Sermon on 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
2nd Sunday of End Times: Last Judgment Sunday
Watch and Prepare for the Last Day
1. When God will show his grace
2. When God will show his power
3. When God will show his glory
Text: 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
“Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” You just heard those words sung as the Verse of the Day on this Last Judgment Sunday. As is usually the case with the Verse of the Day, it sets the tone and context for the reading of the Gospel and for the theme of the day. So we hear today that we are to watch for we do not know when the Lord is coming. Then, at the very end of the Bible in the second to last verse in the book of Revelation we hear Jesus say, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
But wait a second! Jesus spoke those words in Revelation to the apostle John about 1,900 years ago! I wouldn’t exactly quantify or qualify two millennia as soon! How many generations of people—how many millions of people—have been watching and preparing for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ all to no avail?
And by the way, it’s not like things are exactly going well these days. As the pendulum in politics continues to shift back and forth between Democrats and Republicans holding power, neither seems to be helping the economy much. The bar keeps getting pushed further with censorship on the radio and on TV. They are slowly allowing more and more lewd and crude behavior in the media. It seems like everyone I know has some one they know or are related to that has cancer, is really sick, or is just plain suffering. Wars and violence still rage on throughout the world, no matter how much the United States tries to get involved. Every year there is another natural disaster of some sort—a hurricane, a tsunami, an earthquake, tornadoes, wildfires, and the like. You say we should watch, Jesus! You say you are coming soon, Jesus! So when is it going to be!This surely calls for patience, doesn’t it! The Bible reveals to us that with our timeless God, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” We may look at our wristwatches or our calendars and think, “This is taking forever!” But in God’s time, he is indeed coming soon. And since all the signs he prophesied have already taken place, and since he is coming unexpectedly like a thief in the night, then we surely ought to Watch and Prepare for the Last Day. For we hear in 2 Thessalonians 1 today that Judgment Day will be a great day of wonder. It will be a day when God will show his grace, his power, and his glory.
Brace yourself. I’m about to share with you something that is frightening. Forget Halloween, I have something more terrifying than anything else. They are four words at the beginning of verse 5 in 2 Thessalonians 1. Here they are: “God’s judgment is right.” Try not to quiver and quake as I say them one more time: “God’s judgment is right.”
To say that God’s judgment is right means that God’s judgment is never wrong. It really means that God’s judgment is right-eous, perfect, and holy. God is the absolutely perfect and righteous judge. He never makes any mistakes. He never makes any bad decisions. He never issues a verdict that is contradictory to the law. Not only that, but God is so much so the perfect judge that nothing will every slip by him. Nothing will ever go unnoticed. I don’t know about you, but this terrifies me.
Just think, God heard what you said behind that person’s back last week. God heard the jokes that you told and the words that burst from your lips. God heard as his name was trampled upon and tossed into conversation like it was any other noun, verb, adjective, or exclamation.
Just think, God saw as you passed up opportunity after opportunity to show love and kindness to others last week. He saw you shake in your sandals in fear as you avoided sharing (or living) your faith. He saw what you watched on TV and he saw what you wrote in that E-mail.
Just think, God knew every detail of every thought that passed through your mind. He knew that you faked a Christian smile at someone while you really were seething with anger and hatred on the inside. He knew your wishes for payback and revenge. He knew the lustful passions you hide deep inside. He knew what you thought about your neighbor the other day after he left his recycling bin out for the third straight day! And he certainly knew when you thought you were so smart—smarter than he is, smarter than the Bible, smarter than that “religion” stuff.
How terrifying! To think that the holy and righteous God of all knows every thing we have ever thought, said, or done! And how terrifying to hear the punishment that is due sinners in verse 8: “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.” The thought of standing before a God whose judgment is always right and perfect is more than frightening!
How strange then, to hear what we do in verse 5 this morning. It starts out with that scary phrase, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right,” but then it continues with something completely unexpected: “and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” Just like with these Thessalonian Christians, when Jesus returns on Judgment Day, you will be counted worthy of the eternal kingdom of God! How strange! First we hear about our God who is the perfect judge, who is always right, who is completely holy. But then we hear about God ignoring the wrongs and sins that we have committed. That doesn’t sound like a perfect judge whose judgment is always right.
But you see, not only is God a perfect and righteous judge, but he is also our loving and merciful Father. He did execute judgment on all of our sins. He did deliver punishment for the wrongs we have done. He did punish, “with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” The difference though, is that he did this to his own Son.
