Let me encourage you to open your Bible to the 18th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 18. And here is a familiar and wonderful and rich parable told by our Lord Jesus Christ, the master of the story with a spiritual point, the master of the simple story with a profound spiritual message. Luke chapter 18, we begin at verse 1.
"Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart, saying, 'There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. And there was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.” And for a while he was unwilling. But afterward, he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection lest by continually coming she wear me out.” And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said.' Now, shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night? And will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Now the heart of this text is this great story that begins in verse 2, and ends in verse 5. I want us to direct our attention, first of all, to the story and then we'll consider the surrounding material. Let's call it the Lord's illustration, the Lord's illustration. Verse 2: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.” This is simply a city that Jesus fabricates in the story. But we can assume that since He's talking to people in the land of Israel, it would be typical of a city in Israel. And what follows would be all too familiar to the people of Israel, for Israel, frankly, had much experience with widows and much experience with unjust judges. And here we meet such a judge, a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.
And while that seems a rather simple characterization, it is a very well chosen characterization because you find such references to people in literature from ancient times outside the Bible and this kind of description is used to describe the most wicked person, someone who has absolutely no reverence for God and no interest in people, no concerns regarding the law of God, the will of God and completely indifferent to the needs of people and their just causes. This man is ultimately and finally wicked. There is no way to penetrate this man's wickedness either from the viewpoint of the law of God or from the viewpoint of the need of man. He is not moved by reverence or worship and he is not moved by compassion or sympathy. He has no interest in the first commandment, loving God; no interest in the second commandment, loving his neighbor. He is the most wicked man.
His wickedness is obviously toxic, it is compounded because he is in the role of a judge and he renders his judgments in regard both to the law of God and the needs of people and since he is not moved by either, he is, as Jesus characterizes him, an unrighteous judge. The word “unrighteous” would mean dishonest, corrupt, unjust. Not only is he this evil but he knows it and he's comfortable with it. In verse 4 he said to himself, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect men." This is not simply a definition of the man that has been placed upon him by those that know him, he agrees with it in full. Here is the worst possible human being in a very, very important position of responsibility whose disregard for God and man has massive implications in regard to all the people who come into his court.
Now the kind of court that a judge like this would be a part of would be a civil court. In towns and villages, or in large cities, these civil courts were in a lot of locations. Every little town had to have one and a place like Jerusalem would have many of these civil courts. This is not a position of national responsibility in a religious court where they were interpreting the religious things, or the traditions, or the law of the Old Testament. This is a civil court, but nonetheless the judge would have a very serious responsibility before God to uphold the law of God and to uphold sympathy and compassion toward people. Any judge in Israel would be very familiar with Old Testament instruction regarding being a judge. Second Chronicles chapter 19, Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah. It says in verse 4, "Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. And he appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city. And he said to the judges, 'Consider what you are doing for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment.' “Now then,” verse 7, 2 Chronicles 19:7, “let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be very careful what you do for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or injustice, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe."
Everyone who was ever appointed to any judicial responsibility in Israel would know that passage very, very well. But even in the Old Testament, in spite of the clear instruction of God, judges were corrupt. Amos the prophet, chapter 5 verse 10, "They hate him who reproves him in the gate. They abhor him who speaks with integrity. Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, you will not live in them. You have planted pleasant vineyards; you will not drink their wine, for I know your transgressions are many, your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate." The gate is normally where the civil law was adjudicated. These judges that Amos mentions are corrupt and will know the judgment of God.
But this kind of judicial corruption was not limited just to the Old Testament. It was also true in the time of our Lord Jesus. Alfred Edersheim, who has written the classic Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, the great history of that period of time, describes the judges in Jerusalem as being so corrupt that the people changed their title. They were known as dayyaney gezeroth. That was the term used to describe a judge and his responsibility to deal with the prohibitions of the law. The people called them dayyaney gezeloth. They changed one letter in the Hebrew which turned the expression “a judge dealing with the law” to “a judge who is a robber.” “Robber judges” became their title because they were so corrupt. They did just exactly what the Bible said not to do, what God said not to do. They showed partiality. They were unjust and they took bribes. The Talmud said they were so perverted in some occasions that they would actually pervert justice for one meal, for one meal. And so, when our Lord says this is an unrighteous judge, adikia, meaning no sense of justice, dishonest and corrupt. He is defining what everybody would know by the description in verse 2, that he didn't fear God and he didn't respect man.
