1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – “the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all His saints”

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POSTED 09 FEBRUARY, 2018

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume II

“Now may our God and Father Himself and Yeshua our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all His saints.”

Paul’s close association of the Father and the Son not just in his writing to the Thessalonicans, but also in what the Son is considered to one day perform, is strong proof of the Apostle holding to a high Christology of Yeshua being integrated into the Divine Identity.[1]

In 1 Thessalonians 3:11, Paul reemphasizes his desire to see the Thessalonicans in person again (1 Thessalonians 3:6), telling his audience, “Now may our God and Father Himself and Yeshua our Lord direct our way to you” (TLV). Theologically, what is significant about 1 Thessalonians 3:11, is how the prayers issued to God involve both the Father and Son invoked together. One might consider a prayer like that seen in Sirach 23:4, “O Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes,” where God is called both Lord and Father. In 1 Thessalonians 3:11, however, it is the Father who is called God, and the Son who is called Lord. The verb kateuthunai is an aorist active third person singular, a sure indication that God the Father and Yeshua the Son are acting together. Interpreters have obviously had to note this singular verb, given the fact that it plays some sort of role in understanding the nature of Yeshua. While normally in Second Temple Judaism, God alone would be called Lord and Father, here we definitely see something more involved.

That the Father and Son are invoked together, and that the prayer pattern is based on customary Jewish practice, are clear enough. The opinion of Charles A. Wanamaker on what is seen in 1 Thessalonians 3:11 is, “This, along with 2 Thes. 2:16-17, is the earliest documented evidence of the profound change in prayer language that took place in Christianity as the early Christian community moved away from traditional Jewish prayers, where God alone was addressed or invoked, to the address and invocation of both God and Jesus Christ. Now both God and Jesus Christ are addressed or invoked.”[2] He further states how “The singular verb…reveals that Paul understood them [Father and Son] as having a close relation.”[3]

With the Father and Son together being able to grant Paul’s prayer request to see the Thessalonicans, Morris can only conclude, “Out of his understanding of God there proceeds naturally this form of expression in which we see the highest place given to Jesus. Full deity is ascribed to Him.”[4] Looking at the nature of the prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3:11, Robert L. Thomas indicates how “it is futile to argue that the early church only gradually came to look upon Jesus as God…the Father and Son in their unity can grant this request…”[5] Gene L. Green poignantly observes, “To address prayers to the Lord Jesus (so 2 Thess. 3.5, 16) in the same breath with God the Father implies a very high Christology. This prayer would be proper only if the apostles held to the divinity of Christ.”[6] Witherington echoes this: “Both are viewed as objects of prayer, which is to say that both are viewed as members of the Godhead.”[7]

The prayer of 1 Thessalonians 3:11 was that Paul and company would be directed by God—both the Father and Son—to return to the Thessalonicans without any human or spiritual opposition stopping them.

The sentiment of 1 Thessalonians 3:11 continues, with Paul saying in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you” (HCSB). The interconnection of both the Father and Son, as witnessed in v. 11 previously, is so definite—that it is most difficult to determine who “the Lord” is specifically referring to. As Morris notes, “Theoretically ‘the Lord’ could refer to either of the Persons just mentioned, the Father or the Son, but it is Paul’s habit to refer to Jesus by this title.”[8] Still the fact that the Divine titles Theos and Kurios appear so close together in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12, both of which refer to Israel’s God in the Greek Septuagint (with Kurios used to render the Divine Name YHWH)—without a doubt places Yeshua squarely on the Divine side of reality.

Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonicans’ good conduct, was “that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Living in holiness is a theme of the Torah (Exodus 3:5; Leviticus 11:44), which Paul emphasizes Himself (Romans 6:22; Ephesians 1:1). The later sentiment of the Apostle John, closely parallels that of 1 Thessalonians 3:13: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28; cf. 3:3).

