Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 42
The Body of Christ Removed from the Earth
I guess as we begin that I should remind you that Paul is writing to a group of believers now with whom he had only spent somewhere between 3 and 4 weeks. He calls it 3 Sabbaths which could be 21 days or on up to 26 or 27, but nevertheless it was a very short period of time that Paul had with the Thessalonian believers. I want you to also remember that they came out of abject paganism without absolutely no knowledge of the Scriptures. I mean he’s not dealing here with Jews who had been steeped in the Old Testament, but these are pagan Gentiles. So always keep that in mind how he must have, by the power of the Holy Spirit, unloaded so much on these people that they retained it, because when we get to chapter 2, you’ll see he says, “You know I told you these things.”
Well that was not a superfluous statement. He knew that these people understood all the basics. Now as we come out of the ending of our last program we’ll pick right up in verse 15 where Paul is speaking of the Jews there in verse 14, who had been opposing him every step of the way. He makes reference to the Jews in verse 24 of the ones who had killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us. In other words, we know that all the way up through Israel’s history that even though they were the covenant people, they were God’s favorite people, yet they were just as rebellious as any other race of people.
I’ve always said that I think the reason it was that way, was that even though they’ve had that exalted position among the nations, yet when it came down to the person they had the same old Adam that we Gentile have. So what it really proves from Scripture then is that no matter who you are, Jew or Gentile we’re all sons of Adam, and have that rebellious sin nature.
Here of course it’s epitomized by the Jew because Paul himself was one, and a thought just comes to mind, and if Monte was here, he’s say, “Here we go again.” I know I start out in a verse, and almost immediately another reference comes to mind. When that happens then I have to take you to that reference also. So the thought comes to mind to turn to a verse in Romans chapter 9, and evidently I’m suppose to use it. I want you to remember that Paul never lost his love for his kinsmen according to the flesh, the Jewish people. So even when he makes statements like verse 14 in Thessalonians that they were the ones who rejected and killed the Lord Jesus, it wasn’t that he had any hatred for them, because he had a deeper love for the Jew then any other human being could have had short of the Lord Himself. Let’s begin in verse 1, and look how the apostle pours out his heart.
“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost. 2. That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
Now a greater love than that a man couldn’t have, there was only one other person in all of Scripture who made that same kind of statement concerning his own people, and who was it? Moses. Moses said in effect, “If only God could spare Israel, he would ask that his own name would be blotted out from the Book of Life.” Satan knows that if he can destroy Israel, then he’s got the battle between him and God won. So consequently remember also that the Jewish people are under a constantly Satanic attack because of their position in the world. Now back to I Thessalonians, chapter 2. I had to do that so people couldn’t say, “Well Paul hated the Jews.” No he did not, he had a love for the Jewish people like no one else. So Paul is making reference here to his kinsman.
I Thessalonians 2:15a
“Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us;…”
Which we know they did. All the way up through the Old Testament, if Israel didn’t like the message they’d kill the messenger, and many times they didn’t like the message of the prophets so they would kill them. In fact Jeremiah, at the time of the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem, when they seized the city, and where did the Babylonians find Jeremiah? Down in some deep, dank dungeon, because Israel didn’t like Jeremiah’s message. Now reading on.
I Thessalonians 2:15b-16
“and they pleased not God, (of course not) and are contrary to all men: 16. Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”
Now let’s go back to the Book of Acts, chapter 13, and we’ll see that from the onset of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, this was what he was up against. I think we can begin with verse 4 so that you can get the background of how Paul had constant opposition from the Jewish people. Now you’ll remember in the earlier verses of the chapter, they were commissioned from Antioch to go on their missionary journey, but here in verse 4 well pick it up.
“So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus, 5. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they had also John to their minister, (now here it comes) 6. And when they had gone through (to the western end, to) the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus; 7. Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, (no doubt a Roman) a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.”
Do you see that? Here we have a Gentile now who is getting exercised now by the Holy Spirit to hear the Word of God. Now look what happens in verse 8.
“But Elymas the sorcerer (a Jew) (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.”
Now this was at the very onset of Paul’s ministry to Gentiles, and just an indication what he’s going to experience from here till he’s finally martyred. So what happens next?
“Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 10. And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, (remember he was a Jew, but he was a magician, a sorcerer, and was drawing magical arts from the Satanic powers, and that’s why Paul refers to him as a child of the devil) thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
Now at this point we see Paul exercising some of his early apostolic powers which later on he no longer makes reference to, but now he uses that power, and he says –
“And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, (physically blind) not seeing the sun for a season,…”
It was for a limited period of time that Elymas the sorcerer was going to be blind. This is also part of prophecy because it is telling us, that this is a sample of the Jewish people all through the period of the Church Age, this 1900 + years now. But remember the Jewish people’s blindness is not permanent as their spiritual blindness is going to end one day. They are yet going to see the coming Christ, not at the Rapture, but at His Second Coming in all of His glory, they’re spiritual eyes will be opened, and as the Old Testament says, “a nation shall be born in a day.” But until then, they are blinded as Paul tells us in Romans chapter 11, to these things and so consequently they are the chief opposition to the Gospel going out to the Gentile world. Now come back with me to I Thessalonians chapter 2, and moving on into verse 17.
I Thessalonians 2:17a
“But (Paul writes) we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart,…”
Remember he had only been with them physically for 3 or 4 weeks, and now I think he’s writing from Corinth in southern Greece. And oh, he has such a heart for these new believers whether it was back in Asia Minor or at Ephesus or Philippi or here in Thessalonica, it made no difference because of his love for those new believers. Iris and I can relate to that, as we are beginning to get a little glimpse of that. We just got back from Florida, and my goodness, the sweet fellowship we enjoyed with those folks, it’s just unbelievable, and next week we’re going out to Denver for a seminar and then down to Albuquerque and it will be the same way. Everywhere we go we find believers who have such a love, we can understand how Paul felt about these folks he had brought out of darkness and into the light of his Gospel of I Corinthians 15:1-4.
So that’s what he’s talking about, and he was only able to stay there with them for 3 or 4 weeks. Maybe we should stop for a few moments and see why Paul had to move out of Thessalonica so quickly when he had such a good response to the Gospel he was presenting. Again come back to the Book of Acts chapter 17, and let’s begin with verse 1, and then we’ll pick up with the account beginning with verse 5. This is why he had to leave Thessalonica after just a few short weeks.
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:” Now let’s pick up the account beginning with verse 5.
“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people, 6. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;” Making reference to what Paul had accomplished in his previous places he had visited. Now verse 7.
“Whom Jason hath received; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”
Boy, they’re subtle aren’t they? See, the Romans probably would not have had much concern about this new sect of Christianity, but when the Romans got wind that the sect was proclaiming a coming King, and kingdom, that got under their skin. So consequently they persecuted the Christian sect unmercifully, because the Jews brought to their attention that they were proclaiming another king, who would be in total opposition to the Caesars, Now verse 8.
“And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea:…”
From there they went on to Athens and on down into Corinth. But now drop down to verse 13. This is all that Paul is making reference to now in his letter to the Thessalonians.
“But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 14. And when immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea:…”
So they had to send Paul away again, and this was constant in his ministry that wherever he had some converts, wherever he begin a small congregation of believers the Jews would come in and either infiltrate them with false teachings, or would physically persecute them, and this was in addition to what the Roman government themselves brought in. Now coming back to I Thessalonians chapter 2 again, and hopefully we can stay here till at least the end of this lesson. Now verse 18.
I Thessalonians 2:18
“Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.”
Now we always have to realize that the Satanic powers are in constant opposition, and using whatever vehicles Satan can use. So here again we find the true culprit are the Satanic powers that hindered him. Now verse 19.
I Thessalonians 2:19
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?”
Do you know what Paul is making reference to? When the Lord comes, and we have that great meeting in the air, Paul recognizes that he will probably never see these believers again in the flesh, but as soon as they come into the presence of the Lord at His coming he will know them, which is another scriptural truth. We’re going to see and know our loved ones when we get to glory, in fact we’re going to be reunited even before we get back to glory itself, in the meeting in the air. Now verse 20.
I Thessalonians 2:20
“For ye are our glory and joy.”
Now remember in the original letter there were no chapters heading, so let’s go right on into chapter 3 which would actually be the next paragraph of his letter, and what’s the first word?
