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Behold the GOODNESS
and the SEVERITY of God
God has infinite mercy, but He also has horrifying wrath.
It is far better to suffer tribulation with righteous men
than to suffer God's wrath with the wicked.
By Ken Raggio
There are many reasons for being a Christian.
People come to God for mercy. True believers cherish the consolation of knowing their lives are safe in the hands of a loving God. We happily believe that our God and Creator is the epitome of love and graciousness toward those who love Him and live to please Him.
At the same time, we are obliged to acknowledge that our God is a very holy and righteous judge who will not suffer evil to stand in His presence. Paul said,
“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off,” (Romans 11:22).
Cut off by God? Cut off forever? That is a frightening thought.
Nevertheless, God's goodness and severity are equal realities. Like it or not, God smiles on things He approves of, but frowns on things that displease Him. In stronger terms, He blesses what He likes, but He curses what He hates.
Because He is our Creator, and because we owe our lives to Him, the inescapable reality is that we will certainly answer to Him for the lives we live.
It is critically important to know if we are in good standing with God.
It is always tragic anytime someone has to face the wrath of God for any disobedience, but it is even more tragic if we might have easily appeased God by some thoughtful compliance to His will, but neglected to do so.
God is not willing for us to perish because of our sins. He always prefers that we repent and thereby appropriate His grace. God takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel saying,
“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
If we hope to escape the wrath of God, it is imperative that we understand when and why He is provoked.
If we act irresponsibly or ignorantly, we license our own condemnation.
Our generation is ignorant of God. It does not know or comprehend the things that anger God. This generation's sins reach to the high heavens.
Strangely enough, it appears that nearly everyone expects to go to heaven! Even though they really do not know God, and do not know anything about pleasing God, they expect to be rewarded with eternal bliss. This is shocking ignorance.
Imagine that you were called to stand before God in judgment TODAY. Would you be able to persuade Him that you genuinely love Him, and believe in Him, and have lived a life that has been in conscious compliance and obedience to His will?
Countless multitudes are going to have a terrifying surprise when they awake in the presence of Almighty God at the judgment bar and discover, all too late, that He will have no mercy whatsoever on those who have totally neglected to live according to His will.
Do you even have a desire to do God's perfect will? Or are you so consumed with selfish living that you fail to even consider God's wishes? Be warned. That is a fatal mistake.
Let me illustrate the concepts I am speaking of.
The men and women in the New Testament church at Thessalonica lived amidst great fires of persecution and tribulation by hostile fellow-citizens. Paul and his companion, Silas founded this church on his second missionary journey in the midst of violent opposition. (See Acts 17:1-15).
The people who were converted by Paul's preaching were mostly Gentiles, because the Jews of the synagogue in Thessalonica fought viciously against Paul's gospel.
When Paul fled to the town of Berea, he found a receptive congregation in the synagogue there. But the hostile Jews from Thessalonica pursued after him, and worked viciously to turn the Bereans against him.
The agonizing struggles, persecutions and tribulations that Paul and all the believers were forced to cope with did not prevent that courageous Church from springing up and being strong.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Paul expressed his confidence that God would not fail to punish the evil people who had troubled the church. This is a powerful statement. Read it carefully.
"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints."
These statements should strike fear in the heart of a sinner!
Three things are extremely clear from this passage.
1. God will recompense tribulation to those who trouble the saints.
2. God will take vengeance on them that know not God.
3. Disobedient people will be punished with everlasting destruction.
Here we see the two great hazards all men must face. On one hand, godly believers are certainly vulnerable and exposed to trouble from the world, the flesh and the devil.
But on the other hand, we are ALL vulnerable to the wrath of God if we do not believe.
If we want to be acceptable to the world, we risk being unacceptable to God, and invoking His wrath. I believe it is FAR BETTER to suffer whatever harm the world may inflict on you, than to become the enemy of God by taking sides with the world.
The moral and message here is this: We should gladly learn to endure hardship on earth rather than disown Him.
Any trials we face are extremely small when compared to the awful wrath of God we will face if we disobey Him.
There is no excuse for disobedience. Anybody can live a godly, obedient life if they want to.
Even under even the harshest of circumstances, living for God has the most positive outcome.
Our faithful love and service to God will gain for us an exceeding great reward.
Conversely, our disobedience will earn an unspeakable punishment.
If we compare sufferings at the hand of Satan and his cohorts with sufferings at the hands of an angry God, there simply is no comparison.
Satan’s wrath cannot compare to God’s wrath.
Satan’s wrath can certainly be endured with God’s help. Virtually every major Bible character is an example of saints triumphing in tribulation.
God’s wrath, however, is only dreadful. There is no consolation for those who are recipients of God’s wrath.
