Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26th - Reprobation

Prayer Requests
Sarah and Tyler in China
Pastor Aaron's Minor Surgery
Channing's Minor Surgery
Orissa State in India
Emily's New Church and Parents Attending
Daniel's Work Situation

Text - 2 Thessalonians 2:11-3:5

So we're coming to the end of Second Thessalonians...I thought the first day of the new school year would be August 26th...but it turns out it's August 9th, so we're going to need to press to get finished with this book. Fortunately it's got two major points left and we have two classes left on it, so we should be fine. I think it's interesting that the end of First Thessalonians, the good church, was filled with lots and lots of minor advice, while the end of Second Thessalonians, the bad church, is concerned with two major things.

The one we're going to look at today is what's called reprobation, when God purposefully keeps someone from salvation. We're also going to look at the gospel...where our hope comes from, because remember, this church was without hope due to them thinking they had missed Heaven. And finally we'll look at what we should do about it.

Thessalonica's hopelessness isn't an isolated thought in scripture, what was Corinth's major failing and why they went so apostate? They denied the Resurrection, therefore they said, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." See First Corinthians 15 for a bigger exposition of that. Likewise check out this verse,

2 Timothy 2:16-18
Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are [destroying - NIV] the faith of some.

Quick recap. Chapter 1 told us what God would do to these people who were afflicting his saints, what was it? Hell for eternity. God is not playing around.

What two things have to happen before Christ returns? A mass falling away from the faith, and the coming of the Antichrist. Why will people believe the Antichrist when he claims to be God? Signs and miracles, and because of verse 11-12.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

This is called reprobation, when God stops saving people and is purposefully blinding their eyes from salvation. He's done it to various extents through history, but near the end he will do it at a huge scale.

The title for it, reprobation, means to throw away, reject, especially because it's found lacking, as garbage.

Romans 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a reprobate mind to do what ought not to be done.

Jeremiah 6:27-30 "I have made you a tester of metals among my people, that you may know and test their ways. They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed by the fire; in vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed. Rejected silver they are called, for the LORD has rejected them."

Let me show you that it's not new:

Exodus 10:20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.

When Israel took Canaan, all of the armies of the land came against them and were destroyed...why?

Joshua 11:20 For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.

God decided to kill Ahab, so he convened all of his angels to determine how to get Ahab to go into battle at a certain place.

1 Kings 22:19-22 And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, 'I will entice him.' And the LORD said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.'"

Finally, Jesus speaks to us about why he's doing as much.

Matthew 13:10-17 Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: "'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Does this sound fair? Paul anticipated that question.

Romans 3:3-8 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged." But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? ( I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

Lamentations was about such a reprobate people, and here is their answer,

Lamentation 3:39-40 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins. Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!

Rather we should rejoice in the patience and lovingkindness of God.

Matthew 17:17 And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?"

God has no obligation to save anyone or enlighten anyone, he could decide to stop saving anyone if he wanted to. After all, Christ's main purpose was to show that God is both just and gracious, but only by satisfying the demands of the law himself.

This is what makes the gospel so much more glorious, that we didn't deserve salvation or communion with God, yet he has made it possible. This is the second time in two chapters that Paul goes into the gospel, I think he does it here because the Thessalonians would be freaked out that Satan is coming to claim to be God, and also wondering if they will be condemned with the reprobate.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

If there is a bigger transitioning "but" in the Bible, I haven't found it.

God has chosen us as a remnant out of lost and dying world. We were once without mercy, but now we have received mercy, we were once not a people, but now we are God's people.

How does Paul know that they are chosen? Because he has seen them sanctified by the Holy Spirit, believe in the Resurrected Christ, and called by the preaching of the gospel.

What's sanctification? Being conformed, that is changed, to mirror Jesus Christ in your actions. It is to love what he loves, and hate what he hates. Who does it? The Holy Spirit.

Which truth is it that Paul says we should be believing in? That would take all day, a few: The truth is that God is God, and we're not. That Jesus Christ is God and Diana/Aphrodite/Zeus isn't. That we are incapable of saving ourselves, that there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ. That he came once to save, he will be coming again to judge. Paul tells the church to reference the First Letter, and to remember what he had preached to them; these are the traditions of which he was speaking, the Old Testament traditions and Early Church ecclesiology. If you ever go toe to toe with a Catholic, they will certainly take you to this verse and say, "See, Paul says hold to tradition." No, he doesn't, he says, "Hold to the tradition." Big difference, hold to the Bible, and know why we do certain things the way we do them.

