The Coming of the Lord: No. 3

1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:7  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Since we are not of this world's darkness, let us not sleep as do others, " but let us watch and be sober." Do dwell on every word of this exhortation. Oh beware lest you are drunken with the spread of the doctrines of demons on every hand. These will be drunken, in that night of darkness such as never was before. We are of the day, let us then put on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. " For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation." Assuredly then the church will not be in the great tribulation, in that night of this world's darkness. Let us finish the sentence: " but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." Thus he comforts them as to those who had fallen asleep. And the Holy Ghost well knew that they would soon need the same comfort as to those who were alive. " We should live together with him." Oh how blessed to know that every true believer, whether he has fallen asleep in Jesus or remains alive unto that moment, when He comes to take all that are His, will live together with Him: " forever with the Lord." We shall soon see the need of this comfort as to the living that remain.
Before we pass on to the second Epistle, there is one more verse we would notice in the first Epistle. " And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Chap, v. 23.) It is the God of peace. Yes, they were in God the Father, and in perfect peace with God in that endearing relationship of Father. Not a sin, not a cloud. All of the old man gone, utterly gone from the sight of God, and perfect, unclouded peace with God. Happy place! the complete justification of every babe in Christ. And, in view of the coming of Christ—to perfect the whole, in glory—he longs for the entire man, body, soul, and spirit, to be sanctified. It is complete separation from everything unsuited to that blessed event, the coming of the Lord. Men talk about sanctification, and, yet ignoring altogether the coming of the Lord, they remain identified with every evil of paganized Christendom! Such is the case, so that if a few believers, whilst in the world seek to walk as not of the world, they are pitied for their ignorance, and it is hinted they must have learned such crude notions in the dark ages.
But what is the great motive for true, real holiness of walk? Is it not that the entire man "be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ'? Would you like to be found doing anything worldly in that moment (perhaps the day you read this) when the Lord shall come? Is the love of money, the love of pleasure, the seeking of human applause, the grasping at the world, the love of the world, the observing of pagan festivals under Christian names, the selfishness and covetousness of this day, are these things, and many more, blameless? Do they become a child of God, waiting for the Lord from heaven? If there was need for this prayer then, is there not still greater need now? Do not be deceived, God must have reality. Are you dreaming of sinless perfection in the flesh; or do you feel your deep need of preservation? Yes, they needed and we need the God of peace to separate us entirely from this whole scene which is hastening on to judgment.
It would seem in the second epistle their peace of heart, waiting for the Lord, had been severely attacked. In whatever way, whether by a letter, as from the apostle or otherwise, they were greatly distressed, as though the day of the Lord had come—and, if so, they were evidently left behind. This attack on the young babes gives the occasion for much additional truth being brought out to us in 2 Thess. 1; 2
Let us notice the tenderness of the apostle. He does not go at once and argue with them about their mistaken distress; but he opens up again so sweetly the relation in which they stand to God OUR Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the grace and peace that thus flows to them from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Then he tells them how he is still bound to thank God always for them " as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth." He was also so rejoiced that he gloried in them in the churches of God, for their patience and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations that they endured.
Surely this was a most blessed way of reminding them that they were not left behind in the day of the Lord. What tender love and calm assurance! This abounding fruit was a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God—that they may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffered. Such ought to be also the case with us: there ought to be the same patience in bearing all the scorn and reproach of the world, yes, and persecutions also, should they be permitted.
It will thus be manifest that God is righteous in sending the tribulation on those that persecute and despise all true believers. There is a striking parallel between this present time and that. The Holy Ghost, come down from heaven, had been rejected, and His testimony to Jesus despised. Those whom He gathered to Christ were' regarded as a "sect, everywhere spoken against. (Acts 28:2222But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. (Acts 28:22).) Now during this century, immediately before the return of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Ghost who remains here, however despised and set aside, has again gathered souls to Christ, and given with great distinctness a restored testimony to Christ, as at the beginning. Now also those He has gathered to Christ are regarded as a sect everywhere spoken against, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Christ, is rejected. In the first case, the rejection of the Holy Ghost brought down the righteous judgments of God on Judaism; and will not the present rejection of the Holy Ghost's testimony to Christ bring clown the righteous judgment of God on Christendom? This is a subject that should have grave reflection. In the eyes of men it is nothing, yet they hate it. But what is the present rejection of the Spirit's testimony to Christ in the eyes of God? Let us return to our chapter.