Let me look at that word “respect” for just a moment in verse 2, Entrepōmi, interesting verb, it means to be put to shame, to be put to shame. In other words, this man had no shame. Now remember the Middle Eastern culture then and even now is a shame-honor culture. You do what brings you honor at all cost, you avoid all things that produce shame, you avoid shame like the plague. That was typically the way life was lived. And so the way to understand that expression "did not respect man" would be to understand it this way: He is not ashamed before people, he has no shame. He cannot be put to shame. In fact, if you were to study Middle Eastern translations of this verse in Middle Eastern language, New Testament Syriac and Arabic, they never translate it any other way over the centuries than "he was not ashamed before people." He had no shame. He could not be shamed no matter what he did. Good social behavior in those cultures basically was encouraged by an appeal to shame. I understand that. As a kid growing up, I remember vividly my mother saying to me on numerous occasions, "Johnnie, you ought to be ashamed of yourself." My mother made constant appeals to my sense of honor and my sense of shame. "Shame on you," I can hear her say, "Shame on you." I'm not sure anybody even says that anymore. I'm not sure that we can appeal to a sense of shame in the culture we live in, but in that culture you could. And to say about someone that he had absolutely no reverence for God and could never ever do anything that would make him feel shame in his behavior toward people is to say he is impervious to any appeal to justice or righteousness. This judge was shameless. He had no spark of honor, no sense of character, no point apparently...no noble point to which he could be appealed. Neither for God's sake nor for man's sake would he be moved to do what is right. This is the worst possible human being and his wickedness has all kinds of tragic implications because he is making decisions that affect people's lives.
This woman we meet in verse 3 who is the widow. “There was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’" Someone has defrauded her. In fact, someone has so seriously defrauded her that she is destitute. Not only is she destitute by virtue of the fact that she keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming, which is our Lord's way of pointing out that she really was in a situation where she had to have what was rightfully hers, but we know that her destitution goes beyond the financial, she apparently has no man in her life, no man in her family, not a brother, not a brother-in-law, not a father, not a son, not a cousin, not a nephew, not any man who could come to plead her case, because courts belonged to men. They did not belong to women, they belonged exclusively to men. Men came to court. Women did not come to court. The courts belonged to the men. The only time a woman would come to court was when there was no man to plead her case. This woman is alone. She represents the destitute, the powerless, the helpless, the deprived, the lowly, the unknown, the unloved, the uncared for, the desperate. And it's wonderful to use the illustration of a widow because her case is clear-cut, as far as the Old Testament goes, if not on a legal basis, purely on the basis of mercy that he should have done something to care for her. Exodus 22 verses 22 to 24 talks about the responsibility to show mercy to a widow. Deuteronomy 24 verses 17 and 18, Isaiah 1:16 and 17, and many other places, widows were to be cared for. Their needs were to be met. This judge is utterly indifferent to her on a sympathetic side, on the side of compassion, but apparently she had the law on her side as well because she is asking for legal protection. She has been defrauded. Property, money which was life to her has been taken from her.
By the way, as a footnote, there are a number of interesting widows that Luke focuses on both in his gospel and in the book of Acts as well. They were an important part of the ancient world. Corrupt judges, there were plenty of them; and there were even more needy widows.
She comes, back to verse 3, and kept coming and kept saying, which means she's relentless, she's there every day and she's saying, "Give me legal protection,” give me what is mine. “Vindicate me,” is a way to translate that verb there. Vindicate me, justify my complaint, render it a righteous complaint and give me what is mine.
