The Wrath to Come
1 Thessalonians 1:6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. 8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. 9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you 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 who delivers us from the wrath to come. (NKJV)
Paul and Silas planted a church in Thessalonica, Macedonia in early 50 A.D. on Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul wrote this letter in late 50 or early 51 AD. Timothy delivered the letter to the church shortly thereafter. This was Paul’s second letter, after his letter to the Galatians.
Thessalonica, now known as Thessaloniki or Salonika, is the second largest city in Greece and the capitol of Greek Macedonia. It was a hub of commerce, located on a major trade route. As such it was a prime city for the spread of the gospel.
In this passage, Paul continues his praise of the new believers for their faithfulness in spreading the Gospel. They first followed Paul and Silas, having been impressed by their Christian character (v. 6a). They were then introduced to the Lord and became believers (v. 6b). They received the word of the Lord through affliction, persecution, while on the inside they were filled with “joy of the Holy Spirit” (v. 6c).
In receiving the word in this manner the Thessalonian believers became good “examples” to many others in Greece, leading them to become believers (v. 7a). Macedonia was the northern region of Greece while Achaia was the southern region (v. 7b).
Through the efforts of these Thessalonian believers the Gospel spread throughout Greece and “in every place” (v. 8a). Their strong “faith” was so effective in spreading the Gospel that Paul and his helpers did “not need to say anything” (v. 8b). Those whom they were now evangelizing had already heard of the new believers in Thessalonica and how their lives had been transformed (v. 9a).
Specifically, they had heard of the three aspects of the Christian walk:
(1) To turn to God (v. 9a)
(2) To “serve the living and true God” (v. 9b)
(3) To “wait for His Son from heaven” (v. 10a)
The Thessalonian believers had “turned to God from idols” (v. 9a), which tells us that the vast majority of the new believers were Gentiles, the idol worshipers. They were now serving while they waited for Jesus, whom God the Father “raised from the dead”, to return from Heaven (v. 10b).
Paul completes this passage by writing that Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come” (v. 10c). Believers will not experience this wrath.
God’s wrath will be poured out in two ways. First will be His wrath of the earthly tribulation. Second will be His wrath upon unbelievers at the final judgment. Jesus will deliver Christians from both.
Prior to God’s wrath being poured out upon the world, at the tribulation, Jesus will return and meet all the living believers in the air. This is called “the Rapture.” Christians will be raptured from the world prior to the tribulation. If this were not true we would suffer God’s wrath. But Paul has made it clear in verse 10 that Jesus will deliver us from wrath.
Next, at the final judgment unbelievers will suffer the second wrath of eternity in Hell, while Christians again are delivered by Jesus to eternity in Heaven. Jesus is our Deliverer.
This is the first time Paul has written concerning the end times. He will write more on this subject in this letter. For now, we Christians are encouraged that we will not suffer the wrath to come.
We became Christians when we turned to God. Now, we must serve while we wait. We must follow the example of the Thessalonian believers and tell others of what Jesus has done for us. We must help others to become Christians. Jesus wants no one to suffer the wrath to come.
Online Bible Commentary