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Author Topic: Video Notes: 2nd Thessalonians Study #1  (Read 199 times)

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Hidden In Him

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Video Notes: 2nd Thessalonians Study #1
« on: May 04, 2019, 01:21:50 PM »
Faith In The Afterlife, And The Patience Of The Saints

- How do you feel about the doctrine of eternal torment? Do you believe it's what scripture teaches, or just a misconception the church has taught fr many centuries but which has no basis in either reality or the scriptures?
- Belief in eternal torment has come under heavy fire during the last half a century especially, and even many Christians will now attack it openly, accusing those who teach it of portraying God as a sadist who takes pleasure in torturing His creations.

                                       

- I can at least sympathize with the desire not to portray God as evil.
- But the question is this: What would humanity think of God if no punishment would ever come to the most wicked people who ever lived?
- What if there would be no punishment for serial rapists or mass murderers, or the many genocidal dictators who have slaughtered millions of innocent people?

                           

- What if no punishment was promised for those who attempted to exterminate entire races of humanity based purely on their family genealogy?

                           

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- Here is an even more pointed question: What would the Christians have thought about God if they were told during New Testament times that the emperors who were casting them into the arena to be eaten alive by wild animals, or who were having them tied to stakes and set on fire to serve as human torches for dinner parties were never going to suffer any punishment in the afterlife?

                                                   

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- New Testament Christians would likely have come to the conclusion that He did indeed delight in human suffering, and theirs especially, based on the following deductions:
A. He was allowing them to be mercilessly tortured and killed, despite having the power to prevent it.

                                 

B. He was also commanding them under no circumstances to take vengeance against their enemies, but endure their afflictions without returning evil for evil.
C. Then, in telling them, "'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord. 'I will repay,'" what God was actually saying was, "I want vengeance entirely in my hands, and I intend on bringing no punishment whatsoever to those who are torturing you."
- Thus, He was not only willfully allowing their torture and martyrdom, but taking every measure to see that no harm would ever come to their tormentors, either in this life or in the next.
- Now what would THAT message have said about the Christian God? At the very least, it would have said it was not a wise idea to serve the Him, unless you had a masochistic side or a death wish.
- The Psalmist found these thoughts just as disturbing when he was thinking along these same lines, and only when God finally revealed to him the truth about what would become of them in the afterlife did he finally have peace about it.
- Let me read for you Psalm 73:

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     I was envious of the arrogant when I looked upon the peace of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death. Their bodies are fat. They are not in trouble as others are. They are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace, and violence covers them as a garment... They scoff and speak with malice. From on high they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue walks about through the earth...  Behold, these are the wicked, always at ease. They increase in riches.... But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God. Then I discerned their end. (Psalm 73:3-9, 12, 16-17) 

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- Why was it a "wearisome task" for the Psalmist to mull over this dilemma? Because God has placed within every one of us a sense of justice, and it does not set well with human beings when people commit terrible cruelties and injustices against others and forever go unpunished.
- But as we shall see, the saints preached that the justice of God would prevail, and that those who tortured and afflicted the innocent would one day suffer retribution from God for it.
- This is what Paul was preaching in the opening verses of 2nd Thessalonians.

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Affliction To Those Who Afflicted Christians

     One of the first things Paul mentioned in his second letter to the Thessalonians was how well they were persevering in the face of persecution while nevertheless remaining faithful to God. It was something Paul told other churches about:

     Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace be unto you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
     Brothers, we ought to always thank God concerning you, as this is fitting, seeing as how your faith is growing abundantly and the love of all of you towards one another is increasing, so that we ourselves boast amongst the churches of God over your endurance and faith in the midst of all the persecutions and afflictions which you are bearing, a proof that God’s judgment is just that you be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are also suffering, since it is a just thing with God to repay affliction to those who are afflicting you, and to you who are being afflicted, rest together with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven. (2 Thessalonians 1:1-7a)


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- That they were manifesting "endurance and faith in the midst of all their persecutions and afflictions" suggests they were enduring sufferings of many kinds, but bodily afflictions was specifically mentioned here among them.
- The typical way Romans silenced trouble-makers during New Testament times was to subject them to flogging, something Paul himself had to endure on five different occasions.