Well consistent with his utter disdain for the commandments of God and any sense of justice and his utter disinterest in showing compassion to anyone, even a lowly widow, verse 4 says, "And for a while he was unwilling." He was just outright indifferent. He is the worst kind of human being who is then the worst judge imaginable. Just as the prodigal son was the worst possible profligate sinner and the older brother was the worst possible hypocrite. Jesus is into painting these extreme pictures in his stories with just a minimum of language. But if you can fill in the gaps, the people would understand that. But it says in verse 4, "Though he for a while was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself..." Now we get a soliloquy like the soliloquy of the prodigal son who came to his senses and talked to himself. So this man speaks to himself, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man." He's a self-confessed wretch, he holds nothing back. He has no noble motive. He is first to admit he has no noble motive whatsoever. But he says, in spite of that, verse 5, “Yet because this woman bothers me." In the Greek, "She causes me trouble, she is irritating me.” Every day she's there. Every day she's pleading her case. It's becoming very troublesome. I will give her legal protection “lest by continually coming..." “Continually” is eis telos, sometimes translated in the Bible “forever.” She will come forever if I don't get rid of her and “she will wear me out.”
He has no regard for God. He has no regard for man. But he has regard for himself. He cares not for what pleases God. He cares not for what pleases men. But he cares a lot for what pleases him and this does not please him. This is an irritating, troubling harangue that he hears out of this widow every single day that is intrusive and interruptive. And by the way, I like that little phrase, "She will wear me out." But it's a little more benign than the Greek. The Greek is a verb hupopiazo, which means it's a boxing term and it means to strike someone with a full blow in the eye. She is punching me silly day after day after day. She is beating me up. Some translations would be, "to blacken the face," to indicate the severity and the strength of the blows. She's giving me a black eye, she's beating me. It's used in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says, "I buffet my body, I punch my body with a fierce blow to beat it into submission." This woman is not just troublesome, this woman is painful. This is more than I can stand and she's going to do it eis telos, forever, if I don't get rid of her. So the powerful and impervious judge is defeated by the weak widow through her persistence.
Now you need to know something else, a little bit more about the Middle Eastern culture. Women were really powerless. I guess that's a good way to say it. They were powerless in the male-dominated culture; still largely true in Middle Eastern culture today. But they were respected and they were honored. And while they had no power, they did have honor and they could get away with things that men couldn't get away with. I was reading one Middle Eastern scholar who said, "A woman could scream and complain at the top of her voice relentlessly and get away with it because women are to be honored and respected. And if a man did the same thing, he would lose his life." And so, even today sometimes you see pictures in the Arabic world of women who are pleading their case by screaming and yelling and this would be the crying day and night kind of relentless approach of this woman that is characterized here. The crying day and night comes in the explanation in verse 7. So she's driving this man to destruction in his own mind. He's got to get rid of her. And so he rules in her favor. Go back to verse 5, "I will give her legal protection." That simply means I will vindicate her. I will vindicate her. It's got the word dikēo in it, from which we get the word dikaiōs, righteousness, justice. I will execute justice, righteousness on her behalf. I will vindicate her. I will avenge her. I will do justice to her because I cannot tolerate her...her harangue any longer. So that's the story. That's the illustration.
Now what is the Lord's intention? That was the Lord's illustration. What's the Lord's intention? What's the intention of this story? Go back to verse 1. Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. So here we find that the key to the parable is hanging on the door. Before you even get inside to the parable, the key is out there. This is a parable designed by our Lord to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. They...them...He was telling them. Them...Who is that? Back to verse 22, "He said to His disciples." He's talking to those who are His followers, those who belong to Him at this point, those who have secured their place with Him now at the end of His life and His ministry and He has just been giving them this great discourse on the Second Coming. He has been talking about the fact that the Son of Man is going to come, that He is going to come in a way that is visible and the whole world will see His coming. It will flash across the sky like lightning from one end to the other. And He's going to come in horrific judgment as it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot. He's going to come in a way that's going to divide marriages and families, one taken, another left. He's going to come in a way that's going to create death and devastation and carcasses all over the earth so that vultures will gather as we see in verse 37 to devour the flesh of those that have been destroyed. He's been talking about His Second Coming in judgment. Yes He's coming to set up the kingdom. Yes He's coming to glorify Himself. Yes He's coming to establish His rule of righteousness and peace in the world. But before that, there's going to be this great judgment. Then will come the glory of the kingdom, then will come the Son of Man establishing His kingdom. In verse 22, the days shall come when you shall long to see one of the days of the Son of Man. We long to see Him come, not only to judge, but we long to see Him come to judge and then to establish His glory and His kingdom.