Story: A young man and woman get married. The wife makes a roast their first week and the husband says, “Honey, this was delicious, but why did you cut the ends off of the roast?” She answers, “I don’t know, that’s just how my mom always did it.” Curious, she calls her mom, “Mom, why do you cut the ends off of the roast?” Her mom answers, “I don’t know, that’s how my mom does it.” The newly wed calls her grandmother, “Grandma, why do we cut the ends off of the roast?” Her grandmother answers, “I don’t know, that’s the way my mom taught me.” Since the girl’s great-grandmother is still alive, she calls her up, “Great-Grandma, why did you cut the ends off of your roasts?” She answers, “Because my pan was too small.”

So, what is the tradition of this gospel? Paul doesn't explicitly say it in this letter, albeit he hints at it so thoroughly that this whole letter is saturated in the gospel. The main concept of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is alive. We see that all throughout the Epistle. What makes that marvelous is that at one point, for three whole days, he was dead. The reason he was dead was because he was executed in our place as a sin-offering to God, but he defeated death; the tomb is empty. He is living and is able to save us, and to do for us what verse 16-17 says.

Real quick, what one word summarizes the Second Thessalonians church? Hopeless.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Hope! Through Grace! Paul is sticking close to the main theme, that even when everything looks sooooo hopeless, Jesus Christ and his Father have loved us, and given us eternal comfort and good hope through the grace of the gospel.

Paul is questioning...Why don't you have hope? You have God, you have salvation, you have an inheritance in Heaven, you have hope. Now act like it.

The last verse introduces us to chapter 3, and how we are to act. How are we supposed to grow in grace, to become better Christians, to be conformed into an image of Christ, to establish our hearts in hope and comfort?

Here is one of Christianity's greatest failings in the last century, we've ignored this verse and other verses like it. Christianity in the last century, and it's not new to this century, this is just where it has become popular, has said to draw near to God through inward focus. "God loves you and has a wonderful purpose for your life" type stupidity. They say to grow in grace through prayer, fasting, reading your Bible, going to church, going to Sunday School, retreats, claiming promises from the Bible for yourself, opposing Satan through confrontation, and thinking positive. All of these have led to growing rates of depression, divorce, and wrecked faith within the church, because there is no verse that says to be established through inward works, and all this does is foster selfishness.

v. 16-17 May the Lord Jesus Christ himself...establish your heart in every good work and word.

The way we are established and strengthened is through doing good works and using God's Word in ministry. And remember from our lesson on hope, hope in Christ and his work is the steadfast anchor of the soul; that's a pretty established unwobbling faith.

Philemon 1:6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

So share your faith, find a ministry, then multiple places in scripture promise that through this outward focus for Christ, you are sure to be blessed. You will hear me quote often Acts 20:35, It is more blessed to give than to receive. It's true, do it. You don't have to teach a class, you don't have to be a pastor, you don't have to mentor someone, you don't have to preach in the open-air, but you have to be doing something with a view to eternity. The more things the better.

Did Paul take his exhortation seriously?

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

We need to pray for each other, and help to spread the Word, the only source of Life. We will face opposition, but God is faithful to protect us. Nothing can happen to us that he hasn't planned and can't use for good. He is protecting us from Satan, we don't need to become demon-hunters, we need to be ministers of the Word.

So, I implore you, do and continue doing the things Christ commands, and pray that the Lord will direct our hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance. For many are perishing, some are irretrievably damned, but we can preach Christ and him crucified so that his name becomes famous, so that we partake in his glory, and that he continues to save himself a remnant, for he is faithful, and mighty to save.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 18th - Antichrist

Prayer Requests
Sarah and Tyler in China
Pastor Aaron's Minor Surgery
Pastor Dave preaching
VBS Results
Student Volunteers
Bethany's Counsin's New Salvation
The Costello's Rafting Trip

Text - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Real quick let's do a quick look-through at some books in the Bible that are written to specific churches and which ones they are.

