Lesson 11 *September 8-14
Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Thess. 1:1-12, John 1:18, Rom. 2:5, 12:19, Rev. 16:4-7, 20:1-6, John 14:1-3.
Memory Text: “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” (2 Thessalonians 1:11, ESV).
Key Thought: The second coming of Jesus is the culmination of all Christian hope.
Because written correspondence could be slow, a church that wanted to talk to Paul had to track him down and get a message to him, not always an easy process, to be sure. Once contact was finally made, the apostle would then dictate a response and have it hand-delivered back to the church. The process might take months. In the meantime false beliefs would have time to develop and spread.
This seems to have happened in Thessalonica, where new problems arose in the church. These problems may even have become worse due to the misapplication of what Paul wrote in the first letter. Second Thessalonians was Paul’s attempt to further correct the situation.
Paul’s words in this week’s lesson come down to this: at the Second Coming, believers will be rescued by God’s spectacular intervention in Christ. This passage provides further information about the nature of His return.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 15.
Sunday September 9
“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:1, 2). What hope and promise is found even in such a simple greeting as this? How much theology is in there, how much hope, how much promise? How can we learn to make these hopes and promises our own?
Paul, as he does so often, talks about grace and peace. In one sense, are they not related? Shouldn’t the realization of God’s grace, the promise of forgiveness in Jesus, lead to peace in our lives? How crucial that, no matter our circumstances, we all take time to dwell on the wonderful provision of salvation made for us and the grace it offers us, regardless of our unworthiness. What better way to experience the peace that we are promised? We need to keep the focus off ourselves and on Jesus and what we have been given in Him.
Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:1 with 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2. There’s a small difference in the wording. What significance might be found in that difference?
There is one difference between 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Paul changes from “in God the Father” (1 Thess. 1:1) to “in God our Father” (2 Thess. 1:1). This adds a relational touch. There are people who feel close to Jesus yet are afraid of God the Father. Paul assures the Thessalonians that they can have as much confidence in their relationship with the Father as they do with Jesus. Jesus came to this earth to show us what the Father is like.
Read John 1:18 and 14:7-11. What assurance and hope can we draw from these texts, especially in light of 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2?
Monday September 10
Paul had a tendency toward extra-long sentences. Second Thessalonians 1:3-10 is a single sentence focusing primarily on events surrounding the second coming of Jesus. The central core of the sentence, however, is not focused on the Second Coming (2 Thess 1:3, author’s translation): “We are obligated at all times to give thanks to God concerning you.” Paul’s comments regarding the return of Jesus (2 Thess. 1:6-10) are part of the reason he thanks God concerning them, the Thessalonians themselves.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 4. What important spiritual principle do we find in these verses in regard to the question of faith? What happens to faith if it does not grow?
“We are bound,” or “we ought,” to give thanks to God is the main verb of 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10. Paul feels obligated to thank God for the Thessalonians because their faith is getting stronger and stronger. Meanwhile, their love for one another is also increasing, and both verbs are in the present tense in the original. This means that their growth in faith and love was consistent and ongoing. This kind of growth is basic to any healthy church. Like a plant, if a church does not grow spiritually, it will die.
Paul will go on to offer significant criticism of the church in the second and third chapters of this epistle. But he knows that people need a lot of affirmation before they can handle criticism constructively. He provides that kind of affirmation in the first chapter.
One of the reasons for Paul’s affirmations is that the church in Thessalonica is continuing to suffer persecution. He particularly commends their “patience” in affliction. Instead of faith, hope, and love, Paul talks about their faith, love, and patience. Because “patience” here is a substitute for “hope,” it leads Paul into his exposition of the Second Coming later on in the chapter.
The result of their increase in faith and love is that their fortitude in the face of affliction has become a source of boasting for the apostles among all the churches they visit. The Thessalonians have become a model of Christian commitment under fire.
How can trials and affliction increase our faith? At the same time, who hasn’t struggled to maintain faith precisely because of trials?
