Let’s open the Word of God to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. And I confess to you, this is a bit of a challenge for me to bring you the message this morning because it is full of so many truths; and I’m always having a little bit of battle with myself, because I have to kind of edit as I go. So much here is so very, very important. On the face of it, we’re talking about the coming man of sin. We’re talking about the apostle Paul who is writing concerning a man to come in the future.
He is identified in verse 3 of this chapter as the man of lawlessness who will be revealed. He is identified as the son of destruction, end of verse 3. And then in verse 4 it says, describing him “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” This man of lawlessness, this man of sin, this son of destruction who opposes and exalts himself above every other god and every object of worship and takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God, is identified elsewhere in the Scripture as the Antichrist, the Antichrist. If you drop down to verse 8, again it refers to his revelation, “that lawless one will be revealed.” And he has a very short career, “whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.”
So this man of lawlessness, man of sin, son of destruction, lawless one, is going to have a career that will be ended at the second coming of Jesus Christ when He returns from heaven with His saints and angels to destroy the wicked and set up His earthly millennial kingdom. So he is a figure who appears at the very end of human history in a time, a seven-year period that Daniel the prophet identifies for us as a time of tribulation. And then the book of Revelation indicates it’s not just a time of tribulation, it’s a time of global judgment.
So in the future, Paul is telling the Thessalonians there will be this Antichrist is how he is mostly identified. John said, “Antichrist is coming,” the apostle John. “Antichrist is coming.” And we learned last time that he is a kind of hellish copy of Christ. Christ came in due time, Paul says in Galatians 4:4, “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.” And here in the appropriate time, when God allows for it to happen, Satan will send forth his Antichrist, his man of lawlessness, and he will be a fully empowered man, empowered by Satan himself. He will be the ultimate expression of hell in a human being.
Now there have been many antichrists, many people who have taken positions against God and against Christ and against God’s word and God’s kingdom and God’s character; they are blasphemers. But this man will be the ultimate blasphemer. He will have exponentially blasphemed God by the time his career comes to an end. In fact, he is identified in the book of Revelation in figures of speech that indicate he has multiple diadems or multiple crowns. He is a global power. And he also is a multiplied blasphemer.
This is the epitome of a Satan-filled man. This is Hitler multiplied a hundred times who takes over the entire world. And in the book of Revelation chapter 13 it gives us a picture of him and how he essentially conquers the globe. He starts out, as you will remember, by making a covenant with Israel to protect Israel. And then he turns on Israel at the midpoint of that seven-year period, sets himself up as God in the temple in Jerusalem, and begins to persecute Israel, persecute all who have come to faith in Jesus Christ during that age, and takes power over the entire world, the entire world. His rule is so dominant that the language is really unparalleled.
Let me read you just a few statements from the thirteenth chapter of Revelation where he is pictured as a beast. In this chapter there is a figure; and this is a prophetic vision given to John. There is a figure called the dragon who represents Satan, and then there is the beast coming out of the sea – the sea depicting the nations. He rises out of the nations, this Satan-filled human being. He has the ten horns, the seven heads; and the horns are diadems. It’s a picture of power. He has multiple power sources and expressions of world dominance, seven heads, and on his heads were blasphemous names. He’s a multiplied blasphemer. He has description in verse 2, very much like the description of the Antichrist in Daniel 7: “He’s like a leopard, he’s like a bear, he’s like a lion; he is empowered by the dragon who is Satan.” It goes on to say he has a false resurrection.
Verse 5 says, “He has a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months.” In fact, “He opens his mouth, verse 6 – “in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was given to him to make war with the saints, to overcome them, authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” All the unbelievers on the entire globe will worship this Antichrist. He is coming in the future.
