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Email Question on Thessalonians

We get tons of email, with questions, every day. Unfortunately, we do not take enough time to share with your visitors. However, I want to share a question and my comments that were just received.  Without doubt, Paul’s Thessalonian epistles contain numerous discussions of eschatology. 1 Thessalonians 3 is sometimes overlooked in discussions of the end times and Bible prophecy, but, it contains a wealth of information. I hope that what we share here is helpful to our readers.
Don K.
From “D” in Alabama
Received 3-5-09
Subject: I Thessolonians 3
<<I will be teaching a bible class next month on I Thessolonians 3.  Could you give me some points on the chapter in regards to eschatology and the overall view of Thessolonians?   I was going to teach Chapter 4, but I got moved up a week.  Also, I will be teaching the entire quarter starting this Sunday on Galatians and Ephesians.  I have searched the web and found some info but any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.>>
Dear “D,” very good to hear from you, and thanks for your question. There is indeed much in 1 Thessalonians 3 about Bible prophecy. I will list just a couple of things:
1.) Note that Paul had already taken note of the fact that when they were converted, the Thessalonians had “received the word in much affliction”. Of course, according to Acts 17 this affliction was at the hands of, and instigated by the Jews.
2.) This is confirmed in 1 Thessalonians 2:14f– it was the Jews who were the movers and shakers of the persecution being endured by the Thessalonians.
3.) Now, in 1 Thessalonians 3, Paul appeals to them through Timothy “not to be moved by these afflictions For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass.”
4.) Note the still contemporary nature of that persecution in 2 Thessalonians 1– four times Paul mentions, using the present participle form– the then still on-going persecution of the Thessalonians.
5.) Now, in 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul promises that at his coming Christ would give to the persecutors of the Thessalonians, what the persecutors were giving to the Thessalonians: “It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation (Greek word, thlipsis), those who are troubling you…” (Greek word, thlipsis). The persecutors were going to become the persecuted!
6.) The question is, when Paul told the Thessalonians that they were destined for persecution, where did that idea / prediction come from?
Answer!
7.) In Matthew 24:9f, Jesus told his disciples that “they (the Jews) will deliver you up to tribulation” (thlipsis— the very thing being experienced by the Thessalonians)! Note that Jesus said that his disciples would be brought before “councils.” This is the Greek word sunhedrin, meaning Sanhedrin! So, there is no doubt that the persecution would be instigated and grounded in the Jewish persecution of the church. And as just seen, in Acts 17 we find this to be the case as predicted. The Jews instigated that persecution.
8.) It should be noted that in the amillennial and postmillennial worlds, it is virtually unanimously agreed that in Matthew 24:29f we have a prediction of Christ’s coming in judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem as punishment for killing the prophets, Jesus and his apostles and prophets, as foretold in Matthew 23:29-37). So, in Matthew 24, we have the prediction of the persecution of the church at the hands of the Jews, and the prediction of the Lord’s coming to turn the persecutors into the persecuted!
9.) This is precisely what we have in Thessalonian epistles! Paul told the Thessalonians that they were appointed for persecution. Paul got his gospel from Jesus (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13f). Paul is simply reiterating Jesus’ prediction of Jewish resistance to the church.
10.) Now, if it be admitted that in Matthew 24 Jesus was predicting the Jewish persecution of the church, and predicting his coming in judgment of Jerusalem for their bloodguilt, then, when Paul writes to the Thessalonians reminding them that they are experiencing the persecution foretold by Jesus, and promising them that at his coming, the Lord will turn the persecutors into the persecuted, what is our authority for saying that Paul has something totally different from what Jesus said? In point of fact, the reality that the Thessalonians were experiencing what Jesus foretold virtually demands that Christ’s coming in Thessalonians must be seen as Christ’s judgment coming against the Jews for their long history of persecuting the saints.
By the way, if you do not have my book In Flaming Fire, which is an indepth analysis of 2 Thessalonians 1, I would like to recommend it to you. It develops the concepts I am sharing in a much fuller way. The book is found on my website: www.eschatology.org. I truly think it will be helpful.
There is more eschatology and Bible prophecy in 1 Thessalonians 3!
Note v. 13 and Paul’s promise that Christ was going to come “with all of his saints.” Just a few quick thoughts:
1.) It is widely admitted, and I document this in my upcoming book on 1 Thessalonians 4:13f, that Paul is citing Zechariah 14:5, and the predition of the coming of the Lord with all His saints.
2.) But, Zechariah 14 is a prediction of the coming of the Lord at the time of the judgment of Jerusalem! In the amillennial and postmillennial world, it is widely admitted that Zechariah 14 predicted the A.D. 70 coming of Christ. And, it should be noted for whatever it is worth, Eusebius likewise applied Zechariah 14 to the A.D. 70 coming of Christ, and said Jesus came in flaming fire at that time!

“One might also literally in another way connect fire and chariots with His coming through the siege that attacked Jerusalem after our Savior’s Advent for the Temple was burned with fire not long after and was reduced to extreme desolation, and the city was encircled by the chariots and camps of the enemy, after which too the promises to the Gentiles were fulfilled in harmony with the prophecy.”

He made these comments in regard to Luke 12:49 and Isaiah 66:15-19. (See also Proof of the Gospel, Bk. VIII, chapter 4, (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1981)144f, where he says Christ came, “with the chariots and horses” to conquer the army of the Jews.

3.) Here is what is interesting. Once again, in Matthew 24:30-31, we find the coming of Christ with the angels in judgment of Jerusalem / Israel for their internicine history of persecuting the saints. And, Jesus quotes Zechariah 12:10 and the prediction of the judgment of Israel for killing the Son! In Zechariah 13, that prophecy and discussion continue
s right into chapter 14 and the explicit prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem.

4.) So, once again, in a text (Zechariah) that amillennialists and postmillennialists agree predicted the Lord’s A.D. 70 coming against Jerusalem, Jesus applies it to what amillennialists and postmillennialists agree is his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem for persecuting the saints!

5.) Then, in 1Thessalonians 3, Paul, who says that he is reminding them of what the Lord had said, cites Zechariah 14!

6.) So:

Paul, writing in the context of the Jewish persecution of the church, cites Zechariah 14 and the promise of the coming of the Lord with His saints.

But, Jesus applied Zechariah 14 to his A.D. 70 coming against Jerusalem for persecuting the saints– Matthew 24!

Therefore, the coming of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 is the coming of the Lord in judgment of Jerusalem / Israel for persecuting the saints!

As you can see, there is a lot of eschatology and Bible prophecy in 1 Thessalonians 3, and it all points decisively to Christ’s coming in judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

We must never lose sight of the fact that Zechariah foretold that “in that day” the day of the Lord’s coming against Jerusalem, that a fountain for cleansing and salvation would be open! (13:1f; 14:6f). So, while that Day was to be a day of judgment for Old Covenant Israel, it was to result in salvation because it would usher in the New Covenant World of Messiah! (Note how Eusebius tied the promises to the Gentiles to completion of God’s purposes with the Jews!)

Well, I must close. I hope that this has been somewhat helpful. I am currently finishing my book on 1 Thessalonians 4:13f– a six year project!!– and have much, much more in it that I think will be helpful to the readers.

For His Truth, and in His Grace,
Don K. Preston

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