November 13, 2016 [Last Judgment]  2 Thessalonians 1:5-10  J.D.Roekle

 

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.

 

Face the World Knowing God’s Judgment

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          Earlier this year, a group called LifeWay Research conducted a survey in which they interviewed 3000 Americans to find out the state of theology in America today.  They wanted to see what beliefs people held about God.  Participants were asked if they agreed or disagreed with 47 statements regarding things pertaining to God.  One statement they were asked to react to was this: There will be a time when Jesus Christ returns to judge all the people who have lived.  41% of respondents stated that they strongly agreed with that statement.  Another 18% said they somewhat agreed with it.  That means the remaining number of respondents said they either disagreed with the statement or weren’t sure.  The point is that more than half of Americans live under some delusion that Christ is not returning to judge the living and the dead. 

          Many times, whether we are aware of it or not, we are influenced by what the world thinks or believes.  After all, the world around is has a very large and loud voice.  And there is always a danger of being deceived by that voice.  May today serve as a means to reinforce to you what Scripture teaches about God’s judgment.  The truth is that when we know the facts about God’s Judgment, we can face the world and our future with confidence. 

 

          Sometimes it may seem as if the world is upside down.  After all, Jesus Christ came to earth as a conqueror.  He conquered sin by becoming sin for us.  He conquered death by his own death on the cross.  He conquered the devil and even made sure the devil knew about it by visiting hell following his death and before he appeared alive again on the third day.  Christ is our conqueror.  We belong to him! 

          So then, shouldn’t everyone just simply fall into line with Christ?  Because of his extraordinary power, shouldn’t everyone just be overwhelmed and submit to him?  Far from seeing everyone submit to him, what we do see has us so often scratching our heads.  Christ’s name is taken in vain.  Even worse, Christ’s name is despised. 

          And a very prominent way in which Christ’s name is despised is by Christ’s followers being persecuted.  That was the case with the group of people the Apostle Paul was talking to.  He was speaking to a group of believers in the city of Thessalonica in Greece.  It wasn’t as if these were isolated incidents either.  Christians all over the place were being persecuted for their faith. 

          Today it is no different.  Persecution of those who confess Christ is going on worldwide.  People are being killed for believing in Jesus as their Savior.  While threats to our lives and physical well-being may not be a reality yet for us, they certainly may be in the future.  What is a reality now is the fact that the world around us has a deep disdain for Christ, his teachings, and his followers.  It shows up in various ways.  Our faith is challenged by people who say mothers should have the right to choose whether or not they can kill their unborn baby.  When we stand up for life, people claim that we hate women.  The Christian college student is mocked for her belief in creation instead of evolution.  A form of persecution also comes in the form of people putting your faith in doubt in some way.  They want you to think that Christ alone is not the way to salvation.  Anything that is designed to tear your faith down finally is persecution. 

          The thing about persecution is that it only promises to continue as long as we remain here.  It isn’t going anywhere.  We will suffer from various troubles due to our faith.  With this in mind, Paul relays an important reminder:  “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.” 

          God is watching.  He knows what is going on.  One day there will be an accounting for all those who don’t stop persecuting us.  In fact, when Christ returns on Judgment Day, he literally promises that there will be hell to pay.  “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” 

          Everlasting destruction.  That seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it?  The point is that in hell, the punishment never ends.  The other horrible feature of hell is the fact that the God who continues to make sure the world goes round, is nowhere to be found there.  He will finally forsake those who have forsaken him when they died. 

          Certainly, there is still hope for those who persecute Christians.  They can avoid this punishment by turning away from their ways and turning to Christ instead.  That happened with the Apostle Paul who went from being one of the worst persecutors of the Christians, to a great missionary for Christ.  

          But there’s a big obstacle. A denial of the truth.  That includes the denial of the existence of hell itself.  Another statement on the survey I mentioned at the start went like this:  “Hell is an eternal place of judgment where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ.”  Only 23% strongly agreed and 17% somewhat agreed.  That’s troubling.  Denying hell’s existence doesn’t make it go away! 

          May the Lord make us tools to warn opponents and deniers of Christ of the impending danger that they face.  But even more than that, may the Lord use us as tools to also relay the comfort and hope we have because of Christ.  In fact, let’s remind ourselves of that now.

          When you confess that Jesus is coming to judge the living and the dead, how does that make you feel?  Maybe a little uneasy?  He’s coming to judge all people, no matter who we are.  That may seem a little intimidating.  That’s because as sinners, we know we don’t deserve to be in the presence of our holy and perfect God.  When faced with that reality, we become fearful.

          And yet, we have nothing to fear.  Christ has died so that our sins no longer stand in the way.  Christ has risen to assure us of this fact.  And so when Christ returns, what it really means for us is relief

          Yes, there is relief in sight.  We will have relief from all troubles.  No longer will we face any persecution.  When Christ returns, relief means there will be no more suffering, crying or pain because the old order of things will have passed away.  We will no longer be rejected or harassed because of our faith.

          Instead, it will be just the opposite.  When Christ returns, he will take with him all who believe in him to be united in heaven.  In heaven where there will be eternal relief.  In heaven, where there will only be joy without end. 

          Look ahead with confidence.  But as you face the world now, you can live with confidence.  Being harassed on account of our faith can sometimes make us wonder where God is.  Doesn’t he know that it’s happening?  Doesn’t he understand what I’m going through?  Is God punishing me for something? 

          Of course he knows.  Of course he understands.  He’s been through it himself.  And no, God is not punishing you.  Instead of punishment, God what you to think of it in another way.  What he wants you to understand is that troubles that come your way because of your faith are evidence that you belong to God.  The world will always hate God’s children. 

          Keep that truth in mind whenever you are being harassed on account of your faith.  Or when you are being pressured to reject one of God’s truths.  May that be firmly in your mind when you feel like giving up.

          And then be encouraged to return to your refuge.  Return to the Word of God day after day to hear of Christ’s love and forgiveness to you and to be reminded of your eternal future in God’s presence.  And then come back here again next Sunday or Monday, so that you can hear that same Word and be encouraged by like-minded people who surround you.  Amen.