From Revelation:
Ephesus - Loveless Church
Smyrna - Persecuted Church
Pergamos - Trying to love God and the World simultaneously
Thyatira - Doctrineless / Charismatic Church
Sardis - Works-Righteous Church
Philadelphia - Perfect Church
Laodicea - Apostate Church

Who were John's Gospel and three Epistles written to? Ephesus, for one reason to fight lovelessness and self-centeredness.

Any idea who the letters to Corinth were written to? The Charismatic Church.

Galatians? A works-righteous church.

First Thessalonians? A persecuted church, a wonderful church; full of hope, love, and faith.

Second Thessalonians? The hopeless church. How did they go from being a First Thessalonians church to a Second Thessalonians church? That's what we're going to look at today, and why their hopelessness was unfounded.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

They were shaken and alarmed by a fake letter from Paul and Silas saying that the Lord had come. Last week we considered why they would believe such a letter, and I missed a huge fact which would have impacted this. It's the "spirit and spoken word" which preceded the letter. This references the supposedly supernatural discerning of events that will lead to the end. Like the December 21st, 2012 supposed end of the age. Prepare to see huge cults grow up in the next few years around that date.

Thessalonica was probably caught up in all of these weird astrology and prophecy of men, and then lo and behold, a letter seeming to be from Paul saying that they'd missed it. My guess is that a friend of Paul who was not a Christian had written the letter and delivered it, and so combined with an sensationalized expectation of the end, and a trustworthy letter-carrier, and the church fell for the heresy that they had missed the rapture.

And it wrecked their lives. They were shaken in mind and alarmed, and we'll see in a future lesson that their church fell apart over the loss of hope.

How important is hope? It is vital.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-5 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?

Paul yells at his church here, angry that his church was deceived, but more angry that they fell for it. He reminds them not to be deceived but to remember the Word of God which he relayed to them. There is a huge mistake growing in the church called Preterism. This is a new belief from the 17th century, but it's becoming more and more common. It holds that all prophecy has been fulfilled with the exception of a few things, maybe Christ's return, but some go so far as to say there will be no end or final judgment of all, but each judgment is personal. It's unbiblical and dumb.

Paul gives two major things that have to happen before Christ will return. The first is a rebellion, or a massive falling away, or an apostasy. This will be discussed more with the second point.

The second this is that a man of lawlessness be revealed, the very son of destruction, Satan manifest in the flesh. He will claim to be God, taking his seat in the very temple of God. This is interesting, because the nation, not the people, Israel REALLY want to rebuild a temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem.

What is the temple of God right now? It's me, it's you, it's our body, for we worship in Spirit and Truth, not on any certain mountain. The problem is that the Muslims have a very special church on that rock. I hope to see it fall before I am called home. When that church falls, a temple will be rebuilt, and this will open the door for a man to exalt himself as the Holy One of Israel.

For the first two centuries, the church was certain this man would be a Caesar. But then the Roman Empire fell. The Catholic Church was quick to call out those who would speak against their cult as potential antichrists; especially Martin Luther and John Calvin. From the 1500's to the late 1800's, there was very little doubt that the Antichrist would be a Pope. But now the Catholic Church is an impotent little organism which is only a bother to the true church. Adolf Hitler was probably as near to an antichrist as there has been. After that, there was a mass craze that the antichrist would be a Soviet leader, but then the USSR fell. Not a few people surmised that Obama was the antichrist, but he's proved that he's not smart enough to be the antichrist. All this points to a desire for the church to have special knowledge of the end of the age. We'll see next week that our job is to glorify Christ and do good works, not to figure out who is the Antichrist.

And here we're looking at one man, Satan manifest in the flesh, for in the past there have been many antichrists.

1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Historically, the church of the antichrist has been called Rome, but let me show you something interesting that is happening.

Revelation 17:1-6 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk." And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations." And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

Some basic things, this church is lacking in holiness, her purple and scarlet robes are indicative of the priesthood. The angel goes on to describe that she is made up off all of the world, and used by the Antichrist for his purposes. Since the Reformation, this church has been called Rome. This seemed to be true then, but I guarantee you she's made up of multiple churches under a flag of ecumenicalism.

