2 Thessalonians 1:6
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Seeing it is.—Literally, if so be it is fair: a form very common in St. Paul, when he wishes to argue from some fact which he knows his readers will recognise (e.g., Romans 8:9). “Your persecution is a clear indication what God’s fair verdict will be—that He will pronounce you fit—unless indeed you deny (as you will not) that it is fair to recompense the persecutors with tribulation and the persecuted with rest.” The context shows that St. Paul does not mean that all suffering deserves a requital with bliss, but he does put it as a matter of common fairness that when men have suffered for the kingdom’s sake God should so reward them hereafter.

With God.—Such a system of requital commends itself as fair to men: is it likely to seem less fair in the eyes of God? Holy Scripture always sets forth the power of the human conscience to recognise God’s principles of action: whatever is righteous for men is so for God, and vice versâ.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-8. Seeing it is a righteous thing — However men may judge of it; with God — To whom belongeth vengeance, (Romans 12:19,) and who will avenge his elect that cry unto him day and night; to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you — To remove the pressure from you to them. And it is remarkable that about this time, at the passover, the Jews raising a tumult, a great number, some say thirty thousand of them, were slain. St. Paul seems to allude to this beginning of sorrows, 1 Thessalonians 2:16, which did not end but with their destruction. And to you that are troubled — That suffer persecution; rest with us — If not in the present world, where we do not ourselves expect it, yet at last, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven. By the word ανεσις, here rendered rest, or, as it more properly means, relaxation, the apostle does not mean deliverance from persecution. The believing Jews, with whom St. Paul here ranks himself, had no relaxation in that sense any more than the believing Gentiles. But he meant deliverance from the troubles of this life at death, and the enjoyment of eternal rest, the rest of God, partly entered into then, and more especially after the coming of Christ here spoken of. With his mighty angels — Who shall be the ministers of his power in the execution of this great and awful judgment. In flaming fire — To which the aerial heavens and the earth are reserved, (2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:10,) and by which they shall be destroyed; taking vengeance — Or inflicting punishment, as διδοντος εκδικησιν also signifies; see 1 Peter 2:14, where the same word is translated punishment. Does God, as some say, barely permit this punishment to come upon his enemies? or, as the Lord once rained brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, (Genesis 19:24,) does a fiery stream go forth from him? Who know not God — By an experimental and practical knowledge; who know him not so as, 1st, To be humbled before him, Job 40:4-5; Job 42:5-6; Job 2 d, To trust in him, (Psalm 9:10,) namely, for pardon, holiness, and eternal life, being first truly penitent; 3d, To love him with a love shed abroad in their hearts, John 4:7; 4th, To keep his commandments, 1 John 2:3-4; 1 John , , 5 th, To be transformed into his image, 2 Corinthians 3:18. In which passages the fruits of the saving knowledge of God are designedly specified, and two of them at least, namely, love and obedience to God, declared to be absolutely essential to the true knowledge of him. Reader, examine thyself! Does thy knowledge of the one living and true God produce these fruits? Surely it cannot, unless he that commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into thy heart, to give thee the knowledge of his glory in and by Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6; unless the Son of God hath given thee an understanding to know him, 1 John 5:20. And who obey not the gospel — Who do not receive its truths and promises with a lively faith, productive of love and obedience, Christ being the author of eternal salvation only to those that love and obey him, 1 Corinthians 16:22; Hebrews 5:9. Believing the gospel is often termed by St. Paul the obedience of faith, both because God hath commanded men to believe it, and because it contains not only doctrines to be credited, threatenings to be revered, and promises to be trusted, but also a variety of precepts necessary to be obeyed. Probably in the former clause, who know not God, the apostle had chiefly the unbelieving Gentiles in view, and in this latter the unbelieving Jews.1:5-10 Religion, if worth anything, is worth every thing; and those have no religion, or none worth having, or know not how to value it, cannot find their hearts to suffer for it. We cannot by all our sufferings, any more than by our services, merit heaven; but by our patience under sufferings, we are prepared for the promised joy. Nothing more strongly marks a man for eternal ruin, than a spirit of persecution and enmity to the name and people of God. God will trouble those that trouble his people. And there is a rest for the people of God; a rest from sin and sorrow. The certainty of future recompence is proved by the righteousness of God. The thoughts of this should be terrible to wicked men, and support the righteous. Faith, looking to the great day, is enabled partly to understand the book of providence, which appears confused to unbelievers. The Lord Jesus will in that day appear from heaven. He will come in the glory and power of the upper world. His light will be piercing, and his power consuming, to all who in that day shall be found as chaff. This appearance will be terrible to those that know not God, especially to those who rebel against revelation, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the great crime of multitudes, the gospel is revealed, and they will not believe it; or if they pretend to believe, they will not obey it. Believing the truths of the gospel, is in order to our obeying the precepts of the gospel. Though sinners may be long spared, they will be punished at last. They did sin's work, and must receive sin's wages. Here God punishes sinners by creatures as instruments; but then, it will be destruction from the Almighty; and who knows the power of his anger? It will be a joyful day to some, to the saints, to those who believe and obey the gospel. In that bright and blessed day, Christ Jesus will be glorified and admired by his saints. And Christ will be glorified and admired in them. His grace and power will be shown, when it shall appear what he has purchased for, and wrought in, and bestowed upon those who believe in him. Lord, if the glory put upon thy saints shall be thus admired, how much more shalt thou be admired, as the Bestower of that glory! The glory of thy justice in the damnation of the wicked will be admired, but not as the glory of thy mercy in the salvation of believers. How will this strike the adoring angels with holy admiration, and transport thy admiring saints with eternal rapture! The meanest believer shall enjoy more than the most enlarged heart can imagine while we are here; Christ will be admired in all those that believe, the meanest believer not excepted.Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you - The sense is: "There will be a future judgment, because it is proper that God should punish those who now persecute you. It is not right that they should go unpunished, and triumph forever. It is not an arbitrary thing, a thing which is indifferent, a thing which may or may not be done; it is a just and proper thing that the wicked should be punished." The doctrine is, that the future punishment of the wicked is just and proper; and that, being just and proper, it will be inflicted. Many suppose that there would be no justice in the eternal punishment of the wicked; that the threatening of that punishment is wholly arbitrary; that it might easily be dispensed with, and that because it is unjust it will not be inflicted, and need not be dreaded. But that it is just and proper, a very slight degree of reflection must show. Because:

