May 16, 2012

Our Final Rescue From Affliction

2 Thessalonians 1:5–10

“God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels” (vv. 6–7).

According to one story, the great Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon hung a sign above the door to his study that read “Perhaps Today.” He posted this sign to remind himself that Jesus could come back at any time, that today might not end before Christ returns to judge His world. Indeed, our Lord’s second advent will happen “in the twinkling of an eye.” The dead will be resurrected, and all people will hear the final verdict regarding their eternal destinies (1 Cor. 15:51–52).

We often forget the imminence of Jesus’ return during prosperity, but serious affliction usually prompts us to long for our Savior to come again and consummate His kingdom. We must repent whenever we find ourselves not longing and looking for Jesus’ appearance with His angels. Yet we should find the promise of the Lord’s second advent particularly comforting during affliction. The Heidelberg Catechism recognizes this in question and answer 52, reminding us that Christ’s return comforts us because Jesus will then “cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation.” No longer will we suffer at the hands of our foes, be they physical or spiritual, for Christ will send the enemies of His church to eternal punishment.

Paul teaches this truth in today’s passage. Interestingly, the Apostle informs us that the suffering we endure for Christ proves us “worthy” of God’s kingdom (v. 5). Only those who are zealous for Jesus in following His law and proclaiming His lordship will suffer for their profession. Such individuals are unashamed of Christ and His kingdom, and Jesus will be unashamed of them on judgment day (Mark 8:38). Their willingness to suffer proves their faith is real, which proves the reality of their justification. Their justification means they are clothed in Christ’s merit and thus “worthy of the kingdom.” In turn, their justification reveals itself via their persevering faith in the Savior, faith that enables them to stand firm in every affliction (Heb. 11).

The suffering we endure as Christians is momentary. At His return, Christ will repay His enemies for all the trouble they have caused His people (2 Thess. 1:6–10). We are comforted now to know that the foes of God’s kingdom will not always be ascendant. Jesus will give us “relief” at His second advent, granting us resurrected life before Him forever (v. 7).

Coram Deo

At His return, Jesus “will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven” (The Heidelberg Catechism, A. 52). What greater comfort could there be than to know that we will live before the face of God forever, free from sin and all the pain that it causes? Let us pray that we will always long for this great day and that our longing for it will make us more willing to suffer for the kingdom whenever it is necessary.

For Further Study