“This is clear evidence that God’s judgment is just; and as a result, you will be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God for which you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:5 CJB).
The “Kingdom of God” (sometimes expressed as the “Kingdom of Heaven”) is a recurring theme throughout the Biblical Scriptures. Much like an earthly kingdom, the “Kingdom of God” features a King and citizens who are subject to Him. But unlike an earthly kingdom, the Kingdom of God is not limited to a geographic location or specific point in history.
For instance, the Kingdom of God exists in places where people respond to God through faith in Christ and demonstrate the characteristics of His leadership. Jesus identified these characteristic qualities of God’s kingdom in response to a question from the religious leaders of His day…
“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
In a larger sense, the Kingdom of God will be completely fulfilled at a future time when God will reign in complete righteousness (see 1 Corinthians 15:22-28). However, Jesus also acknowledged that His kingdom was not of this present world (John 18:36). Therefore, it should not come as a surprise when those who seek to follow Him are persecuted for doing so now.
Despite this unfortunate reality, Jesus reminded us that such persecutions hold great value in respect to the Kingdom of God…
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
The Thessalonian church’s response to this type of persecution has led one commentator to identify several applications…
“Having a right attitude toward suffering is essential, and that required attitude is concern for the kingdom of God. They were not self-centered, but concentrated on God’s kingdom. Their focus was not on personal comfort, fulfillment, and happiness, but on the glory of God and the fulfillment of His purposes. They were not moaning about the injustice of their persecutions. Rather, they were patiently enduring the sufferings they did not deserve (v. 4).” (1)
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Th 1:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.