May 25th, 1958 @ 7:30 PM
2 Thessalonians 2:13-18
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Thessalonians 2:13-18
5-25-58 7:30 p.m.
Now, we turn to the second Thessalonian letter, the second chapter. And last Sunday, we left off at the twelfth verse. And this evening, we begin at the thirteenth verse, and let’s read to the end of the chapter. Second Thessalonians, the second chapter, beginning at the thirteenth verse: 2 Thessalonians 2:13, reading to the end of the chapter. Now, we have it? Second Thessalonians – almost toward the end of your Bible – Second Thessalonians, the second chapter, the thirteenth verse; now together:
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 establish you in every good word and work.
[2 Thessalonians 2:13-17]
And the sermon tonight has been divided in two parts. I could not encompass it in this one hour. It is entitled Everlasting Consolation, para klēsinaiōnian. You could translate it "eternal comfort" or "eternal encouragement."
"God, even our Father,who loved us, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, hath given us everlasting consolation" – eternal comfort, forever encouragement – "and good hope through grace, may He comfort your hearts" – same word again: parakaleō, comfort, encourage, console – "may He encourage your hearts and stablish you–establish you in every good work and word" [2 Thessalonians 2:16-17].
Now, we have a context here that gives it meaning from the seventh verse of the first chapter of Second Thessalonians to the twelfth verse of the second chapter [2 Thessalonians 1:7-2:12]. Up until we began reading at the thirteenth verse, that section is dark and full of foreboding and judgment and damnation. It is a revelation of final anarchy and persecution and the revelation of the man of sin and the Antichrist [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 7-10]. It is dark indeed. The coming of our Lord is called the blessed hope [Titus 2:13], but it is preceded by terrible judgments and awful, awesome outpourings of the wrath of Almighty God [2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, 2:11-12].
And Paul describes those final days: the working of the mystery of evil [2 Thessalonians 2:7], and the delusion that God shall send upon men who turn aside from the truth of the gospel [2 Thessalonians 2:11], and the damnation that awaits those that believe not the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:12]. These things are dark in the extreme.
Then Paul turns from this holocaust of the final judgment and the visitation of the Lord. He turns to the glorious gospel of hope and of comfort to those who trust in Jesus and who believe in His grace and His mercy [2 Thessalonians 2:13-14]. All of this is in keeping with the whole outlook of the Apostle Paul: in the midst of realism – stark truth, dark tragedy – he is also wonderfully confident and optimistic.
So, I say, in this context, having spoken of that terrible day – these awful judgments when the world shall be given to iniquity and Antichrist shall be revealed [2 Thessalonians 2:3], and men shall follow a delusion and a lie [2 Thessalonians 2:11-12], and God pours out the judgments of His vials of wrath upon unbelieving and godless humanity [Revelation 16:1] – in the midst of that, having spoke a little of that, immediately he says, "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord" [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. Then he speaks this passage that we have read of comfort and fearlessness and consolation and encouragement for those who in that dark time face the future in the brightness of the glory of the promise and presence of God [2 Thessalonians 2:13-17].
Now, my first observation is this: that that is always the true mark of a Christian and that is always the hallmark of the faith of the Son of God. It is always ebullient and glorious and light and optimistic. Doesn’t deny the mystery of iniquity. Doesn’t deny the damnations of God. It doesn’t deny the judgments of the Almighty. It is stark realism in describing the human heart, the future of humanity, the destiny of this world – just as black as ink.
But, I say, the hallmark of the true Christian faith is this: that in the midst of the judgments and the damnations and the delusions and the mysteries of the working of iniquity and the final Day of the Lord, the Christian is always filled with hope and with optimism [1 Peter 3:15], with the light and the glory of the promised presence of God. That’s the mark of a true Christian.
John Wesley was a precise, educated, learned, theological Oxford don, and he came over here to America to convert the heathen Indian. And he failed miserably and was on a boat to go back to England in despair and in frustration. And while he was on that boat going back to his homeland, there came a storm on the North Atlantic that threatened to sink the ship to the bottom of the sea. And the people were terrified, and John Wesley was terrified. He was as frightened and as scared as any other of the passengers on the ship.
