Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s message.
- Read 2 Thessalonians 1:10. Why will Christ’s return be an occasion for us as believers to marvel?
- We will marvel at His presence, His grace, and His perfect justice. Which of these three brings you the greatest sense of comfort, and why?
- Read 1 Peter 1:8-9 and 1 John 3:2-3. How does our hope for Christ’s return change the way we live today?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
When Christ Shall Come, that's what we've studying, that's what we've been talking about over the last few weeks. If you haven't been with us, what we've been doing is looking into Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian church in the last couple of chapters, chapter four and chapter five, and then we're beginning in 2 Thessalonians chapter number one as Paul begins to teach them and continues to teach them about what happens when Christ shall come.
Now, what Paul has shared with them is that he's helped to ease concerns that they had because the Thessalonians were nervous because they had heard about this great second coming, this great day of the Lord, and they were starting to get concerned because some of their brothers and sisters in Christ had now passed away. So, they were concerned and saying to Paul, "Paul, are they going to miss the day? This day is going to come, this great second coming is going to come, and what about our brothers and sisters in Christ who have now passed away? Are they going to miss it?"
Paul says, "No, no, no. Don't worry about that at all. In fact, when this great day comes, the first to get up from the grave will be the dead in Christ. They will be the first ones up because it's going to demonstrate to the whole world that Jesus has conquered death, that he's the Lord of life, and the very first ones are going to be the dead in Christ. So, don't worry. They're not going to miss anything.
Oh, by the way, if you're living when this event comes up," Paul says, "not only will the dead in Christ rise first, but then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air."
It's where the word raptus is used, the word we get the idea of a rapture, where now you've got the catching up of the saints, both living and dead for all time everywhere, caught up to meet the Lord in the air as this incredible transformed delegation that is meeting the king and ushering him in as he brings in new creation for all of those his people to enjoy forever.
"Now, given that, it's going to happen suddenly, Paul says, "but it shouldn't sneak up on those of you who believe in Jesus. It may come like a thief to those who don't believe, but to those of us who do, we should be expecting this, even though it will sudden when it occurs and no one could possibly know the hour. We do know that we should be expecting it because when it arrives, we are going to not only see the great king who comes in justice to judge the world, but we are also going to experience the fullness of our salvation and be with the Lord forever."
See, this is what Paul is teaching in 1 Thessalonians chapter number four and chapter number five. Then when he begins to write in the next chapter, he begins to continue, he teaches them again about the second coming of the Lord. As you pause and just think about the second coming of Jesus, it should cause us to just stand in awe and to pause and marvel at this extraordinary thought.
Have you ever marveled at anything? I have. I remember when I got married back in the dark ages, 1993. I've been married over 26 years to this beautiful bride named Edie. When we got married, we went on a honeymoon to Colorado. I've never been there, and when we arrived, I was fired up because I grew up in Georgia, and grew up in Atlanta. We had hills, but we didn't really mountains. We had Kennesaw Mountain, but it wasn't very big. Then we had a Blue Ridge Mountain somewhere, but they were more like hills than mountains. They're not really huge.
So, I was fired up about going out there and seeing the Rockies. As we were driving in this rental car, I remember going, "Man, these are awesome. This is incredible, but I realized, eventually, I didn't know it at the time, I was only looking at the foothills of the Rockies. The foothills of the Rockies were even bigger than the places that I was thinking about or that I had been exposed to, but I remember coming around a corner, and then we saw the majesty and the beauty of the Colorado Rockies, and I was just jaw on the ground drooling. This is unbelievable, and I could do nothing but marvel at how awesome this was.
I did the same thing a number of years ago when I was speaking at a conference in Les Diablerets Switzerland. There was a glacier. I think it was about 14,000 feet high, this glacier, and I took a cable car, and was able to go up to the top of this glacier. I literally felt like I was on top of the world because there, so high up, there's barely any oxygen, which was awesome. I could see forever in every direction, and I'm looking at the Swiss Alps and their majesty, and I'm seeing the Matterhorn in the distance, and I literally couldn't believe my eyes, and I was just standing there gaping, looking in awe and marveling at what I had seen.
