I recently began studying through 1 Thessalonians, and this morning I noticed something very interesting. At the end of chapter 1, Paul is writing about the testimony that the believers in Thessalonica have made for themselves. He says that it is widely reported that they have turned to God from idols to serve the Living and True God, and that they anxiously await the return of his Son, Jesus.
It's the statement that comes after this that got my juices flowing this morning (why does that phrase sound so gross to me?). Paul said that they wait for the return of Jesus who "delivers us from the wrath to come" (NASB). What was interesting to me was the word "delivers." In the Greek, the word is in the present participle. So a literal rendering would be: "who is delivering us from the wrath to come." The wrath to come, which speaks of God's judgment, is not now but in the future. But according to this verse, Jesus will not ONE DAY deliver us, but he is CURRENTLY delivering us now from the wrath that is to come. I'm not sure of everything that this means, but I do know that I was extremely encouraged this morning. How reassuring it is to know that Jesus is on my side. He is currently, right now, everyday battling for me, delivering me!
But the really crazy thing that I noticed this morning was the definition of the word "deliver" in the Greek. The greek word here means to withdraw by force or violence. It is often translated "drag," meaning to deliver or to draw out of danger or calamity. I love this imagery. A couple of years ago, my family was going through a difficult time. It seemed as if we were being attacked on every side. I specifically remember praying the following during that time:
Jesus, please help me make it through this without disgracing your name. I'm not asking you to make this situation go away, I'm just asking you to help me stand up under it. And if I fail to continue moving through this trial, please do whatever it takes to get me through. Kick me. Push me. And if I fail to stand, knock me down and drag me through it.
Jesus is delivering us. He is delivering us from our present circumstances, dragging us through if necessary. But more importantly he is delivering us from the wrath to come. He is delivering us from Hell.
As I write this post, there is a movie currently playing in the theaters called "Drag Me to Hell." I love really cheesy horror flicks, and as cheesy horror flicks go, this movie looks like fun. But I couldn't help but make the contrast this morning. Because of our sinful nature, our natural bent is toward hell. Left to our own free will and our own volition, we would all wind up in hell. But God in his sovereignty has provided a way of escape. And in his great mercy, Jesus is delivering us, he is dragging us away from death, hell, and damnation. Jesus, drag me from hell.