There happened to be on that boat some Moravian missionaries. And in that storm, in the dark and the wind and the waves when everyone thought that life was lost and the ship would certainly sink, John Wesley watched those Moravian Christians. They were absolutely undisturbed. They were unafraid. They looked at the waves. They heard the wind. They saw the prospect of immediate death, but they were vibrant and triumphant and victorious in the Lord.
And John Wesley sought them out and said to them, "I am not a Christian. I have never been saved, for a saved man would not be afraid like I am. A Christian man wouldn’t cower before the storm." And it was the Moravian Christians that led John Wesley to that saving faith in Christ that made him forever fearless and unafraid.
That’s the mark of a Christian. In the midst of the storm and the stress and the judgment and the tempest and the turmoil of God, his face is a light and his heart is lifted up [Mark 4:35-41; John 16:33; Acts 12:6]. I have been tryingas I prepared this sermon, I have been trying to recall a sermon – I mean a story in a sermon – that I heard years ago; and I can’t quite call it out of the years of my memory. But it went something like this.
Back yonder there was a time – and it’s a historical thing – there was a time when the whole sky above America was filled with falling stars and comets. It was an awesome sight, and the people thought that the world was coming to an end. And down there in some Georgia village, the people called one another and they were crying and wringing their hands in despair. This awful thing: the world was coming to an end and they were scared and afraid and trembled in terror.
And now this is the part that I can’t quite remember because it had a wonderful turn that I cannot remember, but it was something like this. There was an old colored saint who lived in that town, and he arose and saw the stars falling and saw the streaks across the sky and heard the people cry aloud in terror that the end had come. And that old colored saint gathered his family together and was waiting there in glory and in triumph and in expectation.
They said to him, "Why aren’t you afraid? Look at the sky!"
And he said, "Brother, the end of the world means my Lord am a coming. I’m getting ready to meet Jesus in the sky."
Oh, my soul, that’s the hallmark of a child of God [Psalm 46:1-3]. When the stars fall and the heavens shake, the sun is dark and the moon is blood, then the Christian lifts up his face. This is the day of our final triumph. Our redemption draweth nigh [Luke 21:28].
That’s Paul. That’s Paul. Describing the darkest hour that this earth shall ever face: "We are bound to give thanks to God for you, brethren" [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. Then he writes that wonderful passage of encouragement and consolation [2 Thessalonians 2:14-17].
Now, I have a second thing and that is this. We need the admonition, and the intercession, and the encouragement of the Apostle [Paul]. He prays for them: "We’re bound to give thanks to God for you [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. . . Therefore, brethren, stand fast in the traditions, the teachings, the doctrines that you’ve heard by word and our epistle" [2 Thessalonians 2:15].
Then he prays: "And our Lord Jesus Christ, and God Himself, our Father, who loved us and has given us this everlasting encouragement and good hope, comfort your hearts – encourage your hearts – and establish you in every good word and deed" [2 Thessalonians 2:16-17].
Now, we need that. We need that. All men need encouragement. We cannot live without it – bruised and buffeted and bereaved and defeated. We need encouragement.
I have just seen the record. I’ve never heard it. But Dr. Truett preached in this pulpit a wonderful sermon entitled "The Need for Encouragement." And they made a record of it and sold it for years in the Baptist bookstores. And the title of that thing appealed to me when I saw the advertisement: "The Need for Encouragement."
God does not delight to see His people with their heads hanging down like bulrushes, dismayed and discouraged and defeated [Hebrews 11:6]. When our spirits sink, the waters have come in even unto the soul. God doesn’t delight to see His children in misery and unhappy and dismayed and disappointed and in despair and defeated. In fact, God can’t use us when we’re that way [Matthew 17:14-20].
Do you remember old Elijah standing in triumph on the day of the sacrifice at Mount Carmel? [1 Kings 18:24-46] Then the next day, when Ahab told Jezebel what he’d done [1 Kings 19:1], Jezebel said, "Yes, and God do so to me, crack my head off, if by this time tomorrow I haven’t got you just like you slew those prophets of Baal" [from 1 Kings 19:2]. And it scared Elijah to death; and the Book says, "And he ran for his life" [1 Kings 19:3].
