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encouraging a persecuted woman November 24 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 2Thessalonians

Physical and Mental Cruelty; How to Deal with It

Physical cruelty hurts our bodies. Mental cruelty hurts our spirits. Many of us have received messages, whether written or verbal, with the express intent to discourage and distress us. What do we do? How can we endure this? The second letter to the Thessalonians deals with this issue.

The Apostle Paul wrote the second letter to the Thessalonians shortly after the first letter. It had two purposes: to encourage the Thessalonian believers who were standing strong in times of persecution, and to refute some false teaching regarding the Day of the Lord, which was mentioned in the first letter (1Thessalonians 5:1-3). The Thessalonian believers experienced both physical and mental suffering and longed for Christ’s return.

Paul was encouraged that the Thessalonian believers were still standing strong in the face of adversity. Their testimony was becoming known far and wide among the churches. What was the purpose of their suffering? Apparently, it was to encourage other believers to stand strong. Though they may not have understood it, their faith in adversity emboldened the cause of Christ in other believers, proving that God’s judgment was right in allowing them to be persecuted (2 Thessalonians 1:5). Perhaps one purpose of adversity in our day is the same; our faith during times of adversity is meant to encourage others. They may then say or think, “If those Christians can stand strong in adversity, so can we.”

Even so, the question must have entered the minds of the Thessalonians, “Will we be vindicated for this injustice caused by evil men and women?” Paul encouraged them that God is just and will vindicate them. There will be an eternal punishment for the ungodly after Jesus comes back. Until the time of vindication, however, the Thessalonian believers needed to keep in mind that persecution purges our spiritual lives of impurities. When we persevere in faith, not only do we walk closer to God, but our faith and love become stronger, our prayers are more powerful, and we glorify the king of heaven (2Thessalonians 1:3-4; 11-12; 2:13-17; 3:5).

Along with physical persecutions there were mental persecutions. Paul told the Thessalonians in the first letter that they have hope because Jesus is coming back to gather them together and to escape the coming wrath in the Day of the Lord (1Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:9). The Day of the Lord, a day of judgment, starts at the gathering up (rapture) of the church (every true believer in Christ) and ends after the return of Christ to the earth to conquer and rule the nations. But false teachers were mentally cruel in teaching them that the Day of the Lord had already come - they missed it. With all the physical persecution they were suffering from the Jews, that teaching would be easy to believe. Paul said the Day of the Lord would not be revealed, however, until the man of lawlessness appears. Who is this man of lawlessness?

The man of lawlessness is a person commonly referred to as the Antichrist. He will be revealed during the Day of Judgment, the Day of the Lord. Paul says,

Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God, (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, NIV).

Daniel 11:36 says,

The king [a probable reference to the man of lawlessness] will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. (NIV)

Revelation 13 refers to this lawless man as the beast who draws his power from the dragon (another name for Satan; Revelation 12:9).

What were the Thessalonians to do about this false, misleading teaching? Paul instructed them to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us,” (2Thessalonians 2:15, NIV). What then do we do about mental cruelty? Remember what the truth is, and pay no attention to lies. Consider the source. Do not be swayed by false messages. Think soberly and rightly. Stand firm with what you know to be the truth.

Paul gives us these benedictions before the close of his letter:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word, (2Thessalonians 2:16-17, NIV).
May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance, (2 Thessalonians 3:5, NIV).

Finally, like the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul exhorts the believers to be busy, not busy bodies (2 Thessalonians 3:11), so that they might maintain good testimonies before others. We should not let ourselves be discouraged and dissuaded from following the Lord when we are suffering. We should keep busy and keep a positive testimony that will be an example for others to follow.

Lessons to live by:

  • Are you suffering physical or mental cruelty? God can help you if you know him (more...)
  • Our continual faithfulness in the face of persecution emboldens others to follow the LORD. Let’s keep at it.
  • Let’s not be swayed by false messages. Let’s consider the source of false teachings and believe the truth taught to us by reliable godly teachers.
  • We should keep busy and keep a positive testimony that will be an example for others to follow.

Today’s Bible memory verses: 2 Thessalonians 3:13 “And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.” (NIV)

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