Two Different Types of Women In Labor
Distinguishing Between the Second Coming & the Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians
In 1 Thessalonians there is both the judgment on the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (referenced in 1:10; 2:16, and again in 5:1–2 ff) and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ together with his saints in Chapter 4. The key to distinguishing these is what this article is about.
In 1:10 we read of “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” And again in 2:16, “wrath has come upon them at last!” This is reference with a specific context. Here is the fuller reading,
1 Thessalonians 2:14–16 ESV “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!”
Those who experience this judgment are unbelievers who brought affliction upon the churches of God. The specific reference is to those unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem. Paul speaks of judgment upon them in a way that is imminent. If 1 Thessalonians was written around A.D. 50 then within twenty years they would be destroyed. At the present time the judgment is one of hardening as referenced in Romans 9–11 where it speaks of a partial hardening on the Jews. This judgment was promised by Jesus when he said,
Luke 11:51 ESV “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.”
A generation was approximately 40 years. Just like Moses who received the law and then Israel being in the wilderness 40 years before they conquered the promised land, so the apostolic writing is composed and the church goes forth to conquer the world (Wilson).
This judgment is also referenced at the end of letter in 5:1ff
1 Thessalonians 5:1–2 ESV “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
The reference to times and seasons is an indicator of this judgment. Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 24:33 saying,
Matthew 24:32–34 ESV ““From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
So, that is all referential to the judgment in A.D. 70. However, there is also a clear reference to the second coming of Jesus. We have just spoken of the Day of the Lord, the wrath that came upon unbelieving Jews as prophesied by Jesus to come in their generation. The Second coming appears in chapter 4 as follows:
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 ESV “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
What distinguishes this portion of the text is that Jesus is coming together with his saints. It answers the question of what about those who taste death before he comes? The former matter answers the question about those who will not taste death before he comes. When Paul refers to the second coming of the Lord (called the parousia) it is paired with language of the resurrection of the dead. This is prophesied as happening at the end of time, whereas the former is prophesied as happening in the time of the apostles. Both are important in comforting the believers and giving them hope so as to spur them on to holy lives. The judgment upon unbelieving Judaism was important to validate Christ’s prophecy of that event. He instructed believers what to watch for and what to do as these events unfolded (Matthew 24). It was much more secret unlike the second coming would be. They would not have to watch for events in the second coming because it was something that would happen at the end of time and was to be a comfort for all believers concerning those who died. They would comfort each other that those who died by affliction and martyrdom would be raised first (almost in language of honor here). Families of believers could take great courage in their difficult times that the devil may kill the body, but he cannot kill the soul; and that Jesus was coming again and would bring their loved one’s with him. Why could they have certainty of this? He says because Jesus died and rose again (4:14)! The second coming was one of great comfort to the church then and now. It was something predicted at the end of time.
The judgment on Jerusalem however was predicted to happen in their time related to language of times and seasons and imminent wrath performed like a thief coming upon unexpected people; that can only be the judgment in Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
There are two things being born here, the first is hope and the second is destruction. Like a mother in labor who is in panic and without help is the unbelieving Jerusalem who has rejected Jesus and rode on the back of Rome as a harlot. Her destruction was imminent; and all who are like her. But like a mother in labor with expectation and hope is believing true Israel who is betrothed to Jesus and is rescued. At the pains of affliction and martyrdom they are given tremendous hope that the body they may kill but God’s truth abideth still. They go from courage to courage in the midst of a world that afflicts them. They have hope for themselves and their loved ones; and this hope inspires holiness. There are two women in labor, but one labors with hope and the other with dread. Which company are you part of ?