Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we look around we see inequity and injustice everywhere. We see saints mocked, belittled, and persecuted while evil-doers seem to go scot-free and their lives are celebrated. And we moan: “How long, Lord, how long?” Today remind us that You have not forgotten our plight. Remind us that judgment day is coming. And most of all, remind us that when it comes justice will triumph and Your grace, showered upon us, will both save and comfort our souls. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE COMING JUDGE!
TEXT: 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
When I was a little boy and heard the preacher speak of persecution in the early church, I was grateful there weren’t any lion’s dens around. In my little town, surrounded by my family, persecution seemed far removed. But, as I got older and perhaps a bit wiser, I realized that Satan has gotten sneaky. Today he inflicts pain upon God’s people in other ways than roaring lions. But, just as ferocious wild animals can tear apart one’s trust in God, so, too, can peer pressure, cutting words, and the mocking of Godly morality chip away at our faith. If you were to quiz most of your neighbors, they would say that you’re crazy to journey a long distance to church every Sunday. They would look at you sideways when you spoke about your opposition to gay marriage in our state. Many would view your reliance on the Bible as quaint at best and dangerous at worst. Today we’re branded, not with a scarlet letter, but with epithets like: “Homophobe, Puritanical, or right-wing Christian conservative.” And sometimes, sometimes, we might even wonder if they’re right? Yes, our faith is under attack.
Why does God allow this to happen to us? Well, the Christians in Thessalonika wondered the same thing in the face of various persecutions they faced. And to encourage them and give them an answer, St. Paul writes this: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” Yes, God turned their persecution into a blessing in that how they handled it served as an example to others and therefore a blessing. The world uses persecution to tear us down, but God turns it into a refiner’s fire to make us stronger.
The result of this process is now laid out in Paul’s following words: “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to those who are troubled, and to us as well.”
Persecution of believers here and now is really a form of God’s judgment in that through it He gets rid of our sin and draws us closer to Him. Because we endure such things right now, come judgment day we won’t have to endure it any longer. It will be done for us, finished, accomplished; whereas for the rest of humankind, they will still face it without the help and strength of Jesus Christ to get them through. And thus, they will be lost in hell. In view of this fact,
JUDGMENT DAY HOLDS NO FEAR FOR THE CHRISTIAN
As a boy, I soon learned that when November wound down and the church year ended, Pastor Schulz would preach about judgment day, or the end of time. It was serious business. Just think: to stand before God Almighty Who is surrounded by angels as He recounts every aspect of your life; to hear Him pronounce sentence on every human being, to see demons clawing at non-believers and hauling them away to that eternal lake of fire called: hell—well, it’s all unsettling, isn’t it? And yet, for us Christians, it’s also a tremendous relief! For by faith we know that Christ the Judge is also Christ our Friend and Savior. We know that His righteousness is ours and covers our sins because He put that holiness upon and over us. We know that on that day He’ll welcome us into heaven because we possess His love which He has placed into our hearts. And we also know that we’ll be free! Free from sin, free from those who attack our faith, free from the nastiness of evil people. Free from Satan’s attacks upon us. And at that point, our suffering here won’t be worth comparing to the glory that is revealed to us! Yes, for us, on judgment day fear will dissolve into never-ending joy and thanksgiving!
St. Paul reminds the believers in Thessalonika of this fact when he writes: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes.”
Yes, judgment day holds no fear for the Christian. For us it is total escapism from this valley of tears, fears, and jeers. Christ makes it so!
Just as hell is a real place, so, too, heaven. Hell is the absence of God and thus the absence of any and all goodness, because true goodness is found only in and with God. But, by God’s grace alone, we’ll be taken into heaven and true goodness will surround us forever. Paul concludes by reminding the people of Thessolonika of this fact. “Then he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”
I don’t know about you, but I long to be free from wars, evil people, injustice where the innocent end up paying and the guilty seem to go scot-free. I long to be free from sickness, old age and death. But, most of all, I long to be free from my own sinful nature which causes me to think unholy thoughts, to engage in unholy actions, and to say unholy words. I long for the innocence of youth and the carefreeness that comes with it. I long to be free from worry and doubt and second-guessing. And come judgment day, I will be free! All that will be left behind when I’m taken into glory. And Christ has made this all possible by forgiving me my sins on the cross and making His glory mine through His gift of faith.
So, in the final analysis, judgment day really holds no fear for the Christian. For it is on that day, and that day alone, that we can all truly exclaim: “Free at last, free at last, thank God I’m free at last!” Amen