And so, He's been talking about the Second Coming. He's been talking about the fact that there is a return for the establishment of the kingdom so that you have to understand He's saying to His disciples there will be two comings. Once He comes to die and pay the penalty for sin, and again He comes later to establish His glorious kingdom, to judge the ungodly as well. So that's what He's talking about. He's been talking about the future, eschatology, the Second Coming. Along that line, nothing changes, you notice in verse 1, no scene change, no audience change. “Now He was telling them” takes you right back to the same people He was talking to in verse 22, “that they” the disciples “ought to pray and not lose heart.” What do you mean? In the time between the first and Second Coming, in the time between the first and Second Coming we are not to lose heart but rather we are to pray. We are living in that period of time now. Yes there is the invisible kingdom the Lord is building through salvation as He comes to take up His royal throne in the hearts of those who put their trust in Christ. There is that invisible kingdom being built. But the visible kingdom, the kingdom of righteousness, the destruction of the ungodly, the binding of Satan, the end of the reign of Satan and sin, the establishment of the glorious kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace and finally the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth are all associated with His Second Coming, which will be triggered by the rapture of the church. That's all in the future. And so He is saying you need to view that event with prayer and not to lose heart. That's the key to unlocking the meaning of the story.
And it's understandable. The Lord knew then that a long time would go by, by our measurement, not by His. A day with Him is 1,000 years, 1,000 years is a day because He is eternal. But for us it's a long time. It was probably a long time for some of the disciples when it was just years and then when it was centuries and now it's a couple of millennia, 2,000 years. And continually Christ is dishonored and Christ is denied His rightful place. And the Word of God is unappreciated and assaulted and attacked. And Christians are treated with rejection and persecution and hostility and even martyrdom through these two millennia. We suffer at the hands of Satan and the world and we suffer the persecution of a hostile environment and we long for Christ to come back and destroy the ungodly and destroy sin and the reign of Satan and set up His kingdom. We want all that. We long for all of that. But in the intervening time the message is very clear from our Lord: Don't lose heart. Keep praying to that end. This is instruction for us that it's unmistakable: at all times, at all times. That simply means through all the events and all the seasons and all the eras and all the sweeping years that go by, we are to pray and not lose heart. “Lose heart” comes from a Greek verb egkakeō, which means “to become weary,” “to give in” or “to become a coward,” turn coward. It's used only here by Luke but five times by Paul and it always has that...that meaning. Don't give up hope that Jesus is coming. Mockers will come, as Peter says. Where is the promise of His coming? Denying the Second Coming. We will be a...ridiculed for saying Jesus is coming, but He is coming. Don't lose heart. Don't become cowardly. As Matthew 24:13 records, our Lord says “he that endures to the end shall be saved." It's that enduring faith that marks the true believer. So this is not a call to prayer in general like, "Pray without ceasing." That's a call to unceasing prayer in general. This is a call to eschatological prayer, pray that the Lord will come and pray for the strength to endure until He arrives, to endure the flesh, the world, the devil, the hostility against the gospel, persecution, rejection, and even martyrdom. This is eschatological praying.
There's a similar call by our Lord in the 21st chapter of Luke and verse 36 as well. "Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place and stand before the Son of Man." You need to pray that Christ will come. You need to pray that you'll have the strength to endure to the end; the end of your life and the end until the Lord Himself comes, should you live until we are gathered to Him.
