**2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 **
5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
Note we are not made worthy, because we suffered, but we are considered worthy because we suffered. The character of God’s future judgment is just. The recipients of God’s future judgment will be unbelievers and they will receive retribution for what they did on earth. Believers will receive reward for what we endured on earth. Just as the righteous judgment of God works to perfect believers, so it works to repay the wicked. Vindication and retribution are to be exercised by God, not man, in matters of spiritual persecution. When God repays and how He repays are to be determined by Him.
Where the text says, “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed,” refers to Christ being unveiled in His coming as Judge. The first aspect of this revealing occurs at the end of the seven year tribulation period (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, 24:29-51, 25:31-46; Revelation 19:11-15). The final and universal revelation of Christ as Judge occurs at the Great White Throne Judgment following Christ’s millennial reign on the earth (Revelation 20:11-15).
Fire is a symbol of judgment (Exodus 3:2, 19:16-20; Deuteronomy 5:4; Psalm 104:4; Isaiah 66:15-16; Matthew 3:11-12; Revelation 19:12). Where the text says, “…inflicting vengeance,” these words mean “to give full punishment” (Deuteronomy 32:35; Isaiah 59:17, 66:15; Ezekiel 25:14; Romans 12:9).
Where the text says, “…do not know God,” this refers to the lack of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ (John 17:3; Galatians 4:8; Ephesians 2:12, 4:17-18; Titus 1:16). Retribution is not dealt out because of persecuting Christians, but rather because of refusing to obey God’s command to believe (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 1:5, 10:16, 15:18, 16:19) and call upon the name of the Lord to be saved from their sin (Romans 10:9-13; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:26-31). Salvation is never obtained by works, but always by placing one’s faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Paul explained the duration and extent of what is elsewhere in Scripture called Hell. First, it is forever, thus it is not a reversible experience. Secondly, destruction means ruin and does not involve annihilation, but rather a new state of conscious being that is significantly worse than the first (Revelation 20:14-15). This is described as the absence of God’s presence and glory (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30; Luke 16:24-26).
When the day of the Lord arrives bringing retribution and ruin for unbelievers, as Christ’s great glory is displayed, the result will be rest and relief for believers and the privilege of sharing His glory (1 John 3:2). This is the glorious manifestation of believers, of which Paul spoke (Romans 8:18-19). At the time, all believers will adore and worship Christ, including those in the Thessalonian Church who believed Paul’s testimony of the Gospel.