Obviously, today we start with a new book of the Bible—the second letter of Paul to the Thessalonians. Like the first letter, it is written clarify what is going to happen in the future. I can’t wait to see what my wife writes tomorrow about the coming of the “man of lawlessness”.
As you will no doubt see in the days to come, for Paul this is not a matter of idle speculation or abstruse theological reverie. For him, it is very practical. The Christian vision of the future has concrete ramifications for how we live in the present.
Paul begins the letter with his normal thanksgivings and encouragement—not a bad practice to emulate in and of itself. But then he goes on to write quite frankly about divine retribution and eternal punishment. These words were meant to reassure and hearten the Thessalonians—though they were presently being persecuted for their faith, justice is on the way. Life is not fair, and evil does sometimes prosper—but the day is coming when God will set things right.
Still, these are hard words for many of us to read—words of God “punishing” (TNIV), “inflicting vengeance (NRSV), or “evening up the score (The Message). The reality of hell, and that this appears to be a very possibility for those who resist God and work again Him and his purposes, is quite disturbing.
But that, I think, is exactly the point. We are supposed to be disturbed—disturbed enough to do something about it. Disturbed enough to share our “testimony” with others; that is, to tell them about God, what He is doing in our lives (and hopefully He is doing enough that we have something to tell others), and therefore what He can do in their lives as well.
Disturbed enough to pray, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (verses 11-12). Prayer is more than just wishful thinking, but is a way of allowing God to focus our attention and direct our energy. It’s a way of allowing God to empower us.
Paul’s focus is very clear, isn’t. How’s your focus (and mine)?
The power of God at work in Paul’s life is made very clear in the faith, love, and perseverance of the Thessalonians. How’s God’s power being manifested (in no uncertain terms) in your life (and mine)?
Those are the practical applications of the Bible’s teaching about eternity. Who can ignore them?