The other day I was challenged to show that God saves and comforts His people by destroying His enemies. The person showed some familiarity with 2 Thess 2, but apparently wasn’t aware of the impact of 2 Thess 1. The following is my response to him.
This list is by no means exhaustive. What I mean to show here is that there is a pattern of people looking to the Lord to come and save them. That salvation is a double-edged sword. With one edge, He saves His own, and with the other, He destroys His enemies. This pattern covers the entire history of humanity, so I’m laying it out in chronological order. I will also show that this historical observation/opinion was not relegated to any one dispensation, but, in fact, covers all known dispensations. Due to FB limitations, I’ll need to break it up into several sections.
It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:14-15)
The context here is that Jude is telling NT saints to hunker down. They can endure the afflictions of wicked people and God will save them. Jude argues that it happened before (Egypt, Wilderness, Heaven), it’ll happen again. There is no specific reference to ‘avenge’, or Tribulation, but just keep the mental picture in mind for now, because
1) You can bet Enoch preached more than one sentence. This was just the summary.
2) Whatever it was he was preaching, he preached it hundreds of years before Noah’s flood.
3) Jude is seeing Enoch’s preaching as having NT & future application.
When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) (Gen 14:14-18)
This makes no sense at this point, but hang on.
Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’ (Deut 32:35)
‘ See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, As I live forever, if I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh- with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.’ “Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people’s land.” (Deut 32:39-43)
He said, “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand.” (Deut 33:2)
To understand and appreciate what’s going on here, you really need to read all of Deuteronomy chapters 32 -33. This passage is frequently pointed to by NT authors, so it’s not an oddball onesie! Please note that this vengeance is associated with words like “shine”, “fire” and “ten thousands of His holy ones”. For now, we’ll not pursue the “rejoice” aspect of the Day of Vengeance.
So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded. And Joshua struck them from Kadesh-barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon. And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal. (Josh 10:40-43)
Which sounds odd and generally unrelated until…
O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, *but your right hand and your arm*, and **the light of your face**, for you delighted in them. You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! (Ps 44:1-4)
What, pray tell, does light from the face of God have anything to do with His arm saving His people?
Glad you asked. Stay tuned.
O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! … He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out. (Ps 94:1-2, 34)
Hmmmm.. there goes that shine/light business again. (Please read all of Ps 94!!)
The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head. (Ps 110)
Please note 3 things:
1. This Messianic Psalm is a direct tie-in to Abraham in Gen 14 as quoted at the start of this article. The storyline is point-for-point identical to Abraham’s victory of the 4 kings of the east, including the reference to Melchizedek.
2. This is NOT an Old Testament issue. It is a Messianic Psalm about what Christ has done and will do.
3. Of the over 300 Old Testament quotes we find in the New Testament, Ps 110 is the 2nd most frequently quoted!! (Peter quoted it on the day of Pentecost, even.) I don’t know how else to say it: if you do not understand Ps 110, you do not understand the NT.
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. (Nah 1:2)
“Keeps wrath”? This means He’s storing it, waiting for a day to let it loose (see Deut 32! Or see the following passages.)
He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord. (Isa 59:17-20)
Here we see many of the basic elements of the Day of Vengeance going on: light shining; righteousness; salvation of His people (read the entire context); wrath to His enemies; doling out according to one’s works; Redemption to Zion and to those who turn from sin. Isaiah has quite a few passages that mirror this. Isa 63:1-6 is perhaps the most graphic. ..and is immediately followed by praise for His love.
If you feel these are OT only…
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Mat 16:27)
Jesus has several descriptions like this across the Gospels. Angels. Glory (which is often synonymous with shining). Repayment of deeds. See a pattern?
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Mat 24:29-31)
Note this takes place after something called “the tribulation of those days”. And did you notice that His elect are on the earth waiting to be gathered? Doesn’t the pre-trib view insist that His elect are in heaven at this time, not on the earth? Again, here we see evil people mourning (no doubt because of punishment), glorious radiation from the Son and salvation of His people all in one scene.
65 AD till now
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering- since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thess 1:5-10)
Please note the following:
1. Paul suffers just as they are suffering – just as those in the final days are suffering. That is, here we see no distinction between their suffering and the Great Tribulation suffering.
2. Paul says the relief from said suffering is not the taking away of the Church, but the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven with His might angels in flaming fire (there’s that light again), inflicting vengeance on
a) those who do not know God
b) those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus
In this passage, Paul is putting the vengeance of God hand-in-hand with the salvation of His people. In other words, he’s doing the same thing here that all the previous warnings of Christ’s coming are doing.
3. Earlier, I said we wouldn’t pursue this, but since Paul does, I will too: His saints are marveling and glorifying Him while He blasts the wicked off the face of this earth. Furthermore, please note that God’s people praising Him for His destruction of the wicked is a *recurring theme* through out the Bible (Pre-Moses; during Moses; post-Moses; in heaven, etc). Ask if you want details. You can begin by noting that Rev 18:20 is a command, not a suggestion.
Also, I mention 2a and 2b because we frequently hear preachers say that God will exempt “savages in the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa” and those who never heard of Him. I humbly point to 2a to show that Paul begs to differ.
To see the full detail of what this Coming looks like, we need to turn to Revelation 19:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Rev 19:11-21)
Note that this mayhem (Rev 19) is prior to the millennium (Rev 20), and therefore should not be confused with the battle that takes place at the end of the millennium (Rev 20:7-10. This battle is when Jesus comes in His Second Coming.
The rapture is not specifically mentioned in Rev. Pre-tribbers point to John’s “call” in Rev 4:1 as the rapture – an interpretation I find rather scant. For a number of reasons, I say that’s not the rapture. One big reason is because there are still saints on the earth in Rev 6:10-11 and 16:15, and you cannot have people being born again if the Holy Spirit is not present. (The pre-trib view sees the Holy Spirit leaving the world at the time of the rapture).
I think a better place for the rapture is Rev 19:7-8 when God calls His people to worship Him and the Bride makes herself ready (she wasn’t ready before). No, there’s no direct reference to rapture – but 4:1 is no direct reference either.
Hopefully these few passages adequately show that God saves His people while destroying His enemies.