Paul’s admonitions to the Thessalonians concerning God’s grace and wrath in the prophesied last days helps us understand what we need to know.
1. The most dramatic event of the Bible will be the outpouring of God’s fury on the great Day of the Lord.
2. True believers are promised enormous consolation during the most troubling time on the calendar of mankind.
3. No matter what tribulation the saints of God are required to endure, it will never be as dreadful as the sufferings of sinners under the wrath of God.
God has always required true believers to accept and endure their trials.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy,” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Our faith and confidence in God will be strengthened profoundly by our difficult experiences.
“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, (Romans 5:3-5).
One trademark of Christianity is the camaraderie that believers find when they share their testimonies of God’s deliverance in trials. We support one another; we love and minister to one another when we realize that our brothers and sisters are going through tests and trials similar to those we have already endured. We feel especially compassionate toward those who are our own spiritual kindred, and we take delight in showing affection, moral support, and even material blessings.
Paul said that he and his other churches gloried in the patience and faith of the Thessalonians. A simple definition of the word “glory” is “brightness.”
So the patience and faith of the Thessalonians in their tribulations caused many people outside their congregation to shine brightly!
Our brave endurance and obedience inspires other people to righteous living!
This can be seen in our own local congregations, when dedicated saints of God cause others to be inspired and encouraged, and to shine with the glory of God.
It is expedient for all believers to be patient and maintain their faith even when going through great trials or being bitterly opposed. The glory of God can be seen in their lives, and the “ripple effect” is that other people observe and learn from their example, and the glory of God is passed to an entire community.
We are taught to glory in persecutions and tribulations.
Modern Christianity is plagued with deceptive preaching suggesting that God promises us material prosperity with a lifestyle of luxury, comfort and earthly power and glory. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Jesus taught that His disciples must practice self-denial and suffer persecution. We must “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” (2 Timothy 2:3). Any time a church becomes popular with the secular crowd, something is awry.
Paul insisted that his glory was in his infirmities.
Take for example, the sufferings of Paul:
abundant labors and journeying,
suffering stripes above measure,
numerous near-death experiences,
beaten with thirty-nine stripes on five separate occasions,
beaten with rods three times,
stoned and left for dead once,
shipwrecked three times,
treading water in the sea for 24 hours,
“In perils of waters,
in perils of robbers,
in perils by mine own countrymen,
in perils by the heathen,
in perils in the city,
in perils in the wilderness,
in perils in the sea,
in perils among false brethren;
in weariness and painfulness,
in watchings often,
in hunger and thirst,
in fastings often,
in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things that are without,
that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches,”
(2 Corinthians 11).
In the very few occasions in scripture where God makes note of anyone’s prosperity, it almost always follows a testimony of profound testing and trials. (Consider Joseph, Job, and Jesus Christ).
Even then, the glory of God is seen not in the accumulation of wealth, but in the relentless and faithful endurance of the righteous.
God judges with fire and vengeance.
Let us not forget that tribulation does not originate mindlessly.
From the first story in the Bible, we can see that it is SATAN who provokes God’s people out of measure. SATAN provoked Adam and Eve, and they were blind-sided. SATAN never comes for any other reason than to “steal, kill, or destroy.” Make no mistake about it - God takes note of your enemy’s assault. In the case of Adam and Eve, God swore that He would get even with the devil, prophesying the triumph of Messiah over him. (See Genesis 3:15).
It is important to realize that God does not give Satan unlimited access to try the saint of God.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The saints' persecution validates God’s judgment.
“It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you,” (2 Thessalonians 1:6).
Here is a fascinating attribute of God: His vengeance.
Vengeance is defined as punishment inflicted in return for an injury or an offense; retribution; often, in a bad sense, passionate or unrestrained revenge.
God will certainly revenge Himself and His children of every offense. He declared in Deuteronomy 32:41,
“I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.”
Paul stressed the awfulness of God’s wrath prophetically.
“...the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
It is unthinkable that a righteous God would tolerate sin and evil indefinitely. Sooner or later, God has to sanctify His own cause and abolish every offense and every offender.
The saints who are troubled will rest when the Lord comes to pronounce judgment.
Rest assured that God plans to take vengeance on your adversaries. In Revelation 6, John saw in heaven the souls of the martyrs from the early church.
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled," (Revelation 6:10,11).
Those early saints were told to rest for a little season until the martyrdom of the end time saints was fulfilled. It is curious that these saints were given rest while earthly saints were being killed, but this gives us evidence of the reality of eternal rest after we have completed our purpose in this world.
Ultimately, this passage shows that God’s final vengeance is reserved until both the early church and the end time church have endured their respective tribulation. Then, together, the saints of all the ages will enter into their eternal rest.
The Lord will take vengeance and punish with everlasting destruction.
