Today, we are enjoying the fruits and labour of the early Church who laid the foundation with their blood for us to continue the work of Christ. And as examples, they have left behind a record of how they lived and endured the persecution they faced. They are models for anyone seeking to understand what it means to have faith in Christ because although they had not lived to see the establishment of the kingdom of Christ, they nevertheless, have entered the kingdom of God to come.
The members of the early churches were persecuted by their own countrymen and were rejected on every side. They learnt what it meant to love the brethren. Rejected by the world, they learned to care for each other unto the point of death. And this they did as an example for us to know what love truly is.
John 15:12-13 reads, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The early churches were friends of Christ, they knew him, and they trusted his word, and because they did, coming under the penalty of death, and facing death all day long on account of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they lived as a model for us today. Their lives are a testimony of the things we will have to endure, and how possible it is for us to overcome the obstacles of death.
On account of their lives lived, there will be no cloak under which to hide our failures, and for turning away from Christ on account of the persecution we will face in our generation. God indeed will use their lives and their testimony written in blood to judge the world.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 reads, “Ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.”
For us today, the rapture is our comfort, we know there is coming persecution, and we know what the early churches went through. But knowing what the early church went through, and how they endured the harshness of the time, we are teaching a doctrine the apostles had not taught. We say, there will be either a pretribulation, and to add to the confusion, we say there will be a mid-tribulation, and to make it worst, a post-tribulation. Which is it, pre, mid, or post-tribulation?
Separated from the churches and facing persecution in the countries in which he moved about proclaiming the gospel, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy wrote to the churches in Thessalonica to let them know, they the churches are their crown of rejoicing. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 reads, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For you are our glory and joy.”
The apostles were proud to know the newly born church in Thessalonica was steadfast in their faith despite the persecution they were facing. And instead of promising an easy way out from under the persecution they were facing and will continue to face until Christ appears. The apostles wrote to the churches to encourage them, and to cheer them on in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 reads, “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour is in vain.”
It is a dangerous thing for us to be teaching concerning an easy way out from under the persecution we are going to face, the persecution we see coming against the church of our generation. As it stands, many within this generation and church are fallen away because of this teaching on the return of Jesus Christ in connection with the rapture of the church something the apostles did not teach. No wonder Paul proclaims there must first be a falling away of the church because when the heat is turned up on the church many will fall into temptation as they turn away from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many will fall and turn away from the truth of the gospel because they will not have been prepared for the things they will have to suffer on behalf of Jesus Christ. Matthew 10:18-20 reads, “You shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”
The letters of the apostles to the churches were not messages of hope in a coming rapture of the churches, therefore, at no time were they expecting a rapture of the church. And because instead of falling away despite the persecution and loss of loved ones on account of the gospel. The early church was not expecting Christ to return in their lifetime. There must first be a falling away, and they were not falling away, and because they were enduring the harshness of the time, their concern and desire were to know what will become of those who had fallen asleep before the establishment of the kingdom of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 3:5-8 “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour is in vain. But now when Timothy came from you unto us and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now, we live if you stand fast in the Lord.”