Today in the world, Pope Benedict the whatever is using very Evangelical language, which is the squishy stuff saying if you just believe, you'll be fine, Rome has a very hard time saying anybody will go to Hell. They are leaning in the direction of Protestantism without going so far as to be saved. Likewise, Protestantism is leaning towards Catholicism with their mysticism, doing things to draw near to God. How do we draw near to God? God brings us near by the blood of Christ, we become efficient in our faith by loving God and loving others in deed and truth, not just in word or talk. Rome and Evangelicalism are leaning towards each other about to meet in the middle, and neither is redeemed.

Likewise, the great antichrist Rick Warren is embracing Islam and saying that Jesus Christ's Father is the same God as Allah. He is not, Allah is bribable, unjust, capricious, whimsical, and ungracious. He couldn't be any farther from the Living God. Richard Dawkins, one of the world's leading atheists, has announced that Christianity is an excellent source of morals. Likewise, the guy in the White House is a Muslim who claims to be a Christian.

All of these religions are leaning in towards a common point; they will not be saved, but a time is coming very soon when there is one world religion under the banner of tolerance, and then all they'll need is one leader, who will claim to be the God of this tolerance and all of these religions.

Where is he now? Let's read.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

Very important to see here, Christ is WAY bigger than Antichrist. He is restraining him, and he will easily put an end to Antichrist's life. These things all have to happen before Christ will come. This is a lot to happen, but it's not to say it couldn't happen in a decade. It's not going to happen today, but we should still have an urgency to minister for Christ. Even if he doesn't return during our lifetime, we're still racing against the clock to live for him in our measly few years, which might be 100 years if we're lucky. For example, Jim Elliot, whose video we watched at VBS, died at 29 and yet did amazing things for Christ; history is replete with great saints dying young having done much in their short lives.

A time is coming when this apostasy will result in almost no new converts to Christianity.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

But now we have a similar question of why did Thessalonica believe the false letter; why will people follow after this Antichrist?

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Satan is able to do parlor tricks. He can do signs and wonders. This is reminiscent of Moses and Aaron in front of Pharoah;

Exodus 7:9-13 When Pharaoh says to you, 'Prove yourselves by working a miracle,' then you shall say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.'" So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Satan is able to do tricks that are reminiscent of God's miracles. God's are obviously much better and longer lasting, but when people hate God, they'll follow any weird things, having itching ears heaping teachers to themselves. We'll talk more about God blinding their eyes next week, but God gets to a point where he loses patience with people and gives them up to Hell. This is called reprobation, we'll talk more about it next week.

What sort of false signs do you think Satan may be doing? Healings, prophecy, gold-dust, and pretending to cast out demons. If you watch these things on TV, you see all manners of people with weird things wrong with them being healed. You can never see these things, it will be like brain-tumors or eye problems or hearing problems. Dr. Justin Peter's has made it his life's work to preach the true gospel to people who are falling for this antichristian religion, and he says when you go to one of these churches, you see all sorts of sick people hidden away in the back, who would never make it up on stage because you can see what is wrong with them. He says he's seen it so bad as healthy people to sit in a wheel-chair so they can stand up and walk on stage.

Matthew 16:4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.

What's the sign of Jonah? A miraculous salvation, the Resurrection, a transformed life, and preaching of repentance.

This coming religion is wicked, and Jesus Christ hates it, yet he is losing patience and is giving men over to their lusts, but he won't let it happen forever.

2 Peter 2:2-3 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Christ hasn't returned yet, many things need to transpire before them. We must hold fast to the hope of the Resurrection and his return, striving for holiness, and serving him until he returns or calls us home.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12th - Hope

Prayer Requests
Vacation Bible School
Sarah and Tyler Going to China
Pastor Aaron Preaching

Text – 2 Thessalonians 1:3

We’re going to spend an entire lesson today on a word that is not there. We’ve already looked at this verse, twice, actually, but something flew out at me while preparing that we HAVE to look at, because it sums up the WHOLE letter of 2 Thessalonians, and it’s a missing word.

Let’s see if you can see it,

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

What’s missing? Let’s look at First Thessalonians and First Corinthians;

1 Thessalonians 1:3 Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Faith, _______, and Love. These three are a unit, they’re a trinity of good things; a three legged stool, remove one and the other two fall.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. If we lose hope, we lose faith, if we lose faith, we lose our justification, if we lose our justification, we lose everything. Have any of you ever heard of anybody being someone afraid of Hebrews 6 and what it seems to say? Hebrews 6 sounds like you might be able to lose your salvation, if you read it wrongly; but of course that is not true, for we trust in the perseverance of the saints, that he who began a good work in you will see it to completion on the Day of Christ.

