The Justice of the Lord

The Justice of the Lord


Sunday, June 28, 2020

2 Thessalonians 1

The Justice of the Lord

Let me read one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  It is a scene of future events.  The Apostle John writes,

Revelation 21:1–5 ESV

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

I love reading this.  This is the future glory of every man, woman, and child who has believed in the name of Jesus Christ.

What hope the Christian has!

Somehow…somehow…  we get from where we are today to this scene.

Sometime and in some way between today and that day, some magnificent events happen.

Jesus Christ is coming back to earth again.

God’s people will be ushered into glory with him.

God’s enemies will be punished with eternal destruction.

Many of us are so curious, rightfully so, about what will happen to get us there?  What events?  What trials?  What timing?

  • What is this Rapture?
  • Who is the Beast in Revelation 12, the one whom many call the AntiChrist?
  • Is there actually a Millennium, a 1000-year period in Revelation 20?
  • What about wars and a time of tribulation?

How do we piece it all together?

Well, I want to announce…..I  have it all figured out.  Today I am going to answer every question you’ve ever had.

And I will give it to you in 30 minutes or less.  J

In seriousness, though, the Second Coming of Christ is the dominant topic  in our passages today and next Sunday.

If you have a Bible, turn to 2 Thessalonians. 

Two week ago, we completed a series on Paul’s first letter to this church.  Today we begin a short series on his second letter.

2 Thessalonians

Let’s read our text. 

Vs. 1-4

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.

3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

Let me give background to letter here.

Paul traveled to Thessalonica in about 50 A.D.  So about 20 years after Jesus died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven.

Paul preached the gospel there.  Many believed in Christ and were ushered into God’s eternal family.  But persecution arose, and Paul was forced to flee the city.  Read about it in Acts 17.

So he left this young church in a hostile environment, and he was quite concerned for them. 

Paul heard that this brand new church was in very good spiritual health.  So he was overjoyed and wrote his first letter.

Vs. 3-4

Paul’s words in vs. 3-4 sound similar to his first letter. 

The church is still doing well. 

They are strong in faith, laboring in love, and persevering in their hope of the future glories in heaven in the presence of God, even in the face of persecution.

Now let’s read vs. 5-10.  This has a very serious tone. 

Vs. 5-10

5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—

6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,

7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels

8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

This chapter and chapter 2 talk about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

  1. An essential core doctrine of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ came ONCE to earth literally and physically.  He lived, died, and rose from the dead. 
  2. We also believe he ascended into heaven literally and physically.
  3. And we believe he is coming back to earth again literally and physically.

This is the scene when Jesus ascended into heaven before the eyes of the disciples:

Acts 1:9–11 ESV  …as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men [apparently angels] stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The FIRST COMING was largely about bringing salvation through his death and resurrection.

The SECOND COMING will be largely about bringing his righteous judgment to all people living and dead, and to establish an eternal kingdom on the earth. 

Before we dive further into Chapter 1 this morning and Chapter 2 next week, I am NOT going to give some comprehensive look at all the possible aspects and scenarios of the Second Coming.  There is no way to do that in two brief sermons.

Overall, my opinion is that the Second Coming has many details, and it is complex. 

And I suspect the Second Coming will be more complicated and more surprising than we think.

And opinions vary widely on many of the details and the timing.

Yet there are points everyone should agree upon:

  1. We should long for him and live for him now, and be ready for him. .
  2. Jesus is coming back to reign forever as Lord of lords, king of kings
  3. The resurrection of the body will happen
  4. He will reward his people with blessings and honor
  5. He will pour out wrath on all who reject him

All that being said, it’s still good and necessary that we study the Scriptures on this topic, just like any other core doctrine of the Christian faith.  And we should study humbly, knowing we probably don’t have everything figured out yet. 

So again, today and next Sunday, we’ll look primarily at what Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church.

Back now to vs. 5-10.

This section is largely about justice.  God’s justice.

Any persecuted Christian would ask, “The way I am being treated is so wrong.  Lord, what’s the problem?  Am I being punished?”  And he would also ask, “What are you going to do with the persecutor?  Who will bring them to justice?”

In  vs. 5, Paul says that the persecution they are enduring because of their faith in Jesus is…

“…evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God…”

What does that  mean?

He says, “Your suffering is evidence that God is a righteous Judge.”  God is not an unrighteous judge. 

He is not condemning them for their sins, for the Son of God dealt with that in his death and resurrection.  Nor is he ignoring the injustice of their circumstances.

Rather, Paul is restating a key truth in the NT:  that suffering as a Christian for his/her faith is a normal, expected part of life.

And as these believers persevere in faith in the face of suffering, they are walking in a manner that is worthy of God’s kingdom.  God uses their suffering to strengthen and sustain and reward his people.

Jesus spoke of persecution  in the Sermon on the Mount. 

Matthew 5:11–12 ESV “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus promises heavenly blessing on all those who suffer for Jesus’ sake.  This is his righteous judgment. 

Today, Christians all over the world are suffering severe injustices because they believe in and proclaim Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.

Last year, one ministry rated the top 50 most dangerous nations to be a Christian.  (The dark orange are the more dangerous.)

The top 5 they listed:

  1. North Korea
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Somalia
  4. Libya
  5. Pakistan

Christians are being shunned, beaten,  and killed.  We Americans by comparison hardly experience persecution at all. 