It happened to me as well a number of years ago, 2003-ish, when I was in South Africa, and I was in a wild game preserve, and got to see all kinds of things, lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh, my! I saw them all. As it got dark, we were so far away from any light pollution or anything that was lit up. When it got dark, I realized I was looking at a sky that I had never seen before.
You see, I had lived and do live in a different hemisphere, and as a result, when I look at the sky, it looks different than this sky. I'm looking up and it doesn't even look familiar to me. I can't find all the familiar places that I can normally find in a sky. I felt like I was gazing into another world as I'm looking at this brilliant illuminated sky, and I'm in awe at what I'm looking at, and I marveled at it.
You've done that probably, too, in some places, wherever they were. Do you know that what's extraordinary about that is that I was marveling, listen to this, at created things. Imagine when the one who crafted them all shows up. If you're wondering about what the summation of the message is today, it's right there in your title. It's pretty simple. If you don't have it, I've got it down here, so that you don't miss it. When Christ shall come, his people will marvel.
I mean, I don't think that that takes too much for us to think about that when Christ comes, we are going to marvel. Paul actually highlights this in our text in 2 Thessalonians 1. In fact, it's in verse 10, where he highlights this idea, and listen to what it says, "On the day Jesus comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." This include you because you believed our testimony to you.
Jesus is coming and he will be marveled at by all of those who have believed. I love how JB Phillips translation talks about the same verse. He says it this way, "It will be a breathtaking wonder to all who believe that when Jesus returns, it will take our breath away as we stand in awe and in wonder, and as we marvel at who he is."
So, we can ask this question. If Jesus is going to return and he's going to be marveled at by his people, what will we be marveling at? Well, I think the first thing that we would be marveling at is really obvious, isn't it? His presence. That's what we're going to be marveling at. It's Jesus. In fact, I want you to notice the idea of his presence, and how it's communicated in verse number seven of 2 Thessalonians 1.
It says this, "This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels." Jesus will come in his second coming. In the bible, Paul actually uses this term that he will be revealed in blazing fire. Now, the idea of blazing fire is a picture for us that gives us a sense of the nature of the presence of God. If you go back in your minds into what you know about the bible, if I took you back into the book of Exodus, you would find pretty quickly that when Moses was confronted with God, he was confronted initially in this bush that was consumed by fire, but did not burn up, this burning bush, right?
It was indicative of the presence of God, so much so, by the way, that God through this burning bush said to Moses, "Take your sandals off because the place you are standing is holy ground." It was indicative of God's presence.
In fact, when Moses ended up after taking the people out of Israel, and right before they went into the wilderness, he went up on Mount Sinai, where he was going to receive the commandments from God, but do you know what was happening at that time? Mount Sinai was engulfed in what was called blazing fire. Why? Because it was indicative of the presence of God that was meeting with Moses, and giving to him these commandments for his people Israel.
When Moses actually started to lead the people in the wilderness wanderings, do you know how they got around and where they went? It's because they were led at night by a pillar of fire at night, which was indicative of the presence of God that was going before them. When you see the birth of the church, when the church of Christ was born that we sang about just a few moments ago, you see the disciples gathered in an upper room, and upon them come such as tongues of fire upon them that was indicative of the presence of God's spirit among them.
You see the idea of Jesus coming in blazing fire is a reminder that we are going to experience the manifest presence of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an extraordinary thing for us to think about because it just causes us to marvel. Here's why. Think about it this way. We have loved someone that we have not yet seen.
Peter actually says that, "Though you have not seen him, you love him, and you have within you this inexpressible joy."
