Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 43
Paul’s Glimpse at Prophecy
II Thessalonians 1:1-2:4
Now as we begin book 43, we’ll start with the Book of II Thessalonians, a little short letter from the apostle Paul which followed the first letter, probably in a matter of months. Remember, the apostle came into these Gentile cities practically unannounced with no fanfare or advance men or media – no big Madison Avenue ad campaign, and he just simply preached the Gospel. Now that’s all he did, he just simply lifted up Christ crucified, buried and risen again. It’s the same simple message we must believe for eternal life.
And these pagan people who had been worshiping all the gods and goddesses of mythology were suddenly transformed when they believed Paul’s simple Gospel that had been revealed to him for the Gentile world during this Age of Grace. Then the miracle of it is, that in spite of the immediate pressures of persecutions and tribulations they evidently never faltered. And of course after writing the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul went down to Athens, and then down to Corinth, and was getting kind of concerned. “Are these new believers holding fast? Are they able to withstand the pressure of persecution?” And as I’ve pointed out so often these persecutions weren’t only from the pagan world, but also from the Jewish quarters – they just couldn’t stand Gentiles having a part of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
So this second letter is in response to Paul having heard that the Thessalonians were holding fast in spite of their persecutions, and they were not giving in and not giving up. So this letter sort of shows the apostle’s amazement at these folks who were fresh out of paganism, and just freshly aware of the work of Christ and His resurrection, and His coming again. So II Thessalonians, even more than the first, is going to deal with Christ’s soon return. When we get into the letter I’ll come back up to the board again and show that even Paul, early on in his ministry, certainly had no idea that the Church Age or the Age of Grace would go nearly 2000 years, which of course is where we are now.
Paul, along with the prophets and the twelve disciples after His ascension, were all looking for Christ to return in short order. It wasn’t until Paul gets to the end of his ministry that I think he realizes that the Nation of Israel has been set aside for probably longer than he thought it would be, and that the Church Age would not end in his lifetime, but it would continue on for some time. So always get the background to these things. Now remember, too, that the Thessalonians letters are probably the very first letters that the apostle Paul wrote, even though they’re toward the end of his Church epistles in our New Testament, yet they were evidently written first. But at that time I pointed out that Paul’s letters finally ended up in their order in our New Testament exactly the way they belong, not the order they were written, but doctrinally they are exactly where they belong.
We jump in first with the Book of Romans, that great Book of doctrine. Then the two letters to the Corinthians which were written to congregations that needed corrections, because they had a lot of problems. Then the next one was the letter of Galatians, again confronting the fact that we’re not under Law, but rather Grace. Then the next of Paul’s epistles were written from prison in Rome which are toward the end of his life ( probably around 64 – 66 AD), and in these prison epistles he was again taking us to a higher level doctrinally, showing us our position in Christ as redeemed and regenerated members of the Body, Gentiles in the flesh.
Then you come up to the third level in Paul’s writings so far as his doctrines are concerned, and they are the two little letters of Thessalonians which speak of the end time. How the Church is going to be removed from the planet, and how its departure from the earth is completely different from anything that the prophets of the Old Testament, or what we read about in the four gospels had been written about, because it is a separate coming of Christ that has nothing to do with the return of Christ to Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives at the close of the Tribulation. So remember that now the apostle is responding to the good news that the Thessalonians are remaining firm in their faith, and looking for the return of Christ. Now let’s start right in with Chapter 1 and verse 1.
II Thessalonians 1:1-3
“Paul and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: 2. Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet (appropriate) because that your faith (not their works so much as their faith)growth exceedingly, and the charity (love) of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;”
Now you see this is the first mark of a salvation experience. People who were unable to love or suddenly able to love. I’ll never forget the testimony of one old fellow that had come out of a rather rough non-spiritual background. He said, “You know Les, since I’ve been saved, people that I could have almost shot between the eyes, I no longer feel that way about them. Oh, they’re not the kind of people that I could go up to and hug, but now instead of hating them, I love them and feel so sorry for them.” And isn’t that about it? We are probably not prone to just love these kinds of people, as probably the Lord could love them, because we’re human, but at least we have changed our attitude so that now we do feel so sorry that they are still out in such abject spiritual darkness. So Paul says, “we realize the love you’re showing toward each other.” Verse 4.
II Thessalonians 1:4
“So that we ourselves glory in you (Paul was thrilled to hear back from these little Gentile congregations and how they were standing firm in the faith) in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:”
These poor Gentile pagans, now walking the life of a believer, came under intense persecution. Not the kind that we may experience once in a while – theirs was intense. Their lives were threatened, they probably lost their means of livelihood, and yet they never departed from the faith. So this is what he’s saying, “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure;” It’s never easy!
II Thessalonians 1:5
“Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:” Now here is where we compare Scripture with Scripture. Come back to Romans 8:18. Look at what the apostle Paul writes to these Gentiles at Rome. So that means he’s still writing to us as Gentiles today.
“For I reckon that the sufferings (the kind of sufferings that the Thessalonian believers were going through) of this present time (our journey as believers) are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
So this is what we have to do. The opposition that we may have to face in this life on earth, we have to put it in comparison to the glory that one day will be revealed to us, and into which we will enter and live for all eternity. Now back to II Thessalonians chapter 1. So Paul says, “you’re counted worthy for the kingdom because you’re suffering for it.” Now verse 6, and this is a little bit of comfort because I imagine that every believer that suffers at the hand of a gross unbeliever, it’s our natural tendency to say, “God aren’t you going to pay them back?” Yes He will. Paul says:
II Thessalonians 1:6
“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God (and remember God can’t do anything that is wrong or unfair. God only knows how to do that which is upright and righteous) to recompense(or pay back) tribulation to them that trouble you;”
These people that tormented these Thessalonian believers are not going to get away with it. Oh they may in this physical life, but they still must come before the Great White Throne one day, and remember God is righteous and God won’t forget those things. So we can take comfort in that, even though we can’t strike back ourselves we have the promise that God’s going to do it. Now I’m thinking of a verse in Revelation, and I hope I can find it. I didn’t think of this verse as I was preparing for it, but come back to chapter 18, and let’s just drop in at verse 4. Now this is just a little inkling of what Paul is giving us here in the Thessalonian letter. I hope you all realize that Revelation is the account of the Tribulation that is still future, when the wrath of God is going to be poured out on Christ-rejecting humanity in a way that no one can comprehend. Now this is just another little picture of that.
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues, 5. For her sins (this Christ-rejecting world) have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. (these persecuting acts of these unbelieving people) 6. Reward her (this group of people that have been tormenting believers of the Tribulation) even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: (the persecutions that this group promoted upon these believers) in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.” This is what’s coming on the earth during those final 7 years.
“How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, (that is this world system) so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. (Oh but God says, “Yes you will!”) 8. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, (at the end of the Tribulation) death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” Now come on down to where the Lord tells them to go ahead and drink blood. That may be back in chapter 17. Verse 6.
“And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, (the believers whom this group has persecuted) and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.”
Well I still can’t find the verse I really was thinking of where He, in so in many words says, “You’ve always been blood thirsty, so now drink it.!” Remember in Pharaoh’s Egypt the fresh water supply of the world will be dried up, and the Lord will literally tell them they’ve got blood to drink and that’s what they’ve always been thirsty for, so have at it! Well always rest assured that God is just and one day He’s still going to even the score. (Transcriber’s note: I think Les was looking for Revelation 16:6 where it says –)
“For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink;…” Now back to II Thessalonians chapter 1.
II Thessalonians 1:6,7
“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” Remember God’s keeping the record. “And to you who are troubled (to you Thessalonians who are under this intense persecution) rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” That is the reference to His coming to take the believers out of that situation of intense persecution. Now look at verse 8, and here comes the wrath and the justice and the righteousness of God.
II Thessalonians 1:8
“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:”
Alright I’ll have to remind all of you here as well as our television audience, you’ll remember in our last month’s taping we chased all the references beginning with Isaiah chapter 2, and came all the way up through the Old Testament, through the four gospels, and then on into the Book of Revelation, and showed you all the graphic descriptions of “The day of the Lord.” Do you remember that? The day of the Lord, when it will be dark and gloomy and when there will be such intense wrath of God being poured out on that Christ-rejecting generation which we feel is this one.
I honestly feel that the Lord is going to come in my lifetime, and I haven’t got that many years left. But I’m confident that unless something otherwise happens, my wife and I are not going to have to take that trip to the cemetery. I’m almost confident that we’re going to take that sudden translation up.
Once the Church is off the scene then the wrath, and vexation of God, the day of the Lord is going to come. I made the comment several programs back that the apostle Paul, almost without exception, does not deal with Old Testament prophecy. But here in II Thessalonians we have the only possible exception as we move on into II Thessalonians chapter 2 and even a few of these statements in chapter 1. Other than that Paul never refers to prophetic things. Paul deals only with the Church during this Age of Grace, and the reason for that is, “There is no prophecy directed to the Body of Christ!” We’re not under any of the Old Testament covenants, we’re not under any of the Old Testament prophecies, those were all directed to the Nation of Israel. So when Paul writes the Church letters from Romans all the way through Philemon, he doesn’t have to deal with prophecy because we don’t have any part with that.
Now of course as we see things getting ready, it’s like getting the stage set for a drama. The drama itself cannot begin until everything is ready behind the curtain. Isn’t that right? You’ve got to have the characters all ready, you’ve got to have the props ready, you’ve got to have the background ready, you’ve got to do the advertising – but the drama itself can never begin until there is that official raising of the curtain. Then the drama begins. Now we’re in that same kind of a situation. We are living in the these days when the stage behind the curtain is being set. All the world’s political leaders, the key players are being put in the right places. All the technology that is absolutely necessary for end-time events is coming on the scene. All the nations of the world are being aligned little by little, getting ready for that final curtain raising.
So this is why I keep saying, there is no prophecy directed to the Church, because we’re living in that opened up period of time that was never prophesied in the Old Testament or the four gospels. It was revealed only to the apostle Paul, and since we’re not in prophecy then it stands to reason that in one way or another we have to be taken out of the way before prophecy begins and becomes the rule of the day. And that’s what we’ll be looking at in the next several programs, and that is the end of the Body of Christ on earth which is not associated with wrath and vexation, and Tribulation, but rather as we pointed out in the last several programs, we leave out of a quiet set of circumstances. There is no attendant of the battle of Armageddon, no attendant of earthquakes and volcanoes and death and famine, but instead it will just be the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, then we’re out of here.
I always like to remember a fellow out in Denver when I think of that term. I’ll never forget a comment he made. He’s got a bunch of hunks that works for him, these young guys 25-30 years old, and some of them are the toughest young men in Denver. This guy has a devotional with them every morning, and this one particular morning he told those guys before they started their various work jobs, “Now look fellows, one of these days, you’re going to see old Jim’s truck right in downtown Denver at a stop light, and he’s out of there!”
That’s exactly the way it’s going to be. Wherever we happen to be as a believer, when that trumpet sounds, we’re out of here! It just thrills me to death that one day it’s going to happen.Now the world can scoff all they want to, but it’s still going to happen! And as I told my class the other night, I was with a group that I’d never been with before, and I just said, now look Paul tells us that we’re going to be changed in a blink of an eye. In a moment which in the Greek is the smallest divisional period of time, which today is probably a millionth of a second. We’re going to be suddenly changed in that split second. And as I told the group, we’ll have to be or otherwise we’ll hit the ceiling, but we’re not going to hit the ceiling, we’re going to slip right on through just like the Lord did in His resurrected body. The Scriptures makes that so plain. He came into the upper room where the disciples were without benefit of a door or window, and all of a sudden there He was. Well Paul comes along and says, “We’re going to have a body exactly like His glorious resurrected body.” Which means that if the Lord changes us and we’re in this building when that happens, before we hit the ceiling, we’ll have already changed into that body that can slip through materials with no problem, and always remember Jesus Himself said it, “With God nothing is impossible!”