2 Thessalonians Sermon # 2 Sermon Series “What Can Shake Thy Sure Repose?” October 18, 2015 2 Thessalonians Chapter One
Today’s Sermon: “Momentary Troubles, but Eternal Glory”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Imagine you are a Pakistani Christian. All your life you have suffered as a persecuted religious minority, but now you have been falsely accused of blasphemy against Mohammad, and you have been beaten by a mob and thrown into jail. What is your hope? Where can you find relief?
Or imagine that you are a believer in Christ in America who owns your own business, and because you refuse to compromise your Biblical principles, you have received death threats, you’ve been taken to court, fined tens of thousands of dollars, and your business has been ruined. Where is God in all of that? Where can you find justice?
These were the kind of situations similar to those that the Christians in Thessalonica were in, when Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote to them. Because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ they were being persecuted; they were suffering unjustly, with no human recourse to turn to.
Perhaps you also have experienced such unjust suffering, for the sake of the gospel. You are excluded, mistreated, slandered, and worse. And if you haven’t experienced any of that for the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, just wait: it’s just around the corner in our country.
So what does Paul say to these beleaguered believers, to encourage them, to give them hope? What truths will sustain you, when you suffer loss and pain and even martyrdom, for your faith in Jesus Christ? In 2 Thess. 1, God gives us three encouraging truths to cling to, and they are centered around the theme that our troubles are momentary, but our glory will be eternal!
1. God’s grace is transforming you, even through your suffering.
2. God’s justice will reverse the fortunes of the persecutors and the persecuted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.
3. Christ’s glory can be seen in you, now, and will be marveled at, later.
1. God’s grace is transforming you, even through your suffering. (vv. 3-4)
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
The first thing that Paul and his team do to encourage these suffering saints is to tell them how they see God is at work in them. They have heard good reports how the Thessalonian Christians are growing in their faith in God, their love for each other, and their hope in God, and this has enabled them to persevere in the midst of their persecutions and trials. And all of this spiritual growth is a result of God’s grace working in them, transforming them, and giving them supernatural power and endurance to press on. So Paul can both give all the thanks to God for this transforming work, while at the same time giving encouragement to the suffering Christians, by calling their attention to the change he sees in them.
We all need this kind of encouragement, don’t we? (It’s like telling a person on a diet that we notice they are losing weight and looking good.) When we are in the midst of trials and pressures, we tend to only look down and see the bad things that are happening, right? So Paul tells them, “Listen, here’s what I see when I look at you: I see God’s grace and peace helping you to be calmer and more peaceful than you would have without Him. I see you trusting God’s Word when you hear a sermon or read your Bibles, and that’s something that wasn’t happening before you came to Christ in faith. I hear that you aren’t giving up on following Christ, when things get hard, and that wasn’t your pattern just a short while ago. In fact, I can see that God is even using this unjust suffering of yours to help refine you, so that you are letting go of your heart idols and you are in the midst of spiritual make-over!”
Brothers and sisters, these are the kind of things that we should be saying to one another, especially when we are going through hard times. Let’s look for the ways in which God’s grace is transforming your spouse, the members of your small group, or the believer you meet with for coffee or a walk. Maybe this transformation has been happening quickly, or perhaps it has been a slow process over a number of years. No matter. Reflect on it. Give thanks to God for it. And then tell the other person how you see God’s grace at work in him or her. What a good way to affirm and encourage people, by saying, “I thank God for what He is doing in your life.” Have you done that lately? This is one Biblical way to give comfort and encouragement, especially in the midst of persecution and unjust suffering.
A second aspect of our troubles being momentary but our glory being eternal is that….
2. God’s justice will reverse the fortunes of the persecutors and the persecuted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven. (vv. 5-9)
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 glory of his might.
The second thing that Paul and his team do to encourage these suffering saints is to tell them that when our Lord Jesus Christ returns as the Judge of all the earth that He will administer perfect justice, by reversing the fortunes of the persecutors and the persecuted.
Right now, as we read stories of believers in the Middle East, India, China, and sometimes even in America, our hearts are torn by the totally unfair and unjust treatment that followers of Christ often receive. We hear of Pastor Sa’eed being tortured in prison in Iran; of Asia Bibi living in a hell hole on death row in Pakistan as she awaits a supreme court hearing on whether she should be executed for being falsely accused of blasphemy; of two Laotian believers arrested- again- for simply encouraging a family of Christians to pray before a meal. And such injustice is beginning to take hold in our country as well. Just ask Kim Davis in Kentucky, or Pastor Randy Alcorn (given huge fines, for defending the lives of the unborn), or Oregon cake bakers Aaron and Melisa Klein, who lost their business and were hit with heavy fines, for not compromising their Biblical convictions.