You see I have heard Jesus' voice. I have felt Jesus' comfort. I have experienced Jesus' power, but I have yet to see his face, but that day is coming. The one we love, we will see, and we will be in his presence. I don't know about you, but that causes me pause in my heart, and it makes me just step back in awe to marvel at the one through whom everything was made, Jesus. The one that we now look at created things and marvel at, we are going to see the author, the architect, the artist of all of those things. We will be face-to-face. This is a staggering thing. We will marvel at his presence.
I'll tell you what else we'll marvel at, though. We'll marvel at his grace. Let me explain what I mean by that because in our passage today, I feel like we see a couple of different aspects of his grace that I think will cause us to marvel, and here's the first. It's a grace that sustained us in tribulation.
See, when Christ comes and we experience his presence, I think we're going to not only marvel at who he is, but we're also going to marvel at his grace in our lives that has sustained us in tribulation.
Listen to what Paul says to the church in Thessalonica, chapter one, where we are, 2 Thessalonians 1 beginning in verse three. He says, "We always ought to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches, we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result, you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are suffering."
You see, it's no shock to the people in Thessalonica that they're enduring persecutions, and tribulation, and trial, and suffering. In fact, they actually knew this was coming. They're experiencing it now in full, but they knew it was coming because when Paul wrote to them in his first letter, he told them not to be surprised by this in any way.
In 1 Thessalonians 3, Paul says, "We sent Timothy, who's our brother and coworker in God's service in spreading the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials or tribulations for you know quite well that we are destined for them."
Did you catch that? Paul says to the church of Thessalonica, these trials and tribulations were destined for them. Now, Paul is talking not only about what happened in his apostolic ministry, but also what happens to the church. You do realize, ladies and gentlemen, we have a real enemy that has a real structure and organization, who hates Jesus and hates Jesus' people, and he wants to do everything he can to turn them upside down, turn them over, destroy their witness, everything that he can possibly do.
You see, this is his MO. You may or may not realize it, but we live in the world of invisible war. The enemy of our souls hates our guts because our guts are surrendered to the Lord Jesus. He hates Jesus and everything about Jesus and he wants to take down everything related to Jesus. Yet, in the midst of these tribulations and trials and sufferings that we all face, we have this blessing because if you heard it, you heard Paul's triad that he refers to a number of different times, faith, love, and hope. He uses the term perseverance in this context instead of the word hope, but they are very close cousins.
Paul is referencing faith, and hope, and love as that which has been given to us, so that we can endure in the midst of trials, but listen to this. Do you know that that's just an extension of the grace of Jesus to us? Because our faith is a gift of grace given to us by the Lord Jesus. Our love is what God has given us first, not that we loved him, but that he loved us, and now he has poured out his love and our hearts shed abroad by the Holy Spirit, so that we can be a conduit of his love.
Do you know that our hope and our perseverance comes from his strength living within us, that it is, listen to this, it is the grace of Jesus Christ in us that enables us to endure the trials and tribulations we face. On that day, when his presence comes and we are in his presence, we're not only going to marvel at him and we will, we are going to marvel at his grace that has enabled us to endure all that we have been through because you know what? The veil is going to be pulled back at that moment, and we may see at that moment just how sinister and how corrosive the enemy has tried to be, but by the power of Jesus Christ within us, we understand now a grace that far superseded our ability, and we will marvel.
We'll not only marvel at a grace that sustained us in tribulation, we'll also marvel at a grace that allows us to share in his glory. This is an overwhelming thought to me, the idea that we will share in his glory.
Verse 10 of 2 Thessalonians 1 says this, "On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people." Can you imagine this idea that what God is going to do is he's going to be glorified in his holy people? Jesus will be glorified in his holy people. Now, for us, we use that term glory or glorified, and sometimes we don't know what we're saying. It's one of those terms that's challenging. We hear glory, and we don't quite know what we're saying when we say that or what we hear when we hear that.
