Relevant magazine, around Christmas time, ran a story entitled, “Waiting for the Messiah: The New Clash Over the Bible’s Millennial Prophecies.”  The article read: “For many Christians the comforting images of the Christmas season are inexorably linked to another more mysterious prophecy, that of the apocalyptic second coming of Christ.”  And the article went on: “Many Christians believe the return of Jesus will be a cataclysmic event that will end history and inaugurate a divine kingdom on earth.”

Now that paragraph is absolutely correct.  Christians have been anticipating the return of Jesus for 2000 years.  And the reason is, the Bible clearly teaches that that is exactly what is going to happen.  The night before He died Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms…  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  …[And] I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).

When Jesus ascended into heaven a little over a month later, He left and an angel said to the disciples: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

In 1 Thessalonians 4, beginning with verse 16, the apostle Paul said: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words” (vv. 16-18).

Titus 2:13 speaks of “waiting for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Peter said, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief…” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  So, we “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:12).

John wrote, “…what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).

I don’t think it could be communicated any more clearly.  Jesus Christ is going to literally come back to this earth one day.  That truth should not terrify us, it should comfort us.  Those passages included the phrases, “don’t be troubled,” “encourage one another with these words,” “remember the blessed hope,” “look forward to that day.” One day Jesus Christ is going to return and He’s going to straighten out this world.  He’s going to make all things right. We are going to be reunited with those loved ones who have gone on before.

But the closer we get to Christ’s return, the more important it becomes that we be accurately informed about what’s going to transpire at the His return.  Even though Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour when I’m going to return,” the closer it gets to the day of His return the more vulnerable I think we will become to false prophets and opportunistic predictions.  We’ve already had David Koresh and his ranch apocalypse that ended in a tragic inferno in Waco, Texas.  That was followed by the ritualistic deaths of the members of the Solar Temple cult in Switzerland and Canada.  And I told last week about the ridiculous predictions of Edgar Whisenant, that Jesus was going to return in September of 1988.  And then skeptics had a field day mocking Christians when it didn’t happen.

You see, false information can lead to bizarre and sometimes deadly behavior.  But once we gain an understanding of what really is going to happen when Christ returns, we ought to eagerly anticipate it, but patiently wait for it.

 Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians to give us more detail about the second coming.  Last week we focused on the first 5 verses chapter 1, talking about why we need to be ready for Christ’s return.  This morning I want us to look at verse 6 through 12, and I want us to be informed about why Christ is coming back.  This passage reveals three things that Christ will accomplish at His return.

I. JESUS IS COMING AGAIN TO EXECUTE JUSTICE.

First, Jesus is coming back to execute justice.

Verse 6 says, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you….”

Now there’s going to be a big difference between Christ’s first coming and His second coming. In His first coming Jesus came humbly as a baby and He came to save.  In His second coming He’s going to return in power and glory to judge.

In Revelation 19 there’s a picturesque description of the return of Christ.  Beginning with verse 11 it reads: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.  With justice he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.  …Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.  ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’  He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (vv. 11-12, 15-16).  

Jesus is going to come to execute justice and judgment

Now we have trouble understanding God’s justice for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that God’s justice is almost always delayed. 

Roy Davis preaches at a Christian Church in Houston, Texas.  He got stopped for speeding while hurrying to a meeting at his church recently.  And he said to the policeman, “Sir, I’m sorry I was speeding, but I’m going to a very important meeting.  I’m a little bit late and time is of the essence.  I’m the preacher of the church and I’ve just got to be there; I can’t afford to be late.  I’ve just got to be there!”  And the policeman said, “Well, sir, I’m writing as fast as I can!”

You know, once in a great while God’s justice is very swift, about like the snap of a finger! But usually there’s a long delay between the offense and the punishment.  The Book of Galatians says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows” (6:7). But there’s a long time between the sowing of the seed and the reaping of the harvest.

Remember in Noah’s day, when God had had it with the violence, the immorality, the greed, and the indifference of the people, when their hearts were wicked continually, and he told Noah, “I’m going to destroy the world with a flood.  I’m going to wipe it clean!”  But between the time God made that pronouncement and the time the first rain drop fell was 120 years.  And when Noah preached for 20 or 30 years that God’s judgment was going to come, I’m sure people scoffed and said, “He’s been saying that for decades!”  But eventually the flood came.