He has an assistant, starting in verse 11, “another beast,” who is often called the false prophet, who comes alongside. “He has all the authority of the first beast,” the Antichrist. “He makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the Antichrist, whose fatal wound was healed.” That’s the false resurrection. As Christ had a revelation, Christ had death and resurrection, he, this Antichrist Satan uses to falsify a death and resurrection to parallel Christ. “He performs great signs,” – even as Christ did, verse 13 – “makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth. He deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs. It is given to him” – verse 15 – “to give breath to the image of the beast,” – that’s the false prophet – “so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
Again, his resurrection is a false resurrection. He comes to life, he’s given power and authority. Those who don’t worship him are killed, and that’s kind of the picture of his reign of terror in the world. There will be, in his case, characteristics and extent of power, the likes of which the world has never seen. This is the final Antichrist.
Now he comes in a period of time in the future called the tribulation or the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is an Old Testament and New Testament term referring to the future time of God’s divine judgment on the world. And we know a lot about it because the day of the Lord is a very common term in the Old Testament. We also know about it because the day of the Lord is explained in detail in Revelation chapters 6 through 19, a time of horrific judgment on the world in which the beast, the Antichrist himself is judged, and so is the false prophet who comes alongside of him, and so is Satan, and so are all who follow him; and they all, according to Revelation 19, will be thrown forever into hell, the lake of eternal fire. This is Satan’s man. This is Satan’s final counterfeit Christ.
Now keep in mind, John says Antichrist is coming, but he also says, 1 John 2:18, 1 John 4:1 to 3, “There are many antichrists,” but there is the Antichrist. There are many antichrists. There are many who are against Christ. Every false religion has its antichrist. And notice this, it’s always true: every false religion has an aberrant view of Jesus Christ. And the apostle John says, “If anyone twists the truth about Christ he is an antichrist.”
Every false religion has a warped view of Jesus Christ; that is characteristic. A heretical Christology marks every false religion. They attack Christ. In the Old Testament the attacks were against God. And since Christ has come the attacks are not only against God, but particularly against Christ. And when the final Antichrist comes, he will make an all out assault on Christ.
Now remember, the church will have been raptured because we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air before the day of the Lord begins. We learn that in 1 Thessalonians 4. We’re snatched out. We’re not basically looking for Antichrist, we’re looking for Christ, the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not to go through wrath. “The Son” – 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says – “rescues us from the wrath to come.” So we learn that the Lord will come down before all of this comes and He will snatch up His own saints into heaven to be with Him. First Thessalonians 4 describes that event which we call the rapture.
Following the rapture, chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians lays out the day of the Lord, and it says we’re not going to be there because that’s a time of darkness; and we’re not of the darkness and we’re not of the night, we’re children of the light. So that’s not our time. The Lord will come down above the earth, and with a voice of an archangel and the trump of God and a shout, the dead in Christ – the bodies of saints, already their spirit’s in heaven, but their body’s in the grave – new bodies will come out of the grave. They will join together with living saints, and we’ll all go to glory to be with the Lord. That’s the rapture of the church. That’s the next event. Nothing has to happen historically until that event; it could happen at anytime. But once we’re snatched out, then all hell breaks loose on the world. And one of the main characters in the whole drama of that period of seven years, that day of the Lord is this Antichrist.
At the beginning of the week, Daniel says, beginning of the week of years, he makes a covenant to be a protector of Israel. Israel sees him as a protector, Daniel 9. But halfway through the week he turns on them, and that’s when he sets up his own worship in the temple, blasphemes God, and begins to slaughter the people of Israel and kill the saints as well, and take over the world. While his career is unfolding at the same time simultaneously, furious judgments are coming out of heaven on the world, described in Revelation 6 through 19.
Now that’s just a general picture of what is to come. There is a powerful, supernatural, fallen angel in the world today, and he’s not alone. The Bible tells us that when he fell from heaven because he willed to usurp the very place of God, and God threw him out of heaven, he went with a third of the angels. A third of the angels joined his rebellion. They became the force of demons. So there are many demons. There are ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands and thousands of angels, according to Scripture. So a third of them is a massive force of demons who have been cast out of heaven, become the emissaries and agents of Satan. So Satan goes through the world now propagating antichrist attitude and antichrist lies. There is already the mystery of lawlessness, the spirit of antichrist abounding in the world; but it will all be focused at the end in that one powerful life.
