God’s children are given precious promises about the future. We’re promised an eternal place (John 14:2-4), pearly gates and streets of gold (Revelation 21:21), a crystal-clear river coming from the throne of God (22:1), fruit-bearing trees with leaves of healing (v. 2), family reunions (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and, most anticipated, dwelling with God Almighty in a new heaven and new earth forever (1 Kings 8:30; Revelation 21:3, 22).
This eternal home is the destiny that confessing believers long for. Christ beckons us to come and see our glorious future with Him. However, until His glorious kingdom is established on earth, how do we live in the meantime? The entirety of 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us how: We live to please God.
But, oh, how we fall short, with life’s woes, temptations, and blatantly increasing disdain for authority and virtue in our culture. Nonetheless, take heart, dear Christian. Come and see your future in Christ as you follow His instructions. Paul’s eloquent address in 1 Thessalonians 4 urges believers to elevate their living even “more and more” to the glory of God:
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus (vv. 1, 2).
Love and sex
Paul continues by naming two specific areas of living for Christ that may need “sandpaper” as correction: sexual conduct and brotherly love. Although sex is a highly personal matter, Paul observes behaviors in the Thessalonian church that were not honoring God. Sexual immorality is not much different today than in ancient times, and that is why Paul speaks so firmly about practicing self-control: “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (vv. 7, 8).
Similarly, the Holy Spirit shows us that loving others more than ourselves produces holy, fruitful, righteous living, which pleases God immensely. Paul is delighted to commend his audience for their brotherly love throughout Macedonia, and therefore reiterates the request he made earlier: “But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (v. 10).
His plea echoes to believers down through the centuries. How will you exhibit brotherly love in your community, hometown, neighborhood, or village? By knocking on doors? Surprisingly, no. Paul says believers show love by leading a quiet life, minding their own business, and working with their hands.
Paul’s passion declares that we must practice righteous, peaceful, and holy living because the coming of the Lord is nearer today than it has ever been. How can we read 1 Thessalonians 4 without being encouraged to be our best for God’s glory, for our promised future, and for the future of others who may come to Christ because of our godly influence?
Power for life
Influenced by the power of Jesus’ resurrection, Paul assures committed believers that they will have eternal life — a life that is more than we could ever hope for or imagine. Come and see! “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him” (Romans 6:5, 6). Our sins were buried with Jesus when we first believed. Therefore, in His likeness, we can look forward to resurrection life with Him, now and forever. We are no longer enslaved to sin but are alive in Christ Jesus through His resurrection life.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). Did you know God’s kingdom is within you if you have made Jesus your Lord? Yes, the domain is represented by the Holy Spirit. He guides, comforts, and reminds us of what Jesus taught (John 14:26). This also gives us power to live every day for Him.
Life to come
John the Revelator tells us that all our right living on earth will pay off one day. There will be a new heaven and earth (21:1) with stunning beauty and joy as in a wedding celebration (v. 2).
Then John heard a loud voice saying, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (v. 3, NIV). Adding to our joy, John writes, “ ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (v. 4, NIV). Although our world is spinning out of control with ungodliness, we can sigh with grateful relief at John’s revelation of restoration in the coming kingdom.
Rights and rewards
Though rewards are great in the coming kingdom, it is a wonder why the Lord would find any one of His children worthy of them. Yet Revelation 22:11, 12 illuminates why rewards are reserved for you and me. When we continue to live to please God, Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (NIV).
Our rewards, therefore, are based on what we have done on earth while waiting for Christ’s coming. By first receiving the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus, the gift of sanctification follows. Your spiritual and emotional growth results from living to please God. Fruitful works are produced by emulating Christ’s life. Heavenly rewards are therefore granted because we continue to do right in God’s eyes.
One such reward is described in 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul compares his personal race with the intense training of an athlete competing for a crown that does not last: “ I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (vv. 26, 27).
Paul ran the race of endurance and integrity as a public practitioner of Christ’s principles, passionately preaching the gospel. He ran the race to win an “imperishable crown” (v. 25).
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).
We, too, will receive an imperishable crown one day. In the meantime, we can live as Christ would have us live, according to His Word. We can rise above the world’s woes until we are forever with Christ.
Kathleen Barrett has published numerous news and feature articles in community publications and currently writes a quarterly column in Voice of Truth magazine. She co-authored a pictorial about Israel and has contributed poetry and testimonial in three anthologies, most recently in Embrace the Journey — Your Path to Spiritual Growth. She has also written two children’s books. Kathleen lives in Port Saint Lucie, FL. Visit her website: https://kathybarrettwrites.com/.