"Pay Attention to the Warnings"
After receiving Paul's first letter the Christians in Thessalonica believed Jesus' second coming was very soon. Paul had no intention of misleading the new believers, they simply misunderstood his message. They did so to the point many of them quit their jobs, became lazy and sat around waiting for Jesus' return. These new Christians were also dealing with some false teachers who were misleading them in their faith. When Paul heard these things he quickly sent another letter to correct and encourage them. He lets them know the Lord's second coming is not known by anyone and when He does come back, if they are still around, it will not be hard to miss. He encourages them to remain strong in the midst of their suffering, to get back to work and not be mislead by any false teaching. Paul reminds them how God has been faithful to them in the past and they always can count on His faithfulness in the future. All of that is some teaching we need to hear as well. In a time when many are predicting the date of Jesus' return, it is important to understand the teaching of this short letter. In the midst of persecution or suffering, we need to know God is faithful and there is coming a time when we will be eternally blessed as we continue to walk with Him. Those are some things we will study for the next few minutes here on “Key to the Kingdom.” I encourage you to join us for that study.
In the minds of some people the letter of 2nd Thessalonians was not written by the apostle Paul. Some believe that there is no need for a second letter so soon after the first letter was written. Others suggest that in the first letter, Paul addresses the issue of proper ethical behavior, yet there is very little said about that in the second letter. For those who question the authenticity of Paul's authorship, those seem to be valid points. And yet on the other hand as we look at this letter, we notice that it begins the same way 1st Thessalonians begins. It begins by encouraging new Christians to endure suffering and persecution. Also, we notice 18 of the 47 verses in 2nd Thessalonians deal with the subject of Jesus' second coming. If you remember, that is a primary point Paul emphasizes in his first letter. Now, I say all of that simply to say this, with almost every book or letter that we find here in the Bible there is some kind of controversy or question concerning who wrote it, when it was written, or perhaps even the original audience. Now, with that in mind, it is important to be good students of God's Word and to carefully study the Bible for ourselves. As I read these two letters, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, I believe they were written by God's faithful servant, the apostle Paul. In each one of them, he offers some guidance and some direction concerning very important matters, especially for new Christians. After Silas and Timothy delivered 1st Thessalonians to them, there in Thessalonica, they became aware of some additional problems which needed Paul's attention. They went back to Paul and he quickly sat down and wrote what we have before us in 2nd Thessalonians. He begins this letter by thanking them for their courage and for their faith. He brags upon them. He commends them for their faithfulness and lets them know that God will reward them for it. No doubt life was hard for these new believers. Perhaps Paul even reflects back on the time when he was there with them and established the church. When that happened, many believed in Jesus and yet many people did not like that and so they persecuted these Christians. They even ran Paul out of town. And so Paul knows these new believers need some encouragement and they need some inspiration. That's the way he begins his letter, in the first chapter, as we notice verses 3 and 4. "We ought always to thank God for your 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." Paul brags on these Christians just like he does in 1st Thessalonians. He acknowledges the fact that they are growing in their faith. He brags on their spiritual progress. He even goes so far as to say, you are providing a good example for others to follow. Yes, Paul commends them for their faithfulness; he commends them for their spiritual progress and for remaining true to the Lord in spite of some very difficult situations. Through verse 10, Paul also assures them of their reward. He lets them know that God sees what is going on and He will reward them for their faith. He also points out the fact that God is just and He will punish those who bring trouble upon them. That is where Paul goes next, in verses 6 through 8. "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 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. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." Yes, once again, these Christians needed to hear those encouraging words. They needed to know that God would deal with those who were causing them trouble and that He would eternally cut them off from His presence. Yes, that must have encouraged these new Christians, to know that they were headed in the right direction; that, God saw what was going on in their life and they would be rewarded for their faithfulness. Now some of these troublemakers questioned Jesus' second coming. Others gave some false information about it. Some did not believe in the second coming. Some even said that it had already come and there's no need to anticipate anything further. Some of these troublemakers simply laughed at these new Christians. They ridiculed and mocked them for their faith in Jesus. No doubt that was hard for these new Christians to handle. And yet Paul once again reassures them, that's okay, God sees and He knows and He will bring about the proper punishment at just the right time. That sounds like what is happening to some Christians in the world today. Oftentimes when people put their faith in Jesus they are ridiculed for it. People laugh at them because they believe in the Lord or they believe in His second coming. As I think about that I realize that these are some encouraging words even for those people, still today. Paul goes on to identify the wrath of God and how these troublemakers will suffer it. We notice that in verses 9 and 