“…we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5).
The Living Bible offers a helpful paraphrase of 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 by rendering these verses in the following manner: “This is only one example of the fair, just way God does things, for he is using your sufferings to make you ready for his Kingdom, while at the same time he is preparing judgment and punishment for those who are hurting you.” That brings us to the first issue addressed within this epistle…
“As noted, Paul’s first thanksgiving in this letter evolves into the first of the three major concerns of the letter – to encourage the Thessalonian believers in the face of increased ‘persecutions and trials’ (1:4)… The other two are found in 2:1-12 (an apparently misguided prophetic word that the day of the Lord is already at hand) and 3:6-15 (the continuing problem of the disruptive-idle).” (1)
So this passage reminds us that God uses trials and persecutions to make us fit to be “…counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” It’s not that persecution makes us right before God for that is accomplished through faith in Christ. However, the act of patient endurance in the midst of persecution helps reveal the existence of genuine faith.
From the opposite perspective, those who inflict such persecution may feel as if they will never be called to account for their activities. But as the following verses and Romans 2:6 go on to remind us, God “…will give to each person according to what he has done.”
The fact that wrongdoing sometimes goes unpunished points to a future period when God, as a righteous judge, will correct such injustices. While it is often challenging to maintain this long-term perspective in light of our current tribulations, another commentator reminds us that we are not alone in seeking to make sense of such things…
“David (Psa_73:1-14) and Jeremiah (Jer_12:1-4) were perplexed at the wicked prospering and the godly suffering. But Paul, by the light of the New Testament, makes this fact a matter of consolation. It is a proof (so the Greek) of the future judgment, which will set to rights the anomalies of the present state, by rewarding the now suffering saint, and by punishing the persecutor.” (2)
(1) Gordon D. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, 1:5-10 Judgment And Salvation Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (p.252)
(2) Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. “Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1:5”. “Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible“. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-thessalonians-1.html