Our Blessed Hope…by Brian Gates
Our Blessed Hope
COVID-19 pandemic or not, this world hasn’t been a safe place since sin entered. Despite the magnificence of Creation, the effects of the curse are everywhere. The decline of our physical bodies is certain. Sickness, loss, fear, and hardship (to name a few) are common to us all. Believers near and far face persecutions for their faith.
Suffice it to say, much ink could be used describing all that is wrong. But those who belong to Jesus have an eschatology (the study of the last things) that says that this same Messiah that delivered us from bondage will one day restore all things. The apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to Titus that we have a hope that should bring us to rejoicing despite the trials, the decay, the suffering in our lives.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Titus 2:11-13.
Our blessed hope. Such an amazing promise! Does it make your heart swell with anticipation?
Working our way through I and II Thessalonians during the Wednesday evening Immerse class this past Fall and Winter, we saw that, as part of their missionary journey, Paul, Silas, and Timothy likely spent only a short time (from the Acts 17 timeline, possibly between 3 weeks to a few months) with this fledgling congregation in Thessalonica before this trio was driven out the city by the civil authorities. Out of great concern for their well-being, Paul (with Silas and Timothy) sends these two letters to this church a short while after their untimely departure. In both I and II Thessalonians he makes several mentions of the Thessalonians’ trials, commending them for suffering well in their afflictions, through Christ. Paul, as we’d expect, continues to exhort them.
It was particularly striking to me in these epistles to this young church that Paul spent such a large amount of space dealing with eschatology, earnestly reminding them and clarifying the things they’d been taught. Wasn’t there other instruction more needful for Paul to write to them about? Apparently not.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (emphasis mine).
While it is certainly tempting to start examining all that is in that magnificent passage, notice Paul’s purpose in writing it. It was to give them hope by encouraging one another with these last things, something he states multiple times in these letters. We often treat eschatology as an interesting but advanced topic to be admired at arm’s length. Yet, Paul clearly desired the Thessalonians understand and derive great comfort from this. And while there are differing views on the Millennium and the specific timing of events, we know that in the end evil is vanquished as Christ restores a broken Creation.
It may take a little more effort in this time of stay-at-home isolation, but it’s worth the extra effort to reach out that we might continually remind each other of this blessed hope.
O, brothers and sisters, may the thought of our King’s return in resplendent, triumphant glory cause us to tremble with holy awe and to long for that day when we will be with Him.