Rescued from Wrath

Already, Jesus is rescuing his people from the coming wrath that will befall the unrighteous when he arrives – 1 Thessalonians 1:10. 

Lightning Storm - Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
Opposition to the young church forced Paul to leave Thessalonica before his work was finished. He later attempted to return but was thwarted "
by Satan.” Because of his anxieties about the congregation, he sent Timothy to investigate matters, and his first letter to the Thessalonians is his thankful response after receiving good news from Timothy - [Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash].

After his opening salutations, Paul reiterates how the assembly welcomed him and turned from “idols to serve the true God.” The reference to idolatry suggests the church consists primarily of Gentile converts, former idola worshippers.

In this paragraph, Paul anticipates the subjects to be discussed in the remainder of the letter, including the persecution of believers, the basis for Christian hope, the “coming” of Jesus, and the impending “wrath.”

  • (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10) - “And you became imitators of us, and of the Lord, giving welcome to the word in much tribulation, with joy of Holy Spirit; so that you became an ensample 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 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.

LIVING AND TRUE GOD


In this letter, Paul does he provide any chronological information or sequence of events that will mark the imminent coming of Jesus.  Instead, he describes how the life orientation of believers has been altered by their conversion.

Rather than serve dead idols, the Thessalonians now serve the “true and living God.” And rather than comfortable urban life, they are beginning to experience pressure from their increasingly hostile neighbors.

Paul uses two infinitive clauses to express how disciples of Jesus must live.  First, they must turn from idols “to serve a living and true God”; and second, they are now “to await his Son from heaven.”

In the future, the Son of God will "arrive from heaven.” This subject is developed further in the letter’s subsequent chapters. On the final day, Jesus will “descend from heaven with a shout” to gather his followers.

Moreover, this same Jesus is the son of “the living and true God,” not another dead idol or false god. And he is the one whom this living “God raised from the dead” – (Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

RESCUING HIS SAINTS


And even now, Jesus is “rescuing” his disciples. This term translates the Greek present tense participle for “rescue, deliver, save” (rhuomai - Strong’s - #G4506). The use of 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.

And he is rescuing them from “wrath.” What this “wrath” consists of is not stated in the passage.  Here, it has a definite article in the Greek clause, that is, it is “the wrath,” and this indicates a specific and known event. It is not “wrath” in general or an attribute of God, but an event that will be characterized by wrath.

Even now, this “wrath” is “coming.” Just as Jesus is now “rescuing” his people, for non-believers, the “wrath” is “coming.”


Island Dusk - Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
[Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash]


The two present tense participles contrast the two processes - rescue for some, and wrath for others. Both will be consummated at his "arrival.” His death and resurrection have set both events in motion.

In describing these impending events, Paul uses language from the book of Isaiah associated with the “day of the Lord”:

  • (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.”

Thus, the Thessalonian church must not be dismayed by present persecution. While the “day of the Lord” will bring wrath upon the unrepentant, it also means deliverance for those who wait patiently for his return.

Paul does not promise deliverance from suffering in this life. In Thessalonica, the church received the gospel “in much tribulation.”  In contrast, “wrath” is something reserved for rebellious men who reject the gospel and persecute believers, and it will be consummated when Jesus arrives at the end of the age.



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