Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wait For #Chist: Endurance & Vindication: 2 Thessalonians 1

Theme: Wait for Christ

1. Reasons
     A. Because endurance proves your faith (1:1-5)
     B. Because God will vindicate believers (1:6-12)

*The Thessalonians were under persecution for their faith in Christ (Acts 17:1-9). Chapter 1 expresses thanks for their increased faith and love amidst this suffering (1-5; cf. 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9-10), encouraging them to endure wrong, because God is just. He would use persecution to demonstrate they are children of His kingdom (1-5), and eternally destroy those who troubled them (6-10).*

Endurance proves your faith (1:1-5)

1 Thessalonians called for the believers to excel still more in love, but 2 Thessalonians expresses thanks they have grown in both faith and love (3). The missionary team spoke of the Thessalonians as a model church for their perseverance of faith in the midst of persecution (4).

Enduring trouble tests our faith in God's justice. How can a just God let His people suffer? How can a just God let the wicked oppress us?  How long will it continue? We cannot merit the kingdom of God by suffering, but when God enables us to endure wrong for our faith, it demonstrates we are his children. Enduring persecution proves our faith (5; cf. 1 Pet. 1:6-7; Php. 1:28-29). God is just, because He uses persecution to prove we are children of His kingdom.

God will vindicate believers (1:6-12)

"How long Lord?", is a question believers have been asking for centuries (Psalm 6:3ff.; 13:2; 35:17; 62:3; 74:10; 82:2; 94:3ff.; etc.). Knowing God will punish the wicked can motivate us to endure wrong, but how long will it take? God will repay unbelieving persecutors with "affliction" ["a pressing together", or "tribulation"] (6), "retribution" [meting out of justice] (8), "eternal destruction", and eternal separation from God (9), when Christ returns to earth to establish His kingdom (cf. Rev. 19ff.).

1 Thess. 4:13-18 teaches the rapture of the church is a separate event from the Day of the Lord (a time beginning with seven years of tribulation upon the inhabitants of the earth, including the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, Great White throne judgement of the unbelieving dead of all ages, creation of a new heavens and earth, and the eternal kingdom of God [Rev. 19-22]), which will remove believers from earth before vengeance begins to fall on unbelievers (cf. 1:10; Rev. 3:10). Even in heaven, though, there will be a desire for justice to fall on those who persecuted believers (Rev. 6:9-11). 

If Christ had returned (and He could at any time) to rapture the  church during the life of the Thessalonians, those who persecuted them would have been judged shortly thereafter. As it is, they will still be judged when Christ raises the unsaved dead of all ages, at the Great White throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Their foot will slide in due time, their day will come, and God will cast them, forever, into the lake of fire. Knowing God will punish the wicked should encourage us to endure wrong for the faith.

In light of these truths, the missionary team prayed God would cause the Thessalonians to walk in accord with their calling as children of God, enabling them to do every good thing their faith inclined them to, thus bringing glory to God (10-12).

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