The Expository Files.

The Righteousness Of Divine Retribution

2 Thessalonians 1:6


"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you," {2 Thess. 1:6}.

Paul gave thanks to God because his brethren in Thessalonica were doing some right things. He recognized the good they were involved in, as follows:




These were expressions of righteousness for which Paul thanked God. But not everybody appreciated the righteousness of these Macedonian saints. There were some who were inclined to cause trouble and incite persecution against them. Concerning those Paul said: "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you."

A time would come when the Thessalonian's good behavior would be vindicated by the Almighty. In that "day" God would "repay with tribulation those" who were troubling the saints, and this would be "a righteous thing." This is something we need to understand, and we can begin with this thought ...

We are not in the business of repayment! In the midst of certain circumstances, we may be tempted to take the matter of retaliation into our own hands. For instance: {a} When we are persecuted for righteousness' sake; {b} When we are made to observe some bold act of rebellion against God; {c} When we are the object of some mistreatment or injustice; {d} When someone we are close to is persecuted. In these situations we may be tempted to take the matter of retaliation into our own hands. There may arise within our hearts, the malicious desire to strike back; to repay; to recompense evil for evil.

We must rise above that kind of mentality, for Christ, when He was reviled, "did not revile in return," (1 Pet. 2:23). He teaches us to love our enemies, "bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you," (Matt. 5:43-45; see also, Rom. 12:17). We must be heedful and patient about this; God will deal with such matters. While we can defend ourselves and take legitimate measures to protect our families, we are not in the business of giving out the eventual punishment or repayment for sin. We must recognize ...

God will take vengeance. One reason why we need not get involved in the business of repayment is --> God will take care of that, in due time, according to His perfect standard of justice. Over and over, God tells us in His Word: "Vengeance is Mine!" (See Deut. 32:35; Psa. 94:1; 96:10; Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30). In the third chapter of Colossians, after calling upon those saints to seek those things that are above, where Christ is, at the right hand of God, Paul addresses the matter of putting to death the sins of the flesh (see Col. 3:5,6 & 23-25). After naming some of the sins of the flesh he says, "Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience." Then, at the end of the chapter: "...from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for the wrong which he has done, and there is no partiality." This emphasizes what we are looking at; that ultimate vengeance and recompense belongs to God. "Verily, there is a God that judgeth the earth," (Psa. 58:11). So it is clear that ...

All violations of God's law shall eventually be rectified. To those who are godly, there may - for a time - be some impatience and intense feelings of righteous indignation. Yet, we can rest in the conviction - there is a divine and righteous Judge, to whose tribunal all men must come, and by those just decisions every destiny will be decided. All violations of God's law, which are not repented of and pardoned by the blood, shall eventually be rectified. "And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work," (Eccl. 3:16,17).

Divine retribution is a righteous thing. It seems, anytime we tell people what the Bible says about the Judgment Day, and Eternal Punishment, we meet skepticism, doubt; or, a very emotional, impassioned objection. As a matter of history, entire religious doctrines and systems of theology have been built around man's rejection of eternal punishment. "Probationism," "Universalism," "The Doctrine of Annihilation," "Purgatory," etc. Men are not comfortable with the reality of hell. And some suggests, there is some sort of conflict between the character of God and the prospect of eternal punishment. Actually, the Bible teaches -- it is because of the character and nature of God that sin must be punished!

The character of God is absolutely holy, good and just; therefore, when God carries out punishment against evildoers, it is "A RIGHTEOUS THING." We must bear in mind that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all," (1 Jno. 1:5). "What shall we say, then ... is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly Not!" (Rom. 9:14). Indeed, His eyes are too pure to look on evil with any favor (Hab. 1:13). So it follows, when God carries out punishment against evildoers, that retribution must be regarded as "a righteous thing."

I ask you: If, after all the warnings of the gospel, and all the efforts of the righteous, God excused the wicked, without punishment and upon no basis of pardon ... WOULD THAT BE RIGHT?? Look at the text of this study again: "...It is a righteous thing with God to repay with retribution, those who trouble you." And, the passage goes on to describe the punishment to be experienced by those who "do not obey the gospel."

Let the righteous rejoice in the credibility of God's Word, and in the reality that truth and goodness will prevail in the long run (Psalms 58:10,11).

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 1.9; September, 1994