There’s a reason agricultural and construction metaphors show up so often in the Bible. They aptly illustrate some of the most important spiritual principles. Earlier this month, my wife and I began remodeling the kids’ bathroom. Four weeks into a project I thought would be finished in two, I’ve learned something. You have to carefully think through how every part of the job – plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring, lighting, etc. – is connected to the final product.
For example, when you rough in the plumbing, you need to know the location and dimensions of the vanity so you don’t have the sink over here and the pipes over here. It’s nice to get all the drywall mess done early, but I won’t know exactly where to locate the electrical box for the light until we set the location of the vanity since the light has to be centered above the sink. And you can’t install the vanity until the floor tile is done. However, you can’t tile the floor until the drywall corner is finished. You get the picture. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve stood in the bathroom door and said to myself, “Ok, how is this step connected to the way everything is supposed to look in the end.”
Experienced contractors do as much instinctively. They keep the end in the view. Christians are no different. They build and navigate their spiritual lives with the end in view. That end is the return of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, before whom every human being will give an account for the way they lived on earth. Because God created the universe, He is king over the universe. And one day, He will return to judge the living and the dead, condemning his enemies and welcoming his people into the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Listen, you may feel right now like you’re calling all the shots in the story of your life – for better or worse. The Word of God reminds us we’re not in control of how it all ends because it’s not our story. It’s God’s story. He’s calling the shots. 2 Peter 3:10–12, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…”
To start a remodeling project without a clear view of the end creates a disaster in your home. To navigate this life without a clear view of the end is to guarantee a disaster for your soul. The end is clear. The end is known. The end is guaranteed. The question that remains is whether we will live with the end in view or not. That is what 1 Thessalonians is all about – living with the end in view.
Every chapter of this divinely inspired letter to the church in Thessalonica, written around 50 A.D. by the Apostle Paul and his coworkers, ends with an explicit reference to the return of Christ, to the last chapter in the story. It teaches us what it means to live various aspects of our life on earth with the end in view – this includes our relationship with God, our sexuality, our work, you name it.
For those of you listening to me who think, “I already know how to do that,” take care. The primary author – Paul – uses phrases like “you already know,” “you know,” or “I have no need to write” some 11 times. Translation? Much of what he says in here isn’t “new” information for the Thessalonians. But they, like us, didn’t so much need something new. They needed help to live in light of something they had heard before.
There’s a lot going on in the first 10 verses, but the central claim is simple. Living in light of the end starts with choosing to follow the only One who can deliver us in the end. The way you end depends entirely on the way you begin. If you want to end well, you must begin well. And ending well – salvation from death and judgment on THAT day – requires placing your faith in Jesus Christ in THIS day.