The idea of God's glory is this. It's the sum total of the attributes of God, God's goodness, God's perfection, God's knowledge, God's wisdom, God's patience, God's love, right? All of these things that you can name about God, glories the idea of the sum total of all God's attributes, and maybe we could say it this way. God's glory is when his holiness, which is the all-consuming otherness of his nature is put on display or when his holiness goes public. This is the glory of God.
Now, in the return of Jesus, listen to this, God's glory is manifest. The illumination of the splendor of his presence is an overwhelming thing and we share in it. Those of us who have belief in, he calls it in his holy people, he will be glorified in his holy people. We will share in his glory.
Can you imagine the radiating light of the Lord Jesus and now those of us who have believed are now, listen to this, are now illuminated in the glory of who he is transformed into now bodies that do not decay, transformed into people who do not die. We become now where the mortal is cast aside and the immortal is put on. The perishable goes away, and the imperishable is put on, and there we are lit up by the glory of God. We become, truly because of the light of the world, lights of the world and we are now children of light in the fullest sense you could imagine.
This is grace that we get to participate in that kind of glory. It is astounding grace. I don't even know what I'm going to say. You know how some commentators, sports commentators, if they've got the big opportunity to call the masters or they get to call some great sporting event like the Superbowl, many times they work on some phrase if the situation allows that they're going to call out.
I got nothing except for maybe in this transformed state. Maybe a word of God just comes pouring out of mouths. This is immeasurably more than I ever asked or imagined. Maybe that's the stuff that comes out, I don't know or maybe we just go ... Either way, we are going to share in the glory of Jesus. It's astounding.
You see, when Jesus comes, we will marvel at his presence and we will marvel at his grace, but there's a third thing that this chapter actually speaks about that I don't want us to miss, and it's actually the largest in volume in this chapter. That's this, that we'll marvel at his perfect justice. We will marvel at how perfect his justice actually is.
Now, what am I saying when I say that? Well, the passage actually teaches us a few aspects of his perfect justice. In his perfect justice, here's what he's going to do. He's going to give trouble to the troublers. That's what the passage says.
Notice what it says in verse number six, "God is just." Don't you love the emphatic nature of that statement? God is just. He will payback trouble to those who trouble you. What he's doing is he's making a statement of encourage to those who are in Thessalonica. They're going through persecution, they're going through hardship, they're going through difficulty, they're going through tribulation and trial, and here's what Paul says to them. Those that are persecuting you, those that are troubling you, those that are emotionally dealing with you, those that are physically harming you because of the name of Jesus, God is just, and he will give trouble to those who trouble you. That's just what he'll do.
I mean, at the end of the day, God is demonstrating his justice. You see, listen to this, as the good creator of everything in the world, he has a responsibility to judge the world in righteousness because if he does not, he can be accused of injustice. You see, wickedness won't just be passed off as nothing. Wickedness will be dealt with.
This is the responsibility of a just God and the scripture tells us that God is just. What he will do is he will vindicate his people. Those who trouble the people of God will be troubled. It was just about almost exactly four years ago that somebody or somebodies firebombed our church building. They threw a Molotov cocktail in that side of the building that was on fire and blew up, with the hopes, I'm sure, that it would catch fire and burn the building down.
It happened in an early morning on a Saturday early, early, middle of the night early morning timeframe. So, thankfully, nobody was here, but that's what they did. What was our response? We forgave. We don't know who that is. They got away with it, but we forgave. Here's why. Because we have a God who's paying attention. He knows.
My hope is, is that whoever did that would recognize what they did would repent before God, would find relationship with God through his son Jesus and experience forgiveness. That's my hope, but I also know this. God hasn't missed anything, and those who trouble his people, he will trouble.
I can tell you this. I'm not humongous. I'm 6'1", 195 pounds. I'm solid steel, not really, but I can tell you this. Somebody messes with my bride, they have a problem with me. The same is true of Jesus except more perfectly so. Those who mess with his bride will have to deal with the husband. He's going to have something to say about this. God is just, and he will trouble those who trouble his people.
