Devotional # 186. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Devotional # 186. 4/18/16. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10.

Intro. This whole section today is about God’s righteous judgment. I’ve done my best to break it down for us to understand but I must acknowledge that it’s meant to be taken as a unified explanation for us to understand Gods righteous justice. As I mentioned last week in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3 (Devotional # 185) we’ll look at verse 4 and following to see how the “faith” and “love” that has grown affects other churches (verse 4) and is evidence of “the righteous judgment of God” (verse 5). In fact, for all of the important prophesy of the future that Paul gives us we’ll see him tie it all back to the persecutions we currently face and the faith and love that continues to grow. Finally, I will wrap up with a special application about groups that call themselves “Christian” but don’t believe in hell.

vv. 4-5. Paul, Silas and Timothy tell other churches about the Thessalonians “patience and faith” in all of the trials and tribulations they go through. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2-5 (Devotional # 179) we talked about how Paul and the others had “sent Timothy” to check in with the Thessalonians since they were going through such difficult persecution. There, as he does here, Paul contrasts the difficulties with the “faith” they have in the Lord. Make no mistake, most of us do not go through the kind of persecution that the early Church went through but that doesn’t mean God won’t take care of us in our spiritual difficulties. Is it possible that God is helping us grow our faith through these trials?

One of the most important things Paul draws our attention to here is that enduring “persecutions and tribulations” is “manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God.” So often people ask, ‘God, if you’re real, why are You letting me go through this?’ They become so focused on themselves that they don’t see His bigger plan and the positive affect it can have on others. Paul tells us in Romans that we will be considered brothers and sisters with Jesus, “if indeed we suffer with Him…” (Romans 8:17). So our longsuffering through trials is actually preparing us for heaven and is ultimately “evidence” for God’s righteous judgment. But how? Let’s keep reading to find out…

vv. 6-10. We often think of God’s judgment as scary wrath (which is true, as we’ll see in a minute) but it is more importantly “justice”. God’s justice is unquestionably fair and impartial. What Paul is talking about here is the Final Judgment. So the evil people who are persecuting the Thessalonians will be dealt with justly by God. God will give the Christians “rest” (v. 7) but also pay back the evil persecutors (v. 6). This gives us the right mindset that we shouldn’t seek or expect justice while we’re alive on earth, instead God alone is righteous and He will “repay” on His own timeline.

What does His timeline look like? Well, after the Millennium of peace Satan must be briefly released (Revelation 20:7), then he mounts a final assault (20:8) but then “fire [will come] down from God out of heaven and [devour] them” (20:9). This is followed by Satan’s final imprisonment in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10) and God’s White Thrown Judgment (20:11-15). Here in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 when it says, “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” as if they are a “flaming fire”, I believe that this “fire” is His glory coming down from heaven in Revelation 20:9*. We’ve seen God appear this way in the bush with Moses (Exodus 3:2) giving of the Law (Exodus 19:18) which is “symbolizing His own bright glory and His consuming vengeance against His foes (Hbr 10:27, 12:29; 2Pe 3:7, 10)” (Source 1).

In verse 9 we move into what that punishment will look like: “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” You’ve probably heard it said that the worst thing about hell is being separated from God, and I would agree. Remember in 1 Thessalonians when we realized that the “coming” of Jesus at the Rapture could be translated the “presence” of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:13, Devotional # 179)? For how incredible it will be to be in the presence of our Lord it will be equally awful to be excluded from that presence. So, yes, the separation from God will probably be the worst thing about hell, but the rest doesn’t sound like a picnic either! Did you notice it says, “everlasting destruction”? I’ve never really thought about it but this is unimaginable to our finite minds. By definition when something is “destroyed” it’s gone. It’s finished and ended. But somehow in hell non-believers will be “destroyed” over and over and over forever. That sounds absolutely horrifying to me.

Paul finishes up this section by bringing this to its logical end: Jesus bringing right justice and judgment will drive us Christians to glorify and admire Him (v. 10). Not only that but Paul masterfully ties this all back to the Thessalonians (and our) present afflictions.

