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The Day Of The LORD
The Church often has severe trials and persecutions here, and will indeed face the times of the Great Tribulation. The Tribulation is the time when Satan will sorely afflict the people of God - both backslidden Israel, and the church. However, that is NOT the same as the Day of Wrath (also referred to as the Day of the LORD). The Day of the LORD is the day when the enemies of Israel face the wrath of Almighty God, culminating with the great battle of Armageddon. This lesson takes an in-depth look at this great subject.
There are many reasons for being a Christian, but there is little doubt that all of us cherish the consolation we have in knowing that our lives are safe in the hands of God. We believe that our God and Creator is the epitome of love and graciousness toward those who live to please Him.
At the same time, we also know that God is a righteous judge who cannot 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). Goodness and severity are contrasting forces by which God expresses Himself toward us all.
It is critically important to know beyond any question that we are in good standing with God. It would be tragic to be crushed by God's wrath for some disobedience when we could have easily appeased Him if we had only been more thoughtful of living in compliance to His will.
God is not willing that anyone should perish because of sin. He prefers that we repent and thereby appropriate His grace. (That is a universal theme throughout the Bible.) He 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?”
It is imperative that we understand the terms of God’s wrath if we hope to escape it.
Our generation does not know or understand the things that God loves and hates. The vast majority of people expect to go to heaven when they die, although they have little or no interest in knowing exactly what God requires of them to be saved. They are not in compliance with His teachings and commandments. What a tragic surprise they will have when they find themselves standing before Almighty God in judgment and discover that God cannot compromise His promises and His word!
This lesson focuses on Paul’s admonitions to the Thessalonian church in 2 Thessalonians 1, concerning God’s grace and wrath in the last days.
2 Thessalonians 1
4. So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
First, we will see that perhaps the most dramatic event of the Bible will be the outpouring of God’s fury in the great Day of the Lord.
Secondly, we will see that true believers are promised enormous consolation in the most troubling time on the calendar of mankind.
Thirdly, it should become apparent that no matter what tribulation the saints of God are required to endure, tribulation will NEVER be as dreadful as the sufferings of sinners under the wrath of God.
I. Faith and Love in the Midst of Persecutions and Tribulations (vs. 3-4)
The Church at Thessalonica was born in the fire of persecution and tribulation. Paul and his companion, Silas founded this church on his second missionary journey in the midst of violent opposition. (See Acts 17:1-15). His converts were mostly Gentiles because the Jews of the synagogue in Thessalonica fought viciously against the Gospel that Paul preached. When Paul fled to Berea and found a receptive congregation in the synagogue there, the Thessalonian Jews pursued him and strove to turn the Bereans against him too.
The great struggles, persecutions and tribulations that Paul and all the believers were forced to cope with did not prevent a courageous Church from springing up.
Herein is a profound maxim. Tribulation that comes from the world, the flesh and the devil does nothing to diminish true believers - it only bolsters their faith and determination.
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 furnishes us with a chronicle and 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.
A. Thankfulness for a Growing Faith
Paul expressed his thanks to God for the Thessalonians’ “exceedingly growing faith” despite their adverse environment. Their record showed evidence that believers who face fiery trials can still have the joy of the Lord.
God requires 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 ultimately be strengthened 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).
B. Thankfulness for a Growing Love
He took note of their abounding love (charity) for one another. One trademark of Christianity is the camaraderie that results when believers 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.
C. A Place to Glory in Patience and Faith
Paul (in verse 4) 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.” Therefore, the patience and faith of the Thessalonians caused many outside their congregation to shine brightly! 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.
D. A Place 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, frequent imprisonment, 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 not ascribed to the accumulation of wealth, but to the relentless and faithful endurance of the righteous.
II. Fire and Vengeance in God’s Judgment (vs. 5-10)
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).
A. The Saint’s Persecution Makes God’s Judgment Righteous
“It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you,” (2 Thessalonians 1:6). Here we observe 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 1:8-9).
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.