(If you want to help your brothers and sisters in Christ in various parts of the world, there are ministries who offer such help.  For example, my wife and I support a ministry, Voice of the Martyrs.)

Jesus promises that we will suffer for his sake.  Yet we will be blessed for it, too.

But you might wonder as I do, “Is there a way I can avoid being persecuted?  Can I find an easier way?”

There is one way to minimize the potential for suffering for Jesus:

Keep quiet.  Tell no one that you believe in Jesus.  Tell no one of their need for a Savior.  Just blend in with the crowd.  Live like the world.  Don’t do anything that draws attention to yourself. 

That… will minimize your potential for suffering for Jesus.

Obviously I’m not encouraging that.  Our goal is simple:  Jesus calls us to believe in him and then to follow.

He gave us life when we were dead.  So now with the life we’ve been given, we live for him.

Whether the road we travel is easy or hard, we live for him. 

If suffering comes because of it, God is a righteous judge, and he will bless us through it.  And he will count us worthy of his kingdom.

Vs. 6-10

Then comes vs. 6-10, a very, very heavy passage.

This section is also about justice.  But this justice is focused on the persecutors.  On all those who do not know God through his Son, Jesus.  To everyone who rejects the gospel. 

6 … God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,

7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels

8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

In  vs. 6, God is just by repaying those who are persecuting you.

Then in vs. 7-9, Paul gives a clear and terrifying description of the demise of all who “do not know God and do not obey the gospel.”

  • The Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with mighty angels.
  • Flaming fire, inflicting vengeance.
  • They will suffer punishment—eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord.

This is a terrifying scene.

There are two messages here, one explicit, one implicit.

The explicit message is for the persecuted believers:  God in his JUSTICE will give you relief by severely judging those who are doing evil against the Lord.

Justice may not happen on earth.  But when Jesus Christ comes for the Second Time, all injustices will be made right.  Nothing will escape the notice of our All-Seeing God.  To hear this would be a huge relief to these suffering Christians.

We should long for this.

Psalm 98:8–9 ESV Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together 9 before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 13  David’s cry is, “How long, O Lord, until you bring justice?”

The implicit message is to unbelievers who read this:  Be warned.  Terrifying judgment is coming.  You do not want to contend with the Lord Jesus Christ who rose from the dead.

Those who ignore him, give him lip service, or hate him will face the “fury of the wrath” of God Almighty as in Revelation 19.

This is a powerful, terrifying message.  And it is true.  God is just.  He will punish wrongdoers.

 It is this message that was on my mind when I was in college.  I heard the gospel, that Jesus died and rose from the dead.  And that all who believe in him will find forgiveness and eternal life.

And I also heard that anyone who rejects Jesus and does not believe in him will suffer the wrath of God.  It is precisely the message of this passage here. 

And I knew that this described me.  I wanted nothing to do with Jesus.  I didn’t want to admit I was that bad.  I didn’t want a Savior.  I wanted to rule my own life.

But upon hearing the gospel, I found the Holy Spirit was convicting me.  I became terrified of dying and suffering the wrath of Jesus Christ.  After a couple months of battling against God, he broke me.  He humbled me, I repented and believed and so found eternal life.

So if you are in the position I was in….you do not believe in Jesus Christ…you are in the position described here.

And God would implore you as do I:  repent and believe.  Eternity is at stake.  When you do believe, God will mercifully grant you life forever and ever in glory. 

And to you who already know Jesus, don’t fear suffering.  And don’t wonder if God is unjust.

  • He has not forgotten you. 
  • He is not apathetic.
  • He will reward you someday for faithfully serving him, for he is a Just God.
  • He will punish those who are afflicting you, for he is a Just God.

So Christians, hang on.  Don’t lose heart.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t stop speaking.  Keep trusting in Jesus to the very end of your days.

Vs. 11-12

11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,

12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is a beautiful prayer. 

He prays that God would make the Christians worthy of his calling.  This is reminiscent of vs. 5.

Paul is praying that God would empower them to live a manner worthy of the calling of God.  That they would live in a way that reflects God and honors him. 

And then Paul prays for something intriguing to me.  He prays that God would fulfill every resolve…every desire… these Christians have to good and to have works of faith by the power of the Spirit.

All the good and all the works that God is prompting you to do, may God help you and strengthen you by his power to see it happen and to bear fruit from it.

Why does he pray this?  So that Jesus’ name would be honored in your life.  And that you would be honored in Jesus. 

I love this prayer. 


If you want to apply something from this passage to your life, Paul’s prayer gives us one thing:   Pray this for your friends in your Community Group.

Pray for more than just your friends’ trials and problems.  Find out what Paul prays, then imitate him. 

Another application: 

Take heart in walking for the Lord, speaking up for him, telling other people about him.  Don’t fear.  Don’t lose courage.

First, God in his justice will strengthen you and help you to walk in a manner worthy of his kingdom like he points out in vs. 5.

In any suffering you encounter for Jesus, large or small, he will strengthen you.

And he will be honored as you continue to walk with him.  And someday he will honor you. 

Second, if and when you encounter injustices as you follow Jesus, you can rest knowing that he will bring perfect justice to the world someday soon for all the evil done. 

So take heart. Do not fear.  Be bold.  Speak for Jesus.