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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: February 12, 2021
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS.
Please open your Bible at 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”
In closing the doctrinal portion of this “epistle” (or letter), our Apostle Paul emphasized the vast difference between the outlook for God’s people, i.e., those who believed Paul’s gospel and are referred to here as “brethren beloved of the Lord,” and for all those who have rejected God and His beloved Son, along with His glorious “truths,” and His great love. The outlook for these folks is not good, which underscores the truth, if you reject God and the things of God He in turn will reject you.
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:”
The first thing we’ll look at is the word “salvation” since this verse is often taken out of context and used to teach election to salvation from sin and its eternal consequences. That’s one meaning that can be applied to the word “salvation,” but that’s not what Paul is saying. Breaking this down, the word “sanctify” means to set something apart unto the Lord (Exodus 13:2, 12), and since these folks were members of Christ’s body the Spirit has set them apart from “the day of the Lord,” i.e., the Tribulation and not from sin, hell, or the Great White Throne Judgment, as some believe and teach.
Bible students ask questions and seek answers from this book, so ask yourself what’s being discussed in verse 2:13? For starters please know Paul’s not changing horses midstream, that is to say, he’s not changing the subject matter. He’s still talking about the Rapture of the whole Body of Christ and the subsequent manifestation of God’s wrath upon this Christ-rejecting world. In chapters 1 & 2, Paul discussed our Lord’s Second Coming or His return to earth to judge the unrighteous, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:” (verse 2:8; see also 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul then followed that truth up with information re: Antichrist and how God intends to give the rebellious, God-hating masses up to believing “a lie,” - “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2:12).
Taking note of the connective word “But” in verse 2:13, and keeping it between the lines, or staying true to the context, the “salvation” to which Paul speaks of here is not salvation from sin, hell, or eternal judgment at the Great White Throne, but “salvation” from “the day of God’s wrath,” i.e., the Tribulation. For at the Great White Throne Judgment God’s justice, rather than “His wrath,” will be manifested. With that in mind, a sitting judge must be impartial; they must not allow their personal feelings or emotions to cloud their decision. They must dispense justice, in this particular case, penal justice. Thus, while the word “wrath” occurs about a dozen times in connection with the Tribulation, and “the wine of the wrath of God” will then be “poured out without mixture in the cup of His indignation” (Revelation 14:10), this word is not found in the passage on the Great White Throne. Instead, there we find the Judge consulting books and records and then passing sentence accordingly to the lost.
It is after discussing “God’s wrath” upon this unbelieving world during the Tribulation, that Paul expressed his joy that God has chosen to save Believers from this coming holocaust through “sanctification of the Spirit and belief of this truth” (2:12-13, 1:10).
Thus, we have one more piece of evidence that the Rapture of God’s true Church will precede the Tribulation, and that the members of Christ’s body will not be called upon to endure “God’s vengeance or His righteous wrath.”
Paul Encourages The Thessalonians
“Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here Paul said the Thessalonian saints were “called” to this position as God’s beloved, by “our gospel,” i.e., “the gospel (or good news) of the grace of God” (Romans 2:16, 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 2:11-14). Paul frequently wrote about this and insisted on it and on the distinctiveness of his apostleship (Romans 11:13). Moreover, this “good news” eventuated for them in “the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now they, with Paul and every member of Christ’s body, can “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).
Thus, as Paul opened 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 by beseeching these saints not to be “shaken in mind or…troubled” or “deceived” (2:2-3), he closed it with an exhortation to “stand fast, and hold (onto) the traditions” he had taught them “by word, or our epistle.” I assume y’all know what a tradition is, but I want to point out that the word “traditions” here simply means God’s established truths that have been handed down, and is not false as some traditions certainly are. God’s truths are available to everyone, but worldly traditions not of God block the faith required to receive what He has for us. Paul warned the Colossians (and every true Believer) about this saying, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
I mention, again, the written Word of God (the Holy Bible) was not yet complete, and wouldn’t be for quite some time. But the truths which Paul “handed down” to these Believers were the Word of God, which Paul received by revelation (Galatians 1:11), whether they appear in oral or written form, which helps to explain why he encouraged the Thessalonians to “stand fast” and to “hold” these “traditions,” he brought to them.