10 here in the first chapter. "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 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." Even though the timing of Jesus' return is unclear, we don't know for sure when it's going to be. In fact Jesus Himself does not even know the day nor the hour. There are two things that are very clear in these first ten verses. Number one, those who know Him will receive a reward. And number two, those who practice evil will not get away with it. Yes, Paul reminds these Christians that if you remain true to the Lord, if you continue to grow in your faith, God will reward you, and that reward will more than compensate for all of the trouble and all the suffering and persecution you are currently experiencing. And then, those who bring that trouble and persecution upon you, they will be dealt with by God, Himself; that, He will eternally cut them off from His presence and they will no longer be a part of God's family, they won't have anything to do with God's family and they will be separated from Him forever. Yes, these Christians needed to know and to be reminded of God's love and reward for them. Until that day comes, however, those who believe in Jesus are to be steadfast in their faith. They are not to be misled by the false teachers. They are not to give in to that false teaching but rather they are to stand fast on the truth of God's Word. They are also to know the truth about the Lord's second coming' and, that is where Paul goes next in 2nd Thessalonians. He seeks to correct some of that false teaching. He also gives them some things to consider and to watch for as they anticipate Jesus' arrival. We notice in chapter 2 that even though they're experiencing some trouble and hardship now, it might get worse. He introduces the man of lawlessness in the 2nd chapter, and this is the only place in all of Scripture where he is identified. It simply represents a time or a period of evil that is brought on by Satan himself. Evidently there were lots of different views and lots of different ideas concerning Jesus' second coming and it is here that he addresses those things. Let's read for just a moment here, in the 2nd chapter beginning with verse 1. "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." Paul is warning these faithful Christians that a man of lawlessness is coming, whoever or whatever that is, and it might be difficult; but, God knows what is going on. Paul continues to describe some of the activity and evil of Satan, on down through verse 12 here in the 2nd chapter. Not knowing the exact time of that event, of Jesus' second coming, these people are to be prepared for it. They are to realize some things that are happening before the Lord's return. But when He does come, He will overthrow all forces of evil. The enemies of the Gospel will receive their punishment; and, Paul simply wants these Christians to be aware of that and to not be too anxious or not be overlooking the duties and responsibilities they still have as they anticipate the Lord's second return. Well obviously these things have not yet happened. As a result of that, the teaching here of the apostle Paul in 2nd Thessalonians still applies to us today. Paul addresses another matter in the 3rd chapter, in verses 6 through 12. In this passage he scolds some of these believers for not working. They evidently believe that Jesus' second coming was very soon, perhaps even that very week, and they would sit and look into the sky in the morning and the evening thinking perhaps today is the day. Some of them even quit their jobs. They became lazy. They sat down and did absolutely nothing. So, Paul encourages them to get back to work. Let's notice his words in the 3rd chapter beginning in verse 6. "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it." Paul says, I know and I hear about some idle people living there in your midst. They are believers, and yet that is not the way they are supposed to live. They are to keep on working until the Lord returns, whenever that might be. Paul even provides his own example for them to consider. No doubt Paul worked while he was with them and establishing the church. We know that Paul was a tent maker. He made tents; he repaired tents. He provided for his own meals. He took care of himself. And that is what he wants these Christians to do. He does not want them to depend upon others to provide for them. He wants them to take responsibility for their own lives. In fact he even said in verse 10, if a man will not work, he will not eat. He also had this to write in verses 11 and 12. "We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat." No doubt it was an exciting time for these people to look forward to Jesus' second coming. And yet, as they anticipated that great day they were to continue on in their work, not being idle, not being busybodies, but rather taking responsibility for their own lives. Obviously that is a temptation that still exists for some people, still today. And yet, these words of Paul are still true. We are not to depend upon others to take care of all of our needs. We are not to be idle but rather we are to work. We are to take responsibility for our lives and to keep on working and serving in God's kingdom until He returns. Oh, throughout both the first and the second letters that Paul writes to these Christians, he writes just the right words to them. He is well aware of the suffering and the persecution they are experiencing. He knows they need constant encouragement and support in the midst of all of these struggles and challenges. They need that basic teaching about living for Jesus and following Him even in the midst of these difficult times. He also reminds them that when the Lord returns He will reward them and punish those who caused them trouble. Yes, Paul's concern for these new Christians is most evident. In fact he even writes out two prayers on their behalf. At the end of chapter 1 he prays that they would be worthy of the calling to which God has called them and he prays that they would be faithful in their efforts. Also, at the end of chapter 2, he prays that God's grace would give them the hope and the encouragement they need to strengthen them in every good deed and every