*Fire from heaven: I believe Revelation 20:9 is Jesus and His angels coming down from heaven. However, since the word for “fire” (pyr, Source 2) can translated as literal and/or figurative I can certainly see where it could be both literal fire AND a description of Jesus coming down (2 Thessalonians 1:8). I don’t think it’s ONLY literal fire because it says that it “devoured them” and since the “them” here is Satan and his armies we know they are not truly “devoured” (as in “dead”) but more properly “defeated.”(Greek katesthio, Source 3). As far as I can tell it’s impossible to be dogmatic.

A Special Application for 2016

Did you know that there are people who call themselves Christians but don’t believer in hell or that God will judge with wrath? Places in the Bible like Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25) and Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16:31-35) are not conclusive enough for them. It’s important to note that as Christians who believe that hell is real and that God is just it is not because we want to see people go to hell or because we’re cruel but because it justice is simply who God is and because the Bible tells us it’s true. How God defines justice is up to him not us. Brian Broderson says there are two main reasons that people reject the idea of the wrath of God: 1. Because we don’t fully grasp the holiness of God and 2. Because we don’t understand how sinful we are (Source 4).

In his chapter asking how can a loving God could torture people in hell, former atheist and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel, quotes renowned atheist Bertrand Russell. Russell says, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that he believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment” (Source 5). Isn’t it interesting that an atheist like Russell can clearly see that Jesus believed in hell and yet, regardless of whether Russell’s conclusion is true or not, these supposedly Christian groups deny that Jesus believed in hell.

Pray for the people who do not trust God at His word or have been misled into believing that what we humans think is right should somehow govern what God determines as right. In essence, although these groups will not acknowledge it, that is what they are doing. They are allowing thinkers like Bertrand Russell and cultural ideas and opinion outweigh God’s truth. Pray that they would not allow culture and emotion to trump God, but that instead they would look deeper at why God said what He said then whether they think a loving God couldn’t create hell. I have taken pains to be ambiguous and not specifically call out the different groups that think they are Christians but don’t believe in hell or “eternal destruction.” You can look up that information on your own and I encourage you to have conversations with your friends and family that may believe this way. Just know that I’ve tried to debate and persuade them with the Bible and I personally haven’t seen that work. What I have seen work is praying for them and allowing Jesus’ love overcome them.

Conclusion. Paul started off talking about “faith”, “love” and persecution and ended up talking about persecutions. Did you miss it? While giving us prophetic descriptions of the future Paul also builds our faith in telling us God will take care of perfect justice at the Great White Thrown Judgment! I pray that you start praying for your friends and family who don’t know or are unwilling to admit that hell is a real place and God’s judgment is final and just. The next time you feel called to share Jesus with someone consider the “eternal destruction” that they are facing if they don’t hear the gospel.

 

References.

Source 1: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown (https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/2Th/2Th_001.cfm?a=1117001

Source 2: pyr, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4442&t=KJV

Source 3: katesthiohttps://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2719&t=KJV

Source 4: Brian Broderson in a message given 4/17/16.

Source 5: Bertrand Russel quoted by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for Faith, Zondervan, p. 235.

Advertisements

Devotional # 160. Colossians 3:8-11

Devotional # 160. 10/26/15. Colossians 3:8-11.

Intro.  The last time we were in Colossians we talked about sexual sins like “fornication” and “passion” but we said we no longer live in those sins so we shouldn’t be walking in the same way non-Christians are. This week we have another list of sins but I encourage you not to look at it as just a list. A lot of times the sexual sins we just saw in vv. 5-7 are looked at as “big sins” whereas the ones in verse 8 are maybe looked at as “lesser”. But Paul’s desire is that we are changed in every area of our lives, not just the “big” stuff.

