When the Lord comes “in flaming fire” (v.8) He will take vengeance “on them that know not God” (v.9). Plenty of people knowabout God but don’t know Him. Eli’s sons didn’t know the Lord (ISam.2:12), even though the sons of a priest surely knewabout Him. What’s that mean?
Well, the generation that came after Joshua surely knew about the Lord and what He’d done for Israel, so how can God say they didn’t know Him or His works (Judges 2:8-10)? They’d heard about the Red Sea crossing and the fall of Jericho’s walls but didn’t believe them, and so didn’t believe in the God who performed those great works. If the generation after the Holocaust can doubt it happened, the generation after the Red Sea crossing can doubt it too. “The priests…that handle the Law” surely knew about the Lord (Jer.2:8), but God says they “knew Me not.” The only con-clusion we can make is that when the Lord comes to take vengeance “on them that know not God” it means on them who are not saved because they didn’t obey the gospel.
People that don’t know God tend to persecute those who do (Ps.79:6,7), and now that we’re part of His people, the Lord will one day avenge us too, as well as answer this prayer.
No matter what dispensation you are in, the gospel has to be obeyed. Under the kingdom program for the Jews the gospel was faith plus works, and even some priests were “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7), the faith of Acts 2:38, the work being baptism. But that was the faith that had to be obeyed in the nation Israel. God then raised up Paul “for obedience to the faith among all nations” (Ro.1:5), with a message of faith without works that had to be obeyed “from the heart” (Ro.6:17). When told to bring a sacrifice Abel obeyed from his hands, and when told to go to the promised land Abram obeyed from his feet. But when the message is faith without works, “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Ro.10:10) and are saved without works.
After the flaming fire of the Second Coming ends the lives of the unsaved the “everlasting destruction” begins (1:9). Since Paul never mentions “hell” some grace believers are Universalists, but he mentions eternal punishment here. If you reject the sacrifice of Christ for your sins you must become a “sacrifice” to pay for your sins (Mark 9:47-49). It starts when God sacrifices men at the Second Coming (Zeph.1:7,8) for His guests, the birds (Rev.19:17-19).
Besides Universalists who say all will be saved, some say the unsaved will be punished in Hell but just for a while and then released. But if “everlasting” doesn’t mean ever lasting then God is not everlasting (Gen.21:33; Rom.16:26), and neither is your everlasting life (Jo.5:24).
Annihilationists say men will be punished by being snuffed out of existence. But the Bible doesn’t say the effects of the destruction are everlasting, it says that the destruction is everlasting. The destruction is hell (Pr.27: 20).When an un-saved man dies at the Second Coming (or any time for that matter) he goes to Hell (Lu.16:22,23) until Hell is emptied into the Lake of Fire (Rev.20:14). We know they aren’t annihilated by this fire because a thousand years after the beast and false prophet are thrown in they “are” still there (Rev.19:20;20:7-10). Annihilationists say the beast doesn’t burn up because he is not a mere mortal, but God calls him a “man” (IIThes.2:3; Ezek.28:2), and if we say False Prophet is more than a man because he will work miracles, we have to say the apostles were also more than men
The lost must stay in hell eternally because they can never finish paying for a sin against an eternal God (Mt.5:22,26; 18:34,35), so their smoke must go up “forever”(Rev.14: 11) Annihilationists argue the smoke is the memorial of when they were snuffed out, but it says “the smoke of their torment ascendedeth up forever.” An annihilated man can’t be said to have “no rest,” that only makes sense if they have no rest from their torment. How can an annihilated man suffer everlasting contempt (Dan.12:2)? If all the lost cease to exist equally, how can there be degrees of punishment (Mt.11:24; Lu.12:47)? If suffering in captivity is worst than being snuffed out (Lam.4:6), why would God give the unsaved the lesser punishment for committing the greatest sin, sin against their Creator?