God Has Not Appointed Us to Wrath, but to Obtain Salvation by Our Lord Jesus Christ
(I Th. 5:9)
By Jonathan Blakely
It is good to establish what is meant by "appointment". In the world men make appointments, they set things to take place at certain times and arrange schedules. But does everything a man sets himself to do come to pass? Not so! It is possible for us to be late for appointments, not show up at all, or even cancel them. It is possible for us to move those appointments to other times that are more convenient if something comes up. However when it comes to our God things are quite different. When we are talking about divine appointments we are talking about things that God has determined to bring to pass. When God is determined to bring something to pass, you can be sure that thing is going to happen. God has objectives brethren, and one of those objectives is our salvation and deliverance from this present evil world. We want to be saved, but it is quite a joy to consider that God wants us saved too, and not just in a wishful sense either. God is actually working in men in order to bring this salvation to pass through enlightenment, conviction, guidance, and transformation. You believing in Christ today is the result of God appointing such a thing to happen. Looking back on our lives we can all see how the Lord was working and bringing these joyful things to pass in our lives. When it comes to salvation, God gets the credit! He did ordain and arrange these things to happen beforehand!
In our main passage there is talk about the coming day of the Lord, which will have quite a devastating impact on those who are not prepared for it. Ignorant and uniformed men will be living their everyday lives being happy and expecting nothing big to happen, but then suddenly their lives will be shattered at the unexpected appearing of the Lord and it will be too late for them to do anything about it! For some, the coming day of the Lord will have the same impact as a rolling tire has on an ant. An ant sits on top of a tire and realizes there is something big underneath him. Then the tire starts to roll...the ant senses something big is happening, and until the tire rolls upside down the only thing that went through that ants mind before it got squashed was, "huh?" This will be much the same for those who are not ready for the day of the Lord. When it finally comes it will be too late for them to do anything about it.
However those who believe are said to not be overtaken when that day comes. This is because believers are actually looking for this day to come to pass. Not only to they expect it, but also they with gladness anticipate it. Hence they will not be taken off guard by it when it arrives. Like we say, "Come quickly Lord Jesus."
You then see a contrast between darkness and light. Those who are of the world are children of darkness and those who are of the Lord are children of the day. Then there is a contrast between those who are of the day and those who are of darkness. Those who are of the night are drunk and asleep (not alert, overcome, unprepared) but those who are of the day watch (wide awake) and are sober (clear headed, alert, able to think and understand). So much for the idea that believers and unbelievers are the same in behavior and conduct!
It is at this point that good reasoning is presented as to why we should watch and be sober and equip the armor of God (it's not for nothing), God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation! This is like a basis for heeding to the exhortations to watch, be sober, and put on the divine armor!
WHEN VICTORY IS CERTAIN
Who would fight in a battle if victory were impossible? Is the child of God's battle simply going to end in a "Custard's last stand" fashion? Are we all building ourselves up for a great fall? Well when you live for God you are far from being set up for a fall. When you fight for God you do not fight in vain. When you run for God it is not for nothing. When a soldier knows that victory is certain he does not drop his weapon and flee the battle scene, he fights all the more aggressively! If a runner is in first place and the finish line is in view and the fellow competitors are just on his trail, you think he is going to slow down or take a breather? He's going to run harder and faster! Likewise what do you expect believers to do when they know victory is sure? They are going to press all the more in and give themselves over to God! In light of everything else that is being said in our main passage I can see this is the result of such knowledge. By telling us that God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation, we are being given good incentive and reason to enter all the more fully into the work of salvation, which IS a work that we are part of, otherwise these other exhortations make no sense. So I'll start there, run the race with a certain victory in mind, a victory that God is determined to bring to pass! If you believe, God sees to it that you endure to the end!
Even the pagans had enough sense to call on their gods and would use their supposed "favor" to motivate their armies to do battle with certainty of victory. How much more should we labor more effectively with this fact in mind; The Almighty Lord God Jehovah is on OUR side! Fight the fight of faith brethren!
NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH
To be appointed to wrath means that God is determined to destroy, ruin, demolish, punish, or cast you out. There are such things as vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. God told Pharaoh that He raised him up so that His power would be demonstrated in him (that is, his power would be displayed in Pharaoh's PUNISHMENT). A hard heart certainly does not free a man from divine appointments! The idea here is that there are those who God is determined to destroy and that we are excluded from that destruction. In the scriptures those who are going to be destroyed are those who do not believe God, don't know God, don't love God, and those who live only for themselves. The end of such people is destruction, but is this the case with you? Has God hardened your heart or blinded your eyes so that you might not see the truth? Has He cut you off from His mercies and loving-kindness? Has He given you over to base things? Has He let the devil have his way with you?
