What does it mean when the Bible says we are to long for Christ’s return? The fifth president of Moody Bible Institute, William Culbertson, once preached: “If you say you love the appearing of Christ and are indifferent to the claims of Christ and are unspiritual in your living and are worldly and careless in your life, there is no crown of righteousness waiting for you. You don’t truly love His appearing.”
In other words, there is an integral connection between our belief in Christ’s return and our daily striving for practical holiness. In today’s reading, Paul gave a final prayer or word of blessing or benediction (it’s all three!) along exactly these lines (v. 23). The apostle had done the same in the middle of the epistle (1 Thess. 3:11–13). There, he’d ended the prayer with a reference to the Second Coming—“when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (v. 13). He did so again here—“at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23). In both benedictions, the focus is on striving to live holy and blameless lives until Christ comes again.
The key verb is “sanctify” (v. 23). Whereas “justification” is positional holiness—standing righteous before God due to Christ’s sacrifice, “sanctification” is progressive holiness—growing in righteousness and spiritual maturity. This process will end in “glorification”—when our “whole spirit, soul and body” are entirely Christlike “through and through.”
If that sounds impossible, you’re right! We have no hope of getting there on our own. Thankfully, it’s up to God, and since He’s promised it, it’s as good as done (v. 24). As Paul would later write: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
>> If you want to learn about the end times, the book of Revelation is your best resource. We encourage you to add this final book of the Bible to your summer reading list.
Father, we depend on you for the blamelessness you expect of us. Forgive us our attempts to attain our own righteousness. Plant in us the blessed peace of knowing that you are at work within us.