Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first three chapters of this New Testament book. “Paul, Silvanus and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2).
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith growth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith, in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure; which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and, to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12).
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who aopposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth with let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5).
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any many’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy-bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-16).
“The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).
When you come to the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonians you will find that this epistle was also written by the apostle from the city of Athens. If you turn and direct your attention to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul coming unto the city of Thessalonica and entering in the synagogue and teaching that this Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Christ and that He must needs suffer, be crucified, be buried in the earth and rise from the grave on the third day. While in the city of Thessalonica, however, there were unbelieving Jews who not only blasphemed and opposed themselves but who also gathered unto them lewd fellows of the baser sort to incite an insurrection and opposition against them. Eventually the brethren would take the apostle Paul and send him forth from the city of Thessalonica unto Berea. It would be in Berea the apostle Paul would once more enter into the synagogues and teach and preach the Lord Jesus Christ. What makes the time the apostle Paul spent in Berea so incredibly unique and different from that of Thessalonica is that the Bereans were more noble and searched the Scriptures diligently to see if what the apostle Paul spoke was indeed true.
Upon reading the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, however, we discover that when those unbelieving and envious Jews which were present in Thessalonica heard of the preaching of the apostle Paul unto the Bereans they came unto Berea that they might incite insurrection, chaos, confusion, dissension and the like against the apostle Paul. Essentially the same affliction, opposition, resistance and suffering the apostle Paul experienced in Thessalonica would follow him unto Berea. The same unbelieving Jews and those who raised themselves up against the apostle Paul would indeed come unto Berea that they might further oppose the teaching and preaching of the apostle Paul. Eventually the brethren which were present in Berea would take the apostle Paul and send him forth from that place for his own safety and protection. Ultimately the apostle Paul would come unto the city of Athens where he would be troubled and stirred within his spirit because of that which he saw, beheld and witnessed there. What makes this even more intriguing is when you consider that both the first and second epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints were written while he was in Athens. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to how long the apostle Paul was indeed in Athens, however, we must recognize and understand that he was in Athens long enough to not only preach at Mars’ hill but he also had time to write unto the saints which were at Thessalonians.
In all reality as I sit here today thinking about and considering the ministry which the apostle Paul had among the Thessalonians I can’t help but think about and wonder whether or not the apostle Paul felt as though there was more he needed to say unto them. I can’t help but think about whether or not the apostle Paul thought and felt that there was much more that needed to be done in Thessalonica that was not and could not be accomplished because of the affliction and opposition that was present in the midst of them. There is a part of me that wonders if the affliction and opposition which was present in the midst of the city of Thessalonica from the Jews not only caused the apostle Paul to depart from it before he would have liked but also left him with a sense of unfinished business. UNFINISHED BUSINESS! UNFINISHED MINISTRY! THERE IS MORE I WANT TO SAY! THERE IS MORE I NEED TO SAY! It is something truly unique when you think about and consider the words which are found in the first and second epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica and how the apostle Paul felt compelled to write these two letters unto these saints and brethren. Not only this but these two epistles would be the first two of the thirteen epistles the apostle Paul would send—both unto churches as well as unto individuals. If we wish to truly understand the significance of the epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica we must needs recognize that these were the first epistles written by the apostle Paul and was written unto saints who had received the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in much affliction, opposition, resistance and the like.
Having said this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts concerning the tenure of the apostle Paul—not only in Thessalonica but also in Berea and ultimately Athens before he would depart and come unto the city of Corinth. I firmly believe that if we wish to understand the context and language surrounding this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints we must needs at least consider the words and language that is found in the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book. The words which are presented in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts bring us face to face with the events which surrounded the time the apostle Paul spent in Thessalonica—and not only the time he spent in Thessalonica but also the time he spent in Berea and Athens before feeling compelled by the Holy Spirit to write these two epistles unto the Thessalonian saints. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus ,whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go” (Acts 17:1-9).
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17:10-15).
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? Other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)” (Acts 17:16-21).
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven a nd earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being: as certain also of your own poets have said. For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorant God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-31).
“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:32-33).
