Ugh…There it is…The vengeance of God
David Bahn-Reflections Podcast
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
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. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 [ESV]
In the moment Mary was ready to let her have it: she had been cut off in traffic and it was just one too many times. She was tempted to crash her car into the back of the offender. That’s a made-up scenario. But there have been reports of road rage ending in death. Just this July. In Conroe, Texas – 40 miles from where I live, and a place where I regularly drove over recent months. We can get all too ready to take matters into our own hands. Exact revenge.
But as the saying goes, “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.” In other words, it’s better not to react in the heat of the moment. And if you take that to its extreme, it means you should calculate and bring the retribution in a premeditated manner. Sounds pretty sinister to me. I’d hate to be put into the hands of someone so dedicated to cold-blooded revenge.
But according to a recent report, 4500 or more Christians were martyred last year in Nigeria alone. Violence and evil flourish on every continent. The name of Jesus is sullied and his followers mocked and ridiculed daily. Surely this needs to be stopped. It surely stirs my heart to hear of such things.
There will be a time when those who persecuted these believers, and all who do not honor Christ will experience Jesus coming “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. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (v. 8-9). This is terribly horrific. I don’t want to think of it.
I don’t want to think of it, at least in part, because I know I’m a sinner – just like everyone else in the world. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The only difference is how we view Jesus and our own sin. Those who acknowledge their sin and look to Jesus will be saved. This is the promise and the hope held out over against this dire prediction of doom and damnation. It is by the grace of God any of us has hope. And God is clear on this: He wants all people “to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Jesus is the truth. He sets us free. And although it is very clear here about the vengeance of God, God’s greater desire is for us all to turn from our sinful ways and live. “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Hell: Let’s not go there. Let’s repent daily and live.