Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chinese Lunar New Year, 2 Thessalonians 1

Scottish Wholewheat Oatmeal Barley Currant Scone with Clotted Cream and Homemade Marmalade
The Chinese Lunar New Year is usually heralded by transatlantic calls from relatives speaking in tongues, the parentals declining to build a spit in the backyard for roasting a suckling pig (why not go the whole hog for the guests, eh?) and a pot-luck of stapleszzz.

Jamon! Chorizo!
Jamon! Chorizo!

On the way for more groceries, the driver mentioned with great glee that a small present, just off the plane from Bilbao, awaited in a cooler bag in the backseat. Perfecto! Hasta la vista suckling pig, the dead Spanish pig for personal consumption cometh!

Chinese New Year Chicken Curry
The soundscape to accompany the peeling and chopping of a molehill of garlic and weeping into another molehill of onions started with The Mountain Goats' Life Of The World To Come, which like many an un-sermon, featured bible verses as inspiration for songs*. Half way through the garlic molehill, it seemed strange that Jack Johnson was singing about being made holy instead of, say, banana pancakes: Chris Rice's Deep Enough To Dream wasn't half-bad musically and fairly reasonable lyric-substance-wise, with a little more variety in Past The Edges and Smell The Color 9.

Trying to understand 2 Thessalonians 1:5 is also like trying to smell the colour 9, though in this case our faculties (and also late night discussions with people touting more well-oiled clogs) are meant to be of help. Perhaps it smells approximately like this:

2 Thessalonians 1
The Thessalonians' faith, love and hope ("steadfastness", cf 1 Thessalonians 1:3) has grown and increased so that Paul is able to boast about them to the other churches of God. Not that Paul sees them as a good pad for his CV as evangelist and church planter and grower, for he thanks God for this since it is God who has wrought their growth in these things (cf 1 Thessalonians 4 - "more and more").

2 Thessalonians 1
God considers it just (after all, who else can define "justice") to judge people according to how they respond to him (and his children): vengeance and the punishment of eternal destruction for those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (1:8-9); relief to the Thessalonians and to Paul, Silas and Timothy from the afflictions they are suffering (most likely because of the gospel, cf 1 Thessalonians) (1:7); affliction to those who are persecuting those who know and obey God (1:6), who have been called by God to do his work and empowered by him to fulfil their task for which they are being afflicted (1:11). Squeaks of "Oh I thought the vengeful violent God was the God of the Old Testament" would be moot because God himself determines what is right, and since he made the world, it is naturally and necessarily right that he punish the bits of his creation who not only decline to worship their creator but in fact, hinder and afflict those who are trying to tell the world about him (1:10). This is the righteous judgment of God.

The suffering of the Thessalonians (whom Paul has already established are true children of God) for knowing God and obeying the gospel of the Lord Jesus is evidence of the righteous judgment of God (1:5). This sounds as silly as saying that the prison term for the man convicted for breaking into his own house because he lost his keys is manifest evidence of the righteousness of the Singapore legal system. How can the unfair situation facing the Thessalonians be evidence of the righteous judgment of God?

Perhaps in these ways:
(i) in the sense that because this is an unjust situation, therefore, the inevitability of a day when the just God will make all this right, when the wicked and the righteous will get what they deserve (as discussed above);

(ii) in the sense that because of (i), it is proof to the Thessalonians of their current and eventual eternal standing before God - that they will not be away from the glory of his might (1:9) but marvelling at him who will be glorified in them (1:10,12); and also

(iii) in the sense that on the Day of Reckoning, it will show that God's counting them worthy of the kingdom will be right because in their affliction for his work and word, for they would have made it manifestly obvious that they had been obedient to God. Conversely, the righteousness of punishing those who are vexing them for this very reason would also be plain.

(Which would mean that those who preach that peace, prosperity and security now are evidence of God's blessing and approval are dangerously misdirecting their audience.)

Even if we not currently suffering because of the gospel (though rare would be the Christian who never finds himself in tribulation for living out his beliefs and a request for more holiness please usually takes care of that lack!), is the imminence of the Day clouding our waking moments and our dreams?

Are we eager to, boldly without flinching, keep growing in works of faith, in labour of love and steadfastness of hope (cf 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 4)? For we already have great comfort that even if nastiness comes upon our placid lives because of this, it is all the more proof of our status before God now and on the Last Day and the glory our perseverance will bring Him who enables us to persevere.

And whether or not we are amassing questions for the eternal question time in heaven, it would be strange if the desire has not been awakened in us to yearn for the presence of God, if Jesus is not the person we are missing most even if we can avail ourselves to the sentiment of (if not the coupley set dinner menus that inevitably accompany) Valentine's Day; if we are not looking forward to celebrating God's glory in the people who have believed the gospel.

Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownie in Pan Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownie
Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownieszzz, with some AP flour swapped out for wholewheat, an addition of roasted pecans, underbaked by 20 minutes.

*The Mountain Goats, Life Of The World To Come

1 Samuel 15:23

Genesis 3:23

Hebrews 11:40

Romans 10:9

1 John 4:16

Matthew 25:21

Deuteronomy 2:10

Isaiah 45:23

Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace

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At February 18, 2010 1:27 am , Blogger Rick Lannoye said...

I think you're missing the point, that is, if what Jesus taught matters!

Jesus was completely opposed to the concept of getting back at people! His teaching, admittedly a revolutionary one, was that we should forgive others of their trespasses and love our enemies, not be all itching for God to let 'em have it, and to take some kind of sick joy in the hope of seeing them get theirs!

You see, Jesus did not believe in Hell, and everything he originally taught makes it clear that he could not have.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell, (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of Did Jesus Believe in Hell?, one of the most compelling chapters in my book at, but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the copies of copies of copies of the gospel texts which place “Hell” on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

Bear in mind that the historical Protestant doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures applies only to the original autographs, not the copies. But sadly, the interpolations that made their way into those copies have provided a convenient excuse for a lot of people to get around following Jesus’ real message.


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