Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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1Thessalonians 5

I like to watch people in airports. These days you have to arrive a week before your scheduled departure to make it through parking, hauling your baggage passed the porters, figuring out the new computer check in system - then see the security line snake around the block, waiting for lattes. At the gate then, people wait - in different ways. Some wait quietly - sleeping or reading so peacefully that it seems they don't get up until the crew is about to latch the door - then there are the fidgety people - that can't sit or stand but troll endlessly around the gate and jump into line even though they are in group 4. \r
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We can wait for Christ's return for the church in much the same way - as evidenced by the Thessalonians. \r
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The Thessalonians had two problems about Jesus' return for them in the Rapture - either they became blasé and just kicked back - making others provide for them - or they got panicked about it - running around worrying all the time. Neither mindset works very well for Christian discipleship. But in light of the Rapture, Paul has some practical suggestions and some warnings about how we should live in light of Jesus' soon return.\r
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1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. \r
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They didn't need to know specific time frames because they won't be around. \r
The "day of the Lord" is referred to in many places throughout the Bible - including Isaiah 13:6, Matthew, Daniel, Jeremiah, Amos 5:18, and Joel 2:28. It is a day of judgment of sinners and victory for Israel. \r
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It will come "like a thief in the night" because everyone will be sleeping - spiritually - and will not be prepared for it. Don't confuse this with the Rapture - Paul here is talking about the fact that God's judgment against sin is coming and people are so not aware of it that it will seem "like" a thief in the night.\r
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People will think "all is well" but then the Lord will come back.\r
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Like a woman in labor - the Great Tribulation is going to move them steadily towards judgment - you can't just decide not to be pregnant when labor starts. If people reject Jesus they will go through the Great Tribulation and have to face Jesus upon His return.\r
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4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. \r
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We know the signs - and we know the Lord. We belong to Him now and will go with Him when He returns for us in the clouds. So that should change the way we think and way we act.\r
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5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. \r
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(5) Though we will not suffer the same fate as those who do not belong to Christ - we can still adopt the same attitudes as the world - and we shouldn't.\r
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(6) We need to be "alert" and "self controlled" This suggests being aware of what's going on, and have a sober attitude about it. We know these are the end times - we know we are going to be with the Lord soon - we are not "asleep" - but we are also not panicked or drunk with carelessness (we're going soon so it doesn't matter what we do.)\r
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This is a time to become more like Christ - to up our prayer and worship and study of the Word - to be looking for opportunities to serve and to share the gospel. \r
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(7) Paul's using an illustration - if you are not aware because your are "asleep" spiritually - then you are in the dark - and if you are not coherent because you are drunk - again its going to probably be at night - so you simply aren't going to know what's going on.\r
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(8) We're not stumbling around drunk or sleepy in the dark - God has given us the light of His Word so we know what is happening and what's going to happen. \r
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Faith, hope, and love are Paul's watch-words for the Christian. It's faith that saves you - love that motivates you, and hope that anchors you. Here Paul uses the soldier metaphor from Isaiah 59 (the same passage where it says God will work for Himself salvation), not Ephesians 6. I think in this context Paul may well be saying "look - don't panic as if you are without protection - like the last days are going to overtake you like the others - you've got God's work on your side - and His salvation is going to work for you.\r
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This is really important given the next statement: \r
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9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.\r
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(9) This is one of the key verses when understanding the Tribulation, God's judgment of the earth, the Rapture, and the church's place in relation to these events.\r
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Destruction, verse 3 says, will come suddenly upon those who do not believe - that it will be like labor pains leading to birth - which is God's judgment against sinners. The helmet of salvation means that are not appointed for that destiny - you know now that you will be rescued from judgment.\r
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The Great Tribulation is God's judgment on an unbelieving earth. In Chapter 4 Paul describes an event known as the Rapture - or the Snatching Away - where the church will be caught up to Jesus in the clouds - following will be a time when a lawless one will be revealed, a replacement or Anti Christ who will rule over the earth even as God judges it for seven years. At the conclusion of that Jesus will return physically to destroy the Anti-Christ and his forces and we will rule with Him for a thousand years.\r
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After that comes the judgment of every living human who ever breathed - judged on what they did in regards to His Son. Those who reject Jesus will be sent away from God's presence forever, those that received Him into everlasting life.\r
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We as believers already are spared from the 7 year judgment on earth and the eternal judgment of sin - it's no wonder Paul says to encourage each other.\r
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There is no need to panic - the train won't leave without you and you don't have a ticket to remember to bring - He's coming back for you.\r
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There is also a need not to coast until that time as some were apparently doing in Thessalonica. They figured that since they already had their ticket that they could either just do whatever they wanted - even adopting worldly attitudes - or just not do anything at all except lay around and wait, forcing others to wait on them!\r
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12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. \r
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(12 - 13) Verses 12 through 22 can be broken up into four sections: The believers relationship to leaders in the church, relations between believers, with the personal life of the believer and finally the work of the Holy Spirit. \r
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To respect here translates a word that means "to know." Here it means to see - see what those who give their lives in service to the body are doing and appreciate it. There are many people who give countless hours to do things that you will never notice unless you look. Make it your aim to notice the good being done and appreciate it. "Highest regard" means to appreciate the value of what they do for you.\r
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From the end of verse 13 through verse 15 are practical encouragements for Christian living:\r
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1. Live in peace - a state, not an action. "Don't quarrel"\r
2. Warn the idle - idle means a refusal to work - urge people not to be lazy (1st Problem)\r
3. Encourage the timid - give confidence to those who are afraid (2nd problem)\r
4. Help the weak - if someone needs your help, don't condemn them, help them\r
5. Be patient - "speak softly" "don't rush - be gentle"\r
6. Don't be vengeful \r
7. But be kind - not only to believers, but to everyone always.\r
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Now to the believers own spiritual walk:\r
16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.\r
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One way you could think about this verse is literally how you go along in your daily life: you have a constant source of joy despite the circumstances - knowing that God will rescue you - you can have a constant conversation with God - turning to Him often and always, making Him a part of your every day actions - and no matter what happens, that joy and that relationship can bring you to give thanks to God in and for every thing that happens - no matter how grim it may seem.\r
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This is what God wants in your life - it doesn't mean we've all arrived - but the maturing believer sees the value here. \r
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Does it mean you always have to have on your "happy face?" I don't think so - the joy is inside your heart, even if tears stream down your face.\r
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Then finally to the work of the Spirit:\r
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19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. \r
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These three verses could be treated as one thought - don't discount the fact that the Holy Spirit does work - one way He works is through prophecy, which shouldn't be discounted on it's face - however every supposedly prophetic utterance should be tested by the Scriptures - that which is sound or good should be accepted, that which isn't should be thrown out.\r
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Finally Paul gives a benediction in finishing the letter:\r
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23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. \r
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25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. \r
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28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. \r
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In a way this is the summation of the whole message - God has made peace with us through His Son Jesus Christ. He will sanctify - make you completely holy devoted to God by transforming you - body soul, and spirit, into His likeness - its not something you can do or should worry about, but at His coming you will be like Him.\r
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So let's not sit catatonically at the gate - not caring about how we act or who gets to get on board Rapture Flight 777 with us - nor should we pace, worrying about being first on board - or whether our ticket is good - instead live an active life with God and show His love to your brothers and sisters and the world around you.\r
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