                           

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- But Paul's encouragement was that God's justice would prevail, and the afflictions the Thessalonians were suffering would eventually serve as proof that it was a just thing with God to grant them rest with Christ at his return, and affliction to those who were affliction them.
- And when and where would this affliction occur? A look at commonly held Jewish beliefs during this time reveals he believed the torment of such people would commence after death. 4th Maccabees records that when Antiochus Epiphanes IV conquered Jerusalem in 168 A.D., he ordered multitudes to be tortured to death for refusing to bow down to him as a god. One young man whose brothers had already been thrown into a burning cauldron retorted to the king that even worse tortures were awaiting him in the afterlife. As he told the king:

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     "Justice will hold you in store for a fiercer and [more] everlasting fire, and for torments which will never let you go for all time." (4 Maccabees 12:12)

     Notice that the young man made an appeal to God's justice just as Paul did. The full version from the Greek Old Testament reads as follows:

     And [the young man], running up to the pans, said, "Impious tyrant, and most blasphemous man, were you not ashamed, having received prosperity and a kingdom from God to slay His servants, and to rack the doers of godliness? Wherefore the divine vengeance is reserving you for eternal fire and torments, which shall cling to you for all time. Were you not ashamed, man as you are, yet most savage, to cut out the tongues of men of like feeling and origin, and having thus abused them to then torture them? But they, bravely dying, fulfilled their religion towards God. But you shall groan according to your just deserts for having slain without cause the champions of virtue." Wherefore, he continued, "I will not forsake my brethren. And I call upon the God of my fathers to be merciful to my race. But you, both living and dead, He will punish." Thus having prayed, he hurled himself into the pans and so expired. (4 Maccabees 12:10-19)

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- Paul was teaching these same things. In keeping with God's sense of justice and divine vengeance, those persecuting the Thessalonians would suffer "everlasting destruction from the presence of God" when He returned to establish His kingdom on earth, adding just a few verses later:

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     And to you who are being afflicted [will come] rest together with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven together with the angels of His power, who in flaming fire will take vengeance upon those who do not know God, and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These will pay the penalty, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His strength when He comes to be glorified amongst His saints... (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

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- Christ Jesus taught the same thing to His disciples in Matthew 25. In teaching on events that would both precede and follow His second coming, the Lord told them:

     When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels are with Him, He will then sit upon the throne of His glory. And all the nations shall be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left... Then He will say also to those on His left, "Depart from Me, those who have been accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the Devil and His angels"... And these shall go away unto eternal punishment, but the righteous unto eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-33, 41, 46)

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- Justas Christ said He would tell them, "Depart from me into the eternal fire," so too was Paul telling the Thessalonians that the wicked would suffer "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His strength[/I]" when He came to be glorified amongst His saints.

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     κόλασιν αἰώνιον = "punishment everlasting"

- The Greek words here κόλασιν αἰώνιον mean literally "eternal punishment," and those who teach there will be no punishment for the wicked must also believe that Satan and his demons will likewise never suffer punishment for their sins either, since this passage states that both will go to the same place. As He says, "Depart from Me, those who have been cursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the Devil and His angels." Scripture also says that Death and Hell will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire as well, after the thousand year reign of Christ is over. If there is no one in Hell to cast into the Lake of Fire, then this promise has no meaning. 

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Passages On The Ancients Suffering In Hades

- But scripture attests in several places that there were indeed conscious beings in Hell.
- One such place is found in Ezekiel, where God told the prophet to lament over the fate of the Egyptians, for although they were a strong nation they would be conquered. And when they died and went down to Hades their physical strength would completely perish, and the giants of old who had been there for centuries would mock them over it:

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     Son of man, lament over the strength of Egypt, for the nations shall bring down her daughters dead to the depths of the earth, to them that go down to the pit. They shall fall with him into the midst of them that are slain with the sword, and all his strength shall perish. The giants also shall say to you, “Are you in the depths of the pit? To whom are you superior?” Go down and lie with the uncircumcised, in the midst of them that are slain with the sword. There are Asshur and all his company... There is Elam and all his host round about his tomb… and the uncircumcised that go down to the depths of the earth, who caused their fear to be upon the land of the living. And they have received their punishment with them that go down to the pit… And they are laid with the giants that fell of old, who went down to Hades with their weapons of war. (Ezekiel 32:18-22, 24-27 LXX)

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- The Greek word used here is literally Hades, which transferred directly over into English.
- The same Greek word is used when the Lord commanded Isaiah to take up a lamentation against the king of Babylon, prophesying of how ancient kings who were already in Hell would very cruelly welcome him into Hades, and mock him for no longer being someone worthy to be celebrated.

