“and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 ESV).
A skillful journalist, researcher, or law enforcement officer knows that some of the most important elements of a good investigation involve the following one-word questions: who, what, when, why, and how. We can apply these investigative tools to the passage quoted above as we seek to understand and apply these verses.
The “who” part of this equation comes first: “…the Lord Jesus.” The next question (“what”) is answered in 2 Thessalonians 1:7: “…he will give relief to you who suffer and to us as well” (GNB). As we struggle with the painful events of life, we can find encouragement in the assurance that God will eventually grant us relief from such things. That leads to our third one-word inquiry: “when?”
This question is addressed in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 as well: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire…” (NIV). This tells us that those who endure patiently through the trials of life can have the satisfaction of knowing that they will receive clear and definitive vindication through Christ.
The “why” question is discussed next: “With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 NET). This refers to the administration of justice upon those who have acted wrongfully.
The following verse addresses the “how” portion of this inquiry: “They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). We’ll examine this passage in greater detail in a future study, but for now, we can say that God will punish those who have chosen to disobey Him. That penalty involves everlasting destruction and separation from His presence.
Finally, it’s interesting to note that a host of angelic beings will accompany Jesus when the answers to these questions are fully resolved. One source draws an intriguing parallel between the angels who appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth in the town of Bethlehem and those who will accompany His return…
“The angels accompanying Christ at His first coming testified of peace and good will (Luke 2:13-14). At His second coming, they bring vengeance and flaming fire.” (1)
(1) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes 2 Thessalonians 1:9 https://www.icr.org/bible/2Th/1/7