Future Glory
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the second Thessalonian letter. We are going to read from chapter 1, verse 3, where the apostle said:

I Thessalonians 1

3We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for our patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

We are going to stop our reading right there and call your attention particularly to the information that is found in verses 7-11. When we began a verse by verse discussion of Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, we pointed out to you that this second letter was written to these Thessalonican believers to encourage their hearts because they knew something of suffering and they knew something of tribulation. The Apostle Paul did not make any false promises. He did not tell them that they would never be sick. He did not tell them that they would never know pain. He did not tell them that they would never know persecution, but he did tell them that they were not going through it alone and that God was keeping His eye on the situation. Though God might not do everything in the immediate that we would like to see done in relation to pain and tribulation and suffering and injustice, He will do what needs to be done when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. As we pointed out to you in our last lesson, and we would emphasize to you more in detail today, everything that happens to us of an unfortunate nature, everything that happens to us related to pain and suffering and tribulation should be interpreted in the light of the Lord's return.

Rest, Looking for the Lord's Return

I would like for us to consider the verses which I have emphasized in the reading of the Scripture under the heading of a few words which I trust you will accept as little pegs in your memory upon which to hang some of the thoughts that I want to leave with you today. First of all, there is the word “rest.” It is followed by the word “revelation.” It is followed by the word “recompense,” and it is followed by the word “reflection.” Rest, revelation, recompense and reflection will tell the story of interpreting suffering in the light of the Lord's return. Notice, please, verse 7:

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7And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

“To you who are troubled.” Do you know very many folk today who are not troubled for some reason or another? I don't believe there is a day that goes by but what our phone doesn't ring several times over, and the callers are people in trouble. They are not in this immediate assembly many times. Sometimes I don't even know them and sometimes never see them, but their hearts are filled with trouble. This message becomes especially appropriate, it seems to me, in a day when there is so much trouble. Back to II Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 7:

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7And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

I like the way that Wuest translates this verse of Scripture, amplifying some of the truth that lies beneath the surface of drawing it to our attention when he said, “Unto you who are being afflicted there is a surcease from the stress and the strain in the relaxing anticipation of the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angel in his power.” I like that, don't you? Do you see what he is saying? There is a surcease–a rest–from the stress and the strain through which we are going in the relaxing anticipation that Jesus Christ is coming.

To talk about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from a theological standpoint cannot encourage the hearts of a great many people, but we talk about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a living hope that in the midst of the trials and the tribulations through which the saints of God must go there is a relaxing anticipation, and that is the anticipation of the Lord's return. Here the Spirit of God is saying through the Apostle Paul in verse 7, “To you who are troubled, rest. Rest with us. Jesus is coming, and when Jesus comes by and by, everything is going to work out just exactly as it ought to work out.”

Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ

Then the Apostle Paul begins to talk about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from the standpoint of revelation. Keep in mind that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is always presented in the Word of God in two aspects. One of the aspects of the coming of the Lord is described by the word “Rapture.” The other is described by the word “Revelation.” That aspect of the coming of the Lord that is described by the word “Rapture” was presented to us in chapter 4 of Paul's first Thessalonian letter and it consists simply of the Lord Jesus Christ's coming in the air and then all born-again believers being caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

That Rapture, that catching up, is the hope of believers as far as immediate deliverance is concerned. It is a secret thing. It will happen in the still of the night, so to speak, and the rest of the world will now know anything about it until it is all over and done. Unsaved people will awaken in the morning and realize that loved ones are missing, and they will begin to try to trace them down. Eventually it will dawn upon them that the Lord has come for His own; He has raptured them. He has taken them out of the world.

The second aspect of the coming of the Lord is that which we are considering in this particular chapter and it is described by the word “Revelation.” There will be nothing secret related to the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Seven years after the Rapture of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the latter part of verse 7, “shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As a matter of fact, there are three different Greek words used in our New Testament to describe the coming of the Lord. One of them is the word *ULparousia*UL which simply means “to come beside” or “to be beside.” It is a description of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ that is presented in the second chapter of II Thessalonians, verse 1, where we read:

I Thessalonians 2

1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.

That describes the Rapture of the Church. One of these days He is coming. He is going to be with us, and we are going to be with Him, and we are going to be gathered together with Him.

There is another Greek word that is used to describe the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the word *ULepiphaneia*UL, and it is a word that speaks of shining upon individuals or shining upon the world. It is described for us in verse 8 of II Thessalonians, chapter 2, where we read:

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8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

It is that portion of the coming of the Lord that we are thinking about today. Another word that is used to describe the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the word *ULapokalupsis*UL which simply means “unveiling” or “revelation” and that is the word that is used in verse 7 where we read again:

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7And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

“Shall be revealed, shall be unveiled” from Heaven. The Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ is that point in sacred history toward which all eyes are directed as proof of the fact that God is going to set things right, that God is going to even things up, that the justice of God will become a reality in the lives of believers.

