Sermon on 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Text: All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and 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. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on 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.
It seems that many people have a fascination with the courtroom and trials. It wasn’t that long ago when every network had at least one courtroom drama in its prime-time lineup. You could watch the People’s Court, Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown. As a matter of fact, there is an entire network devoted to the subject. People, it seems, like to talk about the latest trials that are going on. This morning we are going to look at another court proceeding, that we may not talk about quite as much, but really should be a topic of conversation because, eventually, it will affect us all. Today, as we focus in on Judgment Day, we are reminded that THE LORD JESUS WILL RETURN. In his justice, 1. He Will Repay and 2. He Will Give Relief.
A bit of background will help us better understand Paul’s writing. Paul and his associates visited Thessalonica on his Second Missionary Journey. He worked among the inhabitants of this city for three weeks, before the Jewish leaders of the city stirred up a mob that drove Paul and his companions from the city. Sometime later, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how they were doing in the face of persecution. When Timothy returned, Paul wrote his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, praising and encouraging them. Sometime later, Paul received another report from Thessalonica, highlighting their struggle for their faith. In response, Paul wrote this Second Epistle.
It is regarding their persecution that Paul writes in verse five, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” The persecution and the trials that they were undergoing were evidence that God’s judgment was just and that these Christians were considered worthy to suffer for Christ and his kingdom. It seems odd to think of persecution as an honor, that you are considered worthy of being persecuted for Christ. Yet, that is exactly what Paul says it is. This phrase, this idea, is repeated several times in the New Testament, especially when the apostles began to spread the gospel of Jesus. This suffering, as well as that of the Thessalonians, and modern-day Christians as well, is all evidence of God’s gracious choice and his care. God is treating the persecuted as his children. This suffering is evidence that they are different from the rest of the world. If the Christian was just like the rest of the world, no one would pay them any mind. However, because they are God’s children, they will be hated by the unbelieving world. Jesus had said that this would happen. He said that the world would hate him and that his followers should expect nothing less. The unbelieving world cannot help but oppose and persecute the followers of God.
You might be thinking that it is not fair. Why should the Christian suffer for his faith, while the unbeliever is free to think and do whatever they wish. Paul seems to be anticipating that thought when he wrote in verse six, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.” Paul tells them and us that God is just. He deals according to his law. Nor is God blind to or ignorant of the persecution by the unbelieving world. He will “pay back trouble to those who trouble you.” There will be retribution for those who oppose the Church of God.
Paul further speaks of this judgment in verse eight, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” There are two groups that will be punished. The first are those “who do not know God,” that is, believe in the true God. They have suppressed the natural knowledge of God that he has given to them and have fashioned gods of their own making. The names of these false gods are many, from Baal and Asherah in the Old Testament to the Great Spirit to Allah and all the hosts of other man-made gods. There are also those who claim that there is no god at all, thereby, in effect, making themselves “God,” for it is only to themselves that they will be held accountable. On the Last Day, or Judgment Day, as they stand before the Triune God, they will face the punishment set aside for those who do not know God.
The other group is those who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” It seems odd to our ear to hear the words “obey” and “gospel” used together. We know that the gospel teaches us that Jesus has done it all. Obey sounds like something that you do. Here the phrase might be better translated, “listen carefully to the gospel.” Indeed, the gospel does say that Jesus did it all for mankind. God sent his Son into the world to save it from sin. Jesus Christ came into the world and lived perfectly according to his Father’s will. In doing so, he was living for all people. Then, to pay the debt of sin that all owed, he suffered and died on the cross, enduring the torments of hell. He did it all. This is the gospel message.
Yet, there are those who do not listen carefully to the gospel message. Instead, they add things that you must do to be saved. Jesus did enough to get you started, but you must get yourself the rest of the way. They might say that Jesus did it all for you. ‘Now, all you have to do is to invite Jesus into your heart.’ Note that this is still something that you do. On the Last Day, the just Judge will say to them that, if you are going to earn your way into heaven, you must do it 100% on your own. If you are not perfect, you cannot enter heaven. Thus, it will be for those who reject the true God and his message of the gospel.
Paul describes this retribution in verse nine, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” The words “everlasting destruction” seems to be a contradiction in terms. How can something be destroyed eternally? The fact is that those who are suffering in their destruction will wish, will beg that it will end, but it will not. Those who have fought against God will be punished for all eternity. Thus, God will punish those who do not believe in him and the one way to salvation and further made their unbelief known by their persecution of the believers.
This is one part of the judgment. God will repay those who persecuted. There is, however, another part of the judgment, which Paul mentions in verse seven, “[He will] 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.” First, note the manner in which Jesus will return. It will not be like the first time when he walked the earth in humility. This time, he will return in all his glory as the Son of God. Paul speaks of blazing fire. His mighty angels will accompany him. However, we will not have to be afraid on Judgment Day, because it will be our loving Savior returning, as Paul says, to “give relief to you who are troubled.” There will be a complete reversal. Those who troubled will be troubled. Those who were troubled, persecuted, will receive peace and security. The Greek word for relief has the idea of relaxing. You know that you cannot truly relax if something is bothering you. However, we will be completely relaxed because we will be at home in heaven with our Savior. He will come and give us relief from this world’s trouble and persecution.
Paul again speaks of that day in verse 10, “On 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.” How does one receive the blessings of heaven? Paul says, “You have believed.” It is by that Spirit-born faith in God and in the work of Jesus Christ that we are saved.
Paul wrote these words to encourage the Thessalonians during a time of persecution. He reminded them that, though they may be persecuted now, they would ultimately share in God’s glory. In the meantime, do not ever doubt that you belong to God. You are his and he will care for you and keep you.
We, also, have the beautiful knowledge that we belong to God. We are his children. He is our dearly loved Father. We will be with him for all eternity. What comfort we find in these words! However, they do not make us gloat, as if to say we are so much better than everyone else. It is purely by God’s grace that we are his. What this knowledge does do is encourage us in the severest of troubles to continue to stand up for Jesus. We are encouraged to fight the good fight of faith. It also reminds us of the importance of telling others, for there will be only two groups on the Last Day: those who are saved and those who are lost. There will be no middle ground or second chance. The judgement handed down from the Judge will be final. There will be no appeals. It comes down to this simple fact: Those who believe in Jesus as their only Source for salvation will be saved. Those who do not will be lost. May God fill us with a fervor to continue to share his Word with others, even in the face of persecution, so that, through us, the Holy Spirit might bring some to faith.
There have been many trials in the world’s history. Some have involved smaller matters, others larger. However, when the Last Day comes, the Lord Jesus will come again to judge all people. We do not need to fear that day because we belong to him by faith. How we long for the sweet relief that he will bring us to in heaven. Amen.
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