If you read the words which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul you will find him once more beginning it with his customary greeting and speaking of himself, Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus (Timothy) who greeted the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul would continue on beginning and opening this epistle the same way he did his other epistles by declaring and proclaiming “Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Immediately following this the apostle Paul would write unto them how he, Silas and Timothy were bound to thank God always for them, brethren because their faith grew exceedingly and the charity of every one of every one of them toward each other abounded. Please do not miss the incredible significance of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they bring us face to face with language which was similar to what was present in the first epistle written unto these dear saints. It would be in the first epistle the apostle Paul would write of their work of faith, their labor of love and their patience of hope. What’s more is the apostle would also write unto them concerning the brotherly kindness and charity they had one toward another in the first epistle. The words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle unto these dear saints suggested the tremendous truth that they were filled with a tremendous compassion, brotherly kindness and love one toward another. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and to consider the awesome reality of the saints which were at Thessalonica and how they bore the testimony that they were those whose faith toward God and love toward the saints was not only known of the churches but was also such which the apostle Paul boasted of in the Lord.
Upon beginning to read with and from the third verse of the first chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing of their faith growing—and not only growing but growing exceedingly. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous significance of what is found in this passage of Scripture for it is one thing to have faith but it is another thing altogether to have faith and experience it growing within your life. We know according to the epistle written unto the Hebrews that without faith it is impossible to please God and we know from the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. We also know that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things which are not seen. This is important for us to recognize and understand for what we find within this particular truth is not only how faith is established within our hearts and souls—namely through hearing and hearing the Word of God—but also that without faith it is impossible to please the living God. What’s more is that when writing the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find that without faith it is impossible to please the living God. What’s more is that when you read this epistle you as well as the epistle written by James you will discover that not only does and must faith have substance but faith must also have demonstration. In all reality I would declare that if our faith is growing exceedingly then so also must our hearing the word of God grow exceedingly. Not only this but if our faith is growing exponentially and exceedingly then so also must the substance of our faith as well as the demonstration of that faith we profess.
The apostle Paul goes on to write unto these dear saints how they gloried in them in the churches of God for their patience and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations which they endured. Please consider the significance of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and how the apostle Paul not only speaks of their faith growing exceedingly but he also speaks of their patience and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations that they endured. There is something truly unique and powerful about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for if you read the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find a tremendous amount of affliction, suffering and persecution which broke out among them against Paul and Silas because of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. It’s truly astonishing to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture because not only did the Thessalonian saints hear and receive the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of affliction, suffering and opposition but the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto these saints seems to suggest that these saints continued to experience persecutions and tribulations which they endured among themselves in the midst of the city. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about this is when you consider that even despite their persecutions and tribulations—not only did their faith continue to grow but their patience and faith continued to endure among them in their midst. Oh there is something truly awesome and powerful about the words and language here for when we think about faith we must needs recognize that it must not only possess substance but also demonstration. There would be those who feel as though a mere declaration of faith is indeed enough and yet the truth of the matter is that faith which is comprised of declaration alone and does not possess any substance or demonstration is an incredibly shallow faith.
The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the Thessalonian saints and how their faith continued to grow exceedingly and that their patience and faith endured in the midst of and despite all their persecutions and tribulations. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that in the midst of any persecutions and tribulations we endure—not only must we have a faith which is rooted and grounded and continues to grow but we must also possess a patience and endurance that runs parallel together with that faith. What helps illustrate this all the more is when you think about and consider the words which are found in the final verses of the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews. The words which we find here bring us face to face—not only with the substance of faith but also the demonstration of faith which is so desperately needed among us. In the final verses of the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find a powerful description of various saints of the most High God whose lives and testimonies could not be expressed within this passage of Scripture. What’s more is that in the final verses of the eleventh chapter of this epistle written unto the Hebrews we find a mighty and awesome description of faith demonstrated and manifested in the midst of the earth. With this being said I am absolutely convinced that directly parallel with this demonstration of faith in the midst of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we must also consider the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus:
“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40).
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he have faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath. Not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
If you turn and direct your attention back to the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints you will find him writing and speaking of their faith which grows exceedingly and their charity toward each other and how it abounds. The apostle Paul also goes on to emphatically speak of their patience and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations which they endured. Not only this but the apostle Paul would go on to speak of the persecutions and tribulations they endured being the manifest token of the righteous judgment of God that they might be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffered. Pause for a moment and consider the significance of the words found in this passage of Scripture and how the apostle Paul would go on to describe how the persecutions and tribulations which they endured were a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God that they might be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffered. How absolutely astonishing and remarkable it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and come face to face with the fact that persecutions and tribulations actually serve as a means to prove and demonstrate our being worthy of the kingdom of God. Remember it was the apostle Paul who declared that we must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven and it was the Lord Jesus who declared how in this world we would have many troubles but to not fear for He had overcome the world. What we find in this passage of Scripture is the apostle Paul writing unto the Thessalonian saints and how the persecutions and tribulations they suffered were actually a token of the righteous judgment of God in their lives that they might be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts as well as the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints:
“And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Jerod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when t hey had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31).