I Thessalonians 3:1
“Wherefore (because of this relationship that he had built in those few days he had been with these Thessalonians believers, Paul says,) Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;”
And instead of taking the chance of going back into probably physical harm, he stayed in Athens. Now verse 2.
I Thessalonians 3:2a
“And sent Timotheus, (Timothy) our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you,…”
See this is what new believers always need. So many times new believers may come in and have a profession of faith, and then no one sticks around to teach them, and what happens? They just fall away. Now if they were genuinely saved they won’t lose their salvation, but they lose their impact in their community, unless they are stable in the Word. And that’s where teaching comes in, and this is where I have faulted Christendom as a whole, because people are not taught the deep things of Scripture. They are just fed milk, and Paul makes it so plain then Timothy would be sent back to these little congregations to establish them in the faith. To teach them these basic truths. Now finishing the verse.
I Thessalonians 3:2b
“… and to comfort you concerning your faith:”
Faith is at the root of all of our Christian experience, but that faith has to be fed. In fact I’d like to take you to an appropriate verse that Peter wrote in his little epistle, it’s a perfect parallel. This is a verse that many of you know, but it’s good to exercise your fingers by turning the pages in the Book. And this verse 2 just says a truck load, as new born babes. And this is what all these believers in Paul were, they were fresh out of paganism, and were just as fresh to Christianity as new born babes that have just been born to it’s mother.
I Peter 2:2
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”
But are you supposed to stay on milk? See Paul says in the Book of Hebrews 5:12-13, “that the problem was that too many believers never get off the baby bottle.” They never get to the place where they can take in the meat and potatoes of Scriptures, and hopefully that’s what I try to do. I try to take people into the deeper things and not be content with the milk. Now back to I Thessalonians once again.
I Thessalonians 3:3
“That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.”
Now we in America know nothing of persecution. Oh we may hear some snide remarks made against us, we may have a few people stay away from us, but we don’t have any real persecution, but that has not been the norm throughout Christianity. From day one the moment you took a stand for Christ, you also invited persecution, and if you doubt me you just look at some of the books on that subject. There have been millions upon millions of believers that went through horrible torture, and never relinquished their faith. Isn’t it amazing that these folks here in Thessalonica had just been won out of paganism with all of it’s appetite of the flesh, and all of it’s pagan worship, and they came out of that to face persecution, isn’t that something? Then to be able to be so strong that even in the face of death, and torture, and suffering they never relinquished their faith.
I wonder how many American believers could do that today? If all of a sudden we would be faced with torture just because we’re Christians. I hope you realize that we’ve been so blessed these last couple hundred years, because most of Christendom has had to suffer for their faith, and Paul makes that even plainer in Galatians chapter 4. It’s evident that when you become a child of God you become then the object of hate and persecution by the world around us. Now back to I Thessalonians chapter 3.
I Thessalonians 3:4
“For verily, when we were with you, we told you before (see he didn’t promise them peace and prosperity, or if you’ll just become a believer every thing will just go your way. No, but it was quite the opposite. As soon as he brought them into a knowledge of salvation we told you before) that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.”
And the word tribulation here means a lot more than just problems and troubles. Tribulation was for those people abject persecution even to the losing of their life. So Paul had warned them, and in the time that had lapsed from the time he left them till he writes this letter, they had evidently come under intense persecution. Now verse 5.
I Thessalonians 3:5a
“For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith,…”
Can you imagine what was going through the apostle’s mind down there a couple of hundred miles south of Thessalonica, with no communication in those days like we have today? And he’d have to wait for maybe a letter or a messenger or something, and don’t you know he was just commiserating in his mind with these people. Knowing that they were under terrible persecution. Are they all standing fast, or are they slipping back into their old pagan ways? And that’s what’s on his heart, so it must have burdened him, as he wondered, “are they holding fast?” Now reading on in verse 5.
I Thessalonians 3:5b
“…lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.”
Don’t you know it just plagued the apostle to wonder if he had gone through all of his own persecution in vain? Remember not long before Thessalonica, he had been whipped unmercifully, thrown into the dungeon, and under normal circumstances probably would not have lived, but all of this he had done for the sake of the Gospel, and for the sake of these Thessalonian believers. And now he’s wondering, “did we go through all that suffering in vain?” So this is what’s on the apostle’s heart.