Commentary on "Promise to the Persecuted (2 Thess. 1:112)"
Day 5: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - Fire and Destruction (2 Thess. 1:79)
“... 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 those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thess 1:7-9).
It is a great human temptation to question the reality or nature of the wrath of God. Many liberal scholars love to seek ways to redefine God’s wrath in order to make Him fit comfortably with their understanding of who He is. However, it is critical for the purity and potency of the gospel that we do not do this. Man must not attempt to explain or alter scripture in order to make God fit our desired mental constructs. It is us who must be moved and be molded by the word of God in order to accept what is true both about Him and about ourselves.
Understanding the reality and purpose of God’s wrath is not simply important so that we can answer the difficult questions of those who do not submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must accept the scriptural reality of His wrath in order to truly grasp what we have been rescued from by the Lord Jesus Christ, who took the wrath of the Father upon Himself for His Bride. Christians must also know what is at stake for those who do not know God. We must rightly value the depth of the gospel and bring it forth into the world as we have been commanded to.
Wrath is coming... While the world may scoff at the idea, the fact remains. This is not a doctrine of man, but the words of the Faithful and True. It was not created by “big religion”, it is written in the ancient pages of the Word of God. It has been prophesied at the command of God Himself. He saw fit to tell us of the inevitable end to the human story...wrath or salvation. It is a waste of time for man to put the intentions or reality of God’s wrath on trial. To do so is simply to succumb to the lusts of the mind. It is not ours to determine how much wrath is fair or who is deserving of it, God does not answer to man. To question God is to take shade under the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Rather than using today’s text to proclaim salvation from death and the wrath of God through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who believe, the author spent today explaining how God can be loving and still have wrath. While it is true that God is love and has wrath, today’s lesson exposes the way SDA scholars go beyond scripture (naturally altering truth) to run PR for the God of the universe- or, rather, the god created by the early Adventists. Rather than looking to the scriptures to explain God, the author chooses to redefine God’s wrath using examples of human systems of justice with “bad people” as the ones deserving of this wrath. This ultimately creates a god who uses wrath like magic— only mustering up what is required to bring about utopia, and a god who punishes people on the basis of whether or not they are good or bad. This god, has no purpose for Jesus, other than perhaps to show people that he loves them— in which case Jesus would only be one example of many others before and after to express their god’s heart toward them.
In today’s lesson, the author acknowledges that many Adventists struggle with the wrath of God. This struggle is the natural fall out of a system that strips God of His sovereignty while claiming to believe that the scriptures are a reliable source of truth. When Adventist adherents read scripture, they are left more confused than ever when the words of the Bible tell of a different God than the carefully constructed explanations of Him by their leaders and prophetess. It is also the natural fallout of a system that allows its leaders to formally teach bloodless atonement. The Adventist version of the gospel does away with the depravity of man and the wrath of God for the unregenerate, making texts like today’s quite a challenge to teach.
In an attempt to help his readers understand the co-existence of God’s love and wrath the author places the Triune God under the microscope of the laws and understanding of humanity. This is quite fitting for a religion that believes it is their obligation to vindicate God and His ways to the universe. This of course disregards the absolute sovereignty of God and ignores the fact that His ways are above (superior to) our ways. The author assures the reader that God will only spend as much wrath as He “needs to” in order to disarm evil— without giving any scriptural evidence for his presumptuous “excusing” of our Lord’s wrath. He writes that, “The greater the power and brutality of evil, the greater the force often needed to undo that evil.” However, you will not find it in scripture that God’s wrath is only as severe as it must be to disarm evil. God disarmed evil at the cross. Scripture is clear that God’s wrath is for unbelievers and there is nowhere in scripture that explains the motives for the degree of wrath poured out on man.
Interestingly, just prior to the incarnation of God the Son, there was a teaching among the Jews that God was going to pour out His wrath on the “Kittim”, or the Romans. They were waiting for God’s justice and were blind to see the Lord Jesus when He came in Love. Ironic, that just before the Lord Jesus returns with great wrath on the world of unbelievers, there are some who teach that God is not a God of wrath but of only love. These teachers water down and redefine the gospel of scripture. Inevitably they become synchronistic with the idols of unbelievers and often claim that all roads of moral man lead to God. To them the path to paradise is in law-keeping and in simply being good people. Oh how this robs glory from the cross of Calvary! This world view requires that the purpose and target of God’s wrath be redefined. Scripture clearly teaches that human morality has nothing to do with the loss or gain of our salvation. Wrath remains on unbelievers (Romans 1:18, Rev 14:9-11, Matt 7:23). Believers are not spared because they have learned to be exceptional, but because they are covered in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think of the first Passover and how it pointed to this glorious reality. The Israelites were a stiff necked people, they were not spared from the angel of death because of their morality, but because of the blood. Just look at our passage today in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, it is clear to whom the wrath of God is going to be poured out on,
“...inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
When we are in Christ we have His record counted toward us. When God looks at us He does not deal with us according to our sin because He sees His Son. However, when He looks to those who have denied His Son He sees the objects of wrath that they are (Ephs 2:3) and He deals with them according to His justice and will.
According to the Great Controversy world view, Satan and the Lord Jesus are in an ongoing battle for power. This framework explains the authors claim that the purpose of God’s wrath is to disarm evil. However, scripture is clear that Satan was disarmed at the cross. Jesus has already won. His return with wrath is not for the sake of disarming evil. His wrath will be poured out on mankind who have not accepted the propitiation of Jesus Christ on their behalf. God’s wrath remains on them. It remains on everyone who does not come to faith, no matter how “good” they think they are, or how good we think they are.
In concluding the author writes, “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.” How can man know the intimate details of the plans or purposes of God? These “reassuring” statements about God’s character are created to coddle the man who has put himself in a position of judging God. They are quite disturbing to those who have bowed the knee to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised September 10, 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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