Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,The Second Advent
2 Thessalonians 2:1
'Our gathering together!' These words touch a note which ought to find a response in every part of the world. Man is a social being; and, go where you will, people as a rule like 'gathering together'. Christmas, e.g., is peculiarly a time when English people like to 'gather together'; it is the season when family meetings have become a national institution, in town and country, among rich and poor. It is indeed the one time in the twelvemonth, with many, for seeing their friends. Business is at a standstill for a space. Poor and shallow the philosophy, hard and cold the religion, which sneers at Christmas gatherings.
Anything that helps to keep up family affection and brotherly love is a positive good to a country. Long may the custom last, and never end. But earthly gatherings have their sad side; death makes painful gaps in the family circle; and in the happiest gatherings we ofttimes miss some dear familiar face and voice.
I. There is a better 'gathering' yet to come! There shall be hereafter an 'assembly' which will far outshine any earthly 'gatherings'; where there shall be joy without sorrow, mirth without tears.
(1) When will this 'gathering' be? It will be at the end of the world, when Christ returns to earth the second time. Visibly He went away, visibly in the body He will return; and the very first thing that He will do will be to 'gather together' His people (Matthew 24:31).
(2) What will be the manner of this 'gathering'? This is plainly revealed in Holy Scripture. The dead saints shall be raised, and the living saints shall all be changed (Revelation 20:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). And this 'gathering' will be great, wonderful, humbling:—
(a) Great—because all the people of God, from the first saint of God's to the last born at the time of His coming, out of every nation, all shall be assembled together; His saints now scattered seem a little flock; but hereafter, when gathered together, they will be 'a multitude which no man can number'.
(b) Wonderful—because His saints in different ages and from different climes, who have never seen each other in the flesh, nor known each other's native tongues, shall form one harmonious throng; the confusion of tongues shall cease (Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:9-10). Moreover, many will be there whom we might never have expected to see at all (Matthew 19:30).
(c) Humbling—because an end will then be made of all that disfigured and hampered the 'Church' on earth—an end to bigotry, party spirit, religious jealousy, and pride. They will meet there in perfect agreement who refused to meet on earth; all differences will be sunk, for at last all will be completely 'clothed with humility' (1 Peter 5:5).
(3) What will be the object of this 'gathering'? For the safety and reward of Christ's people. However fearful the signs of the impending judgment, His saints will have no cause to tremble, or to dread the great day of their 'gathering together'; they shall be hidden in the secret place of the Most High. And this 'gathering together' will mark the inauguration of their exceeding great and final reward; complete justification from all guilt will be declared to all; each will receive that 'crown of glory which fadeth not away,' and 'the kingdom prepared before the foundation of the world'; and the great throng will be admitted publicly into the joy of their Lord.
II. Why is this 'gathering together' of His people a thing to be desired?
Because, (a) it will be a state totally unlike their present condition. To be scattered rather than gathered seems to be the rule on earth. Few continue long together even during their lives here Children, parents, friends, fellow-workers fellow-Christians, are being continually forced asunder from various causes; and, as life draws to its close, many a one is left almost alone. The hour is coming when there shall be no such thing as separation and loneliness. There will be no lack of company in that great 'gathering together'.
(b) It will be an assembly of one mind and one heart There are none such now. Mixture, hypocrisy, disunion, false profession, discord, creep in everywhere here. The tares grow together with the wheat The foolish virgins tarry along with the wise. There is a Judas and a Demas in every Christian congregation; and wherever the 'sons of God' come together, Satan is sure to appear among them. But this will cease on that day, when our Lord shall present to the Father a perfect Church 'having neither spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing' (Ephesians 5:27).
(c) It will be a 'gathering' at which none shall be absent. The weakest lamb will not be left behind in the wilderness. We shall hold communion with all the saints of God who have fought the good fight before us, from the beginning of the world. We shall once more see our dear ones who fell asleep in Jesus, better, more beautiful, than we knew them on earth.
