Since God first revealed it to mankind, the plan of redemption has been a bittersweet reality. One finds sweetness in contemplating the bliss and glory of eternal life that awaits those who embrace the gospel. By contrast, one finds only bitterness in the endless shame and punishment of eternal damnation that awaits those who reject the gospel. That contrast is never more strikingly seen than when one compares people who have made the most of limited spiritual opportunity to people who have squandered great spiritual opportunity and privilege. Throughout redemptive history, the Jews have exemplified the latter reality, which illustrates the ultimate tragedy of apostasy. On the other hand, the Thessalonians epitomized the former reality and believed God=s truth after only a brief initial exposure to it.
This striking contrast is the object of the apostle Paul's focus in 1 Thessalonians 2:13B16. He distinguishes sharply between a people to be glad for, the believing Thessalonians, and a people to be sad for, the unbelieving Jews. In just a few weeks, the Thessalonians readily chose the blessing of obedience to the gospel of God, whereas after centuries of revelation from God, the Jews stubbornly chose the cursing resulting from disobedience to the gospel. Such opposite responses to God's truth and grace prompted Paul to sort out the reasons he rejoiced for the Thessalonians and sorrowed for the Jews.
"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews," (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14, NASB95)
"But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you," (1 Thessalonians 3:6, NASB95)
"who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost." (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, NASB95)
Today, as in Paul's day, the choice between God's blessing and His cursing remains. Those who believe and obey the Word and honor other believers by imitating their lives will persevere to eternal glory, which is good reason to be glad for them. But those who reject the Word and hinder those who preach it will ultimately suffer eternal condemnation, which is good reason to be sad for them.