Imagine you are a Christian living 1,950 years ago in a large port city. There is plenty of hustle and bustle as the docks are unloaded, the marketers are yelling out for you to buy their goods, and everywhere you look, you see idols to Zeus, Athena, or any of the numerous gods that are said to live on Mount Olympus. While everywhere things seem to be in chaos, it is a more or less controlled chaos considering all the people moving around. As you walk through town, you notice some of the vendors are giving you dirty looks and talking amongst themselves. While you watch, they start to move off towards different directions, stirring up others. The next thing you know you are lying in an alley, beaten within an inch of your life for no other reason than that you claim to follow Jesus. This is the kind of situation you could face, living in Thessalonica: constant persecution for following the teachings of Jesus. Yet instead of losing heart, the Thessalonians were actually growing stronger in their faith! And during this time of persecution, when everyone seemed to be against them, the Apostle Paul wrote to them to give them encouragement and remind them of something important: Jesus is coming back, and when he does, there is going to be judgment!
I. Encouraging Words
When Paul begins his second letter to the Thessalonians, he begins by praising them for their growing faith, love, and perseverance in hardships. In fact, he is so joyful of their rapid growth, that he even boasts about them to all the other churches! I can just imagine how the Brothers and Sisters of that church felt when they heard that not only was Paul praising God because of them, but was bragging on them because of how much they endured. I can also imagine that some of them were probably thinking: ďYeah, but when is it all going to end.Ē And Paul doesnít waste anytime with the answer. Knowing what they suffered, Paul was quick to remind them of something very important: ďThe Lord is going to return again, and when he does he is going to judge everyone.Ē Letís continue on into II The. 1:5-7.
II. Godís Judgment is just (II The. 1:5-7a)
Many of you have probably seen the political TV shows where by some minor flaw in the defense, a guilty convict gets away with murder or someone bribes the jury and escapes justice. I know I have seen my fair share because my mom loves to watch those kind of shows and I hate it because I always want justice to be served. I can imagine the Thessalonians were feeling the same way. They kept seeing all the injustice and persecution, while those who were persecuting them were seeming to get away with it. But this is not the case. While we may be persecuted and ridiculed now, God is keeping track. The Lord is coming back and the persecuted and the persecutors will all answer for their actions.
III. Jesus is coming back in Power (II The. 7b-10)
When Jesus comes, heís bringing His angels with Him. (Several years ago Johnny Carson had Billy Graham as a guest on his show. At one point there was a lull in the conversation and Johnny said, ďYou know what, Billy? I bet if Jesus ever came back to earth, weíd do Him in again!Ē Billy Graham leaned forward in his seat, and said, ďIn the Bible we read that Jesus predicted that He would return to earth again. But the first time He came in love, the next time, Heíll come in power. And no one will do Him in!Ē)
When Jesus died and was resurrected, he inherited all that God had promised Him: everything! He inherited dominion over all that has been and will be made, He has inherited the authority of the Divine One, and what a lot of people are going to find out too late on the last days is that He has inherited the army of Heaven! Now to put this in perspective in 2 Kings 19:35, one angel killed 185,000 enemy soldiers in a single night. Now imagine an army of angels who are all just as capable, all following behind our Lord when he comes to finish claiming that which is rightfully his. Itís no contest! Jesus has already won! Thatís right, we are guaranteed the victory in Christ. We might suffer now, but joining with Christ is like betting on a rerun of a football game that you have already seen! We already know the outcome, we know who wins, why would you bet on the losers? And when Christ comes with His army, there will be a consuming fire as well. (II Pet. 3:10-12) I especially like this because it reminds me of how raw gold ore is refined. When Jesus comes, heís going to burn away all the impurities, all the sin that has entered, and we will be left shining with our new purified bodies, just like His! The heat will be intense, but those who endure it will be purer then the purest gold. Then just as in the beginning He is going to create a new heaven and earth, and, we, who have been steadfast, faithful, and persevering will stand once again in his presence in a perfect place that will never know rot or decay, death or suffering! Let me tell you, I have a very active imagination, and I canít even begin to imagine how glorious this new kingdom will be with our Lord and Savior smiling over us!
But the saddest part of all this is that many wonít get to see it because of their rejection of the truth. God has entrusted us with bringing the Good News and the consequences of rejection of Jesus to our families and friends, to the people of Strasbourg, and to everyone we meet. We have been told to plant the seed wherever we go and to let God make the increase. If we suffer now, well we will have all eternity to enjoy life in the fullest after this one is over!
I would like for you all to remember to encourage and love one another daily. The Thessalonians were able to grow because they helped each other through the hard times of constant persecution. Let us take courage from their example, remembering to persevere through the trials that will come, remembering the victory at hand, and praying for the spiritual growth of each of our fellow Brothers and Sisters here. Jesus is coming back to claim His own and He is going to refine them to perfection and burn away the rest with unquenchable fire. He will come at an hour when we least expect it, and the question is will you be running from Him or running to Him when He comes again. If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, been obedient to His message of grace by being baptized in the waters of his death and risen with him anew in the life of the Holy Spirit, please donít delay any longer, for he is coming back and when he does it will be too late.