Marshall Applewhite and 38 of his Heaven’s Gate followers committed suicide because they were convinced that by leaving their bodies they could rendezvous with a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet to begin life on a higher plane. “Experts” immediately offered their explanations of this bizarre incident. Several took advantage of the opportunity to strike a few low blows at Christians who believe in the literal return of Jesus. “After all,” they reasoned, “don’t Christians also anticipate being caught up for a rendezvous in the air?”
There is a similarity, but is it real or superficial? One way to find out is to study the letters written by the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians. Written in AD 50 or 51, when many who saw Jesus after His resurrection were still alive, these letters witness powerfully to the truth of the New Testament and reveal the attitude of first-century Christians toward Christ’s return. These letters also contain more specific teaching about the second coming than any other book in the New Testament. From these two letters we can learn all we need to know about this tremendous event:
• Why we should live in daily expectation of it.
• What will occur when He comes.
• How we should live as we wait for Him.
Since the Pauline authorship of these letters and their dates are so well-documented that they are virtually unquestioned (even by anti-supernaturalistic scholars), their teaching is undeniably authentic. They are also highly relevant at this time when so many people are thinking about the end of the world.