Christ's Ministry of Intercession

Three prepositional phrases describe the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in our text, and I would like to point them out to you. Notice, please, in verse 7 the words “from heaven.” Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ at this very moment is sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God. He is occupied there today, thank God, and He is occupied in a ministry for which my own heart is very personally grateful, and that is the ministry of intercession.

I love to have people say they are praying for me. I could not carry on if the people of God did not pray for me. But, you know, we are all human. Sometimes we lose interest in praying one for another. Sometimes we don't know the things that we need to pray about, and we are all prone to forget. Sometimes we are well-intentioned, but the demands of this life arrange it so that we do not always remember to keep our promises. But there is one thing that has always encouraged my heart, and that is to know that though there may be no one else in all the world praying for me, for various reasons, the Lord Jesus Christ never forgets to pray. He is there at the right hand of God, and He is making intercession for me. That is the reason, I believe, I am able to carry on. And that is the reason, I believe, many of you are able to do what you do, the reason many of you are delivered from strange circumstances, from chances that you take.

You say, “Oh my, I almost lost my life.” The reason that you didn't is that the Lord Jesus Christ is making intercession for you at the right hand of the throne of God, but He is not going to stay there forever. One of these days He is going to come back to this earth. One of these days He is going to leave His place and come from Heaven to this earth. The Bible says that His feet are going to stand on that day on the Mount of Olives.

Coming Accompanied By Angels

Then you will notice another prepositional phrase related to the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the last part of verse 7 is the phrase, “with his mighty angels.” He is going to come from Heaven, and He is going to come with His mighty angels. He is not coming alone when He comes. He is going to come from Heaven with His mighty angels. Why? Because there is going to be a tremendous work to do when He returns, and He is going to dispatch His angels to do the various things which need to be done.

Time will not permit us to discuss all of the things that the angels will do when they return with the Lord Jesus Christ. You might read chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew and chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew, among other passages of Scripture, and learn all of the things that the angels are going to do when they return with the Lord Jesus Christ. At this particular portion of the Coming of Christ about which we are thinking at the moment, the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only are the angels coming back with Him, but you and I are coming back to this earth with the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are going to be engaged in the government of the earth with the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns.

Coming In Glory

The third prepositional phrase that is suggested in this passage of Scripture is found in the first part of verse 8, where we read: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that obey not the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice the phrase, “in flaming fire.” This describes literally what is going to happen when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. This is not to suggest that He is going to be a great flame of fire, that He is going to consume everything in His path. This is a reference to what the Bible calls the Shekinah glory of God.

You remember in chapter 3 of the book of Exodus when Moses was on the back side of the desert, he stopped because a burning bush attracted his attention. It wasn't that that bush was burning with ordinary flame as we think about it; it is that God was in that bush, and the Shekinah glory of God set that bush on fire. So when we are talking about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are told in the Word of God that He is going to come as the “lightning shines from the east to the west.” That is, the very glory of God, which is described in the Bible as fire and as brightness and as lightning, is going to make itself evident.

There is a sense in which, as I said earlier in our discussion, the Rapture of the Church is going to be a sacred thing. But when the Lord Jesus Christ returns from Heaven, indeed it will be a Revelation for everyone will see the Lord Jesus Christ in His Shekinah glory. That is the reason we are told that every one shall see Him. People who are amazed that we would be so foolish as to teach that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming again are going to have to see with their own eyes the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.

Recompense of Tribulation

We want you to notice the third word that we gave you, the word “recompense.” Remember the words: rest, revelation, and recompense. That is the reason those who are troubled and those who are persecuted and those who are maligned can quietly wait with complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that when He returns He will meet out suitable recompense to all who are opposed to the household of faith. And that is the reason we read in verse 6:

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6Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

Notice, “to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” You don't need to worry about getting even with people; you don't need to worry about paying them back. You don't need to worry about protecting your interests. You don't need to worry about telling people off. You rest. You rest in the relaxing anticipation that the Lord Jesus Christ is able to take care of everything when He returns, for He will. He will recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.

And then, if you will notice down in verse 8, he becomes more specific, speaking of two classes of people with whom He will deal when he returns in flaming fire, taking vengeance first upon them that know not God, and second upon them that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is a very distinctive book. It never speaks in generalities as many of us do. The Bible makes a very definite distinction among men. He divides the unsaved people of the world into two classes. Of course, He divides the whole world into two classes: saved and unsaved.

