Summary: Jesus will return to pay back his enemies and to take back his people.
What’s your impression of movie sequels? Was Jaws 2 better than Jaws? The Empire Strikes Back an improvement on Star Wars? I usually find sequels to be quite disappointing. It seems to me that they are produced just to capitalize on the success of the first film, not because there is a meaningful follow-up story to be told.
I wonder if that isn’t what a lot of people think of the Apocalypse. Do you know what the Apocalypse is? The word “apocalypse” is Greek for “revealing.” Paul used that word to describe how Jesus would be revealed in all of his glory on the Last Day. Today we are going to see that the return of Jesus is not just another sequel for he will come to pay back God’s enemies, and take back God’s people. Since his return will be so brilliant all will say “Apocalypse Wow!”
We’re going to learn about the Apocalypse from Paul’s words to the Christians in Thessalonica. Paul stopped by this Greek city on his second missionary journey and through the work of the Holy Sprit, won a large number of converts. Unfortunately there were also many opposed to the faith forcing Paul and his companions to move on to the city of Berea.
As Paul left Thessalonica he was concerned for the Christians because it didn’t look like the persecution would stop with his departure. When Paul arrived in Corinth he sent a letter to the Thessalonians to encourage them in their faith. Upon hearing that they had withstood the devil’s attacks he quickly wrote another letter saying, “All this [persecution] is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering ” (2 Thess. 1:5).
The Thessalonians were not to think that suffering for the faith was a sign that God had forsaken them. No, it proved God’s interest in them. In his first epistle Peter explained why God let’s his children suffer. “...though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6b, 7).
When God allows a trial into our life he’s not challenging us to handle the situation on our own. He’s rousing us to hold on to his promises that will see us through the difficulty. Life’s trials are like a stiff winter wind. The harder it blows the more tightly it causes you to wrap your jacket around you, not throw it off. In the same way God allows blustery challenges into our life so that we will wrap ourselves more tightly in his love.
Although suffering and persecution strengthens faith Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that they wouldn’t have to put up with it forever. Paul said, “6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 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” (2 Thess. 2:6, 7).
Paul promised that in time God would grant relief. The Greek word “relief” can be described as the loosening of a bowstring. Though there may be tension in our life now God promises to loosen that tension when Christ returns. He will provide that relief especially when he pays back God’s enemies for the hurt they have caused his children. Paul explains, “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 and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thess. 2:8).
At the Apocalypse unbelievers will be heard to say, “Wow!” at the punishment God has in store for them. Paul tells us that God will not only shut out the unbelievers from his love, but also pay their evil back with everlasting destruction. Some think this means that God’s enemies will simply be annihilated so that they cease to exist. If only it were that painless. At the Apocalypse, God’s enemies will not cease to exist; their existence will cease to be appealing. The punishment God has in store for them is often described in the Bible as a constant burning with no hope of relief. When that becomes plain to God’s enemies this is how they will react. “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17).