By Ronald R. Day, Senior
2 Thessalonians 1:4-10:
2 Thessalonians 1:4 so as for us to boast ourselves in you in the assemblies of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions, and the afflictions which you endure,
2 Thessalonians 1:5 a clear token of the just judgment of God, for you to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed suffer;
2 Thessalonians 1:6 since it is a just thing with God to pay back tribulation to the ones troubling you,
2 Thessalonians 1:7 and to give you, those being afflicted, relief with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven with angels of His power,
2 Thessalonians 1:8 in flaming fire giving full vengeance to those not knowing God, and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 Thessalonians 1:9 who will pay the penalty: everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord, “and from the glory of His strength,” when He comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe in that Day, because our testimony to you was believed. — J.P. Green’s Literal Translation
These verses, especially 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9, are often quoted by those who believe that God will eternally destroy millions of people before the blessings of the day of judgment (see our study: Mankind’s Course to the Day of Judgment); associated with this claim is the claim that many who have never been justified will die eternally without receiving any benefit from the ransom. (See the study: The Restoration of All Things) The thought usually alleged is that in the Armageddon battle, God will eternally destroy those unjustified of the world who do not know him. (See our study: Will Billions Be Eternally Destroyed in the Battle of Armageddon?) Often this is associated with the non-acceptance of a certain doctrine, or a religious organization. The scriptures above are offered as proof that many who have not believed in this age suffer the punishment of eternal destruction. Is this, however, what Paul is speaking of?
To make 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9 mean that millions will be eternally destroyed without having received the benefit of the ransom sacrifice, the verses have to be taken out of context and misapplied to the generation living at the end of the age rather than to those who persecuted the Christians in the first century. However, in the context 2 Thessalonians 1:8, Paul is speaking about those who were persecuting the Christians in the first century. He speaks of their patience under persecution, and how their patience offers a sign of the righteous judgment of God toward them, that they be found worthy of the kingdom, for which they were patiently suffering persecution. Then Paul speaks of God’s right to repay affliction to those who had been afflicting them, and that there would be such when the Lord Jesus is revealed. When the Lord Jesus is revealed is speaking of the same time when the “the sons of God” are likewise revealed (Romans 8:19), for which revealing the groaning creation is unknowingly in expectation. Such revealing cannot take place until Satan is abyssed, so that the world will no longer be blinded by his deceptions. (Revelation 20:3) The result of the revealing of the Sons of God is for the purpose that “that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” — Romans 8:19-22.
2 Thessalonians 1:6
eiper dikaion para thew antapodounai
IF EVEN RIGHTEOUS (THING) BESIDE GOD TO GIVE BACK INSTEAD
1487_3 1342 3844 2316 0467
tois thlibousin humas thlipsin
TO THE (ONES) MAKING TRIBULATION FOR YOU TRIBULATION
3588 2346 4771_7 2347
Westcott & Hort Interlinear
While it is righteous on God’s part to seek retribution on those making tribulation for those first century Christians, God was not at that time doing so. In a general way there was a retribution upon the Jews who persecuted the Christians, especially with the destruction of Jerusalem and Masada, but this retribution was not particularly because of the Jew’s persecution of Christians, and did not include others who were not Jews, but who persecuted the Christians in Thessalonica. What Paul is saying is that God would have been just had he brought retribution upon those who were persecuting them, but he doesn’t, for some reason.
Peter, in effect, speaks of the same thing, when he said:
2 Peter 2:9 – [Jehovah] knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment to the day of judgment.
The unrighteous are kept under the punishment in Adam until the day of judgment, when they will be judged in the last day (John 12:47,48), not according to Adam’s sin, but according to how they respond to the books that are opened in that “last day”, the day of judgment. — See my study: Unbelievers Saved (Delivered) for Judgment in Last Day
After speaking of the fact God would have also been righteous to have brought retribution upon those who persecuted those first century Christians, then Paul speaks of the time coming when those who had persecuted them will be judged individually, at the time when Jesus will be revealed, made known. I do not know of anyone who would claim that Paul was saying that those who persecuted the first century Christians will be raised back to life “before” the end of the age in order to be punished with everlasting destruction in the Battle of the Great Day. Nevertheless, if one applies “the everlasting destruction” to Armageddon, if one actually takes into consideration the context, the effect would be to claim that those who persecuted those first century Christians would have to be raised back to life sometime before Armageddon in order to be eternally destroyed in Armageddon. In reality, Paul tells the first century Christians of that coming day of judgment, of the time Jesus is revealed, and of something better than revenge: that is, that many of those persecutors may believe “in that day”. Nevertheless, while that judgment day is a time of rejoicing, a time of blessing, it will also be a time of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28), especially in the early arrival of many from the graves when they realize that they are not in positions where they thought they would be. It will not be easy at first for many, as Jesus said to his twelve apostles when he sent them out to preach:
Matthew 10:14 Whoever doesn’t receive you, nor hear your words, as you go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet.
Matthew 10:15 Most assuredly I tell you, It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Jesus did not say that they would not be raised in the resurrection of judgment, or that they were condemned to the second death, but he speaks of both those who did not receive his apostles, as well as those of the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, as being raised in the resurrection of judgment, at which time it would easier for those of the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, than for those Jews who did not receive his apostles.
Paul is basically speaking of the same principle in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7, and he returns to this in verse 10, in speaking of those who believe in that day, that day of judgment, when the saints will be glorified with Jesus. (Romans 8:17,19,21) His speaking of the time of Jesus’ being revealed is the same time described in Revelation 20:12, when the dead are judged individually, not in Adam, by the things recorded in the books that then opened [revealed] to them.
But in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul describes the end result of the day of judgment on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news (being made known, revealed, to them at time), which needs to be taken in harmony with other scriptures, such as Revelation 20:15, for anyone, after having undergone the kingdom blessings who are not found written in the book of life, are cast into the lake of fire. This is also spoken of in Isaiah 26:10: “Let favor be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal wrongfully, and will not see the majesty of Jehovah.” Thus there is God’s final vengeance on those who do not know Him, and who do not obey the good news, and it will indeed be eternal destruction, for there is to be no ransom for those in the second death, but this final vengeance is taken on any unrepentant persecutors of the church at the end of the millennial reign, not before it. — Hebrews 10:26.