8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
The example set and the message preached by the Thessalonian church brought new believers in Macedonia and throughout Greece.
Religion in the Roman Empire cannot be separated from the politics of the Roman Empire. The Greeks personified their gods and the Romans made theirs almost vague abstractions. However, to the Roman and the Greek there was a sort of a deal with the gods. If you practiced your rituals letter perfect and honored the gods by the form of your worship then you expected benefits from them, almost like a business deal. Religious offices were political in nature.
Religion had its most important expression in patriotism and patriotism had its sanction and support in religion. In Roman religion there was little discussion of a life after death. The focus of Roman religion was on this earth. Greek and Middle Eastern gods were accepted but their worship was considered inferior to the Roman way. Piety toward the gods was as important as obedience to the civil magistrates.
You can imagine how hard it was for the Thessalonians to turn from those forms of religious devotion that essentially made them Romans or Greeks to the God of the Bible. It may have been a simple thing in their head once the Holy Spirit had spoken to their spiritual hearts but it was a life-changing and sometimes catastrophic change in their daily lives and interactions with friends, family, and, most importantly, the authorities.
The Greek world, in which Thessalonica lay, had a deep reverence for antiquity and, “the wisdom of the ancients,” which often took the place of religion as in their deep reverence for the poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, about the Trojan War. Alexander the Great is even purported to have slept with a copy of the Iliad under his pillow. Do not think it would have been an easy thing to turn from this worldview to the God of the Bible.
Here is the first hint of the rapture of the church, what the Bible calls, “translation.” The word, “rapture,” is not in the Bible. But words like, “translation,” and phrases like, “caught up,” will reveal by their context what is to happen and what the early church believed by virtue of many quotes from the early church fathers such as Shephard, Victorinus, and Cyprian.
The Thessalonians were nourished by the faith that Christ would return and remove them from, “this present evil world.” He would save them from God’s wrath, which is to come upon this world.
Verse 10 says that they are to wait for Jesus from heaven who has delivered them from the wrath to come. We see God’s wrath explained in detail in the Book of the Revelation of John.
Revelation 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
The first chapter of 1Thessalonians ends with three basic doctrines of Bible-believing Christianity. One, that Jesus is physically returning for us and, two, the resurrection of Christ, and, three, that the church will not see God’s wrath visited upon the world, at least from this angle. Hallelujah!!!