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehended that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:7-16).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we understand and come face to face with the awesome truth surrounding persecutions and tribulations—not as being something which was meant to destroy us but as a token of the righteous judgment of God that we might be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. Permit me to ask you if you who are reading these words are such who can indeed be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. There seems to be every indication within this passage of Scripture that suffering, tribulations, persecutions, affliction and the like are means of proving and demonstrating whether or not we are worthy of the kingdom of God. There are those who seem to think that suffering, affliction, trouble, tribulation, persecution and the like are that which needs to be avoided within their lives. The truth of the matter, however, is that persecution, suffering, affliction, trials and troubles are in fact tools and instruments in the hand of the living God to not only make ready His saints for the kingdom of God but also determine who can be entrusted with the kingdom of heaven. One thing we must needs recognize and understand is that more often than not persecution is not an invitation to suffer per se but rather to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which we are seeking. There are those who would like to inherit the kingdom of heaven untouched and unscathed by trouble, tribulation, persecution, suffering and affliction and I have to be honest that such men and women who profess to be Christians and think as such are those who might actually find themselves on the outside of the kingdom looking in. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness; sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH ARE PERSECUTED! BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE! THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! Please don’t miss the incredible importance of what is found in this passage of Scripture for Jesus seems to directly link persecution—and not just persecution but persecution for righteousness’ sake—to inheriting the kingdom of heaven. In all reality the words which we find here in this passage of Scripture seems to bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that persecution and the kingdom of heaven are intrinsically linked and connected. Oh there would be those who think and feel they can somehow separate the kingdom of heaven from persecution, from being reviled, and from all manner of evil being spoken against them for the sake of the Lord Jesus and yet Jesus seems to indicate the exact opposite. There would be those in this life who think and feel as though can save their life and yet the Lord Jesus emphatically declared that those who saved their life were the ones who would lose them. Conversely the Lord Jesus also declared that those who lost their lives were the ones who would actually gain them—and not merely gain them in this world but would gain them in the world to come. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the tenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourage you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Fatehr which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak y in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).
If you continue reading in the first chapter of the second epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints you will find the apostle Paul admonishing and encouraging them concerning being counted worthy of the kingdom of God as well as it being a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to those which troubled them. What’s more is the apostle Paul went on to write and speak unto them concerning their being troubled being able to rest with them when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. In all reality if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s the preparation and being made ready for the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for in the epistles the apostle Paul wrote unto the Thessalonian saints we find him writing unto saints and brethren whom he was trying to make ready and prepare for the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this but the apostle Paul was also speaking unto the Thessalonian saints concerning the righteous judgment of the living which he would exercise against the unrighteous and wicked when He comes again with all of His holy angels in heaven. The words which the apostle Paul writes in this epistle bring us face to face with the incredible truth of the judgment and wrath the living and eternal God can and will exercise against the unrighteous and wicked in the earth when he executes vengeance and recompense against and upon them.
The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with the reality of the life wherewith we have been called. The apostle Paul not only wrote of being counted worthy of the kingdom of God but also of the living God counting them worthy of his calling. Moreover the apostle Paul goes on to write unto them concerning the same God fulfilling all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ might be glorified in them and they in him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. If you read the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary to pay attention to the undeniable truth that the Lord Jesus is indeed coming back and returning—and not only returning to gather together both the dead in Christ and those who were alive and remained at the time of His coming but also bringing judgment, vengeance and retribution against the wicked and unrighteous who are present in the earth. This was something the apostle Paul wrote in the first and opening chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome. If you begin reading with and from the eighteenth verse of the first chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints of Rome you will find the following words written concerning the wrath of God which is revealed against all unrighteousness and wickedness:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Romans 1:18-25).
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:26-32).
As you continue reading the words which are found in this second epistle written by the apostle Paul you will find him continuing to write unto them concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as their gathering together unto Him. The apostle Paul did not want their minds to be shaken or troubled—neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as the day of Christ was at hand. The apostle Paul besought them that no man deceived them by any means and would go on to write and declared that the day of the Lord Jesus would not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. This man of sin who is going to be revealed is such that opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or all that is worshipped so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Not only this but the apostle Paul goes on to write how when he was with them he spoke unto them concerning such things and how they know what withholds him that he might be revealed in his time. What adds even more to this is when you consider the fact that the mystery of iniquity was already at work among them during those days and that only he who lets and restrains will do so until he is taken away. In that day and moment when he is taken away that Wicked will be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming—even Him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.