We know that God has always planned to save the righteous, because the Lamb of God was “slain from the foundation of the world.”
In a similar way, we know that God has always intended to destroy the wicked, from ancient prophecy.
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him,” (Jude 1:14,15)
The judgment of sinners is exclusion and damnation.
The reward of the righteous is inclusion and glorification.
Among the sentences pronounced on the wicked:
• separation from God
• being cast into outer darkness
• a place of torment, weeping, gnashing of teeth
• in a place that burns with fire and brimstone.
In extreme contrast, the righteous will:
• enter into the joys of the Lord
• into a city whose builder and maker is God
• there will be no tears, no darkness
• all will have eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ
• there will be heavenly mansions, golden streets
• pearly gates, jasper walls, a crystal sea
• a river of life proceeding from the throne of God
• which is surrounded by an angelic choir of 100 million voices.
The Saints’ Day - The Coming of the Lord
On one great day of all days, and sometime soon, Jesus Christ will bring to a climax all the purpose of man when He gathers up all His saints, His “precious jewels” (Malachi 3:17), and redeems them for all eternity.
What a glorious event for every child of God since the beginning of time!
The dead in Christ will rise and the living saints shall be caught up to meet with them in the air. No wonder we call it “rapture”!
Jesus Christ will be glorified in His Saints.
Jesus spoke of the glory He had with the Father before the world was. The Son of Man did not exist before the world was because He was begotten in the fullness of time by the womb of Mary.
Jesus did, however, exist in the mind of God, and His purpose and glory was pre-conceived. The original glory of Jesus Christ, Son of Man, derived from the heart of the Supreme Deity. Jesus is full of glory without any addition from creation or creatures.
Remarkably, however, God has added glory to glory by receiving honor from His beloved creation, mankind. Because of His wondrous love and mercy, countless multitudes of men and women down through the centuries have renounced the world, the flesh and the devil, and have willingly sacrificed their lives to the Kingdom of God, and to the cause of Jesus Christ.
Pray to be counted worthy for the prize of this calling.
Knowing that the wicked shall be turned into hell (Psalm 9:17), and that there is no reward for the wicked (Proverbs 24:20), no sane person should want to be numbered with the wicked.
On the other hand, there is a reward for the righteous (Psalm 58:11).
Paul said that he was pressing toward the mark for the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14). God’s high calling is the ultimate prize. To be called into the favor and presence of God is life’s greatest reward.
Strive to fulfill His good pleasure and the work of faith.
It is more than reasonable to offer God our devoted service, striving every day to give pleasure to Him, and to perform the works of faith that prove that our faith is not dead (James 2:17). Our “living sacrifice” is our reasonable service.
The saint's goal should be that Christ will be glorified in him or her.
Before Stephen was stoned to death, he faithfully testified to an unbelieving crowd of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In response, a mixed multitude of people raised up false witnesses, accused him of blasphemy, and proceeded to kill him.
Stephen’s consecration brought profound glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ that day. “And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." (Acts 6:15).
In his dying, Stephen saw directly into heaven and literally saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of the throne of God.
Modern Christians would do well to learn from Stephen how to stand faithfully for Jesus in the face of clear and present danger. What an unspeakable glory it brings to Jesus.
The Day of the Lord means salvation for saints, damnation for sinners.
The Day of the Lord will be the most horrific event ever to come upon the human race.
The prophecy says, “The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:15-17).
The saints' hope is in the promise of His coming.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, Paul speaks of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.” This is a clear reference to the so-called “rapture,” when Jesus comes to gather his saints. (See also 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).
Several commentators say that the Thessalonian church had been told by some that Jesus had already come.
Paul assured them that Jesus HAD NOT YET COME, NOR WOULD HE COME until certain prophetic events transpired.
The Day of the Lord will come as declared.
Jesus likened that day to Noah’s day and Lot’s day. In Luke 17:27, he said,
“the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.”
NOTICE VERY CAREFULLY! The SAME day Noah went in the ark (mercy on saints) the flood came (wrath on sinners).
We see the same two events mentioned earlier; the saints’ day and the sinners’ day.
Noah and his family were saved, but the sinners were destroyed.
Again, in Lot’s day, (v. 29),
“the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all…”
The SAME DAY that Lot and his family were saved, the rest of the people were destroyed.
In both stories - Noah and Lot - it was a day for saints and a day for sinners - the SAME DAY!
This is how the end time prophecies will also be fulfilled.
The Bibles says that BEFORE the Day of the Lord comes, there will be a great "falling away" (apostasy in the church) and the Son of Perdition (the Antichrist) will be revealed.
It is said that one third of the Bible is prophetic in nature.
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets,” (Amos 3:7).
God obviously wants us to know and understand what lies ahead for His people.