Tuesday September 11
Second Thessalonians 1:5-10 in the Greek has an Old Testament feel (the Bible of most New Testament Christians was the Septuagint, a pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament). Second Thessalonians exhibits many more references to the Old Testament than does 1 Thessalonians.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 6. What is Paul saying? What promises are found in there?
The word evidence (NIV) or token (KJV) means “proof” or “plain indication” of something. What does the persecution of Christians (vs. 4) prove? It is certainly not evidence of God’s judgment against His people. To the contrary, it is a pointer to the future judgment, in which the people of God are vindicated and those who persecuted them receive the same kind of experience they inflicted on others.
There is a message here for us. Violence begets violence, and those who use violence against others have reason to fear for the future. God’s judgment sets things right. Those who persecute the people of God will one day face the justice of God. But those who experience injustice on account of their faith today can look with confidence to God’s future judgment. On that day, it will be evident to all that they were the objects of God’s favor.
The New Testament encourages believers to exhibit grace, mercy, and forgiveness toward others. But when these actions are rebuffed and repaid with curses, blows, and confinement, it is encouraging to know that injustice will not last forever. Thus, the saints of God are invited to have patience (see also Rev. 14:12).
In 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 6, therefore, Paul reminds the persecuted Thessalonians that the “righteous judgment of God” in the future will demonstrate His approval of them in the present. More than this, their patience and faith in the face of trial validates that God has chosen them. In this way Christian suffering can be the basis for rejoicing (1 Thess. 1:6, 7). It is real-life evidence of whose side we will be on when Jesus comes.
Verse 5 shows the righteous judgment of God in His approval of the Thessalonians. Verse 6 shows it in the condemnation and destruction of their persecutors. In both cases the judgment is the end-time outcome of present conduct.
Have you been unfairly victimized, with the perpetrators receiving no apparent punishment for their actions? If so, what comfort can you take in the promises of God’s judgment? Or look at it this way: have you treated people badly, unfairly, and have gotten away with it (at least so far)? If so, how do you view the promises of God’s end-time judgment?
Wednesday September 12
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. What is the primary reason for the destruction of the wicked at the time of Jesus’ second coming? How are we to understand these verses with the idea of God as full of love, grace, and forgiveness?
Many people are uncomfortable with the language of these verses. They feel that “pay back” (NIV), vengeance, punishment, and the infliction of suffering are unworthy of a God of love, grace, and mercy. But just punishment and retribution is a frequent theme of Paul (Rom. 2:5, 12:19). Paul is unequivocal: God’s justice will one day be powerfully made manifest.
And why not? Any good government in today’s world must at some point exercise force in order to restrain evil. Though force is not always violent (as when you are stopped for a traffic violation or audited for your taxes), in some cases, especially when the criminals are using violence themselves, they must be answered with violence. Good governments provide a necessary restraint so that we can all live together in peace. Many times outright evil will not give way voluntarily. And the greater the power and brutality of evil, the greater the force often needed to undo that evil.
The images in this passage are not pretty, but they assure us that God will do whatever it takes to end violence and oppression.
Read Revelation 16:4-7 and Daniel 7:21, 22. What do these verses teach that parallels what Paul wrote above in 2 Thessalonians?
Through His own experience, Jesus understands the cost of suffering. He can be trusted to exercise divine justice, but without overkill. Divine justice will result in suffering, but not one iota more than necessary. If we can trust God in anything, we can trust that His justice will reveal a wisdom and fairness that we cannot currently comprehend.
The goal of this passage is not to rejoice in vengeance but to encourage the abused and oppressed. The day of justice is coming. We don’t need to take justice into our own hands.
Thursday September 13
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12. What does it mean that Jesus Christ will be glorified in His saints?
The full sentence in this week’s text (2 Thess. 1:3-10) provides a number of important details about the second coming of Jesus. When Jesus returns, He will afflict the afflicters and provide rest for the afflicted (see 2 Thess. 1:6, 7, ESV). He will come down from heaven in the company of powerful angels (2 Thess. 1:7). He will come with flaming fire and execute justice on those who have rejected God and the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:8). The wicked are destroyed (2 Thess. 1:8, 9) while the righteous bring glory to Christ (2 Thess. 1:10).
