Introduction: We ended Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians with the confidence that God will indeed do a comprehensive work of conforming our fallen, imperfect Christian characters into the image of His glorious Son. This is Paul’s point in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 where he describes God as sanctifying us “spirit, soul and body,” which is his way of saying that sanctification is not spotty in our lives, but encompasses all we are and all we have. May these notes beginning Paul’s Second Letter, therefore, create within us the desire for God to sanctify us “through and through.” May we especially appreciate anew how important it is to be sanctified in the light of the awesome glory of Christ’s coming.
Monday: read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2; 2:1-2 and Revelation 22:17-21. God is determined that all of our lives and every faculty of our beings be molded into the image of our Lord Jesus. Such a ‘rummaging’ or ‘spring cleaning’ through every room and neglected closet of our lives is indeed a huge job! No wonder Paul felt compelled to write a second letter to his beloved Thessalonians, for they were far from comprehensively sanctified as young, agitated, distracted Christians! That much is clear from the warning Paul gives them in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, which we take as the purpose statement of this epistle. Therefore, he must plead afresh with the hearts of the Thessalonians in his second letter in order to supply what is lacking in their Christian lives – especially in preparation for Christ’s Second Coming.
For you see, Paul’s first letter has not succeeded in bringing this church to a proper view of the Second Coming. There is still too much ferment about Christ’s return – thus Paul must write anew with great pastoral care and skill, using his Apostolic teaching of the last things as a means of building up the weak and shaken faith of the Thessalonians! Now see the irony in this: Paul uses the Second Coming, the very doctrine which had so unhealthily stirred up this church in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, to calm them down and give them persevering poise and faith! May his words likewise be effective in reassuring us as we look to Christ’s return.
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to restore to you a healthy view of Christ’s Return – so that as part of the Bride of Christ, the Church, you are able to say with John in Revelation 22:20: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” Let us use hymn # 426 to aid us in repairing our often lackluster and dim view of Christ’s Second Coming:
“Till He come,” O let the words
When the weary ones we love
Clouds and conflicts round us press;
See, the feast of love is spread,
Tues/Weds: read 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 and Amos 5:18-19. The Church needs Paul’s exhortation to anticipate (and even rejoice in) the Second Coming of Christ – because for some reason we tend to put off Christ’s return in our minds, fixing them blindly on this world, not the next. Why such living for the ‘here and now’: on the part of not only the un-churched but believers too? How many of us live as if this world is the ultimate reality?
Well, we Christians can mistakenly think of the ‘Day of the Lord’ solely in terms of fear and doom because that’s all we hear in reference to Christ’s coming. For example, have you heard the dooms-dayers predicting the sharp rise in taxes which they foresee coming once the tax cuts of the Bush era expire later in 2013? What do they call the feared day of such increased taxes? Answer: ‘Taxmaggedon’! Anything fearful or chaotic in the future can have this suffix ‘maggedon’ (from the word of the last great battle to take place on the plains of Armageddon in Revelation) appended to it! And what is the website called which purports to help us all prepare for upcoming disasters in order to survive the dire future scenarios of world apocalypse? ‘Armageddon.com’! No wonder Christians are tempted to stop thinking of the world to come when so many freakish extremists make speaking about the dark ‘Day of the Lord’ their own hobbyhorse!
Now, to be sure, for any hypocrite who self-righteously looks forward to the Day of the Lord, believing that others will be condemned on that day, but not their self-righteous souls – they are instructed by God “not to desire the Day of the Lord” in Amos 5:18 because that Day for all outside of Christ will indeed be a “day of darkness, not light.”
But nevertheless, it is glory and joy, not darkness or fear, which should be the keynote of our hope for Christ’s return. Though the world does tremble at Christ’s return, we have so much to look forward to, according to 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, where Paul promises so many wonderful blessings when Christ returns: rest (v. 7); salvation by Christ’s power (v. 7) and the presence of the Lord in “majesty” (v. 9)!
Meditate and Pray: Sing about our great hope in Christ’s return with the positive and uplifting words of hymn # 317, especially verse 2:
Wake, awake, for night is flying;
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
Now let all the heavens adore Thee,
And saints and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where we are with the choir immortal
Of angels round Thy dazzling throne;
Nor eye hath seen, nor ear hath yet attained to hear
What there is ours, but we rejoice and sing to Thee
Our hymn of joy eternally.
Thurs/Fri: read 1 Thessalonians 1:8-12. Perhaps the most amazing fruit of glory which we can look forward to on the day of Christ’s return is that of Christ being perfected “in us” as 2 Thessalonians 1:10 puts it. Not only will we welcome Jesus in the “splendor of His majesty” – we will partake of His glory ourselves! The Greek here is worthy of notice, because I think it stresses that the glory of Christ will be vindicated and honored not simply as belonging to our Savior, but also as triumphant in our lives! We see this from several translations’ emphasis on the words “in His saints” or “in those who believe.” In this way the emphasis is on our lives and bodies as the sphere in which Christ’s glory will be revealed before all men. Consider these translations of 2 Thessalonians 1:10:
10 when He may come to be glorified in his saints, and to be wondered at in all those believing – because our testimony was believed among you. (Young’s Literal Translation)
10 when he shall have come to be glorified in his saints, and wondered at in all that have believed, (for our testimony to you has been believed,) in that day. (Darby)
Do you see the significance of this emphasis on our lives glorified at Christ’s return as the museum display of glory which God will set up before a wondering mankind? This is God’s answer to all those who said it could never be done – that God couldn’t succeed in making fallen sons and daughters of Adam shine like the firmament in perfect glory and redeemed grace!
For you see, all through biblical history, the scoffing world of devils and unbelieving mankind has thrown this mocking jeer from Job 1:9-11 back in God’s face:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
In other words, the world has always gainsaid God’s ability to save a people for Himself who will truly be “zealous for good works” and whose lives could truly be adorned with a real holiness that could endure unto eternity. But God is able to accomplish just this. We began with 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 and we will end with this great statement of God’s determination to “sanctify us body, soul and spirit”:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.