Hiebert on Apostolic Proclamation of the Return of Christ

April 2, 2011

Paul writes that the Thessalonians “turned to God 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” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). Commenting on 1:10, D. Edmond Hiebert stresses the importance of apostolic evangelistic proclamation of the return of Christ:

     This anticipation of Christ’s return characterized the Christian church from its very beginning. Acts makes it clear that it was an essential part of the preaching of the gospel. That Paul laid considerable emphasis upon this hope in his preaching at Thessalonica seems clear from the perverted charge against the Christians in Acts 17:7 when read in light of the Thessalonian epistles. This eschatological hope is the keynote of these epistles. It had taken a firm hold on the Thessalonian believers. If their serving a living and true God distinguished them from the Gentiles, this expectant hope for Christ’s return distinguished them from the Jews.
     Much of modern Christendom has lost this expectant waiting for the return of Christ, much to its own impoverishment. This expectancy is an essential part of a mature Christian life. . . . That the return of the risen Christ was being awaited by the Thessalonians implies the teaching concerning His ascension and present enthronement at the right hand of the Father . . . An eschatological reference precedes and follows [the] mention of Christ’s resurrection. Paul thus firmly ties the hope of the second advent to the crowning event of the first advent. . . . Jesus Christ’s resurrection . . . was an event that stands alone in history and confirms the validity of the gospel of salvation through Him. . . . The resurrection of Christ is therefore the ground and guarantee of His return. . . . This concise reference to the ‘wrath’ implies that the readers would understand its significance and indicates that the preaching of divine wrath coming upon sin and idolatry was an essential part of the apostolic preaching (1 & 2 Thessalonians, 73-75).

Our preaching of the gospel should also emphasize the return of Christ in connection with the resurrection and the wrath of God. Acts 17:30-31 is the best Pauline passage to teach us how to do so. Whenever possible, I use these statements when I evangelize people, and I believe that doing so is a vital part of biblical evangelism.

Rajesh

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