Image source: RestonBibleChurch
William Miller preached that Jesus would return on 22 October 1844; some of his followers prepared themselves for this by withdrawing from normal human activities like having a regular job. More recently, Harold Camping, also preached that Jesus would return on 21 May 2011, it did not happen. The ‘Advent’, from which we get ‘Adventist’, refers to the second coming of Jesus. This is the great Christian hope, so no surprise that Christians are eager for it to happen sooner rather than later.
William Miller and Harold Camping were respected preachers with good intentions, but they got the date for the advent wrong, and it had consequences in the lives of their closest followers. Similarly, the Thessalonians were concerned about the advent, following on from their concern about their loved ones who had died. Recall that Paul told them in his first letter that their dead will rise at the second coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18); so they asked Paul for greater clarity about this event.
However, some Thessalonians had concluded that the advent would happen soonest, so these quit their jobs, became idlers dependent on others, while waiting for the advent to take them away. Paul had to push back against this misinterpretation of the gospel message and irresponsible lifestyle. This was the intent of his second letter to the Thessalonians; he starts with praise for the Thessalonians in Chapter 1, then teaches clearly in Chapter 2 about the future timing of the advent.
Paul then says in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (NIV) (shortened): “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you… keep away from every believer who is idle… We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day… in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate… we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive… busybodies. Such people we command… to settle down and earn the food they eat… Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.”
In the 2000 years since the gospel has been preached, people from every corner of the planet have come to believe in Jesus. The new world will have people from every tribe and nation; we wait for it with patience, but we cannot be idlers and busybodies, we must earn the food we eat while we wait.
Lord, help us to be productive, while we wait for the advent, Amen!