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     Take up this lamentation against the king of Babylon... Hades from below is provoked to meet you. All the giants that have ruled over the earth have risen up together against you. All the kings of the nations have raised up from their thrones. All shall answer and say to you, "You also have been taken, even as we, and you are numbered amongst us. Your glory has come down to Hades, and your great fanfare." They shall spread putrefaction under you, and the worm shall be your covering... You shall go down to Hades, even to the foundations of the earth. (Isaiah 14:4, 9-11, 15)

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- The Masoretic, or Jewish Old Testament, shines even more light here, using for Hades the word Sheol, but referring clearly to the same place of torment:

     Sheol from below is stirred for to meet you at your coming. It stirs up the departed spirits for you.... All of them shall answer, and say to you, "Are you also made as weak as we? Your majesty is lowered into Sheol, and the noise of your harps. The maggot is spread under you. Yes, the worms cover you." (Isaiah 14:9-11)

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- That Sheol would stir up the departed spirits in Hell to meet him is accounted for by how both Heaven and Hell supposedly know what's going on upon the earth, and are therefore aware when someone of great stature is coming. These ancient rulers were there fore prophesied to insultingly "welcome" him into the afterlife when he got to Hades.
- Notice, too, these rulers would be giants, a fact that coincides with both archeological evidence and the Biblical record. Even the nations of Egypt and Babylon depicted some of their kings as giant in stature.
                                                           

                                                       

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- Thus, the teaching here was that men who had been far greater in stature and fame during their lifetimes would mock men like the king of Babylon when they arrived in Hell, letting them know they were now nothing in the world they had been cast down into.


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The Rich Man In Hell: A Clear Depiction Of Torment

     Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, making good cheer during the day in splendor. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid up at his porch, being full of sores, and desiring to be satisfied from the crumbs which fell from the table of the rich man. But coming, even the dogs licked his sores. And it came to pass that the poor man died, and he was carried away by the angels into "the Bosom of Abraham." And the rich man also died and was buried. And having lifted up his eyes in Hell, being in torment, he saw Abraham from afar, and Lazarus in his bosom. And crying out, he said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering in these flames." But Abraham said, "Child, remember that you did fully receive your good things in your lifetime, and Lazarus likewise his evil things. But now he is comforted here, and you are suffering. (Luke 16:19-25)

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- Again we have the same thing. Lazarus suffers afflictions in his earthly life, being covered with sores. The rich man meanwhile lives in splendor, and spends his days "making good cheer" which means giving himself to eating and drinking in celebration. But Lazarus who suffered affliction in this life receives rest in the afterlife, being in the bosom of Abraham (which signifies abundance). The rich man, however, though he had the means, did nothing to ease the afflictions of the righteous, and now suffers affliction in the Underworld as a result. Instead of helping him, the rich man left Lazarus to the dogs, suggesting that those who do nothing to help the afflictions of the righteous will suffer the same fate as those who persecute them. 

                       

                     

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- Some say this teaching is merely a "parable," but why would God's word make so many references to the wicked suffering torment in Hell if it were not the case? It essentially makes God out to be a liar.
- Others also argue that no man could see from Hell all the way into Heaven, which proves this could not be a real story. But this is blatantly ignoring early church teachings on the matter. The church originally taught that until Christ's crucifixion, Paradise was located in the Underworld alongside Hell, with a great gulf fixed between the two of them that didn't allow for one group to pass over to the other. When Christ descended into Sheol, He preached to the Old Testament saints who were there in Paradise, informing them that He was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, and that the price had now been paid for them to be translated from "the kingdom of darkness" up into "the kingdom of God's dear Son" in Heaven.