The events of the Second Coming set the stage for the millennium, during which time the earth lies desolate for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6). Though this week’s passage does not tell us what happens to the righteous, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 tells us that the saved join Jesus in the air at His return. John 14:1-3 further indicates that Jesus will take the righteous with Him to heaven.
How does Paul instruct believers to prepare for the second coming of Jesus? 2 Thess. 1:11. With verse 10 Paul is finished talking about the wicked and turns again to the fate of the righteous at the Second Coming. In verses 10-12, the glory of Jesus is exhibited in the character of those who believe in Him. Paul rejoices that his prayers and efforts for the Thessalonians will be vindicated at the return of Jesus (see 1 Thess. 2:19, 20).
Paul here sets the stage for chapter two, in which he argues that the day of the Lord has not yet come. If it had, there would be flaming fire, destruction of the wicked, and the full glorification of Jesus in the eyes of all.
In today’s passage, Paul shifts easily from God to Jesus, using the two terms interchangeably. According to inspiration, Jesus is God. This teaching is very important to us. The greater Jesus is, the more powerful His salvation and the clearer a picture of God we receive as we contemplate His life, death, resurrection, and return. If Jesus is truly God, then the Father is just like Him.
How can we learn to go about the business of living our daily lives, but with the expectation of the Second Coming? Why is it so easy, amid the daily rhythms of life, to forget about His Coming? How can we learn to keep this amazing promise before us and go about our daily business, giving the promise the time, attention, and seriousness it deserves?
Friday September 14
Further Study: “The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen. . ..
“It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.”-Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21.
“The instruction that Paul sent the Thessalonians in his first epistle regarding the second coming of Christ, was in perfect harmony with his former teaching. Yet his words were misapprehended by some of the Thessalonian brethren. . . .
“In his second letter Paul sought to correct their misunderstanding of his teaching and to set before them his true position.”-Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 264.
Summary: In the opening chapter of 2 Thessalonians, Paul rejoices over the way in which the Thessalonian believers remain faithful in spite of much affliction. He encourages them by pointing to the great reversal at the second coming of Jesus. Whatever happens now, we have the promise that God will execute divine justice.
Nima was one of many Bhutanese who received a copy of The Great Controversy. He read it through several times and is sharing his discoveries about God with his family and friends in their small village in Bhutan. He meets with a small group of about 15 people in the bedroom of a house to worship. Several are preparing for baptism. And their numbers grow as Nima continues to share his faith and provide Adventist books and literature, which he smuggles across the border into his homeland.
It remains difficult for Christians to practice their faith in Bhutan. Dozens of believers have been imprisoned for sharing their faith. So at present most volunteer evangelists meet with people across the Bhutanese border in India. There these volunteers study the Bible and teach the people how to use simple medical treatments to reach others for Christ. So far at least 25 Bhutanese have accepted Jesus as their Savior and become Seventh-day Adventist Christians. When they return home they take Bibles and Adventist books with them.
Stories continue to seep out of Bhutan of people who want to know about Jesus. One hotel manager received several copies, which he gave to tour drivers to give to passengers.
Recently some Bhutanese believers visited several small villages to pray for the sick and comfort the mourning and brokenhearted. Several people wanted to know more about God, so the believers cautiously introduced them to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of these people who are so eager to know about Jesus.
Sadly, most of the 700,000 people living in Bhutan still worship spirits or gods made of wood and stone. They live and die with no assurance of salvation, for they’ve never heard the message of God’s love or Jesus’ sacrifice for them. They are spiritually hungry and crave truth on which to build their lives. Slowly God’s message is opening the doors to the hearts of the Bhutanese people.
We can help the people of Bhutan meet Jesus. Our mission offerings can support Bible workers and provide literature and Bibles so that these people can meet Jesus, the King of all kings, who loves them so much that He died for them. We must tell them so they can be ready to meet Jesus when He comes.