The Just Judgment of God

According to the Apostle Paul, the “Revelation” of Jesus “from Heaven” will result in vindication and reward for his faithful followers, but it will also bring about everlasting loss for all men and women who reject the Gospel, especially for the persecutors of the Body of Christ. The same event will generate the dispensing of “just judgment” for the righteous and the wicked.

Paul’s second letter was written in the months following his departure from Thessalonica. His first letter expressed his joy at the good news that the congregation had remained faithful despite hostility and trials. His second addresses three main issues: Persecution, believers who refuse to work, and questions about the “arrival” of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.”

Sun Rays - Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash
[Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash]

In the interim since the first letter, persecution had increased, and some members of the Assembly were refusing to work. Paul begins his letter by discussing persecution and its significance considering the approaching return of Jesus. In doing so, he sets the stage for the discussion in the second chapter about the “
Day of the Lord” and the “Man of Lawlessness.”

In his thanksgiving section, Paul thanks God for the perseverance of the Thessalonians and refers to “persecutions” in the plural, suggesting an ongoing hostile environment. The Greek word translated as “tribulations” is also plural - (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, Matthew 24:21, Revelation 1:9, 7:14. See also Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:19, 13:24).

His reference to “tribulations” demonstrates that Paul did NOT believe Christians are destined to avoid “tribulation.”

If anything, persecution is “evidence of the JUST JUDGMENT OF GOD, so that you be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, on behalf of which also you are suffering, since it is just for God to requite tribulation to those troubling you, and relief to you, to those being afflicted with us; at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his angels of power” - (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7).

Judgment means a decision in favor of or against someone. It results in vindication or condemnation. The term “evidence” refers to the endurance of the Thessalonians or their persecution.  If the former, “perseverance” demonstrates the rightness of God’s decision for the Thessalonians to inherit His Kingdom.

If the latter, then the persecuting activities validate God’s sentence of condemnation on the persecutors of His Assembly since “it is just for God to requite affliction to those afflicting you and relief to you.” Most likely, both senses are intended.

The Greek verb translated as “requite” or antapodidōmi means “to give back, repay, requite, give in return.” It stresses equal payback and here refers to the “recompense” meted out by God to two groups:  The persecutors and the Assembly.

To the former, God will repay “affliction”; to the latter, “rest.” Both results will be received at “the Revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven.”

The word translated as “revelation” is apokalypsis, meaning, “revealing, uncovering, disclosure; an unveiling.”  Elsewhere, it is used several times for the coming or "revelation" of Jesus from Heaven - (1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:7, 1:13).

EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION


This “revelation” will occur when Jesus arrives from Heaven. This parallels the clause Paul used in his first letter when describing how Jesus will “descend from Heaven with a shout.” Previously, he labeled this event as the “arrival” or ‘Parousia.’ Now, he calls it his “revelation.” He applied both terms to the same final event - (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The clause translated as “in flaming fire” may go with the preceding sentence, and it would then read thus, the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his angels of power, in flaming fire.” More likely, Paul refers to the “fire” of destruction that will befall the wicked on the “Day of the Lord.”

  • (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10) - “IN FLAMING FIRE giving vengeance to those who know not God and to those not hearkening to the gospel of our Lord Jesus, who will PAY A PENALTYEVERLASTING DESTRUCTION from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his mightWhenever he shall come to be made all-glorious in his saints and to be marveled at in all who believed, because our witness to you was believed, in that day.”

In flaming fire” alludes to a passage in Isaiah - “Yahweh comes with fire and like a storm-wind are his chariots, TO RENDER with fury his anger and his rebuke WITH FLAMES OF FIRE” - (Isaiah 66:15).

Vengeance will come on those who do not hearken to the Gospel, namely, “everlasting destruction.” The term is set in apposition to “penalty,” that is, “everlasting destruction” is the penalty, and the term “everlasting” or aiōnion refers to the length of time the results of the destruction will endure.

The English term “destruction” translates the Greek noun olethros, meaning, “ruin, destruction, undoing.” Paul applied the same word in his first letter to the Thessalonians to the “unexpected destruction” that would overtake the unprepared on the “Day of the Lord.” The clause alludes to a prophecy by Obadiah as it was translated in the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible:

  • (Obadiah 12-13) - “You should not have looked on the day of your brother in the day of strangers; nor should you have rejoiced against the children of Judah in the day of their DESTRUCTION [olethros] neither should you have boasted in the day of TRIBULATION [thlipsis]. Neither should you have gone into the gates of the people in the day of their troubles.”

Obadiah pronounced judgment on Edom for its treachery against Israel. Paul applies his words to the persecutors of the Thessalonians. “Everlasting destruction” does not refer to the “tribulations” that will occur before the End since it will be “everlasting” and coincide with the “Revelation of Jesus from Heaven” - (Matthew 7:23, 22:13, 25:41, Luke 13:27).

Church in Sunlight - Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash
[Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash]

Those who oppose the Gospel will be excluded from the presence of the Lord and his “
glorious might,” an echo of Christ’s saying found in his Olivet Discourse - Immediately after the tribulation of those days… then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man arriving [parousia] on the clouds of heaven WITH POWER AND GREAT GLORY” - (Matthew 24:29-31).

Reward or punishment will be received “whenever he COMES.” Paul applies both “come” and “revelation” to the same event, the future arrival (singular) of Jesus from Heaven - (See Matthew 24:30, 24:42-46, 25:31, Mark 13:26, 13:35-36, Luke 21:27).

When he is “revealed from heaven,” his faithful saints will be gathered to glorify and admire him. Both believers and unbelievers will be presented before him on that day. Paul contrasts the future vindication of the faithful with the condemnation of the wicked, both of which will occur on the “Day of the Lord.”



RELATED POSTS:
  • Appointed for Tribulation - (The disciple who faithfully bears witness to the Gospel and Jesus will endure tribulation and persecution for his sake)
  • Awaiting His Son - (The Thessalonians received the gospel in tribulation but remained faithful while anticipating the arrival of Jesus)
  • Crown of Boasting - (If the Thessalonians continue to emulate the apostolic example, they will receive the crown of glory at the arrival of Jesus)

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