2 Thess 1:9 "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
The Spirit has moved Paul to assure suffering saints that their troubles have been duly noted by the Father. Nor, indeed, have they occurred independently of His will. There is a grand purpose being served by the experiences of God's elect. Among other things, the righteousness of God will be confirmed in the punishment He inflicts upon those who troubled His people. Although God has the right to do what He wills, and is not obligated to explain any of His matters, His nature also demands that His name be protected. God consistently acts in such a manner as allows for Him to be justified in all of His sayings and workings (Rom 3:4). Wherever there is a variance between God and other personalities, He will be fully vindicated, and found blameless in all of His judgments (Psa 51:4). God is impeccably righteous in all that He says and does, and is not to be judged by men. The day of the Lord will publically confirm that to be true. When Jesus comes, the veil of ignorance will be lifted that has hidden the righteous words and deeds of the Lord. There will be no doubt about who was wrong and who was right. There will be no lawyer to plead the case of the wicked, and the righteousness of God and His judgments will be evident and unquestioned. Our text will briefly elaborate on what will happen to those who do not know God, and obey not His Gospel. It will establish when this take place, as well as the relationship it will have to those who DO know the Lord and obey not His Gospel.
" 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." The "who" of this text are those who do not know God, and do not obey the Gospel. The particular part of this broad category now in focus are those who "trouble" the saints of God, maligning and persecuting them because of their faith (1:6). This is also an elaboration upon the word "tribulation," which God will righteously impose upon those who are confederated against His sons and daughters. As we will see, that "tribulation" is not a temporal judgment. The people of God cannot be ultimately comforted by the momentary punishment of the wicked. The contemplation of their final removal is what brings solace to their hearts. As it is written, "For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more" NKJV (Psa 37:10). That is precisely the perspective that is now set before us, and we do well to consider it.
PUNISHED. Another version reads, "will pay the penalty." NASB The very concept of punishment implies its righteousness - that there is an inevitable penalty associated with all wrong doing, particularly not knowing God and not obeying His Gospel. Wicked deeds simply cannot be committed without penalty for those deeds being connected to the one committing them. The only way to be freed from the penalty is to be freed from the guilt and power of the transgression. This freedom is associated with knowing God and obeying the Gospel. Wherever this is known and embraced, men will flee to the Lord "for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb 6:18). Rest assured, everyone who troubles the saints, or does not know God and obey the Gospel, "will be punished." NIV It would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for this to fail to come to pass.
EVER LASTING DESTRUCTION. These are unusually strong words. They cry out for our consideration. Some other versions read, "eternal ruin," NAB and "lost eternally." NJB Everlasting. The idea of "everlasting," or "eternal" is that the condition is irremediable - it will never be reversed, and there will be no recovery. Although the punishment is beyond description, the offender will not be made better by it. Although everlasting, it will not change the character of the ungodly, and thus it will not end. In this world punishment can produce repentance and recovery, as with Manasseh (2 Chron 33:12-13), and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:33-34). But no such recovery is experienced after Jesus comes again.
Destruction. This word does not mean annihilation, becoming extinct, or ceasing to exist. That would be a pleasant contemplation for the wicked, were it true. This is the destruction of which Jesus spoke. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt 10:28). He also referred to this as losing the soul. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt 16:26). The idea is that the person will lose all identity with purpose or usefulness. No desire of any sort will be granted, and no purpose will be served. All ability to be gratified, pleased, or made happy, will be utterly removed. The word "destruction" is the opposite of "sanctify." It indicates total worthlessness, whereas "sanctify" indicates God-glorifying usefulness.
THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD. This "everlasting destruction" will be "from the presence of the Lord." That is, the wicked will be "shut out from the presence of the Lord." NIV They will not be able to call upon Him, address petitions to Him, or enjoy the most minuscule favors from Him. There will not be the slightest sense of His presence, but only a dominating sense of their exclusion from the Lord. Surely this lament will be heard from them all, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved" (Jer 8:20). Just as the "rich man" was "tormented" in the flames of hell, yet was given not one ounce of comfort (Lk 16:24-26), so all who know not God and obey not the Gospel will finally be excluded from the Lord's presence, having no access of any sort to Him. It may appear too difficult to ponder this matter now. However, it is far better to consider it now than to wait until then.