While there are some details to be evaluated, which are surely debated in terms of the future timing of 1 Thessalonians 3:13—and whether or not “your hearts” involved the possibility of the Messiah returning in the First Century—the evaluation of Believers’ holiness and blamelessness will occur after the Second Coming of Yeshua the Messiah to Planet Earth. This is specified by Paul to be “the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all His saints.” It is to be rightly recognized that the language here is appropriated from Zechariah 14:5:[9]

1 THESSALONIANS 3:13

ZECHARIAH 14:4-5

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones (TNIV). In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!

The claim of Zechariah 14:5 itself is rooted within previous Tanach attestations, such as Deuteronomy 33:2 or Psalm 68:17:

ZECHARIAH 14:5

PREVIOUS TANACH STATEMENTS

You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! He said, “The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; at His right hand there was flashing lightning for them” (Deuteronomy 33:2).

The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness (Psalm 68:17).

Christologically, what is most important about 1 Thessalonians 3:13, is that a prophecy action involving the LORD God in the Tanach, arriving to the Earth to issue judgment and to rescue His people—involves Yeshua the Messiah instead. The coming, or parousia, of the Lord Yeshua, is actually the arrival of the LORD or Adonai (YHWH). The direct application of Zechariah 14:5 to Yeshua the Messiah in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, may be regarded as strong evidence (confirming what has been previously asserted in 1 Thessalonians 3:11) that Yeshua is indeed God, integrated into the Divine Identity. A number of important commentators confirm this.

Bruce addresses the actions of 1 Thessalonians 3:13, summarizing, “It is noteworthy…that the Advent of Jesus is described in terms used in the OT on those occasions when the God of Israel reveals himself in glory, attended by his heavenly hosts. The unobtrusive spontaneity with which such language is applied to Jesus by more NT writers than one is more eloquent than any formal creedal statement could be.”[10] Certainly while later Christian leaders would come along and formulate different creeds about the Divine nature of the Messiah, albeit doctrinally correct, the claims of the text of an authentic Apostolic letter bear far more authority and significance to us as Bible readers. Witherington asserts how “The language previously applied to the yom Yahweh and the theophanies of Yahweh in general are now being applied to Jesus.”[11] Fee similarly concludes, “Paul applies directly to Christ language from the Septuagint, where the Lord (Kurios) is a substitute for the name of Yahweh. Thus, with the language at the coming of our Lord, Jesus, with all his holy ones, Paul’s intertextual appropriation of Zechariah 14:5 seems certain.”[12]


NOTES

[1] This entry has been adapted from the author’s commentary 1&2 Thessalonians for the Practical Messianic.

[2] Charles A. Wanamaker, New International Greek Testament Commentary: 1&2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 141.

[3] Ibid., 142.

[4] Morris, First and Second Thessalonians, 111.

I. Howard Marshall, New Century Bible Commentary: 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 100, while disagreeing with the directness of Morris, still does conclude, “Paul assumes the divinity of Jesus.”

[5] Robert L. Thomas, “1 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. et. al., Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 11:267.

[6] Gene L. Green, Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 176.

[7] Ben Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), pp 102-103.

Cf. Fee, First and Second Thessalonians, 130 who references the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, with the Father and Son identified together.

[8] Morris, First and Second Thessalonians, 112.

[9] Erwin Nestle and Kurt Aland, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition (New York: American Bible Society, 1993), 535; Kurt Aland, et. al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Stuttgart: Deutche Bibelgesellschaft/United Bible Societies, 1998), 701; Barbara and Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Revised Edition (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, 2012), 626.

[10] Bruce, 1&2 Thessalonians, 74.

[11] Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 104.

[12] Fee, First and Second Thessalonians, 134.

Note how there is discussion involving what Paul actually means by saying that Yeshua returns with tōn hagiōn autou. There are three main options available as to who those who will return with Yeshua to Planet Earth are: (1) “saints” meaning Believers, (2) “holy ones” (NIV) meaning God’s angels, or (3) saints/holy ones meaning a mixed assembly of both Believers and God’s angels. This does bear some importance on discussions about the intermediate state between death and the resurrection.

Consult the author’s book After the Afterlife: Messianic Engagement With Heaven, Hell, and the Resurrection of the Dead (forthcoming), for a further review.