Now you say, "How do you know this is a Second Coming section?" Well verse 8 is the key to that. It says at the end of verse 8, "However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?" Will He find this kind of persevering faith? Will He find this kind of persevering prayer? Will He find this kind of enduring confidence? This is definitely eschatological praying. No one of us knows the time of the rapture. We don't know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched. We don't know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but 2,000 years have passed by. Believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners. Sin escalates. Evil men grow worse and worse and worse. We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom. False teachers abound everywhere. We're endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God. We have been promised that He will come. We believe that He will come. And here He says, "Keep praying for that event." He will come but part of the means of His coming is our prayer life. Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming. He will come. He promises He will come. He will be faithful to His elect. He will bring judgment to the ungodly. He will vindicate the saints. He will exalt Himself. He will establish His throne on earth. He will reign in a kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth. And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.
This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2. "When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Thy kingdom come.’" This is kingdom pray...praying. This is praying for the kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne, and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises. So again I say: The key to the parable hangs at the front door. We know what this story is about. We are to be living our lives saying, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view. I couldn't find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You can't even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends. That backs up to affect everything. Just think about it. Paul writing about the Second Coming to the Thessalonians, about the rapture of the church aspect of it says, "Comfort one another with these words." That's where we find our comfort in the midst of the issues of this life. It's just...It's not just comfort, John says, "He that has this hope in Him purifies himself." It's a purifying hope as well. Paul says, "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." We evangelize because we know the Lord is coming. We're comforted because we know He's coming. We're purified because we know He's coming. And there are many more. This has tremendously critical implications. It has implications about how we view everything we own. Everything we possess, what we do with our time, what we do with our money, what we invest into the lives of our children and our acquaintances, how we live our lives should all be powerfully influenced by a strong and constant prevailing, persistent prayer that Jesus come. And when you pray that way constantly, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus," that defines your life. That defines your life.
So we saw the Lord's illustration and the Lord's intention. Let's go down to verse 6 and hear the Lord's interpretation. Let the Lord explain the story in the context of His return. "And the Lord said, 'Hear what the righteous judge said.'" That's kind of a vernacular way to say: Let's think about the meaning of this story. Think about the wicked judge in the story. Think about it. He was cruelly indifferent to God. He was cruelly indifferent to people. But he finally did what was right for purely selfish reasons. He did what was right for a woman for whom he had no feeling, no emotion, and to whom he had no attachment. That's what we're going to start with as we hear the interpretation of the Lord. But let's go to verse 7 and see the contrast.
Now, "Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night? And will He delay long over them?" Listen, what's the point? This is a “much more than” kind of comparison, this is a “lesser and greater” kind of comparison. This is extreme. You have the most wicked, impervious, impenetrable, indifferent human being doing what is right for someone about whom he has no feeling or interest. And if a judge who is like that will do what is right for someone for whom he has no affection, do you think God will not do what is right for those who are His eternal elect, who are loved by Him before the foundation of the world? And who cry out to Him day and night pleading for His glory to come and for them to be glorified with Him?
The elect are represented by the widow. We are, in a sense, helpless. We are, in a sense, at the mercy of our judge. But this judge is not like God. This judge is the opposite of God. He is as unlike God as you can get. God always does what is right by His own law. God is always compassionate, merciful, gracious, tender-hearted, and kind. And God will do what He says He will do to bring about the glorious manifestation of His own children who are loved by Him from before the foundation of the world. The wicked, unjust, unloving judge will do what is right. What will a righteous, loving, holy God do?
The answer: verse 7, "Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect?" Literally, "Make the vindication,” make the vindication." Again “the vindication” comes from that same verb, dikēo, which is related to the word group “justify.” Will He not justify? Will He not vindicate His elect, those whom He has chosen for salvation? First Peter 2:23 says, "God is the one who judges righteously." Romans 12:19 says that, "God has said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’" Revelation 19:2, "True and righteous are His judgments." He will do what He has promised for His elect because His Word is at stake and He's faithful to His Word, He's faithful to His law, because He's merciful, because He's compassionate, and because He loves those whom He has eternally chosen.
