Summary: Are you persecuted? If you seek to fit in with the world, probably not. But if you make a stand with Jesus - watch out!
Today we begin the second letter to the Thessalonians. This letter was written just weeks after the first letter. In that letter, Paul wrote about Jesus’ return to encourage them and to answer two questions about it.
1. What will happen to those that die before Jesus returns?
2. When will Jesus return?
It appears that they needed a good bit more instruction about this, so Paul dedicates almost this entire second letter to the subject of Jesus’ return.
In chapter one of 2 Thessalonians we find how Jesus’ return is related to the suffering of persecution for the faith. We see great rewards for faithfulness and devastating punishment unbelief and disobedience. The return of Christ issues in the end of the world, the fullness of the kingdom of God, relief to those who are persecuted for the faith, and punishment for those who are persecuting the faithful, who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We begin by summing up with John Pipers comments:
• First, all affliction is designed to make us worthy of the kingdom of God -- our long-term holiness is vastly more important to the Father who loves us than is our short-term comfort.
• Second, no evil will triumph in the end: those who spurn the Gospel will in the end be brought to ruin, as verses 8 and 9 describe in tragic and terrible terms: the Lord "will inflict vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion form the presence of the Lord and form the glory of his might."
• And finally, the suffering of God’s people will be rewarded in the end with the stupendous privilege expressed in verse 10: the Lord will come "on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed."
No more suffering. The kingdom has come. The church has been made worthy by her trials. The enemies of truth are swept away in eternal destruction. The saints are given everlasting rest. And Jesus Christ is glorified on his throne for ever and ever.
Next let’s consider a few other things the Bible says about suffering persecution and the Christian:
John 15:20 "Remember the word that I said to you, ’A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
Acts 14:22 …strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
Romans 8: 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
2 Tim. 3: 12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
No one wants persecution. Jesus himself prayed for God to take the cup of suffering away, but he said, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” But Jesus did teach us, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” What are we to make of these scriptures and others like them that teach us to expect to face persecution and conflict as we live for Christ in this world?
First, let’s admit that there is an expectation in the Bible that there will be persecution for Christians in this world.
Second, let’s look at ourselves honestly and biblically and ask the hard questions of faith.
Do I know God and am I obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
As we see plainly in our text of 1 Thessalonians 1, there is a lot riding on where we take our stand. And we must decide! It is not a question of living in such a way that we can avoid persecution for the kingdom of God and still remain his faithful subjects; it is a matter of whether we will take our stand on the word of God and submit to the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ or not.