Now in 2 Peter 3, the apostle Peter compares the flood to the second coming of Jesus. And beginning with verse 3 he says, “…you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’ (vv. 3-4).  

Now that’s exactly what’s happening today.  You preach about the second coming and there will be those who say, “My grandfather told me the preacher was talking about the second coming all the way back during World War I.”

But Peter goes on, “They deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  

By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  

By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.  

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

[So] the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,

but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (vv. 5-10).

A.W. Tozer used to say, “The wheels of God’s justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine!”

Another reason we have trouble understanding God’s justice is that our judicial system is so skewed that we’ve almost eliminated personal responsibility.  

The Menendez brothers brutally murdered their parents, but the jury in the first trial failed to convict them because the parents had been abusive.  So all of a sudden the murderers became the victims.

During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Reginald Denny was beaten within an inch of his life as the nation watched on live television.  But the perpetrators of the crime received almost no punishment because the jury concluded there was really no intent to harm, they were just venting frustration at the unjust verdict in the Rodney King trial.

Lorena Bobbitt mutilated her husband with a knife, but was released because her anger was justifiable since her husband had abused her.

Michael Jackson was accused of child molestation, but charges were mysteriously dropped after a reported exchange of millions of dollars. 

People, we’ve almost lost all sense of justice in our society.  No one is responsible for their behavior, no matter how bizarre.

It seems that everybody today is a victim, or at least temporarily insane.  And the idea that there is a God to whom we’re accountable, that there is a God who one day punishes for sins, is unthinkable to our numbed consciouses.  “Oh my, God would never do that!  He would never punish.  He’s a God of love,” we say.

In the book The Day America Told the Truth, it’s related that 82% of the American people believe in the afterlife, but only 4% could think of themselves as going to Hell.  We are like Heine, the German poet who was confronted with his wicked behavior.  He just shrugged it off and said, “Ah, God will forgive me, that’s his job!”  But the Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ is going to return to execute judgment.

I read in a newspaper recently where the family and friends of an individual who had been murdered were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual’s murderer.  I found that interesting?  You know why?  Because there’s something deep in the heart of people that cries out for justice.

Now God is holy; he will not allow sin to go unpunished. 

God is not a wimp.  “He will pay back trouble to those who have troubled you,” Paul said (2 Thessalonians 1:6).  Those who have persecuted God’s people, those who have abused little children, those who have exploited the poor and the helpless, are going to be punished for their sin.

A recent documentary about Adolf Hitler said that toward the end of his life Hitler was despondent.  Thoughts of death suddenly seemed pleasant to him.  “Death is just one brief moment,” Hitler said, “then you’re free of everything.  Then all is peace and rest.”  You see, even Hitler did not expect to be punished for his sin, because sin had so numbed his conscience, that even though he was responsible for the direct execution of 6 million Jews and indirectly responsible for the killing of millions of others in war, he thought death would be an escape. 

But Jesus said in John 5:28-29, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear [my] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

So God promises there is going to be a day when He returns in wrath to execute justice on those who have caused trouble. 

But it won’t just be the Hitler’s of the world who face God’s judgment when Christ returns.  Look at verses 7 through 9 of our text here in 2 Thessalonians 1: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord….”  

Now notice there are three categories of people here.  There are those who don’t know God.  I take it that they may be good moral people, but they just don’t know the Lord.  And then secondly, those who don’t obey the gospel.  They know the Word, but they just reject it. And then thirdly, those who cause trouble for God’s people, those who persecute God’s people.

Now when Christ returns, He’s going to administer perfect justice in each case.  I think the Bible teaches that there are degrees of punishment in Hell.  Those who don’t know God are certainly not going to be punished like the Hitler’s or the Herod’s of this world.  In Luke 10:14, Jesus said to the cities of Bethsaida and Korazin, “…it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than it will be for you.”  The people who had the exposure to the miracles of Christ were going to have a more severe judgment than the cities of the Old Testament.  

But there is going to be an awesome judgment for those who disobey God.  This passage in 2 Thessalonians talks about trouble, blazing fire, punishment, everlasting destruction, and being shut out from the presence of God.

