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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 11: Epistles to the Thessalonians.

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Part:  A  B  C

While Paul was still at Corinth, laboring in word and doctrine, and also in the work-shop, Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia. The pleasure of meeting these two faithful co-laborers gave him fresh zeal and courage to withstand the continually increasing opposition, which had greatly [p. 110] hindered his labors. The apostle himself acknowledged that he was in Corinth "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling;" but God, "who comforteth those that are cast down," comforted him by the arrival of his friends. God designs that fellow-laborers in the gospel shall have their hearts knit closely together in the bonds of Christian love, so that their presence shall greatly cheer and encourage one another.

Paul had sent Timothy to revisit the places of his former labors, and to confirm and establish the church at Thessalonica. Timothy's report was encouraging, and refreshed the spirit of Paul. He was thus prompted to write to these beloved brethren. His first and second epistles to the church are given us. His heart was drawn out in love to those who had embraced the doctrine of Christ, which subjected them to reproach and persecution heretofore unknown to them.

There was still another reason for Paul's communication to these brethren. Some who were newly brought into the faith had fallen into errors in regard to those who had died since their conversion. They had hoped that all would witness the second coming of Christ; but they were in great sorrow as one after another of the believers fell under the power of death, making it impossible for them to behold that desirable event,—the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven.

Some, who had fallen into the error that Christ was to come in their day, imbibed the fanatical idea that it was praiseworthy to show their faith by giving up all business, and resigning themselves to idle waiting for the great event which they thought was near. Others despised the gift of prophecy, exalting all other gifts above that. [p. 111]

Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, greeting them, and invoking in their behalf the blessing of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. He reminded them of his own labors among them, and their acceptance of the word, turning away 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."

He further referred to his work and that of his fellow-laborers among them, reminding them of the boldness with which they had preached the gospel unto them, in the midst of opposition, abuse, and discouragement, "not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our heats."

Paul then endeavored to inform his Thessalonian brethren concerning the true state of the dead. He speaks of them as asleep,—in a state of unconsciousness: "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. . . . . For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

The friends of the righteous dead should not sorrow as those who lose their loved ones and have no hope in Jesus Christ, and who are not cheered by the immortal future beyond the resurrection of the just. Paul addressed the Thessalonians as [p. 112] those who had turned from the practices of heathen idolatry to the service of Christ. Vague heathen ideas concerning the state of the dead were more or less mingled with the new faith. But those who clearly saw the truth of the resurrection from the dead, in the doctrine preached by Paul, were greatly comforted. The cheering hope which they thus received, that the righteous dead would rise from their graves to a holy, happy immortal life, was in marked contrast with their former pagan ideas of death. For they had believed that there was no future life, no happy meeting with those whom they had loved and lost on earth.

The Thessalonians had eagerly grasped the idea that Christ was coming to change the faithful who were alive, and take them to himself. They had carefully guarded the lives of their friends, lest they should die, and lose the blessing which they anticipated at the coming of their Lord. But, one after another, death had laid their loved ones low; and they had buried them from their sight with fear and trembling. All their ancestors had thus been buried, and with anguish the Thessalonians looked upon the faces of their dead for the last time, never expecting to meet them again in a future life.

Part:  A  B  C

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