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, 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. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. 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.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 (NLT)
Persecution is not something that most believers in the West face very often. Yet, more Christians were persecuted for their faith in the 20th century than all of the previous centuries combined.
In the U.S. we enjoy freedom of religion. These days a lot of folks think those freedoms are becoming more limited. Maybe this is why we keep getting requests for classes on the End Times at BrookwoodU.
The Thessalonians were suffering violent physical persecution for their faith. No one promised them that if they crossed the line of faith that life would be a bed of roses. For them, the flowers were absent, but the thorns were plentiful.
For these believers their conversion was from a life of relative ease to a life of turmoil. They transitioned from a commonplace existence to a spot on Asia Minor’s Most Wanted. The Thessalonians made a dramatic exchange of temporary peace for eternal peace.
Apart from the context of persecution, these verses seem to say, “Since I made the right choice, I deserve Heaven, but since you made the wrong choice, you deserve Hell. Turn or burn.” This is a very simplistic view.
For the Thessalonians, conversion was a dangerous, life-threatening position. To encourage the persecuted, Paul reminds them that on The Day, Christ will set things right. Their persecutors and all evil doers will receive the punishment that they deserve. But, the righteous who hold onto hope will receive their reward. It will be worth it all.
Now, before we turn our thoughts toward our enemies and what they might deserve, let’s remember that it’s only by degrees that we would be deserving of the same. Jesus said, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
God will work the rest of it out.