In Light of Jesus’s Soon Return, How are We to Live? (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15)

In writing to brand new believers in Thessalonica, Paul is teaching them to be ready for the return of Jesus! He focuses on what they need to know about the rapture, and he assures them God has not destined them to wrath. He is now finishing up that letter to those dear believers, and he concludes with snippets about how they should live in the season before His return. Yes, Paul believed Jesus could return at any moment, and God’s Word teaches us to have the same expectancy! Jesus is coming…and we will be rescued from the wrath of God which will be poured out upon the earth!

Until then, we live out our faith, fulfilling all our Lord commands! Let’s pick up today’s lesson in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15. Take a moment to read those verses. On begin, perhaps, in verse 1 to get a running start and an understanding of context.

Have you ever written a long letter to a friend? Perhaps there is lots of news to catch up on, but toward the end of your letter, you begin searching for a way to bring it all to a close. Maybe you want to end on a positive note, with some encouragement, or with words of longing to see one another again. That seems to be Paul’s dilemma as he closes out this letter to his dear friends. He shifts gears from the message to the farewell. He works in a few last minute instructions before signing off. He wants his friends to continue growing in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.

In this farewell, he addresses how to respond to leadership (verses 12-13), then instructs the people how to respond to one another (verses 14-15). Let’s look first at verses 12-13.

There seems to be at least 4 instructions Paul gives regarding how to respond to those who teach and lead us.

  1. We are to accept them. To “recognize those who labor among us” means not only to see them as who they are, but to accept their leadership. It does not necessarily mean to agree with everything, but to view them with honor as a child would a parent. We are to respect the position, keeping in mind their purpose.
    • According to Ephesians 4:11-12, apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors/teachers are given for what purpose?
    • The Greek word for “equipping” is atartismos, meaning to thoroughly complete the job; to repair, adjust or realign to fit again or restore. For what God-given calling are you being equipped?
    • “…the work of the ministry…” is “hard toiling to give others relief.” How, and to whom, are you giving relief?
    • The Greek word for “edifying” is oikodome, meaning to design a structure or a pedestal upon which to display something very valuable. What Godly character has been designed in you and put on display as a testimony of God’s goodness in your life?
  2. We are to appreciate them. As we “recognize those who labor among us, and are over us,” we are to respect their position, their calling and their gifting.
    • Do you pray for your spiritual leaders?
    • Are you one of whom your spiritual leaders desire to teach and to lead?
  3. We are to love them. For a leader to “labor among you,” yet be appropriately “over you” in leadership is a difficult line to walk. What is the specific admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:13?
  4. We are to obey them. When a servant of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, points you to the Word of God, obey their leading! What does Hebrews 13:17 say about this?

Now, let’s focus on 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, where Paul provides instruction regarding how believers are to function toward one another. Here, we are told to exhort one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. How do we do that?

  1. We are to warn the unruly.
    • “Unruly” is a military term referring to a soldier who does not stay in step. It also means to be selfishly careless or reckless, lazy or selfishly uncooperative.
    • We are to warn those who march to their own tune, living selfishly and uncooperatively.
    • Why? Because they cause division in the body of Christ.
  2. We are to comfort the fainthearted.
    • These are fellow believers who are lacking in boldness and confidence, or who are easily frightened or fearful.
    • Do you fear the rejection of others? Does that keep you from proclaiming the Gospel to those in need?
    • In context of today’s world, there are many living in needless fear brought about by the pandemic. Perhaps they fear leaving their home, or getting out to do necessary things. What can we do to comfort fearful people?
    • Some are fearful “bad things” are going to happen, or they lack confidence they can do what God calls them to do. Often they quit before getting started. What are we to do?
    • “Comfort” (noutheteo) means to encourage gently but with firmness by speaking into their ear. It is the opposite of yelling instructions. When is the last time you comforted the fainthearted?
  3. We are to uphold the weak.
    • It could literally mean “Hold tight the weak, not letting them fall into sin.”
    • What further instruction does Romans 14:1-3 provide regarding how to minister to the weak?
    • Those weak in faith often gravitate toward rules, regulations and legalism, attempting to overcome weakness with rules. Somehow we think we can obey those things and they will keep us from sin. Yet, our self-effort fails. Only the liberty found while living the life of Christ will save us from our weakness of self-sufficiency.
  4. We are to be patient with all.
    • How should we handle the unruly, the fainthearted and the weak? With patience. I lack in this area, what about you?
    • “Patience” (makrothumeo) means long-spirited in putting up with difficulty, to be forbearing and to suffer patiently while enduring.
    • What is Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6:2?

