Stand firm in light of our destiny

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 SCC 8/10/14


1. The consequence of unbeliever’s unwillingness to receive the truth is God giving them the falsehood they want to believe 11

Satan’s power, signs, wonders, and evil deception will impress all people living on the earth during the Tribulation. Paul could say that those people do not receive “the love of the truth so as to be saved and they “did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” as a result. By ‘the lie’ or ‘a deluding influence’ [“what is false”]’ is apparently meant the denial of the fundamental truth that God is God. It is the rejection of his self-revelation as Creator and Savior, righteous and merciful Judge of all, which leads to the worship due to him alone being offered to another, such as the ‘man of lawlessness.’


2. The purpose of God giving them the falsehood they wish to believe is to expose their purposeful unbelief justifying their judgment 12

All the ungodly, all those who take pleasure in wickedness, all those who do not love the truth of the gospel so as to be saved, are going to feel the judgment of God. And part of that judgment is the inability to understand the truth and being turned over by God to believe a lie. Because of willful unbelief and refusal to love and obey the truth, there will come judicial unbelief and an inability to obey and believe the truth. God rejects the human who refuses Christ. This is the consequence of active unbelief.


3. Believers who are loved by the Lord can be thankful for one another’s salvation that delivers them from God’s ferocious judgment 13

This verse marks a change in emphasis from the unbelievers and their judgment to believers and their deliverance. In contrast to the lawless unbelievers just referred to Paul was grateful that he could always give thanks for his readers. He even did so specifically in 1:3. He says we should always give thanks to God for you. In other words, we're thankful to God for your salvation. We're thankful to God that He saved you. The ground for his joy was God’s choice of them for salvation before He created the world ‘from the beginning’. He takes the components of that salvation work and he articulates its expansiveness.


First, the Lord loves you. Your salvation began when God decided in eternity past to set His love on you. Though God loves all people He does not choose all for salvation. Paul consistently taught what the rest of Scripture reveals, namely, that the initiative in salvation comes from God, not man.


Second, the Lord chose you. Flowing out of that predetermination to love was a choice. If God has chosen you and God has already made that choice and justified you, who is going to be able to go into heaven and bring an accusation against you that's going to force God to take your salvation away? No one can do that. God made the choice and the choice is fixed forever.


Thirdly, the Lord transforms you. Here is both the divine side and the human side of salvation and it’s outcome for us as believers.


(1) The divine side of salvation is called ‘sanctification by the Spirit’.

God accomplishes salvation through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. That simply means that the Holy Spirit sovereignly, miraculously and divinely detaches you from sin. A new inner man is created, separated from sin, and detached from it. It is the life of God within you; it is the divine nature that becomes yours. You are regenerated and you're born again. The old dies and a new is born. And so that's the work of the Holy Spirit by which He separates you from sin and creates in you a holy nature. That's His work. Salvation is a divine miracle.

(2) The human side of salvation is ‘faith in the truth’.

If you want salvation you must believe. You must believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord. That’s the human response. The divine transformation worked by the Spirit requires faith in the truth. Therefore you have to hear the truth. This transformation is a legal one that places you into an entirely brand new realm. This transformation is from darkness into eternal light. Unbelievers refuse to believe in this truth.


4. That calling to salvation came by means of believing the gospel, which gains you Christ’s glory, something unbelievers have rejected 14

(1) God’s purpose in choosing the Thessalonians was that they might one day share the splendor and honor that their Lord does and will enjoy, beginning at the Rapture. Ultimate glorification is in view.

(2) So you are in the process of moving from salvation to glory because that's the plan. So you don't have to fear that you are going to get lost somewhere. From the very beginning when God chose you, He chose you to be glorified. You were elected to gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. You were elected to be as perfect as Christ is, as holy as Christ is, to stand in His presence undefiled like Him. You were not just chosen simply to be saved from God’s judgment. You were chosen to be glorified. Salvation in time was simply an element in bringing that choice to its fruition in heaven.


5. This salvation calling obligates believers to continue pursuing the apostles teaching as truth 15

(1) In view of their calling, Paul urged his readers not to abandon what he and his associates had taught them in person and by letter. He wanted them to hold firmly to the inspired instructions that he handed on to them (i.e., “the traditions”).

(2) Stand firm holding on to the things handed down (traditions) through teaching by word and letter from us. That's divine revelation. In the Pauline letters and the revelation God gave him, which he preached to them both orally and written down. The oral things that God inspired have been recorded for us in the gospels and in the book of Acts. The written revelation is in all the epistles. Christ has given both through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

NB: In a comments section of an article online, a contributor wrote this criticism of another’s comments he disliked Spoken like a believer in Paul but not like a follower of Jesus. The implication is that Jesus teaching (and this critics interpretation of it) trumps Paul’s teaching in the epistles believing the gospels are our authority but not the epistles. In other words Paul cannot be trusted to tell us the truth. His teaching is somehow culturally conditioned and meant to be extrapolated upon in successive generations. But note two things: First, Jesus promised that the HS would be sent in Jesus name and teach the disciples all things bringing to remembrance all Jesus said to them (Jn 14:25-26). Jesus also stated that the HS would guide them into all the truth and disclose to them what is to come; disclose what is Christ’s to them; and disclose what is His and the Fathers to them (Jn 16:13-16). Second, Jesus himself commissioned the apostle Paul in Acts 9 thus identifying with Paul’s mission and message just as he had identified with John the Baptists mission and message when he chose to be baptized by him. John the Baptist represents the last of the OT prophets and Paul the last of the NT apostles. So what Paul taught Jesus commissioned. Jesus and Paul are not in conflict. Third, progressive revelation is a basic component of scripture. The gospels end the OT and the epistles are for this age. To be a believer in Paul is to be a follower of Jesus. You cannot have Jesus without Paul. 


6. Believers should desire the gracious favor of God upon one another’s lives which is from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God the Father 16-17

(1) Note there's a pronoun "Himself" that is in the emphatic position. The mention of the Son the Lord Jesus Christ before the Father also emphasizes their equality. This equates God and Christ; again the major message of Christianity is that God is revealed in Jesus Christ. That is what the spirit of Antichrist always attacks.

(2) He's talking about salvation there. He loved us and He granted to us eternal encouragement and a good hope and He did it all by grace. God’s grace is the basis for eternal encouragement in the face of temporary distress. Our hope is beneficial because it motivates us to live in the light of our victorious Savior’s return. He says "comfort," that means encouraged. And I want Him to strengthen your heart, that's the inner man, your mind, what moves you, what makes you think and act and react in every good work and word. Both in what you do, your deed, and in what you say, your speech. In other words, may your salvation consume your life—the way you live it—the way you conduct it—the way you display it.


So What?

1. Hell is not an arbitrary reality. It is the place where unbelievers will experience the outcome of their willful unbelief and rebellion against God their creator.

2. Heaven, eternal life, and deliverance from condemnation is based in belief in the truth of the gospel and believers ought to be thankful for anyone who believes it since it is the only hope that exists.

3. In the meantime, revel in your salvation, understand it, get to know it, study what scripture says about it and rejoice that you are delivered from the terror and torment of eternal damnation.