And the key here is this, verse 7: "Who cry to Him day and night." That's us. And that takes us back to verse 22 in chapter 17. "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man." That's us again. We're longing for Christ to come. We're living with the blessed hope and glorious appearing of that great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We live longingly, we live pleading like those under the altar in Revelation 6, we've commented on, "How long, oh Lord?” How long are You going to allow this evil until You come and establish righteousness and glory? We are those like the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, who wait for His Son from heaven, who wait for His Son from heaven. I don't think you can live your Christian life the way the Lord wants you to live it unless you live it in the light of the Second Coming. You can't remove the Second Coming out of the constant discourse of the church, out of your vocabulary or the theology of the Second Coming, out of your life with having...without having massive implications on how you view everything.
Let me give you an illustration of this, and this is really just an add-on, but it's worth a moment. Turn to 1 Thessalonians. If you were to go to a brand new place where the gospel had never been and you were going to teach and preach there, what would your message be? Let's say you're going to go into a place where there's no knowledge of the gospel at all. There's a...There's a Jewish synagogue there so there's some knowledge of the Old Testament, but predominantly you're going to a pagan city. That's the case in Thessalonica. And Acts 17 tells the story about the apostle Paul going there. What are you going to preach when you go there? What is the message you're going to give?
Well if we asked that of a contemporary group of evangelicals today we'd probably get everything but the right answer. Probably get everything but the right answer. What did Paul do for these people? Now we're told in the book of Acts that He was there three Sabbaths, three Sabbaths, that he was teaching three Sabbaths. That's the minimum, three weeks. Little deeper study and some conclusions drawn from these epistles would say that maybe he actually stayed beyond those initial three Sabbaths. Maybe he stayed a little longer but somewhere between four and six months, absolutely the terminus point, so somewhere in there. If you only had a few weeks, if you only had a few months with a group of people, what would you teach them? What would be the theology that you would give them?
Let's find out what Paul majored on. Chapter 1 verse 3, "Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father." Right away in the salutation he introduces the hope that we have: our future hope. And what is that hope? He tells you in verse 10, "To wait for His Son from heaven." Right off the launch pad he instructs them with regard to the Second Coming. You come in to chapter 2 verse 12, "That you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." And now we know that he's talking in terms that they understand. They understand the hope of the return of Christ. They understand that they're waiting for Him to come back from heaven. They understand also that He is going to bring a kingdom and establish His glory.
If you drop down in this same chapter to verse 19, Paul refers again to the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming, the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming. You see this emphasis throughout this entire letter. I won't belabor the point, but look at verse 11 of chapter 3, "May our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you. May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all men, just as we also do for you, so that,” there's the reason, “He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God...our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” You've got to live in the light of His coming. It provides comfort, I said earlier. It provides purity. First 1 Corinthians 15:58 says it provides stability. It provides zeal in evangelism. You have to live in the light of the Second Coming of Christ.
You come into chapter 4 and he gets more detailed. In verses 13 to 18 he describes the rapture of the church. He says in verse 15, "We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not precede those that are fallen asleep." The people that are alive are going to go first, and then the dead are going to be...I should say, the dead are going to be caught up first and the people who are alive are going to follow. The Lord is going to descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ rise first. The rest are caught up, going to meet the Lord in the air, always be with the Lord. Comfort one another with these words. This is a lot of eschatology for a baby church.
Come in to chapter 5 and he says...Listen to how he begins, "As to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you." Why? What do you mean we don't have anything we need to know? Well you know already about the times and the epochs. What is he saying? I've told you the history of the ages. I have already taught you eschatology. Verse 2: "You yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." He told them about the suddenness of the Second Coming. When people are saying peace and safety, they won't find that. They were also told in verse 5 that they were sons of light and sons of the day and won't get caught in the night and the darkness. They were also told in verse 9 that God has not destined them for wrath but for obtaining salvation. You know because I taught you.
