Upon Jesus’ return, everything will be different. The pain we experience, gone. The injustices, dealt with. The love and peace we desire, arrived. It is for these reasons that Paul highlights Jesus’ return in his second letter to the Thessalonians.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1–12. Reflect on 2 Thessalonians 1:7b–8:
“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (NIV).
Just prior to this statement, Paul comments: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well” (1:6–7a NIV). The Thessalonian Christians were struggling under great persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Thus, Paul reminds them that God is the one who holds justice in his hand. It is God who will serve as judge and punisher of evil. For this reason, they must continue to endure and not take justice into their own hands.
Jesus’ return will be glorious—from heaven he will be revealed with blazing fire, accompanied by his angelic host. But it will also be a deeply frightening day for those who do not believe. About this, the Gospel of John says:
“For God did not send his Son [Jesus] into the world in order that he should judge the world, but in order that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God” (John 3:17–18 LEB).
Thus, when Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he is concerned about justice—not wrath. The gospel is salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16; compare Romans 5:9). But for those who do not believe, and continue to persecute God’s church, the full justice of God will visit them.
Deep love is core to the gospel. Justice is also. And justice must ultimately be left in God’s hands. We are completely dependent upon God’s grace, as expressed in the gospel. We are likewise completely dependent upon God’s justice. Let us trust God with both our souls and our desires. Let us endure for Jesus, no matter what may come our way.
In what ways have you been ostracized or persecuted? Are you trusting God to bring ultimate justice or are there some things you’re personally holding onto—that you need to let go of?
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