THE GLORY OF HIS POWER. When Jesus comes "with power and great glory," the wicked will not be able to endure it. That very glory will drive them even further from the Lord, banishing them to the realms of darkness. This does not mean they will not be judged, or that they will not bow their knees to Jesus and confess His name. Rather, it refers to the ultimate effect of Christ's return upon them. They will eventually be driven away from that power and glory, to see it no more. What could have been to their salvation, will be rather to their destruction. Never again will the glory of Christ be offered to them for salvation, and never again will His power be offered to raise them up and free them from the shackles of sin. The "glorious appearing" of Jesus (Tit 2:13) will be the total undoing of the ungodly.
GLORIFIED IN, AND ADMIRED BY, THE SAINTS
" 10a When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." Here is a more precise definition of the time when we will once and for all be rid of our oppressors. We live in the hope of this time, patiently enduring unjust treatment from whose who do not know God or obey His Gospel.
WHEN HE SHALL COME. The coming of Jesus is the "blessed hope" of the church (Tit 2:13). It is the climatic event for which those in Christ are waiting (1 Thess 1:10; 1 Cor 1:7). The fact that this is so little spoken of in our time indicates how desperately evil the days really are (Eph 5:16). The wickedness of the times is characterized by truth falling in the streets (Isa 59:14), abounding iniquity (Matt 24:12), and the corruption of religion (2 Tim 3:1-5). But few things indicate how treacherous these days are as the near-total absence of a yearning for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ among those who wear His name. To the degree that men do not cry out, "Even so, come Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:20), they have been overcome by the wicked one. Wherever men are not "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God" (2 Pet 3:12), they stand in jeopardy of being consumed by that glorious coming. This coming is WHEN the wicked will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.
GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS. Here is a statement that destroys many of the novel doctrines men have invented about the coming of Christ. The dreadful punishment of the wicked will take place when Jesus comes to be "glorified in His saints." When Jesus comes, His glory will be revealed in His people. Together, they will stand as a testimony to the glory and effectiveness of His great salvation. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, they will be "like Him," for they will "see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1-2). The same glory that destroys the wicked will transform the godly! The same glory that thrusts the wicked from the presence of the Lord will draw the righteous to Him.
The vastness of the number of the redeemed will glory Him (Rev 7:9). The thoroughness of their salvation will glorify Him (1 Pet 1:5). Their shouts of welcome will glorify Him (Isa 25:9). Their gathering from every quarter of earth and the full extent of heaven will glorify Him (Mark 13:27). The fact that they will be "like Him" will glorify Him (1 John 3:2; Rom 8:29-30). Then the entire universe of personalities, whether good or evil, will know that God's salvation is precisely what the Gospel declared it to be! At that time, those who oppress God's people, do not know God, and obey not the Gospel, will be punished.
In this, we see the marvelous unity that exists between the Lord Jesus and His people. From the standpoint of loving affiliation, they are His "bride," or "wife" (John 3:29; Rev 19:7). From the standpoint of Him expressing Himself, they are "His body" (Eph 1:23; Col 2:19). If we consider the truth that He had revealed to men, the church is "the pillar and ground" of that "truth" (1 Tim 3:15). Considering the unity between them and their Lord, they are in "fellowship" with Him (1 Cor 1:9; 1 John 1:3), and "walk in the light as He is in the light" (1 John 1:7). Jesus will be "glorified in His saints" when all of this is fully revealed. At that time, those who oppress God's people, do not know God, and obey not the Gospel, will be punished. The same glory that changes the godly will destroy the ungodly.
ADMIRED IN ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE. Other versions read, "marveled at among all who have believed," NASB and "among those praising Him on that day." NLT This is the marveling of faith. The idea is that while the greatness of His glory causes amazement among them, that amazement is mingled with joy and great satisfaction. It is the glory for which we have waited, and for which we have longed. Then we will know that the glory that as now been revealed to us "in the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Cor 4:6), is only a faint introduction to the fulness of the glory that will be revealed when Jesus returns. Salvation is acquainting us with that glory, developing an insatiable appetite and longing for it in the believer.