If you go in to 2 Thessalonians, look at verse 5 of chapter 2; 2 Thessalonians 5 chapter 2. "Do you remember that while I was still with you I was telling you these things?" If you only had a few weeks or a few months with a brand new congregation, a few Jews and assorted pagans who knew nothing about the Bible, would you give them a full-orbed eschatology? That's what he did. Backing in to chapter 1 of 2 Thessalonians, he told them in verse 5 about God's righteous judgment, about the kingdom of God that was to come and until which they were suffering. He told them in verse 7 that the Lord would be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing retribution out to those who don't know God. He told them also that after that judgment, verse 10, He would be coming to be glorified in His saints on that day and to be marveled at among all who have believed. They've got a theology of judgment. They've got a theology of the Second Coming glory, the establishment of the kingdom, the judgment of sinners. You go into chapter 2 and he says this, this is amazing, verse 3, "The apostasy will come first before the Day of the Lord." The Day of the Lord is mentioned in verse 2. Apostasy comes first, the man of lawlessness is revealed. They also knew about Antichrist, they knew about escalating lawlessness. They knew about the apostasy and they knew it all. They knew that he would establish himself, this Antichrist, as a god, as an object of worship. He would take his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God, verse 4, and that's when he says in verse 5, you remember all this, I told you all this. And you know about him — verse 9 — that he's going to come in the power of Satan with signs and false wonders and deception of wickedness. That is amazing...amazingly comprehensive eschatology. It encompasses the rapture of the church. It encompasses the suffering of believers until that time. It encompasses the Kingdom, the establishment of glory, the glory of Christ, the glory of His own, the manifestation of the saints, the judgment of the ungodly. It's all here. It was critical. It was foundational. It always is foundational to know the end of the story. It produces stability, as I said. “Be ye,” Paul says, “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Because when He comes He's going to reward you for it.
So look at this time and remember there's a reason for it. One of the reasons is so that you can labor to earn an eternal reward. But there's another reason. Let's go back to the text of verse 8. And this is the one to which our Lord points us...verse 7, rather. "Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him night and day?" Of course He will. Of course the true elect are going to continue to believe, continue to hope, continue to pray that Jesus will come soon. And will He delay long over them? That probably could be better translated. It should say, "and be patient over them." Yes, “Is not God exercising patience?” is what this means. How do you know that? Makrothumeō is the word. It means to be patient. Do not we expect a delay because God is being patient over His people? What does that mean? It's really a profoundly important word. The long interval between the first and the Second Coming of Jesus is a period in which God is exercising patience, “patience over them,” it says, patience over them. “Them” is in this text, back to verse 22 of 17, the disciples, His own, being patient over them.
Now there are three New Testament words for patience that are used in reference to God. One is anecho. It means “tolerance.” One is hupomone. It's the patience of the sufferer, as Christ patiently suffered. But this is makrothumeō or makrothumia. It's from two Greek words. Makros; we know what “macro” means as opposed to “micro.” The technical meaning of “macro” in the Greek, makros, is “far distant.” It means “long” with regard to space, or “long” with regard to distance, remote. And that's makro, makrothumos. Thumos is anger. The word makrothumia means remote anger, anger removed far, far away. And our Lord is saying He is coming, He will come, He will vindicate His own, He will glorify Himself, He will judge sinners. But He has removed to a far distance His wrath for a long, long time. This describes what Exodus 34 says about God, that He is slow to anger.
God has a right to judge, but He also has a right to be merciful. God will judge in His own time. But Peter tells us the answer to this little dilemma, 2 Peter 3:9, "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." So in 2 Peter 3:15 Peter says this, "The makrothumia of God is salvation." What's He waiting for? He's waiting for the salvation of His elect. He's waiting until they're all gathered in. You don't want Him here any sooner than that. And when the last of the elect are gathered in, then the end will come. Yes, He will satisfy his wrath, but not until He has satisfied His grace. This, by the way, is the meaning of makrothumia every time it is used with reference to God. It is used with reference to God in Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 3:9 and 15, 1 Timothy 1:16. In each of those cases it means that God withholds His wrath at a distance.
