2 Thessalonians 1: 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. 11 Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NKJV)
Paul continues his letter to the Christians at the church in Thessalonica, encouraging and comforting them during this time in which they find themselves being persecuted. In this passage he encourages the Christians being persecuted and writes of the eternal consequences for those unbelievers who persecute them.
Paul writes that two groups of unbelievers on earth at His coming will be punished by God (v.8). First, “those who do not know God” will be punished. They will be punished because even though Christ has been revealed to them they have chosen not to “know” Him, to have a relationship with Him. They are guilty because Christ has been revealed to them through His light; the pleadings of Christians, the creation, their conscience, and other means, but they have rejected Him.
The second group of unbelievers to be punished are those who have heard the gospel but have rejected it by not obeying the gospel, the word of God. Believing and obeying are the same in the eyes of God. One is not a believer if he does not obey the word of God. Unbelievers are those who live a lifestyle of disobedience.
These two groups of unbelievers will be punished by “everlasting destruction” (v.9). The word translated “destruction” is the Greek word “olehtros”. It means destruction, or ruin. Unbelievers are ruined. They are no longer useful for God’s purpose, and therefore will be banished from God’s presence for eternity.
When Christ returns at the Manifestation with His saints to rule the earth, the world will see who was a Christian, and who was not (v.10). But the Rapture comes before the Manifestation. At the Rapture, disembodied Christians from Heaven come with Christ and are reunited with their glorified bodies in the air. At the same time, Christians who are alive on earth will be taken up to join them, and all will go to Heaven.
After the Rapture, only unbelievers are left to endure the horrors of the seven year Tribulation on earth. Then Christ comes with His saints (Christians) at His Manifestation to begin His thousand year reign on earth, called the Millennium. He comes to earth to judge, and punish, unbelievers. Christ comes “for” His saints at the Rapture and then, sometime later, comes “with” His saints at the Manifestation, or Revelation.
Unbelievers are eternally separated from God. At death they go to Hades, a disembodied state of conscious “torment” in a holding area (Luke 16:19-31). Then, after the Millennium, unbelievers in Hades are joined with their bodies, referred to as “death and Hades”, and thrown into Hell, “the lake of fire”, for eternity (Rev. 20:14).
God does not want anyone to go to Hell. God does not send anyone to Hell. Unbelievers send themselves to Hell because of their rejection of God. They have rejected God so they have also rejected His domain, Heaven. They have, of their own free will, chosen Hell over Heaven.
Paul, Timothy, and Silas “pray always” that the Christians at Thessalonica will be worthy of the Lord’s calling. Their calling was to remain steadfast during persecution. Their prayer is that the power of God would enable them to be obedient to doing good and remaining faithful (v.11).
The result of them remaining steadfast in the midst of persecution was twofold. First, the Lord would be glorified in all that they did. Second, the Christians themselves would be glorified because their association with Him would bring honor to them as members of the Body of Christ (v.12).
These are God’s words of comfort for Christians who are persecuted, and His warning to unbelievers. His words to Christians are to prove yourself worthy of God by remaining steadfast in your faith. His warning to unbelievers is that Hell is more than eternal separation from God. It is eternal punishment. It is eternal torment. It is unrelenting heat with no hope of shade. It is hell.
Online Bible Commentary