Paul exhorted these Believers in this letter urging them not to falter in their faith. Faith in what exactly? The Lord’s coming for them before the Tribulation begins. This is largely due to the fact that they were experiencing bitter persecution at this time and were suffering because of it. Here I’ll point out Paul’s words to them is also God’s Word to us today. We, therefore, ought to regard this as an appeal to us not to be led astray from this precious truth, or abandon it for it is “our blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, whose beloved we are, has given us this “everlasting consolation and good hope through grace…” It’s little wonder, then, that Paul closed the doctrinal portion of this letter with these encouraging words, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (2:16-17).
I have an illustration that I think might help you understand what Paul’s saying. There was a woman who complained to her friend saying, “Every Christmas I send each of my grandchildren a generous check, but they never call me or send a thank you note in return!” Her friend replied, “My grandchildren always come by to thank me in person for the Christmas checks that I send them.” Impressed, the first woman asked, “What’s your secret?” To which her friend replied, “Well, they think I’m old and forgetful anyway, so every year I purposely forget to sign the checks.”
Obviously, that woman’s grand-children are obligated to thank her for her yearly gift because she has something they need, i.e., her signature on their checks. But in writing to the Thessalonians, Paul felt obligated to thank God for something that Christ had done for them with no strings attached: “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (See 2:13-17 and Romans 5:1-11).
Now on the surface, it might appear that Paul is thanking God because He had chosen the Thessalonians to be saved from their sins. But here again I point out the Bible speaks of different types of salvation. For example, Moses commanded the Israelites to “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13), adding, “for the Egyptians ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” In this instance, you can tell from the wording that Moses spoke of their salvation from the Egyptian army, when God “saved the people out of the land of Egypt” (Jude 1:5). In addition to this example, Paul spoke about being “saved” from the wind and the waves of a ferocious storm (Acts 27:31), from the bonds of imprisonment (Philippians 1:19), and even from the misery and heartache that always comes when people don’t “take heed” to Pauline truth (1 Timothy 4:16). But in the Thessalonian letters “salvation” often refers to salvation from the Tribulation: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:5:9).
Here Paul can’t be speaking about salvation from the “wrath” of hell, or the Great White Throne Judgment for that matter and I’ll explain why that is. If you know Christ as your Savior, you don’t have an appointment to obtain salvation from hell and the Great White Throne Judgment. You were saved from these future events the moment you trusted in Him through Paul’s gospel. But you do have a standing appointment to be saved from the “wrath” of the Tribulation by the coming of our Lord in the clouds above to Rapture the Body of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:17 thru 5:9). That’s why in speaking of the “salvation” of the Rapture, Paul told the Romans that “now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). Our salvation, therefore, from eternal punishment in hell and at the Great White Throne Judgment is no nearer now than when we believed, but thank God the Rapture is. We draw closer to it with each passing hour. So in the context of the Thessalonian letters, it is the “salvation” of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture to which we are chosen and for which we have this “hope.”
Perhaps you are thinking, “But doesn’t the Bible say that God has “chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world?” (Ephesians 1:4). Well, yes it does; and while this verse is often used to teach that we’ve been chosen to be saved from our sins, you’ll notice it doesn’t say that God chose us to be in Christ; it says He chose us “in him.” Christ is God’s chosen, His elect. The law of first reference confirms this. This Bible study principle says that the first time a word is used in Scripture it defines it, and the word “elect” is first found in Isaiah 42:1, where God said of Christ: “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” Since this prophecy is quoted and ascribed to Christ (Matthew 12:18), we know that He is God’s elect. God chose Him, and when you trusted Him as your Savior, you became part of God’s elect when you were baptized into Him (Romans 6; 1 Corinthians 12:13). That’s how you were “chosen in Him.”