B. 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 endtime saints was fulfilled. It is curious that these saints were given rest while earthly saints were being killed, but this shows 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 endtime church have endured their respective tribulation. Then, together, the saints of all the ages will enter into their eternal rest.
C. 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 from ancient prophecy that God has always intended to destroy the wicked. “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)
D. Sinners’ Judgment Is Exclusion and Damnation; Saints’ Reward Is Inclusion and Glorification
Among the sentences pronounced on the wicked, scripture lists separation from God, being cast into outer darkness, to a place of torment, weeping, and gnashing of teeth in a place that burns with fire and brimstone.
By 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, and all will have eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions," then added, "I go to prepare a place for you." There will be golden streets, pearly gates, jasper walls, a crystal sea and a river of life proceeding from the throne of God, which is surrounded by an angelic choir of a hundred million voices.
III. The Saints’ Day – The Coming of the Lord (vs. 10-12)
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”!
A. Christ Shall 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.
B. Pray to Be Worthy 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.
C. 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.
D. Saint’s Goal is That Christ Be Glorified In Him
Before Stephen was stoned to death, he had faithfully testified to an unbelieving crowd of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In response, a mixed multitude of people raised up false witnesses, accusations of blasphemy, and proceedings 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 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!
IV. The Sinners’ Day – The Day of the Lord (vs. 2:1-3)
The Day of the Lord will be the most horrific event ever to come upon the human race. “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).
A. Saints Not To Lose Faith in His Coming
In verse one, Paul speaks of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,” clearly referring to the “rapture,” when Jesus comes to gather his saints. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Some commentators say that some of the Thessalonians had misunderstood Paul’s first epistle to them, and were much afraid that the coming of the Lord was imminent. Other commentators express a belief 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 events had transpired.
B. 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.” We see the same two events mentioned earlier. The saint’s day and the sinner’s day. Noah and his family were saved, and 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.” Lot and his family were saved, and the rest of the people were destroyed – the saint’s day and the sinner’s day.
C. The Falling Away and the Revealing of the Son of Perdition Precede the Day of the Lord.
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.
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;” (v. 3).
This “man of sin” and “son of perdition” refers to “the prince that shall come,” (Daniel 9:17) who would confirm a seven-year covenant with Israel, fulfilling Daniel’s seventieth week (Daniel 9:27). This evil man would 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.
V. The Son of Perdition Described (vs. 3-10)
We can know that the Day of the Lord has not yet come until 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,” (v. 4). Many believe that this event will take place in a reconstructed Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
A. Falling Away Reveals 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 endtime 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 endtime prophecy.
Many Apostolic churches are experiencing great revival in these last days. Unfortunately, there appears to be a great departure from the faith among others, abandoning the great 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 certainly a warning sign that the man of sin will soon appear.
B. Shows 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).
C. Mystery of Iniquity Already At Work
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 is a deceiver. We have seen doctrinal deviates for centuries, but this man will be the incarnation of deception and God-hate.
D. The Lord Shall Consume and Destroy Him
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,” (v. 7). In this enormously significant event, Satan’s empire is doomed.
E. His Power Is That of Satan to Deceive
In this enormously significant event, Satan’s empire is doomed because his figurehead and mouthpiece will be destroyed.
VI. The Value of Truth (vs. 10-12)
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, while every lie that has ever been spoken will suddenly fail.
A. Workings of Satan Are Against the Truth
Paul’s counsel to the Thessalonians poignantly described the spiritual climate in the last days. Antichrist would rise on the tidal wave of deception within the religious community. These prophecies do not speak 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 endtime. Paul compared the endtime 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 of anything that looks amazingly like the true Church yet it does not preach the foundational doctrines of the original New Testament church.
B. Without Truth We Perish
Paul warned about people who perish because they never received the love of the truth. We must love 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.
C. Without a Love for Truth, We Can Be Deceived. With A Love for Truth We Can Be Saved.
The “deceivableness of unrighteousness” is a unique phrase. 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).
D. God Sends A Delusion To Some So They Will Think A Lie Is The Truth, And Be Damned
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 endtime 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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