Now the goal of Satan and the goal of the demons is always the same. Jesus said this in John 8:44, “Whenever the Devil speaks he speaks from his own nature, for his is a liar and the father of lies.” This is a stock and trade of Satan. This is the stock and trade of all of his emissaries demonic and all of his human agents. It’s always about lying. It’s always about deception. It is described here in verse 10 as all the deception of wickedness that belongs to those who are perishing. Paul the apostle said in 2 Corinthians 11 that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
As I said a few weeks ago, no religion is selling hell, they’re all selling heaven, they’re just lying. They’re not selling hell. No one sells hell. They sell heaven, but it is a lie. There’s only one way to heaven and that’s through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So the primary work of Satan and his demons and his human agents is to create disbelief in Christ. If you don’t believe in Christ you have no hope in the life to come; you’re headed for hell and not heaven. So Satan targets Christ above all other targets. And though the final Antichrist is not here and won’t be until after we are taken to glory, the antichrist spirit is always attacking our Lord, and the attack is perpetrated primarily from false religions. So we’re used to this.
Satan and all of his forces want to thwart the purposes of God. They want to bring dishonor on the name of Jesus Christ, they want people to turn away from Him. They even want to stop His kingdom. I think the reason Satan puts together the whole career of the Antichrist at the end of human history is to make one final massive global effort to stop Christ from coming back to set up His kingdom. He even amasses the armies of the world to a place called Megiddo in the north part of Israel for a battle called the battle of Armageddon, which is all the satanic forces of the world ready to fight when Christ returns. And of course, they are defeated along with all the ungodly, sent into the lake of fire; and Christ establishes His glorious kingdom on earth; and then following that, His eternal kingdom. These are grand realities that tell us the future of the universe. After His kingdom, the universe goes out of existence and He creates a new heaven and a new earth, as we have been saying.
Now why all of that? Let’s go back to this little town in Thessalonica to whom this letter was written, this small church that Paul had planted there. Paul had taught them all of this, he had taught them this. He taught them, according to verse 1, about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had taught them about our gathering together to Him, the rapture when we’re all gathered to meet the Lord in the air. But something had happened since he taught them that. They had become, verse 2, “quickly shaken from your composure and disturbed.” And what was disturbing them? They thought, the end of verse 2, that the day of the Lord has come. They thought they were in that day of the Lord, and they were shaken from their composure, and they were disturbed. Some false teachers, no doubt, came and claimed to have a spiritual message, and even a letter from Paul; and it was all deception, it was all lies.
And that’s the way Satan always operates. Verse 9 says, “The Antichrist who is coming is coming in accord with the activity of Satan,” – verse 10 – “and all the deception of wickedness.” This is how Satan operates, he operates with lies. Even down into verse 11, “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” Always Satan propagates lies, he’s the father of lies. So in the future, the Antichrist will be the archetypal consummate liar.
But already the church at Thessalonica two thousand years ago was having to face the lies of Satan. Somebody had come and said that they had some spirit, some message from the other world, and that even they had a letter from Paul to say that the people were in the day of the Lord, which would put them in the judgment, which would mean that they didn’t get raptured out. Either there wasn’t a rapture or they missed it; and they were disturbed by that. They feared that they were now in the day of the Lord. Maybe the persecution they were going through made them think that. So Paul writes to them to just encourage them that they are not in the day of the Lord, and he reminds them of a few things. He says, “Let no one in any way deceive you. Don’t be deceived. You can’t be in the day of the Lord because the day of the Lord” – mentioned at the end of verse 2 – “will not come” – verse 3 – “until the apostacy comes first,” the apostacy.
