He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NIV).
Sad verse; this is a very sad verse.
I read all the “Left Behind” books. They’re fiction, yet in the scene where Jesus delivers His divine judgment against those who rejected Him, He is described as looking sad. For those who choose to not believe in Him, it will be a moment of supreme terror and it will show; for believers, it will be shock, and that’ll show as well. Yet for Jesus, I’m betting the book will have called it right. I’m betting Jesus will be sad in that moment, maybe even weeping.
Jesus didn’t come to destroy us. He won’t return with the sole purpose of doing that either. Even though He will return in mighty justice, heavenly fire, and more power than the world has ever known, that’s not why He’s coming back. He’s coming back to restore creation to the way He created it. He’s coming back to permanently restore true love, real harmony, and peace forever. Jesus is coming back in power and glory to claim His followers to bring them into eternity with Him and it will be the greatest day in history, especially since it will be the last one.
Yet involved in that will be expunging those who chose no part of it. Those who insisted they know better, those who spurned Him, those who embraced hypocrisy, those who live in hate and worldly pleasure, those who simply don’t care: they will be punished. He will unleash His angels to bind and eternally sentence them to be apart from Him. Oh, they’ll live forever; we are eternal beings whether eternally in heaven or hell. Yet their forever will be one of eternal punishment, apart from all love, hope, and peace in whatever hell has in store for them. Whether hell is literal fire or emotional torment (or both) we don’t know. Whatever is in it, it will be terrible.
I feel sorry for these unbelievers, especially since the Gospel isn’t a game of “I’ve got a secret.” It’s sad, and I’m thinking that’s how Jesus will feel. It’s not what He wants; it isn’t what He intended for His children. He wants brothers and sisters, friends, followers, lovers of His real love. He wants all of us to be saved, including scoffers. He wants saints and sinners side by side with Him forever. But He’s holy and the new Earth refined out of His fire will be holy like Him. For that holiness to exist, it must be free from all that reject Him. That means God will punish those who reject Him and who choose to reject the Gospel of Jesus. And that’s the saddest news ever even as it’s necessary.
For further reading: Philippians 3:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Kings 17:18, Isaiah 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
Lord Jesus, come quickly and have mercy.