SOURCE: Wayne Jackson, Christian Courier, October 2007, Volume XLIII, Number 6, “Notes from the Margin of My Bible.” Visit the Christian Courier Website by clicking H-E-R-E.
In his letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul contends that even those who “know not God” will suffer the Lord’s vengeance and be eternally banished from his presence (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). This is a passage hard to cope with for many. How does one put it into balance with the love of God?
- (1) The text itself does not provide the full compliment of information regarding the nature of those who “know not God.” Many take it to apply to those who have had opportunity to know the Lord but who have simply refused that option (cf., Romans 1:28). One may wish to underline “know not God” (v. 8), and add this reference from Romans 1:28 in your margin.
- (2) One must remember that those who are lost are lost because they are sinners (Romans 3:23; 6:23), and that all people everywhere are amenable to Gospel obedience (Acts 17:30). Note these passages in connection with 2 Thessalonians 1:8 as well.
In addition to these points, one should reflect upon the logical conclusion to which one is led if he attempts to argue the case that the ignorant are to be excused. If ignorance exonerates, would it not be better to leave the lost in their ignorance rather than expose them to the message and risk their rejection? Also there are solid principles that must be borne in mind in wrestling with the problem.
- (1) God is totally just. he will not destroy the good with the wicked (Genesis 18:25). No one will be lost who does not deserve to be. Not even the lost will argue with the Lord on the day of Judgment. Rather, every knee will bow and every tongue confess [give praise – ASVfn] (Romans 14:11; cf., 2:5). There will be a day when even “praise” is too late!
- (2) Punishment will be proportional; some will deserve, and receive, a greater penalty than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 12:47-48; Hebrews 10:29; James 3:1). The mystery of how this is achieved is beyond our present ability to perceive.
- (3) Peter raised the rhetorical question: “What shall be the end of them who obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). One looks in vain for any “crack” or “loophole” that accommodates the salvation of those who do not “obey” the Gospel. Idle speculation to the contrary is not wise. Reference this passage to “obey not the gospel” in 2 Thessalonians 1:8b.
- (4) We must remember that God has not asked us, nor permitted us, to make his judgments for him (cf., Matthew 13:28-29). Our responsibility is to teach the gospel with its facts and obligations–and that without compromise–and leave all final judgments to him.
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