What Saith The Scripture?
James W. Adams
"Understandest what thou readest?" (Acts 8:30)
QUESTION: 2 Thessalonians 1:8
Please explain 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Are these the same people? N. H., Tenn.
"To you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ..." (2 Thess. 1:7, 8.)
The gospel was first preached in Thessalonica by Paul on what is commonly called his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-4) resulting in the conversion of numbers and the beginning of a congregation of disciples. Thessalonica was a Gentile (heathen) city, yet there was a Jewish synagogue there. As was his custom, Paul did his first teaching in the Synagogue. His success stirred up envy among the unbelieving Jews. The Jews in turn stirred up the Gentile inhabitants of the city and their rulers against Paul and his companions resulting in their having to leave the city. From Thessalonica, they went to Berea, but the Jews followed them there and stirred up further trouble forcing Paul to leave that place. Silas and Timothy remained behind (Acts 17:5-14.)
From Berea, Paul went to Athens and from Athens to Corinth. In this period of time, Silas and Timothy joined Paul and Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica to see how the newly-born children of God were doing under the opposition of both the idolatrous heathens and the unbelieving Jews. Timothy's return with his report was the occasion of Paul's writing I Thessalonians. (See: Acts 17:15 to 18: 1; 1 Thess. 1: 1; 3:1-3, 5, 6.) Paul wrote to encourage and strengthen the brethren under their trials stemming from heathen and Jewish opposition. The second letter was written for the same purpose.
The facts just presented, help us in determining exactly what Paul is talking about in 2 Thessalonians 1:8. In the early verses of the chapter, Paul commends the Thessalonians for their faithfulness under severe persecution. He points out in verse 5 that their faithfulness vindicates God's judgment in opening the doors of the kingdom of God to Gentiles. In verse 6-10, he assures them as a matter of consolation and encouragement that their suffering will not go unnoticed or unpunished, nor their fidelity unrewarded. In verse 6, he suggests that God will punish with tribulation those who "trouble" them. In verse 7, he affirms that the Thessalonian Christians who are thus troubled will at the great judgment of the last day enjoy rest with all of God's faithful people-the "us" probably refers specifically to Paul and his companions. On the other hand, in verse 8, Paul says that the heathen Gentiles (those that "know not God") and the unbelieving Jews (who worshipped the true God but who "obeyed not the gospel") who persecuted the Thessalonian Christians would at the judgment of the last day be visited with the Lord's "vengeance in flaming fire" and "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power" (Verses 8-10.)
The answer to our Tennessee querist is, therefore, "No," verse 8 does not refer to the same people. Both will receive the same treatment from the Lord at the judgment, for both were guilty of the same sin-the persecution of God's people and the failure to become Christians. The language of verse 8, however, was Paul's way of, saying that both their Gentile and their Jewish persecutors would be the objects of divine retribution for their sins in the world to come.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 17, pp. 3-4