17 November 2022

Blameless on that Day


Paul prays for the Thessalonians to be found holy and blameless on the day when Jesus arrives in glory – 1 Thessalonians 3:13. 

Justice blind - Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash
In chapter 3, Paul issues a prayer that concludes the first half of the letter. In it, he reiterates two requests stated previously. First, for the opportunity to return to Thessalonica. Second, for God to increase their love for him and others. The fulfillment of these two requests will make the faith of the Thessalonians complete - [
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash].

By “confirming their hearts,” the Thessalonians will find themselves standing “blameless” before God when Jesus "arrives from heaven."

The passage transitions the narrative to the next section of the letter by emphasizing two key subjects - Holiness and the arrival of Jesus:

  • (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13) - “Now, may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus make straight our way unto you: And you may the Lord cause to abound and excel in your love, one toward another, and toward all, even as we do toward you. To the end, he may confirm your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the arrival of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

LOVE AND HOLINESS


Paul does not suggest the Thessalonians lack love. He referred previously to their “labor of love” and how Timothy brought him news of their “faith and love.” Instead, he prays for them to “exceed and abound” even more in love for one another, and for their non-Christian neighbors - (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 3:6).

To be found “blameless in sanctification” before God points to a future time of evaluation and judgment.  That day will be a time of joy and vindication for all who are found “blameless.” By inference, those who are not prepared will be less fortunate.

In the preceding chapter, Paul expressed his wish for the assembly to be established “before God.” That same future event is in view here, and both passages label it the parousia or “arrival” of Jesus - (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

The Greek noun parousia occurs seven times in the two letters to the Thessalonians. In six instances, it refers to the “coming” or “arrival of Jesus." Once, it is applied to the “arrival” of the “man of lawlessness,” although his arrival mimics that of Christ.

Thus, Paul uses the term parousia consistently for the “arrival” of Jesus, with the one exception of the “lawless one” - (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

HIS ARRIVAL


At his parousia, Jesus will be accompanied by “all his saints.”   Other New Testament passages associate angels with the “coming of Jesus,” and that is likely the intent here - (Matthew 13:41, 13:49, 24:31, 25:31, 8:38, 13:27, Luke 9:26, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).


Mountain Sun - Photo by Peter Fitzpatrick on Unsplash
[Photo by Peter Fitzpatrick on Unsplash]


Paul’s description alludes to a verse from the book of Zechariah - (“Then Yahweh will come and all the saints with him”). The scriptural background sheds light on the identity of the “saints” or “holy ones” in the present passage – (Zechariah 14:5).

Elsewhere, Paul refers to believers as “saints.” However, here, he uses terminology from Zechariah where the term is applied to angels. The context in Zechariah is a time of cataclysmic judgment, the “day of Yahweh” when He gathers all the nations to fight against them.  He would arrive to save his people, accompanied by the hosts of heaven.

Paul applies the words from Zechariah to the largely Gentile congregation in Thessalonica.  In Zechariah, Yahweh “gathers all the nations to Jerusalem to battle.” After that, He arrives to confront the nations and cleave the Mount of Olives so His people can flee to the “valley of his mountains.” It is then that He arrives “with all his saints.”

This scriptural background indicates that Paul’s phrase, “with all his saints,” refers to the angelic host that will accompany Jesus at his “arrival” from heaven.

Paul’s stress on becoming “blamelessness” introduces the element of judgment. Elsewhere, the New Testament teaches that Christians must stand “before the judgment seat of Christ.”

The idea that judgment on the wicked will occur also at the “coming” of Jesus is found in Paul’s employment of language from Zechariah, a prophecy in which God defeats hostile nations on behalf of his people on the “day of the Lord.”

The picture is of a future day when Jesus will come from heaven accompanied by the angels to gather his elect. The Apostle’s desire is for the believers in Thessalonica to be found “blameless” on the day they are gathered to be with Jesus – “And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” – (Matthew 24:31).



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