Notice from last time that Paul encouraged the Thessalonians with the hope that the righteous God would recompense trouble to those that troubled them, “and to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.5-8).
Notice this also. Paul does not say merely “them that know not God,” but “them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He equates the two—knowing God, and the Gospel. None of us start out with the knowledge of God. It is only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that any man comes to know God. And He will deal justly with those who had opportunity to know Him through the Gospel, and rejected it. He will also deal justly with those who received His Gospel.
…Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.3-8).
It’s important to understand that word recompense. Many there are who accuse God of being vindictive and just plain mean—coming in flaming fire to wreak vengeance on all those nice people that know not God and obey not the Gospel. What they fail to realize is that God is merely recompensing them that which is their own. They heaped trouble on His own, who did not deserve it. Now their trouble comes back to them. For God is just. He renders to every man according to his own works (Rom. 2.6). The Christians in Thessalonica patiently endured the trouble that was being heaped on them, not rendering evil for evil, but trusting in their God. And so now God recompenses them rest in the day of wrath. He gives them what is their own.
And He repays in their own currency those who troubled the church. He troubles them.
In other words—and this is a wonderful mystery—as they heaped trouble on the Christians they were actually building and stoking their own fire.
For God is the God of recompense. The merciful obtain mercy. Those who deal in wrath get wrath returned to them in the day of the righteous judgments of God.
God says He is coming in vengeance. Here’s another word that gets the Christian’s God a lot of bad press. But once again it is a matter of the just God merely giving others their own.
And so, yes, the day of vengeance is much to be dreaded by the wicked—for He gives them the fruit of their own wickedness. But it is a day to be much longed for by those who accepted God’s kind offer of salvation in the day when He stretched forth His arms to receive any who would come to Him—the acceptable year of the Lord, as He calls it (Isa. 61.2). There is a time when God proffers salvation with open arms to all men no matter how wicked they are. “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found,” He cries, “call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55.6,7).
It’s the acceptable year of the LORD; His arms are wide open to all; there is no excuse for any man to continue in his wickedness.
“I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored (helped) thee: behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6.2).
But if the wicked are not willing to receive what is God’s… what can He do but give them what is their own?
And those who turned from their wickedness and received God’s gracious offer of salvation… and subsequently endured “manifold temptations,” afflictions, persecutions… shall not God get even with them also?
For the time comes when that day of salvation, that acceptable year of the Lord, draws to a close, and the day of vengeance dawns.
Those who laughed… they cry now. (Lk. 6.25).
And those who wept now laugh (Lk. 6.21).
He comforts those who mourned. He gives them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isa. 61.2,3).
He comes with vengeance… and saves us! The salvation He opened to us in the day of salvation, and which we embraced by faith and hoped in… and walked in patience, and trust, enduring hard things… now He delivers that salvation in full.
“Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense…” Sounds so frightening. But keep reading. “…He will come and save you” (Isa. 35.4).
His vengeance means He pays out in full the salvation His people believed Him for in the day when what they got for their faith in Him was nothing but trouble, affliction, suffering, ridicule, persecution.
Let us nurture this hope, then, fellow Christian. It is not a strange thing when the fiery trial comes our way. In the midst of the fire let us hold tight our certificate of faith—the title deed of what we hope for (Heb. 11.1). That faith may be tried severely. But it will mean great joy for us in the day when God gets even with all men.