1 Thessalonians 2:17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. 18 Therefore we wanted to come to you--even I, Paul, time and again--but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy. (NKJV)
Paul and Silas planted a church in Thessalonica, Macedonia (northern Greece) in early 50 A.D. on Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul wrote this letter in late 50 or early 51 AD from Corinth in southern Greece. Timothy delivered the letter to the church shortly thereafter. This was Paul’s second letter, after his letter to the Galatians.
Paul and Silas first travelled to Thessalonica after they were imprisoned and forced to leave Philippi, to the east (Acts 16-17). Paul taught in the synagogue in Thessalonica for three Sabbaths, until the Jews forced them to leave. There was uproar there and believers were persecuted. Paul’s visit was cut short, but their visit was not a failure. People had been converted and a congregation had been established.
So Paul and Silas were “taken away” from the believers in Thessalonica (v. 17a). But Paul assures them that it will be for only a “short time” (v. 17b). Even though they are not with them in person they are with them “in heart” and cannot wait to see them again in person (v. 17c).
Paul and Silas “wanted to come” back to the Thessalonian believers, especially Paul, “time and again”, but “Satan hindered” them (v. 18). Satan hinders the spread of Christianity whenever he can, by using unbelievers to persecute believers. In this case, the Jews in Thessalonica were persecuting the believers.
Satan can hinder Christianity but cannot stop it. The Lord always uses persecution for good. In this case, Paul and Silas moved on to other cities to preserve their lives, and were able to spread the gospel in those cities. As Christians, sometimes we must depart some battles in order to fight another day. The Lord always makes a way.
Paul describes the Thessalonian believers as their “hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing” (v. 19a). The crown was always a term of victory. There had been a great victory in Thessalonica as many were saved and a church was started.
The Thessalonian believers were a crown for Paul and Silas to be presented in “the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming” (v. 19b). Paul was referring to the second coming of Christ during the end times. The fact that these believers can be presented to the Lord by Paul means that Paul would have to be able to recognize them. It is proof that we will be able to recognize others in Heaven.
The word translated “coming” (v. 19b) is the Greek word “parousia”. The parousia is a period of time, not a moment in time. It is a period of four stages. The four stages are (1) the Rapture; (2) the judgment of believers where rewards will be given; (3) the manifestation of Christ to the world; and (4) the climax which includes the thousand year reign of the Lord on earth along with the judgment of unbelievers and the destruction of the world.
Unbelievers will not experience the first two stages. The Rapture occurs in the blink of an eye when all believers, the dead first and then the living, are united with the Lord in the air and then taken to receive their rewards.
Paul concludes this passage to the Thessalonian believers by praising them for their faithfulness to the Lord, even through persecution. He praises them as “our glory and joy” (v. 20).
The parousia is the period of time known as the end times. It begins with the Rapture when all Christians are saved from the wrath of God during the end times. None of us deserve to be saved for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is only by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that we are saved.
Online Bible Commentary