1Th 1:8-10 “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 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; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
The Thessalonians were apparently deeply devoted to living a life that manifested their reliance upon Christ for salvation (see Strong’s definition for the word rendered “faith”). God’s word was being reported throughout a large region because of their walk of faith. We sometimes forget that God’s word was spread to the world long before there was a printing press, radio, television, or the Internet. His word spread because it was His will that it should.
According to scholars and historians, the city of Thessalonica had a population of about 200,000 people in Paul’s day. It was situated at the intersection of two Roman roads and was also a port city (bibleplaces.com). Because of its location, there were many travelers who passed through or did business in Thessalonica. As a point of reference, the city of Montgomery, AL had a population of 199,518 in 2017.
What a wonder it would be if the believing people of Montgomery (or anywhere else) were living with such devotion to the truth of Jesus Christ that it was being talked about from Huntsville to Mobile and from Atlanta, GA to Vicksburg, MS! How glorious it would be for the report of the word of the Lord to be spread by the very faith of His people. Paul, Silas, and Timothy must have rejoiced greatly when they would come into an area to preach Jesus and find the people there already having some knowledge of Him as a result of the faith travelers had witnessed in Thessalonica.
Paul had just stated in the fifth verse that the gospel had not come to the Thessalonians in mere words, but “with power, and in the Holy Ghost.” Paul was encountering people in his travels that were bearing witness to him of the impact the gospel that he, Silas, and Timothy preached had in Thessalonica. Paul and his companions and the church at Thessalonica were all being encouraged in the Lord by this witness.
The lives of the brethren at Thessalonica were a living testament to the power of the gospel to change people. God had turned them from idol worship to Himself through the power of the gospel. They were moved to serve the living and true God instead of continuing in the ways they had been taught previously. The depth of their devotion was such that it impacted others and was plainly more than just a passing fancy.
They understood that they had a risen Savior, and that Jesus was alive. There was no doubt in their hearts and minds that God had wakened (see Strong’s definition of “raised”) Him from the dead. Their hearts were fixed so that they should wait on the Lord from heaven. While I have no doubt that they, like us, lived in anticipation of the literal resurrection, I believe we also wait for God’s son from heaven on a daily basis.
Paul observed on one occasion that he died daily (1Co 15:31). Jesus instructed us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luk 9:23). In order for us to do this we have to anticipate that He is going to be with us daily, and we must wait upon the Lord. How glorious to know that He is the Son of God whom the Father raised from the dead! What a balm to us to know that He has delivered (rescued) us from the wrath to come.
It is interesting to note the tense used here. Our deliverance from wrath was accomplished before the wrath came. We are already delivered, as were the Thessalonians. Whether this points to what some refer to as an “end of time” wrath or from a timely judgment, Jesus has delivered us. If we are not using the authorized King James Version (KJV) of the scriptures, we are not going to get this understanding of the finished work of Jesus.
The Contemporary English Version (CEV) says “Jesus will save us from God’s anger.” This is the phrase that coincides with “which delivered us from the wrath.” Notice the difference in tense: the CEV puts the deliverance in future tense while the KJV has it in past tense. The International Standard Version (ISV) reads “This Jesus is the one who rescues us from the coming wrath.” Again, note the tense. Neither the CEV nor the ISV recognizes this as a finished work of Jesus.
May we live our faith in such a way as to proclaim to all who pass by that we wait on the Lord and trust in His finished work both in His kingdom here and in Eternity!