(d) It will be a 'meeting' without a 'parting'. There are no such meetings now. 'Good-bye' is ever treading on the heels of 'How are you?' The cares and duties of life seem to eat up all our days and to make any appreciable period of intercommunion impossible. But the hour cometh when 'farewell' shall be buried for ever; when we shall meet in that endless state of 'blessedness' to part no more. No wonder the Apostle Paul bids us look up and look forward.
—The late Bishop Ryle.
References.—II. 1.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 53. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 150. II. 1, 2.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. pp. 75, 259. II. 1-12.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 257; ibid. vol. xii. p. 99. II. 2.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 273; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. pp. 253, 260; ibid. vol. xi. p. 366. II. 3.—Ibid. vol. iv. p. 121. W. F. Shaw, Sermon Sketches for the Christian Year, p. 10. II. 3, 4.—A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 346. II. 3-11.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 261; ibid. vol. x. p. 353. II. 5.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 118. II. 7.— Ibid. vol. ix. p. 95. Phillips Brooks, The Mystery of Iniquity, p. 1. II. 8.—D. Heagle, That Blessed Hope, p. 90. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. pp. 109, 291. II. 9.—Ibid. vol. i. pp. 36, 296. II. 10.—Ibid. p. 201. C. H. Grundy, Luncheon Lectures at St. Paul's Cathedral, p. 23. II. 10-12.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 129. II. 13.—E. Bayley, Sermons on the Work and Person of the Holy Spirit, p. 105. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. p. 88. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 250; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 285. II. 13, 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. Nos. 41 and 42.
Called Unto Glory
2 Thessalonians 2:14
I. Of all the statements regarding the high calling of the Gospel, this is perhaps the most profound. It expresses as the purpose of God not merely that His people should be enriched, illuminated, and uplifted by the gifts which He bestows upon them through Christ, but that they should be identified with Him in that which was the distinctive glory of His life. For the glory of Christ is not merely to be seen in His present dignity and power in heavenly places, but comprehends also the obscure life which He lived on earth, and which was the pathway to the throne. His was not the glory of position, of wealth, or of material power, but of character. And since God 'looks not upon the outward appearance' and does not estimate worth in the same scale and with the same judgment as obtains amongst men, the obscure life of the Saviour is to be understood as the true illustration of glory. The glory of character, of sincerity, of obedience, of self-effacement is that which is seen in Him and which, in the sight of God, is of greatest worth and beauty. And this is the glory which the Gospel calls us to share, and this the beauty with which our lives are to be constantly irradiated.
II. The glory of service is the secret of the Saviour's influence over the hearts of His followers. He conquered them by stooping. And we who are called unto the obtaining of the same glory will find opportunity for the acquisition and exertion of true and helpful influence only as we serve. For this all life's common duties will afford us occasion, for life in all its complexity of duty and responsibility is a man's God-given chance for realising to the fullest degree the glory which is to be found alone in following the footsteps of the Master.
—J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-eminent Lord, p. 61.
Reference.—II. 14.—Expositor (5th Series) vol. vii. p. 32.
2 Thessalonians 2:15
She fully understood what St. Paul means when he tells the Thessalonians that because they were called, therefore they were to stand fast. She thought with Paul that being called; having a duty plainly laid upon her; being bidden as if by a general to do something, she ought to stand fast; and she stood fast, supported against all pressure by the consciousness of fulfilling the special orders of One who was her superior.
—Mark Rutherford, The Deliverance, pp. 62, 63.
References.—II. 15.—H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, p. 45. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 91. II. 16.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p. 34; ibid. vol. ii. p. 258. II. 16, 17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1096; vol. xxvi. No. 1542; vol. xl. No. 2363; vol. lii. No. 2991. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Thessalonians, p. 267. III. 1.—J. B. Meharry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 329. W. Unsworth, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 178. Bishop Cabrera, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 298. Bishop Oluwole, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 672. Bishop Westcott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 369. III. 1, 2.—A. Lamont, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. p. 219. John Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 73. III. 3.—J. Keble, Sermons for Septuagesima to Ash-Wednesday, p. 381.
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
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.