2Th 1:8-10 “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 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.”
God’s eternal plan and purpose are His alone to carry out. Man does not have the ability to alter His eternal purpose in any way. It is not my intent to take issue with any doctrinal point here, but rather to treat these scriptures in the light of Paul’s continuing instruction to the church.
Paul has in the verses immediately previous to this (and within context of a continuing statement) spoken to us about the kingdom of God for which we have been counted worthy because of the tribulation that we have endured (v. 4-6). He has further comforted us with the assurance that God will recompense those by whose hand trouble has come according to His own will and that we have rest with the him (Paul) in the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven with His mighty messengers (v. 5-7). As part of this same statement that started in verse 3, he now tells us that the very revelation of Jesus is as a flaming fire taking His vengeance on those that do not know God.
Not only do these not know God, but they do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are those in this world who do not know God from the standpoint of being dead to any aspect of Him. Then, there are those who, after they know God, do not honor Him as God and their foolish heart is darkened (Rom 1:21-28). Since they do not like to retain God in their knowledge, He gives them over to a worthless (reprobate) mind: they do not know Him because they have rejected Him in a gospel sense.
Those who are disobedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ are not going to suffer persecution because of that gospel. They are not going to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God here. The key to this lies in the fact that our obedience to the gospel is included in this judgment. Our obedience or lack thereof has no effect on God’s eternal purpose for His people. However, we see plainly that there are consequences to this disobedience here.
We know that our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:28-29). That fire can consume our failings and draw us closer to Him (1Co 3:11-15), or it can destroy us from the felt presence of the Lord. We can be made dead to the glory (worship, praise) of His holy power. This happens to us when He comes to be glorified in His saints. What a wonderful time when He reveals His Son in us that we might be to the praise of His glory! There is great rejoicing among we that believe when we are blessed to admire (marvel and wonder) Him in His glory!
May we, by His grace, obey the gospel, admire Him who is worthy of our praise, and rejoice that He has sustained us to be able to do so!