So we know that there will be a great day of wrath from the Lord because time and again the scripture speaks of the day of the Lord. Paul emphasized to the Thessalonians,
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
This “man of sin” and “son of perdition” refers to “the prince that shall come,” (Daniel 9:17) who will confirm a seven-year covenant with Israel, fulfilling Daniel’s seventieth week (Daniel 9:27).
This same evil man will also commit “the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14). He is also the first beast of Revelation 13, and is commonly called the Antichrist.
We can know that the Day of the Lord has not yet come until after this Antichrist is manifest,
“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God,” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
This abominable event will take place in a reconstructed Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
The great "falling away" also helps reveal the man of sin.
In verse 3, Paul teaches that the coming of Antichrist will be preceded by a falling away. Other versions substitute the words “apostasy” and “rebellion.”
Apostasy is "abandonment of one’s religious faith, one’s principles, or a cause." This could only refer to problems in the end time church. No other entity could fulfill this prophecy. Israel has been “cut off” according to the Apostle Paul, since their rejection of Jesus Christ nearly 2000 years ago, and their apostasy would not fulfill an end time prophecy.
Many churches are experiencing great revival in these last days. Unfortunately, there is also a great departure from the faith among others, abandoning the great Bible doctrines of the oneness of God, water baptism in Jesus’ name, the essentiality of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, and the practice of holy, godly, separated living.
This is a certain warning sign that the man of sin will soon appear.
The man of sin will show himself as God.
This vile man will exalt himself as God, showing his spirit to be that of Lucifer himself, who said in his heart, “I will be as the most High,” (Isaiah 14:14).
The mystery of iniquity is at work right now.
John was the only Bible writer to use the term “antichrist,” but he used it five times to describe anyone who denies the Father and the Son, confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and deceivers. We have seen doctrinal deviants throughout the centuries, but this man will be the incarnation of deception and God-hate.
The Lord shall utterly consume and destroy the man of sin.
Not surprising, the Day of the Lord will include the climatic confrontation between the man of sin and the Man of Righteousness, Jesus Christ.
“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming,” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
The power of Antichrist is that of Satan - to deceive!
In this enormously significant event, Satan’s empire is doomed because his figurehead and mouthpiece will be destroyed.
This is the triumph of truth over lies, good over evil.
In the final analysis, the Day of the Lord is all about Truth triumphing over Satan’s lies.
Not one jot or tittle of the word of God will fail, but every lie that has ever been spoken will suddenly fail.
All the workings of Satan from the beginning of time are against the Truth.
Paul’s counsel to the Thessalonians poignantly described the spiritual climate in the last days.
Antichrist will rise on the tidal wave of deception within the religious community. These prophecies do not speak only of political or governmental deceptions. They speak of spiritual deceptions.
“All power and signs and lying wonders,” designed to undermine even the most stalwart of saints. Never in the history of the world has Satan been more deceptive than in the end time.
Paul compared the end time deception to the experience Moses had in Pharaoh’s court.
“Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith,” (2 Timothy 3:8).
Beware anything that looks amazingly like the true Church yet it does not preach the foundational doctrines of the original New Testament church.
For those who love truth - Goodness of God.
For those who love evil - Severity of God.
All your eternal destiny is predicated on your love or lack of love for divine truth.
Paul warned about people who perish because they never received the love of the truth. We must love TRUTH more than gospel music, dramas, and church fellowship meetings. Any congregation and any denomination can furnish those things. But a church that loves truth will preach the whole counsel of God.
Without a love for truth, we will be deceived, but with a love for truth, we will find truth.
The “deceivableness of unrighteousness” is a unique phrase from Paul's epistle to the Romans. It reveals an alarming potential for saints to be deceived when they abandon the standards of holiness and righteousness.
King Saul received an evil spirit from the Lord when he stopped loving truth.
King Ahab received a lying spirit from the Lord when he chose to hear his false prophets rather than the true prophet.
God chooses our delusions. Jesus becomes a stumbling block instead of a cornerstone.
The wisdom of all the ages cries, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32).
To those who do not love truth, God sends a strong delusion that they will believe a lie to be truth, and be damned - the severity of God.
It would be difficult to find a more frightening plight than to discover that God Himself had sentenced you to a strong delusion, and you could no longer believe the truth. The warnings from Paul are sobering and alarming. The person who finds pleasure in unrighteousness will be damned on judgment day.
The Christian public is fascinated with end time prophecy. The works of one single prophecy author has been described as a “modern publishing phenomenon.”
Yet the scripture warns of men who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” (2 Timothy 3:7).
A real believer will be comforted by the promise of the second coming of Jesus Christ, but will also be careful to observe the warning signs that tell us when He will return.
To the sinner, the Day of the Lord will come as a thief, but the Saint will be fully aware and prepared.
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober,” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6).
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