v. 8. Paul starts off with “but now you yourselves are to put off all these:” I’m interested in what the original Greek for “put off“. It’s one word, apotithemi(G659), which means “to put away (literally or figuratively)” or “renounce” (Source 1). We’ve talked about this idea before and it’s not like taking off a coat (which can easily put back on) but it’s like throwing the coat off a cliff…on fire! It’s completely wanting nothing to do with it any more. Let’s see what a few of the sins are that we should have heaved off the side of a cliff…on fire, long ago.
Anger” – Since Jesus is our representation of God we see the proper way God handles things by looking at what Jesus did and said. Jesus was “angry” at points in the New Testament. For example in Mark 1:43 he “sternly charged” the leper not to tell anyone about Him, in Mark 10:13-16 Jesus was angry with the disciples when they tried to send away the mothers and children and of course the most famous story when Jesus was angry with the moneychangers in the temple (Matthew 21:12). But this “anger” was perfect because Jesus was perfect. It was not sin because it had no ill will towards the person or people but instead at those people’s sins. When Paul talks about this “anger” that is sin for us he means when we are upset with an unrighteous anger. It’s not good enough to say ‘someone sinned against me, so I have a right to be angry with them.’ For all the many things Jesus has done to be our brother and friend, He is also separate from us being God. And in being such you’ll notice it was never about Jesus’ “right” or “pride” being wounded, it was never because he was embarrassed that He was angry.

Wrath” – Interestingly we were just talking about “wrath” two weeks ago. But notice that difference “because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (3:6) and “put off…wrath.” Why is it OK for God to have “wrath” but not us? The quick answer is: “because He is God and He says so.” But as humans we don’t like that, we want an explanation. So the longer version would be that God knows everything and His wrath is holy and just. Since He is the only one who can righteously bring “wrath” He is the only one who can bring salvation. We can do neither. Our judgment is clouded and our wrath is in the heat of the moment. When God judges it is outside of time and space and therefore not with a biased mind or other outside influences. But we have all of those things and that’s why we should not be “wrathful.”

Malice” – The word “malice” is kakia (G2549) in the Greek and means “ill-will” or “a desire to injure” or “wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws” (Source 2). This above the others mentioned here seems like the most outwardly evil sin. It really makes me question how a person could call themselves a Christian and desire “ill-will” of other believers. Granted, it may be hidden down deep in our heart and it doesn’t come to the surface of our mind until we’ve prayed that God would reveal to us our heart.

Blasphemy” – The word here is blasphemia (G#988) and can be defined as “slander” or “reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty” (Source 3). What that means is when people reject the Holy Spirit’s calling they are actually insulting Him and saying He is a liar and they will not be forgiven for that sin (Matthew 12:31). Another example is when we say that Jesus is not God (John 10:33) or when we say He cannot forgive sins (Luke 5:21). Now most Christians would not say it in the clear and concise way that I just did. But often we think blasphemous things, making ourselves better than our Lord, trying to be our own savior or the savior of someone else.

filthy language out of your mouth” – We’ve talked about “filthy language” before, for example almost exactly a year ago when we were in Ephesians 5:3-4 (Devotional 106). In fact the week before that we read Ephesians 4:30-32 (Devotional 105) and we tied the idea of saying ‘I can’t help cussing’ being just like saying, ‘Jesus doesn’t have the power to change my life’, which is a composition of “blasphemy” and “filthy language.”

vv. 9-10. Why does Paul separate the “lying” that the Colossians were doing? Why didn’t he just add it in with the list of bad stuff he just gave? He separates it because they were “lying” to each other. It’s bad if they were “lying” to non-Christians but it’s even worse that they were lying to each other. What were they lying about? We can’t be completely sure but I can hypothesize having been in enough churches made up of broken people. He could have been talking about when we’re at church and someone asks how we are and we say “fine” but really we’re hurting or angry or frustrated. Instead of confiding in that person we just tell them we’re OK. Maybe they don’t seem to have the time, maybe we’re afraid, maybe we’ve shared with someone before and they stabbed us in the back but whatever the reason – we’re lying to our sisters and brothers. Or maybe we embellish a conversation making ourselves sound more spiritual than we were but – we’re lying to our sisters and brothers. Or maybe other Christians are needy or annoying and ask us to hang out or go to lunch or take a trip with them and we say we’re busy but – we’re lying to our sisters and brothers.

