1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We all know that the past shapes the present. What has happened in your past has a strong bearing on who you are today. That goes whether you are thinking as an individual, a family, a nation, a church, a civilization, the earth or existence as a whole. But that’s not the whole story. The future also has a say about what happens in the present. Fear of bad things that could happen as well as hopes, ambitions and possibilities influence how we think and act today. We live with expectations. We plan for the future. The Bible harks back to the past – ancient Israel and the early Church, but what is remarkable is its strong orientation toward the future. Out of its past experience Israel developed the expectation of a world re-made along the lines that God always wanted it to be – a world of peace and mutual respect. They spoke of a coming Messiah who would act as God’s agent in bringing this about. The New Testament presents Jesus as this Messiah. Something changed with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. A new way of being human opened up. A new relationship with God became possible. The future had entered the present. But that did not mean the end of the future. The kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdom of God and of his Christ. We still look forward to the fulfilment of what Jesus initiated. We use imagery to represent this, images such as the Second Coming of Christ, or of a new heaven and a new earth. No one knows when or how this promise will be fulfilled but the important thing is that Christ calls us to live as people of the new creation now although it involves running counter to much of what is going on around us.
- The parable in Matthew 25:1-13 ends with the exhortation: “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” in which the Son of Man is coming. What does this mean for us? How are we to keep awake for the coming kingdom?
- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ends with the words, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” Do you find this passage encouraging? Does the idea of the return of Jesus Christ encourage you in your faith and living?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 and see what, according to Paul, a life pleasing to God entails.
- How is your faith shaped by the past and how is it shaped by the future?