But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
Therefore, when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one 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, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. – 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5 (ESV)
John Byron writes:
Paul’s choice of terminology to describe the coming of Jesus deserves brief comments. The term parousia appears here in 1 and 7 Thessalonians for the first of seven times, six of which refer to Jesus’ second coming. Outside of these two letters, Paul uses parousia only one other time to refer to Jesus (1 Cor 15:23). But in Greek “pagan” usage it frequently described the visit of a governor or emperor to a city or province. Considering thessalonica’s status as the capital of Macedonia, it is interesting that with the exception of 1 Corinthians 15:23, it never has the technical meaning of Jesus’ coming in Paul. The Thessalonian social and political context may have facilitated Paul’s use of a term that would have particular significance to them.
In later years Parousia became an early Christian technical term for the coming of Jesus as sovereign Lord. Exactly how Paul and the Thessalonians understood the use of the term is hard to say. What is clear, and will be even more so in chapters 4 and 5, is that the return of Jesus held particular importance to the early church.
It was an event they looked forward to and realized that it was a future event that had direct bearing on the present. For Paul especially, the success of his mission would be confirmed not by how many converts he won, but by those he stood with in the presence of Jesus at his second coming. Paul’s athletic metaphor of the crown in the context of eschatology suggests that, for him, it’s not just how you run the race but how you finish is that is important.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 12
Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.