Evil times will come upon us all the way until the end. The book of Revelation tells us that the final victory will take place at the end of the seven year Tribulation period. However, believers will be raptured out of here before that terrible time takes place. The books of 1 & 2 Thessalonians tells us that the early church in Thessalonica had it rough. Persecution fell upon them and yet they remained calm and trusting all the way during those awful days.
Paul writes that he gave thanks for all that the church at Thessalonica was suffering. Paul says there "faith was greatly enlarged" and love continued to grow between all of them (1 Thess. 1:3). "They ought to give thanks" shows that they had a thanksgiving debt owing to God in view of their converts. "Spiritual matters call for a spiritual response, not one based upon some legalistic requirement."
The apostle says that he also spoke "proudly" of them among the other churches of God for "their perseverance and faith in the midst of their persecution and afflictions which they were enduring." "Perseverance" is a compound word meaning "to be under it alone." There was nothing they could do but suffer with the pain laid upon them by the culture and the society. They were hated for Christ's sake. This is going to happen to us. Such evil will increase right up to the rapture of the church.
"Affliction" actually means tribulation. It is a terrible word that describes the pain and suffering that will fall upon the people in that congregation. "To endure" (v. 4) is a Present Tense in Greek. "They were daily, continually going through all of the torment" the lost could heap upon them.
This suffering was "a plain indication of God's righteous judgment" that was falling upon this assembly (v. 5). "Plain indication" can be translated "to prove, to show, to demonstrate" the Lord's righteous judgment. It was only right that God would respond against such evil people who were tormenting the saved for no apparent reason. Evangelical churches should shore up their minds and hearts for what is coming. It will not be pleasant! It will be horrible and painful.
The church will be honored in the future. They will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God—to serve in it and to have positions of service after all they went through here on earth! "Worthy" implies they had a distinct purpose in God's plans and they stayed faithful to their task. It is easy for us to get side-tracked and lose perspective. Because we do not now have persecution we can easily rationalize that "it won't come upon us!" But it certainly can!
It is only right and just that the Lord "repay with affliction" those who afflict us (v. 6). It is only right that God give back! Sin must be repaid. Evil men can not get away with bringing suffering on those who are innocent. "To repay" carries the idea "to give a recompense," to bring a judgment on the guilty. The guilty will not get away with the suffering they have brought about on those who oppose the gospel.
This suffering is increasing upon the lost today. In America, the lost hate more and more God, His Son, the Bible, the truth, and all goodness! The acceleration of mistreatment is not slowing down! Unless it is an act of law, like bringing the death penalty on a murderer, God is storing up judgment for the future against those who practice evil deeds. While this is not immediate relief, it will still bring satisfaction for the saved when the Lord brings about retribution (v. 7).
The Lord Jesus will bring relief revealed from heaven "with all His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (vv. 7b-8). These verses happen when Christ comes to establish His kingdom reign. He does not come with the mighty angels "in flaming fire" at the rapture. We go up to glory. But He brings judgment when He arrives to establish His kingdom, millennial rule! Though it is not a canonical book, the writing of Jude (vv. 14b-15) says almost the same thing. Prophets of old knew many things we have written down in the non-canonical books, such as the writings of Enoch.
In Jude we read (quoting Enoch), the Lord will come "with many thousands of His holy ones (angelic beings), to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
In the End Times the hatred against God and His Son will increase. Believers too will be persecuted. Times will grow worse and worse!
When the Lord brings about judgment the lost "will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:9). "Will pay" mans "to pay, or settle up" a debt. "The accused will be judged according to what they did while living on earth (Rev. 20:13), that is, if their names are not written in the Book of Life." "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (v. 15).
Notice in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 that destruction is here called "eternal." This flies against those who think that punishment is but temporal. Soul sleep says that the lost sleep for a certain period, then are judged, and then are simply poofed, after which they are annihilated. Others believe that the lost and the saved when they die simply go into a state of sleep until they are resurrected for judgment or for glory. The Bible says that both are conscious in the afterlife, though with the eyes closed, they appear to be asleep physically!
When Christ comes to establish His reign, He will also glorify His saints, His own, all who have believed (v. 10). The saints who have given their lives for the gospel are to be counted worthy of their calling (v. 11). By this, the name of the Lord is to be glorified, lifted up, "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 12). "We are set forth to receive honor. This honor is not self-generated but is given to us by our relationship with Him."
Concerning the message of the gospel Paul writes: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels [clay pots], that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves" (2 Cor. 4:7).
—Dr. Mal Couch (4/11)