Church- You Are Not in the Day of the Lord!, Part 4

In our message, OCCUPY TILL JESUS COMES (2 Thes. 3:1-18), we completed our series in the book of 2 Thessalonians. Paul corrected a misunderstanding in God’s Word- a theological error- informing the Christians in Thessalonica again (and us also) that the Church is NOT in “the day of the Lord” (2 Thes. 2:2 NET). Unlike Jesus’ coming for His bride/the Church, which can occur at any moment and without any sign before it, God shows us here the “great tribulation” period will not begin until after several events happen “first”: #1 a worldwide “falling away” from biblical truths; #2 “He [the Holy Spirit in the Church] who know restrains” evil must be “taken out of the way” at the Rapture; and #3 “then the lawless one [the Antichrist will be] revealed” when that “man of sin” signs a peace treaty with Israel (2 Thes. 2:3, 7-8; 1 Thes. 4:15-18; Matt. 24:21-22; Dan. 9:27, etc.). Paul corrects this bad theology because, like cancer, it leads to sin and also robs believers of their peace with God (2 Thes. 2:2; 3:16; John 10:10, etc.). Dr. Mark Hitchcock, one of my Bible exposition professors, correctly notes that over a fourth of the Bible is prophesy. So, when we minimize, discount, or misunderstand these parts of God’s Word, it plays a role in leading us away from living for our Lord (Gen. 3:1; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Thes. 5:6, 10-11, etc.). Such was the case with the church in Thessalonica, so after correcting the bad theology, Paul now turns to exercise discipline within the church to help all there “stand fast” in “every good word and work” God made them for (2 Thes. 2:13-17; Eph. 2:10, etc.).

But before he does this, he first asks for prayer for himself and his missionary team (i.e. “pray for us” 2 Thes. 3:1). Please also pray for me as your pastor, for our church leaders, for everyone in our church, and of course pray for missionaries we partner with. Pray for the rapid spread of the gospel (i.e. that it “run swiftly”), and for it to “be glorified” in the lives of those who do not know Jesus so they are saved (2 Thes. 3:1). We need these prayers for deliverance and rescuing because we are in an enormous spiritual battle against principalities of darkness (i.e. “the evil one”) and also with “unreasonable and wicked men” who are not saved and under “the power of darkness” that seek to hinder the advancement of God’s Word at every turn (Eph. 6:11-12; 2 Thes. 3:2-3; Col. 1:13, 21; 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

In spite of great spiritual warfare, Paul then prays confidently to God for the Thessalonians here again knowing it is “the Lord [who] is faithful” (2 Thes. 3:3). God’s faithfulness is stronger than the faithlessness of His children, and He will see us through to the end because He keeps His Word (Phil. 1:6, etc.). He also will strengthen us and guard us from every onslaught of “the evil one” (AKA Satan, 2 Thes. 3:3; Matt. 6:13, etc.). He also expresses “confidence” that they would obey the things the Bible commands here- “not grow[ing] weary in doing good” (2 Thes. 3:4, 13). It is important to note this “confidence” that Paul had was “in the Lord”- that is, “Christ in [them], the hope of glory” (1 Thes. 3:4; Col. 1:27, etc.). He then prays that God would help them today to grow in their understanding of His love for them (i.e. GRACE) as they wait patiently for Christ’s return whether it be in life or death for them (2 Thes. 3:5; Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21, etc.). The word “direct” here means ‘to clear the way of obstacles” (2 Thes. 3:5). What obstacles might we have in our hearts that distracts from our hinders our view of Christ and His return? What things in our lives contribute to our impatience and lack of self-control? “The fruit of the Spirit is… patience… and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23 NET; 1 Cor. 13:4, etc.). We should throw things out of our life that hinder our walk with God and our desire for His return (1 Cor. 10:14, etc.).