Hebrews 6 is about how vital hope is to our salvation, and beloved, if we are without hope, then we are without salvation. Hebrews 6 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, because I’m not afraid of it because I know that the author could not possibly be saying that we can lose our salvation, so we see what this passage is trying to teach us.

It’s strange all of the sudden that we’re in Hebrews 6, but it’s so vital for hope, and because of what it says is why Thessalonica was without hope. It begins by instructing teachers not to spend all of their time on salvation. It is wonderful to preach repentance, faith in Christ, the resurrection, eternal judgment; but there is SOOOOOOO much more to the faith. It says that if you’re saved, that you can’t be resaved, so what is the point of then spending all of your time trying to get saints saved. We have a much better hope and infinitely better inheritance in front of us than just being saved.

Don’t get me wrong, salvation is awesome, it is huge, it is worth talking about, but Hebrews 6 says don’t fixate on one thing while ignoring the full richness of our inheritance in Christ.

Hebrews 6:11-12 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

I earnestly desire to see in each of you the full assurance of the hope we have, so that you might serve the church in love, that this faith and patience will lead to the full inheritance of all of the promises that are available in Christ, not just the salvation.

Hebrews 6:18-20 It is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hope is huge. Where does it come from?

Ephesians 2:12-13 Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

We were without hope without God, but through Jesus Christ shedding his blood, purchasing us in his ransom, we have a full assurance of hope in him.

Hebrews 3:6 Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Romans 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Wouldn’t it be a little weird if I said, “I hope [student in class] comes to class today.” Of course it would be weird, because they’re here, I don’t hope because I see, I know, there is no patience required.

On the other hand, would it be weird if I said, “I hope [regular attender not present] comes to class today.” No, because there is a chance of that happening, but my hope is not perfect.

How about, “I hope Pastor Aaron comes to class today.” This is not really hope, because we know he is preaching right now and has made no obligation to come, and so while it would be nice if he’d stop in and say hi, this hope is small.

On the other hand, if before class I said, “I hope [student in class] comes to class today.” And I had talked to that student and he/she told me they were coming, because I trust them, and their parents, my hope was well founded and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he/she came into class.

Hebrews 10:19-23 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

When Jesus Christ makes a promise, beloved, you’d better believe it is binding. He has promised to return, to gather his saints to him, to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before his Father. It is a big hope, and Thessalonica didn’t have it, and it wrecked their lives.

Jenny asked why they believed the false letter that said they had missed the rapture. I had to think about it a lot, and I think I have the answer. They were trusting in men rather than God, and Satan has many tricksters, tricks, and schemes to damage the faith of the believer and blind the eyes of the unbeliever.

My guess, and this is largely conjecture, but is founded on verses and also on past experiences, is that Thessalonica was trusting more in men than God. For example, I felt awful after our lesson on dating/purity when I said I wasn’t dating or even kissing another girl until I was pretty sure she was the one I was going to marry, then I went and dated a girl who I realized probably there was no future with, but because of circumstances I skipped some important steps. Beloved, I will do my best to be faithful, honest, and true, but I guarantee I will let you down again as I have in the past; so trust in Jesus, who will never let you down.

So why did Thessalonica trust the letter that was supposedly from Paul that said they’d missed the rapture, even when it was directly contradictory with his first letter, which said that saints would be caught up to meet Christ in the air when he returned?

First hint:

2 Thessalonians 3:2 [Pray] that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

Second hint:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae.

Third hint:

Ephesians 6:21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

The person that carried a letter was an emissary, an ambassador, a representative of the one who wrote the letter. It was a very important position to deliver a letter, and one that required a high level of trust. Not everybody Paul ever ministered with ended up being completely perfect in their theology, we see this Mark abandoning them, Barnabas temporarily falling in with the works-righteous crowd, Timothy starting out in the circumcision-party, and the fourth hint as to why the church at Thessalonica believed the letter;

2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

Demas had ministered with Paul for at least two years, and yet he ended up being a false convert. Could there have been a Judas in the mix of Paul’s disciples who delivered a false letter under the guise of being a real disciple? Quite possibly, Demas may have even been the one who delivered both letters to Thessalonica, albeit that is a pretty wild leap.

