The good news of Jesus’ return fills our sails with winds of hope that propel us forward into even the most difficult days. Those who have died are not gone forever. Present sufferings will not last. Jesus is coming to clean up all the mess—including our broken promises to God. We don’t have to solve everything. It doesn’t all depend on us. We have the freedom of relying on the hope of Jesus’ coming again.
At the same time, the promise of Christ’s return applies a pressure to our lives. This restoring of all justice and peace involves calling the world to account. Paul describes an act of irresistible authority: “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” (esv). Christ’s dominion is so thorough that even the dead must obey the summons. The great adjustment of creation back to harmony means revealing everything for what it is. And that includes us.
So like the Old Testament passages we studied, the context of this magnificent hope urges us to readiness and right choices. Earlier in chapter four, Paul has “solemnly warned” (v. 6, esv) the Thessalonians away from impurity and into holiness. In chapter five, Paul will remind them that when Jesus returns, “The day . . . will come like a thief in the night” (5:2, esv). Our choices matter. They don’t vanish into a past that can’t be recalled. They reverberate in God’s eternity. So we want to be found going about the Lord’s business. We want to expect Christ’s return. We want to live ready each moment for Christ to shine full light into our lives.
Lord Jesus, give us grace to ride the current of both the accountability and the hope of your return. Amen.
Although God miraculously has brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, some continue to worship foreign gods. Joshua tells them that they must choose whom they will serve and warns of the dangers of unfaithfulness. After they declare that they will follow God, Joshua reminds them of the laws given by God. The psalmist affirms the importance of this kind of reminder; telling the story of God’s faithfulness in the past encourages us in the present. The New Testament readings address Christ’s return. The Thessalonians are concerned that those who have died might miss the final resurrection, but Paul assures them that this will not be the case. Jesus tells a parable to highlight the fact that his return will be unexpected, so we should always be ready.
Read Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. We are prone to wander. When have you failed to keep promises you have made to God?
Read Psalm 78:1-7. How do you put your hope in God? What are you doing to awaken faith in the next generation?
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. How does the promise of the “coming of the Lord” provide hope when present authorities seem to have a stranglehold? How does the notion that the coming Lord will hold us all accountable encourage you?
Read Matthew 25:1-13. How do you daily choose your faith? How do you keep awake?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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