Now, it also teaches us this that he'll give relief to the troubled as well, that in his perfect justice that will cause us to marvel and to stand in awe, he'll only give trouble to the troublers, but he will give relief to the troubled.
Look at what it says in verse number seven. It says, "Not only will he give trouble to the troublers, but he will give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels."
Now, at the end of the day, here's what we realize that even though Jesus will give us relief in the circumstances that we're in, the circumstances might not change. Sometimes you and I are faced with circumstances whether that's trial, tribulation, persecution that is brought upon us that we didn't ask for, and maybe those circumstances don't change, but certainly, the presence of Jesus can change our hearts in the midst of those circumstances. He can do something in us right in the middle of those things that help us to see them a little bit differently.
I'll tell you this that when Jesus comes, he's going to make sure that there is a final relief and vindication for his people, that we will experience a complete and total relief from what we have been through as the people of God. This is astounding to me, but it only happens, listen to this, it may not happen in the now, but it is certainly going to happen when Jesus is revealed, the scripture says.
That word revealed in the Greek language is apocalypsis, which is where we get our word apocalypse. It means revealing. When Jesus Christ shows up in blazing fire, when he is revealed, he is going to lay bare everything. There won't be any confusion. Wickedness will be wickedness. Righteousness will be righteousness. He sees it all and everything will be laid bare before him because he will judge justly. By the way, this was prophesied long ago before Jesus ever showed up in the book of Isaiah, the kind of judge and how he would rule as messiah.
Listen to Isaiah 11 on what it says, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse. From his roots, a branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of council and of might, the spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes or decide by what he hears with his ears, but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the Earth. He will strike the Earth with the rod of his mouth. With the breath of his lips, he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt, and faithfulness, the sash around his waist. In that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious."
This is what we're promised in the messiah and that Jesus is fulfilling and will fulfill upon his return. We can experience some relief now in the midst of our trouble, but we will experience final relief when he appears, but there's a third aspect of his perfect justice that I don't want you to miss, and it's this. He will punish the rejectors. He'll punish the rejectors.
Listen to what the text says and how Paul writes to them in verses eight and nine. Paul says, "Jesus will punish those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, and shut out from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his might."
Now, when you look at this passage here, it uses the term punish two different times. He will punish, and then he talks about punishment. Those are actually two different Greek terms. The first Greek term talking about punish is retributive justice. It's the idea of an even-handed sober justice that is meted out. It's not frivolous. You know what frivolous looks like, right? If you've ever been a parent, you know what frivolous justice looks like because you've been, your kids have pushed you to the point, and you were about to lose your mind. Then they do something that really isn't worth the justice that you're about to hand down. It was just one of many things. Maybe they were coloring on the kitchen table, on their book, and then they start coloring on the table itself, and you lose it. It's frivolous, right?
"You are grounded! Six years in your room, no phone, no TV, no relationships, no food, no oxygen, no love. Six years. That's final."
Has anyone ever had that happen in their minds? Hopefully, it didn't play out in real life, but are you with me? My hand is not up, yours is. That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about an even-handed sober idea of what it means to judge people justly, and that Jesus will do that very thing.
Also, a second word is used, and it's about judicial payment, the idea that lawbreakers must pay for breaking the law. So, he actually uses that terminology two different times, and here's what he says, "The people that are going to be punished," here's what he's saying, "are those that do not know God, that's the first group of people, and then the second group of people, those who do not obey the gospel."
Now, listen. When Paul uses the phrase do not know God, he's not talking about people who've never heard of God. That's not what he's referring to. He's actually using that phrase the same way Romans 1 uses that phrase, that although they knew God, they rejected him. The idea of do not know God is an idea of active rejection of God. Then he says, "Those who do not obey the gospel," in other words, they know the claims the gospel that you can only be reconciled to God through his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in what he has done in dying on a cross to pay for sin, and anything outside of that is basically trampling on the son of God, acting as if that wasn't necessary.