(1) it is inconceivable that God should threaten such punishment unless it were just. How can it be reconciled with his perfections that he can hold up before mankind the assurance that any of them will be punished forever, unless it be right that it should be so? Can we believe that he deliberately threatens what is wrong, or that, in the face of the universe, he publicly declares his intention to do what is wrong?

(2) people themselves believe that it is just that the wicked should be punished. They are constantly making laws, and affixing penalties to them, and executing them, under the belief that it is right. Can they regard it as wrong in God to do the same thing? Can that be wrong in him which is right in themselves?

(3) if it is right to punish wickedness here, it is not wrong to punish it in the future world. There is nothing in the two places which can change the nature of what is done. If it is right for God to visit the sinner here with the tokens of his displeasure, there is nothing which can make it wrong to visit him in like manner in the future world. Why should that be wrong in another world which is right and proper in this?

(4) it will be a righteous thing for God to punish the wicked in a future state, for they are not always punished here as they deserve. No one can seriously maintain that there is an equal distribution of rewards and punishments on the earth. Many a man goes to the grave having received no adequate punishment for his crimes. Many a murderer, pirate, robber, traitor, and plunderer of nations under the name of a conqueror, thus dies. No one can doubt that it would be a just thing to punish them here if they could be arrested. Why should it be any the less "just" to punish them when they enter another world? In like manner, many a man lives a life of profligacy; or is an open scoffer; or aims to cast off the government of God; or is a seducer of innocence; and yet lives in the midst of wealth, and goes down in calmness and peace to the grave; Psalm 73:3-5; Job 21:23-33. Why is it not just that such an one should be punished in the future world? compare Psalm 73:16-20. But, if it is right that God should punish the wicked in the future world, it will be done. Because:

(1) There is nothing to hinder him from doing it. He has all power, and has all necessary means of inflicting punishment, entirely at his disposal.

(2) it would not be right not to do it. It is not right for a magistrate to treat the righteous and the wicked alike, or to show that he has as much regard to the one as to the other.

(3) it cannot be believed that God has uttered a threatening which he never meant to execute, or to appear before the universe as having held up before men the terror of the most awful punishment which could be inflicted, but which he never intended to carry into effect. Who could have confidence in such a Being? Who could know what to believe when he makes the most solemn declaration?

