In verse 6 Paul says, “Since it is just with God to repay with affliction those afflicting you.” This verse indicates that God is judging and that He will judge in the future. We should not think that God is not judging today. There may be times when it seems that our God is not active. For this reason, atheists may say, “Where is God? It seems to us that there is no God in this universe. If there is a God, then He must be sleeping or retired.” No, God is now judging.
More than fifty years ago, I devoted much time to the study of the prophecies in the Bible. In particular, I paid attention to the prophecies concerning the return of the Jews to their own land and to the re-formation of the nation of Israel. As I studied world history and observed the world situation, I wondered how it would be possible for the Jews, who have been scattered over the earth for centuries, to return to their own land and once again be formed into a nation. However, in 1948 the nation of Israel was formed and was even recognized by the United Nations. From that time onward, and especially since 1967, the Middle East has been the focal point of the world situation. How happy I have been to see the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the nation of Israel! God is fulfilling prophecy. Furthermore, He is actively carrying out His judgments. Therefore, instead of being troubled by any kind of opposition, we need to stand with God, with the One who judges those who afflict His people. As Paul says in 1:6, it is just with God to repay with affliction those who afflict His people.
RESTING AT THE UNVEILING OF THE LORD
Verse 7 says, “And to you who are being afflicted, rest, with us at the unveiling of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of His power, in flaming fire.” The Greek word translated “rest” also means relief, ease, repose, liberty. In this age the believers suffer persecutions and troubles for the Lord. At the Lord’s coming back they will be relieved of their sufferings and enter into the Lord’s rest and enjoy its liberty.
In this verse Paul speaks of the unveiling of the Lord Jesus. The Lord is here today; however, He is veiled. His coming back will be His unveiling. Although the universe is immeasurably vast in its dimensions, with the Lord there is no such thing as distance. He is everywhere. One day, at His coming, He will be unveiled, and everyone will see Him.
We thank the Lord that we are not shortsighted. Through His grace, we have both insight and foresight. We are able to see through the veil. Unbelievers, however, do not know what is behind the veil. But we, the believers, know that the Lord Jesus will be unveiled.
At the unveiling of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of His power, we shall rest. The time has not yet come for us to rest. Our rest will be at the Lord’s coming, at His unveiling.
DEALING OUT VENGEANCE
In verse 8 Paul continues, “Dealing out vengeance to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This verse covers two conditions and two stages. It speaks of God’s dealing out vengeance to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of Christ. Certain people do not know God; others do not obey the gospel.
There is no excuse for not knowing God. Some may say, “The gospel was never preached to me. I lived before the gospel was preached.” Those who reason in this way will not be able to excuse themselves for not knowing God. According to the Bible, God is made known through His creation (Rom. 1:20). Furthermore, God is made known to man’s conscience. Man can know God through creation and by means of his conscience. Our conscience tells us that there is a God. For this reason, no one can say that he does not have a way to know God. Anyone who does not know God will suffer punishment. Those who heard the gospel but did not accept it and obey it will also be punished. Therefore, God will deal out vengeance to two categories of people—to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 25, by Witness Lee)