I told you what that was last week. That is the Antichrist setting himself up as God in the temple during the time of the day of the Lord, during the time of tribulation. That’s what he says in verse 3, “The apostacy comes first, even the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” Jesus calls this event the abomination of desolations when the Antichrist sets himself up in the temple as if he were God, and demands the whole world worship him. That is the abomination of desolation Jesus talked about in Matthew 24. Here it’s called the apostacy, the defection. It’s connected to the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, further defined in verse 4, as he opposes and exalts himself above God, above every object of worship, takes his seat in the temple displaying himself as being God.
So as I said, in that seven-year period, as the day of the Lord begins to unfold, the Antichrist acts like a friend to Israel. In the middle, he turns on them and turns on the saints who have been redeemed during that period of time, and all hell breaks loose on the world. Paul says in verse 5, “Do you not remember while I was still with you, I was telling you this? I told you this.” Chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians, the first letter he wrote, he said, “You’re going to be snatched up, you’re going to be caught into the air, you’re going to meet the Lord in the air, and you’re going to heaven and be with the Lord. And then comes the day of the Lord,” 1 Thessalonians 5.
In 4, you’re taken out. Chapter 5, the day of the Lord comes. And Paul even says to them, “This is a day of darkness, but you are not of the darkness. You are not the people of the darkness, you are the people of the light. This day is not going to come on you because you don’t belong to that category of people. That category of people, that judgment is for those who are” – verse 10 – “called the perishing, the perishing, those who are on the way to eternal destruction, those who didn’t receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” The coming day of the Lord is for nonbelievers, not believers.
So one thing is patently obvious, and this is what I’ve said to you each week that we’ve looked at this. Paul was saying to them, “You’re not going to be a part of the day of the Lord, you don’t belong there. You’re light and that is darkness. You are bound for glory, you have been rescued from the wrath to come.” That’s the sequence: snatching of the church, go to glory to be with the Lord. We are literally saved for glory, not for wrath.
So Paul is saying first the rapture, then the judgments. And so he has to remind them, “Look, I told you this.” Verse 5, “Do you not remember while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And I even told you that there’s a restrainer who is restraining Antichrist.”
I think Satan would have sent the Antichrist a long time ago. I think he would have wanted to send the Antichrist throughout all of redemptive history to stop the progress of the gospel, but he was restrained; and we saw how that only divine restraint could do that restraining, and that is the work of the Holy Spirit. So God has not allowed the Antichrist to come, God has not allowed Satan to create such a monster, because he is restrained, he is restrained.
Doesn’t mean lawlessness is restrained. Verse 7 says, “Lawlessness is already at work in the world.” And as John said, “There are many antichrists in the world.” “But the lawless one, the Antichrist will not be revealed until God’s time, until” – the end of verse 7 – “God takes the restrainer out of the way.” Yes, lawlessness, rebellion against God is always in operation. Yes, there are many antichrists, but not the final man of lawlessness and not the final Antichrist, until God’s time for him to be revealed.
He will be revealed, look at verse 8. He will be revealed in a very short time, three-and-a-half years from the revelation of this man as the Antichrist. “The Lord will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end his reign by the appearance of His coming.” So he’s at the end of this period called day of the Lord, the end of this tribulation when Christ comes back to set up His kingdom.
So Paul’s message is this: “Look, don’t be upset, don’t be disturbed, don’t be anxious, you’re not in the day of the Lord. You’re not headed for the day of the Lord, that’s not something God has planned for you. You will be delivered just like I told you. You will be caught up in the air to meet the Lord, and you’ll forever be with the Lord. But Satan has come along with all the deception of wickedness,” – verse 10, as he always does – “to make you believe something that is a lie.” Look, we are saved to be delivered from the coming wrath.
