Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
THREE FACTS OF UNIVERSAL IMPORTANCE. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-12
Here are events that are sure to come, and will affect all mankind.
I. A New Revelation. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His angels of might in flaming fire" (v. 7). The same Lord Jesus who was forsaken by His disciples in the time of His greatest sorrow. In the day of His humiliation He could have called "legions of angels" to His assistance, but now the angels of His might came with His burning Presence, to accomplish His long-delayed purpose of gathering out of His kingdom all things that offend and them that do iniquity (Matthew 13:40-42). "The reapers are the angels" (Matthew 13:39), who are waiting now until the "harvest of the earth is ripe" (Rev. 14:15). The Lord has been during this age revealing Himself as the meek and lowly and merciful Christ; but He will yet reveal Himself as a "flaming fire" against all ungodliness. Who shall be able to stand when He so appears?
II. An Unfailing Retribution. "Taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 8) The day of grace has now passed; there remains no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries (Hebrews 10:27). The culprits are those who know not God, because they have not obeyed the good news of Jesus Christ. To obey the call of the Gospel of Christ is the way to know God, whom to know is eternal life. There may be some excuse for ignorance, but there is no excuse for neglect. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" What is the punishment? Everlasting destruction from the Presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. Not annihilation, but eternal banishment from the Presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. "In His presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11). Then what will it mean for those who are eternally exiled from the Kingdom of God and the pleasures that are ever flowing from His beneficent Presence? Call this state or condition by whatever name you may. There is an awful atmosphere about it. "Escape for your life."
III. A Christ-Honoring Reward. "He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe" (v. 10). He shall be glorified in glorifying His saints with His own glorious likeness. He shall be "admired" in the work of grace bestowed upon all them that believe. While the reward will be ours, the glory will be His. "Not unto us, O Lord, but unto Your Name be the glory." "All principalities and powers in heavenly places shall be made to know by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). We shall be satisfied when we shall see Him as He is; and He shall be satisfied when He shall see us as we shall then be. The Church will be His joy and crown of rejoicing at His Coming (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20), and something to be wondered at through all the coming ages. Its presence with the Christ of God in the glory will mean: "Blessing and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, unto our God forever and ever" (Rev. 7:12).
"You shall see my glory soon.
When the Work of Grace is done."
THE "MAN OF SIN. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
In the above verses we have a prophetic picture drawn by the inspired apostle, which demands serious attention in these days, and which is also a powerful indictment against the popular doctrine that the "world will be converted" before the Coming of the Lord. Paul bases his appeal (vv. 1, 2) on the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is Coming, and that His people will be gathered together unto Him on that day. Then gives the warning against being "shaken in mind" or "troubled" because of false teaching concerning His Coming. But His appearing is certain; so also is the appearing of that "Man of Sin " (v. 3).
I. The Time of His Appearing. Two conditions precede "The Day of Christ." First, there will be a "falling away" from the faith, then the revelation of that "Man of Sin." This falling away must mean the apostasy of the Church in the denial of those truths once believed or consented to. No one can fall away from where they have never been. The Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, etc. (1 Timothy 4:1-3). "The mystery of iniquity," or, rather, lawlessness, is always in evidence (v. 7). This is the spirit of Antichrist, which even now already is in the world (1 John 4:3), and in these days abundantly manifest in midst of much preaching and Bible distribution. Lawlessness, which is the practical denial of Divine and Spiritual authority, is a congenial moral condition for the appearing and work of this "Man of Sin." The fullness of the time for his manifestation may be near (2 Peter 2:1, 2).
II. His Character. He is called "the son of perdition" (v. 3). As Jesus, the Son of God, was the embodiment of the Divine character, so the "son of perdition" seems to be the human embodiment of the satanic character, for "His coming will be after the working of Satan" (v. 9). He is also called "that wicked one," whom the Lord will consume with the "brightness of His Coming" (v. 8). Does this imply that sin and lawlessness will yet find its culmination in a person, a man of the world, energized by satanic power, believed in, and followed by a restless, skeptical, and Christ-defiant populace, making their last united attempt to overthrow the faith that was "once for all delivered unto the saints?"
