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IN CHRIST JESUS
The Sphere of the Believer's Life

BY
Arthur Tappan Pierson,
(1837-1911)

CHAPTER 7

The Epistles to the Thessalonians

The keynote of both of these letters is promptly struck in the third verse of the first chapter, in the phrase, "patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

["Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our LORD Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father" (1Thessalonians 1:3).]

Here we are turned toward the future, the second coming of Him in whom we find the sphere of our final triumph over all foes. Hope looks forward to the future and fixes its gaze on this consummation, and hence becomes the profound secret of patience in present trials. The same blessed thought reappears in verses 9-10. "To serve the living... God; and to wait for his Son from heaven."

["9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye 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, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1Thessalonians 1:9-10).]

These two epistles therefore carry us to the climax of the glorious truth which has lifted us to higher and higher elevations, as we have gone from summit to summit in studying this progress of doctrine; here the Holy Spirit gives us a glimpse of our final, ultimate, and complete victory in Christ over all enemies and all trials.

It will be remembered that, in the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, we found one blessed privilege to lie in the future: in the former, our gathering together unto Him; and in the latter, our manifestation in Him. Here we are emphatically reminded of His reappearing, at which time this gathering together of all saints is to take place about the very Head of the mystical body; and their manifestation in Him, because He himself is to be manifested in glory.

The Holy Spirit guides the pen of Paul to write of these two future and crowning relations of blessing that yet await all God's saints. Compare II Thessalonians 2:1,8. "By our gathering together unto him," and, "the brightness of his coming"―the epiphany of His parousia.

["1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, 8 and then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the LORD shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2Thessalonians 2:1-8).]

Here we have both thoughts; and in fact both are found in the one verse which opens the second chapter: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him." [2Thessalonians 2:1].

To get even a glimpse of this truth, we must first know what is included in this second advent of the Son of God, as it is set forth in these two letters to Thessalonica. We present the following as a partial analysis of their contents, but sufficient to hint at the wealth of suggestion herein to be discovered:

1. The reward of service (I Thessalonians 2:19). "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"

2. The final perfection in holiness (I Thessalonians 3:13). "Unblameable in holiness... at the coming."

["To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1Thessalonians 3:13).]

3. The reunion of departed and surviving saints (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

["13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. 15 For this we say unto you by the Word of the LORD, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the LORD shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the LORD Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the LORD in the air: and so shall we ever be with the LORD. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these Words" (1Thessalonians 4:13-18).]

4. The triumph over death in the resurrection of the dead and the translation and transformation of the living (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

[See above.]

5. The final consummation of salvation. Living together with Him, forevermore (I Thessalonians 4:17).

[See above.]

6. The avenging of saints upon all adversaries (I Thessalonians 5:9; II Thessalonians 1:7-10).

["For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 5:9).

"7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the LORD Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ: 9 who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the LORD, and from the glory of His power; 10 when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day" (2Thessalonians 1:7-10).]

7. The ultimate gathering together unto Him (II Thessalonians 2:1).

["Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him" (2Thessalonians 2:1).]

8. The destruction of the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2:8).

["And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the LORD shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2Thessalonians 2:8).]

9. The obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Thessalonians 2:14).

["Whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our LORD Jesus Christ" (2Thessalonians 2:14).]

10. The final, eternal glorification of saints in Him ( II Thessalonians 2:16).

["Now our LORD Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" (2Thessalonians 2:16).]

When Christ comes again to complete our salvation, there will be at least a fourfold triumph:

1.Over sin, in unblameable holiness

2.Over suffering, endured at the hands of the wicked

3.Over death, in resurrection and translation

4.Over Antichrist and the devil

And in this triumph the saints are to be in every respect co-partakers with Christ. His triumph is theirs, and His joy is theirs.

Only in this grand consummation will it be possible to understand what it is to be in Christ Jesus. In our present experience several necessary hindrances exist to our full realization of the blessedness of our estate in Him.

