Category Archives: Persecuted Church
I really wanted to share this quote from John MacArthur in the sermon yesterday, but alas, something had to give in the interest of time. So I cut Dr. MacArthur.
In the text (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10) and sermon we saw that when Christ returns He will afflict those who afflict followers of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:6). The Thessalonians are being afflicted and Paul writes to comfort them in the midst of persecution for their faith in Christ Jesus.
When will this comfort come? How will it come?
The answer that Paul put forward to give comfort is at least in part a future fulfillment. In verse 7 Paul promises there will come a day when Christ is revealed: “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution (righteous vengeance) to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (8).”
Take special note of the words, “will be revealed”. Contextually this indicates a future moment when Jesus will apokolupsei. You likely recognize this word because it looks like the word “apocalypse”. It is used in Revelation 1:1 to describe John’s writings as “The Revelation (revealing or unveiling) of Jesus Christ”. He will be unveiled or revealed, and when He is, He will repay with affliction those who afflict.
Where is the comfort? It will come in the person of the returning Jesus and He will bring rest (2 Thessalonians 1:7) to the afflicted.
Here is how Dr. John MacArthur described the unveiling or revelation of Jesus Christ when He returns and how it will look very different from the first appearing of the Christ who was veiled in the likeness of of men (Phil. 2:7):
The first time Jesus came, the reality of who He was, was hidden. Were you to have gone into the stable in Bethlehem and looked into the crib, you would have seen a baby. There would have been nothing in that baby’s form to have revealed to you who it was. Were you to have lived in a village called Nazareth and to have known a carpenter and his wife by the name of Joseph and Mary and their boy by the name of Jesus, you would have seen a boy, perhaps an unusual boy, but there was nothing you would have seen in Him that would have revealed to you who He really was, the creator of the universe. Were you to have been on those hillsides and along those dusty paths in Galilee or down in Judea when Jesus was ministering as an adult, you would have seen a man, you would have heard a man, a man who walked and talked and slept, a man who ate, and you would have not known by looking at that man who He was, for it was veiled. Were you to have seen and heard Him teaching, no matter how profound the things that He said, there would have been nothing on the surface to have proven to you that this was an eternal being, the God of creation. Were you to have stood on a hillside called Golgotha and watched a man nailed to a cross, blood streaming from His body, there would have been nothing that you would have seen with your visual eye that would have indicated to you that this was eternal God who could never die.
That’s because the first time He came He was veiled. The first time He came, the reality of the fullness of His person was hidden. The next time He comes, it won’t be. The next time there will be no Bethlehem, there will be no stable, there will be no manger, there will be no carpenter shop, there will be no humble village. There will be no poverty, no dusty roads to walk, no sinners to attack Him and grieve Him, no false religious leaders to oppose Him. There will be no demons who will stalk His steps, no soldiers to pound nails into His hands and thorns into His brow. There will be no spear run into His side. There will be no cross – not the next time. The next time He comes it is the unveiling. There will be no humble form. There will be no servant form. There will be no human form alone, but only that glorified God-Man in full blazing presence.
It is better to embrace all of Christ now, than to have to bow the knee (Phil. 2:10-11) when He returns to “press the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)
So we wait for the big reveal of the one who will come and right all wrongs, repaying those who afflict His people.
I was recently reading an article (Starting Over) in World Magazine and realized that many of our Iraqi brothers and sisters face extreme challenges that we can only imagine, but at the same time they are just like us.
Here is a sampling to illustrate: About 25 people meet in an apartment to study the Bible in a city that is just 30 miles away from the “present threat of ISIS.” A majority of those who are a part of this gathering have been displaced from the ISIS takeover in and around Mosul, Iraq. They are led by Pastor Malath Baythoon and they read the book of Romans together and discuss pride and humility. They share their experiences of fleeing the jihadists, leaving all they owned behind, not knowing where they would go. One woman asks for prayer to have the courage to pray aloud. A man asks that the group pray for a sick Muslim girl who lives down the hall.
Some of this is unimaginable to many of us: 25 people gathering in an apartment that is not far away from the trigger-happy terrorists that forced them from their homes. In this way we are worlds a part. But a lot of it sounds just like the kind of experience many of us commonly have in the United States. We come together to know God’s will by reading the Bible. We share life and pray for each other. We exhort and encourage each other to keep following Jesus in good and bad circumstances. They are not so different than us after all.
The common ground found in Jesus gives us cause to pay close attention to their example. On the other hand, the differences serve to challenge our western and cushy circumstances. The author, Mindy Belz, writes:
Baythoon asks if they are learning in the midst of their suffering and everyone nods, yes. “This thing has made me know God more. I am praying three hours a day,” says one. “I have time to read my Bible I never had before. It is new to me,” says another. “I am learning that church is not just a building. You can bomb the walls but not really destroy the church,” says a third.
What a challenging example! What an encouragement from brothers and sisters who are half a world away and living in a very foreign situation to my own.
It is not that American Christians don’t have trials and difficulties. We do! But it is always helpful to see the diversity of difficulties that people face, while also seeing that they are just like us; striving to glorify God together through Jesus.