The Day of the Lord

II Thess. 1:7-10. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power: When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” 

These eschatalogical passages are so exciting, encouraging, and powerful !  No matter how bad things look to us, God is never defeated. At the end of His plan, He wins completely and Satan is destroyed. Our job is to carry on; to take the gospel wherever we go; to remain faithful no matter what it may cost. 

Paul says that those who are troubled need to rest with us (Paul, Silas, Timothy). The meaning here seems to be that the end result of their troubles will be rest, welcome relief, from those troubles. The word rest carries the picture of the relaxing of a bowstring that has been pulled to its fullest extent, then when the pressure is released, the string is relieved of pressure. The indication here is rest from tension and suffering. They were, at the time this letter was written, suffering from constant strain and stress. Believers down through the centuries have experienced this same tension and stress, and the weariness that accompanies it. That stress will ultimately be relieved with the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we will be relieved of all earthly affliction and trouble. 

For their immediate rest and ease, Paul reassures them that there is hope. Paul knew what it was to suffer, and identified himself with his converts (2 Cor. 1:7; 4:14; Phil. 1:30; 2 Tim. 4:8). By doing so, he could give them personal sympathy and assurance that the result of the testing would be rest, maybe not in this life but certainly in the next. For those who are alive and remain to the second coming of the Lord, the Righteous Judge Who will be revealed from heaven, release and rest will come with Him.

The word revealed has an interesting meaning, which we’ll take a look at tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy your day of rest!

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Recompense

II Thess. 1:6.  “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;”

It would be a good idea to go back and read this entire passage so far, in order to keep things in perspective. Paul often writes in very long sentences with lots of clauses; at least, that’s the way the King James translators gave it to us.  I’m not familiar enough with Greek to know how these passages were punctuated originally.  If there are any Greek scholars out there, please feel free to jump in and enlighten us.

This is a most interesting verse,  a continuation of verse 5, which spoke of God’s righteous judgment to come.  Verses 6-8 begin to describe that judgment, and verse 6 specifically  states that there will be a just recompense of tribulation to those who have persecuted the Thessalonian believers. There is no “maybe” about Paul’s statement. It is simply a fact, from which there is no escape. It was an encouraging reminder to them that “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). It is not stated in a spirit of payback, but in the knowledge that justice is a part of God’s character and that He cannot act in a way that is contrary to His character.

I could spend a lot of time on this idea.  We are often overwhelmed today with reminders of God’s love, grace and mercy. And so we should be. He is indeed a God of great and abiding love, grace, and mercy. I am so very thankful for His patience, His grace,  His lovingkindness.  Without all that, we would be lost indeed.  Unfortunately, there are those who want to pull love, grace, and mercy into their politically correct definition of tolerance, which by that definition would mean we–and God–are to be tolerant of injustice and all other sin.

Nowhere in God’s Word are we ever told that God is tolerant of sin.  He hates sin; it is an offense to His holiness.  He hates anything that separates us from His Presence. Indeed, He could not even look upon His own Son as Jesus bore the load of all the sin of all mankind at Calvary, causing Jesus’ forsaken cry from the cross  (Matt. 27:45-47). I believe we have lost sight of the evil of our own sin, failing to understand that if there had never been a murderer, an adulterer or a thief, Jesus would still have had to die. Why? For me, for my sin that I want to trivialize in comparison to “worse sin” which I use to conveniently make my own seem less important. But in Proverbs 6:16-19 God clearly says that lying is an abomination to Him.  The word abomination is used to describe the stench of a decaying body. That’s pretty bad. My sin stinks like a rotting corpse.  And Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the human heart is deceitful above all things, incorrigibly wicked, and that we don’t even know the depths of our own ability to sin. We are all liars at heart, which is abominable to God; and yet we presume to think, “Well, I’m not as bad as some people.”  We need to always see the suffering Jesus as He bore our own personal sin in His own body. No one is exempt.

Well, that was a bit of a rabbit trail, wasn’t it?  Maybe a rant?

The point of this verse is that those who troubled the Thessalonian believers will be recompensed–repaid in kind–by a just and righteous God Who cannot act in any way that is contrary to His holiness and justice.

Scary.

Counted Worthy

II Thess. 1:5. “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.”

