“THE FLAMING VENGEANCE OF JESUS”
Second Thessalonians 1.8
1. Please turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 28:
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
2. Following His bodily resurrection from the dead, and before He ascended to the Father’s right hand, where He presently is until His glorious return, the Lord Jesus Christ issued what has come to be known as the Great Commission.
3. In the Great Commission, which we have just read, the Lord Jesus Christ, given all power (or authority) by God, dispatched His disciples to make disciples throughout the world by preaching the Gospel, baptizing converts, and then training those converts to then do likewise.
4. The disciples did just that. And when Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul, was converted and baptized he began to do the same thing. Serving as a pastor for a number of years in the city of Antioch, Paul was then set apart by the Holy Spirit to a Church planting ministry that took him on three Church planting and Church strengthening journeys before he was arrested and transported to Rome for a trial before Caesar.
5. Each of the three missionary journeys of Paul and his co-laborers lasted approximately three years. During his second missionary journey Paul ventured into Europe and took the Gospel to the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth, where Churches were planted.
6. But it was in the city of Thessalonica that Paul and his party met with some pretty rough treatment. So rough, in fact, that Paul and Silas were urged by their co-laborers to leave town for their own safety. So they left and went to Berea, and enjoyed a fruitful ministry there until their enemies from Thessalonica followed them there and persecuted them yet again, requiring Paul to move on once more.
7. Turn to Acts chapter 17:
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.
14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
8. Though Gentiles did basically the same thing in Ephesus and Philippi, in Thessalonica it was Jews who so opposed Paul that they ran him out of town and then persecuted him in Berea. What brought on this persecution? The same thing that brought on persecution every place else Paul faced it. And the same thing that brings on persecution against every Christian who serves God . . . opposition to Jesus Christ.
9. And it’s the same today. Have you noticed how acceptable it is to make mention of God, but how upset and irritated people get when you make mention of Jesus Christ?
10. During a presidential debate the candidates were asked who their favorite philosopher was. And in response to candidate George W. Bush’s mention of Jesus Christ, the entire journalistic establishment erupted in outrage that he would dare bring religion into a presidential campaign. But it was okay for Joe Lieberman to mention God in every speech. Why is it okay for God to be mentioned but people get exercised when Jesus is mentioned?
11. And how about Hollywood? I had never noticed this, but a preacher once pointed out to me that when the giant studio bosses ruled Hollywood with iron fists, they knew that they could make money marketing movies that emphasized family values and made mention of God from time to time. You’d see Bing Crosby or Pat O’Brian cast as priests. But those big studio bosses wouldn’t let anyone make mention of Jesus Christ. Why was it okay to mention God during the golden age of Hollywood, but it was not permitted to mention Jesus?
12. The problem, you see, is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the stumbling block, the rock of offense. Talk about God all you want to most people, but they start getting testy when the subject is the Lily of the valley, the bright and morning Star. Why? They don’t want to be told of their sin. They don’t want their illusion of well being destroyed. They don’t want to be accountable for their sins.
13. For whatever reason, unsaved people are strongly opposed to Christ’s disciples serving Him, obeying Him, and preaching the Gospel. In the United States we are the only remaining minority group politically correct people are allowed to mock, to ridicule, to snicker about, and to openly oppose in class rooms and work places. Never make a Sikh uncomfortable for his turban or the knife he carries, but it’s open season for us.
14. While law suits are filed by many attorneys to expand the freedoms and free exercise of liberties of most other groups, law suits are routinely filed by attorneys to restrict our freedoms and the free exercise of our expressions of faith. After September 11th school districts in California were requiring students to memorize portions of the Koran as an exercise in tolerance. Imagine what would have happened to any teacher who required students to learn about Jesus.
15. Yet what happens in the United States is mild in comparison to what happens in other countries. In Egypt Christian girls are being kidnapped, with some 300 girls presently unaccounted for. In China pastors are imprisoned, oftentimes without trial, for simply preaching the Gospel. In Laos many Christians are incarcerated. In Pakistan Christians are falsely accused of breaking many laws, oftentimes being killed by angry mobs after being released by Pakistani courts.