So, do you remember how we looked at this? First of all, Paul said, “Don’t be deceived,” verse 3. “Let no one in any way deceive you.” Then in the next little section, down to verse 5, “Don’t be forgetful. Remember what I told you.” And then the next section, starting in verse 6, “Don’t be ignorant. Let me fill you in on the details about the coming of this one in accord with the activity of Satan,” – verse 9 – “and all the deception of wickedness. But that’s not yet happened. No such individual exists, so don’t be ignorant.” And then in verses 10 to 12, “By all means, don’t be unbelieving. Don’t follow the lies of those who do not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved, because then God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who didn’t believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
Only two ways you can live your life: you can take pleasure in wickedness or you can believe the truth and be rescued from it. So Paul says, “You don’t want to be among the perishing. You don’t want to be among the perishing who are deluded and deceived by Satan because they did not receive the love of the truth, the gospel truth concerning Christ so as to be saved.” They did not, they would not, they would not; and finally as a judgment, they could not.
God’s Spirit doesn’t always strive with man, God has an end to His tolerance. If they continue to reject the gospel and will not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved, then God will judge them by making it impossible for them to ever believe. That’s why the apostle Paul says, “Believe while you can. Believe while it is day. Believe while you may, because judgment will come when you have rejected Christ so long that you no longer can receive Him as a divine judgment.”
So what is coming with the Antichrist is for perishing people; and perishing people hate and reject the saving gospel, that’s characteristic of them. So I want to kind of hone in on that this morning.
“People who are perishing” – verse 10 – “didn’t receive the love of the truth,” the truth about Christ, the gospel of salvation. “They didn’t receive the love of the truth so as to be saved,” not just the information about the truth, but the love of it. Perishing people hate the gospel. Perishing people reject the gospel. Perishing people refuse to believe, they refuse to love Christ. They’d rather take pleasure in wickedness. They’d rather love sin. They will not believe the truth, but they will believe lies. They will not follow God, but they do follow Satan. Let’s be blunt. You’re either in the kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of light. Your father is either the Devil or God. You either follow Christ or you follow the path of Antichrist.
Now as believers, Paul is saying to them, “You shouldn’t be disturbed, you shouldn’t be anxious. You’re not Antichrist’s crowd. You’re not the Devil’s people. You’re not the perishing. You’re the ones who believe the truth, and you love the truth, and you have been promised to be rescued from the wrath to come. You need to be looking eagerly for the coming of Christ. You need to be joyful about that.”
And look at the bottom of this chapter, the last couple of verses. He writes all of this so that we will be able to understand that “God our Father has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace. And so our hearts should be comforted and strengthened.” All of this is for comfort. He said that at the end of the rapture section in 1 Thessalonians 4.
He said it again at the end of the day of the Lord section, “You’re going to be in the rapture; be comforted. You’re not going to be in the day of the Lord; be comforted.” Here he says, “Look, you don’t need to worry or fear about being caught in this horrendous dominion of the ultimate blasphemer, you need to be comforted because the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father has given you eternal comfort and good hope by grace, good hope by grace.” “Don’t be anxious.” This is strong, strong, practical pastoral encouragement.
Now, I’m going to just start this a little bit, and I’ll get into it more next time. But there’s one other thing he wants to say, and that is, for today anyway, don’t be uncertain. Here’s the real key to freedom from anxiety, freedom from the fear of what’s coming down the future. Look at verse 13: “We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That is a staggering two verses. This is a staggering two verses. Tied into the end of verse 10, that the love of the truth is what saves. Tied into verse 16, that God and Christ loved us and have given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace. We have here one of the most magnificent pictures of salvation in the New Testament.