A continuation of verse four, the phrase which is a manifest token refers to the patience and faith  the Thessalonians showed in their tribulations. A manifest token is a “thing pointed out, a thing proved”; so, in this context, it is used in the sense of being evidence, a plain indication of the righteous judgment of God.  But how is tribulation paired with “righteous judgment of God”?  There are those who like to see this as deserved punishment for a lack of faith.  I think that’s a stretch, and doesn’t take into account the context of the entire passage, or Paul’s spirit of gratitude for their patience and faith. 

A better way to understand this statement is to put it in both the present and future context. Verses 5-10 are clearly eschatological in nature, referencing things to come during the end times. The “righteous judgment” is still future, and they would need grace to continue to endure. The fact they they were able to endure to that point was evidence  of God’s working in their lives, and assurance that He will not allow their sufferings to go unrewarded. 

“The righteous judgment of God” looks forward to the future day of judgment at Christ’s return. This future reference is clear to a student of the language, and involves articles, pronoun numbers, verb tenses, and the following verses.  I’ve checked it out with several different authorities, and there is near-universal agreement that verse five is the beginning of an eschatological passage. The judgment mentioned is righteous, just, and without partiality as He distinguishes and separates the good from the evil.  More on this in future posts. 

Paul also realized that the suffering of the Thessalonian believers was being permitted “to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.”  He is telling them not to despair, not to give in; that the final result will be worth what they are enduring and that the present result is their faith and patience, and their growing love for one another. They are being put through the refiner’s fire. 

Job 23:10 says, “But He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”  After Terry’s surgery, his pain was terrible to experience and to watch. No pain is pleasant while it’s being endured. But already, such a short time later, he talks about it being a time when his complete dependence was on God, when prayer was the only thing he could hang onto, and when he knew he was being tested by Satan.  He was spiritually strengthened through the pain. Found worthy. 

Ethics

I attended a seminar on ethics today, gathering my CEU’s for this round of licensing renewal.  Six hours of listening to a very well-educated, well-intentioned woman talking about how to figure out what is right and wrong. There are lots of times when, in my profession, we really don’t have a clear black/white right/wrong situation, and we have to do our best to mediate a solution that is best for everyone involved, while causing the least harm. 

Where I choke and have a really hard time being quiet is when the issue presented could have been avoided completely if the person involved had simply lived according to biblical principles.  I grew up in a simpler time. All the shadings of gray between right and wrong were a lot easier to resolve in my early years, because we lived by a system of absolutes. Not any more. 

Example:  A man is deployed overseas.  Before he leaves, he and his wife have a conversation in which he makes it clear that unfaithfulness is something he couldn’t tolerate, and he’d probably “do away with” an unfaithful wife. Sooooo  she has an affair while he’s gone and comes up HIV positive. The ethical dilemma?  Whether or not to tell her husband.  Will he truly kill her?  Does the therapist this wife is talking with have an ethical responsibility to tell or not to tell?  Isn’t the life of the soldier in danger if he doesn’t know she has HIV?  Doesn’t he have a right to know what he’s risking?  But if the wife or the therapist tell the soldier his wife was unfaithful, he might kill her! 

What to do, what to do??

And I’m sitting there thinking, “DUH!”  This kind of “ethical dilemma” would not exist if the wife had simply chosen–yes, chosen–to stay true to her spouse.  Millions of other wives have managed to do that down through the history of warfare. She chose not to honor him with faithfulness, and now she’s in a really awful mess.  And what makes it worse, in my mind, is that she’s looking for a way out!  Is she worried about protecting her spouse from HIV or herself from a very unpleasant, possibly dangerous, confrontation?  

Well, but (you say) you don’t know the circumstances!  Maybe she just was so lonely blahblahblah.  Baloney. We make choices in our lives, and those choices ALWAYS carry consequences.  After the affair is too late to be worried about getting caught, getting HIV.  Now she needs to figure out how to be honest with her husband without getting herself murdered–which, by the way, is not an okay choice for her husband. 

There are so many things wrong here that it’s amazing we only spent a few–unprofitable–minutes discussing it.  NO ONE said, “Well, she should have never committed adultery!”  It was just taken as a given that “these things happen” and you have to figure out how to go forward from there. 

We are not teaching absolute rights and wrongs any more, and as a result we’re in an absolute mess. 

Psalm 118:8. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”

I don’t know which Bob Jones said it:  Do right because it’s right to do right!  Sure makes life simpler. 

