Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
August 16, 2015
5 [Which is] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6 Seeing [it is] a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
1901 ASV Translation:
5 [which is] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6 if so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you,
7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire,
8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus:
9 who shall suffer punishment, [even] eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.
- I. A "Manifest Token".
- A. The specific word and form translated thus is only found here in the New Testament.
- B. The verb form for the same concept is found in eleven texts in the New Testament and the form with a different prefix is found in four.
- C. The basic concept being addressed by these texts is the idea of setting forth the basis for a given claim.
- 1. In Acts 25:7 Luke claims that many grievous claims were made in court against Paul which, he wrote, "they could not prove". Clearly the court was interested in "the basis for the claims of Paul's guilt".
- 2. In Acts 2:22 Jesus is presented as a man "approved of God" by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you". The idea here is that Jesus claimed to be from God and the basis for faith in the claim was the miracles, wonders and signs.
- 3. In 2 Thessalonians 2:4, the man of sin sits upon the throne of God in the temple to "validate" his claim that he is the "God" of the temple. This is a very potent argument in the light of the Old Testament history of how God treated those who entered into the Holiest of All in an impure state.
- D. The point: Paul is saying that the behavior of the Thessalonians in their persecutions and stresses constitute "legal evidence" that "proves" something claimed.
- II. The "Something Claimed".
- A. Paul says that the issue in view is "the righteous judgment of the God in view of their having been counted worthy of the Kingdom of the God".
- 1. At issue: the righteous judgment of the God.
- a. Paul uses the phrase "the Lord, the righteous Judge" in 2 Timothy 4:8 at the end of his life to express his expectation that he will be given "the crown of righteousness" as will all who "love His appearing".
- 1) The question is this: why does Paul cast the issue in terms of "righteousness" when it is far more a matter of "grace"?
- 2) The foundations are "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith".
- 3) "The Faith" is the doctrine of God's freely offered "righteousness" on the basis of faith. For one to have "kept the faith" means that there has been no departure from this fundamental truth: righteousness from God is "by faith" and "for faith" just as the prophet Habakkuk declared in Habakkuk 2:4 centuries ago (note Romans 1:16-17). Thus, the righteousness that the "righteous Judge" executes is to freely give "righteousness" to those who "believe".
- b. The phrase "righteous judgment" is used in five texts of the New Testament and it always points to the making/executing determinations that are rooted in realities that go to the heart and not appearance (John 7:24). In other words, there can be no "legal" overturning of "decisions" made on the basis of actual behavior in light of the actual motives for it. A clear example is Revelation 16:6-7 where those who spilled the blood of the saints are given blood to drink.
- c. The point: "righteous judgment" is simply "accurate judgment". The word "righteous" is used by John twice to indicate "legitimacy", not so much "legal justice issues". Luke 20:20 also uses the word in the same way. [See also Philippians 1:7 and 2 Peter 1:13] "Just", then, sometimes simply means there are no contradictions between what "appears to be" and "what is".
- B. The phrase "...that ye may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of the God...".
- 1. The verb is translated in a "futuristic" way that implies either a future tense or a subjunctive mood.
- 2. The verb is, however, an aorist passive infinitive preceded by an "eis to": this formulation sets up an expectation that the infinitive will reveal what is "in view" (the "eis"), or what the "objective" is. In other words, the phrase represents what God has done and that is in view in Paul's mind, or the phrase represents what God will do and that is in view. Clearly, the "futuristic" translation indicates the translators saw it as something God "will do".
- 3. The problems are two: first, God has already done what the verb declares; and second, the idea of worthiness based upon performance is completely contrary to Paul's theology.
- a. In Paul's biblical anthropology, the behavior of a person arises out of the heart and mind in terms of "love" and "faith". Thus, any "behavior" conclusions are to be drawn as a consequence to what has happened in the heart and mind. Thus, in 1 Thessalonians 1:4, Paul makes the claim to "know" of the "election" of the Thessalonians after their demonstrated willingness to suffer persecution and tribulation for the sake of the Gospel.
- b. In our current text, the "manifest token" is rooted in the same willingness (1:4) as an outcome of both love and faith in the face of persecutions and tribulations. In other words, their willingness makes the case according to I.D. above.
- c. In both 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4 and our current text, the Thessalonians' behavior is rooted in God's gracious "election" and, consequently, "transformation of both heart and mind". His argument is that the Thessalonians are demonstrating that God "has deemed them worthy of the Kingdom". Acts 5:41 uses the same verb in an aorist passive indicative to indicate that a prior consideration of worthiness is what resulted in the suffering.
- 4. In what sense is the suffering of the Thessalonians "for the Kingdom" a "manifest token" of God's "righteous judgment"?
- a. Paul goes from this concept immediately into how it is a "righteous thing" for God to recompense people for their behavior: He gives tribulation to those who have dished out tribulation upon others and He gives rest to those who have believed.
- b. Then he doubles down on God's dishing out "vengeance" upon those who "obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ".
- c. The answer, then, is that the Thessalonians, by suffering, are giving "evidence that will stand up in God's court" that they have been "considered worthy" of the Kingdom and are showing that fact. Without this fact, as a past reality and the basis for their hope, the Thessalonians would not have been willing to suffer. That they are being persecuted is also a "manifest token" that their persecutors have not "obeyed the Gospel" and accepted the offer of the righteousness of God by faith.