The reason given is that we’ve put off the old person we once were. So we come upon the “put off” idea again but now we’re told what we’ve “put on.” Let’s look at the next verse.

v. 11. I love how so many biblical teachings are connected here! As we’re told in Genesis 1:27 we were created in the image of God. But when we sinned it distorted our image and our ability to automatically live eternally with Him. But when Jesus died on the cross for our sins He restored our ability to live eternally with God. Now we must choose but the work has been done for us. Now we can be a “new creation” which is essentially what we would have been prior to sin. And when humans were created in the image of God was He a Caucasian God? Was He Chinese? No, the races were split up because of sin at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) so it doesn’t matter who you are (Hebrew, Greek, Scythian, Hungarian, American, etc.) when we become a “new creation” we are back in the image of God. We are able to take part in the “nature of God” (according to 2 Peter 1:4). All of this points to a line drawn in the sand, a difference from how we were before we accepted Christ and how we are after. If we act the same way as the rest of the world what was the change? A “new creation” agrees that the “old us” has been “put off” (of a cliff…on fire!) and there is something “new” that wasn’t there before. So only then does it makes sense that “Christ is all” (as in ‘everything we can ever need’) and “in all” (as in ‘dwelling in anyone willing to accept Him, regardless of race or gender or other prejudice)!

Conclusion. The two things that I took away from this study is: 1. the need for me to be constantly conscious of my heart toward other believers, and 2. How cool it is that God created us in His image and has taken steps to put us back to that place, regardless of our race or family or religious practices. Will you pray over these things in your own life?

 

References.

Source 1: apotithemi (G659), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G659&t=KJV .

Source 2: kakia (G2549), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2549&t=KJV .

Source 3: blasphemia (G#988), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G988&t=KJV .

Devotional # 158. Colossians 3:5-7.

Devotional # 158. 10/12/15. Colossians 3:5-7.

Intro.  I seriously considered putting verse 5 into last week’s devotional because it fit so clearly in with what we studied. But then I decided that verses 1-4 should be their own thing and verses 5-7 would be really good to study as their own part. This week we see certain sins mentioned since: 1. we all deal with them, 2. it puts real, applicable meaning to God’s commands and 3. they illustrate the huge difference between living for Christ and living for sin.

v. 5. We start off with “therefore“, which shows what I was just saying, that this point is built off of what was said in verses 1-4. By way of reminder, if we died to our selves and our sins and have been resurrected in Jesus then why would we have anything to do with sin? That’s what Paul is building off of when he says “therefore”. Then he gives us a list of the things that are considered “earthly” or “sinful.” As we go through this list I challenge you to read it as it applies to you. Don’t worry about your friend or family member that you think exhibits these sins. Worry about yourself, let this be your litmus test.

fornication” according to Merriam-Webster’s is “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other” (Source 1). It’s basically sex outside of marriage whether both people aren’t married at all or whether they are married and cheating on their spouse. Most people agree it’s wrong to cheat on your spouse (although popular culture has been eroding that for quite a while) but most people outside the church (and sadly many inside) think it’s a great idea for people to have sex before they get married. But I don’t care what anyone else says or how they try to change the meaning of the words – it’s wrong.

uncleanness” is akatharsia (G#167) in the Greek and can mean physical or moral uncleanness. In this case I think Paul means it “in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living” (Source 2). It’s worth quoting John Stott about the “fornication” coupled with “uncleanness”: in Greek the words for fornication and uncleanness combined, cover every kind of sexual sin (Source 3).

 Passion” isn’t evil in the sense of having passion for your work or a hobby but it is when it consumes your heart negatively. It’s worth looking at the word in the original Greek which is pathos (G#3806) and could be used in a positive or negative way. However, in the New Testament when it’s used it’s always with a bad connotation. To the Greeks when it was used negatively it could mean “a calamity, mishap, evil or affliction” (Source 4). Another way this can be translated is “lust.”

