Introduction: It is worth our while to pause again to study Paul’s prayers, beginning in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, even though it delays our progress in studying the dramatic “end times” events of chapter 2. After all, what good would it do us to enter into the debates of who the man of sin is or how he will appear and what exactly Paul means when he speaks of him being restrained at the present time in chapter 2:6-7, if we fail to reach the high ground of prayer which Paul sets before us in chapter one? There is nothing more dangerous than becoming an expert on 2 Thessalonians 2’s discussion of the end times while remaining prayer-less and therefore unprotected from the evil there described!
Monday: read 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:3 and Psalm 125:1-2. In military battles the goal is to find the “high ground” from which to gain an advantage over the enemy – forcing them to climb the hill against your stronger defensive position. For example, throughout the Battle of Gettysburg, Generals on each side were concerned about the location of their regiments and were heard to ask again and again: “Is it good ground?” i.e., are my troops in an elevated place of protection, or are they in the open field below, vulnerable to the enemies’ attack?
In just the same way, the Apostle Paul would not think of taking us down into the valley of “Armageddon” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 – describing there the unleashing of wickedness at the time of the “great apostasy” – without first setting our feet firmly on the “high ground” of prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 and 2:13-17. In his prayers Paul literally surrounds chapter two’s battle with high vantage points on which to stand to face the foe. Let us rejoice at the great source of protection which Paul’s prayers afford us, and find our courage for the battle renewed again.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the way He surrounds His people with protection. Use the prayer offered up by the Psalmist in Psalm 125:1-2, a Psalm in which Jerusalem surrounded by mountains becomes a picture of God surrounding His own with a wall of safety. Sing about this in hymn # 350 in the Trinity Hymnal:
|Zion stands by hills surrounded,
Zion, kept by power divine;
All her foes shall be confounded,
Though the world in arms combine;
Happy Zion, what a favored lot is thine!
Happy Zion, what a favored lot is thine!
|Every human tie may perish;
Friend to friend unfaithful prove;
Mothers cease their own to cherish;
Heav’n and earth at last remove;
But no changes can attend Jehovah’s love,
But no changes can attend Jehovah’s love.
In the furnace God may prove thee,
Thence to bring thee forth more bright,
But can never cease to love thee;
Thou art precious in His sight;
God is with thee—God, thine everlasting Light,
God is with thee—God, thine everlasting Light.
Tuesday: read 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:3 and Psalm 142:5-7. Paul prepares the church for impending conflict with the anti-Christian world by praying for “the Name of the Lord Jesus to be glorified in them … according to the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess.1:12). Paul wants God’s grace to triumph in the lives of believers, so that they might be “counted worthy” of their calling and heavenly inheritance. But even more – Paul wants the Name of the Lord Jesus to be glorified in their lives as they live out their calling before men.
But what exactly does Paul mean by the “Name of Jesus Christ being glorified” in the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:12? In the Old Testament, the Name of the Lord refers to His revealed character, such as at the burning bush, where God reveals Himself to Moses as the “I AM” (Ex. 3:13-15) whose character never changes and whose promises are never broken. This same Lord declares His Name to be the very refuge of His people in Proverbs 18:10. More precisely, it is God’s unchanging character as our Deliverer and Savior which is glorified in us as others hear our story of how the Lord has saved us! Then is the Name of our Lord Jesus glorified in us – when that Name Jesus is demonstrated to be active in our salvation. How does the Psalmist glorify the Lord’s Name for just precisely this power to save in Psalm 142:7? He prays: Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your Name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.
Mediate and Pray: Ask the Lord Jesus to glorify His Name as your Savior anew so that many may gather around you and praise His Name because of His great salvation in your life and theirs. Use hymn # 608 in our Trinity Hymnal:
|To God my earnest voice I raise,
To God my voice imploring prays;
Before His face my grief I show
And tell my trouble and my woe.
O Lord, my Savior, now to Thee,
|Be Thou my help when troubles throng,
For I am weak and foes are strong;
My captive soul from prison bring,
And thankful praises I will sing.