Many divide the unsaved people into two classes. First, there are those who know not God, those who don't perceive God, those who don't perceive the Word of God, those who have not had the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ preached to them. He describes those people in the first chapter of the book of Romans, and when you have time read carefully what He has to say about the people who don't know the Gospel as we know it here today. “Oh,” you say, “if they don't know, God is going to excuse them, and He is going to say, 'It is all right; you never did know, so there is nothing to worry about'.” No, He is not. He is going to deal with them differently than what He may deal with other people, but the ultimate end will be the same. He will deal with them because, though they had the knowledge of God, they did not pursue that knowledge that they might come to hear the good news of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

They are going to be judged when the Lord Jesus Christ comes, but they are going to be judged in a different fashion than the second class of people who are mentioned here, and this is the class in which we are most interested for this immediate discussion. There is no one here who does not know God; there is no one here who has not heard the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. You have heard it in song; you have heard it in prayer; you have heard it in the Lord's Supper; you have heard it in comment. There isn't a person within the sound of my voice today who has not heard the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, so it is the second class in whom we are most interested today because it could very well refer to some of us.

Vengeance On Unbelievers

Notice, please, the last part of verse 8: “He is coming in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And this, Beloved, is a message that is addressed to us today. It is not for me to pass judgment on you, and it is not for me to make decisions for you. You alone know whether or not you have obeyed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have obeyed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have accepted the invitation of the Gospel which is another say of expressing it, then you are saved today. But if you have not obeyed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have not accepted the invitation of the Gospel, then you are lost; and when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, He will have to deal with you on the basis of the fact that you heard the Gospel and you did absolutely nothing about it. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures, proving beyond all doubt that he is the Son of the living God, and He has a claim upon your life and upon mine. God insists that all men everywhere who hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior; and if you do not obey the divine command, if you do not obey the divine injunction related to the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are most certainly going to be judged when the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

How are you going to be judged? Well, there are three words in our text that describe the recompense that will be meeted out to those individuals who have not obeyed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of those words is found in verse 8 where we read, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them.” The word “vengeance” is from two words, the preposition *ULek*UL and the word *ULdike*UL which means “to give out justice.” That is all it means. It doesn't mean that God is mad at you. It doesn't mean that God just hates you. It doesn't mean that He just loves to torture you. It simply means that God is going to treat you with justice, justice in view of the fact that you had an opportunity to escape from the wrath to come and you did not take advantage of that opportunity.

Another word that we are going to use to describe the recompense which God will meet out when the Lord Jesus Christ returns is the word “recompense” itself. This English word “recompense” is a translation of three different Greek words all rolled into one, and that one Greek word simply means “to give back in return.” That is what it means, “to give back in return.” God is going to give back to every individual in the world when the Lord Jesus Christ returns exactly what that individual gave out. So you don't need to worry about getting even with people, and you don't need to worry about protecting your interests, and you don't need to worry about making folk see your side of the thing. Rest; rest in the relaxing anticipation that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns He will take care of the situation.

Punished By Separation

The third word that I want to leave with you is in verse 9. It is the word “punish.” Notice, please, the verse:

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9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

The word that is translated “punished” here means simply “pay the penalty.” You are going to have to pay the penalty for your disobedience when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. You are going to have to pay the penalty for ignoring the things that God carefully laid out for you in the Word of God.

There are two suggestions he makes that will be necessary if the penalty is paid. One of them is described in verse 9 with the phrase, “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the presence of His power.” This word “destruction” comes from a Greek word that forbids the interpretation that would suggest any idea of annihilation. It doesn't mean that. It means that you will be separated from the presence of the Lord, and the word “presence” here means “face.” You will be separated from the face of the Lord and from His power. You will be separated eternally when the Lord Jesus Christ comes from any contact with God.

Stop for a moment and recognize how terrible it will be. I have never seen this fail. There are any number of people who completely ignore God in their everyday life. There are any number of people who go their way. They don't go to church; they don't read their Bibles; they don't pray, but I have never talked to an individual in all the years that I have been living who didn't want the right to pray if he had to. I've never talked to an individual who didn't want the right to get in touch with God if he had to get in touch with Him. That is the very reason that almost automatically unsaved people who give no thought to God at all, when they face a real calamity, or they face a real emergency, they say, “Oh, God.” Automatically they are turning to God because they don't want to live without Him, though they are willing to put Him out of their lives. Now, that is what is going to make Hell “hell,” among other things–the fact that you are separated from God. There will be no contact with God, no association with Him, nothing, no relationship to God at all. Men will be separated from the presence of God when the Lord Jesus Christ comes.