And he ran clear down to Beersheba, left his servant there, and went a day’s journey into the Negev – into the desert – and found him a juniper tree and sat down under a juniper tree and said, "Now, Lord, let me die. Let me die. I’m no better than my fathers. I want to die too. This whole thing is lost" [1 Kings 19:4].
And he lay down and slept under a juniper tree, and an angel came and touched him, said, "Elijah, awake, eat" [1 Kings 19:5]. There was a lunch, a dinner, a breakfast on coals of fire: "Eat and drink." And there was a cruse of water at his head [1 Kings 19:6]. Then he lay down again and the angel touched him again, said, "Elijah, eat and drink." And he ate and drank a second time [1 Kings 19:7]. Then the angel said, "Elijah, get up." And Elijah arose, and he went forty days and forty nights through the desert until finally he came to Sinai, to Mount Horeb [1 Kings 19:8].
And there in a little cave, the Lord came to him and said, "Elijah, what you doing here?" [1 Kings 19:9] And Elijah said, "Lord, I have come to the end of the way. I preached my best and prophesied my best. I’ve done my best; and Lord, they’ve slain Thy prophets, and I’m the only one left. And they built Baalim and they worshiped gods. And I quit. I’m beat. I’m discouraged. I’ve given up. That’s why I’m here" [from 1 Kings 19:10].
The Lord God said, "Listen, Elijah. You stand there and watch Me." And Elijah stood at the mouth of the cave and the Lord called a great wind – shook the whole earth. He wasn’t in that. That’s just nothin’ to God. That was just tiddly winks. Then as Elijah stood there, the Lord made a great earthquake and turned the whole earth upside down [1 Kings 19:11]. That’s mumblepeg with God. That’s not anything with Him. Then after that, the Lord caused a burning, furious fire to pass by him [1 Kings 19:12]. Why, for God to make a sun, it’s an incidental thing with Him. Then there was a still, small voice, and it said, "Elijah, what you doing here?" [1 Kings 19:12-13]
And Elijah said, "I’ve come to the end of my way. I can’t preach any more. I’m discouraged, and the Spirit of prophecy has left me, and the children of the Lord are slain, and I’m the only one left – nobody but me. And Thy cause is lost in the earth" [from 1 Kings 19:14].
And the Lord God said to Elijah, "Listen, Elijah. I’m not dead. The Lord God still is alive and all power is in My hands. I can shake this earth. I can burn up this earth. I can blow it away in a storm, in a tempest. And listen, Elijah, you’re not the only one that’s left either. Up there in that little country where you’ve been preaching, I’ve got seven thousand that haven’t bowed the knee to Baal. Now, Elijah, get out of it. Snap out of it. Stand up, Elijah. I’m sending you back. There’s work to do. You go up there to Damascus, in Syria, and anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. You go over there to Samaria and you anoint Jehu to be king over Samaria. And Elijah, you find Elisha and anoint him to be a prophet to carry on the work of the kingdom ’til I come. Elijah, get up and go back" [from 1 Kings 19:15-18].
That’s what God says to all of His discouraged Christians. Then, when we think we are alone, you just don’t know. Over here and there and there and there, they are God’s anointed and God’s elect. There, there, and He knows them by name. I may not. He’s got His own. And He has work for us to do, and He can’t use us when we’re down and when we’re discouraged and when we’re defeated.
The Christian is to be up. "Let not your hearts be troubled" [John 14:1]. He said in the day of His cross, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" [John 14:27]. Not you, not you. He said again, "Be strong and of a good courage. I am with thee. Fear not" [from Joshua 1:9]. He said, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and I say rejoice!" [Philippians 4:4] Don’t let your hands hang down and your knees be feeble. Stand up and rejoice in the confidence and in the encouragement of God.
Now, in just this moment remaining, may I point out to you the basis of his encouragement? Somebody may not like this, but oh, brother, this is the foundation of the Book and our hope.