Someday you may lose your job, or your house, or your freedom because you were “counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” What will be your encouragement, your hope, when that happens? Paul tells us that in the midst of such unjust suffering, God’s judgment is right; the righteous judgment of God is being worked out. “Bu how?” you ask. “I don’t see it!”
Ah, God is simply setting the scene backstage, for that dramatic moment when the curtains will be drawn back, and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, will be revealed from heaven, in blazing fire, and then we will see that his perfect and glorious justice will be completely worked out! For when Jesus comes back to earth to judge the world, God will reverse the fortunes of the persecutors and the persecuted! [Think about the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, in Luke 16: 19-31. Jesus has Abraham telling the rich man “In your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here (in heaven) and you are in agony (in hell).”]
Look at vv. 6-7: “He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.” God is going to vindicate all the believers who have suffered, by repaying the enemies of Christ with eternal destruction. All those who sent Christians to prison, to labor camps, or to their death, will receive the just punishment they deserve, when Christ is revealed from heaven. King Herod, Emperor Nero, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and countless others “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (v. 9)
This doctrine of divine retribution should make us both rejoice and tremble. We should rejoice, because God’s glory will be manifest in His perfect justice, and because the saints, across the earth, will be freed from their oppression; the enemies of the gospel will suffer the due penalty they deserve. Yet it should also make us tremble, because many of those who “who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (v. 8) are people we know and love and have been praying for, that God might save them. We tremble because we know that we should be in that group of enemies of the gospel, if it was not for God’s saving and electing grace reaching us.
Yet on that glorious day, when Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire, we will be caught up in his majesty and his righteous judgments, and none of us will be questioning his justice. Rather, those who have suffered and lost the most in this life will be rejoicing and praising God the loudest in the next life, because of the amazing way in which God will have reversed the fortunes of the persecutors and the persecuted!
My friends, when Jesus comes back as Judge, everyone will be in one of only two groups: those in God’s Kingdom, by His grace, and those who did not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ will be excluded from His glory.
Which group will you be in? Are you sure? And if you are not certain of being in His Kingdom, what are you going to do about it, right now? Jesus could come back today.
A third aspect of our troubles being momentary but our glory being eternal is that….
3. Christ’s glory can be seen in you, now, and will be marveled at, later. (vv. 10-12)
…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. 11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours, and e very act prompted by your faith. 12 We pray this 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.
The third thing that Paul and his team do to encourage these persecuted believers is to tell them that they are partakers of Christ’s marvelous glory, even now in their suffering, and more so, when Christ comes to be revealed in His glory!
John Stott tells us that one of the most striking features of this chapter is its repeated focus on the glory of Jesus Christ, as Paul unfolds this theme of glory in three stages:
a. The Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed in his glory (v. 7)
When Jesus is manifest in blazing fire, with his powerful angels, every eye will behold Him and every knee shall bow before Him! What a day that will be, when “The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it!” (Isa. 40:5). It will be at that moment that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea!” (Hab. 2:14). It will be a trillion times more glorious that beholding a brilliant sunrise!
b. The Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in His Holy people (v. 10)
Not only will Christ be exalted and adored, but we, His people, His bride, will also share in His glory! Our bodies will become like His glorious body at the resurrection! As we read in I John 3:2, “When He appears, we shall be like Him.” Stott writes: “We, who all our lives have been pathetic apologies for human beings, will at last be fully human and fully free, because we will be fully Christ-like.” Therefore, by transforming us into His own image, Christ Himself will be seen, admired, and adored – in us, and the two glorifications will take place simultaneously, for He will be glorified is us, and we will be glorified in Him. We will share in his glory, like a filament in a light bulb, as current passes through it, like Jesus’ transfigured body.
c. The Lord Jesus Christ will begin to be glorified is us, now. (v. 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.”
The final encouragement is one that we can taste and see right now. We do not have to wait until Jesus comes back to see His glory, for His glory is being demonstrated in us even today. Right now, if you are in Him by grace through faith, you are a trophy of His grace! Today, especially in the midst of persecution and unjust suffering, Christ’s light and life are shining in you and through you to a dark world. For you are His bride whom He is making beautiful! You are His temple, His dwelling place on earth, which He is cleaning up! You are His Body, of which He is the Head, and He has given his life for you, to forgive you, cleanse you, transform you, and to make you glorious!
So be encouraged! Christ’s glory is being seen in you, right now, and one day, it will be marveled at, among all those who have believed!
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is seen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18