1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,…
How all-inclusive the passage is! The whole of that grand purpose for which the Bible was written is contained in these few lines. What have you not in this verse? You have Christ, His death, His substitutionary work, His resurrection, the fact of His present life, the assurance of His return, the saints' salvation, the saints' eternal glory. This text is also a window through which we look into the heart of Christ, and behold the Saviour's great desire that all His people should live together with Him.
I. LOVE'S DESIRE. That we should live together with Him.
1. Viewed from one stand point, this is only natural. Grant love, and you are necessarily compelled to grant something else — desire for the presence of the object beloved. I cannot imagine it possible for the two ever to be separated. Love is always restless until the object of affection is close by. In proportion as the love is pure and intense, so will the delight in the nearness of the object become intensified; and Christ finds His greatest happiness in having His people near Him. Have you joy in communion? He joys more. As you look up to Him, do you feel constrained to sing? He, too, when He looks down on you, feels that He must sing; for "the Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: He will joy over thee with singing."
2. And yet it is very marvellous.
(1) Where did the love spring from? Why did He love me at all? Has any friend on earth treated any of us half so ill as we have treated Christ? And yet His choicest desire is that we shall live together with Him. Is it not strange that, though there are some people who would not care to have you in their house, yet Christ wants to have you in His home?
(2) Mysterious? More so still when I call to mind the fact that I do not like to live with myself. Self is my plague. And yet how strange that, though I want to get away from self, Christ wants me to go and live with Him.
3. How all-inclusive the desire is. It is that we should not only live with Him, but together with Him. What is that?
(1) Take it as including all His people, and then it teaches us that Christ is not content for one to be absent. He wants to see all the members of His family brought round the table. Is it not always so when there is love to all? What is the bliss of heaven? All His people together. Fathers united once more to the children who went before, husbands reunited with wives, friends with friends — all together; and then all together with Him. To Christ's eye that is the most beautiful picture that heaven itself can present — Christ and all His numerous family, without an absentee.
(2) Or does "together" apply to Christ? And, if so, there is a beautiful thought in it. You may live in the same house with a person, and yet not live together. "Together" implies a certain amount of intimacy. When Christ brings His people together He brings them to a home. He does not merely collect a multitude of people. No; in heaven there will be holy familiarity.
II. LOVE'S METHOD TO OBTAIN ITS DESIRE. Christ's was most costly. "Greater love hath no man than this," etc. If you would measure Christ's love, you can only do so by the Cross. Here is the explanation of Calvary. If you say that Christ died in order to satisfy Divine justice, to make an atonement for sin, to deliver from hell — all that is true. But now put it in a more beautiful way: that I might live together with Him "who died" not on a soft bed, but hanging on hard timber; not with loving friends around, but a hooting crowd; not with death lit up by His Father's smile, but crying, "Eloi," etc., out on a felon's hill. And He died in my place. If He had not, I must. Now there is no room for doubt. If, when you were a sinner, Jesus loved you enough to die for you, do you not think that now you are one of His friends, He will love you enough to bring you home?
III. THE ONLY CONDITIONS THAT CAN SATISFY CHRIST'S DESIRE. Christ is not going to be disappointed. Any way, whether we wake or sleep, He means that we shall be with Him. What is intended by these words?
1. Take them literally. Sleeping or waking, conscious or unconscious, the saint and the Saviour are never far apart.
2. "Awake or asleep" means living or dying. Christ will have our company living. Christ would not be satisfied merely to have our company in the glory. He wants it down here. His delight is to commune here with His ransomed ones. And suppose we fall asleep in death. Death is but the Lord's black chariot that He sends to bring His darlings home. The billow of death never washed a soul from the Saviour's arms. It washes the soul from a thousand other hands that try to retain it, but it only sweeps the spirit away to its eternal home.
3. The chief meaning is that, whether by resurrection or translation, we shall be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Then there are some who will fall asleep in death, and there are others who will be alive and awake at Christ's coming. Will He be satisfied only to have one of the companies with Him.? No; He died for us that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. We shall pass either through the portals of death, or over them as did Elijah; but, either way, the goal reached will be the same.
(A. G. Brown.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,