16. The former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Turkestan imprison Christians. Many Hmong tribesman are in prison in Vietnam for preaching the Gospel. And you know about the missionary in India several years ago who was set on fire with his son and burned alive, as well as Christians in Nigeria who are set on fire by Muslims. Burned to death for telling folks about the Savior of mankind.
17. In John 16.33 Jesus predicted, before His crucifixion, that His disciples would have tribulation in the world. And so it is. We do have tribulation. We have always had tribulation. And until Jesus comes we shall always have tribulation. Why so? There are two answers to that question.
18. Psalm 34.19 reads, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” God allows His Own to be afflicted, in part, so that He may be glorified by His Own in the midst of afflictions. O, how God is glorified by His people when they are persecuted. Read Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs.
19. So, on God’s part, tribulations are allowed by Him. He lets us endure suffering and opposition for reasons best known by Him. And part of Paul’s life of joy and victory was his confidence that God was in complete control of his life’s circumstances. That’s why he could rejoice in the Philippian jail and serve God so effectively from a Roman imprisonment.
20. But what about the people who do us wrong? What about those who persecute believers for simply obeying Christ with meekness and humility? What about the Pakistanis who murder Christians? What about those jailors in Islamabad who gang raped a 13 year old girl named Saleema for guiding a friend to Christ?
21. What about the Indonesian Muslims who rape and murder the Christians of East Timor, simply because they had successfully evangelized some Indonesian Muslims? What about the Hindus who burned the missionary and his son in a gasoline fire? What about the Sudanese Muslims who kidnap and rape Christian girls and kill their brothers and fathers?
22. This was a question the young Christians in Thessalonica had for the apostle Paul. He only remained in the city for about three weeks, remember, and then had to leave. Those he left behind were also persecuted, and did not understand what was happening to them. “I am willing to suffer for Jesus’ sake. But what happens to those who cause the suffering? What happens to the person who ridicules me, who works to intimidate me, who persecutes me, who harms my family? What happens to those who put the squeeze on me?”
23. The answer to that question will be given to us by the apostle Paul, after brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we sing. So, stand before this morning’s sermon, as brother Isenberger comes.
1. Please turn in your Bible to Second Thessalonians chapter 1. When you find that place in your Bible please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Thessalonians were suffering terrible persecution at the hands of unbelievers, for no other reason than obeying Jesus Christ’s Great Commission, which never hurt anyone. So Paul tells his beloved new Christians what will happen to those who troubled them.
3. Look at verse 5. Here Paul informs the Thessalonians of something they may have lost sight of, that they had been counted worthy by God of His kingdom, for which kingdom they suffered. Thus, there was nothing wrong with them that brought on the suffering they experienced. Quite the contrary.
4. Look at verse 6. Is it right for wrongdoers to be punished? Is it proper to imprison those who assault others, who rob them at gun point? In short, is it right to punish in this lifetime those who trouble their fellow man? Yes. Then it is also right for God to punish in the next life those who trouble His children.
5. Look at verse 7. You who are troubled, you who are bothered, can relax with Paul. Why so? Jesus is coming again, with His mighty angels.
6. Look at verse 8. Jesus is coming in flaming fire to take vengeance on those who know not God and on those who obey not His Gospel. Notice, when He comes He will take vengeance not only on those who have persecuted Christians, but on everyone who is not himself a Christian.
7. Look at verse 9. Those who are unsaved will be punished with everlasting destruction. So much for those who say God is too good to send anyone to Hell. So much, also, for those who say that punishment won’t be forever. It’s clear from this verse that what awaits the unsaved man, the unconverted woman, is punishment. And it’s a punishment that is everlasting destruction. And everlasting means forever.
8. So, now, the Thessalonians know what’s going to happen to those who have persecuted them and troubled them for nothing besides serving God. What I would like to make sure you do not miss, this morning, as I am sure the Thessalonians did not miss it when Paul’s letter arrived and was read and studied by them, is the flaming vengeance of Jesus.
