2 THESSALONIANS 2
God is not simply ‘love’, but ‘justice’ too. Paul does not ‘pull any punches’ here. The previous chapter paints a fearsome landscape of what will be done to those who are disobedient to the gospel and who have rejected Christ. Those people are implicitly challenging the Lord to exercise justice in his dealings with them; and they will indeed receive justice. This takes the form of being given what they have always wanted and worked for: a place away from the presence of God and separate from His glory.
On that day, the strongest rebuke will probably come from these people themselves, cursing themselves for their foolishness in rejecting the Saviour whilst they had the opportunity. Any other comment will be largely unnecessary. The chief pain of separation from Christ will be the understanding at last of what it really means to be joined to him forever, and the sudden regret that they have all their lives made the wrong choice. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (says the Proverb) and therefore hope removed is magnified to become Hell.
If you are reading these notes and you don’t yet belong to Jesus Christ, then you are on borrowed time! Life is fragile. No-one is guaranteed their seventy or eighty years on this earth, with the luxury of a deathbed repentance; the only time zone you can act in is now. Whoever believes and trusts and submits their life to Jesus will be saved; scripture has no other guarantees than this. If you want to seek shelter from the raging of a forest fire, you are safest where the fire has already burned itself out; in a spiritual sense, the fire of God’s wrath has already fallen on his Son and will never fall there again – so stick tightly to him and you will be saved entirely from the wrath to come!
Now we move into 2 Thessalonians chapter 2:
Before the Return of the True King, comes the appearance of the false one – the ‘Lawless One’, ‘Antichrist’ (meaning ‘Substitute Christ’), ‘The Beast’, The ‘False Prophet’, The ‘Abomination that causes Desolation’: not all these titles mean quite the same thing and some of them may have referred to past human dictators too. But there will be a demonic personification of pure evil – Satan in human form – who will visit the earth and will do many deceiving miracles. Those people who have already refused to believe the truth and be saved will be even more deceived by the Lawless One. He will have his season of terror and then the Lord Jesus will himself overthrow and destroy him.
If you are a Christian, then don’t fear a thing! “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:13-14.) If we are chosen by God, then he has prepared for us a path to glory. We just need to stand firm and hold on to the true teachings of Christ.
JEREMIAH 30 and 31
“Jeremiah’s Book of Consolation” is the name often given to chapters 30-33. This lifts the prophetic gaze to a further and greater horizon and looks to the restoration of both kingdoms of Israel and Judah. It contains long paragraphs of Messianic-style prophecy and is clearly referring to the life and ministry of Jesus in its predictions.
30:9 – “…they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them”. A clear reference to the Great Son of David, and an echo of Psalm 2 also, which is demonstratively Messianic itself.
However, there are still elements of more contemporary predictions from Jeremiah’s lips, and it is not always easy to ‘untangle’ which phrases have a purely post-exile interpretation and which ones are looking to the New Covenant. Like a lot of interpretations, it may be that they mean BOTH! “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds – declares the Lord – because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares” (30:17).
God then goes on to talk about a ‘rebuild’ process: “…the city will be rebuilt on her ruins (the debris of previous generations) and the palace will stand in its proper place… I will add to their numbers… I will bring them honour… Their children will be as in days of old, and their community will be established before me” (18-20).
He then goes on to talk about ‘The Leader’ who will arise from amongst them, whom God will bring close to himself; this could be a reference to Nehemiah during the post-exile period, or it could mean Jesus himself. The challenge to all leadership is thrown down in any case: “Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?”!
The Lord intends to draw close to his bride again: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”. This is looking forward to the reconciliation that surpasses all reconciliations! And the Lord will bring from the ends of the earth the scattered groups of his demoralised people – back home to the place they belong. Changing the analogy: “I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son”. Changing the scene again: “He will watch over his flock like a shepherd.”
Then we have some passages that are quoted in the New Testament:
“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (31:15). This is quoted in Matt 2:18 to describe the slaughter of the male infants in Bethlehem. But the first and main interpretation was of the exile, when Jacob and Rachel’s ‘children’ – the entire nation – were taken away into exile. Verse 16 continues: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded… they will return from the land of the enemy… your children will return to their own land”. It is interesting how Matthew ‘hijacks’ these verses – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of course – and gives it a much later fulfilment.
Then we arrive at the highest point of Jeremiah’s prophecies, 31:31-34, which is the longest passage of all to be quoted in the New Testament (Hebrews 8:8-12). In fact, verse 31 is the only time that the Old Testament uses the phrase: ‘New Covenant’! The main disadvantage of the Old Covenant was that it was too easily broken by the people, since it was external and not internally-based. In contrast, the New Covenant is rooted in the hearts and minds of its participants, and it is also based upon a personal knowledge of God the Father; this gives its adherents the motivation to faithfulness that Israel never had. Furthermore, there is an unconditional judicial element that was never found in the Old – “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”. This is not widespread amnesia on God’s part, but an act of his will to choose not to recall the penalty that our sins might otherwise clamour for. Of course, the penalty was paid, but not by us – by the One who became sin so that we might go free – enabling God to be both just and Justifier. Consolation indeed!