Lesson 9- 2 Thess. 1:1-12 - WHEN THE LORD JESUS WILL BE REVEALED
INTRODUCTION: This morning we move to Paul's second letter to the Church at Thessalonica, starting with Chapter 1, vv. 1-12. Most scholars believe that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians from Corinth in 52 A.D., approximately six months after his first letter. It is thought to have been motivated by a report on the status of the church brought back to Paul by the courier (identity unknown) of the first letter. In the interval, while the church had prospered and matured in general, Paul learned that the Thessalonian believers were facing problems that he needed to address: (1) they were disheartened by continuing persecution; (2) they had been misled by false teaching on the doctrine of the Lord's return; and (3) and some members had become disorderly by refusing to work.
Read 2 Thess. 2:1-2 - GRACE TO YOU AND PEACE
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
v. 1a: "Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy - "Silvanus," also known by his Aramaic name Silas, was a Greek-speaking Jew who had been prominent in the Jerusalem Council reported in Acts 15 and later accompanied Paul on the second missionary journey. He also assisted both Paul and Peter in the writing and delivery of their epistles.
v. 1b: "To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" - Churches in the first century, because they weren't tied to a particular building or meeting place, were typically named after the city or province where they were located. The suffix, "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," indicated that the church existed due to the ministry of the Father and the Son.
v. 2: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" - This is Paul's standard "hello" in his letters. "Grace" acknowledges the free gift of salvation to all who accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which is something we don't deserve and can never repay because of its inestimable value, while "peace" speaks of an inner well-being and tranquility that's derived from a deep relationship with God, with "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" identified as the source.
Read 2 Thess. 1:3-4 - WE GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR YOU
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is only fitting, because your faith is increasing abundantly, and the love of each and every one of you toward one another grows ever greater. 4 As a result, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
v. 3a: "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is only fitting" - Using the expression "we ought," Paul is saying that he owes God a debt of gratitude for answering his prayers for the Thessalonian church. It was "fitting" because of the value of what God did. We should always thank God and give Him the credit for everything He accomplishes through us.
v. 3b: "because your faith is increasing abundantly, and the love of each and every one of you toward one another grows ever greater - This is the answer to the prayer: The Thessalonian's faith had not only grown but had flourished "abundantly." Likewise, their "love" (agapē) of one another, which included "every one of you," grew in superabundance. This wasn't just simple faith and love but truly dynamic and forceful levels of faith and love that generated a force across the entire church. With God's help, we can do the same thing in our church.
v. 4: As a result, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure" - This is very high praise. The expression "we ourselves" is emphatic, which suggests that is was unusual for the founders of a church to boast about it. But the Thessalonians were so outstanding that they merited a departure from customary practice. In particular, their "perseverance and faith the midst of persecution and afflictions" was nothing short of incredible. They were focus of hostility from both the Jews and the pagan Gentiles. They could have simply packed-up and left, but they didn't. This is a great picture of the Holy Spirit staying power that is unique to Christians.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 - JUSTICE GUARANTEED WHEN JESUS RETURNS
5 This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed are suffering. 6 For after all it is only right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us, when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These people will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified among His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-because our testimony to you was believed.
v. 5: "This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed are suffering" - The endurance of the Thessalonian's faith and love under persecution were a "plain indication" (i.e., indisputable evidence) of the "righteous judgment" of God. We tend to think of righteous judgment in terms of God's wrath against unbelieving sinners; however, in this context, it confirmed the Thessalonian's worthiness to be included in God's kingdom. Their perseverance did not earn them (i.e., by works) the right to be included in the kingdom but simply demonstrated and verified that they had been saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ. God, who sends prosperity and adversity, knows the limits of our endurance and sometimes sends adversity in order to test and strengthen our faith.
v. 6: For after all it is only right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you" - This is the other side of the coin on judgment-God's righteous wrath, with the idea that their suffering would constitute the "evidence" that God would use to judge their persecutors. God takes on the obligation to vindicate them and will give back to the Thessalonian's persecutors the same treatment in return. We must understand that God's retribution isn't personal vengeance but a matter of justice.
Note: Verses 5 and 6 form an introduction to Paul's main eschatological theme: Further instructions about the Second Coming of Christ. Like the Thessalonians, Paul was a fellow sufferer for the cause of Christ, and like them, he hoped for the ultimate rest and reward that was to come when Christ returned to judge the world.
v. 7: "and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us, when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels" - The "relief" to which Paul refers is the awesome relief that all believers will feel when Christ returns. When Paul says "when the Lord Jesus will be revealed" (future tense), he's clearly underlining that this event has not happened. The first aspect of His revealing occurs after the Rapture, at the end of the seven-year tribulation period (see Mt. 24:1-51; Rev. 19:11-15). The final and universal revelation of Christ as judge occurs at the Great White Throne Judgment following Christ's millennial reign on earth (Rev. 20:12-15); and "mighty angels" always accompany Christ in His coming for judgment (Rev. 14:12-15). In this letter, Paul's primary focus is on the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation period, as distinguished from the "Rapture" of the church (see, Paul's previous explanation in 1 Thess. 5:1-11). The failure to recognize this distinction had apparently led to their confusion.
v. 8: "in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" - This is apocalyptic imagery that describes the eternal judgment on those who "do not know God" and "do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus," which, taken together, refer to a lack of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The divine "retribution" is not punishment for persecuting Christians but because of their failure to obey God's command to believe. The question, then, is have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior so that your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life? If you have not, read Rev. 20:15 one more time. There are people sitting in the pews of evangelical churches today who need to do this-before it's too late.
