.
  • Speculation about the time of the Second Coming is useless.
  • Don’t let the belief that Jesus will come in your lifetime convince you to become lazy in your present day-to-day life.

Thought To Contemplate

Jesus is coming! Stay cool.

End of Sesssion

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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)