And that makes it a challenge for me, because every one of these issues – the issue of thanking the Lord in verse 13; the issue of being loved by the Lord, chosen by God; the issue of salvation; the issue of sanctification by the Spirit; the issue of faith in the truth; the issue of being called; the issue of being called through the gospel; the issue of gaining glory of the Lord Jesus Christ are all massive, massive elements of soteriology or salvation doctrine. But for today anyway, we just want to gather it all up: “Why should you be worrying? Why should you be anxious? Why should you be fearful? Rather, you should be thankful, thankful to God that you will not experience that, because you are beloved by the Lord, you are chosen by the Lord, you are saved by the Lord, you are sanctified by the Lord, you are called by the Lord, and you will be glorified by the Lord. You’re not part of the perishing, you’re among the saved, the rescued.” The word “saved” means to be rescued, delivered from the wrath to come. So the final thing that he wants to say to them, not only don’t be deceived, and don’t be ignorant, and don’t be unbelieving and all those things, but don’t be uncertain because of the realities of your eternal salvation.
Comprehensive sweep of salvation theology, and it starts where it always should start, verse 13, “We should always give thanks to God for you.” Whatever you think about your salvation, the first thing you need to think about is that it is a gift of God. It wasn’t because you were smarter than somebody else that you came to Christ. It wasn’t because it seemed more attractive than your other options in life. It wasn’t that you decided you were smart enough that you didn’t want to go to hell forever. If you are saved, if you are not among the perishing, if you’re among the saved, then you need to give thanks to God, because as we read in Ephesians chapter 1, the reason you are saved is because of the intention of His will. That is the frontend of it. The backend of it is to the praise of the glory of His grace. You are saved because He intended to save you, and He intended to save you so that He would receive all the glory.
This is staggering reality, and I get it. I know people sometimes say, “Well, the idea that God chose me before the foundation of the world, the idea that the only people who are saved are those elected by God, chosen whose names are written down in the book of the Lamb from before the foundation of the world, this doesn’t seem fair.” I got news for you: you’re not the author of fair, you’re just you, and I’m just me. Whatever God does is right because God does only things that are right.
Do I understand all of that? Do I understand that I need to believe and repent and put my trust in Christ to be saved? Yes. Do I understand also that at the same time, only God can grant me the grace and the power to do that? Yes, I understand that. Can I harmonize all of that? Not necessarily; but that’s not a big issue.
There are lots of things that I can’t harmonize. But I’m just me, and I just have this pea brain compared to the vast mind of God. But I do know what the Bible says, and the Bible says I must repent and believe. But the Bible says that can only happen when God empowers that to happen, because He has predetermined that to happen.
And this, to be all honest with you, is the most securing reality of any doctrine related to salvation, that God made the decision before the world began. That is massive comfort, because the decision was not just to forgive me, but to glorify me. Whom He chose, He glorified. What He chose to do was bring you to heaven. And if you have come to Him in faith and you have been enlightened by the Spirit of God and given new life and believe the gospel, then the Lord loved you before the foundation of the world, and He who began a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ, which is the time Christ comes. He’ll get you all the way to glory because it was a plan for your glory.
Now let’s just break it down for a couple of minutes. “We give thanks to God for you, brethren.” First of all, you were loved by the Lord. Now we’re not talking about this kind of generic thing people talk about, “God loves everybody, and God loves you and He loves you the way you are.” We’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about some kind of generic temporal, sort of common grace love that God has a kind of love for the world in that lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust, and the sun shines on all of us, and we all enjoy certain common graces in life, like we talked about earlier. Music is a common grace. There’s a certain love of God that’s manifest to everyone at that level. That’s not what’s going on here. We’re thanking God that He loved you in the way that is defined here as the way that caused Him to choose you for eternal glory and comfort. This is for believers; and God makes choices.
Listen to Malachi chapter 1. This is pretty startling to read. The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel comes to the prophet Malachi, the last Old Testament book. And listen to what the Lord says. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “I have loved you, Israel. I’ve loved you. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? ‘Why did You limit it to us? Why didn’t You also love Esau? Jacob is the father of Israel, Esau the father of Edom and Arabs. Why did You love us and not Esau?’”
