Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10

V6-10 – 6God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. 8He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power 10on the day He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians of God’s just judgment. Their perseverance and growth in persecution “is evidence that God’s judgment is right.” Calvin says, “The present disorderly state of matters is a demonstration of the judgment, which does not yet appear. For if God is the righteous Judge of the world, those things that are now confused must, of necessity, be restored to order. Now, nothing is more disorderly than that the wicked, with impunity, give molestation to the good, and walk abroad with unbridled violence, while the good are cruelly harassed without any fault on their part. From this it may be readily inferred, that God will one day ascend the judgment-seat, that He may remedy the state of matters in the world, so as to bring them into a better condition.”

When saying that God will repay with affliction (Romans 2:9), Paul has in mind the Day of the Lord that he mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5. We may wonder if this is Judgment Day, at the second coming of Christ (Acts 3:20), or if this has in mind the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, along with the persecution of Jews under Roman rule – or the holocaust, some have wondered. But the point is that all “those who trouble you” deserve and will receive hell. The punishment of “everlasting destruction” (v9) – unending death – is mentioned to assure the Thessalonians of justice in the end.

Some, many, find this too harsh. They think of God as merciful. But Paul teaches that God is just, and that persecution is evidence of God’s just judgment. God has said that He has “mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). Vincent Cheung says, “The principle of retribution is a necessary presupposition behind the ideas of justice, sin, and redemption.” In fact, Paul boldly declares that God “will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power” (v8-9). Is God merciful? Yes! To those who know Him – “or rather are known by God” (Galatians 4:9) – and to those who obey the gospel. But to those who do not and are not, God will show justice. And no one is ready for that.

On the other hand, notes Calvin, “It may be asked…whether it is lawful for us to desire vengeance, for Paul promises it, as though it could be lawfully desired… It is not lawful to desire vengeance upon any one, inasmuch as we are commanded to wish well to all. Besides, although we may in a general way desire vengeance upon the wicked, yet, as we do not as yet discriminate them, we ought to desire the welfare of all. In the mean time, the ruin of the wicked may be lawfully looked forward to with desire, provided there reigns in our hearts a pure and duly regulated zeal for God, and there is no feeling of inordinate desire.”

Notice here that the gospel is a command, not merely an offer. Too often we offer Jesus to unbelievers, instead of declaring that He must be obeyed. The gospel must be obeyed and received, not merely accepted. And the command of God is this: “To believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us” (1 John 3:23). Faith works itself out in love (Galatians 5:6).

Finally, we look at v10 to see when this will happen – “on the day He comes.” While at first this seems to refute the idea that this prophesied judgment was the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD, or the Holocaust for that matter, we must realize that God metes out His judgment in different ways and different degrees (Romans 1:18-32) along the way to the final Judgment Day. But I really see this as additional confirmation that the rapture, Judgment Day, and second coming are chronologically to occur at the same time, though logically they may be ordered. And as the punishment of eternal destruction befalls unbelievers, Christ comes “to be glorified in His holy people” – the opposite of everlasting destruction – “and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” Paul counts the Thessalonians among this number, because they believed the gospel he preached to them. And Calvin concludes, “There is, however, an implied contrast between the present condition in which believers labor and groan, and that final restoration. For they are now exposed to the reproaches of the world, and are looked upon as vile and worthless; but then they will be precious, and full of dignity, when Christ will pour forth His glory upon them. The end of this is, that the pious may as it were, with closed eyes, pursue the brief journey of this earthly life, having their minds always intent upon the future manifestation of Christ’s kingdom. For to what purpose does he make mention of His coming in power, but in order that they may in hope leap forward to that blessed resurrection which is as yet hid?”

No comments: