We had a wonderful time in Bible study last night at church. I love our Wednesday night meetings; they're filled with such joy in the word and eager fellowship one with another. We've been working our way a couple verses at a time through 2 Thessalonians. In recent weeks we've been considering chapter two, with all its interesting and sometimes difficult discussion of apostasy, the "man of lawlessness," and "the one who now holds it back". Interesting, humbling, shocking, and energizing time.
Last night we considered verses 10b-12:
"They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness."
Just before these verses the text reads: "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan and displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing" (v. 9-10a).
Consider the sweep of things detailed in this passage:
First comes Satanic power displayed in supernatural acts that deceive.
Second is the refusal of some to love the truth and be saved.
Finally God sends a "powerful delusion" that seals people in the lie they believe and condemns them eternally.
Satanic deception. Human self-deception. Divine delusion that dooms.
This scene is horrible! It's unimaginable for so many who fancy themselves "enlightened" and think of a passage like this as pre-scientific. And surely that's part of the deception and the refusal to love the truth that God will in His glorious righteousness judge with a powerful delusion, a continuing delusion, a condemning delusion.
But we must not lose sight of this: God is ruling throughout 2 Thessalonians 2. There is no evil--not even that of Satan himself--that goes unbounded by the power and judgment of God. And there is no evil in the history of the world that will not finally be "destroyed by the splendor of Jesus' coming" (v. 8). And there is no wickedness in men that will not be condemned (v. 12). And in it all, God will be exalted and glorified and praised for all eternity (Rev.).
And so, we don't merely "accept" the truth of 2 Thessalonians. We don't just acknowledge it and go on to more "pleasant" things. We don't look at these realities and grudgingly admit them to our understanding of the faith. No. We are to love the truth--all of it. We are to rejoice and exult in the truth of God's Son--crucified, buried, resurrected, ascended, returning, judging and reigning. All of it, and all of its implications, are to be loved... lest we in any way resemble those who "refused to love the truth" and who "believed the lie" and who "delighted in wickedness." For what our God does, He does well. What appears horrible to us (the strong delusion that condemns)--and is horrible--is also glorious and will be seen to be glorious when we more fully sympathize with God in His holiness and not with man in his sin.
"What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?" (Rom. 9:22-24).
If I might attempt a perhaps too simplistic reduction... "What if God prepared some for wrath and destruction so that those he prepared for mercy and glory would better know the riches of his glory?" What if God wants to show the riches of His glory by having an eternal contrast between those prepared for destruction and those prepared for glory? And what if some knowing more fully the riches of His glory justifies God's preparation of some as objects of His wrath?
What would make such an action by God "defensible" or even "worth it"? It must be that the "riches of His glory" are so indescribably "worth it," and the expression of that glory not only defensible but the highest possible good, that God is right to act in this way. Seeing and savoring the glory of God must be so ineffably splendid and wonderful that God determines that even the horrible contrast between the eternal state of the wicked and the righteous would be a good and right way of making that glory known to the universe.
Can you imagine a God so wonderful in glory that even the just damnation of sinners makes His glory to shine forth even more?!
Behold your God--awesome and terrible in all His ways. Behold Him, love Him, fear Him, and worship Him.
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