The Lord says, “I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness. Though Edom says, ‘We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins.’” Thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.” Wow. “You can try to do something on your own, but if I haven’t set My love on you, it’s useless.” And the response in verse 5, “Your eyes will see this and you will say, ‘The Lord be magnified, the Lord be magnified beyond the borders of Israel!’”
When you look at God’s election it is selective, that’s what Scripture says; and when you consider this, you say, “The Lord be magnified. He did it all.” Just as He chose Israel, He chooses those who will be adopted as His children.
In John 10, He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” And He also says, “And I lay down My life for the sheep.” He chose the sheep and He died for the sheep.
Ephesians 1, “In love He predestined us. In love He predestined us.” This is a sovereign, eternal act, uninfluenced by any other outside reality in which God determined by Himself in the counsel of His triune singularity to set His love on certain people. And out of that love, the second thing, He loved, and then He chose us. We are chosen by the Lord, back to verse 13, “because God has chosen you. We know He loved you because He’s chosen you.” This is a massive New Testament truth.
In Romans 9, Paul even quotes from Malachi: “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.” And in Romans 9, Paul says, “Do you think that’s unfair, you think that’s unjust? Who are you to talk to the potter and tell the potter how to make the clay? Who are you to answer what God has determined to do? God does what He does for His own sovereign pleasure.”
You were chosen from the beginning. Your names were written down in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 says that, and then again in Revelation 17:8 says it again. The salvation that you have received is not an afterthought. It’s not something that you decided, it’s something God decided before anything even existed. That’s comforting. That’s comforting. The Lord chose Jacob for Himself, Psalm 135:4 says. That’s why in the New Testament we are called the elect, God’s elect, Romans 8; chosen of God, Colossians 3; Acts 13, appointed to eternal life – many other Scriptures.
So we have been eternally loved back before there was even time, it was eternal love. We have been eternally loved, eternally chosen. And, thirdly, not only loved by the Lord, saved by the Lord, but go back to verse 13 again, saved by the Lord, loved by the Lord, chosen by the Lord, saved by the Lord for salvation. That’s rescue from wrath, rescue from judgment. And that happened, that occurred through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. Those are the two things that always go together at the point of real salvation. You have to have faith in the truth and you have to have the powerful transforming work of the Holy Spirit.
And sanctification here is used not in the progressive sense of a believer’s life, but in the initial sense in which at salvation the Spirit of God separates you from sin, creates a new nature. This is the new birth. This is being born again. This is being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. This is being transferred from being a slave of sin to a slave of righteousness, Romans 6. This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, which is the washing of regeneration, Titus 3:5. This refers to the miracle of regeneration, giving you new life. “You are a new creation. Old things are passed away, and everything becomes new,” the work of the Holy Spirit. You are born of the Spirit. You are begotten again by the Holy Spirit.
So, what an incredible reality this is: loved by God, chosen by God, and saved by God through the power of the Holy Spirit who comes on you to give you life in your death, light in your darkness, truth in your lies. This is a separation and a detachment from sin, the flesh, the world that connects you to God, and you become a possessor of His life; and the Holy Spirit who has just transformed you takes up residence in you, and you become the temple of the Spirit of God. This is salvation in its incredible, glorious fullness.
And along with what the Spirit does, you see so beautifully tied to it, faith in the truth. It’s not apart from faith in the truth, you have to hear the truth. Faith comes by hearing the gospel or the good news concerning Christ. It comes with believing. “Whoever believes,” – John 1:12 – “to as many as believe or receive, He gave the power to become the sons of God to those who believe on His name.” It’s not apart from faith, but even the Spirit works that faith. Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “Faith is a gift of God and not of works.”
“Why are you worried about your future when you have been loved from all eternity past? You have been chosen from all eternity past. And in the purposes of God, the plan was to regenerate you, give you new birth, make you a new creation, tear you apart from the old and connect you to the new, so that you are no longer in Adam, but you are in Christ. Your new inner being regenerated loves the truth. Now you’re part of those who love the truth so as to be saved,” end of verse 10. You now can say that “I confess Jesus as Lord, and I believe in my heart God raised Him from the dead, and I am saved.”