Verse 7. "And to you who are troubled, rest with us; when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels," &c. At the time of the world's tribulation, and the terrible judgment here described, those dear young babes in Christ, and all in Christ now, who may be passing through tribulation, so far from being left behind at the coming of the Lord for His redeemed, they will at that time be in perfect rest. Notice this verse carefully, for it is often perverted to deceive Christians now, just as the deceivers were seeking to deceive the saints at Thessalonica then; that is, that they were left for the day of tribulation, to pass through its unparalleled sorrows. No; at that time they and we shall be in rest. We shall see more as to this presently.
Here, remember how the apostle had shown them in the first Epistle the order of coming events. At the coming of the Lord in the air for His saints, the first event in order is this: the dead in Christ rise first. Then, secondly, we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thirdly, the day of the Lord then takes place: sudden destruction. (Chap, v.) Then, fourthly, in this chapter (2 Thess. 1) we have the coming of the Lord to this earth in terrible judgment. (Vers. 7-9.) We have also seen that when He thus comes, all His saints will come with Him. Careful attention to this would correct all the mistakes of such men as are pretending that only 144,000 will be taken.
And, mark, Paul, who writes respecting the church and the Lord's coming for it, never speaks of dates. This shows the gross error of such as the Millerites, Dr. Gumming, Mr. Baxter, and others, in applying dates to the church. May the Lord enable us to rightly divide the word, so as to see what belongs to Israel, and what is the portion of the church.
Let us now look at this fourth subject in the order of these epistles. The Lord Jesus shall come from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire. Oh where will the infidels and mere professors be at that awful moment? And so sudden and unexpected to this boasting Christendom around us at this moment.
You will notice that there is no resurrection of the wicked dead here. It is in perfect keeping with all other scriptures that speak of the judgment of the quick. On whom does He take vengeance? Two things characterize them: " Them that know not God, and that obey not the glad tidings of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Do you know God? If you know Him, you have eternal life. (John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3).) To know Him is the proof of it: for the believer has eternal life that he may know Him: " And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." If you know God, you cannot doubt Him or His word; therefore, if you know Him, you know that your sins are forgiven, and in Christ you are justified from all things. (Acts 13:38, 3938Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38‑39).) Oh do not be deceived. If you do not know that your sins are forgiven, and that you are justified in Christ, and have peace with God, then assuredly you do not know God, and you are hastening on to that fearful judgment from which there will be no escape.
Have you obeyed the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you preferring the pleasures or riches of this world? Are you living in sin, led captive by the devil? Are you deliberately rejecting forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from them through Jesus Christ? or are you seeking salvation by works, or the improvement of your fallen nature by any means? Then you have not obeyed the glad tidings, you are still on the way to the judgment here described. Are you seeking salvation by a human priesthood, after the pattern of Judaism or paganism, by the imitation of pagan sacraments that have no place in true Christianity? Be not deceived with these things of Satan. You are yet on the way to judgment. Is it not this apostate pagan Christendom that is hastening on to its punishment? Do you think, if, you knew God's estimate of the blood of Christ, and, like all Christians, if you had redemption through that blood, even the forgiveness of your sins, would you either be so deceived as to take the sacrament in order to get salvation, or go and see a man offer a sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead? Impossible! Why should you love to be so deceived? Those who knew God, and had obeyed Him, believing the glad tidings, had redemption, were eternally saved—God said they were perfected forever (Heb. 10:1414For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)), and that their sins and iniquities He would remember no more. (Ver. 17.) They simply believed the glad tidings. The Holy Ghost dwelt in them. They had a nature that delighted to do the will of God. Are you rejecting all this, and then dreaming that you belong to the true church? Is it not quite clear if you do not know God, and reject the glad tidings of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you are not a Christian, but hasting on to this judgment?
As there are no dates given to us as Christians, all dates have reference to God's dealings govern-mentally with His people Israel, or the world. No one can say how soon these events, or at least the taking of the church, may take place, We earnestly entreat you, reader, to lose no time in having this question settled, whether you are a Christian, or hasting on to judgment. How many are deceiving and being deceived!
And what will be the punishment at that coming judgment? We are pestered with books and pamphlets, as if the professing church was going mad, to prove that there is no such thing as everlasting punishment. Let us, then, carefully inquire the meaning of these words in the next verse: " Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction," &c.