Listen to it: "We are bound to give thanks to God for you . . . We prayour Lord Jesus Himself, and God, even our Father, who hath loved us and given us this everlasting encouragement and good hope . . . that He comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good work" [2 Thessalonians 2:13-17].
For, because, why? Where are the encouragement and confidence for a Christian? Listen to it: "Because God hath from the beginning chosen you – chosen you – to salvation through sanctification, the Spirit and belief of the truth, by the gospel of and the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" [2 Thessalonians 2:13-14].
He bases it – our hope and our confidence and our encouragement – he bases it upon the elective purposes of God. God cannot fail. God cannot be defeated, nor can He be turned away from the great sovereign purpose that He hath in the earth through you, through you. "Because God hath from the beginning chosen you" [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. The elective purpose of the Lord carries through. It never fails.
What is the basis of the Christian hope? A succession to seize His throne? No. An election? No. A new legislative assembly? No. New laws? No.
The basis of the illimitable, immeasurable eternal hope of the Christian lies in the elective purposes of God. He lives. He reigns. He is omnipotently sovereign, and God shall bring to pass His purposes in the earth. He will not be discouraged nor shall He fail ’til He hath set judgment in the earth [Isaiah 42:4], ’til He rules from the river to the ends of the earth [Zechariah 9:10], ’til the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He reigns supreme and alone forever and forever [Revelation 11:15]. "God hath from the beginning elected you" [2 Thessalonians 2:13].
Think of that. To that little flock in Thessalonica – just a little band of feeble Christians in a Roman world of brutality and godlessness and darkness and heathenism – Paul saying to them, "God hath elected you, little flock [2 Thessalonians 2:13]. It is His good pleasure to give you the kingdom, little flock [Luke 12:32]. Weak lambs, God hath chosen you. Be of good courage. Comfort your hearts. Lift up your faces. God hath chosen you."
Oh, what it is to be in the elective will and purpose of the Lord. However the day, whatever the fortune, we are in Him, and He is in God [1 Corinthians 3:23], and the whole world shall turn for His elect into victory and triumph and glory both now and forever [Romans 8:16-18, 35-39]. "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" [Psalm 84:11] – that love and trust Him.
The world is yours. And in the fortunes of life, if He takes it from the earth before He comes – to face that future in glory and in triumph, to live like a Christian, and to die like a child of Jesus, unafraid, in the glory of the hope and the presence of the Lord.
While we sing this appeal tonight, somebody you, to give his life in trust to Jesus, would you come? Somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of the church, would you come? A family you, however the Lord shall say the word and open the door, would you come? Would you come? Put your life and your home together in Jesus and in this church.
I cannot say the word of appeal. God has to say it. If I make the appeal, let it fall to the ground. It is dust and ashes. But if He makes the appeal, would you listen to the voice of the Lord? God opening the way, the Spirit leading to Jesus and to us – by baptism, by confession of faith, by letter, by consecration of life – however God shall say the word and lead the way, would you come? To be a Christian, to live and to die in the hope of Jesus, and to share with us in this blessed and glorious ministry, would you while we stand and while we sing?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
I. The context – the occasion of Paul’s prayer for them
A. The dark prospect of the end time(2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 2:12)
B. He moves out of the great events of the final judgment into the consoling ministry of God to those who suffer(2 Thessalonians 2:13)
1. Optimistic as well as realistic
1. John Wesley’s conversion – aboard a ship in the midst of a storm he observed Moravian missionaries at peace, unafraid
2. Story of Georgia town – night sky filled with comets, people crying at the end of the world; old colored saint gathers family to meet the Lord
II. The need for encouragement is universal(2 Thessalonians 2:15-17)
A. Recording of Dr. Truett, "The Need for Encouragement"
B. The Lord does not delight to see His people dismayed, discouraged, defeated – He cannot use us when we are that way
1. Elijah sitting under a juniper tree (1 Kings 19:1-18)
2. Encouragement of God (John 14:1, Joshua 1:9, Philippians 4:4)
III. The source of this consolation
A. The elective purposes of God Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)
1. The eternal purpose of God to save a people for His glory
2. Predestination dignified the position of the little flock in a world that opposed them