2 Thessalonian 3:6-13
By J. Stephen Lang
When the twentieth century began, most people optimistically believed that human life was improving, that humankind was progressing in the right direction. The wonders related in the Bible were in doubt, but the wonders of science and technology were not. So the Bible’s words about a dramatic return of Jesus to judge the earth struck many people as crude and quaint. Belief in heaven lost some of its appeal, since science seemed to promise a heaven on earth. But after two world wars and dozens of other bloody conflicts, the century became less optimistic. Humankind seemed to be taking a step backward for every step forward. Contrary to the optimists’ belief, we weren’t at all close to creating heaven on earth.
The twenty-first century seems no more promising. It literally began with a bang: the horrors of September 11, 2001. Persons may use science to heal disease but also to slaughter people. So perhaps the old teachings about heaven and Jesus’ coming back to earth deserve another look.
The earliest believers in Jesus had a firm hope that he would return in glory-they just didn’t know when. Jesus and the apostles emphasized that no one could predict the time; the writer of Second Thessalonians, like all the early believers, hoped Christ would return in his lifetime. But he scolds some of the Thessalonian Christians for becoming idlers and busybodies, apparently expecting fellow believers to support them while they wait. The message is sensible enough: keep one eye fixed on heaven, the other eye on your earthly life. Have faith in God, and keep working at your daily tasks. Since we cannot predict the time of Jesus’ return, we must be ready at all moments.
Lord, teach us to value each moment of our earthly lives while we look forward to a greater life beyond. Amen.