Wednesday: Fire and Destruction
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Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

Image © Janet Hyun from GoodSalt.com

What is the primary reason for the destruction of the wicked at the time of Jesus’ second coming? How are we to understand these verses with the idea of God as full of love, grace, and forgiveness?


Many people are uncomfortable with the language of these verses. They feel that “pay back” (NIV), vengeance, punishment, and the infliction of suffering are unworthy of a God of love, grace, and mercy. But just punishment and retribution is a frequent theme of Paul (Rom. 2:5, 12:19). Paul is unequivocal: God’s justice will one day be powerfully made manifest.

And why not? Any good government in today’s world must at some point exercise force in order to restrain evil. Though force is not always violent (as when you are stopped for a traffic violation or audited for your taxes), in some cases, especially when the criminals are using violence themselves, they must be answered with violence. Good governments provide a necessary restraint so that we can all live together in peace. Many times outright evil will not give way voluntarily. And the greater the power and brutality of evil, the greater the force often needed to undo that evil.

The images in this passage are not pretty, but they assure us that God will do whatever it takes to end violence and oppression.

Read Revelation 16:4-7 and Daniel 7:21, 22. What do these verses teach that parallels what Paul wrote above in 2 Thessalonians?


Through His own experience, Jesus understands the cost of suffering. He can be trusted to exercise divine justice, but without overkill. Divine justice will result in suffering, but not one iota more than necessary. If we can trust God in anything, we can trust that His justice will reveal a wisdom and fairness that we cannot currently comprehend.

The goal of this passage is not to rejoice in vengeance but to encourage the abused and oppressed. The day of justice is coming. We don’t need to take justice into our own hands.

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Wednesday: Fire and Destruction — 3 Comments

  1. We should look at today's topic just like the one we had previously titled 'Two sides of judgement'-Where we came to the understanding that judgement is not only negative (destruction of the wicked) but also positive (salvation of the saints) so at the end of this thought shouldn't be forgotten.

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    • Thank you for your thoughts, James.

      I agree with the idea of "two sides of judgement." The destruction of the wicked is justice in the grand scheme of things, but it is also mercy for those who would only want to flee from the presence of God because His principles are so foreign to what is in their hearts.

      Those who despise the values of the Kingdom of Heaven now would only be miserable if they should find themselves in that Kingdom against their will.

      Throughout the Bible, God talks to us in our language, through images we can understand. They tell us that God will some day right all the wrongs and purify the universe of all sin and suffering.

      I appreciate the way the lesson author concludes the lesson for the day, "If we can trust God in anything, we can trust that His justice will reveal a wisdom and fairness that we cannot currently comprehend."

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  2. "Many people are uncomfortable with the language of these verses. They feel that 'pay back' (NIV), vengeance, punishment, and the infliction of suffering are unworthy of a God of love, grace, and mercy." I simply ask, Shouldn't we be? We are asked, "What is the primary reason for the destruction of the wicked at the time of Jesus’ second coming?" Because all the major questions of the controversy will have been answered and that phase of God's plan will be finished (Dan 12:1) just as it was when Jesus died on the cross (Jn 19:30). It will be time to start the next phase in the plan which is the millennium.

    Besides that in my opinion, judgment isn't about punishment at all but about salvation. As the lesson states it is a time for justification and as far as I am concerned, not just for righteous humans either but also for Jesus and His government. Therefore what I feel we need to do is to expand our view and look at the context of the end times with respect to the entire controversy and what sin has caused. When we do that then we will understand why the wicked die at the Second Advent and why they take part in the second resurrection.

    Why do we seem so fixated on having revenge on those who do us wrong anyway? Isn't the whole purpose of Christ's involvement with us all about God's plan to save as many as can be saved? Why do we seem to always want to turn that around and make it about punishment? So, I fully agree with Sharon Crowder who posted a comment under Tuesday's lesson in that we need to view the wicked much differently than how we as sinners normally view enemies. Just like Jesus on the cross we need to have pity on those that hurt us because they really don't know what they are doing (Lk 23:34) - if they did they probably would be horrified.

    Furthermore to appeal to what is done in a world of sin by sinners as a model of what God does is to me insane. God doesn't model His actions after ours - we are to model our actions after His for He doesn't do what we do or think the way we think (Isa 55:8-9). He is on a much higher moral plain than the one we are on. Besides, what Paul talks about concerns punishment (noun) not punishing (verb). The contrast between the two sides in the controversy is eternal life vs. eternal death - not about being in a kind of Dante's inferno vs. floating on clouds with golden harps.

    If we are going to ask any questions at all why not ask the more interesting questions: why are the righteous still on earth after all the decisions in Heaven have been made (the close of probation) (Rev 22:11). Or why are the righteous brought back into contact with the wicked again after the millennium?

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