Perfectly Safe, Now and Forever
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
How safe do you feel? I saw this joke posted by my dad on Facebook. “’Shhhh. They might be listening. Mark Zuckerberg might hear us.’ He laughs. She laughs. Alexa laughs. Siri laughs.” Two news stories I heard this past that highlight the heightened sense of vulnerability and our desire for safety.
1. There is facial recognition technology at concerts of big musicians that scan the crowd for criminals. Some musicians are fighting back saying they don’t want it because they want their audience to feel safe in coming. But the authorities want to protect people. One artist had it at her concert to find any known stalkers. Right at the end of the news story there was a question, “When does safety overrule privacy?”
2. Apps that track your every move and report back to family. Some children use it to keep track of their elderly parents. Some parents use it to keep track of their maturing children. Some people use it to keep track of their friends or family. My question is not whether you use such apps or not. It highlights our desire for safety.
Whether you agree or not with the premise of someone watching your every more, we all want to be safe. If someone is watching, if they have your best interest in mind, that is a good thing. God is watching. He sees everything. And he has your best interest in mind. So you know that you are safe.
We don’t always feel safe. Persecution made the Thessalonians Christians feel vulnerable. Thessalonica is an important crossroad city, much like Chicago of today. Thessalonica was a port city and the main highway from Rome to the east passed through there. It was a prosperous and booming city with navy and trade. With that came the diverse cultures and disparagement between socioeconomic levels. The trade routes also brought crime and the riffraff. The Jewish opposition to Christianity was especially fierce here. Paul started a church and the Jews were jealous of his moderate success. They started a mob and drove Paul out of town. When Paul was in the next town, the Jews heard he was there and ran him out of that town too.
Timothy, a missionary partner, was the encourager. If I were Timothy, I would be thankful to be out of that city. He returned with a good report of faithfulness. Paul wrote these two letters a few months apart from each other to thank God and build them up. We see specifically here about how the persecution has left them feeling vulnerable.
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. How is persecution evidence that God’s judgment is right? Jesus predicted that it would happen. He told people that they would be rejected and hated. The Thessalonians were losing their jobs, their families, and some even their lives. God sees everything. He saw their faithfulness and how they loved others and were being mistreated for it. But where is the justice?
6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. Everyone has a sense of justice. Like when you see the red car scream past you on the highway and have a sense of enjoyment when it is pulled over on the side of the road with flashing lights behind it a couple miles later. These Christians wanted some justice for the mistreatment they were enduring. The relief they were promised was like a cup of cool water on a hot day. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Here Paul refers to the hell that opposers of Christianity will suffer.
If there were any teaching I wish I could remove from the Bible, it would be the teaching of hell. I wish I could take it out because there are people I know and I don’t know their hearts if they believe or not. It scares and saddens me when I think about it. But I can’t because God wanted it there. It is all over the pages of the Bible so we can’t avoid it or explain it away. So therefore I will share it with you because it is