He said, "Those are the two groups of people." In other words, those who actively reject are going to be dealt with by the just God. He actually says, "Here's what's just." Listen to this. Eternal destruction. That's the phrase that's used. They will be punished with eternal destruction.
Now, when we see that phrase, what we have to understand is this, ladies and gentlemen. God takes people seriously. He takes you seriously. What you do in this life, it matters. When you say yes to Jesus and understand what God has done in saying yes to him, do you know what you are awarded? Not because of your own merit, not because of mine, but because of God's grace. Eternal life.
By the way, eternal life is not just about, listen to this, not just about longevity. It certainly encompasses that, but it's about quality. It's a different kind of life all together. Eternal life doesn't start when we die. Eternal life starts when we come to know Jesus because you know what the bible says the definition of eternal life is? Listen to John. He says it this way in John 17. "Now, this is eternal life." Are you ready for that? He's giving us a clear definition. "This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
Do you know what eternal life is? Knowing Jesus. Do you know what eternal destruction is? Rejecting him, being shut out from the presence of the Lord. You see, the word there when it uses the word destruction is not so much about the idea of annihilation. It's about utter ruin, that there is an eternal utter ruin when we reject the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and that we will live shut out from the presence of the Lord because God in his final act of mercy to us gives us what we always wanted, separation from him. It's a strong thing to think about, but because God is just, this is what he does.
Now, when Paul uses this term, eternal destruction, stay with me here, he's not just pulling that out of thin air. He's taking the term from Jesus. When he talks about this idea of punishment and destruction, he's taking it from Jesus. If I'm right about Paul borrowing so much of Jesus' teaching from the Olivet Discourse, which I've seen over and over and over again in these messages, then Paul uses this term because he borrowed it from Jesus' teaching, the parable of the sheep and the goats, that when Jesus returns, he's going to separate out those that are his and those that are not, and those that are his experience eternal life, and listen to how it ends in Matthew 25, "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous, to eternal life."
You see, this Jesus' own teaching. This isn't some scenario where Paul is just making this up. Now, I realized, ladies and gentlemen, some of us want to run from this teaching. You're just going, "Oh, no, no, no." Here's what we fail to remember. What Paul reminds us of is that God is just and his judgments are right.
See, there's a reason that we can't see that clearly because we're clouded. Every single one of us still has this cloud of flesh, and still has this cloud of sinful, broken thinking in our hearts and in our minds. We cannot fully conceive perfectly of what perfect justice looks like. We can theoretically, but we just can't see it in real practice. Do you know why? Because when we begin to think about these things, we get clouded by our own pride, we get clouded by our resentment, we get clouded by our anger, we get clouded by all sorts of things, our sentimentality.
You see, what we do is we project on to God what we want God to be instead of who God has revealed himself to be. This is the great danger for us, ladies and gentlemen. What we do instead of functioning as people who are created in God's image is we start to make up a God in our own image. This is the great danger. We can't do that. We need to let God say who he is to us, and we deal with the weight of that.
Just because we can't conceive of perfect justice doesn't mean that God is uncapable of it. You see, what we do is we project on to God. Sometimes we project on to God and we make him a God that is so namby-pamby, that justice will never actually happen or we make him this raging lunatic that wants to blow up everybody with blue bolts for just looking ugly.
We can't quite put all of these things together in our mind, and we struggle, but what if we could see it clearly? What if we could be outside of the things that cloud our judgment and could actually see this clearly? You're saying, "Well, that could never happen until we've actually died and we're with the Lord." Exactly.
What if we heard what they said? Because when we read the book of Revelation, we actually can because it talks about the voices of those who have been murdered, those souls who have been killed. Listen to what they say, Revelation 6. "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud of voice, 'How long, sovereign Lord holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the Earth and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given at white robe and they were told to wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters were killed just as they had been."
