The second coming of Jesus is a powerful incentive to spiritual growth. Every act of abuse or oppression will be brought to justice. Every act of love or kindness will be recognized and rewarded (see, for example, Matt. 10:42). That means that every act in this life, no matter how small, has meaning in the ultimate scheme of things.
But equally important for Paul, and the emphasis in this week’s lesson, is that the Second Coming will be a glorious reunion of family and friends, whose relationships will last forever because of what Jesus has done. Christian relationships do not have an expiration date. They are designed to last forever.
Read 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13. What are the things that Paul includes in his prayers for the Thessalonians after the arrival of Timothy?
First Thessalonians 3:11-13 sounds almost like the benediction at the end of a worship service. Paul, of course, wishes to return to Thessalonica and make up the deficits in the church’s faith (1 Thess. 3:10). But even if he is not able to return, he can still plead with God to motivate and grow the Thessalonians into an abundance of love, not only for each other but also for their neighbors and everyone they meet. This love will be an important component of their characters when Jesus returns.
Somewhat puzzling is Paul’s comment in verse 13 that Jesus will come “with all his saints.” The word saints or holy ones is normally applied to human beings in the New Testament. On the other hand, Second Coming texts in the New Testament normally describe Jesus as accompanied by angels rather than human beings (Matt. 24:30, 31; Mark 8:38; 13:27). So, who are the “saints” in this verse?
The solution to this problem is to recognize that in verse 13 Paul adopted the language of Zechariah 14:5 and applied it to the second coming of Jesus. The “holy ones” in the Old Testament are best understood as angels (see also Deut. 33:2 and Dan. 7:10). The New Testament, on the other hand, gives the word saints new meaning: they are human beings whose righteousness is from Jesus. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13, however, Paul reverts to the Old Testament definition of the word saints as angelic beings who stand in the presence of God. As such, they will accompany the God-man Jesus when He returns to earth.