1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1:1-2
It is essential to our knowledge of God and of our relationship to Him that we rightly understand the Trinity and its tri-unity of personhood. Paul is especially clear about this in his revelation of Kingdom truth. In these opening two verses he differentiates be-tween God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ twice. Please read through my other essays (especially the essays on Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians) about these things.
“There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:2–6
We are saved by God through the work of Christ in order that through the power of the Holy Spirit we might be restored to a relationship with our Creator/Father John 16:23–24; John 16:26–27; Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9. We are still falling far short of entering into the fullness of what God is accomplishing in the Church Ephesians 3:8–12 if we persist in conflating the majesty of the Godhead into a spiritual mush of charismatic worship that blurs together the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into some murky mystic miasma of shekinah and sweat.
It is not without reason that God has given us such clear and defined distinctions as He has to help us grasp the wonder of who He is and what He is about. It is for us to search these things out with “all our hearts, mind, soul, and strength” Mark 12:30, and to “press in to take hold of that for which God has taken hold of us in Christ” Philippians 3:12–14, and to learn what is the “breadth and length and height and depth, and … the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that (we) may be filled with all the fullness of God” Ephesians 3:18–19.
Our awesome God is teaching us, who are presently mortal and phy-sical, to become immortal and spiritual, and the distinctions that have been revealed to us are perfected to teach us of these trans-cendent things. God, the Father, is pure spirit John 4:24; 1 Timothy 6:13–16. Jesus the Christ, the second Adam Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15:22–28, the God-man, is 100% God and 100% human. The Holy Spirit, who was sent by the resurrected and ascended Christ, is pure spirit now imparted to each one of us in our mortality who enter into the Divine process John 16:7. Through Him we begin to experience the same “incarnation” that Jesus Christ demonstrated, and ulti-mately we, too, will experience the same resurrection. When this happens we, as Jesus is now, will be “seated with God” in “heavenly places” in that form that the scriptures call a “glorified body”… a spiritual/ physical creation of some sort 1 John 3:1–2. This is the gos-pel of the Kingdom of God.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. There-fore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 1:3-4
The trouble that had begun with the arrival of the missionaries and which had eventually driven them out of Thessalonica and on to Athens and now to Corinth has not relented, and the young church has had its ongoing baptism of fire. Timothy had returned with com-panions from Thessalonica to report that the fellowship has not only held together in the face of persecution, but has thrived. Paul and Silas (Silvanus) are, of course, over-joyed when they hear this and are bragging a bit to the Corinthians and the other fellowships that they have begun in Achaia while they were awaiting Timothy’s re-turn and since.
This second letter to Thessalonica most logically implies that after Timothy returned with the first good report and with the contingent from Thessalonica, and Paul sent the first letter back, at least some time passed, and at least one more delegation from Thessalonica made the trip down to Corinth with a report and more concerns for Paul to address. We have this second letter: There may have been others during the year and a half Paul was in Corinth, which have been lost to time. Certain questions seem to have been very much on the minds of the young church for reasons that we can only spec-ulate about: These were in large measure philosophical Greeks, and metaphysical thinking would have been a way of life for them. The powerful prophetic theology of the Kingdom of God would have opened up a vast vista of ideas that would have demanded answers from those apostolic leaders who had actually been with the Son of God, and who were given the responsibility of transmitting and stewarding His revelation.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with afflic-tion those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflict-ed as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance (Greek: dispensing justice) on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction (Greek:righteous judgment of perpetual distress and torment and loss), away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 1:6-10
The “this” that Paul refers to is the steadily increasing faith and love of the believers even as the opposition against them continues and intensifies: The power of the Holy Spirit in them to face into and to rise above the assault of the Enemy, drawing upon Kingdom resour-ces.
The invitation of God to enter into His Kingdom is extended to the whole of the human race. This is the “calling” of God that Paul refers to just below. I have explored some of the wonderful mystery of the God who “calls” to us, who seeks us out, in other essays. There is no other belief system of mankind that reveals such a deity as does ours. Paul’s writings, especially, help us to understand these myster-ies.
But the story of the scripture from beginning to end is one of the many who for a myriad of reasons choose to refuse our Creator’s offer to enter into intimate relationship with Him or, having ac-cepted it, balk at one of its challenges and turn back. And it is the story of the comparatively few who “set their faces as flint”, and determine that they will meet His challenges and become over-comers.
And the simple truth is that there are many who have finished their races well and won their crowns, so there are no excuses left to the rest of us. Paul alludes to this in his phrase “evidence of the right-eous judgment of God” above: “The Lord knows those who are His” 2 Timothy 2:19; John 6:44–45. It can be done, for it has been done: And those who have done it and who stand among the “great cloud of witnesses” have been merely human beings no different from our-selves who have chosen to yield themselves to the limitless power and possibilities of Almighty God without holding anything back. The question remains to us, will we choose to join them, or will we, as have so many others before us, find some reason to excuse our-selves Luke 14:15–35?