9. Let me remind you and, with some of you, inform you, of three things related to the flaming vengeance of Jesus:
1A. First, THERE IS JESUS IN HIS PRESENT SESSION
1B. We know from God’s Word that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. That is, the relationship between the Second Person of the triune Godhead and the First Person of the triune Godhead has always been a paternal one, which is to say father and son. It’s an eternally paternal relationship, but a paternal relationship still. The First Person is the Father and the Second Person is the Son. The Spirit of God, of course, is the Third Person.
2B. We also know from God’s Word that Jesus never changes. Hebrews 13.8 states, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Thus, even though Jesus became a man and took upon Himself the nature of humankind, though without sin, He remains in His essence unchanged and unchangeable. The theological word for being unchangeable is the word immutable. Just as the Father and the Spirit are immutable, so Jesus is immutable, unchanged because He is unchangeable.
3B. At present, since His ascension to His Father’s right hand, and until His second coming in power and great glory, the Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven. There He has remained for almost 2000 years, and will remain until His return to earth. But while He is in heaven His disciples are here on earth, indwelt by the Holy Spirit given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, and responsible to carry out the Great Commission He charged us with before His ascension.
4B. Our duty, our task, our privilege, our awesome responsibility, our Spirit emboldened delight until Jesus comes again, is to bring the lost to Christ through the preaching of the Gospel, to baptize them, and to then train them to do all things whatsoever Jesus has commanded.
5B. What, we should ask, is Jesus Christ’s disposition toward sinners while He is seated on His throne on high until His enemies are made His footstool? How does He feel toward sinners? His disposition is exactly the same now that it was before His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. He is the Lamb of God, come to take away the sin of the world, John 1.29.
6B. Though portrayed by the Roman Catholic Church as an angry Savior, there is no indication in God’s Word that Jesus was, during His earthly ministry, or presently is, during His present session in heaven, angry with sinners in general. To be sure, He was angry with the vipers and hypocrites who interfered with other people getting saved, by virtue of their misusing their positions of spiritual leadership and authority. And He drove out the money changers who had turned His Father’s house into an house of merchandise, John 2. But He is never shown to be otherwise angry toward sinners.
7B. He was not angry with the woman at the well, who had taken five husbands and who was then living with a man not her husband, John 4. He was not angry with the woman taken in the very act of adultery, John 8. He was not angry with the Roman centurion, though the Romans occupied the land and oppressed the Jewish people, Matthew 8.
8B. Quite the contrary, the Lord Jesus Christ pities sinners, has great love for sinners, is compassionate toward sinners, and wants sinners to come to Him for salvation and cleansing. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” He said in Matthew 11.28. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me,” He cried to the assembled crowd in the Temple courtyard in John 7.37.
9B. Now that Jesus is in heaven there is no indication in the Bible that His attitude toward sinners has changed. He said Himself that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost. And the Great Commission reflects His ongoing desire to receive sinners who will turn from their sins and come to Him by faith for forgiveness and cleansing and life eternal.
10B. So, there is no excuse to be frightened of the Lord Jesus Christ. The little children crowded around Him. Women and strangers were attracted to Him. The lepers and the lame came to Him. So, there is no reason not to come to Him besides refusal and a love for wickedness and sin.
2A. Next, THERE ARE SINNERS WHO ARE NOT CONVERTED
1B. The Thessalonians wondered about those who troubled them. Paul answered them, but his answer was a bit broader than their concern. They wanted to know about those who troubled them; Paul answered them by addressing the issue of what would happen to anyone who was not converted.
2B. Notice our text, Second Thessalonians 1.8: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Unsaved people are described in two ways in this verse, describing not only those who troubled the Thessalonians and believers in Philippi and Ephesus and in other places down to this day, but all who die without getting saved.
3B. First, there are “them that know not God.” This refers to those unsaved people who are not Jewish. It refers to unsaved Gentiles who have no knowledge of God, no recognition of His essence and nature, as the Jews did with their Hebrew Scriptures. And it includes not only those who did not persecute Christians with those who did, but it also includes anyone who does not know God, whether or not he ever had opportunity to know God. Thus, a Gentile in the USA and a Gentile in Outer Mongolia are in the same category here. If you are unsaved, and you are not Jewish, you know not God. Therefore, this verse applies to you.
