God Is Just

2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10 (Last Judgment – 2013)

“God is Just”

Our system of justice is designed to reveal the truth based on testimonial evidence. Paul uses the picture of civil justice to assure us of God’s justice now and at the end of time. For the most part, we are confident that our current system of justice is as fair as human beings can accomplish. If we place the lives of people into the mercy of human courts, which can make mistakes, how much more can we entrust our spiritual lives with God’s perfect justice system! God is fair. God is just. He will make no mistakes; neither in convicting the guilty; nor in acquitting the innocent. As in a court of law, God’s justice is based on testimonial evidence. God’s evidence is clear. His testimonies are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

He Will Convict the Guilty

The evidence among the Christians in Thessalonica was clear: Paul was pointing to the facts: 1.) that the Thessalonians had been faithful in spiritual growth (in faith and love); 2.) they were enduring persecution for the sake of the Gospel of the our Lord Jesus. Where the Word of God is being faithfully taught and faithfully followed, spiritual strength is going to happen. God blesses faithfulness to his truth! Those who are being strengthened by it can also expect enemies. Opposition to the mission work in Thessalonica was brutal from the very beginning of Paul’s visits (Acts 17: 1-9). It did not let up.

The evidence is clear: God will punish those who persecute his Church. Paul was reassuring the believers thatthose who were persecuting them are known by God, and will have their day in his court. Their unbelief condemns them, as Jesus said: “they stand condemned already because they do not believe in the one who God had sent” (John 3: 17). “He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.” That will happen on the Last Day when unbelievers are found guilty of rejecting Christ and are condemned to eternal death.

God’s verdict is clear: Isaiah says that “their fire will not be quenched and they will be loathsome to all mankind” (Isaiah 66: 24) Jesus will say to them “Depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil” Matthew 24: 41) and they “will go away to eternal punishment” (verse 46).   Judgment Day is a real thing and will be a day of fear for those who opposed God. Here Paul underlines what is taught in so many other places of the Bible “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire … he will punish those who do not obey the gospel … they will be punished with everlasting destruction.”

Remember that we are guilty, too: The prosecution and testimony that stands against us is the Law: “Whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at just one point he is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2: 10). We know from the testimony that we have broken more than just one and more than just once. The Ten Commandments testify against us: I have failed to trust in God at all times above all things. I have misused his name and neglected his Word. I have not always respected the ones he placed in authority over me. Hate, lust, greed, betrayal and coveting have been real guests in my heart more than I care to admit. If the Law is given its day in God’s court, not one of our sins will be forgotten or missed. They speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth! The Law’s testimony to the offenses on our rap sheets would be embarrassingly lengthy and true.

           God is just. God punishes the guilty! God intervened. The Cross of Christ will be entered into the evidence files on the Last Day: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God made his Son guilty for us so that he could pronounce us “worthy of the kingdom of God … because we have believed the testimony of the gospel of Christ.” Because God’s grace has its day in the court of God’s justice, the Law’s testimony against us is overruled. Christ has become the willing substitute. He was willing to take the blame for every sin the Law accuses against us. God who is just punished his Son who had taken the entire weight of sin upon himself. The Gospel’s testimony is clear and it is truth as well. Jesus took every page of our embarrassing rap sheets and erased them from the evidence.

He Will Acquit the Innocent

The evidence in clear: “On the Day he comes, Jesus will be glorified IN His Holy people and marveled at among all those who believe.” “For God so loved the world that he sent is only begotten Son, that those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God glorified his Son. His public glorification will be announced on Judgment Day. He will be glorified on Judgment Day. The fact that his Holy People are going to heaven brings glory to him. He is the one who speaks and works in our defense.

The evidence is testimonial: Paul wrote: “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” God knew that the believers in Thessalonica were being faithful to the gospel of Jesus. He knew they were willing to face suffering for the sake of Jesus. He knew their hearts, that the Holy Spirit had brought them to trust in Christ and that he was keeping them faithful through the Word.

God knows that about you as well. God’s justice listens to the testimonial evidence. That evidence includes the written voices of his Prophets and Apostles. God’s Word of forgiveness is not a lie. That testimonial evidence includes our baptisms in the name of the Triune God. That testimonial evidence includes our confessions of his Name and Word. Jesus said “whoever confesses me in the world, I will confess their names before my Father in heaven.” That testimonial evidence includes the things we suffer in this life for the sake of the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Most importantly that testimonial evidence includes Christ our Mediator. John wrote: “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the righteous one. He is the atoning Sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sons, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2: 1-2). Jesus is not only our substitute, he our defense attorney, our advocate, our character witness and the testimonial witness before God that we are not guilty. The evidence is his blood stains washing away our sins. The evidence are the nail prints as he says to Thomas “Look at my hands … stop doubting and believe” (John 20: 27).

God Acquits the Innocent: The best evidence of that is the Resurrection. God raised his Son from death. That resurrection is evidence that God accepted his payment for all of our sins. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 6: 25). His resurrection is also evidence that eternal life is a real thing. Just as real as Judgment Day, just as real as eternal punishment, just as real as the written words of God in his Word – Heaven is a real place. You are going to that real place. You will spend eternity in that real place. Paul reminds us that our Baptisms connect us with Christ- his crucifixion, his death and burial, his resurrection and ascension. He concludes: “If we died with him, we will also live with him” (Romans 6: 8).

This Sunday is one of many reminders that this world will indeed come to an end. Heaven is a real place. Believers in Christ will all go there for eternity. Hell is a real place. Those who rejected Christ in unbelief will unfortunately end up there for all eternity. Today is a day to stay committed to the pure teaching of the Bible, to compassionately seek the lost and share with them that good news, and to take great comfort in the redeeming work of Christ Jesus our Savior. He is all the testimonial evidence and defense we need before the justice of God.

All this is evidence that God’s Judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” Amen.