“We command you,” Paul says in 2 Thes. 3:6. But this is not really just the apostle, it is a command from “our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 3:6, 10, 12). Believing the lie they were already in “the day of the Lord,” some brothers and sisters within the church had quit their jobs and were “not working at all!” (2 Thes. 3:11). Maybe they reasoned, ‘Why work if we are in this time of great tribulation? What is the point?’ And they then were mooching and leeching off of the charity of others. This was a bad witness within and outside of the church because God has called all of us “TO OCCUPY TILL [JESUS] COME[S]” (Luke 19:13 KJV; John 9:4, etc.). Indeed, the Bible says we are to be His living sacrifices- each day- every day, investing our lives for Him right up to the time He returns for us whether it be in life or death (1 Thes. 4:15-17; Rom. 12:1-2; Luke 19:13 NLT; Titus 2:11-14; Eph. 2:10, etc.). The Word shows us here we are not to grow weary in doing good but called to abound in it, in part, because our gracious Lord promises us all we let Him do through us will be eternally rewarded in His kingdom (1 Thes. 3:13; Gal. 5:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Cor. 5:9-10, etc.).

As we look at church discipline in this chapter, it is important for us to understand this error has been in progression for sometime and the “disorderly” conduct of these erring Christians in Thessalonica was willful and unrepentant (that is, they continued to refuse to work against what God’s Word said- 2 Thes. 3:6). The Holy Spirit had already told the church “to mind [their] own business, and to work with [their] hands… [so they would] walk properly” being a good witness to the world around them (1 Thes. 4:11-12). And then the Lord told the leaders and the church as a whole later to “warn” such people in their fellowship who were “unruly” or idle (1 Thes. 5:14a).

These were people who could work but refused to do so… (2 Thes. 3:10 says they would “not work”), and we see instead of being busy in good earning their own living, they were busy in being bad- “busybodies” meddling in other people’s affairs (2 Thes. 3:11). Idleness oftentimes breeds sin (note: this is not speaking about resting in Christ which is good and necessary, but this is speaking of idleness that feeds the flesh and in turn prevents a child of God from walking in the good works He has made us for). Following the principles of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17, Paul now applies further discipline in an effort to get these people to turn around and repent so they will wake up and be ready for the Lord Jesus’ return in a fellowship sense (1 Thes. 5:6, 10; 1 John 2:28, etc.). He now tells them (not just the pastor but the whole church who is walking with God) to mark out or “note” such people and “withdraw” from them “not keep[ing] company with” them (2 Thes. 3:6, 14). In other words, do not eat at church lunches with them or associate with them. Do not take communion with them. Do not give them food to eat. Do not feed their sin (2 Thes. 3:10). This tough love (i.e. church discipline) is all in an effort to make them “ashamed” so they will turn around and repent (2 Thes. 3:15; Matt. 18:17). While God never treats us as His children like He would an enemy, sometimes He does discipline believers, and sometimes He even does this through His body, the Church, for His glory and namesake (Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; Gal. 6:1; 2 Thes. 3:6, 7, 14, 15; Titus 3:10, 11; Heb. 12:5-11; 13:17; James 5:9, 20, etc.).

Paul then authenticates this letter as the Word of God by writing the ending in his own handwriting as he prays for peace to be maintained by “all” within the church fellowship (2 Thes. 3:16-18). While all Christians have their sin forgiven through the blood of Christ and are heaven-bound, present-day peace can be forfeited in our relationships if sin remains unconfessed. Paul therefore prays “the Lord of peace Himself” would make sure this did not happen by giving them “peace always in every way” as He is closely with them in a “fellowship” sense (2 Thes. 3:16, 17; 1 John 1:1-9, etc.).

The Gospel is truly good news for those who are Christ’s. Jesus’ return for us brings hope and the fullness of our salvation when death is swallowed up in life and our bodies are glorified being made like His resurrected body (1 Pet. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:50-54, etc.). At that moment in time, we will be with the Lord forever and experience fullness of joy and pleasures evermore… (Ps. 16:11, etc.)

But Jesus’ return is also truly bad news for the those who do not know Him. Because we do not want any to perish, and our time here could be very short, we need to make it our aim to share the gospel with all we can. This sharing needs to be done by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives both in word (verbally) and in deed (by our actions) as we pray for those we love (John 3:16-18).