2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,…
I. THE JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED.
1. The revelation of the Judge. It is the Lord Jesus, who once was despised and rejected of men; he is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. He shall come as God once came down on Mount Sinai, in the like awful glory.
(1) With the angels. They shall gather the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire. The angels will be the ministers of his justice - the blessed angels who are now the messengers of his love and grace. Now they rejoice over each sinner that repenteth; then they will cast the impenitent into the everlasting fire. We think of the angels as gentle, loving, holy, as our friends and guardians; they are so, so far as we are Christ's. They desire to look into the mysteries of redemption; they announced the Saviour's birth; they ministered to him in his temptation, his agony; they celebrated his resurrection and ascension. Now they are sent forth to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation; they encamp round about those who fear the Lord, and deliver them. They help in carrying on his blessed work of love. But they are holy; they hate evil; they must turn away from those who have yielded themselves to the dominion of the evil one; they must execute at the last the awful judgment of God. Fearful thought, that the blessed angels, loving and holy as they are, must one day cast the hardened sinner into hell, as once they cast Satan out of heaven.
(2) In flaming fire. The Lord shall be revealed in flaming fire, in that glory which he had before the world was. His throne is fiery flame (Daniel 7:9). He himself is a consuming fire. The sight will be appalling to the lost, full of unutterable terror; "they shall say to the rocks, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us." "By thine agony and bloody sweat, by thy cross and passion, good Lord, deliver us."
2. The lost. Two classes are mentioned here.
(1) Those who know not God - the heathen. They might have known him. Some of them did know him. They had not the Law, the outward Law, but it was written in their hearts; God spoke to them in the voice of conscience. They listened; they did by nature the things contained in the Law. Such men, we are sure, God in his great mercy will accept and save. But, alas! the fearful picture drawn by St. Paul in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans represents with only too much truth the general state of the heathen world in the apostolic times. Their blindness was criminal; it was the result of willful and habitual sin; their ignorance was without excuse.
(2) Those who obeyed not the gospel. All, whether Jews or Gentiles, who had heard the preaching of Christ. They had heard, as we have, all that the Lord Jesus had done and suffered for us; they had had the opportunity of hearing his holy precepts. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light." To know the gospel and not to obey it, to have the light around us and not to admit it into our hearts, not to walk as children of light - this must bring the judgment of God upon the disobedient. The greater the light, the heavier the responsibility of those who sin against light and knowledge.
3. The punishment. The Lord Jesus will award vengeance. "Vengeance is mine; I will recompense, saith the Lord." Terrible thought, that vengeance must come from him, the most loving Saviour, who loved the souls of men with a love so burning, so intense in its Divine tenderness! But it must be so. The exceeding guilt of sin is manifest in this; it turns the chiefest of blessings into an increase of condemnation; the cross is utter death to the impenitent and the ungodly. And that vengeance takes effect in destruction. The destruction is eternal; then it is not annihilation. It is the destruction of all gladness, hope, all that makes life worth living; it is the exclusion from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. Only the pure in heart can see God. The lost souls cannot see his face. The exclusion is eternal; is it endless? It continues through the ages; will those ages of misery ever end in restoration? Can a soul, once so hardened in guilt that it must be shut out of the presence of God, ever repent in that exclusion? It sinned obstinately against light during its time of probation; can it recover itself now that the light is withdrawn? It is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin and the power of evil habits; can it break those chains of darkness now? These are dark, awful questions. We may ask, on the other hand, how can "God be all in all," if sin is to exist forever? how can it be that "in Christ shall all be made alive," while there is still a hell in the universe of God? The subject is beset with difficulties and perplexities; it excites bewildering, harrowing thoughts. We must leave it where Holy Scripture leaves it. We would gladly believe, if it were possible, that there is hope beyond the grave for those who die unblest; but such an expectation has no scriptural authority beyond a few slight and doubtful hints. Who would dare to trust to a hope so exceeding slender? No; if we shrink in terror from the thought of being one day shut out of God's presence into the great outer darkness, let us try to live in that gracious presence now.
II. THE GLORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
1. Its time: when he shall come. They suffer now; sometimes they are persecuted, their name is cast out as evil. But they have their consolation; they see indeed through a glass darkly, but yet they do see by faith the glory of the Lord; they are changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Lord the Spirit. They have a glory now; but it is an inner spiritual glory derived from the indwelling of the blessed Spirit whom the world seeth not, neither knoweth. Now they are the sons of God; when he shall appear, they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is.
2. Its nature: the unveiled presence of Christ. He shall be glorified in his saints. "I am glorified in them," he said, when about to leave them. When he comes again, that glory shall shine forth in all its radiant splendour. He shall be admired in all them that believe. The glory of his presence abiding in them shall arouse the wondering admiration of all. The lost spirits will wonder; they will be amazed at the strangeness of the salvation of the blessed. "This is he" (Wisd. 5:3, 5) "whom we sometimes had in derision... how is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints?" The very angels will wonder at the exceeding glory of the Lord shining in his saints. For he will change the body of their humiliation, and make it like the body of his glory.
1. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; let us keep that awful day in our thoughts.
2. Think on the fearful misery of eternal separation from God; live in his presence now.
3. We hope to be like him in his glory; let us take up the cross. - B.C.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,