What reasons do we have to believe that we are in fact appointed to salvation? Some people treat this matter as if it was a hazy one, but I do not find such an approach valid. What I desire to establish at this point is there is much proof and things to consider on this matter of God appointing men to be saved. Understand when I say "proof I refer to the spiritual affirmations made in the scriptures, not worldly wisdom. A word from the Lord is all the proof that people of faith need! What I want to do here is not so much speaking about if God wants YOU saved (which He does), but determine if God wants men saved at all. We can arrive at very reasonable conclusions by looking at the facts set before us in the word of God. I do this with the intention to build your confidence and to produce a joyful spirit within you. Doubting ones salvation is devastating on many different levels and should never be taken lightly. But let's start with this question, what proof to we have that God wants ANYBODY saved?
THE WORLD IS STILL HERE
I would say to start out, as far as humanity goes, that proof that God has appointed men to obtain salvation is first evidenced in the fact that the earth is still here. Would God let sinful and fallen humanity continue on as long as it has if there was never any intention to save it? I do not think such a case could be built. When sin entered into the world fellowship between man and God was severed. God cannot tolerate sin in His presence, His righteous nature demands that He deal with it. What stopped God from stamping out the human race and wiping the sin being committed before His eyes off the planet? Obviously God had something else in mind. God destroyed the whole world with a flood, but yet saved one man and his family on the ark. Why save anybody? Have not all sinned and fallen short of God's glory? The world was sinful after the flood as well, so what was the point? To me it was clear the intention from the start was to retrieve man from the depths of sin he had fallen into, otherwise there would have been no sound reason for the human race to continue existing.
To put another way, God has let the earth go on this long because there are people even now in our present day that God has determined to save. As long as God is still saving the earth will continue to exist. I think you could easily affirm that every day somebody is saved somewhere in the world. Every time you get up and see the sun rising in the morning, take that as a sign that God is still drawing men out of darkness. Give thanks for God's saving power each day! God is not just sitting around doing nothing! He is drawing men out of darkness with the gospel TODAY. He waited for each and every one of us, and He is going to wait for the rest also. We know the Lord is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any perish, but that all come to repentance. It is good to know that our God will not destroy this world prematurely, but rather is willing to refrain from divine judgment till all His people are safe and ready to go home.
PREFERENCE TO SAVE RATHER THAN DESTROY
When considering evidence for God appointing us to salvation you must also consider the nature of God Himself. God has gone on record making known His preference to save men rather than destroy them. When God saved Noah (as mentioned earlier) He did show He preferred the human race be preserved than annihilated. God even told the prophet Ezekiel that He did not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather they turn from their wicked ways and live. Jesus demonstrated this same spirit when in the earth when He said to the disciples, "...The Son of man has not come to destroy the lives of men, but to save them". For God to create humanity with no intention of salvation is not only a foolish idea, but also one that does not even fit with the divine nature. God does not prefer to destroy men, so Him creating humanity only for the purpose of destroying it is a pointless conclusion to arrive at. Men should never represent God as one who delights in destruction. He has destroyed and judged men and nations, but not by preference.
Some may ask, "Doesn't God send strong delusion?" To that I would say, "Keep reading." He sent strong delusion because men didn't receive a love for the truth. Men were blinded to the truth when they REJECTED it. God hardened Pharaoh's heart when he said NO to His commandments to let the people go. God has shown us what He would rather do. But sadly many will hear a word similar to what Christ said to Jerusalem, "I would have gathered you, but you would not come" (Jesus said that weeping by the way, He wasn't happy about it).
God appointed you to obtain salvation because it is in His very own nature to save men and redeem them from iniquity. This is what God takes pleasure in, so it only makes sense that He would make appoint such a thing to come to pass.
