“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” 2 Thessalonians 2:9
To be shut out from God’s presence and from His power is to be without hope and without love forever. This is one of the hardest truths in the Bible. But here’s something I’ve discovered—the hardest truths can produce the most tender hearts. If you grasp this most difficult of doctrines, God will use it to soften your heart today.
To sustain your faith in a suffering world
“He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled... when the Lord Jesus is revealed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:6
If you’ve suffered at the hands of other people, or if someone you love has suffered at the hands of others, you will face with this question: Where is God in all this? How can I believe that God is loving and just when so often good people suffer and those who do evil prosper? This doctrine helps. It tells you that you haven’t yet seen the end of the story.
God says to suffering believers: “A day is coming when Jesus Christ will be revealed. Then you’ll see the full measure of My justice and the full measure of My love. Use this to sustain your faith in a suffering world.”
To restrain your desire to even the score
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge... but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:18
Someone hurts you. Your immediate instinct will be to want to hurt them back. They brought you down, and you find a certain pleasure in bringing them down. How do you restrain the desire to even the score?
God will repay, so leave room for His wrath. You don’t need to take it into your hands when you know it is in His. You can leave it to Him.
On this foundation God says, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head" (Romans 12:20). If you don’t believe this, you’ll always be trying to even the score.
To increase your compassion for people who harm you
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44
Anyone who’s suffered at the hands of another person, as all of us have, will hear this and say, “Love him? Love her? How is that possible?”
If the person who harmed you was to see what they did and truly to repent, you might find it in your heart to forgive them. But if they just go on with no awareness of what they’ve done, or worse, they continue doing the same thing, it is very hard to have compassion.
Where do you begin in loving this enemy? The Bible’s teaching helps. Think about everlasting destruction in relation to the person who hurt you, and what it would mean to be shut out of the light and joy and hope and love of the Lord forever… You would not wish that on your worst enemy.
A deep grasp of this truth will help you to pray for those who’ve harmed you. Bitterness cannot survive long when you begin to pray, and you’ll be amazed at the way compassion sneaks in the back door of your heart.
This LifeKey is based on the message “God Will Bring Justice for You,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, delivered January 9, 2011, from the series “Staying the Course When You’re Tired of the Battle.” Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.