However it happened, I would bet you that the same person delivered the fake letter as the first letter, and so the church accepted it as being from Paul.

There is a powerful application in this, that me, and your other teachers/preachers who may faithfully bring you the word still shouldn’t be trusted above God. I may preach a rock-solid message one week, then next week I may tell you that in order to go to Heaven, you have to give me $100. The false message doesn’t make the true message false, but the true message also doesn’t make the false message true. Don’t let your guard down, and make sure your hope is in Christ alone.

I was preaching at the Superbowl and had a particularly gifted heckler. He really got me off track and I lost my place in my sermon. I had gotten through that you need to be perfect to go to Heaven, and taken them through some of God’s law to show them they stood condemned before God. At this point, they were without hope. A Christian chimed in from the crowd to get me back on track, he asked, “So you’re telling us we’re without hope?!?!

It was one of my favorite times open air preaching, my response: “Hope? Hope! O blessed hope; there is hope! When we were without hope, without God in the world, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Christ paid our fine on the cross, God manifest in the flesh died for us and defeated death! We can be reconciled to him if we will repent and trust in Jesus Christ, that his payment on Calvary’s cross was entirely sufficient to pay our way into Heaven! I implore you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God! That’s hope!"

One of Dave’s favorite songs is My Hope is Built on Nothing Less by Edward Mote. Two verses of it go,

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteous;
No merit of my own I claim
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
Sustain me in the raging flood;
When all supports are washed away,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, where was his hope and trust? In God and the resurrection. The same with Christ, his hope and trust was in the unfailing promise of God of the resurrection to come. When Thessalonica lost this hope, they lost everything, even their hope and joy in temporal things.

When you would go to Jerusalem on Mt. Zion in the days of David all the way through Christ, you’d have to walk well trodden paths that went through such wonderful sounding places as the “Valley of Death” and other such dangerous and wicked places. Pagans in the area knew that Jews would be making these pilgrimages at certain times, and would set-up for business, selling food, wares, and gods along the path, usually on the hills so that they could be seen. A song that David wrote was specifically designed to be sung when these things were encountered,

Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

We see this today in many ways; think about Christmas, what are we supposed to be celebrating on Christmas? The birth of Jesus Christ; what do the pagans want us to celebrate? Stuff. On Easter, what should we be celebrating? The resurrection of Jesus Christ; what do the pagan want us to do? Look for eggs.

I lift my eyes unto the stores, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of all this stuff.

2 Corinthians 1:7-10 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Set your hope on Christ, on his death and resurrection. He is your help and shield, your life and righteousness. He is faithful, he is worthy of your faith and hope, hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

1 John 2:28-3:3 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Benediction: Now, may the God of hope grant you all joy and peace in believing, that through the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5th - Hell

Prayer Requests
Barack Obama is a Southern Baptist
Pastor Aaron's new Sermon Series
Vacation Bible School
Builders for Christ
China - Tyler and Sarah

Text - 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

So what's going on Thessalonica? Every manner of persecution you can imagine, people have been run out of town, they've been mocked, they've been banished, they've had to pay weird and imaginative taxes, at least a few of them have been killed, and now there is even spiritual persecution that someone has written them a letter that pretty much says they've missed out on Heaven.

Do you think God cares when his saints are afflicted? Of course he does, and that's what we're going to look at today, what he's going to do about it.

First though, is there a benefit to this persecution that Thessalonica is facing? Yes. What is it? Let's read verse 3 and 4.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

What's another church that was persecuted and came out ahead? Smyrna. Persecution is a great way to have a pure church, and here in Thessalonica we have a pure church. But it is in danger because now they think they're suffering for Christ and they're missing Heaven. Paul's words that this "light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." (2 Corinthians 4:17) are meaningless because they don't think the affliction they are suffering comes with Heaven.

So Paul has two problems to address in this letter, first what God is going to do to avenge his saints, and second to reassure them that they haven't missed Heaven. We're going to talk mostly about what God is going to do to avenge his saints today, we'll be on this letter for the rest of the summer and will see what sorts of events have to transpire before Christ returns; and it hasn't happened yet.