4B. Then, there are them “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is Paul’s terminology for unsaved Jewish people. They do, because of the Hebrew Scriptures they had, and because of their covenant relationship with God, know God after a fashion, though not in a saving way. But they will not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, they, too, so long as they reject Jesus the Messiah, are in a lost condition in the sight of God. Therefore, this verse also applies to them.
5B. So, it is very clear that Paul, here, refers to a broader spectrum of people than those guilty of persecuting the Thessalonian Christians, who were primarily Jewish, or even those who persecuted Christians in other cities, who were primarily Gentiles. Those mentioned in our text for today are all Gentiles who are unsaved and all Jews who are unsaved, meaning anyone who is not saved.
6B. Thus, verse 8 refers to you if you are not saved, whether or not you have ever persecuted Christians, whether or not you have ever intimidated any believer, whether or not you have ever made a child of God to feel uncomfortable. If you are a non-Christian and you have done nothing against any Christian you are still included in this group because, as Jesus made very clear during His earthly ministry, “He is that is not with me is against me,” Luke 11.23.
3A. Finally, THERE IS JESUS CHRIST AT HIS SECOND COMING
“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”
1B. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ is immutable, which is to say that He not only never changes, but also He is incapable of change. That being true, however, it must be said that when Jesus comes again His attitude and disposition toward sinners will be dramatically and forever altered.
2B. He will come in flaming fire, our text tells us, and He will take vengeance on them that know not God (unsaved Gentiles), and on them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (unsaved Jews). For the present the Lord Jesus Christ is exercising patience. For the present His long suffering continues. For the present He shows restraint toward sinners who reject Him and toward the wicked who occupy God’s world yet do not give Him the worship He deserves.
3B. But there is coming a day when Jesus Christ will have had enough. There is coming a day when Jesus Christ will be fed up. There is coming a day when God’s Spirit will no longer strive with man and the Lord Jesus Christ will withdraw His Spirit. There is coming a day when the door to the Ark will be shut. There is coming a day when His disposition toward sinners will be altered from accepting to angry, from receiving to refusing.
4B. Jesus came the first time as the Lamb of God, to take away the sin of the world. He sits at His Father’s right hand on high right now as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. But when He returns to this earth in fierce majesty, in frightening glory, with mighty angels, it will not be as the Lamb of God. Rather, it will be as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, bent on vengeance.
5B. Vengeance? Yes, vengeance. Remember, “it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord,” Romans 12.19. There is no need for the Thessalonian believers to concern themselves with vengeance. The Lord Jesus will tend to that business Himself in due time. But what will the vengeance of Jesus Christ be when comes the time He will avenge Himself upon you?
6B. It will be sudden, like a lightning strike. That’s what the word “fire” suggests in our text. It will be searing, like a blow torch. That’s what the word “flaming” suggests to me. It will be painful and a getting even for past hurts. That’s what the word “vengeance” means. There will be punishment, verse 9. And the damage brought on you by the punishment will be “everlasting.”
7B. There are other details found in Scripture that provide more information about this terrible event. We know that there will be darkness. We know that there will be perpetual falling. We know that there will be flames and unimaginable agony. We know there will be worms that die not. We know that there will be loneliness. We know that there will be pain from gnashing of teeth. We know there will be terrible thirst. We know there will be terrible guilt. We know that children will be separated from their parents. We know that it will be terrible, horrible. And it will be brought upon you by Jesus.
1. Roman Catholicism is right about Jesus when they teach that He is angry. They are just wrong on the timing of His anger. He will someday be angry toward sinners, though He is not yet angry.
2. Protestantism and the Baptists are right about Jesus when they teach that He is not at this time angry with sinners. But they frequently omit the future anger of Jesus toward sinners at the time of His second coming.
3. Today you have seen what God’s Word says about the issue. Jesus is not presently angry at you, my unsaved friend. But He will be someday, if you remain a Christ rejecter.
4. And when He comes He will take you suddenly, and with great ferocity, and He will kill you, and He will cast you into Hell, and He will punish you in Hell for more than 1000 years, and then He will raise you up, and then He will judge you, and then He will cast you into the lake of fire and there He will punish you forever and forever and forever and forever. And you will remember that I warned you.