Hard to think that the people of God aren't going to go through tribulation when you read that passage. We're already experiencing tribulation in many parts of the world, right? You'd have a hard time convincing some of our brothers and sisters in places around the world who are being killed, who are being dismembered for their faith that they're not going through tribulation. Call it even great tribulation, if you want to, because it doesn't feel like to them that it could be any worse.
Sometimes we have a western way and an American way and a comfortable way of trying to read the scripture when sometimes we just need to let it speak for itself and say what it says, but do you know what we hear in there? We hear the souls of those who've been murdered, who now, listen to this, now they're clear. Their souls are in the safety, in the presence of the Lord Jesus, and here's what their souls are crying out, "How long until you judge the world with justice?" because they can clearly see it now.
In fact, when you go further into revelation in chapter number 19, it says, "After this, I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, 'Hallelujah!' Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the Earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants and, again, they shouter, 'Hallelujah!' The smoke from her goes up forever and ever."
Obviously, this is aimed at the person of the enemy, and every manifestation of the enemy, but we have to recognize that God is just. See, when Jesus comes, we're going to marvel at his presence. We're going to marvel at his grace, and we are going to marvel at his perfect justice. Grace and justice. Grace and truth. Those are things that we don't often put together.
We have trouble sticking grace and justice together because we don't want to seem to have both at the same time. We usually want one or the other. When it's about us, we want grace. When it's about somebody else, we want justice.
We have to grin at that because in part, we know that to be true, but what we fail to remember and what we often fail to be able to see is that we can marvel at Jesus because he actually embodies both of those things at exactly the same time.
John actually said it this way. Remember in John 1 he says this. He says, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." Then verse 14 says, "... and the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of God full of grace and truth."
He didn't say 50% grace and 50% truth. He said full of, pleroma, completely, full of grace. Jesus is fully graced and fully just and true at the same exact time.
My imagination says that if that's what the king is like, that's what the king's people should be like. If that's who the king is, that's who the king's people should be, full of grace and truth. If he's that kind of king, we should be that kind of people.
You probably heard the story. It was a couple of months ago in Dallas. There was a 26-year-old man who worked for an accounting firm that was in his apartment. Into his apartment came a 30-year-old female Dallas police officer. The end of that scenario ended up him being shot to death. By her own testimony, she thought it was her apartment, and to be fair, her apartment was right above his apartment, same floor plan and all of that. Nonetheless, it was excessive. He was unarmed. His name was Botham Jean. You may have heard the story.
You may also have seen that he was a Christian and his family are Christians, and that his 18-year-old brother at the sentencing of the officer who's going to get a decade or so in prison, she's weeping and the 18-year-old was allowed to share a victim impact statement. He shared that as a Christian, that he wanted to extend forgiveness to her, an 18-year-old young man. Extraordinary. He got permission and certainly came over and he hugged her. The woman who had taken his brother's life was sobbing in his shoulder.
You probably know about this because that moment went viral. Everybody got to see it, and it was blasted out everywhere. Listen, it was a beautiful picture of the forgiveness and the love of Jesus Christ through an individual to another one. I'll tell you what did not go viral. It was Botham's mother's statement, Alison. It didn't go viral. She also forgave the woman. She, too, is a Christian, but she not only called for forgiveness, she also pled for justice.
You see, ladies and gentlemen, we wanted to embrace the one without the other. It's actually a truncated version of the gospel because until we understand that the gospel is fully about the grace of God and about the justice of God, we've missed the gospel. You see, to those of us who are sinners, which is all of us, God has demonstrated his grace. His grace to us, listen to this, was God satisfying his own justice in Jesus instead of on us. In doing so, our sin was poured upon the perfect one, the sinless one, Jesus, who died to satisfy the justice of God, so that those of us who deserve that justice can now turn in grace and in mercy and receive Jesus and be reconciled to God not because we deserve it because we don't, but because God is gracious to us.
