Pastor’s Bible Reading Notes – Dec 3/17

Introduction: In this second week of Bible notes on 2 Thessalonians, we learn that Paul’s emphasis in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 on the beauty and the glory of Christ’s return is very practical and beneficial for the Christian’s life on earth. To help us see both the beauty and the practicality of Christ’s return and how helpful a focus on the next world is to life in the here and now, I will quote from two different Christian scholars this week.

Mon/Tues: read 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12 and Colossians 3:12-17. Is our admiration of the glory of Christ as it shines through our fellow saints an activity which we must reserve only for when Christ returns in 2 Thessalonians 1:10? Can we not begin to see the ‘Heavenliness’ of the lives of fellow Christians down here, and may we not benefit now from the beginnings of Heaven in each other in terms of the Heavenly graces of love, forgiveness and peace which we see increasing in our fellow believers?

According to Colossians 3:12ff and Dr. William Dennison’s comments on these verses in the April 2001 edition of New Horizons (available at opc.org), we are to cultivate such glorious attributes (and appreciate them in each other) even now in this life:

… The people in Christ’s church are to bear with one another, forgive each other, and put on love—the bond of unity (Col. 3:13-14). Why? … because these are the characteristics of heaven. Is it not true that in heaven we will bear with each other, that we will forgive each other as Christ has forgiven us, and that we will be bound together by the love of Jesus Christ? Since this will be true in the final state of heaven, the church, as she is presently in union with Jesus Christ, must possess these characteristics of conduct on earth.

Finally, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, and let the word of Christ richly dwell in you, as you do all things in the name of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:15-17). Why? Because, as we read in the book of Revelation, the final state of the people of God will be to worship the Lamb of God eternally (see Rev. 5). Since the peace, word, and work of Christ are eternal, the church of Jesus Christ must live this truth presently on earth. Thus, the church and her saints have no right to do things for the glory of their own personal name. Rather, they must do all things for the name of the one who is eternally glorified—Jesus!

Hopefully, it is now obvious: the life of the church (on earth) is a resurrection life and a heavenly existence. That is why the truth of Christ’s resurrection is not a once-a-year event which we post on an ecclesiastical calendar at Easter. Rather, through the power of Christ’s resurrection, the church’s whole existence is a life of resurrection. The church truly exists in heaven, and even here on earth, because of Christ’s resurrection. For this reason, Paul tells us that our lives are to be dead to immorality, impurity, lust, greed, and idolatry, because these are the characteristics of living under the power of our fleshly nature. Such characteristics do not exemplify the heavenly life—the resurrection life.

Wed/Thurs: read 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12 and Acts 2:33-36. We learned yesterday, with Dr. William Dennison’s help, that Heaven does in fact matter for our lives down here. The graces of the Christian life (such as faith, wisdom, hope, love, forgiveness and peace) are Heavenly virtues sent down to live within us. We could call such gifts from above “seeds of the glory to come.” They really point us to the Holy Spirit, sent by the Ascended Lord Jesus (Acts 2:33), to bring down from Heaven the very gifts and graces of future glory. He is the One who gives us all the Heavenly graces by which we bring glory to the Risen and Returning Lord Jesus as we live our lives down here.

Meditate and Pray: Do you see that all the virtues which this violent, deadly, cold, unloving world needs can only be found when by faith we are connected to Heaven? No wonder C.S. Lewis writes as follows from his essay entitled ‘Hope’:

The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth “thrown in”: aim at Earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule… We must learn to want something else more.

 

Most of us find it very difficult to want “Heaven’ at all – except insofar as “Heaven” means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it.

(C.S. Lewis ‘Hope’ in his book The Joyful Christian)

Fri/Sat/Sun: read 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12 and Philippians 3:20-21. The reason that “seeds of glory” are planted now within the believer by the Holy Spirit, is because the primary goal of our Savior is that we should be like Him, conformed through all our trials and troubles to His glorious image. Such “seeds,” then, are planted in preparation for that great Day of Christ’s return in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 when Christ shall be glorified in us! Paul makes the same point in Philippians 3:20-21 where he underlines our status even now as “citizens of Heaven.”

This, therefore, is the high point of future glory and present Heavenly privilege which belongs to us at the close of 2 Thessalonians 1. As Bill Harrell puts it in his notes on Philippians 3:20-21: As we make it our business to descend into conformity with Christ’s humiliation and death, He makes it His business to raise us to the height of His own exaltation (Jn. 17:22-24).

I might add that, even if we are discouraged at our lack of progress in the Christian life, and fail to see how our lives are being progressively conformed into the character of the Lord Jesus, we can be sure that He will not grow discouraged in such long-term preparation of us for glory. Once again, Bill Harrell:

It may at times appear to us and to others that the process of sanctification has not made much progress in conforming us to the likeness of Christ. However, at our Lord’s return, we shall be changed in an instant (1 Cor. 15:50-58), being glorified and made into a perfect likeness of our glorious Redeemer. However poor our progress toward that glorious likeness may be now, its perfection is certain since it depends on the exertion of the omnipotence of our Lord, to whom all power and authority to subject things to Himself have been given (Mt. 28:18-20).

Meditate and Pray:  As we celebrate the prospect of Christ’s glory being perfected in us and our lives being eternally changed into Christ’s likeness, sing hymn # 299 in our Trinity Hymnal, (keeping in mind that we will share in Christ’s great, victorious holiness and glory):

 

Look, ye saints! the sight is glorious:
See the Man of Sorrows now;
From the fight returned victorious,
Every knee to Him shall bow;
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crowns become the Victor’s brow,
Crowns become the Victor’s brow.

Crown the Savior! angels, crown Him;
Rich the trophies Jesus brings;
In the seat of power enthrone Him,
While the vault of heaven rings;
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crown the Savior King of kings,
Crown the Savior King of kings.

Sinners in derision scorned Him,
Mocking thus the Savior’s claim;
Saints and angels crowd around Him,
Own His title, praise His name;
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crown Him, crown Him,
Spread abroad the Victor’s fame,
Spread abroad the Victor’s fame.

Hark, those bursts of acclamation!
Hark, those loud triumphant chords!
Jesus takes the highest station;
O what joy the sight affords!
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crown Him, crown Him,
King of kings and Lord of lords!
King of kings and Lord of lords!