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Divine Justice Will Prevail

Divine Justice Will Prevail

Sermon Transcript

Where do we see the world around us fighting against God's goodness, power, and love? What do we do when we face opposition from our culture? Join Dr. Marty Baker as he walks us through 2 Thessalonians 1:4-12 to see that whatever we face, Divine Justice Will Prevail.

In order for the American brand of Marxism to succeed in dethroning capitalism and constitutionalism, it has to, according to its playbook, radically change the values of the culture by attacking and subverting the moral, God-fearing backbone of the country known as Judeo-Christian thinking.  Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist, died in 1937 at forty-six while incarcerated by Stalin for his unbridled independent free-thinking.  His Prison Notebooks gave future Marxist disciples the blueprints for this diabolical method for destroying and dominating the West.  As you can readily see from our tattered culture, the clever cultural Marxists are doing a number on us, and Christians are increasingly becoming the object of their anger and strategy.

Hostility in the form of lawsuits is what cake bakers experience who will not bake cakes for weddings, which run counter to God’s biblical model. Student groups like InterVarsity are kicked off college campuses for their “intolerant” Christian values.  Christian colleges, like Cordon College in Massachusetts and Kings College in New York, are threatened with the removal of accreditation if they don’t cow-tow to liberal beliefs. Politicians like Brian Buescher are grilled by senators about their religious beliefs to make them appear to be unfit to hold and exercise governmental power.  Conservative Christian speakers are shouted down when invited to public speaking opportunities by those who do not want their moral, spiritual voice heard.  Yes, hostility is on the rise, and most saints see it, and some experience it as they courageously attempt to be Christ’s disciples.

Hostility was also the order of the day in ancient Thessalonica.  Social pressure was ruthlessly and continuously asserted against fellow Thessalonians who dared to leave the local cults and follow Jesus as their new Lord and Savior. Christians lost jobs.  Christian business people lost contacts and foot traffic.  Families were divided. I am sure sales at local idol shops suffered, as Christians didn’t purchase the worthless religious figurines anymore.  This resulted in societal angst against those who would dare walk away from the gods of the culture.

Knowing how hard things were in Thessalonica, Paul sought to help these believers effectively navigate the troubled waters to God’s glory in verses 4 through 12 of his second letter. The wisdom and insight he shared with them can most certainly aid us 2,000 years later, for persecution is persecution.  Paul’s sensible advice in this passage can be summarized in this manner:

Power Through Persecution Because Divine Justice Will Prevail (2 Thess. 1:4-12)

In hostile times, the Devil wants you to feel despondent, discouraged and derailed.  He wants you to fear the spread of evil masquerading as good, so you will flee to a cave to hide like Elijah did after his battle with the false priests of Jezebel.  God, however, doesn’t want you to run. He wants you to fight, using the weapons of the faith, as you exhibit the character of Christ.  Paul understood this spiritual truth, lived it out in his life, and challenged others to follow in his footsteps. How he went about doing this is showcased in the ensuing verses he wrote to the beleaguered saints in Thessalonica.

First, Paul underscored . . .

The Reality Of Persecution (2 Thess. 1:4)

Watch how he developed this point:

4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.

He was so proud of how the saints in this seaside city dealt with opposition to the gospel he used them as a model for other churches.  As we discovered in our last study, their dogged, stick-to-it determination to speak the truth of the gospel in a city awash in antagonistic followers of the various cults was worthy of modeling in all churches, even ours.  Physical threats didn’t silence them. Legal threats didn’t intimidate them. Social isolation didn’t faze them. Personal loss, be what it may, didn’t cause them to silence their voices.  Why?  They remained committed to being Christ’s evangelists no matter what because they, of all people, knew that eternal life and eternal death hung in the balance.  Hence, their love of the life-saving gospel and their love of the lost motivated them to speak up and out for the risen Savior regardless of opposition.

Church, might we continue to be and grow to be this kind of church that is fearless in the fight of faith? One that remembers what it was like to be spiritually lost and how joyous it was to be found in Christ, the true Savior of sinners.  One that knows our present persecution and affliction for our faith pales, as Paul says elsewhere, into insignificance when contrasted with the kingdom to come (2 Cor. 4:17). And why would we want to be this kind of church? This is the kind of church the Lord blesses, and it also serves to inspire other churches to be brave and courageous for Christ and His glorious gospel.  May all of this be true of us as we are Christ’s ambassadors to a hostile land.