If that line of thinking is hard to follow, perhaps this illustration might help. Up until 1964, the Democratic Party was so strong in the southern states that this mighty voting block was often referred to as “The Solid South.” In those days, Southerners often voted “a straight ticket,” choosing to elect all the candidates running on the Democratic ticket. Individual candidates were only chosen in the party. In those days, a man could be a complete unknown, or even an absolute crook, and still get elected in the party. Similarly, you and I were as “crooked” as they come (Psalm 125:5), but when we believed Paul’s gospel and became “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30), we became a part of Him; so, again, that’s how the Thessalonians (and every true Believer) were “chosen in Him.”
A Delightful Choice Indeed
Please take note of the fact that God described His elect as someone “in whom My soul delighteth” (Isaiah 42:1). Most of the time when you and I go to the polls to elect someone we have to hold our nose, as it were, and choose “the lesser of two evils.” Not so with God; when He chose Christ to “bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:1), it was His delight to elect His Son to rule the nations. Then, when Jews under the kingdom program believed in Him, they became part of God’s elect in Israel (Romans 11:7). But God also chose Christ to rule the angels in heaven, electing Him to the office of “Head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10). And when God “…set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power,” He “…put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:20-22). That is, when the Father chose Christ to rule the heavens, He did so with “the church, which is His Body” in mind (verses 22-23). When people believe on Christ during the dispensation of grace, they become part of “the elect of God” (Colossians 3:12) in this dispensation and will “reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12) in the heavenlies. As members of “His Body,” we are “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). That is, all of the members of the Body of Christ will fill all the positions in the heavenly government vacated by the fallen angels, “all things...that are in heaven...whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers” (Colossians 1:16).
Some might ask, “But doesn’t the Bible teach that we are predestinated?” It does (See Ephesians 1:5). There’s no denying the word “predestinate” means to predetermine someone’s destination for this word means: to predetermine or foreordain; to appoint or ordain beforehand by an unchangeable purpose. However, one should not assume that we are “predestinated,” i.e., predetermined to go to heaven as opposed to going to hell. As the elect members of the Body of Christ, we are “predestinated” to go to heaven as opposed to remaining here on earth with the elect of Israel, during the Tribulation.
Paul had this to say about our “predestination,” “we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated...” (Ephesians 1:11). God predetermined that the destination of our inheritance is in heaven, where we will “judge angels” (1 Corinthians 6:3) as part of God’s elect. But God predetermined that the destination of Israel’s inheritance is on the earth. God told them, “thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited” (Isaiah 54:3), and faithful Jews will rule over the Gentiles in those revived “cities” in the earthly millennial kingdom (Luke 19:17-19). God never intended or promised to take believing Jews to heaven (John 17:15), but all true Believers are “predestinated” to go to heaven in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and that’s why Paul prayed “… we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you,” (2:13a).
Bound To Give Thanks
The word “bound” means: to be under legal or moral obligation to do something. Of course, Paul wasn’t under any legal obligation to thank God that the Thessalonians were chosen to be saved from the Tribulation. Even under the Law, thanksgiving offerings were voluntary, and Paul was under grace (Romans 6:14-15). But he did feel a moral obligation to thank God. If you are wondering why, did you notice that Paul thanked God “for” the Thessalonians “that” God had chosen them? This suggests that they weren’t thanking God for the salvation of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (Titus 2:13), so Paul felt “bound” to thank God for them. Oh, sure, when Paul first taught these “brethren beloved of the Lord,” that they were chosen to be saved from the Tribulation, I’m sure they were very thankful, for they knew “perfectly” about the “destruction” that terrible time would bring (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). But someone had forged a letter that convinced them that the day of the Lord was “at hand” and signed Paul’s name to it (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). When that happened, all the thanksgiving that they felt for their salvation from the Tribulation went right out the window, so to speak.
If we’re striving to be like Paul, then we should feel “bound” to thank God for all things, which includes our “salvation” from the Tribulation: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1:5-18).
(To be Continued)
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