III. His Purpose. Is to oppose everything that belongs to God, and His Christ and to exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped (v. 4). Thus showing himself to be "the Antichrist" "Exalting himself," this was the sin of Satan at the beginning, but by becoming incarnate in the "Man of Sin," will surely be his last device to seduce a gullible humanity. He has always been the "Deceiver of the whole world." If Satan hopes to succeed by this blasphemous pretension of being himself above "all that is called godly," it certainly reveals something of the terrible depths into which humanity has fallen by this departure from the truth. Beware of self-seeking and self-exaltation, it savors of the "Man of Sin." "He who exalts himself shall be abased." "Not I, but Christ." is the only absolutely safe attitude.
IV. His Methods. They are varied and mighty. "With all power and signs," and "lying wonders," with all "deceivableness of unrighteousness" (vv. 9, 10). That is, with every wicked device agreeable to those who are on their way to perdition. This "Man of Sin" looks like the beast that is to come out of the earth with the power (horns) of a lamb, and the passion and purpose of a dragon; and who is able to make fire come down from Heaven in the sight of men (Rev. 13:11-13). We have often thought of the "wiles of the devil" in relation to our individual life, but here is a "Man of Sin," the offspring of perdition (v. 3), endued with the power of Satan, worshiped as God, and leading to the eternal abyss the multitudes of those who "have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved" (v. 10). The wonders of the truth were rejected for "lying wonders."
V. His Hinderer. There is One who is a Hinderer to his diabolical mission. "He that hinders will hinder, until He be taken out of the way" (v. 7).
1. Who is He? This hinderer is not a system, or party, but a Person. He must be mighty and Divine to resist such powerful and delusive work. Who can He be but the Holy Spirit of God, who is still striving with men, and leading many to Jesus Christ.
2. How Does He Hinder? By opening the blinded eyes of sinners to see their need of a Savior. By revealing to them the things that are Christ's for their salvation. By guiding them into the truth which satisfies and fortifies against the "wiles of the Devil."
3. When Shall He be "Taken Out of the Way?" Surely when the Church of God is taken away from the world, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The Church, as the Redeemed Body of Christ, is presently the "temple of the Holy Spirit." When He is taken away with the Church, then shall He cease to "strive with men." Then who shall hinder Satan in his work of deception and spiritual destruction? "If the salt lose its savor, with which shall it be salted?"
VI. His Temporary Ally. For once we see God adding His influence to crown Satan's efforts with success. What an awful crisis this is. The people have rejected His truth that was given to save them (v. 10). "For this cause He sent them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (v. 11), because they would not believe the truth (v. 12). Thus making their condemnation doubly sure. Brethren, what shall we say to these things? God is not to be mocked. When Israel would not hearken to His voice He gave them up to their own hearts' lusts (Psalm 81:11, 12). In the reign of the coming "Man of Sin," when men's spiritual indifference has turned into God-defiance, and God's longsuffering mercy turned into loathing and vengeance, then what shall the end be? (1 Thess 1:8)
VII. His Destruction. The Lawless One, "whom the Lord will sweep away with the tempest of His anger, and utterly overwhelm by the awful splendor of His Coming" (v. 8). Those who have been dazzled and bewitched, and awe-stricken by the lying wonders of this Satanic "man," will be smitten with terrible confusion before the "brightness of His Coming." "They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven, with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30). The glory of that "Man of Sin" will be discovered as a delusive will-o-the-wisp in the Presence of the glorious effulgence of the Man Christ Jesus. But there will be those at His Coming, who shall say: "Lo, this is our God. We have waited for Him. He will save us, and we will rejoice in His salvation" (Isaiah 25:9). "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."