                       

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     By this was fulfilled the saying that "captivity was led captive," for "the gates of Hell" could not prevail against the church. They were delivered up into Heaven after Christ's ascension, which is where all true believers now ascend to after death.

                             


Hellfire: The Teaching Of The Early Church

     The early church didn't just make up their teachings. What they taught was handed down to them by oral tradition from what the apostles taught. Thus, when there a firm consensus exists in early church teachings regarding a particular subject, it strongly suggests this was the teaching of the church from the very beginning.
     Such is the case on the doctrine of Hell. It was taught universally during the first few centuries of the early church era.

     [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortally by the patient exercise of good works, He will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things... [but] for the unbelievers and for the contemptuous and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries... in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire. (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 1:14 [A.D. 181]).

     To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and does not waste the body, but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them. (Hippolytus, Against The Greeks, 3, [A.D. 212]).

     I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment. . . . Nor is there measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them. (Minucius Felix, Octavius 34:12-5:3, [A.D. 226]).

     An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies. . . . The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life. (Cyprian of Carthage, To Demetrian 24, [A.D. 252]).

     It should also be noted that these are quotes from the first three centuries of the church, when persecution against Christians continued to take place at the hands of the Roman Empire. Thus, just as affliction was a way of life for believers back then, so too was it commonly taught that their torturers were going to be duly rewarded in afterlife.


Why Hell Is Being Revealed Once Again

      Hell is now being revealed more than ever before in human history. Believers are sharing accounts of being taken there in spirit and witnessing the torments that go on there every day. Some doubt these accounts, but they do so foolishly. Joel prophesied that God would restore visions and dreams to His people during the end-times, and these represent some of the early fulfillments of this prophecy. The reason why is detailed in the accounts themselves. 21st century Christians especially in the West, live a sheltered existence compared tor their New Testament counterparts, but greater afflictions and persecutions than at any time in history are eventually going to come to the end-time saints, and the Lord is seeking to prepare them for it. Those who endure will be greatly rewarded in eternity, but those who succumb out of fear and denounce the Lord in order to save their lives will suffer the same fate as those who did so in the early church. They will eventually be cast into the same Lake of Fire prepared for the Devil and his angels:
     From Kathryn Baxter's account we read the following:

     I heard the Lord say, "My Spirit will not always strive with man. Come and see the beast. "During the last days an evil beast will arise out of the earth and deceive many from every nation upon the earth. He will demand that everyone receive his mark, the number 666, placed in their hands or on their foreheads. Anyone who takes the mark will belong to the beast and will be thrown with him into the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone.

"The Lord God expressly declares that those who take the mark have affirmed their allegiance to the beast and will be cut off from the Lord God forever.  They will have their place with the unbelievers and workers of iniquity.  The mark states simply that those who possess it have rejected God and have turned to the beast for sustenance.

"The beast and his followers will persecute those who refuse the mark and will kill many of them. Whatever pressures they can bring to bear will be used to force believers of the true God to be marked. Children and infants will be killed before the eyes of the parents who refuse to take the mark. There will be a time of great mourning... [for] many will be beheaded for trusting the Lord God. But blessed are those who die in the Lord, for great will be their reward..
(Baxter, A Divine Revelation Of Hell, P.195-197)

     That believers will be beheaded for trusting in Christ during the end-times is clearly prophesied by scripture. As the apostle John recorded in his vision:

     I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus, and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast nor his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

     Beheading is a truly barbaric form of execution, and it is something many Christians will not only have to witness but in many cases also experience. How vital then that the doctrine Paul was teaching be taught once again, lest they be told by their toturers that their "god" has no power to save? Believers who witness and/or experience such brutalities will need to know their deaths will not simply be overlooked by God. But once again the message will be preached that their tortures will be avenged by the Lord at His return, and that those who afflict the righteous will themselves suffer affliction when He returns to be glorified amongst His murdered the saints.
     This is why Hell still needs to be taught and affirmed. Those who refuse to teach it, saying God would never send anyone to Hell, will be playing into the hands of the Devil himself during the end-times. They will inadvertently send many there themselves by preaching that it isn't real, despite what the church of the Lord Jesus Christ has taught from the very beginning.






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