1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

1 Thessalonians 2:13‑20  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Edward Cross
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
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?
For ye are our glory and joy.”
Seeing then that it was God who was calling them, it was His word they heard and not the word of men. The emphasis lies not on what they heard, but on the source and authority of it; and so the apostle says, “having received the word of the report of God by us [that is, the word which we preached to you], ye accepted, not men’s word, but, even as it is truly, God’s word, which also works [is operative] in you who believe” (New Translation). Similarly “the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth” (Jonah 3:55So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)). The word they heard was not to them the word of the prophet merely, but the Word of God.
Moreover, with these Thessalonians as with the Ninevites, it displayed its own energy as the Word of God in their souls: it became operative through faith, as was evidenced by their enduring sufferings at the hands of their own countrymen, even as the churches of Judea did from the Jews.
These latter were at the time the most pronounced foes of Christianity. From the beginning of their history the category of their crimes had been terrible, and the judgments that had befallen them from the hand of God in consequence had been exemplary. This list had been immeasurably increased and their character still further emphasized by their conduct in recent times, as the apostle says: “[they] have both slain the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and have driven us out by persecution, and do not please God, and are against all men” (New Translation); while their blindness is completed in their “forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway.”
By the title “Lord,” which he uses here, he enhances their guilt, and sets the heinousness of their sin in the strongest light: by the word “alway” he shows the unbroken, unchanging character of their conduct through all time, from the beginning of their history right on. (Compare Deut. 1:2626Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God: (Deuteronomy 1:26); Deut. 9:2424Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you. (Deuteronomy 9:24); Acts 7:5151Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (Acts 7:51)).
An unbelieving people from the beginning, they had been visited in the government of God with varying judgments from time to time; but now wrath had fallen on them to the uttermost. In a few years — some fifteen from then — destruction and misery were to overtake the nation, their city was to be demolished and themselves scattered over the face of the earth, as they are to this day, awaiting the still more crucial troubles that shall befall them in “the latter days.” Then will be “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:77Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7)), when the crisis of their unbelieving history will have arrived, and the final wrath of God will be culminated in them.
In what touching words the apostle here describes his emotions. Feeling the bereavement of separation from ‘them for a little moment in person, not in heart, through circumstances over which he had no control, his longing was the more increased to see them “with much desire;” and once and again he essayed to do so, but — and the reason he gives for his failing to do so is remarkable — “Satan hindered us.”
Who, in the face of such words, can question the actuality and personality of this mysterious power? Satan, the evil spirit, the adversary, by whatever agencies or means he acted, was the hindering power to oppose the purposes of God for the comfort and blessing of the saints through the personal ministry of the apostle. This opposing power is ceaseless and varied in the forms in which it manifests itself, but it is specially signalized as Satan’s to these souls newly converted from its thralldom (Cf. Job 1:66Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. (Job 1:6); Zech. 3:22And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? (Zechariah 3:2); Rev. 12:7-97And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7‑9)).
“Satan hindered”: what the means were which he used is not revealed. Nor is the mystery of the existence of this power cleared up for the curiosity of “fleshly minds” “intruding into” things not made known (Col. 2:1818Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18)). But the existence and personality of this power, and its direct and ceaseless opposition to God with the desire to thwart His purposes, are put beyond all doubt by the Scripture record: while its constant rebellion against the will of God — the proud will of the creature against the Creator (1 Tim. 3:66Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:6)) — and its final and complete overthrow, is the uniform theme of Scripture from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 He is called “the god of this world” — this “age” (2 Cor. 4:44In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4)), and “the prince of this world” (John 12:3131Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (John 12:31)): and seeing that Scripture constantly attributes to him such authoritative power (Acts 26:1818To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18); Col. 1:1313Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Colossians 1:13); Eph. 2:22Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2)), it would be folly indeed to treat lightly, or fancifully, so real and so terrible an enemy both of God and man.
From all this how naturally and simply the apostle’s mind turns to the time when no power of the disturber will be there to hinder in a brighter scene, in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming, the fulfillment of his desire, which will in due course be realized, even though it be postponed till then.
And with that thought a new element is introduced into the character of “that day.” In 1 Thessalonians 1:1010And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10), it is connected with the coming of the Son of God, and the deliverance He will then accomplish for His people: here he is concerned with the fact that He will gather them all together into the joy of His presence. The delivered ones will be united with those who have been instrumental in their deliverance, each to increase the other’s joy.
And how surpassingly true this will be of Him, of whom primarily and preeminently it is written, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him” (Psa. 126:66He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:6)).
“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? For ye are our glory and joy.” In this same spirit sang Samuel Rutherford:
“Oh! if one soul from Anworth
Meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be’ two heavens
In Immanuel’s land.”
May we, too, take fresh courage, and remember the words of the apostle: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:5858Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)).