T.W. Manson told a story that came from the old rabbis and this is the story. There was a king who was a very compassionate king. He wanted to rule his people with compassion and so he determined that his army would be stationed many miles from the city. And when he was asked by the wise men of the city why he would station his army many miles from the city, because they would be so far removed from civil disobedience that people would get away with things and they wouldn't be able to get there in time, he said this, according to the rabbis. That on any occasion of such rebellion in the city, it will take a long time to bring the soldiers here and this will be time for the rebels to come to their senses. And so said the rabbis, it is argued that God keeps His wrath at a distance in order for Israel to have time to repent. And not just Israel, but Gentiles as well. That's again 2 Peter 3:15, "Consider the makrothumia of the Lord as salvation." God will send Christ to judge and set up His kingdom and vindicate His elect, but not until His mercy in salvation is satisfied in full and all the elect are in.
So verse 8, "I tell you that He will bring about justice, He will vindicate,” literally, make the vindication of the elect. He will make the vindication of the elect speedily, en tachei, quickly, suddenly. When it happens it will happen suddenly. And he will do it, but you keep praying and praying and persisting in prayer and don't lose heart because He's waiting to gather in all His elect.
So, the Lord's illustration, intention, and interpretation; a final thought: the Lord's inquisition. He closes with a question, verse 8, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" What does that mean? Jesus is just pensively asking the question that when He does come, given that it's going to be a long time, will there be anybody left persistent like this widow? When He does come, and He will, will He find people praying for His return? I kind of think that if He were to come now He would find a whole lot of people who call themselves Christians with very little interest in that. Genuine Christianity never loses its grip on God, never loses its trust in Christ, never loses its hope. But we get easily distracted, don't we? And the Lord is trying to nail this down in a practical way. When He comes, will He find His people still crying day and night eagerly waiting for His return? Will we love His appearing? Will we be crying out “Maranatha”? First Corinthians 16:22, even come, Lord, come, Lord. Or will it be like in Noah's day with just a few, or Lot today with just a few?
We live in hope, beloved, we live in hope. We...We are true Christians and we have been given a tremendous promise. This is how it's all going to end. In the meantime we suffer and we're rejected and persecuted and alienated and the gospel is resisted and Christ is dishonored and sometimes maybe we think it's going on too long and too long. We continue to pray and plead for the glory of Christ, the honor of Christ. And when you live that way and pray that way and plead that way, it changes everything about your life. How you view every part of your life. Yes it's been 2,000. But our hope burns shining bright, and our love for Christ is still true and pure and our confidence that He keeps His Word is fast and firm. And so we pray persistently calling on Him to come, to glorify Himself, to vindicate Himself, to punish sinners, dethrone Satan, establish a righteous kingdom and peace on the earth, reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and create the eternal new heaven and the new earth. We say, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus," and it ought to be on our lips day after day after day, says our Lord. Live in that kind of anticipation until He comes. And watch how it changes your life. Let's pray together.
We know You keep Your Word. You've kept it perfectly throughout all history and You will keep Your word in the future, oh God. Give us this shining, bright hope, this blazing hope to live our lives knowing how it's all going to end, to invest in what is eternal, to treat lightly the things that perish and to treat seriously the things that are forever. And that's the difference between how we treat material things and how we treat people. People are forever. May we, knowing the terror of the Lord, persuade men! May we do our part to engage in the accomplishment of the patience of God leading to salvation that Peter talks about! Even so, Lord Jesus, we wait and we will wait until You determine You want to come and the time is right. But we plead with You to come, Lord Jesus, come soon, come suddenly as You have said. Take us to be with You, establish Your glory, and bring us all that You have promised that we might give you unfading and unhindered praise and worship throughout all eternity. That is our prayer. May You be glorified in the glory of Christ when He comes. And until then, may we be known as those who cry day and night and never lose heart that the Lord Jesus will come sooner than ever, even this moment. And we're ready and eager. We thank You, Lord, for that eagerness that comes by a grace gift through the Spirit to us in salvation. We give You all the praise. Amen.
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