I find it interesting how Paul describes the persecution in Thessalonica. He used the plural version of two distinctly different words: persecutions and afflictions.  The first word is from the Greek diogmos (διωγμός). According to Danker’s Greek Lexicon, it denotes “a program of systematic harassment, especially because of differing belief or expression.”  The same word is used for how various non-Christians launched planned and well-thought-out strategic attacks against Christians. We encounter the word in Acts 13:50, where jealous Jews repeatedly passed lies about Paul and his missionary companions to incite people to riot against them.  This method worked well for them on many occasions as they attempted to silence the missionaries.

The method cultural Marxists use today against Christians and a Judeo-Christian culture is apparent to those who study it.  They attempt to create their version of a utopian society where man is the Lord of his life by creating a dystopian nightmare of a culture and creating perpetual chaos.  People are divided between the Oppressors (the Bourgeoisie) and the Victims (the Proletariat).  The first group comprises those who hold to absolute truth, decency, inexorable morals, and a fear of God.  The second group includes any group that opposes the first group, viz., criminals, illegal aliens (migrants), progressive “tolerant” free thinkers, atheists, agnostics, the sexually free, and so forth. Any means of Opposition are employed to throw the Bourgeoisie off balance and to silence and cancel them.  People are shamed, arrested, threatened with lawsuits, and so forth.  The ultimate goal, of course, is the final Overthrow where history is re-written to reflect the current party line, to destroy monuments that uphold the old order, to empower the government to own everything, to establish an informant culture, to silence all opposition, and to control the media so ever-changing truth supplants the unchanging truth of the former belief system.

As this systematic godless system expands in our culture, we can count on the rise of persecution, but we need not fear, for the Lord is with us.  This second word Paul employs is thlipsis (θλῖψις ).  Literally, it denotes the pressure one might feel if one were in a vice.  This is why the term is sometimes translated oppression, especially when it is brought about by external circumstances (Rom. 5:3).  Interestingly enough, it is the word translated “the Tribulation” by Jesus in Matthew 24:21.  From what we learn in Revelation 7, the rise of the Antichrist will so oppose believers it will as if they are in an ever-tightening vice of persecution.  Perhaps you feel like this now at your job, in your family, as a student in a class at a local high school, or as a teacher trying to keep your head down. But the vice is tightening, and you know it.

What should you do?   Realize persecution is part and parcel to the Christian life per our Lord’s teaching, “A slave is not greater than his maters. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).  Realize you a blessed of God for being courageous for Him: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for there is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). Realize, also, you need to push through the affliction by focusing on . . .

The Reason For Persecution (2 Thess. 1:5)

Let’s read this intriguing text and then reevaluate and analyze it:

5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.

What does Paul mean when he says, “this is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment”?

Contextually, he is talking about persecution and affliction. What does this mean?  It means that God is sovereignly in control of the demanding situations you face as a believer, and He is using them to make you worthy of the coming divine kingdom of the Messiah (Isa. 2;  11).  Positionally, we are worthy before God because the blood of Christ covers our lives.  Practically, however, there is much sin or dross the Lord must burn out of our lives (Heb. 12:1ff). Hence, the Lord who loves us loves us enough to use even persecution to shape and hone our souls so we are fitted for the magnificent messianic kingdom when it arrives.

What an exciting and enlightening take on Christian suffering.  Instead of effacing it, Paul embraces it and calls all saints to follow suit, for it is a tool God uses to prepare us for glory. So, instead of thinking persecution is invaluable, look for it as being spiritually valuable:

  • Persecution causes you to lean on and learn from Him.
  • Persecution ignites your prayer life like nothing else.
  • Persecution binds you together with other saints.
  • Persecution motivates you to be filled and controlled by the Spirit daily (Eph. 5:18).
  • Persecution verifies you are living a godly, holy life (2 Tim. 3:12).
  • Persecution verifies you are following our Lord’s example (1 Pet. 2:20-21).
  • Persecution emboldens you to speak even more creatively and loudly (Acts 16).

I don’t know what you are facing right now, I don’t know who is arrayed against you and is making your life difficult because you are a person of steadfast faith, and I don’t know the tears you have shed because of your complex situation, but this I do know: persecution is a reality for those who follow Christ, so accept this truth, and know that your Lord is doing some incredible, necessary things in the heat of the furnace to prepare you for your entrance into His Davidic empire when He returns to establish it as prophesied.

So, in the meantime, realize that persecution is a reality of walking with Jesus, and never forget your loving Lord is working even in this unthinkable event.  In addition, we all need to look forward to God’s ultimate plan and gain insight and much-needed hope.  Paul guides us in this direction as he speaks about . . .

