The Thessalonians were afraid that God was going to drop the hammer on them. Paul drop-kicks that false teaching!
This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible. You can view all posts in the series here. They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.
Mirror-Reading 1 Thessalonians Gives Us A Greater Understanding
False teachers came to the Thessalonian Church and shared some Old Testament prophecies with them. Those prophecies sounded like God was going to destroy the Gentiles when the Messiah came. This was a problem, since the Thessalonians were Gentiles. Naturally, the Thessalonians didn't care for those prophecies. One might even say they "despised them". Fortunately, the apostle Paul responded to the false teaching and let the Thessalonians know they were not in danger of God's wrath.
How Paul Showed The Thessalonians Why They Didn't Need To Despise Prophecies Any Longer
Paul states plainly that they will not be under God's wrath:
1 Thessalonians 1:10
and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 5:9
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Paul also takes some swipes at the false teachers. They had been using the Old Testament prophets to try to Judaize the Thessalonians, but Paul points out that they were the type of people who had killed the Old Testament prophets they were quoting!
1 Thessalonians 2:15
who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind
Then Paul turns the tables and says that God's wrath had come on the false teachers!
1 Thessalonians 2:16
by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
One of the Old Testament passages that the false teachers were likely using is found in Isaiah, were he describes how God will wear His armor when destroying the Gentiles.
“He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle.”
However, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to put on the armor that was originally intended to destroy them!
1 Thessalonians 5:8
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Finally, this leads Paul to let the Thessalonians know they have no reason to despise those Old Testament prophecies that the false teachers were using against them:
1 Thessalonians 5:20
Do not despise prophecies,
Many assume that the prophecies being despised were ones given by the prophets in the Church at that time. If the prophecies that Paul was referring to were those type of prophecies, then we would expect to find Paul dealing with that issue in the letter, much like he did in 1 Corinthians 13. However, we do not find any evidence of this. We do however, find plenty of references to the Day of the Lord, which is referenced numerous time in Old Testament prophecies. It was the day that the Thessalonians had feared would bring God's wrath on them, but Paul shows that day, which is the 2nd coming of Christ, is nothing to fear.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 (see also 3:13, 4:15-16, 5:2 and 5:23)
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?.
What Do You Think?
What do you think of this mirror-reading of 1 Thessalonians? Was Paul trying to assure the Thessalonians that they would not experience God's wrath during the Day of the Lord? What other situations do you think 1 Thessalonians was responding to?