Commentary on "Promise to the Persecuted (2 Thess. 1:112)"
Day 4: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - Suffering as a Sign of the End (2 Thess. 1:5, 6)
“ 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…” (2 Thess 1:5,6)
Today’s lesson discusses the evidence of God’s righteous judgement. The author begins by explaining that the persecutions of Christians act as proof of God’s future judgement. He writes that at the judgement, “the people of God are vindicated and those who persecuted them receive the same kind of experience they inflicted on others…Those who experience injustice on account of their faith today can look with confidence to God’s future judgement. On that day, it will be evident to all that they were the objects of God’s favor.” He then writes that when believers (those who keeps the 10 commandments according to the Adventist interpretation of Rev 14:12) are “repaid with curses, blows, and confinement, it is encouraging to know that this injustice will not last forever.” The reader is then pointed to Adventism’s proof text of their position as the remnant church, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus,” (Rev. 14:12) to encourage his readers to have patience in their affliction as Adventists. He then explains that the patience and faith of the Thessalonian church validates that God has chosen them. The lesson ends with asking the reader what comfort they can take in the promise of God’s judgement when they think of having been wronged in some way, and how the reader views these promises of judgement when they consider the things that they themselves have “gotten away with.”
Adventists are taught that their perseverance to keep the 10 commandments, especially the 4th, will bring them affliction and persecution. They are taught from a young age that should they live through the end of time they will need to stand without a mediator and even be willing to die to honor the Sabbath. This creates fear on several fronts. First of all, there is tremendous fear over the idea of being persecuted for Sabbath-keeping. Nearly every world event, natural disaster, disease epidemic or terrorist attack brings these fears to the forefront as Adventist’s wonder if these are the signs that they ought to run to the hills to hide from what is to come. On the other hand, there is the fear of not being faithful in the end. The temptation to “give up Sabbath” and receive the mark of the beast is a terrifying thought, especially when the imagination conjures up ideas of loved ones being tortured until they recant the Sabbath. Within the organizational structure there is great fear of the Sunday law and the Seventh-day Adventist institution is well fortified with lawyers ready to fight against any seaming injustice.
With such mounting fear it makes sense that those affiliated with this organization would take comfort from the ensuing judgement of God on those who will one day persecute them. They are eager to show the world that in fact they truly are “the remnant people” of God. According to Adventist teachings, the only ways to a future life with God are either through suffering great tribulation from apostate Protestantism at the end of time, through a life of dedicated faith and law-keeping on earth (Sabbath-keeping, tithing, spreading the voice of prophesy, healthy living [i.e., not drinking or smoking, avoiding meat or dairy]…etc.) to show their faithfulness and love of God, or through a death that leaves them non-existent until the Lord chooses to give them life again and they learn whether or not they are saved. The anxiety created by the Adventist worldview is deeply alarming and both spiritually and emotionally abusive. It is a gross perversion of the good news of the gospel. With this world view, many members long for “relief” and vindication.
For the born again believer, the judgement of God on non-believers is a very sad reality. With a profound understanding of God’s holiness and righteousness a Christian hardly finds comfort in the thoughts of Holy judgement on this sinful world. In fact, many Christians cannot help but think of loved ones who are yet to understand that Jesus Christ and His finished atonement is the only way to salvation. To know and love people who live a sincere and good (according to the worlds standards) life, and to think of Christ returning to inflict judgement on them for their unbelief is absolutely heart breaking! Even when these very people are the ones who persecute and afflict them for their faith.
Christians all around the world are laying down their life for the unsaved to know the truth about Jesus Christ. They are not hanging onto hope that the Lord would come judge the world for their offensive “curses, blows, and confinement,” but rather are asking that Jesus be glorified among them through the persecution that they are enduring— many by choice! They pray for their persecutors and sincerely long to see them brought to saving faith through the miraculous work of Jesus Christ! A beautiful example of Christians who gave up their life for the lost can be found in the story of Nathanael Saint and his fellow missionaries who traveled in the mid 1950’s to Ecuador to evangelize the Waodani people through an effort known as “Operation Auca.” For more examples of selfless persecution for the spreading of the gospel spend some time on the Voice of the Martyrs webpage. These missionaries do not go with a fortress of lawyers, they go with God and accept whatever suffering is theirs in order to spread the gospel.
In concluding it is important to highlight the authors question of how those who have “gotten away” with some wrong view God’s impending judgement. This question is a non-question among true believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we are born again and brought to life through the new birth, we are adopted children of Gods and have eternal life now! We have already been judged and found righteous on the basis of Christ alone. All of God’s wrath was poured out on His son on our behalf and that means there is none left for us. The Lord Jesus paid for all of our sins so that we can look to That Day with great confidence before our God and not with fear. That beautiful reality is the assurance of salvation and it is our promise when we believe on Jesus Christ and Him alone.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised September 8, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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