good word. Yes, Paul has a very special place in his heart for the Christians in Thessalonica. He prays on their behalf. And then, in chapter 3, he even asks them to pray on his behalf. Yes, those are some very touching and challenging words that Paul has for these new Christians. When we study the letter of 2nd Thessalonians, we notice many things that still apply to us today. Let me summarize just briefly what we've talked about. Number one: followers of Jesus do not live idle lives. Rather, followers of Jesus stay busy in His kingdom, anticipating His second coming. Number two: followers of Jesus commit to growing spiritually while enduring the sufferings and trials of life. It does not matter what kind of persecution or problems we might experience today. We remain faithful to the Lord and we keep serving Him in the midst of it. And then, number three: They are not easily led astray by the world's uncertain teachings. That's important for us to consider, for we know that the world is filled with all kinds of false doctrines and false teachings and it is absolutely imperative that we remain true to the Word of God. As we saw at the very beginning, in chapter 1, God's love for people is great. It doesn't matter who they are, it doesn't matter where they live, God loves people; and, that is still true today. For those who love God in return, He has a very special reward, a home in heaven waiting for them. We also notice in chapter 1, God's wrath is real and His punishment is extended to those who do not know or obey Him and who cause trouble for those who do. Yes, we see from chapter 1, God's love is great and His wrath is real. God promises both life and death. The amazing thing about all of that is He allows us to choose. We have the opportunity to respond to what God has done for us and to receive the reward and the blessing that He has prepared for us. One of Paul's greatest statements found here in 2nd Thessalonians has to be the words in chapter 3 and verse 3: "The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." Yes that's true. God is faithful. He always has been and He always will be. What He says, He will do. Yes, God is faithful, in any and every situation. He can be counted on for strength and protection from the evil one. And perhaps Paul even had these words in mind, from Psalm 57, verse 10, when he wrote, "His faithfulness reaches to the skies." That is the faithfulness of God. It can not be measured. Yet that kind of faithfulness demands a response from us; doesn't it? God's faithfulness motivates us to trust Him and to live in obedience and service. It inspires us to walk with Him each day, in the midst of our suffering or persecution. It encourages us to anticipate the day when He returns to receive all those who belong to Him. Some people believe Paul wrote the letter of 2nd Thessalonians, other people do not. Some believe they know when the Lord will return. Other people do not. Some also believe God will punish those who do not know Him. And again, there are others who do not. As I said at the beginning of our lesson today, there always seems to be some kind of question or controversy surrounding different aspects of the Bible. When it comes to our reading and understanding and applying God's Word, there are all kind of different views and ideas and thoughts. However, there is one thing that is absolutely certain, and this is what we learn from 2nd Thessalonians, perhaps more than anything else, and that is this: Our faithful living is a response to the faithful love that God has for us. Yes, God is faithful, always has been, always will be. There is no way for any of us to doubt or to question the faithfulness of our Lord. As we recognize that, we respond by living faithful lives. We live a life of faithfulness; we live a life of love for our God. As we continue to read and study 2nd Thessalonians, I would encourage you to consider the warnings that Paul gives here in this letter. And that, also, we would remain faithful to the Lord, no matter what happens to us, as we anticipate that second coming and as we anticipate the reward He has in store for us.
We live in difficult times; we work hard to pay our bills and provide for our families; we deal with people who do not like us; and, it is easy to get discouraged. 2nd Thessalonians encourages us to keep working and not be tempted to give up. Yes, there is coming a day when the Lord will return to gather those who belong to Him. We certainly can look forward to that day. And even though we anticipate it, we are not to be misled by the false teachings and ideas concerning Him. There is no way we will miss Jesus' second coming, it will be most obvious and apparent. Yet, we cannot allow the challenges of this world to keep us from living with faithfulness and obedience. We are to continually love the Lord and the people He puts before us.
Thank you for watching “Key to the Kingdom.” I trust this message from 2nd Thessalonians was beneficial. The apostle Paul has some important warnings for us to consider, as we keep serving the Lord until He returns. Yet, that is what being a Christian is all about, representing Jesus to the very best of our ability for as long as we can. If you would like to know more about living the Christian life, perhaps we can help. On our website, keytothekingdom.com we offer a variety of items. Bible studies, short inspirational messages along with our statement of belief are all available. Previous messages can also be downloaded, without any cost or obligation. Another way to receive the free Bible study is by calling the number on the screen. When you leave your name and address, we will send some Bible lessons to you. You can study them at your own pace. Hopefully they will assist you in knowing more about the Lord, His salvation, and living as His follower. I hope you will take advantage of these free opportunities. Throughout this year, we are working our way through the New Testament part of the Bible. We are studying one book or letter at a time. All of these previous messages can be accessed through the website. Thank you for being our guest today and please consider joining us again next time as we study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”