Until this day, the Lord Jesus has not been appropriately honored through and in the church, "which is His body" (Eph 1:23). His salvation is far greater than is presently perceived by either men or angels. While they are in this world, the saints are beset with many restrictions, so that they only faintly behold the glory the Lord. They "know in part," and a relatively small part, indeed (1 Cor 13:9). Neither, indeed, are they, in the fullest sense, "already perfect," nor have they "already attained," or apprehended that for which they have been "apprehended of Jesus Christ" (Phil 3:12).
But in "the day of Christ," when He is revealed in all of His matchless glory, all of these deficiencies will dissipate in that glory. Great and comely admiration will rise from the "household of faith" to welcome their returning Lord.
BECAUSE THE TESTIMONY WAS BELIEVED
" 8 . . . (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." Here the Spirit provides an explanation for the righteous punishment of the wicked, as well as the glorification of Christ in His saints, and the admiration of Him among them. Remember, these things are central to our consideration of God's great salvation, and are in no way secondary. Nothing must be allowed to upstage these things: namely, the coming of the Lord and those things that will then occur. Those are the glorification of Christ in His people, their insightful admiration of Him, and the punishment of the wicked.
BECAUSE. Here is why these things will occur. The reasoning here is more than simply the taking place of these things, for that will happen by according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. It is the advantage of the believer that is under consideration here. The coming of the Lord will bless the saints because the wicked will be removed, and they will all see more clearly what they have begun to see now. This section tells us WHY the saints will be advantaged and the wicked punished.
OUR TESTIMONY. "Our testimony" is nothing less than the Gospel that Paul, Silas, and Timothy, preached among them. It is the very thing mentioned in First Thessalonians: "having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1:6). And again, "ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (2:13). While personal testimony, namely what "great things God hath done for you" (Luke 8:39), plays a role in the influence of men, believing that testimony is not what saves the soul. It is the belief of the Gospel that readies one to meet the Lord, and that is the "testimony" to which our text refers. The eternal destiny of men is not determined by their belief of our personal testimony, nor by the personal convictions that we have. Care must be taken to give the Gospel the preeminence in our efforts to influence men.
The words "our testimony" equate to "our Gospel" (1 Thess 1:5; 2 Thess 2:14). It is called "our testimony" because it had been personally embraced, and the benefits it proclaimed personally accepted.
WAS BELIEVED. Believing is at the heart of spiritual life. It is that work of God whereby the soul is fully persuaded of realities it has not seen with the eye. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ have not been seen, yet are believed. An interceding Christ is not seen, yet is believed. There is no tangible proof that our sins have been removed, or that our names are written in heaven, yet we believe. There is no sensual evidence that God has been pleased with the sacrifice of Christ, or that He gives righteousness to those who believe the record He has given of His Son. Yet, it is believed. More precisely, it is "given" to us "to believe," as well as to "suffer for His sake" (Phil 1:29). The Gospel of Christ, God's "power unto salvation," was believed and embraced as though it was the only valid message in the world. We rested the weight of our souls upon that message, adjusting the course of our lives according to its truth. Those who have not done this, have not believed the testimony.
And what are the benefits of believing? To be sure, the remission of sins and being made the righteousness of God in Christ are presently enjoyed. Our text, however, provides an additional dimension, lest we become too attached to time and circumstance. Because we believed, God will repay those who trouble us when Jesus comes. Because we have believed, Christ will be glorified in us when He comes. Because we have believed, we will stand in grateful and satisfying admiration when we behold Him coming in power and great glory.
IN THAT DAY. Prior to these words, "in that day," there is a parenthetical statement: "(because our testimony among you was believed)." That statement explains WHY the wicked will be punished, and Christ be glorified in, and admired by, all who believe. It is all traced back to our belief of the Gospel. The words "in that day" refer to the above events themselves, so that the text properly reads, "when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe." NKJV or "when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed," NASB or "on the day He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." NIV When Jesus comes, the wicked will be punished. When Jesus comes, He will be glorified in ALL those who believe. When Jesus comes, He will be gladly marveled at among all who have believed. Those things, all of them, will occur when Jesus comes again!
Our thoughts should associate the return of the Lord with these things. Those who turn our attention to lesser things do us a great disservice. By so doing, they make our burdens more heavy, and diminish our hope. The Spirit has comforted us. Let us receive it.