1 From Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
To the church in Thessalonica, the people of God our Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
When Christ Returns
3My dear friends, we always have good reason to thank God for you, because your faith in God and your love for each other keep growing all the time. 4This is why we brag about you to all of God's churches. We tell them how patient you are and how you keep on having faith, even though you are going through a lot of trouble and suffering.
5All this shows that God judges fairly and is making you fit to share in his kingdom for which you are suffering. 6It is only right for God to punish everyone who is causing you trouble, 7but he will give you relief from your troubles. God will do the same for us, when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven with his powerful angels 8and with a flaming fire.
Our Lord Jesus will punish anyone who doesn't know God and won't obey his message. 9 Their punishment will be eternal destruction, and they will be kept far from the presence of our Lord and his glorious strength. 10This will happen on the day when the Lord returns to be praised and honored by all who have faith in him and belong to him. This includes you, because you believed what we said.
11God chose you, and we keep praying that God will make you worthy of being his people. We pray for God's power to help you do all the good things you hope to do and your faith makes you want to do. 12Then, because of the undeserved grace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, you will bring honor to the name of our Lord Jesus, and he will bring honor to you.
So we pick up the second installment of this letter to Thessalonica and it’s as if Paul is asking, “Now, where were we?”
Ah, yes, I was thanking God for you and boasting about you – that faith and love are growing bigger and better, and that steadfast suffering is proof of your worthiness.
Ah, yes, I am writing about God’s kingdom and the second coming of its king.
Ah, yes, and I was writing about the difference between those who believe and follow the king and those who don’t.
Let’s unpack that last one a bit more.
This scripture is clear: those who “do not know God” and “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” are absolutely outside the kingdom. The language is fierce and unrelenting. In plain and stark words, they are “away from the presence of the Lord” and will suffer absolute exclusion as divine punishment. And note how Paul sees that terrifying finality as a combination of human responses and divine justice. We cannot pretend that the fault and the consequences are never our own, but always God’s, and attempt to blame everything on him.
There’s an unfinished work here, though. God is still at work making us worthy of his kingdom. Process is part of our salvation. God’s work is ongoing, and necessarily so. How easily I understand that whenever I pause, look inwards, and take stock of my heart and mind! So I keep on praying, as Paul does – and I need the prayers of my Christian community – that I may be part of and partner with God’s continual maturing of me.
Look where it ends! “That the name of Jesus Christ be glorified in you.” And that the same name be glorified in us. Not bad!
Father God, you are never done with us. We pray that you will make us worthy of your kingdom and worthy of our calling. We know ourselves to be in dire need of that prolonged and enduring process by which you move us towards glory. Please fulfill every resolve for good in us and every work of faith by your power. Amen.