The Retribution For Persecution (2 Thess. 1:6-10)

God, the epitome of justice, will one day bring about ultimately just outcomes.  The wicked right now deceive themselves into thinking their opposition to the Faith and its followers is without eternal repercussions.  They couldn’t be further from the truth, according to Paul.  One day, what goes around will come around.  One day, the first shall be last and the last first. One day, the persecutors will be the persecuted, and their judgment will not be temporary but eternal. Here is how Paul opens up this spine-tingling point:

6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

These verses teach us several things about God’s retribution for those who persecute His children.

One, divine retribution is promised (vv. 6-7). Remember those twenty-one Coptic Christian men dressed in orange jumpsuits and beheaded by Islamic terrorists in Libya in 2015? God remembers them. He knows the names of each man who did the dirty deed, and each man will be held accountable to Him on the day of judgment.  Every attorney who is paid handsomely for suing Christians and Christian institutions for not abandoning their biblical principles when approached by people who hold views of sexuality not condoned by the  Bible will have their day in God’s divine court, and it will not go well for them.  If you are opposed to the Faith, I must warn you: God will deal with you, and His justice will be perfect.  A wise person will recognize their sin and turn to Him in faith so they will not experience the wrath of His pent-up retribution.

Two, divine retribution is purposeful (vv. 6-7). It is purposeful insofar as it fulfills the demands of divine justice.  It is also purposeful as it brings lasting relief to God’s persecuted people. The Greek for “relief” speaks of releasing something experiencing high tension.  Think of the string on a bow.  If it could talk it would say, “Could you release the tension so I can relax?” Perhaps you, as a Christian, can relate.  What you are facing right now because of your faith has you in a state of prolonged tension, and it’s wearing on you, costing you sleep and joy. Peace can be yours today as you cast your care on Christ (1 Pet. 5:7) and develop an ardent prayer life (Phil. 4:6-7); however, inner peace can also be secured by looking down the halls of time and realizing that one day the persecutor will be divinely persecuted, the evil one will meet with the Holy One, and the tormentor will become the tormented by none other than Almighty God.  What could be more fearsome and final?

Three, divine  retribution is planned (vv. 6-7). It will be meted out when Jesus appears with His flaming angels to exact judgment on the wicked.  When will this occur? This is not the Rapture of the Church, for this occurs before the Tribulation.  It transpires at Christ’s Second Coming when He is revealed in the cosmic darkness of the Tribulation at the end of these seven years of divine wrath.  Jesus told us this much in His Olivet Discourse before His crucifixion:

29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, 30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matt. 24).

When the armies of the world are gathered in the Valley of Armageddon to rid the world of Jews once and for all when the lights of the cosmos will be turned off, and thick darkness will enshroud the world, Jesus will break through from His dimension into ours and the flaming angels will be a portend of His consuming judgment against the godless (Rev. 19).  No wonder Paul says Christ will be “revealed.”  The Greek here is apokalupsis (ἀποκάλυψις), and it literally means to remove a veil that hides someone or something from view.  When Jesus removes the veil that keeps us from seeing His dimension in our dimension, His glory will flood the earth like a million suns, leaving the godless stunned and stammering. From what we know from other prophecies, He will, at that time, destroy the military forces of the world and will then set up a tribunal to settle divine scores.  Sheep will enjoy His blessings.  Goats, or unbelievers, will immediately be given a divine taste of His brand of judgment. None will escape, nor will the most erudite and educated be able to talk their way out of His judicial decisions regarding their opposition to Him and His people (Matt. 25:31-46).

Four, divine retribution is particular (vv. 8).  In God’s mind, you are either a saint because you placed your faith in Christ (John 5:24-25; Rom. 10:9), or you are a sinner who is under His wrath (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  Jesus said saints walk the narrow path into heaven, while sinners walk the broad freeway into eternal destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).  Here is Paul’s version of this:

8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

God will judge all those who willingly chose to reject Him and His gospel, who felt they didn’t need God in their lives, didn’t think they were sinners in need of a Savior, and opposed Christians who believed otherwise.  To “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” doesn’t mean you have to do works to be saved. If it were possible to be saved by works, then Christ for no reason. But Christ did die a substitutionary death for sinners because it was only through His death could God’s wrath against sin and sinners be settled (Rom. 3:25;  5:1-8; 1 John 4:10).  This unique phrase, as used in the NT, describes the point in time act of conversion based on your repentance and faith in Jesus to forgive your sin, cleanse your spirit of the stain of sin, and make you His child (2 Cor. 5:17).  If you are saved, you will not be the object of God’s evidence-backed retribution; however, if you are not saved, then He, as Judge, will give you everything coming to you in judgment.

Why not come to Him in faith today and experience His mercy, grace, and restoration? Time is short, so do not delay your decision.

