Category Archives: 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 1: Why Jesus Looks Forward to His Return

A few years ago Lachlan was playing cricket at school. And their fastest bowler decided to bowl him some bouncers. The first one hit him, the second one whizzed past his head, and shook him up. The third one Lachlan edged, and was caught behind.

I was disappointed, but Lachlan was okay. It was a learning experience!

Later that day, he came in to bat again. In between overs, I noticed the opposition coach took a water bottle out to their fast bowler, the one who’d got Lachlan out, and had a few words with him. Straight away, he came on to bowl, and started bowling bouncers again. Lachlan coped much better, and ended up hitting him for a couple of boundaries.

But the point of the story was MY REACTION. By this stage I was fuming. On one hand I was VERY PROUD of him. How well he was coping at the high level. But on the other hand, I was upset. First at the coach, then at the rest of the team, for picking on my boy. I wanted to defend him. Protect him. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be.

I wanted to go over to their coach, and give him a piece of my mind. And have a word to the fast bowler as well. Lachlan was glad I didn’t. He probably would have died of embarrassment.

I want to suggest Jesus is in a similar position. As he looks out at HIS children on the field. The fallen and broken world we’re living in. (He’s not powerless like me. He’s KING. And he IS WORKING).

But He sees our struggles, sometimes getting hit, sometimes hitting a boundary. He’s proud of our achievements. But he ALSO JUST WANTS TO JUMP IN. To STAND UP FOR us. And fix things up. And make everything right.

And that’s what will happen when Jesus returns. That’s what we’re thinking about today. THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS. The day when God will bring an end to this world as we know it. To the suffering, and the pain and the sin. And call everyone to account. And every knee will bow before him. And when Jesus will, finally, reign as king over all.

In particular, we’re going to think about it FROM JESUS’ POINT OF VIEW. SIX REASONS why Jesus looks forward to his return.

Relationship – Jn 17:24; 1 Thess 4:17; 5:10; Revelation 21:2-3

The first reason is RELATIONSHIP. Jesus is looking forward to his return because it will mean A NEW DEPTH OF RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE.

In John 17 Jesus prays for all Christians. In v13, he prays to his heavenly Father, “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world. Then in v24 he says,

24 “Father, I WANT THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME TO BE WITH ME WHERE I AM, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Jesus wants to be WITH his people, and for them to be with HIM. For them to experience the glory of his character and power/ in a way they’ve never been able to on earth.

We get a TASTE of it now because Jesus lives in us by his Holy Spirit. But it’s going to be SO MUCH BETTER/ THEN.

We don’t normally think about it from Jesus’ point of view. But he’s looking forward to it TOO.

Listen to what some OTHER parts of the Bible say about that day. There’s lots where NOT sure about. (How we’ll be resurrected. Where and how judgement will happen. Where we’ll live). But what’s emphasised is, without any doubt, again and again, is that WE’LL BE WITH JESUS. 1 Thessalonians 4:17,

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR. AND SO WE WILL BE WITH THE LORD FOREVER. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

In ch 5 v10, he says

10 Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we MAY LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM.

Or what about the book of Revelation? It uses the image of a groom and a bride to talk about the intimate relationship we’ll share with Jesus when he returns. There’s no closer earthly relationship to use as a metaphor. Revelation 21:2.

2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (Who, ch 19 tells us, is Jesus). 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and HE WILL LIVE WITH THEM. They will be his people, and God himself will be WITH them and be their God.

(One. Jesus looks forward to his return because it means A NEW DEPTH OF RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE.)

Reward – Mt 25:21; Lk 12:37

Second reason is REWARD. Those who live serving Jesus NOW, will be REWARDED when he returns. Matthew 25:21. It’s the parable of the talents. Jesus says to the servants who’ve worked hard and faithfully,

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and SHARE YOUR MASTER’S HAPPINESS!’

Eternity will be the reward for faithful service HERE. And Jesus is HAPPY about it. And it will be a time for us to SHARE that joy.

And Lk 12:37 adds a different idea to the sort of reward Jesus has in store for us.

37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.

Jesus is looking forward to serving us as the SERVANT KING / THEN / as reward for our service for HIM / NOW.

Repayment – 2 Thess 1:6 – Christian martyrs

Third, Jesus looks forward to his return because it will be a time of REPAYMENT. Of JUSTICE, and SETTING WRONGS TO RIGHT.

And, at the moment, there’s plenty wrong with the world.

North Korea is the worst country on earth to be a Christian. To OWN a Bible is punishable by death. It’s estimated that 25% of the Christian population live in prison camps.

2018 has seen a dramatic increase in persecution of Christians in China, with churches closed, foreign workers expelled, and greater conformity strictly enforced. Local Christians are punished, imprisoned and even killed.

Similar things are happening to Christians in Iraq and Sudan and Egypt and Indonesia, at the hands of Muslims.

Radical Hinduism in India is violently attacking and imprisoning Christians, and burning churches, all with official approval.

Persecution is the worst it’s even been. One recent estimate was that 70 million Christians have been martyred, and that 45 million of them were in the last hundred years. Terrible!

And, it’s not RIGHT. And we want it to STOP. And one day, Jesus WILL stop it. He WILL bring JUSTICE. He won’t let evil men get away with evil FOREVER.

2 Thessalonians 1. The passage we read earlier. Paul is comforting the church in Thessalonica, who are being persecuted. And here’s what he says. V4.

4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.5 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. 6 God is just: HE WILL PAY BACK TROUBLE TO THOSE WHO TROUBLE YOU

When we’ve been the victims of violence, or evil, or injustice. What we LONG for is JUSTICE. For things to be put right.

Which is exactly what Jesus will do. And no one will escape. Bribes won’t work.  No matter HOW wealthy or privileged you are. There’ll be no escaping justice. It won’t matter how well you hide the evidence. Won’t matter how good a lawyer you can afford. Everyone will get EXACTLY what they deserve.

There’ll be the perfect repayment for injustice and evil.

And Paul goes into more detail about the specifics down in v8.

8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power

See, it’s not just those who kill Christians who’ll be repaid. Because there’s more to sin than that. The ultimate sin is TO IGNORE GOD. And to live your life as if he’s not there.

There’ll be “punishment for those WHO DON’T KNOW GOD.” Which is more than just knowing ABOUT him. It means to know him. To have a relationship with him.

And what THAT means is explained in the next phrase. Those who don’t know God/ are those who DON’T OBEY THE GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS.

God REVEALS himself in Jesus. Sent him to live, and die a criminal’s death. To win our freedom and forgiveness. So we can become God’s friends, rather than his enemies.

So to reject that offer. To think you can do better on your own. That you don’t NEED him. Is to reject Jesus. And to reject JESUS/ is to reject God himself.

And when someone makes THAT choice, then justice means giving them what they want. To be shut out from God’s presence, and the majesty of his power.

It’s fair and it’s just. And it’s reason number 3 why Jesus looks forward to his return. Repayment.

Relief – 2 Thess 1:7a

And side by side with the repayment of evil is reason number 4. The flip side of justice. RELIEF for the godly. There in the very next verse. V7.

He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 AND GIVE RELIEF TO YOU WHO ARE TROUBLED, AND TO US AS WELL.

Jesus longs to relieve the suffering of his people. We saw it in the story of Lazarus two weeks ago. Jesus saw the weeping of Mary and the crowd because Lazarus had died. And he was deeply moved, and he WEPT. And then he DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT. He RELIEVED their SUFFERING.

A number of years ago, at my previous church, the elders and I were praying with Diane for RELIEF from the terrible pain of gallstones. Because she was pregnant, she couldn’t be operated on to remove the gallstones. And she couldn’t even have strong painkillers.

We anointed her with oil, and prayed for God’s HEALING. It had been a terrible ordeal. And Jesus graciously gave her RELIEF until the surgery. No more attacks until after the birth!

A few weeks later Diane said, “Why didn’t we do this SOONER?”

But there’s ANOTHER sort of relief God gives AS WELL. During our prayer time, Di’s husband Dean also prayed for Di’s mum, Jan. She was a Christian, and a few years earlier had suffered a brain aneurism. She was completely incapacitated. And she needed RELIEF. And Dean prayed what I’m guessing they’ve prayed plenty of times in the last few years. For God to RELIEVE her suffering. And take her home. He finally DID that a couple of years later.

And Jesus longs to relieve the suffering of his people. Something he does every day as he answers prayer. Sometimes he does it through healing, or some other answer. Sometimes he does it by calling someone home. When they DIE.

But it’s also something he’ll do, FINALLY and DEFINITIVELY, at his second coming. When he relieves the suffering of ALL his people. Completely and permanently.

That’s the FOURTH reason.