Degrees of Punishment In Hell

The second word that will describe the kind of recompense that will be meeted out is the word that we have noticed several times in verse 6 already: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” I believe today in a literal Hell, because the Bible says there is such a place as Hell, but I believe that Hell is a place of degrees. I don't believe that everyone is going to suffer the same manner in Hell that everyone else does because the Bible doesn't teach a thing like that.

I have heard people say, very grimly, to individuals, “Well, if you are not going to accept Jesus Christ, just go ahead and blow the lid off; do anything you want to do. If you want to be a sinner, just go ahead and be one.” I never tell people that. I won't tell people that, for listen, Hell is a place of degrees of punishment. I say to people, “Receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. But if you are not going to receive Him, be as good as you can be because you won't get the hottest place in Hell if you do.” You will go there all right, but it won't be as bad for you as it will be for some other people because Hell is made up of a punishment that is recompensed on the basis of the kind of life that you have lived on the earth. And so this recompense of that which we speak is not only a separation from God, it is a tribulation as well.

Glory of God Reflected In Believers

Now, the last thing that I want to say to you is suggested in verse 10, and I want you to hang some of the thoughts I am going to say on little pegs of reflection that I gave you earlier in our discussion. “Reflection”–is that a strange word to use in relation to the coming of the Lord? Well, it is the only word that I can think of that would aptly describe what is presented to us here in verse 10, “when He shall come.” We have been talking about the coming of the Lord. We have been talking about the dark side of His coming. We have been talking about how He is going to recompense evil upon those who are evil; but now, let's look upon the bright side. In verse 10:

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10When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Read the verse again without the parenthetical expression so that you will be able to get the full gist of it: “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints and to be admired in all them that believe in that day.” Now, read the words carefully. This is not a reference to the fact that you and I will be glorified, though we will be; in that day we will be possessors of our glorified body. But that is not what this is talking about. This is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ as He is glorified in us. It is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ as He is admired in us.

What in the world does that mean? You know, I am ashamed of my testimony; I have always been. I wish I had a better testimony for Christ. I mean that. I am ashamed of it. I don't think that I have a good testimony for Christ. I don't know that it benefits Him much for me to be around. But you know, one day when we stand in the presence of the Lord at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, people are going to look at sorry old sinners saved by grace like you and me. They are going to look at them; all the angels are going to look at them; all the hosts of heaven are going to look at them, all of God's creatures are going to look at these sorry sinners saved by grace. When they look at the finished product they are going to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are going to say, “Lord, You are wonderful; Lord, we want to glorify You. Lord, we give You the praise. We didn't think that anything would come out of a sorry mortal like that; but Oh, Lord Jesus, You have done a tremendous job; You have done a wonderful job.” All of the praise and honor and the glory is going to go to the Lord Jesus Christ because of what He has done with you and with me.

You see the reason I use the word “reflection”? Believe it or not, you and I some day are going to reflect the glory of God as nothing else in all the world has ever reflected it. We are going to be trophies of God's grace. If you become a bit discouraged about your life in the Lord, about your testimony and the things that you are trying to do for Him, remember that one of the things that is going to occur is that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to be admired and glorified when the whole universe looks at you after God is through with you. If the going is a little bit rough now and you wonder sometimes why God deals with you as he deals with you, remember, He is getting ready to put you on display someday.

We are not on display now, and if the world looks at us and talks about us and criticizes us, they are doing it unjustly. We are not finished yet. Sometimes, you know, when an artist is painting a picture he will keep the veil over the picture until it is finished. No one gets to see it but the artist. If you got to see it, it would just be a smudge of paint, that's all. The sculptor keeps the image, the statue which he is sculpturing covered with a veil. No one sees it but him. If anyone else saw it, it would just look like a hunk of rock that someone was beating on, that's all. But one day there is going to be an unveiling, and when the veil is drawn back, you see what the sculptor had in mind all the time. When the veil is drawn back, you see what the artist had in his mind as he took up his brush and put it into the paint and applied it to the canvas. So don't be looking at Christians now and talking about whether they are a success or a failure. You have no right to look now. But by and by, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, when the veil is taken away, then look and praise the Lord for His finished product.

Conclusion

I close this brief meditation with the words of another, the source which I do not remember, but it has always been a blessing to me. Some dear saint of God said, “Thank God, I ain't what I used to be. I know I ain't what I ought to be; but praise the Lord, I ain't what I am going to be!” Let those words sink in today: “Thank God, I am not what I used to be; I know I am not what I ought to be, but thank God, I am not what I am going to be when all is finished in the presence of the Lord.”


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