Five, divine retribution is perpetual (vv. 9-10). This is not my thinking. It is God’s.

9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.

Who are “these”? The word denotes all unbelievers with no exceptions. Those who have sinned against an infinite God will experience infinite judgment in hell.

Concerning the eternal destruction of the wicked, I must pause and offer a few biblical points.

One, all people will go to one place or the other: heaven or hell.  Those who trust in Christ as Savior will be the only ones permitted in heaven (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Acts 4:12).  All others will be assigned to hell by their choice (John 3:18, 36; 8:24).

Two, Jesus spoke the most about hell's existence, and He frequently warned people not to go here:

28 And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10).

49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13).

If you have a problem with the topic, discuss it with Jesus.

Three, hell, according to Jesus, is a real place where there is consciousness, you remember who you are, you remember unsaved family members, you experience a burning sensation but your spiritual body is not consumed (at the beginning of the messianic kingdom, the Beast and the False Prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire and after 1,000 years of torment they are still there at the end of the kingdom age; Rev. 19:20; 20:10.No where do we encounter the souls of the lost being annihilated.), you can see into heaven and you can see water, you sense thirst by it cannot ever be quenched (Luke 16:19-31), you experience teeth gnashing pain (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30), there is thick darkness even though there is supernatural fire (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), and you are entirely alone, cut off from others and the presence and person of God. I cannot understand why you wouldn’t turn to Christ in faith today for all of these reasons.  His retributive justice will be beyond anything you can imagine, but He waits to shower His forgiveness on all those who bow their knees before Him as the Savior.  What are you waiting for?

Four, hell is, according to Jesus, eternal punishment.  The same word describes heaven as everlasting, viz., aionion (αἰώνιον) is the same word used to describe the duration of hell (2 Thess. 1:9).  And since saints enjoy everlasting, ageless life, sinners will experience everlasting, ageless life in this horrid, horrific place of torment originally designed for the Devil and his angels ( Matt. 25:41). The same Greek word is also used to describe the nature of God as eternal (Rom. 16:26).  Since He cannot be annihilated, neither can the lost who are described by the identical word. The concept of annihilation of the soul is not biblical.  It speaks of immediate destruction, while the Scriptures (specifically Jesus) speak of perpetual torment. Further, after all of the lost were annihilated, it would stand to reason the fire of God’s judgment would be extinguished, but such is not the case. His fire of judgment is eternal (Matt. 18:8; 25:41).  Finally, if the souls of the lost are annihilated this contradicts the Scriptures that teach hell is eternal darkness (“for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever,” Jude 1:13).

Be forewarned.  God will bring retributive justice and judgment against all who opposed the Faith and the faithful.  If you know you will be part of this group right now, I challenge you to do the wisest thing you could ever do and turn right now to Christ in faith. Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish Pharisaical class in Jesus’s day, made this decision 2,000 years ago (John 3).  If he were here today, I'm sure he’d tell you it was the best decision he ever made. So, do this, and He will forgive you and make you His child.  Fail to do this, and your eternal destiny will be your choice.

]If you are a saint today, then be hopeful for the hostility you experience now for following Christ, the cost you are paying for standing on His truths, the loss of friends, family, and earning power you experienced will all be settled when Jesus appears to set the record straight (because He has all the evidence to act most justly).

Paul closes this introductory word designed to encourage beleaguered saints with one more point related to how they should function in hostile times:

The Road Of The Persecuted (2 Thess. 1:11-12)

Like a loving, godly pastor, Paul shares his heart here:

11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul had two precise prayers for these saints, and these are certainly prayers I have for myself and you:

  • One, that we live the life of faith. We wouldn’t just study, read, and listen to podcasts about it, but traffic in lived truth.  This is the kind of Christian a hostile culture needs.  They need to see a saint whose life is transformed by the power of the gospel and the Word of God.  How are you doing?
  • Two, that we would live a life of good works. Jesus is our model here.  We should study and emulate Him well every day.  By the power of the Spirit, He spent time with broken, addicted, hopeless, confused, spiritually hungry people, not to mention social outcasts and ethnicities his people wouldn’t even talk to or be near.  He spent time with them, loved on them, cared for them and their needs, and pointed them to the path of forgiveness and eternal life.  How are you doing in this area of good work? Are you working or hardly working?  One day, you will account for how well you fulfilled Christ’s model (Mark 10:42).  I pray you will be smiling on that day.

Why should we do any of this anyway?  Simple: Unlike the world, we live to make sure our lives glorify the God who created and saved us.  God, may we continue to give you the glory you deserve. And may we not lose hope that soon, and very soon, your justice shall reign when you come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.