v. 9: "These people will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" - This verse is difficult because it generalizes without being specific. "These people" are those who, after the Great White Throne Judgment, will receive divine retribution for their unbelief. First, scholars generally agree that the "penalty of eternal destruction," means ruin or devastation rather than complete annihilation (or ceasing to exist). Second, because it is "eternal" means that it continues forever. Third, because the judged will be "away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" says that it involves being excluded from the presence of God forever with no chance of ever being reconciled to Him-which is a picture of endless, utter separation from the one true and living God who is the source of all life, light, and love. This is the extent and duration of what is elsewhere in Scripture called "hell." Rev. 20:15 reports that: "if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." I can't be more specific than this.
v. 10a: "when He comes to be glorified among His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed" - This "day" is the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, not the Rapture. At the coming, He will fight the battle of Armageddon, and then establish His kingdom on earth for 1,000 years, and He will establish justice for "all who have believed," who will "marvel" at His presence.
v. 10b: "-because our testimony to you was believed" - This is specific to the Thessalonians, who will participate in the glory of His Second Coming because they believed the gospel. And we'll be there with them! We will finally see the wonder of what He did for us perfectly and clearly.
Read 2 Thess. 1:11-12 - MAY THE NAME OF JESUS BE GLORIFIED IN YOU
11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will consider you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, in accordance with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note: These two verses don't' constitute a prayer but instead describe what Paul and his associates have been praying for on behalf of these Thessalonian Christians.
v. 11a: "To this end" - Paul is referring back to vv. 5-10 where he explained the timing and purposes of the Second Coming of Christ. Then he prays for two things:
v. 11b: "also we pray for you always, that our God will consider you worthy of your calling" - The word used for "calling" (Gk. klesis) speaks of an invitation to a very special occasion, even better than being invited for dinner somewhere like the Whitehouse. Our calling, as Christian believers, is designed to prepare and sanctify us in a manner that is consistent with out eternal destiny.
v. 11c: "and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power" - This second request has to do with our moral and ethical behavior and our continued work in the faith with the Holy Spirit's power. "Goodness" is more than being nice; it means to reflect the character of Christ-love, humility, compassion, generosity in giving. "Faith with power" means walking in the Spirit, using its power to guide us around the distractions caused by out adversaries and the snares the devil is sure to throw in our path. We'll never reach our potential unless we use our faith with power.
v. 12a: "so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him" - This is the purpose, the goal of Paul's prayers for them. In those days, a person's name was tied to his or her identity, and in this context, was directly related to their Christian witness: that though their witness for Christ they would bring glory and honor to His name. The phrase "and you in Him" is reciprocal, telling them that Christ's honor will be reflected back on and identified with us. Are you proud to be a Christian? Are you proud to be identified as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Is this identity evident to others. It should be. Above all else in our lives, we should be known as followers of Jesus Christ.
v. 12b: "in accordance with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" - This closing signifies that we can accomplish none of the above without the empowering grace of God.
APPLICATION-Having dynamic faith and superabundant love.
1. A Christian who operates on God's grace and peace has a settled heart that allows him or her to "sit down" on the inside (vv. 1-2). Christian believers cannot function effectively without grace and peace. If we rely purely on our worldly abilities and energies, our work will be spiritually empty.
2. Every Christian has the same quality of saving faith but not same quantity of dynamic faith (v. 3). Faith is like spiritual muscle. The more we understand the power of God's word and apply it to our personal walk, the greater and stronger our faith grows. This becomes dynamic faith, which empowers us to use our time, talents, and resources to serve God and His church.
3. Church members should love one another in superabundance (v.3). This goes hand in hand with dynamic faith. Superabundant love flows from agapē love, which is unselfish love based on a decision to love someone (1) whether or not they deserve it and (2) even if they don't love you in return. When love in a church grows to superabundance and the faith of the members is dynamic, it generates a powerful force across the entire church. church.
4. A Church characterized by dynamic faith and abundant love will be equipped to endure adversity when it comes (v. 4). Adversity, in whatever form it strikes, never allows Christians to be neutral. Adversity can either drive Christians into each other's arms or it can drive them apart. With dynamic faith, we believe that God knows when to prosper us when to send adversity, and when adversity comes, we believe He knows the limits of our endurance.
5. We should live our Christian lives in a manner consistent with our eternal destiny. As long as we live on this earth, God is not done with us. God expects (and certainly deserves) our best. He has a plan for us to use our time, talents, and resources to fulfill good works in our lives. Although we retire from our earthly jobs, we should try to serve God in some way till our last breath (prayer).
PRAYER: Lord God in heaven, we thank You this morning for this church. We thank You that in terms of committed members, facilities, and location-that You have given us everything that we need to prosper as a New Testament church. Father, as we prepare to start our VBS program this afternoon, I pray the you will give me and every single member participating in it the superabundance of love that Paul described in today's lesson. I pray, Lord, that all of us will demonstrate the incredible power of agapē love to all of the children and parents we come in contact with, so that they will want more of it. Yes, Lord help us love them into a right relationship with Jesus Christ that will change their lives forever and ever. And, Dear God, for every single soul saved through the efforts of our VBS this week, we will give you ALL the credit, glory, and praise. And I ask for all of these things in the name of the perfector and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ, AMEN.