Endurance of Hope

In the first chapter of First Thessalonians, Paul anticipates the Letter’s main subjects - the tribulation of believers, Christian hope, and the “arrival” of Jesus when he will rescue his people from “wrath.” He will resurrect the righteous dead, and “meet” all his assembled saints as he descends from Heaven. On that day, his disciples, both living and dead, will “obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul and his coworkers, Silas and Timothy, introduced the Apostolic Faith to the city of Thessalonica. The former was Paul’s constant companion during his second missionary journey, and Timothy joined them during that endeavor - (Acts 15:32, 16:1-4, 16:20-37, 17:1-9).

Church Storm - Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash
[Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash]

The Letter is addressed to the “
Assembly in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek noun ‘ekklésia’ is commonly translated as “church” in English versions of the New Testament, but it more accurately means “assembly” or “congregation,” a group of individuals assembled for a particular purpose - (1 Thessalonians 1:1).

The term is adapted from the Hebrew Bible, especially its references to the “congregation” of Israel that gathered before the Tabernacle in worship - the Qahal Yahweh, or the “Assembly of Yahweh” – (Deuteronomy 23:1).

The Assembly is “in God and Jesus.” Paul maintains the distinction between God and His Son but also stresses their unity. This is not metaphysical speculation on Paul’s part. The Father cannot be known apart from the Son, and the saints of Thessalonica are the Assembly because of their relationship with God and Jesus.

Since his Death and Resurrection, the saints who gather in each city for worship constitute the “Assembly in God and the Lord Jesus” in their locality. Believers form a group distinct from the surrounding society, a “pilgrim” people often persecuted because of their newfound allegiance to Jesus Christ.

  • (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4) - “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope of our Lord Jesus Christ before our God and Father; knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election.

The term “endurance of hope” is an apt description of the forward-looking faith of the Assembly. With great hope, believers anticipate the day when Jesus will “arrive…on the clouds” to gather them to himself.

On that day, they will shine as Paul’s “hope and joy and Crown of Boasting.” With that knowledge, they are equipped to persevere in tribulation and persecution as they wait for Jesus to arrive from Heaven when he will deliver them from the “coming wrath.”

Suffering for the Gospel is proof positive of the believer’s “election” and God’s favor, confirmation that the Assembly has been “counted worthy to suffer for the Kingdom of God.” The hope for which they were enduring opposition will be fulfilled at the “arrival” or ‘Parousia’ of Jesus – (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 2 Thessalonians 1:5).

The Greek term translated as “election” in the passage or 'eklektos' means “chosen.” Those who respond positively to the Gospel are “chosen” by God to become part of His “Assembly,” receive His salvation, and bear witness to all that He has done through His Son for them.

The eager embrace of the Gospel by the Thessalonians despite opposition and persecution more than justifies His choice of them.

  • (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7) - “How that our gospel came not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; even as you know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake. And you became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Spirit, and you became examples to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.

The Thessalonians were impressed by Paul’s message, one that was accompanied by “power in the Holy Spirit.” However, most striking was their acceptance of the Gospel “IN MUCH TRIBULATION.”

The Greek term 'thlipsisor “tribulation” originally meant “pressing together,” hence the idea of “pressure.” From this developed the sense of “affliction, tribulation.” Paul faced opposition in Thessalonica, especially from the leaders of the local synagogue, and some local magistrates. Tensions became so high that he was compelled to leave before his work was finished, hence his expressed anxiety over the state of the Assembly.

Paul is doing more than recalling the past. The term “tribulation” anticipates his later statements made for the benefit of the Thessalonians. For example, his declaration that God “appointed us for tribulation.” Though counterintuitive, suffering for the Gospel does not indicate God’s abandonment of the Assembly, but just the opposite – (Acts 17:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 3:3).

Overlook - Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash
[Overlook - Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash]

His disciples must not be dismayed by tribulation. The willingness to suffer persecution for Jesus goes to the heart of what it means to be his disciple. His “
arrival” will bring rescue and salvation for those who wait patiently for him and endure all that comes because of this hope.

The Last Day will result in the vindication of the faithful, but also the punishment of all those who refused the Gospel, especially the persecutors of the “Assembly in God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

  • Crown of Glory - (If the Thessalonians continue to emulate the apostolic example, they will receive the Crown of Glory when Jesus arrives from Heaven)
  • Appointed for Tribulation - (The disciple who faithfully bears witness to the Gospel and Jesus will endure tribulation and persecution for his sake)
  • Sanctified Wholly - (Considering the future arrival of Jesus, Paul summons the Assembly to become sanctified completely by that Day – 1 Thessalonians 5:23)



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