The word of the day is “wait.” In our reading of 1 Thessalonians 1: 6-10, St. Paul recalls that the Thessalonians had received the Gospel with joy as well as trials. The Apostle thanks God that the Thessalonians have turned from idolatry to the worship of God. And they have learned “to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead…” (vs. 10).
The virtue of waiting is a predominant theme in this Epistle. Here at the beginning of his letter, the Apostle refers to the expectation of the return of Christ. And at the end of the Epistle, St. Paul prays that “your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 1 Thess. 5:24). In between these two passages, Paul assures the faithful that both the living and the dead will see the coming of Christ in Glory (1 Thess. 4:13-18). He also urges the faithful to wait with vigilance since the day of the Lord’s reappearance will come “like a thief in the night” (vs. 5:2).
Waiting in Expectation
What does it mean to wait? Is it just a matter of killing time until our hope is realized? Like a child who is bored on a rainy day, should we find ways to occupy our time until the Lord shows up?
Waiting does not mean idleness or passivity. The stem of the Greek word means “to abide,” that is, to ‘stay put.” But the translation “wait” misses the intensity by which one is to maintain our hope. The meaning is that we should wait with patience and expectation (Strong’s #363, 21). In 1 Corinthians, Paul underscores this thought when he writes, “so that you came short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 1 Cor. 1:7). The Greek word means to “expect eagerly.” It comes from the thought of receiving something or welcoming someone (Strong’s #553, 33). Whichever it is, the term requires that we do it with purpose and foresight (Strong’s #1209, 64).
Waiting With Vigilance
The Psalmist expresses this sense of eager waiting when he states, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning (Psalm 130: 6 Oxford Annotated Bible). As a sentinel stands on guard through the night, as he peers into the darkness, as he yearns for the light of day, so the faithful are to watch for the second coming of Christ.
On the other hand, the Greek Septuagint LXX and the Orthodox Study Bible translate the same verse, “My soul waited for your word. My soul hopes in the Lord from the morning watch until night (OSB Ps. 129 (130) and the LXX). This metaphor means that the faithful are to be vigilant, ever alert, and watchful throughout their lives.
In each case, the faithful must not let the passing of time take them farther and farther from their hope. Eagerness must prevail over complacency. Expectation must overcome indifference. Hopefulness must override despair. In summary, true waiting upon the Lord involves eager longing for Him.
In the “Symbol of the Faith, the Creed, we confess, “And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead whose Kingdom shall have no end.” What meaning does this pronouncement of faith have for us? We might treat it as some uncertain and remote time that is so distant that it has no bearing on our lives. But our exploration of the theme of waiting reminds us that we should live in eager anticipation of this conclusion to the story of our salvation.
That does not mean calculating the day and season when it will happen. Quite the opposite. It means that we should live in anticipation of the fulfillment of our hope in Christ. The Apostle describes the way of life that is proper to our promise of the Lord’s return in glory, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).