Faith, Love, Suffering, and the Lord’s Return: Part 2

Norbert Lieth

The church wasn’t yet revealed within the scope of the Old Testament, so the prophets could only write about the coming of the Lord with His saints. “And the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech 14:5b).

Enoch didn’t see the church, either: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15).

In the New Testament, as the unveiling of the mystery of the church develops, it becomes clear that the church is present at this return. So now it’s known, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels” (2 Thess 1:7). “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). “To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thess 3:13). “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev 19:14).

During this time, Jesus will judge the world from heaven with the angels of His might. We will then judge the universe with Him from heaven, since the church as His body is the enforcing authority of the Head. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? …Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor 6:2-3). Therefore, we read further: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:8).

This verse makes it clear that the revelation of the Lord concerns the time of Tribulation as a whole (judgment in blazing fire and the time of vengeance), not just His appearance at the end of it. These mentions are just a brief indication of what Revelation elaborates on. You need only read it once to see how much it speaks of the fiery judgment. The theme runs straight through the last book of the Bible:

“And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth…The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a giant mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood” (Rev 8:5, 7-8). “By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths” (Rev 9:18). “And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed” (Rev 11:5). “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe” (Rev 14:18). “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire” (Rev 16:8). “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her” (Rev 18:8).

Here is the arrival of what was predicted in the Old Testament about the Day of the Lord, and what didn’t apply to the time of grace in the church age. Isaiah already said of the Lord’s end-time appearance, “For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire” (Is 66:15). “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (Ps 97:3-6). “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). As mentioned above, during this revelation the church is at rest and judges the world (universe), along with Christ. Those who rejected the Gospel will be judged.

“…Them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:8). This also means a large part of the Jewish people. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says of them, “That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea” (Rom 15:31a). “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Eph 5:6). “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Col 3:6).

In light of this, I’d like to mention the following verses: “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess 2:9-12).

The judgment affects those who don’t believe in the Gospel, not those who believe in Jesus. So, it seems clear to me that the church is exempt from this. Accordingly, the church is no longer on earth, but appears with Him at His revelation in glory. The following verse also makes this apparent: “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess 1:9).

As translated in the ESV, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might.” We are reminded here of the Last Judgment: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them” (Rev 20:11). “Eternal destruction” means separation from the Lord’s face, separation from His glory, being lost. It doesn’t refer to annihilation but to ruin, which most clearly epitomizes lostness. “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish” (2 Thess 2:10a).

Being lost means separation from God. You have been lost to Him, and you have lost Him. You have absolutely no part in what He is and has—far from the glory of His might. His power is expressed in forgiveness, in the power of His love. Anyone outside of this scope has lost everything and is lost himself.

“When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (2 Thess 1:10). This is the opposite of being lost: being glorified in His direct presence. When Jesus returns, the believers will share in it. They’ve been in His glory since the Rapture. When they return with Him, they will be revealed in His glory. Jesus will come and be glorified in the cloud of His saints. He will be marveled at among those who believe. For the sake of context, I’ll again compare this with two verses:

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels” (2 Thess 1:7). “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). The primary focus is His coming and His glorification. Jesus is the object of worship, glorification, and wonder.

Paul emphasizes, “because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thess 1:10). Faith alone is the reason to be part of it and to be present. That means: whoever believes through the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, has a part in all this glory.

“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:11-12). The origin of all things is God. The source that brings all things forth is the Lord. God brings about both will and deed; He is the author and perfecter of our faith (cf. Phil 1:6; 2:13; Heb 12:2). Everything in us is and remains a gift that springs up from God’s grace in Jesus.

It is also God who makes us worthy of the calling, so that we’re able to reach the goal we’ve been called to. The ESV translates it this way: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess 1:11).

The CSB translates it as follows: “In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith.”

Paul is probably trying to express that it is his prayer that the Lord would powerfully accomplish every good thing, every work, and every act of faith in them, and that nothing would be lost. The point is that God considers them worthy in this sense, and grants them the ability to put the Apostles’ good works of faith into practice and reach perfection. Therefore, it should also be our urgent prayer that the Lord help us not become negligent, but to persevere and to show faithfulness until the end.

“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:12). Thus concludes the chapter, and should always be the ultimate goal: the glorification of the name of the Lord in our church, in our work, and of course in us personally. That was Paul’s primary concern in prayer.

This occurs due to His fulfilling “every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.” It is accomplished by completing the work and proving ourselves faithful through all hardships, tribulations, struggles, and challenges. So far, this had been the case for the Thessalonians, and Paul prayed that it would continue. In the same way, we will be a great testimony to the Lord’s name if we overcome and accomplish the work with God’s help, just as He did. That is how we distinguish ourselves as His followers; as those who are acting and standing for His name; as Christians following in Christ’s footsteps. And is why Scripture continues, “and ye in him” (2 Thess 1:12).

According to verses 7 and 10, the church will be revealed at His coming in His glory. So we see the correlation: we glorify Him through our faithfulness, and so we are glorified in Him when He returns.

“…According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I’ve already mentioned that it is the Lord who must give us grace, the impulse, and the urging in spirit. But we should respond to it faithfully. If we were to become unfaithful over time—to neglect the work we’ve been instructed to do—then Jesus’ name wouldn’t be glorified in us. That is why we pray and remain cautious, so “the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” continues to work within us and isn’t in vain. 

Help us, O Lord, to learn
the truths thy word imparts: 
to study that thy laws may be 
inscribed upon our hearts.

Help us, O Lord, to live
the faith which we proclaim, 
that all our thoughts and words and deeds
may glorify thy name.

Help us, O Lord, to teach
the beauty of thy ways,
that yearning souls may find the Christ,
and sing aloud His praise.

-William Watkins Reid

Midnight Call - 06/2021

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