For “evil desire” I think the obvious question is what’s the difference between this and something like “passion”, “lust” or the “covetousness” which is coming next. One commentator says that where “passion” deals with physical lust, “evil desire” deals more with mental lust (Source 6).

Lastly, we have “covetousness, which is idolatry.” Let’s look at Romans 7:7 because not only does Paul use “covetousness” as an example showing how the law points out sin but he actually shares with us that “covetousness” was something that he struggled with personally. Paul says, “For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” So Paul, using this in a sweeping sense, is saying ‘I would not have known fleshly desires but as soon as I knew I couldn’t have them I wanted them’. Stifler says that when other commentators say Paul is referring to “irregular and illicit” desires they are absolutely wrong! He goes on to ask how Paul, who had “blameless legal righteousness (Phil. 3:6)” and a “good conscience (Acts 23:1)” could die to irregular desires? He had already done this as had many of the moral Pharisees, but “it was only when [Paul] came to see that it was desire itself that was forbidden, that the sin lay in the wish itself, not in the thing wished for…that he died under its power” (Source 5). I think of the love of money being the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10) or not being drunk with wine (Eph. 5:18) and how it is not the thing wished for that is necessarily the sin but the desire to have something that you selfishly want, too much of a good thing or even more importantly that God has not given you.

We saw a list similar to this in Ephesians 5:6-7, Devotional 107 (“fornication”, “all uncleanness”, “foolish talking” and “course jesting”, etc.). Remember, here in Colossians Paul just told us to put our mind on things above “not on things on the earth” (3:2). This isn’t just because we’re Christians but it also has to do with the coming judgment concerning all who practice these things and have no remorse for them.

vv. 6-7. The “wrath” that Paul is talking about here is noted throughout all of the Bible. Sometimes we think that the God of the Old Testament is a lot different than the God of the New Testament. As if He’s changed but God cannot change (Malachi 3:6). If you actually sit down and read the Bible cover to cover and you will see that the God of the Old Testament is merciful and loving and gives chance after chance to people and by the same token when you read the New Testament you’ll see that Jesus brings judgment and wrath and absolutely despises sin. God’s attributes all exist in perfect harmony with each other: His love, compassion, grace and mercy and at the same time wrath, judgment and justice. Let’s look at Revelation 11:14 as an example. The context here is that John has been explaining the “three woes” which are the last three trumpets (of seven). John notes that the third “woe” doesn’t happen immediately after the second, although it is “coming quickly”, there is a pause. This happens several times in Revelation and I believe that these pauses signify God’s patience and desire to see people come to Him. He gives a break from the judgment and wrath being poured out as if to say, ‘Will you now come to me?’ God is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8) and wishes that all would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and yet He is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6) and has an “awesome” and “strange work” of judgment (Isaiah 28:21).

We once walked in that sin when we lived with “the sons of disobedience.” We no longer live in those sins so we shouldn’t be walking in the same way non-Christians are. The word “lived” is important. If sin was your roommate and when you became a Christian you had to move out then why are you inviting it back in? Run away from that sin and never look back. Of course we have friends and family that are non-Christians and practice sin. But that doesn’t mean that you give them access to your life in such a way that they bring sin back in as a roommate. I like what Matthew Henry says, “it is necessary to [crush] sins…if we do not kill them, they will kill us” (Source 7).

Conclusion. I love that Paul can remind us that we’re saved and going to heaven (3:1-4) and just as easily remind us what we were saved from and why we shouldn’t be doing it any longer (3:5-7). Paul’s love for his “children” here in Colossae and for the generations to follow, including us, shows the truth of his words. He’s right – if I was raised with Christ then I shouldn’t be living the same way I used to.

 

References.

Source 1: Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fornication .

Source 2:  akatharsia (G#167), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G167&t=KJV .

Source 3: John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979, p. 192.

Source 4: pathos (G#3806), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3806&t=KJV .

Source 5: Stifler, Romans, p. 124

Source 6: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1837.

Source 7: Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, NT, p. 671.