THE LAW WOULD HAVE BEEN THE CUT OFF POINT
Also here is another thing to consider, evidence that God has appointed us to obtain salvation is seen in the fact that the law was not the cutoff point. God made a law for men as a means for them to obtain righteousness by their own means and be accepted, but here is the catch, if you break one commandment you are guilty of the whole law and the covenant is broken. NO SECOND CHANCES! Israel did not keep the law of God, but yet Israel is still around today. Had God not intended to save men I would think that the law would have been humanities cut off point, that is, He would have done away with humanity when the covenant was broken. Seeing there were no second chances under the law and the law was broken, wouldn't you say that would have been the perfect time for God to shut down the human race if that was in fact what He had appointed us to? With the covenant broken what reason would there have been to preserve the race if there was no redemption to come? Well brethren obviously the law was intended for more than just proving our guilt before God, it was actually a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. Men would know they were condemned, seeing that the law is the administration of condemnation, but they would also see that they need saving, which brings us to the next point.
This is the ultimate proof that God has not appointed us to wrath, Jesus Christ! The fact that Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the world and died in your stead so that you might have eternal life is more than enough to persuade a man that God desires their salvation. The provision of Christ is the greatest proof we could possibly provide when it comes to whether or not God wants us saved or not. How do we know that God "so loved the world"? We know because He gave His Son for us. How do we know God isn't going to bring His wrath down on us? Because Christ has redeemed us and saved us from the wrath to come! How do we know that we are accepted in God's sight? Because we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ!
When people hear the word salvation the first thing they should think is CHRIST, then they should give thanks for Him! This proof ties in with our main text, for we obtain salvation THROUGH Jesus Christ. It is only experienced in Him and not one person outside of Him is saved. He is the way, the truth, and the life, He did not say that for nothing! God has appointed us to obtain salvation, but a certain way. We can't just go down random paths and all wind up at the same place. We all experience salvation through Christ. Let us never present salvation as being obtained through anything other than the one single means that God has appointed, Jesus Christ.
PROVISIONS MADE THROUGH FAITH
Let us not neglect the proof that is seen in the provisions we have by faith in Christ Jesus. Just to name a few examples, do the scriptures not say, "Put on the armor of God that you might stand in the evil day"? Do those sound like the words of one who wants you to perish? How about other admonitions like, "Hold fast", "Stand fast", "Fight the good fight of faith", "Lay hold on eternal life", "Run the race set before us", "Walk in the Spirit", "Flee youthful lusts", "Resist the devil", and "Watch and be sober"? This is language of someone who saves, not someone who destroys. God appointing us to salvation gives us all the more incentive to do these things and to do them with excellence. All throughout the apostles writings those with faith can see the message as clear as day, "God wants me saved".
WHAT IS COMING FOR BELIEVERS
Ultimately God wants those are in Christ to not only be spared from divine judgment, but to bear His likeness. God is actually going to give us new bodies in the coming resurrection, bodies that fit with our desires and can accomplish what we want to do in the Lord. God is planning on glorifying the saints when Christ returns. How is that for an appointment? GLORIFICATION! This is something that God is working with in mind. Why is all this saving being done? What is the cause for all of this divine protection from the wicked one? Why is He seeing to it that we are encouraged and built up and standing strong? Why has He given us a new heart and a new spirit? Why has He given us the Holy Spirit? Why have Christ do all of these things (put away sin, intercede for us, dwell in our hearts) on our behalf? It is because God wants a people for Himself, but not just any people. God wants a people that are like Him and in perfect harmony with Him. That is what we will be when this glorification finally takes place! We are going to be ready to live in the presence of our God forever! The fact all these things are happening should help us arrive at this conclusion.
ONLY THOSE WHO BELIEVE
In closing I want to be sure to be clear on the matter of faith and its role in this passage. Those who BELIEVE are appointed to obtain salvation, not those who did believe. Faith is what makes all of these things available to us. Without faith we cannot please God, plain and simple. If you don't believe in Christ then you are not in this verse. No one with faith is going to feel the wrath of God. Do you believe? Then God has appointed you to obtain salvation! Do you have unbelief? Then you are appointed to wrath.
A word like this is also not intended to produce laziness. Some may hear things like "God wants you saved" and conclude that if God wants them saved then it will happen whether they are involved or not. This conclusion is false and not one our main text is intended to produce, rather it is intended to produce the opposite. God being determined to save you makes you more involved and active, not lazy. It is designed to produce assurance in those who labor for His names sake, confidence that the work is not vain. As said before, knowing victory is certain will animate a person to work harder, not fall asleep.
In the end it is those who were faithful to Christ that will be accepted and confessed before God in heaven by Christ Himself, so why would anyone want to leave seeing that is what is up ahead? My conclusion to this passage is that if God has appointed me to salvation then I really have no reason to step outside of Christ. ABIDE IN CHRIST and God will keep you brethren; He has appointed this to happen after all.