All Roads Lead To Jesus - Second Thessalonians

Second Thessalonians – Jesus Is the King We’re Waiting For
Reading – 2 Thessalonians 2

When I was much younger, my parents took a trip to California for 10 days to get some time alone during a hard time in ministry. I had never been away from my parents for that amount of time. They had put me and my brothers and sister in the care of our Aunt Jane and Uncle Dave. My Aunt and Uncle had no idea what they were in for when they agreed to watch over us. They probably did not account for how inconsolably homesick I would be even while staying in my own home. I missed my parents more than I could have ever imagined.

A few nights into the ordeal, I had returned home from soccer practice in the evening. I ran into the house as I normally did and was immediately uneasy because of how quiet the house appeared to be. I ran into each room, calling out for my brothers and sister. There were no answers. I ran outside and everything was quiet. There were no neighbors outside as far as I could see. I ran back into the house and began shouting louder and louder. “Is any home?!” “Where are you?”

And then it dawned on me. Jesus must have returned, and I had been left behind. I ran outside and began to wail and cry, asking God for a second chance. I had seen the 1980’s Christian movies about what the Devil was going to do to those who had been left behind. I thought I had asked Jesus into my heart but now, faced with the terrible reality that I was left alone, I thought, “Is it possible that it didn’t take?” I was terrified. I wailed some more.

Then I heard the phone ring. I ran inside and answered it as quickly as I could. It was our next-door neighbor. Had they been left behind too? “Daniel?” she said. “They are all gone!” I cried. “Who?” she replied. “My family. My Aunt and Uncle. No one is here. I am all alone!” I wept through the phone.

She must have been smiling when she said, “Daniel, you’re fine. You’re not alone. I want you to calm down. Your family is probably just stuck in traffic.” I did feel better, but I didn’t feel like I was out of the woods yet. And just then, my Aunt Jane pulled into the driveway with my brother who brushed right past me and into the house for some food. She had been caught behind a train and had no way of contacting me to let me know she’d be a few minutes late.

I don’t think I was truly going to believe that Jesus had not yet come back until I talked to my parents that evening. If they were still on Earth, then I could know for sure that I had not yet been left behind.

This is how the Thessalonians felt when Paul wrote to them. They were worried that they too had been left behind. Their persecutors continued to be a menace to the church. Wasn’t Jesus supposed to return and bring justice with him? Maybe they had missed his great return?

The Thessalonian church had a deep and abiding communion with one another and with Jesus. They loved each other and their Savior in a way that only the Gospel can explain. They had undergone severe and brutal persecution, but they continued to wait for Jesus to return. They had believed Paul when he said that Jesus was coming back to make all things new. But they began to wonder if they had missed the return of the King. Should they keep on waiting?

Paul had much to brag about concerning his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. They had endured great persecution and kept the faith no matter what they were facing. We can imagine how Paul’s face may have lit up when he was asked about the churches in Thessalonica.  He took those opportunities to speak of the power of the Gospel that was so evident in their life and community.

This church was one that was growing in love for one another. They protected one another. They cared and prayed for one another. They were a shining example of what true and authentic body life looks like for a group of Christians. Have you ever been a part of a church during a time such as this?

Most churches get to experience this kind of community when they first begin. I remember when we planted Stone’s Throw Church in 2010. The excitement was palpable whenever we gathered together to pray and plan. We all had a common purpose and were willing to take risks and to go places we might not have felt comfortable going to on our own. We had a common bond in Jesus and in the planting work.

Today, many of us are still together as our family has grown. We have enjoyed receiving new brothers and sisters into our congregation and watched as God fashioned new relationships that seem like they were never not a part of our body life. Both new and original members of our local church body have a common goal to make Jesus known to our community.

But just as easily as a church can experience deep community, many churches have risen up only to close their doors a few years later. They lose focus. They lose the narrative. They miss the point of why they began a church in the first place. The Thessalonians had been able to persevere because Jesus was the one they wanted in the beginning and he was the one they waited for when Paul wrote to them some years later after starting the church.  

Paul had many different reasons for writing his letters to the various churches. In Corinth, he needed to put some kind of church order in place and was compelled to address rampant immorality. In Galatia, Paul had to correct those who were teaching a false Gospel. The Romans needed the greatest treatise ever written concerning the redemptive work of God. The Thessalonians needed to be assured that the One they treasured the most had not left them behind. They longed for Jesus so greatly that they feared that Jesus had already returned and that they had missed it!

Paul wrote to reassure them that Jesus had not yet returned and that when he did, they would know it. Until that day, they must continue to work and wait patiently.

I wonder if the modern church is longing for Jesus’ personal and glorious return? I wonder if we are losing the narrative. When someone asks you to explain the story behind what you believe in the Gospel do you tell them the whole story? Many Christians today will say that they are followers of Jesus because “Jesus died for my sins. Now my sins are forgiven. Now I try to live a good life.”

Of course, all of these things are true, but they don’t tell the whole story of the Gospel! The Gospel is Jesus saving us from our sins and so much more! We are not the center of the story. God is the center of the story. The story begins with God creating a perfect world and being in perfect fellowship with humanity and all of creation. But this relationship did not last when humanity was left to its own devices. Adam and Eve failed to keep the covenant God had made with them and so sin entered into the world. Everything went dark. The creation went dark. Death entered the world. Our relationship with God had been broken.

But God did not leave humanity to suffer the consequences of sin without any hope at all. Even in those pre-historic moments, God revealed to humanity that He had a plan for redemption. God did not leave us in sin and despair, but instead promised a Redeemer in the curse. The story was not over!

The entire Old Testament is in place to remind us of how God would save us from our slavery to sin and our consequences of misery. God gave us prophets, priests, and kings to point us to the One perfect Prophet, Priest, and King who would make redemption and salvation possible. None of the prophets, priests, or kings could keep God’s covenant. They were all imperfect people who needed a Savior King. Each of them is recorded in the pages of the Bible for this purpose – to point us to the One.

The One is Jesus. Jesus was the One that Israel and all of the world had been waiting for since those dire moments in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the world. And Jesus is the One we have been waiting for. Jesus lived a life in perfect obedience in a way that no other prophet, priest, or king could manage to do. Jesus died on a cross that we deserved in order to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus proved himself, King, when he beat death and rose from the grave.

Our faith in Jesus unites us to his work as the One Prophet, the One Priest, and the One King. Yes, indeed, Jesus has saved us from our sins. But this is not the end of the story. No, not yet. Jesus is coming back to make all things new. He has promised to return, and he will return. Jesus is the One we have been waiting for.

So the Gospel is, “Jesus has saved me from my sins.” But it is also so much more. Jesus is coming back to make all things new and good. We are waiting for that day. But are we? I think this is the great takeaway from 2 Thessalonians. Are we living our lives in anticipation that the story is still unfolding? Or have we become distracted from the grandeur of the Great Finale?

The Thessalonians were able to persevere through great trials because their eyes were fixed on a return that they never experienced during their short time on earth. But I imagine now that they wait in eager expectation while experiencing a glory no eye has seen. Every one of them has died and now awaits the return of Jesus in His presence. They have beheld the glory that we will experience when Jesus does return.

How were the Thessalonians able to live through the great persecution of the Church? They knew that they were living in the story. They knew that Jesus would get the last word. We too can live as the Thessalonians lived. We can live in the hope and that glory and with that same urgency. But we must long for One who is greater than any trial, any hardship, any joy, or any victory. We must long for the King who comforts and who is coming back to bring a final end to the greatest story ever told.

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