Paul speaks of the justice of God to persecuted people in his second letter to the Thessalonians. 2 Thessalonians 1: 7 And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.
We may not be comfortable with these verses and may wish that Paul hadn’t written them. But Jesus also said the same thing (Matthew 24-25). Scripture is truth, and sometimes, the truth may not be to our liking. Would a loving God declare eternal torment for someone? Where are grace and love in this picture?
N.T. Wright says, “God is the living and loving creator, who must either judge the world or stand accused of injustice, of letting wickedness triumph.”
2 Thessalonians 1: 6 In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.
The Thessalonians were persecuted by those who rejected God and wanted the new believers to do the same. Paul spoke of these in v8, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. These people were harming the new believers. Paul had offered the message of Jesus to them, but they had rejected it. Eternal punishment is the result of disobedience and refusal to repent.
When Jesus returns, there will be two groups of people: those who believe and those who refuse to believe. Those who refused to have anything to do with Jesus in this life will get their wish to be separated from God for eternity. Our actions in this life have eternal consequences.
The Good News For Believers
In contrast to the wicked receiving punishment, the believers will receive mercy. We become God’s holy people as we obey and repent when we sin. God forgives our sins because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We have the hope to live with Jesus for eternity as we believe and trust Him.
2 Thessalonians 1: 10 When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.
To learn more about the justice of God, listen here:
[1,3,4] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.