Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The End of Things
People wonder about the end of things. A recent article in Discover Magazine gives â??7 Steps to Survive The End of the Universe.â?? The article uses the premise that our universe is expanding rapidly and accelerating. One day there will be nothing left but coldness and darkness â?? no life. But wait! They have a plan to escape this fate by escaping this universe into another one that is nearby â?? like super thin pieces of paper layered on top of each other â?? all we need to do is bridge the gap and voila! The Great Escape.
These steps include: finding a wormhole to travel to another universe, creating a black hole in each universe then use something called a Kerr Black hole to send a man through to this other universe â?? or if that fails, use a laser implosion machine or a Cosmic Atom Smasher.
It all sounds kind of violent to me. But the idea of wondering about the end and how we will escape this world is not new. The Greeks had their ideas about it â?? basically that you entered some kind of half-life on the River Styx. They believed that â??the soul survived the body. It either hovered about the tomb or departed to a shadowy region where it led a melancholy existence in need of the offerings brought by relatives. The disembodied soul was also presumed to have the power of inflicting injury on the living, and proper funeral rites were held necessary to ensure the peace and goodwill of the deceased.â?? http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/8991/greek.html
So whether you believe in the River Styx or in an Atom Smasher â?? Paul the Apostle has some answers in the books of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. It gives us comfort in these days of uncertainty â?? when even professing to be a Christian is seen as bad thing â?? much less actually sharing the gospel â?? where standing up for righteousness is seen as immorality.
To get some background on this church and what they were thinking â?? lets go to Acts.
17:1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jasons house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesars decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.
1. The Thessalonican church was founded by those who had a knowledge of the Scriptures and the Messiah â?? but not about Jesus.
2. Jesus topples kingdoms â?? and those in power who were threatened will go to any length (including associating with those they would NEVER be with otherwise)
3. Escape was the only recourse â?? it doesnt signal failure â?? as a vibrant church was born.
4. Thessalonica was a small church in numbers (much like ours) but large in its life (again, much like Living Waters).
1 Thessalonians 1
So what happened after Pauls escape? You picture the mob surrounding the church and destroying every last member â?? but thats not what happened. The church not only survived but thrived. But you can tell that the persecutions and the vacuum left by Pauls departure left some lingering questions.
The Thessalonians suffered persecution and had some questions about their young faith â?? and thats okay â?? people dont always respond well to the gospel or to a Christian â?? we shouldnt feel like we â??have it all togetherâ?? â?? here in church, with our fellow believers and among people we trust â?? we can ask questions and seek strength from one another.
The future was much on these peoples minds. Without hope for the future we drift into despair or slide into apathy â?? neither of which are good for us. This letter brings that future into perspective â?? both for this young church and for us as believers today.
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
2 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
â?¢ The sign of a growing Christian are seen here in verse 3.
1. Faith will produce works. James said â??faith without works is dead.â?? It doesnt mean that we are saved by works â?? but it is â??faith that worksâ??. If you have given your heart to Jesus and find no differences in your character, no change in your attitudes and actions, then I would start to question whether you were genuine in your profession of Christ. Working out your salvation is a natural byproduct of faith.
2. Labor prompted by love â?? as you begin to change, the love of God will begin to flow through your life and you will see needs and hurts around you. The natural response then is to reach out.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God
3. Endurance prompted by hope. The maturing Christian will encounter resistance â?? both from within (the flesh), from the world, and from the enemy. We endure because of the hope laid up before us â?? hope that the transformation will be complete one day (1 John 3:2 â??when He appears we shall be like Himâ??) and that there will be escape from the trials and persecutions (Rev 7:17 â??God will wipe away every tear.â??)
Point 1: God is changing you â?? so hold on until He comes for you.
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
â?¢ (vs 4) Even though we dont understand it â?? God chose us. It wasnt because we were so special, but it was because of His great love. Why did He choose some and not others? I dont know â?? there is an interchange between our freedom to choose and Gods freedom to choose that Ill ask Him to explain to me someday. For now I know that (2 Peter 3:9) God doesnt want anyone to perish but all to come to eternal life â?? but not all will.
â?¢ (vs 5) The Message: â??it wasnt just words â?? something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.â??
Point 2: God chose you and His Spirit makes you sure of your end.
You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
â?¢ Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:16 said â??I urge you to imitate me.â?? The word â??imitateâ?? here suggests not an â??apingâ?? but the relationship between an adult pupil and his instructor â?? a relationship that goes beyond â??classroom hours.â?? Do you have someone like that in your life? I would encourage you to hook up with a more mature believer â?? glean what you can (no one is the Apostle Paul, of course).
â?¢ The Message â??â?¦taking the joy with the trouble, the trouble with the joy.â??
â?¢ The more you mature the more you realize that tough times happen â?? but the Lord brings us through them all and matures us in every circumstance. (â??knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseveranceâ?? James 1)
7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
â?¢ God takes how He works in and through you so that others can imitate it. People are watching.
Point 3: God has given you models, then makes you models â?? the cycle continues and the process works!
8 The Lords message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia-your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
â?¢ Giving up the old ways and the old comforts was hard â?? and it is hard for us. We all create survival strategies in life â?? for the Greeks it was the Greek mythology. For today its science and wormholes to other universes.
â?¢ The truth is idols â?? whether Greek gods or scientific theories - cannot save you from the impending destruction (2 Peter 3:2 â??the elements will melt in the heat.â??) and judgment of sin.
â?¢ But â?? since we serve the â??living and true Godâ?? â?? we can have a certain hope to wait on his Son â??who rescues us from the coming wrath.â??
â?¢ Our tendency is when the heat turns up to go back to what made us comfortable â?? the old myths and wives tales â?? or rely on the so-called â??wisdomâ?? of people like Stephen Hawking â?? who is the one who suggests that we could avoid destruction by going through a wormhole into another dimension and another time.
â?¢ There is only one way to escape this dimension â?? that is through Jesus Christ and His resurrection.
1. How does the gospel come? Not just in words (verse 4)
The gospel is the â??power of God for the salvation of everyone who believesâ?? Romans 1:16 â?? so it is power IN us.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirits power , 5 so that your faith might not rest on mens wisdom, but on Gods power
We trust in the power that God worked through His Son and His apostles.
Colossians 1:11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.
His power THROUGH us.
By the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit convicted you of sin and came to live in you when you received Jesus. You have a friend, a counselor, a helper â?? someone to come alongside and help you every step of the way as you mature. Someone also who will comfort you in fear and rescue you from trouble.
By Deep conviction
It is not just by a surface acknowledgement but by a deep, abiding, belief and conviction about the truth of Gods Word and salvation by Jesus Christ. Nothing can move me away from that belief â?? not persecution or even death.
2. How does maturity come?
By Declaration â?? â??I belong to Godâ??
By Imitation â?? seeing other successful (ie mature) believers
By Observation â?? watching for God to make changes in you
We need to use this as a basis to understand the rest of the letter â?? that trouble is inevitable, but not insurmountable â?? and how to properly identify the rescue.