That’s why Jesus came to this world. He became the object of God’s wrath. He took the curse of God’s punishment. He suffered the fiery depths of hell. So God is in fact a righteous judge who carries through with his threats of punishment. But in his divine brilliance, he carried out the punishment on Jesus so that he could forgive us and count us “worthy of the kingdom of God.” So Watch and Prepare for the Last Day when God will show his grace. Judgment Day is not a day to fear. It is a day to look forward to because Jesus our Judge will show his loving grace and forgiveness as he brings us to heaven. Watch and Prepare for the Last Day when God will show his grace!
There are many, many false teachings that are very popular among Christians today which are about our theme for worship today—Judgment Day. One such false teaching is called “the rapture.” Kirk Cameron has done a great injustice to Christians in this regard. You might remember Kirk Cameron from the popular 1980s sitcom Growing Pains. Now the curly-haired actor has been starring in a series of about eight movies based on eight books called Left Behind. One of the main premises in this Left Behind series is this false teaching known as “the rapture.” For example, Johnny is driving along in his car when all of a sudden he is raptured—he is snatched by God right out of this world to heaven and the car crashes. Just like that he is gone. Then everyone begins to wonder, “Oh no! Is it Judgment Day? Am I going to miss it? Did I already miss it? Will I be raptured too?”
First of all, we must understand that there is nothing in all of the Bible that teaches something called “the rapture.” Further, there are only about two Bible passages that are used (wrongfully) to prove the rapture, and using them is far beyond a stretch. As if that is not evidence enough, there is even more proof of what will really happen on Judgment Day here in 2 Thessalonians 1, starting at verse 7: “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.”
There will be nothing secret or hidden about Judgment Day. Jesus will not snatch us one by one from earth until we are all in heaven. We won’t have to guess at whether Judgment Day is happening or not, or if we missed it or not. First, we are told that Jesus will be revealed, “in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” This is like many other parts of Scripture which talk about the loud trumpet blast or heaven and earth being destroyed. Secondly, we will all know full well that it is Judgment Day because Jesus will be sending many to hell and taking others to heaven.
Jesus clearly has all power. Not only does he have power over heaven and earth, but he also has power over death and hell. He has the power to send people to hell. He has the power to save people from hell. The Bible is very clear about who goes where. Verse 8 tells us that those who end up in hell are those who, “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” Those who do not believe the good news of the gospel that Jesus is the Savior of all will be shut out from heaven and receive this everlasting destruction which is described. But for us who do believe what he has done, we have nothing to be afraid of! Jesus will come with his great power over death and hell and rescue us as he brings us to eternal glory! So Watch and Prepare for the Last Day when God will show his power!
You might recall the scene. The people of Israel had just left the land of Egypt. They walked right through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground, with Moses as their leader. Then they came to Mt. Sinai where God gave them the 10 Commandments. What an impressive scene! God was thundering down from heaven and Mt. Sinai was quaking and shaking. Moses wanted to see the full glory of the Lord, but God told him that no one could see all of God’s glory and live.
Indeed, no sinful person could ever expect to stand before a holy and righteous God and expect to live through it. We are simply too imperfect, too unrighteous, too unholy, too sinful! But as Paul concludes this paragraph in verse 10 he mentions something remarkable about all that will happen, “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.”
On the Last Day Jesus will come once and for all and finally show all of his glory. And this full glory of God will be revealed to all people. But this is something we need not shudder at in fear like the people of Israel. Instead, we look forward to this moment when we will marvel at our God. We will marvel at him as we behold his face and his full glory, clearly revealed to us then and for all eternity. So Watch and Prepare for the Last Day when God will show his glory!
It seems like it’s taking forever, doesn’t it? Jesus said that we should watch closely because he’s coming soon. Well it sure doesn’t seem like soon! But truly, we have no idea when Judgment Day will be. It could be in 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 years, or 10,000 years. One thing I can guarantee, I can say with almost 100% certainty that it will not be in 2012. But God tells us that no one knows when Judgment Day will be. And with the way people are predicting and making movies about 2012, we could almost be sure it won’t be then.
So as we wait eagerly and expectantly we can watch and prepare. We don’t know when he’s coming. Yet one thing we do know—we don’t have to be afraid. It will be a marvelous day when Jesus Christ shows us his full glory and power as he mercifully and graciously brings us to eternal joy in heaven. In eager joy, watch for his coming, for Jesus is coming soon!
Posted on November 7, 2010, in Church, Sermons and tagged 2 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 1, Church, End Times, Jesus' Coming, Judgment Day, Kirk Cameron, Left Behind, Rapture, Sermons, The Last Day. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.