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Great Divorce, said there are only two kinds of people in the world.  There are those who say to God, “Thy will be done.”  And there are those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”  Lewis said, “All that are in Hell choose it.  Without that self-choice there would be no Hell.”  

Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (vv. 7-8).

Back in 1781 Thomas Jefferson said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”  Now if Thomas Jefferson, who was just a Deist, said that in 1781, how do you think he would react today if he could see the pornography on television, hear the profanity in the marketplace, and see the abortions, and the materialism, and the selfishness, and the blasphemy of this day?  Jefferson would say, “I really tremble for my nation when I think that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever!”

II. JESUS IS COMING AGAIN TO RELIEVE THE TROUBLED.

But there is a second reason that Jesus is coming again, and that is He’s coming to relieve the troubled.

Verse 7 says He will “…give relief to you who are troubled….”

Now the first time that Jesus was here He relieved the oppressed.  

The host of the wedding banquet ran short of wine, so Jesus performed His first miracle just to spare the embarrassment.  People were hungry, so Jesus fed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish just to relieve their hunger pangs.  Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever, so Jesus healed her to relieve her of her discomfort.  A leper was wasting away, so Jesus cleansed him to relieve him of his loneliness and pain.  A little girl died, and Jesus went into the room where she was and grabbed her by the hand, saying, “Get up little lamb!”, and she got up and Jesus delivered her to her mother to relieve the mother’s grief.  And those who are troubled today long for the return of Christ.

If you are a young person and life is easy for you, and you can’t wait for the potential of the future, you may not long for the return of Christ, because life seems pretty easy.  But the older you get, the more tragedies you witness, the more you realize that people are oppressed and need relief.  Due to the position God has placed me in, I talk with many people who have problems.  And believe me, I know what I’m saying when I tell you that people today hurt a lot! 

Job 35:9 says, “Men cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.”

Time magazine reported about the suffering in Afghanistan.  One paragraph read, “Some may remember the image of a 7-year-old boy who was hit in the face by a sniper’s bullet in the middle of an Afghani city, holding onto his mother’s hand as they ran past a U.N. armored personnel carrier.  As the boy lay dying, his face was turned toward the asphalt, his left hand raised to his head and soaked in blood.  His name was Herman Divalbick.  But he wasn’t killed by a surprise shell, he was sought out by a Taliban sniper who waited, got the 7-year-old boy in his telescopic sights, looked at his face, and then pulled the trigger!  Then the same sniper shot Herman’s mother in the stomach so that she would not die immediately but would watch her son die first.”

Psalm 10 reads: “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak….  He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims.

…His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.  [And] he says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.’

Arise, Lord!  Lift up your hand, 0 God.  Do not forget the helpless.

…But you, 0 God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him into account for his wickedness…” (vv. 2, 8, 10-12, 14-15).

You see, the righteous call out, not just for punishment for the wicked, but for relief for the oppressed.  And when we hurt, God hurts.  When your child is injured, you feel the pain. When your teenager is lonely, you grieve.  When your child gets a divorce, you are broken hearted.  And when we hurt, God hurts.

The Bible says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15)

And God is going to bring relief to the troubled some day when Christ returns.  He will bring comfort to the broken hearted, protection to the innocent.  He has promised that there’s going to come a day when He will wipe away all tears from our eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things is going to pass away (Revelation 21:4).  He’s going to make all things new and right!

Years ago, I tried to comfort a man who had just lost his daughter in an automobile accident.  I said to him, “You know, one day the Lord is going to return and we’re going to be reunited with our loved ones.  At that time everything is going to be made right.”  And through his tears the father said, “Oh, how I wish it were today!”

That’s why John closed out the Book of Revelation with the promise: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

III.  JESUS IS COMING AGAIN TO GLORIFY HIS NAME.

But there’s a third reason that Jesus is coming back, and that is to glorify His name.

Verse 10: “…on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.”

Now at His first coming Jesus was humiliated.  From the time that He was born in a barn to the time that He was nailed to a cross, people rejected Him, they ridiculed Him, they refused to believe in Him.

And He’s still the object of scorn today.

