1 THESSALONIANS 3
1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
4 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.
5 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 be in vain.
The imperial pagan Roman Tempter
They were both probed to the quick; but by provers suitable to the times, place, and circumstances around them.
But, though the proving agents in the trials of the two Adams have never experimented upon any others of our race, Christ's brethren stand related to a power, styled ho peiradzoon, which which is rendered in the English version, 'the tempter.'—(1 Thes. 3:5.)
By reference to the passage it is manifest that the tempter alluded to there was not an invisible devil, but a persecuting power under which the disciples lived in Thessalonica. They were suffering persecution when Paul wrote to them for their encouragement.
'Let no man,' says he, 'be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.'
He then refers to what he had told them before, and not them only, but all others; that
'it is through much tribulation that they (the baptized) must enter the kingdom of God.'
But he reminds them that they are not alone in their trouble, but are 'suffering like things of their countrymen,' that Christ's brethren in Judea had of the Jews. This saying reveals the power as that of the Gentile authorities in Thessalonica, who, stirred up by 'lewd fellows of the baser sort,' were carrying into effect as far as they could 'the decrees of Cæsar,' with all the pains and penalties annexed against the refractory.'—(Acts 17:5–8; 2 Thes. 1:4. 5.)
These were torture, imprisonment, and death, which served to prove their inseparable devotion to the doctrine of God's kingdom, for which they suffered. These 'persecutions and tribulations' might be avoided upon one condition, which was offered to them by the enemy—if they would renounce the faith, and burn incense to Cæsar's image. This was the temptation offered to them by the tempting power.
If they yielded to the temptation, they saved their lives, but lost 'God's kingdom and glory.' Fearing this result in some cases, Paul says,
'I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain."
In the case before us, the tempter was the imperial pagan Roman power, styled in the apocalypse, 'a Great Red Dragon,' and the Great Dragon, the ancient Serpent, the surnamed diabolos and the Satan.'—(Rev. 12:3, 9.) The Dragon, or Serpent, was the symbol of the Roman sovereignty selected by the Romans themselves as representative of its imperiality.
Chrysostom, who flourished in the 4th century, says that 'the emperors wore among other things to distinguish them silken robes embroidered with gold, in which dragons were represented.'
Gibbon also says, speaking of the procession of Constantine from Milan to Rome,
'he was encompassed by the glittering arms of the numerous squadrons of his guards and cuirassiers. Their streaming banners of silk, embroidered with gold and shaped like dragons, waved round the person of the emperor.'
The emperor Constantine speaks of the dragon as the symbol of Pagan Roman sovereignty in his epistle to Eusebius and other bishops concerning the rebuilding and repair of churches.
'Liberty being now restored,' says he, 'and that dragon being removed from the administration of public affairs, by the providence of the great God, and by my ministry; I esteem the great power of God to have been made manifest even to all.'
Moreover, on the testimony of Eusebius, we are informed, that a picture of Constantine was set up over the palace gate, with a cross over his head, and under his feet
'the great enemy of mankind, who persecuted the church by means of impious tyrants, in the form of a dragon, '
transfixed by a spear through the midst of the body, and falling headlong into the depths of the sea. Hence it is evident that the species of serpent called the dragon was as much the symbol of the Roman power as the lion is of British at this day.
The Romans probably borrowed it from Egypt, which had become a province of their dominion. When an independent monarchy under the Pharaohs, its majesty was represented by
'the Great Dragon, that lieth in the midst of his rivers.'
The annexation of so ancient and renowned a kingdom was very likely celebrated by the adoption of its ancient symbol into the Roman heraldry. Hence, the Roman dragon is styled 'the ancient serpent, ' or the Egyptian [Rev 11: 8].
The Christadelphian, Dec 1873
6 But now when Timotheus 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:
7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;
10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.
12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
"To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable." Col 1: 22
We are dealing with very exalted things - with perfection and eternity. We are presuming to approach in intimate communion unto the Eternal and glorious Majesty of the universe, Who cannot for a moment look upon sin or folly. We must stand unblameable and perfect in His presence, or be destroyed by the effulgence of His glory.
We cannot ourselves attain to this perfection. It is through Christ, mercifully imputed and implanted, on account of our faith that works by love. But it is very holy ground. We must be deeply impressed by the infinite seriousness of our position. Carelessness or negligence can mean destruction.
God said, when he blotted out Aaron's two eldest sons by a bolt of divine fire,
"I will be sanctified in them that draw nigh unto me."
Only love - pure total all-consuming spiritual love - can walk these precincts without incurring annihilation. "The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men...to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness."
We see from this, as elsewhere, that love one toward another is the only path to holiness and to safety in the awful presence of the Eternal Creator. How often, and how strongly, is this essential characteristic - this badge of discipleship-emphasized by Christ and the apostles.
Bro Growcott - Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments