We can see, from the book of 1 Thessalonians, that the Thessalonian Christians were some of Paul’s most faithful converts. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were so thankful to God for them, for how they “received the word in much tribulation,” and how they “sounded forth” the gospel everywhere. But the main point I will make about them is in verses 9 and 10. They were a people that were so dynamically changed from being idol worshippers to being true disciples of Christ; and that they lived their lives every day waiting for Him and wishing that He would come soon.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. NASB
No, as some might think, they were not just sitting and waiting; they were serving the living and true God as they were waiting. What a great example they are to us.
Also, they were so much in love with the Lord. I believe, as the text indicates, they knew Him to be their deliverer. He had delivered them from their old life of sin; He had delivered them from the persecution of the Jewish leaders; and they no doubt knew that God would continue to deliver them from every wrath to come—as Paul had probably instructed them.
This tenth verse is a verse that describes the rapture, the first phase of His coming; for we are now waiting for Jesus to come from heaven; and when He comes and takes us up with Him, He will, at that time, be delivering us from the wrath to come.
Now, in saying that, let me back up and say that I don’t think we can be certain that this (above) is all that this phrase means—“who delivers us from the wrath to come.” I would like to suggest…
Four Possible Meanings
- Deliverance from the domain of darkness in our present lives, which will extend into the next life (Col. 1:13). This seems to be a good interpretation, for it brings us the sense that God is a constant deliverer, and it seems to fit the ongoing tense of the phrase, “who delivers us.”
- Deliverance from current and near future distresses. For the Thessalonians, this would be from the Jewish leaders (Acts 17:11-14).
- Deliverance from wrath on the entire earth, which will come shortly after the rapture of the church (Rev. 6:16-17). This message of deliverance is not only to the Thessalonians but to the entire church.
- Deliverance from God’s eternal wrath (Jn. 3:36; Rom. 5:9, 10).
I personally am not sure which of these four possibilities I like best. There is good reason to choose point three, because we know that Paul had been instructing them on the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18); and so, the fact that they would be escaping the 7 year tribulation may be on Paul’s mind and their mind.
There is also good reason to choose point four, for God did not appoint us to eternal wrath but to salvation (1 Thess. 5:9).