Revelation – 2 Thess 1:7b –

And the FIFTH reason is right there in the same verse. Revelation. v7

(He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.) THIS WILL HAPPEN WHEN THE LORD JESUS IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN IN BLAZING FIRE WITH HIS POWERFUL ANGELS.

At the moment SOME people recognise Jesus. And others IGNORE him. (Either TREAT him as if he doesn’t exist, or don’t believe he does). But when Jesus returns, he’ll be REVEALED IN ALL HIS UNDILUTED POWER. And EVERY knee will bow.

EVERYONE will be forced to recognise his rule. Acknowledge his right to judge them, acknowledge that he is God, that he died to save them. That he deserves their allegiance.

The whole world, living or dead. Young or old. Black or white or yellow. First world, or third world. Kings, presidents, prime ministers or dictators. Chief executives or unemployed. Olympic athletes or cripples. Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Christian or atheist. No one will be able to deny it.

It’s the picture of Revelation 5:13

13 Then I heard EVERY CREATURE IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

It’s the FIFTH reason. Revelation.

Restoration – Rom 8 –

And the sixth reason Jesus is looking forward to his return in that it will be a time of RESTORATION. When everything will be returned to the way it SHOULD be. It’s part of what it means that he’ll provide relief.

In Romans 8, we read about how the world at the moment is groaning, frustrated that things are broken and ruined. There’s pollution and earthquakes and cancer and divorce and murder. And a hundred other terrible things.

But when Jesus returns, he’ll END all the pain. He’ll restore US. And he’ll restore THE WORLD. So that it will suit his new, restored PEOPLE. It will be the ULTIMATE extreme makeover. Or renovation rescue.

Listen to the description: Romans 8.18

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits IN EAGER EXPECTATION for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to FRUSTRATION, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be LIBERATED from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been GROANING as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.

It’s the hope that Jesus will RESTORE everything. Creation and us, renewed and fresh. Restored to the way things were AT FIRST. Everything PERFECT. Which is the SIXTH reason Jesus can’t wait for his return.

So? 2 Thess 1:11-12

But what does it all mean for us? What does the certainty of Jesus’ second coming mean for how we live today?

Let’s finish with Paul’s prayer in 2 Thess 1.V11. What he DOESN’T want is that his readers become so focussed on the FUTURE that they’re no use NOW. He wants these Christians to be ACTIVE and FAITHFUL and CHRISTLIKE as they wait for Jesus’ return. V11.

11 With THIS IN MIND, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his POWER he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your FAITH. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In other words, since this is the future for God’s world, may you be counted WORTHY of that future. Live up to it.

GET READY for it.

And PRE-EMPT it. Bring the realities of ETERNITY into TODAY. So that you, and me, and all God’s people might be WORTHY of that calling.

LIVE with Jesus as powerful, ruling, loving king in your life. TODAY. In every area. In thought and word and action. Make him number one in EVERYTHING.

Because that’s what will happen, for the whole world, when he returns.

So get in early!

And do it TRUSTING in the STRENGTH God promises. As you work out his purposes. Our part is to TRUST. God is the one who gives the strength. That’s courage, it’s generosity, it’s goodness, it’s patience, it’s hope, it’s compassion, it’s perseverance. See it there in v11?

by HIS POWER he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by YOUR FAITH

Your faith in His power enables you to achieve every good purpose and every act.

Let THAT DAY influence how you live TODAY.

Be people who are growing in your RELATIONSHIP. Working on deepening a real friendship with Jesus/ that’s an entrée to the complete intimacy of eternity.

Be people working for Jesus’ REWARD. People not distracted by the shiny and deceptive rewards of this life. Money, success, fame mean NOTHING. Approval, power, possessions – NOTHING.

Build the PRIORITIES of eternity into TODAY. Because it’s Christ’s reward that matters.

Work at bringing JUSTICE / NOW.

And warn people of the REPAYMENT that’s hanging over their heads for ignoring God, and disobeying the gospel of Jesus. REVEAL the majesty of who Jesus is in your words, and your actions.

Look to RELIEVE the suffering of God’s people. Be generous and compassionate. Restore where you can. Pray intelligently for our brothers and sisters being martyred today.

And long for the PERFECT relief and restoration that Jesus longs to provide.

Jesus can’t wait for his return. How about you? What’s YOUR attitude to his return?

On the very last page of the Bible, we read this promise from Jesus to his people. Revelation 22 v12.

12 “Behold, I AM COMING SOON! My reward is WITH me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

To which the writer, John, sighs

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.