So Paul says, “God has eternally chosen you, He’s chosen you on the basis of that eternal love alone. He has saved you in time by the powerful work of His Holy Spirit who came upon you and gave you new life, and even faith. He regenerated you into a new creation with holy desires and longings, and produces a faith in you that will never die. That faith will be there no matter what you go through. The hardest test will only be a test of your faith that’ll prove its validity; and all that happened” – go down to verse 14 – “because it was for this He called you through our gospel.”
This is the effectual call, theologians call it, irresistible grace call. This isn’t just, “Hey, everybody, we’d like you to believe in Christ.” This is a divine call in which God calls you out of darkness into light. This is a miraculous call, an effective, efficacious call. This is what theologians called irresistible grace, so that in the New Testament we are the called. We are identified as the elect, the beloved, the saved, and the called.
God has called us. He called us with an irresistible call. He came into our darkness and brought light. He came into our ignorance and brought truth. He came into our blindness and brought sight. He came into our death and brought life, and it was all heavenly.
So Paul is saying, “You’re fussing around, you’re anxious about this, you’re worried about where you are, or are you in the day of the Lord, whatever. You’re worried about the future, you’re caught up with all of that, fearful that perhaps you’ve been somehow overlooked for the rapture and you’re now in the judgment. You don’t get it, do you. You have been chosen from before time began for eternal glory.” And that’s the capstone at the end of verse 14, “that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You were chosen for glory, not wrath. You were chosen for eternal blessing, not punishment. You were chosen for everlasting kindness, not wrath. Splendor, honor, exaltation, reward, perfection, holiness, blessing – all the glories of heaven, that’s why God chose you in eternity past for glory in eternity future. You don’t need to worry about the future, your future was settled before anything was ever created. You were not destined for judgment, you were destined for glory. We’re not looking for Antichrist, we’re looking for Christ; and nothing can change that, nothing, because whatever God purposes to do, He does. And Romans 8 says, “Nothing will separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.” So with those words, the apostle Paul, in a very simple way, almost like a final thought, introduces the massive, massive subject of eternal sovereign salvation, and just sums it up, ties it together in a little package, and says, “If you get that, you know you have nothing to fear, you know you have nothing to fear.”
So, the end of the chapter, he says in verse 15 – and we’ll look at this next time, “Just stand firm, hold to the tradition or doctrines which you were taught, whether word of mouth or letter from me. Hang onto what you know to be true.” And then a little benediction: “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us with that eternal love, and given us eternal comfort and good hope,” – we live in good hope – “by grace, may He comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.”
We ought to be the happiest people on the planet. We ought to be the most hopeful, the most joyful. We ought to have no anxieties, no fears. We have been chosen in eternity past for eternal future glory. Now I know throwing the doctrine of election at you that fast was hard, so next Sunday I’m going to dig a little deeper into it. It’s the most comforting of all doctrines. Let’s pray.
We are literally overwhelmed and caught up in the wondrous glory of these truths. Lord, we are sinful, unworthy, and thankful, thankful beyond expression for what you’ve done for us. And we are those who love the truth so as to be saved. We are not the perishing people, we are the people who are being glorified, those who are being saved, and those who will be delivered from the wrath to come. We are those who have been set for eternal glory. That cannot change because that was Your plan from the beginning by the kind intention of Your will to the praise of Your glory. And that’s what heaven will be. We will forever praise Your glory for the salvation which You granted us when we were unable, unwilling to turn to You. You did that miracle of salvation in our lives, so that we would glorify You forever.
We pray, Lord, that You will speak to any person here today who has not expressed faith in Christ, who has not come to the place where they love the truth, where they believe the gospel. I pray, Lord, that You would open their hearts. Show Your mercy and Your grace for Your glory, in every heart we pray. Amen.
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