The righteous then shall gather round
Wed/Thurs: read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Acts 9:1-6 and Job 42:1-6. Paul continues his prayerful meditation on the glory of the Lord Jesus in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. There he promises us that the Lord Jesus will at His return “destroy His foes by the brightness of His coming.” Here is awesome glory to take our breath away. We will look at this fiery glory of the Lord destroying wickedness in future notes. But let us first be sure that we unfold the importance of this glory for the Christian life at all stages of its development.
We begin by defining this word “Glory.” What does it mean? Glory is tied to God’s perfection and character, revealed both in His government of all creatures and in the worship due to Him as their Creator. A good start to a definition of “glory” would be: the character of God revealed to His creation through His attributes, perfections and actions.
Thus, all creation only exists as the theater of God’s glory! Moreover, if this is true for the creation in general, it is doubly true for those to whom God savingly reveals Himself. They are in a special way the “objects” of His glory – at every stage of their Christian lives! For example, consider how the following stages of the Christian’s life are all tied to glory:
- Conversion: The tool God used to open the eyes of Saul on the Damascus road was the glory of Jesus Christ, by which God gave Saul a saving knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus. It was this glory which put Saul down on the ground until he surrendered his hatred of God and became a willing, redeemed servant of the Lord Jesus Christ!
- Ongoing growth in holiness in the Christian life: The tool which God used to humble Job unto greater obedience, greater trust and greater humility, thereby moving him down the road towards greater holiness of life, was the glory of God in Job 42:5, where Job confesses: “My eyes had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” It was when Job saw the glory of the Lord that he felt more deeply than ever before how far short he had fallen of that glory and confessed that he “repented in dust and ashes.”
We could go on at length to further prove what is already clear, namely, that God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ is truly the source of all joyful progress in the Christian life. Without the power of God’s glory impacting us as believers, we may “hear of God with our ears,” but we will not grow like God in His holiness.
Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to ever and always continue the great renovating work of glory in your life. May 2 Corinthians 3:18 be always true of our life-changing Christian experience of God’s glory in our Savior Jesus Christ.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Fri/Sat/Sun: read 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Rev. 16:8-16 and Rev. 6:15-17. We were ravished yesterday to see the positive, life-changing power of God’s glory in the life of His saints, such as Job or the newly converted Saul of Tarsus. But we must not ignore the emphasis in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 on the glory of God expressed as fiery judgment on all unbelievers who refuse the Gospel. It is precisely the same, bright, hopeful return of Christ which we long for which is at the same time dreaded by the world of unbelief.
But what is it exactly in this fiery, bright glory of the returning Christ which is so terrifying to the unbeliever? Is it the physical sufferings which Armageddon will bring that make men afraid? No, it can’t be that, since rebellious mankind bears up under the pain of all the bowls of God’s wrath, which are to proceed Armageddon, in Revelation 16:9, 11 and 21. There we read repeatedly that mankind will “refuse to repent.” Even though they will gnaw their tongues under the pains and sores of God’s wrath, they will curse God on account of these painful plagues instead of bowing the knee to Him.
No, Rev. 6:15-17 makes clear that the reason unbelievers fear the day of Christ’s return is because of its personal nature, when they will be forced to look upon the “face of the Lamb of God” and behold His wrath. Thus we see that the power of Christ’s coming is tied directly to His personal character as holy. Christ will not destroy all wickedness at His return by some ultimate weapon or super-charged bolt of lightning. It will be His awesome character of God, as the One who cannot tolerate sin in His presence, which will consume all wickedness!
Meditate and Pray: Thank the Lord Jesus for His zeal for righteousness and His hatred of all sin. Thank Him that He came to the Cross in order to put away what which He hated, namely our sin nature and all our transgressions. In the same way, let us thank Him that He will one day soon return in order to put away all the foul fruits of sin in this wicked world by the “brightness of His coming”. Hallelujah!
Sing this weekend about the holiness of God in the face of Jesus Christ, with the help of hymn # 35 in our Trinity Hymnal:
|My God, how wonderful Thou art,
Thy majesty, how bright;
How beautiful Thy mercy seat
In depths of burning light!
How dread are Thy eternal years,
How wonderful, how beautiful,
|O how I fear Thee, living God,
With deep and tender fear;
And worship Thee with trembling hope,
And penitential tears!
Yet, I may love Thee, too, O Lord,
No earthly father loves like Thee,