And as to the devil, obviously he is not dead. The saintliest priest of God can not stand at His altar without the unseen satanic foe at his right hand to resist him. We go up to the heavenlies in the rapt communion with God, but in the heavenlies are the hostile principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:10).

["Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).]

There is no escape from the approach of this devouring lion. We may indeed escape his jaws and his paws, but we hear his roar and we tremble as we remember how many in their securest moments have become his victims.

The day will come, when even death, the last enemy, will be destroyed, and we shall be free to enjoy Him who is our life, without even the presence of a foe. What a life that will be in Him―when the law is forever silenced as our accuser, and Sinai's summit forever disappears! What a deliverance, when the world to come displaces the world that now is, and there are no allurements that draw from God! When the flesh and carnal mind are eternally gone, that the Spirit may rule every motion within us! And, when the bottomless pit closes its doors over the adversary of God and man, never again to release him; and, before the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the lion that roars in our path and seeks to devour our souls, falls in final destruction―what a shout of deliverance will ring through all the universe of redeemed souls and unfallen angels!

Over these two epistles might be written one sublime word, victory. A salvation complete and glorious draws nearer than when we believed, and this is held up before us continually in these two letters. The phrases which abound here are found in their variety and combination nowhere else, for they grow naturally out of such a soil: "patience of hope,"

["Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our LORD Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father" (1Thessalonians 1:3).]

"joy of the Holy Ghost,"

["And ye became followers of us, and of the LORD, having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost" (1Thessalonians 1:6).]

"to wait for his Son from heaven,"

["And to wait for His Son from Heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1Thessalonians 1:10).]

"God who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory,"

["That ye would walk worthy of God, Who hath called you unto His Kingdom and glory" (1Thessalonians 2:12).]

"at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints,"

["To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1Thessalonians 3:13).]

"the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven," etc.

["And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the LORD Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels" (2Thessalonians 1:7).]

And, as these phrases abound, so these epistles abound in arguments for holy living drawn from the glorious and blessed hope which illumines the future. There is scarce a grace or virtue in the whole blessed catalogue of saintly excellencies and adornments, for which this future victory and glory presents no new incentive; obedience, service, patience, fidelity, self-denial, love, meditation on the Word, joy, comfort, steadfastness, zeal, sanctity, honesty, hope, consolation, vigilance, humility, gentleness, supplication, separation to God, peace―all that is most lovely and most helpful is made to hang upon the cherishing of the blessed assurance of our final triumph and blessedness, in Him who is the coming One. Only so far as this blessed hope is obscurred or practically becomes inoperative in our lives, will our character and conduct as disciples degenerate.

Let us remember that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is the consummation of all things which pertain to our redemption. It introduces the sublime closing scenes in the whole history of salvation. There is much that cannot be revealed to the Church and to the angelic host in the age that now is, and God waits for the ages to come to make known His manifold wisdom and grace. He finds in our present experience no data from which to convey a fit knowledge―no dialect sufficiently meaningful to express the inexpressible things which must wait for the revelation of experience.

The more devoutly we study the Word, the more we shall discover that, like our Lord's first advent, the present revelation of grace is a necessary hiding of God's true power; new conditions are necessary for a full disclosure. When He comes again He will not come in disguise, but in proper attire and with proper attendance. He will be revealed as never before. And all spiritual truth and fact, pertaining to the believer, waits for His true epiphany, when His glory shall emerge out of clouds into fulness of revelation. We can only, like the Thessalonians, "serve and wait." To the most mature saint, that coming day is to be as absolute a surprise as the third heaven mysteries were to Paul. God has something beyond all we have conceived, waiting for us, at Christ's appearing. The words used to intimate it are the best human language supplies, but the mold is too small for the conception, and so cramps it and so distorts it. We must see in order to know, and for that vision we wait, with longing and expectant eyes, until the dazzling splendor of the coming King shall declare what no words can reveal or unveil.

 
 
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