Wow…that’s lots of instruction for living, isn’t it! But here’s some extra credit for you! When churches grow and pressure rises for too few to do too much, God’s instructions are found here:

I’ll leave you with our final verse from today’s lesson:

See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.

~1 Thessalonians 5:15

We’ll finish off 1 Thessalonians tomorrow, so join us right back here! See you then.

4 thoughts on “In Light of Jesus’s Soon Return, How are We to Live? (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15)

    1. Hi bluecat57 – thanks for following. Regarding “soon,” we must keep two critical things in mind. First, the “last days” began back in the 1st century, as they believed Christ’s return would be “soon,” even then. Paul’s teaching in 1 Thessalonians reveals that. (Example: use of “we” and “us” in 1 Thes 5:9-10.) Secondly, the Bible teaches clearly that no one knows the day/hour, but that we should be ready at any moment. We should live as though He is coming today. As we consider his “soon” coming, we are motivated to live that way.

      Mockers also say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” 2 Peter 3:3-9 addresses that.

      Be patient…the Lord is not slow! Furthermore, never in the history of the world have signs of the tribulation lined up so closely. As signs of the tribulation continue to increase, we know the rapture is coming soon! Bible prophecy has never failed!

      Thanks for your comments. Keep studying God’s Word and seeking His wisdom! Blessings!

      1. bluecat57

        Or, without torturing the word, “soon” could mean exactly the same thing it means today – soon. As in before someone dies, which is exactly what Jesus and several other New Testament, Holy Spirit inspired authors wrote. And I would assume that all the other Apostles and disciples told their listeners the same thing – soon.
        And if you had really studied the Early Church Fathers and writers ever since then, you would have discovered that most believed “soon” and the “last days” had already happened in 70 A.D. Therefore, no one needed to know “the day/hour” because they knEw the day/hour had already occurred. We don’t know when Christ’s final return will happen, but that final victory is our blessed hope.
        “never in the history of the world have signs of the tribulation lined up so closely” – Really? Have you not bothered to read all the failed predictions of the last 2,000 years? It wouldn’t surprise me if some author used that phrase about the World War 1 era. Or the Victorian Era. The “signs” cannot “lineup” to something that has already occurred. Simple logic says that if you can’t know the day/hour then the “signs” can’t line up “closely” since that would prematurely reveal the day/hour.
        You seem to be using selection bias, a kind of logical fallacy, to support your arguments.
        I haven’t found an article to fill in the gaps of your knowledge of the Early Church’s eschatological view, but the summary of this book is a start.
        “The Early Church and the End of the World”

      2. Thank you for commenting, bluecat57. While I respect your difference of opinion regarding timing of the rapture, and what constitutes “soon” and “last days,” I will continue to lean upon what the Bible says rather than what early church fathers, or those throughout history have said. Regarding your point of “simple logic” that signs cannot line up without “prematurely reveal[ing] the day/hour,” I disagree. I believe firmly that God is sovereign and can do anything He wants, whenever He wants. He can delay things, He can speed things up according to His divine sovereignty.
        However, though only one of many signs of the last days, one might look at Ez 38 as an example of signs lining up. (BTW – I believe these signs lead ultimately to the tribulation, NOT the rapture. The rapture has no signs. But if the rapture occurs prior to the tribulation, which I believe 100%, then the rapture is “soon.”) It is true that NEVER in history have Russia, Iran, Turkey and others named in Ez 38 been so closely aligned with such motivation to attack Israel as they are now. We don’t know when that event will occur, but it could literally be any day, given the occupation each of them has just across Israel’s northern border. The rapture may occur before the Ez 38 invasion or sometime after…we don’t know the day/hour, but we are living in the season. I maintain, NO ONE knows the day/hour of the rapture, and it has not yet passed. (That was part of Paul’s message to the Thessalonians.) However, twice Jesus rebuked religious leaders and followers for not discerning the times/seasons in which they live. (Mt 16:1-3, Lk 12:54-56) That implies an ability to know the times/seasons. Paul built upon that idea in 1 Thes, when he told believers they are not to be uninformed and without hope regarding the rapture and Jesus’s coming for us. Example: 1 Thes 4:13-18. Disagreeing on the timing of the rapture is not a salvation issue, so is not worth division among believers. I fully respect your opinion and love you as a believer, but disagree when it comes to the issues we have discussed. I am happy to continue dialogue with you (and would welcome it), but we must take it offline, so not to alienate others from commenting or losing interest due to length. Let’s discuss via email. You may reach me at Many blessings!

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