by Albert N. Martin
Look with me now at just two or three specimen passages.
2 Thessalonians chapter 1. From the very beginning of their profession of the Christian faith, the Thessalonians had suffered great opposition. Paul is writing this second letter to comfort and encourage them, to straighten out some skewed thinking about the return of Christ. Notice what he says in verse 7 of chapter 1, “And to you that are afflicted rest with us.” When? Where? With respect to what? “At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven.” You who are afflicted, a period of rest is coming, and it will come at the revelation of the Lord Jesus, at His Second Coming.
What is there in His Second Coming that is going to bring rest? In this context it’s rest from affliction. “You that are afflicted, rest with us.” When? “At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with the angels of His power, in flaming fire rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and the glory of His might, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in them that believe.”
At Christ’s Second Coming He says His own will marvel at Him and marvel at the changes that will be wrought in them, but they are to take comfort from the knowledge that at that coming—which is the manifestation for the glory of Christ, brings the sons of God into the full possession of the glory appointed for them—it will be in flaming fire to take vengeance. God is a vengeful God! He says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Don’t you take vengeance; that’s not your prerogative. “Leave it all to Me.” “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” These suffering saints at Thessalonica are to draw consolation when they conjure up in their minds what these words mean. The Lord whose coming will be the epitome of their own delight, the heavenly Bridegroom comes to take His bride to go off to the marriage supper of the Lamb. He said picture your Lord coming. How? “Coming from heaven with the angels of His power.”
In the book of Jude, Jude tells of Enoch professing, “The Lord comes with ten thousand of His holy ones.” Think of the entourage of the returning Lord: numerous angelic hosts! When on earth people saw one angel they were always terrified. Nobody danced a jig when they saw an angel. God had to say, “Don’t be afraid.” There was something intimidating, some being from that other world has intruded in my world. Imagine how it will be when ten thousand of His holy ones come! The entourage of the returning Christ. He says, “You persecuted Christians, think of it.” He will come how? From heaven, with the angels of His power. In what context? In flaming fire rendering vengeance.
He’s going to come rendering vengeance, and His vengeance will be like a leaping, licking, aggressive, flaming fire! What’s it going to do? It’s going to consume everyone who knows not God and those that obey not the gospel.
What will be the result of that coming with His angels, in power, in flaming fire to take vengeance? It will not be the annihilation of His enemies. But Paul goes on to say in verse 9, “Who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might.”
Some of you sit here proud of the fact that you don’t know God and you don’t obey the gospel. Every Lord’s Day, when the word is preached and someone pleads with you to repent and flee to Christ, you put a notch in your rifle Sunday night saying, “I made it through another Sunday and Jesus ain’t getting me. No Jesus is going to get me! No gospel is going to intrude my life. No gospel is going to tell me that I have no right to run my own life, to choose my own standards of right and wrong. No gospel is going to intrude in my life and make me a God-centered, Christ -centered, holiness-loving, obedient disciple of Christ. No way Jose.” And every Lord’s Day you pride yourself you’ve gone through another Lord’s Day.
Oh my friend, I beg you: take seriously this passage. You’ll meet Jesus in flaming fire, as a vengeful Christ if you don’t know God and you don’t obey the gospel. You say, “But I don’t disbelieve.” Ah ah, it says if you don’t obey the gospel. There’s no neutrality.
The gospel comes with its announcement of God’s provision for sinners in Christ, and the great indicatives, the declarations of what God has done is suitable to any and every sinner. It’s followed by the great imperatives: repent and believe in the gospel! You have no right to go on running your own life, loving your sin! What right do you have to do that? God didn’t make you to sin. He made you to glorify Him. You have no right to go on in impenitence. You have no right to go on in unbelief.
Almighty God demands that you trust His Son! He demands that you cast yourself upon His Son. What right do you have to walk by Christ, ignoring Him, despising His grace? You have no right, and at Christ’s coming God will give you what you deserve: He’ll take vengeance on you. Some of you better tremble in your seats.
This is why the true people of God long for Christ’s return, and this may help some of you. Some of you say, “Pastor, how can I long for Christ’s return when my own children and relatives are not saved? I want to yearn for His return, but I know that if He comes it’ll be curtains for them.” My friend, there will always be that tension. It would be inhuman not to feel that tension, but in that tension you’re yearning for the vindication of Christ, and the destruction of His enemies better be greater for the natural yearning for the well-being of your children.
If Christ can take vengeance on His enemies and not have a bad conscience, the more we are like Christ and enter into the sympathies of Christ there will be something more important than even the salvation of our loved ones: the vindication of the glory and the righteousness of God.
The true believer in healthy, spiritual state longs for Christ’s return, because he knows that in His return all of Christ’s and the church’s enemies will be ultimately, finally, irrevocably destroyed.
Bible Reference: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10