It shows that God, listen to this, is not only just, but he's also the justifier of those who believe in him. God did not let justice pass. God fully rendered his judgment, and Jesus satisfied his justice through his death and his resurrection. We cannot have one without the other, grace and truth.
So, the people of God, if our king is like that, we should also be like that. We should be a people that are so full of grace, but also who advocate for justice because this is who our king is, full of grace, and full of truth at exactly the same time.
That means here on Veterans Day weekend, maybe we say to ourselves, regardless of our posture on the wars of the last few decades, maybe we should say we want to show grace to those who've come back from that and instead of piling on, maybe we should show compassion and grace, and maybe even advocate that they're cared for.
Of the homeless population in the United States, 11% of them are veterans. 20 veterans kill themselves everyday. Maybe it's because the systems that are built for them are not coordinated, and they don't have not just the physical support that's needed, that's probably the least of their worries. These are tough men and women, but it's the mental care that they need for their mental health.
Do you know in the last couple of decades for every person killed on a battlefield, 25 plus more were lost to psychiatric illness and death? So, when we see them, we show them love. When we see them, we do our best to be able to advocate for them. We can't do, ladies and gentlemen, I realized, we can't do everything for everyone, but we sure better do some things for someone because that's what the people of God do because if our king is like that, we should be like that or maybe if you're so rushed that you can't get a bracelet with a name on it to pray for a child who's been orphaned and who's in foster care through no choice of their own, we should show at least the compassion to do something extraordinarily easy to be able to pray for them like I'm going to for Neser, that they'd find a home.
Even when we have opportunity, to be able to advocate for kids like we're doing with our every child ministry, who oftentimes can't speak for themselves. Why? Because that's what our king is like. If our king is like that, we should be like that. He's coming, and we're going to marvel at his presence. We're going to marvel at his grace. We're going to marvel at his perfect justice. Until he comes, what if we his people look so much like him as people that are so full of grace and also who advocate for justice where injustice occurs. When we do that, maybe the world that's looking at us, they might just marvel. Let's bow our heads together.
In these moments just before we're dismissed, I would say to those of you who are here and who've maybe never entered into relationship with Jesus Christ, never confess your sin, your need for a savior. I say this to you in love and I say it humbly. If you want to try and make your own case before God, you will have no case. You will have no advocate. You will have no defense attorney.
You and I have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We have been rebels to the crown. When the king returns, those who have rejected him will be dealt with justly. God will give to us what we've always longed for, separation from him, independence from him. We will be shut out from the presence of the Lord. In God's final act of mercy, he will give us what we always desired, to be separated.
This isn't God's desire for you because God loves you. God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish, but would have everlasting life. God's desire is not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, the scripture says.
This is his heart for you, and he's demonstrated it in the beautiful gift of his son, who willingly went to a cross for your sake and for mine to satisfy the justice of a holy God. If you've never come to a place where you've turned from your sin and put your faith in Jesus, I hope today will be that day. There's nothing more important than that. If that's your need when we dismiss in just a moment, right across the atrium in the fireside room, we've got pastors and some other friends in there who would love to take a few moments and talk to you about what it means to have your sins forgiven and your life made new, and to become a part of the family of God.
For others of us, maybe we need to recognize that in our hearts and lives, we know that we're only like Jesus in full when we're full of grace and full of truth at the same time.
So, Father, would you please write that on our hearts as your people? Because we always as your kids want to be like our Father. If King Jesus is full of grace and full of truth, we want to be full of grace and full of truth. Would you help us to be that kind of people, so that we can show the world around us what Jesus looks like? We know, God, we do is so imperfectly, and that we'll only see it in perfect beauty when you come and we are glorified in you, but may you help us to grow in that, so that the darkness of the world around us can see the beauty of the glory of Christ, the king who is full of grace and full of truth.
We ask you to help us do that, that we may magnify you in this life, even as you will glorify us in your glory when you return. We pray this now in Jesus' name. Amen.