What we're about to read is the only place where Paul explicitly talks about Hell. He mentions it in many other places, but he only goes into detail here. Some people think the reason he spoke much more about Heaven than Hell is because he was called up to Heaven momentarily in about AD 43; what year was Second Thessalonians written? AD 52. Paul saw that the glory of Heaven and the inheritance of Christ was so wonderful that he preached more on it than on the terrors of Hell. Some think, and I agree, that this passage in 2 Thessalonians is here just so that Paul couldn't be accused of denying the existence of Hell, but he definitely mentions Hell in his other letters. So let's read the passage.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed 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 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on thosewho do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment ofeternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

So we see that God is not ignorant of their pain, and he does care. God will indeed repay those who afflict his saints, and their affliction will be bigger than the affliction we receive, because when you pick on a Christian, who are you ultimately picking on? Let's read what Jesus said to Paul when Paul was persecuting Christians.

Acts 9:4-5 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

But God is waiting, why? Doesn't he know it hurts? Three reasons.

1. The persecution is a cleansing method for his church; suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:3)

2. Because of their hard and impenitent hearts they are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5) There are going to be no lack of sins for them to give an account for, because God let them keep going and going, digging themselves deeper and deeper. How many sins does it take to send you to Hell? 1. But God is letting them fill up the full measure of their sins so that they know they will certainly deserve it.

3. The riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience is meant to lead them to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

When will God repay them? Right here Paul affirms that the Second Coming of Christ hasn't happened yet, for he says, "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance..." This is synonymous with Judgment Day, with the Day of Wrath, and with the Day of Christ. On that day, those who have died will be resurrected;

John 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

So who's going to be on God's side on that day, and who won't be? Paul tells us that Jesus will inflict vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Jesus said those who have done good will be resurrected to eternal life, who has done good? Jesus said nobody. Uh-oh.

What's the solution? The gospel. What's the gospel? It is the good news that Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, died on a cross paying for the evil we've done so that we can inherit his goodness, because he never sinned and was and is forever perfect. What is the response to the Gospel? How do you be obedient to the Gospel? As Jesus said, "Repent and believe." Turn from your sins, turn to God, trust in him and him alone that Christ's payment on Calvary's cross was entirely sufficient to pay your way into Heaven.

Jesus will inflict vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel, who will not repent and believe, those who refuse to submit themselves to God so that he will adopt them into his family.

v.9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might...

Hell. The eternal destruction is a destroying that lasts forever, an eternity of dying.

Luke 16:23-24 And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.'

Matthew 13:40-42 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Revelation 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, theseworshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.

Hell is hot, and forever, and terrible. A man named Dante summed it all up in one statement, what he considered would be a good sign to put above the gates of Hell. "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here."

One of the reasons it is so bad is because God is Love, and Paul says that Hell is eternal separation from God, therefore there is no love in Hell, and since every good thing comes from God, if he is not there, then there is no good thing.

The second reason it is so bad is because God is furiously angry.

Psalm 7:11 God is angry with the wicked every day.

Matthew 25:41 Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'

God hates sin and sinners with a vengeance. Sin has caused every manner of death and suffering on this planet and God hates it. But people love sin, going so far as to do everything they can to get God out of their lives. The worse thing that can happen to you is God says, "Fine, have it your way."

In Hell, the niceties and fun we had in this world will fade away like dreams. When we got back from camp, I started to prepare the Sunday School lesson, then took a nap, while napping I dreamt I finished the lesson, it was a nice feeling when I woke up, until I realized that there was indeed no lesson. Have you ever had a really nice dream that you didn't want to wake up from? Then afterwards you try to tell someone about it and all of the niceness is gone, you think, "I'm pretty sure it was a nice dream, but now I can't really remember." That's how Hell will be, people will think, "I'm pretty sure it was a nice life...I think I had fun, I think there was love, I think there was joy, but now I can't really remember."

Psalm 73:18-20 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.

Psalm 21:8-9 Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.

Who goes to Hell?

Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

God is serious about this. His perfect justice requires a perfect punishment, a sin against an infinite God requires an infinite retribution. Surely many will be terrified and hate Christ's appearing, there is even some evidence that people will continue to curse God in Hell forever, refusing to repent even as they die forever.

But, some will not hate his appearing.

v.10 [All this will happen] when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Why can we be happy that Jesus is returning if he is going to require payment for sins on that day?