(4) the Judge of all the earth "will do right;" and if it is right to declare that "the wicked shall be turned into hell," it will not be wrong to inflict the sentence. And if, on the whole, it is right that the sinner should be punished, it will be done.

Them that trouble you. - Those who persecute you; see 1 Thessalonians 2:14.

6. seeing it is a righteous thing—This justifies the assertion above of there being a "righteous judgment" (2Th 1:5), namely, "seeing that it is (literally, 'if at least,' 'if at all events it is') a righteous thing with (that is, in the estimation of) God" (which, as we all feel, it certainly is). Our own innate feeling of what is just, in this confirms what is revealed.

recompense—requite in kind, namely, tribulation to them that trouble you (affliction to those that afflict you); and to you who are troubled, rest from trouble.

By these words the apostle doth illustrate his argument for a judgment to come, taken from the persecutions and tribulations of the saints. It is of necessity that God should be righteous, and recompensing is a necessary act of righteousness; but we yet see it not, therefore there is a judgment to come. And this recompence is both to the righteous and the wicked, the persecutors and persecuted. The former he here speaks first of: and to recompense tribulation to them that trouble the people of God, is a just recompence; it is according to the law of retaliation, whereof we have some instances in this world, as in Pharaoh, Adoni-bezek, Haman, &c.; and many others, whereof we have a large account in the history of the church and her persecutors; but this will be more fully verified in the judgment to come, called the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Romans 2:5. And God’s recompence to them is here called tribulation; so Romans 2:9. And though in other scriptures the punishment of the wicked is set forth by other names, yet here it is called by this name; not only for elegancy of speech, by a paranomasia, but to parallel their suffering to their sin; they brought tribulation upon others, and God will bring it upon them. And under this word is comprehended all the torments of hell, which our Saviour expresseth by weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, Matthew 8:12, which is the extremity of tribulation. And it is said here, God will recompense, &c., which should teach us not to revenge ourselves; as Psalm 94:1 Romans 12:19. And this the apostle sets before these Thessalonians by way of comfort; not that we ought to reioice in men’s destruction merely for itself, but in the honour that will thereby arise to God’s justice, and in the favour, honour, and salvation God will vouchsafe to his people herein. Seeing it is a righteous thing with God,.... That which is righteous in itself, is righteous in the sight of God, but it is not always so with men; men may think it a righteous thing that they should be rewarded for persecuting the followers of Christ, supposing they hereby do God good service; but on the contrary, with God, and in his sight and account, it is a righteous thing, or a point of justice,

to recompence tribulation to them that trouble you: persecution is an affliction, or a trouble to the saints; persecutors trouble them in their minds and bodies, in their persons and property; they trouble their minds by casting reflections and reproaches upon them, by severe revilings, and cruel mockings, which all are not alike able to bear; and they trouble and afflict their bodies by imprisonment and bonds, by scourging and beating, and various cruel and torturing deaths; and they disturb them in the possession of their estates, by spoiling their goods, and confiscating them to their own use; and it is but according to "lex talionis", the law of retaliation, to render tribulation to such troublers of God's Israel; and to them it is recompensed, either in this world, or in the world to come: sometimes in this world persecutors are manifest instances of God's judgments and wrath upon them, as Herod, who stretched out his hands to vex certain of the church, killed James the brother of John, and imprisoned Peter, and was smitten by the angel of the Lord, and was eaten of worms; and the Jews, who were now the only and the implacable persecutors of the saints, in a short time had the wrath of God come upon them to the uttermost, even upon their nation, city, and temple, upon their persons and property. And if not in this life, it is a certain thing that hereafter such shall have indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; they shall be cast into outward darkness, into the lake of fire; and the hottest place in hell will be their portion, even devouring flames, and everlasting burnings; and are what is designed by tribulations here.

{3} Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

(3) A proof: God is just, and therefore he will worthily punish the unjust, and will do away the miseries of his people.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Thessalonians 1:6. The suitableness and naturalness of this result to be expected from the righteousness of God, the mention of which was to comfort the Thessalonians and encourage them to continued endurance, is further carried out by an intimation of the retribution to be expected at the return of Christ. To assume a parenthesis from 2 Thessalonians 1:6 to μεθʼ ἡμῶν, 2 Thessalonians 1:7 (Grotius), or to 2 Thessalonians 1:10 inclusive (Moldenhauer), is unnecessary arbitrariness.

