(1 Thess. 5:9-11)
As we have seen, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Paul has drawn a series of contrasts to illustrate the two sides of judgment when Jesus
returns. In our passage for today (1 Thess. 5:9-11), Paul addresses the contrast between wrath and salvation. Believers can have confidence in the last days because in Christ there is assurance that they are children of the light.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11. What is the essential message in these verses? What is the hope that Paul is talking about, and why can we claim it for ourselves? How is the gospel revealed in these texts?
Many today feel that the biblical concept of God’s wrath reflects more the culture of Bible times than the truth about God. That, however, is a misconception. It is true that, in the Bible, God has accommodated His truth to the limits of human language. But the concept of the wrath of God is not limited to the more ancient parts of the Bible; it is widespread in the New Testament, as well, including from the lips of Jesus (Luke 21:23; see also John 3:36), the pen of Paul (Rom. 1:18, 1 Thess. 1:10), and the visions of Revelation (Rev. 6:16, 17; 15:1). So, we cannot safely ignore the concept; it must express something very important about God and the plan of salvation.
While we cannot go deeply into the matter here, we must be clear that the wrath of God is not an irrational, impulsive rage. God’s ways are not our ways (see Isa. 55:8, 9). The biblical concept of the wrath of God is more like a nation’s need for justice in relation to lawbreakers who abuse and oppress others. Those who persist in wickedness will be punished and destroyed. Because we have all broken the law of God, we would all be subject to the execution of justice were it not for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
That is the good news about the wrath of God that shines through 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11. God’s purpose for us is not “wrath” or punitive justice but grace and salvation. And in Christ He has provided the protection we need so that we not experience destruction in the judgment. This is why Paul thought that the wrath of God, rightly understood, was a reason for encouragement rather than fear (1 Thess. 5:11). In Christ, we never need to face God’s wrath because, on the cross, Jesus faced it for us.
Talk about good news!