An insight into Hell: Never-ending, a place of loss and distress and anguish, away from the Presence of the Lord and from His Glory… the fact that Paul refers to the separation away from the Presence of God indicates that the soul in Hell is still existent, not extinguished after the body dies. He does not use language in a way that indicates that the soul ceases to be as some belief systems and pseudo-Christian sects would propose. But we worship a redemptive God whose self-defined essence is “love” itself 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16–19: the fact that the soul does not perish, even in its separation from His presence, leaves open the possibility that our Father has a plan for its future that He has not chosen to reveal to us at this time. Even Hell itself must be somehow within Him Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:16–17; John 1:3, and therefore is under His watch and His sovereign control and within the purview of His love and mercy Psalm 139:7–12. It is our human depravity that creates a theology of eternal (not “age enduring”) damnation (not “sentence” or “decision” or “justice” or “judgment”) and infinite (not “unceasing”) torment (not “loss” or “ruin”) and portrays our Father as vindictively sadistic over His ene-mies after He has gone to such excruciating personal extremes as the Cross to teach us to “love our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us” Luke 23:34. Could it be that Hell is the toughest of Divine “tough love” for a love that “hopes all things and believes all things” 1 Corinthians 13:7; cf. Joel 2:25? A question that ought always to remain alive in our hearts as those who only “know in part” is, “Can finite resistance eternally resist infinite love?” It is a valid question.
I would challenge you to study His covenant with us again through eyes and hearts that have not been contaminated by two thousand years of Christendumb’s poisons and intrigues, and to ask our Father again what it is that He is proposing when He says that it is His “good pleasure to give us His Kingdom” Luke 12:32.
An insight into Heaven: It is first that place that God is preparing us for (not “for us”) so that we may be able to fully appreciate Him for who He is and so that we may be part of the masterpiece display of His creation to all other created beings. What He is accomplishing through the Church is first “for His Glory” Isaiah 43:5–7; Isaiah 48:9–11; Isaiah 45:4–8; 1 Corinthians 15:28, and in order that His sove-reignty might be finally declared and established before all of His creation Ephesians 2:5–7; Ephesians 1:18–23; Ephesians 1:9–10; Ephesians 3:9–11. I have explored this at length elsewhere in these commentaries.
Whether we like it or not, the creation and the universe and the world in which He has placed us and we ourselves are all about Him, not about us: He is the Potter, we are the clay Romans 9:19–24. We are “His workmanship” Ephesians 2:8–10. All things were made “by Him, through Him, to Him, and for Him” and they are “for his pleasure” Colossians 1:16–20; Romans 11:33–36; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Isaiah 46:8–11. When we begin to understand this and to walk with Him humbly in this understanding, life in all of its complexity and in all of its tragedy and in all of its beauty begins to make sense at depths that those who choose to live as if they are the center of the universe simply cannot comprehend 1 Corinthians 2:14.
Heaven is God’s realm, and it is His pleasure that He would have us dwell with Him there, but we are acting like silly children or worse if our motivations in our faith are the perceived rewards of Heaven rather than the privilege and the joy of intimately knowing and with every breath appreciating and serving the Lord of Heaven Ephesians 1:17–23; Philippians 3:8–10; Psalm 84:10.
when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed,… To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1:11-12
The Plan and Purpose of God is manifold. He has revealed at least some of this to us in the unfolding and progressive revelation of His Word, written and recorded in the inspired texts of scripture, and incarnate in His Son, the “fullness of God revealed in flesh” Hebrews 1:1–4; Colossians 1:15–20; Ephesians 3:8–11. He is declaring His Glory and His Sovereignty before all of His creation, spiritual and material, in every dimension of reality, putting an end to the insurrection of Lucifer and the presumption of the creature to exalt itself above its Creator. He is removing the will to sin from the heart of His most wonderful creatures so that they can truly live in the liberty of love with Him and for Him and for each other. He is abolishing the possibility of any creature ever desiring to be alienated from Him by sin and self-centeredness again, and putting an end to the spiritual death that such alienation means 2 Peter 3:12–13; And He is creating a worthy companion for Himself who will be able to appreciate Him and interact with Him creatively at depths that no creature has ever yet been able to comprehend: Who will be able to enjoy His infinite possibilities into the ages of the ages to come with appreciations that once belonged only to God Himself Revelation 21:1–2.
We have no concept beyond speculation of how much of this is yet to come 1 Corinthians 13:12–13; 2 Corinthians 3:18. A significant part of the Plan as it concerns us has already transpired. We presently are in the latter stages of the beginnings of the birthing of the “com-panion”… the Bride, if we understand the timeline of the revelation correctly. Paul, writing to those who were at an even earlier stage and who are now among “the great cloud of witnesses” who are watching us, encourages each believer to live with all their attention to “good works of faith” by the power of the Holy Spirit so that God would be glorified by their lives before an unbelieving and hostile world. In another place Paul writes, “work out your own salvation…, for it is God who is in you both to will and to do of His good plea-sure” Philippians 2:12–16. This is what our lives as followers of “the Way” are to be about. There is yet much more to be unfolded that we do not understand 1 John 3:2–3; 1 Corinthians 2:9–16; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 20:6; 1 Corinthians 6:3.