Jesus is ridiculed in the intellectual arena.  His Word is considered a myth.  He’s considered politically incorrect.

He’s rejected in the political circles.  “Get that manger scene off the public property.” “Get the cross off the city seal.”  “Get those prayers to Jesus out of the school.”

Jesus is ridiculed by many in the entertainment world.  Keith Richards is a former guitar player for The Rolling Stones.  He was quoted in Us Weekly as complaining about all the rain in California.  And Keith Richards said, “It’s not the Devil that gets to me, it’s God who “blanks” me off—Him and His rain!  Just wait until I meet that blankety-blank.  Doesn’t He know who we are?  We’re the blankety-blank Rolling Stones!”  Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be standing anywhere near Keith Richards when the Lord returns!

Jesus is still rejected in many circles.  But when He comes again, He’s going to be glorified as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  He’s going to be “marveled at among all those who have believed,” the Bible says (2 Thessalonians 1:10).  

When the trumpet sounds and Jesus appears, I think at first the world may speculate that a UFO is about to land, and they will be terrified.  But His followers who have been informed through the Word will know exactly what’s transpiring, and we will fall on our knees and worship Him.  And you know what?  Jesus is going to be worshiped by those who have not believed, too.  Philippians 2:10-11 says that every knee is going to bow and every tongue is going to confess when that event occurs.  Everybody is going to be humbled.  Everybody is going to believe then.

Now maybe I don’t have enough compassion for people, but I have to admit that I look forward to seeing Him glorified among some of His enemies.  Don’t you?  I’d like to hear that guitarist, Keith Richards, says, “Thanks, Lord, for the rain.  I really didn’t mean it!”  I’d like to hear Phil Donahue say, “You know, Christians were right.  There is absolute truth.”  It would be interesting to see Madonna, and Hugh Hefner, and Curt Cobain, humbly bow their knee before Jesus Christ.  I want to hear Ted Turner say, “Christianity is for losers, and I’m one!”  And I’d like to hear Jimmy Swaggart say, “I know a man’s message is going to be heard in context with his character.”

I’m going to get some satisfaction out of hearing Madalyn Murray O’Hair apologize before God.  Or Shirley McClain insists, “You only live once!”  I want to hear Charles Darwin say, “Jesus Christ is Lord over creation, all things were made by Him.”  Or Frank Sinatra sing, “I should have done it Your way!”

Won’t it be satisfying to hear Carl Marx say, “Religion may be the opiate of the people, but Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.”  Or how about Donald Trump and Meryl Streep repeating, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  I’d like to hear Mick Jagger sing, “Do Lord,” and say, “Lord, you give me satisfaction.”  And Dr. Ruth say, “The best plan for safe sex is faithfulness to one partner in marriage.”  And Led Zepplin admit that they chose the wrong stairway to heaven!  And Beavis and Butthead, whose animated series is being resurrected by Comedy Central, just shut up!!!  Or at least be still and know that He is God.

Ladies and gentlemen, history is not going in circles, and this world is not out of control. We are going toward a divine event, when the skies are going to light up and Jesus Christ is going to return as King of Kings.  He’s going to come back to execute justice.  He’s going to come back to relieve the oppressed.  And He’s going to come back to demonstrate that He’s in charge, that He is Lord over all!

In verse 11, Paul says, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling….”  

Now you’re not going to be worthy by living a perfect life, because we have all sinned.  We are going to be counted worthy by trusting Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Verse 12 says, “We pray this 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.”  

You see, sin has to be punished by a holy God.  And Jesus suffered punishment for our sin on the cross, and God’s justice is satisfied.  And we are saved by putting our trust in Him, receiving His forgiveness.

Mark 16:16 says, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

You see, when He comes, you are either going to be under His grace, or under His wrath.  

We either say to God, “Thy will be done,” or He will say to us, “Thy will be done.  You have chosen to reject me, so I let you go.”  

You can put your trust in Him now, and obey His Word and receive His grace, and be comforted when He comes.  Or you can stubbornly trust yourself and receive His judgment and His wrath when He comes.  I urge you to choose His grace today.

When you imagine Jesus Christ coming for you, do you picture Him coming to punish, or coming to embrace?  That depends on whether He is going to be your awesome judge, or whether He is your loving Father and Savior!