Our sins are already paid for; he paid for them 2000 years ago on the cross. When we look at Christ's crucifixion, we see his physical appearance marred beyond semblance of a human being; you couldn't even tell he was a man when Herod and Pilate got done with him, but that external punishment was piddly in comparison to the wrath poured out on him by his Father. It pleased God to crush him, because Jesus was made our vicarious sin, and God held nothing back and our payment was paid by the God-man Jesus Christ dying in our place.

Consider this story which Kirk Cameron likes to tell, "I told him a story of a tribal Chief on an island. The Chief was a good man. He was physically strong, morally uncompromising in Justice, and loved his family and tribe greatly. The chief loved his tribe so much that his penalty for anyone who violated the law was severe, which resulted in very little crime and ensured safety for the tribe. One day, some men reported to the Chief that food had been stolen, causing another family to go hungry. The penalty for such a crime was 50 lashes. The Chief ordered that the criminal be found and publicly disciplined. Two days later, the men told the Chief that the thief had not been found, but instead, had stolen again, causing another family to go without food. The Chief commanded the tribe to search the island until they found the thief, and then bring him immediately to the place where he would be publicly punished with his sentence of 100 lashings. The tribe searched until they found the thief, and brought him to the Chief. When the Chief looked at the captured criminal, he was shocked as he recognized the man to be his very own son. All the tribe gathered around the place where the man would be punished, and they waited with great concern to see what the Chief would do. Would he uphold Justice and have his own son whipped with 100 lashings, surely causing him to die, or would he compromise Justice and overlook his son’s crimes. With tears in his eyes, the Chief knew that his son must be tied to the tree and his 100 lashes must be given. The boy was strapped to the wood, and as the man with the rock studded whips raised his massive arms to tear into the back of the young thief, The Chief stepped forward, removed his robe, and wrapped his own arms around his son’s body. With his bare back exposed to the executioner, hiding his son’s tender flesh beneath him, the Chief said, “Begin the lashings.” And the Chief took all 100 lashings, allowing his own blood to be shed to save his son. The Chief upheld Justice—the punishment was given--and at the same time, he demonstrated his great love for his precious son."

Do you know why Hell will last forever? Because it will take eternity to pay the infinite fine accrued against God. But Jesus paid that whole fine on the cross, when he ransomed us, he suffered more at the hands of his Father than any sinner ever will in Hell.

So we hope in him, that he has given us grace, granted us to repent and believe in his gospel, to know him and be known by him; for this is eternal life, that we might know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

God will be glorified in one of two ways by our life, we really don't have any say in whether we will glorify God, because we will. We will either glorify his perfect justice as he judges us guilty of sinning against him and casts us into perfect punishment for eternity, or we will glorify his grace, that while we deserved Hell, Christ died for us, so that we can go to Heaven on his goodness and his mercy.

But how do we know that God accepted Jesus' payment? If he just died and didn't come back, then maybe he was just a loony who thought he was God. But he did come back, he defeated death three days later, the tomb is empty. Death is swallowed up in victory; as Paul writes, O Death, where is thy victory, O Death, where is thy sting? For the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

After Jesus defeated death, he did something astonishing, he approached the Gates of Heaven. No-one in history had done that, for in order to approach them, you must have clean hands and a pure heart, and no-one ever in history was qualified to come to these gates. Let's look at my favorite verse; the setting is the gates of Heaven, a man stands without, and here is what he says.

Psalm 24:7-10 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

The Angel of the Gate, whose duty it is to keep men and sin out of Heaven challenges,

Who is this King of glory?

And Jesus answers,

The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

And the Angel challenges again,

Who is this King of glory?

And Jesus answers,

The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah

And beloved, you better believe those gates were opened up.

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

In Hell there is no hope, in Heaven there are no tears. Beloved, this King of Glory is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to him, those who will obey the gospel by repenting and trusting in his sacrifice.

Paul concludes,

v.11-12 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To this end Paul prays, that all will repent and believe, that all will be made worthy in Christ, walking in the truth, so that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in us, and him in us by saving sinners such as us, redeeming us when we were without hope.

Oh beloved, repent and believe the Gospel, flee from the wrath to come, seek the Saviour who suffered eternity for you and died to ransom you and deliver you into his kingdom forevermore. This God-man who stepped out of Heaven so that through his resurrection he could open to you the Gates of Heaven; he is the King of Glory.