Terry Update #7

Good day today at the doctor’s office.  All sutures removed.  Surgical tape placed over incision, not to be removed until it falls off, but he can get it wet if he needs to, like in the shower.  Splint, gauze and Ace bandages replaced with a Bledsoe Brace Foot J Walker, which is basically a metal and soft styrofoam boot that he can wear or not, as he needs it.  He is supposed to start flexing his ankle, and moving his toes as much as is comfortable. The swelling has reduced, but his foot still looks like something Bigfoot would be proud of 🙂  The skin, of course, is dry and scaly, but the bruising is considerably reduced on both his foot and his leg. The  incision is healing well. Over all, the doc was very pleased.  Three weeks until our next appointment, at which time another x-ray will show if the internal healing is going as hoped. Still no weight-bearing at all, and it sounds like that could go on for a considerable stretch–two months or more–until the doctor is sure everything is healed up inside. 

While we were getting the boot, Terry noticed a scooter-type appliance that has pads for resting the knee so you can get around by walking the other leg and steering the scooter like you would a tricycle. He’s thinking about asking the doctor to approve that for him–you can rent it–so he can maybe think about some limited access to working.  It sure would be good for him (and me) if he could get back to work, even for a couple of hours a day. 

And–drum roll–he can now sit in the front seat of the car like a big boy!  He’s been riding in the back to give his leg full extension, but with the boot he’s able to rest his foot on the floor of the car for short periods. 

We sure do take a lot for granted. 

Patience and Faith in Tribulations

II Thess. 1:4. “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.”

A continuation of verse 3, this verse confirms that the Thessalonian believers were growing in faith and love in all their troubles.  They were not caving in, giving up, despairing and hopeless. They were increasing abundantly in faith in God and love for each other in “all your persecutions and tribulations.” 

Persecutions  designates the hostile actions of the enemies of the gospel; tribulations (afflictions) relates to the different pressures and painful experiences they have endured because of their faith.

So, I’ve been wondering just how bad it was.  A little historical research has served to make me want to know more.  I have not spent days and days searching for information; however, I have spent significant time, and I am surprised to find so little specific information as to what the persecutions actually were.  I will continue to search, and if and when I find more information I will share it with you. 

I have also been, sadly, not surprised at all at the amount of dissension there is out there concerning the validity of the Acts accounts of persecution; of Paul’s honesty; of whether or not there actually was any persecution.  The premise for all of these arguments, of course, is based on an distrust of the validity of God’s Word.  Since I do not share that distrust, and since I believe in the complete inspiration of the Bible, I know there was persecution. What I’m not sure of is the degree and duration, although from Paul’s comments it would seem that both were severe. 

There are three things to consider, based on the reading I’ve done so far.  First, the importance of idolatry in Thessalonica cannot be understated.  When people turned to Christianity, it disturbed the rituals of the pagan places of worship; it decreased the numbers of people who were subsidizing that worship and its priests and other employees.  Almost without doubt, the pagan leaders of the city were inflamed at the degree of popularity of this new religious following. 

Second, Judaism was also deeply affected by Christianity.  Again, the finances of the synagogues would be affected; also, the sphere of influence of Judaism was infringed upon by Christianity. 

Third, both the above issues would influence family and other kinship relationships in the city, causing rifts and a lot of anger and hatred when members of the family turned to Christianity instead of whatever their previous religious beliefs had been. 

We know from I Thessalonians that Paul and Silas had to run from the city to protect their lives.  The persecution wasn’t just a matter of harsh words, threats, or financial hardship. What we have to remember is that Satan’s hatred for God, and for His Son, has never abated all through the centuries.  Satan has always found a way to persecute God’s people; often, he does this while quite successfully casting the blame for persecution onto those who claim Christianity.  An example of that  kind of  confusion would be the Spanish Inquisition, during which believers and nonbelievers alike were persecuted by Catholicism, which claimed to be doing God’s work.  Another example would be the treatment of Catholics by Cromwell’s followers in England, which of course followed the persecution of Puritans in England by Catholicism.

We’re in a mess, aren’t we?  Aren’t you glad that God is still in control, even when every indicator of man would seem to say He isn’t? 

I’ve included a link to an article I downloaded and found interesting. There are always statements and beliefs you need to be careful of accepting when you read from the internet, and that is true of this article as well.  However, it does cast some light on what may have been happening in Thessalonica in the first century. 

http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/download/556/455