εἴπερ] provided, does not express any doubt, but introduces by means of an elegant expression, under the form of suspense, a saying whose truth is fully acknowledged. Comp. 8:9, 17. See Hermann, ad Viger. p. 834; Hartung, Partikellehre, I. p. 343; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 528.

δίκαιον] righteous, joined to δικαίας κρίσεως, 2 Thessalonians 1:5. The apostle here places himself upon the standpoint of the strict righteousness of God, which is conceived according to the analogy of human jus talionis, and is also so asserted in Romans 2:5 ff.; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:8-9; Colossians 3:24-25. It is accordingly inadmissible to interpret δίκαιον, with Pelt and others, of the manifestation of divine grace. The idea that one may obtain eternal salvation by his own merits, which recently Bisping finds here expressed, is removed from the Pauline mode of thought generally, and also from this passage. Certainly, as all men are subject to sin as a ruling power, the possibility of obtaining salvation can only be contained in Christ; and that God revealed this possibility of salvation, and by the mission of Christ invited us into His kingdom, is a pure contrivance of His free grace; but with this grace His holiness and righteousness are not abolished. There remains room for the exercise of the strict righteousness of God, as only he can enter into His eternal kingdom who, with the desire of salvation, accepts the call; whereas whoever closes himself against it, or rises up in enmity against it, must incur righteous punishment at the last day.6. seeing it is a righteous thing with God] Lit., if verily (if, as all will admit) it is righteous with God.

The Apostle has just spoken (2 Thessalonians 1:5) of “God’s righteous judgement” as manifest in the unshaken faith and courage of His servants. That visible token points to their future and unrevealed reward—on the admitted assumption, on which he now dilates, that the retribution awaiting the persecutors and the persecuted from His hand is in truth a righteous thing.

Now the justice of the award is self-evident; since it is affliction to them that afflict you, and to you the afflicted ease. Once besides St Paul speaks of the future suffering of the wicked as “affliction,” in Romans 2:9—“affliction and distress upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” The term represents this suffering as of the nature of a personal infliction. It indicates the reversal that will take place in the other world between the position of the sufferers and inflicters of wrong; comp. our Lord’s picture of Dives and Lazarus in Hades: “Now he (Lazarus) is comforted, and thou (Dives) art tormented,” Luke 16:25. Similarly in Colossians 3:25, “He that doeth wrong shall receive back the wrong that he did.” In Revelation 13:10, Matthew 26:52, the same principle of retribution in kind is illustrated. This is “just with God:” He must count it so; for it is a common rule of justice, and of all true justice He is the Fountain.

If this law demands that the inflicters of wrongful suffering shall suffer and smart for it, so it requires that faithful endurance shall win “relief.” The Greek word denotes relaxation, abatement,—as of a tightly strung bow, or the paroxysms of fever. So the Apostle designates his own “relief” from anxiety in 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5; it is contrasted with “affliction” again in 2 Corinthians 8:13.

“Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas,

Ease after war, death after life does greatly please.”

Job 3:17 is a striking parallel to the phrase to you the afflicted rest: “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.” But the rendering of the LXX in this passage is so different, that it is scarcely likely that these words were in the Apostle’s mind. Nor is he thinking, like Job and Edmund Spenser, of rest in death.2 Thessalonians 1:6. Παρὰ Θεῷ, with God) Although good and bad men do not estimate the injuries done by the latter, and the sufferings endured by the former, as of so great importance.—θλίβουσινθλίψιν, affliction [tribulation]—to them that afflict [trouble]) The lex talionis [compensation in kind]. To this refer 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9.Verse 6. - Seeing it is; or rather, if indeed it is; if so be that it is (R.V.). A hypothetical sentence, not, however, introducing an uncertain or conditional fact, but an emphatic assertion - what is felt by all to be true. A righteous thing with God. Not only will the justice of God be displayed in the rewards of the righteous, in counting them worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffer, but it will also be displayed in the punishments to be inflicted on their persecutors. To recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. We have here an example of one of the most common defects of our English Version in rendering cognate words by different terms, and thus creating needless perplexities and giving rise to erroneous interpretations; the words "tribulation" and "trouble" are cognate, and hence the verse ought to be rendered as in the R.V., "If so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you." Seeing it is (εἴπερ)

More literally, if so be that. Confirming, in a hypothetical form, the assertion of God's judgment upon persecutors, 2 Thessalonians 1:5. It implies no doubt, but rhetorically puts a recognized fact as a supposition. So Romans 3:30; Romans 8:9, Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 8:5.

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