“Eye for eye” (Ex.21:24) is criticized by the world as too harsh and merciless, and that God was unrighteous to implement that kind of law, but God says that tribulation for tribulation is “a righteous thing” (1:6).
“Recompense” means repay (Romans 12:19 cf. Heb.10: 30). Men complain about this brand of justice, but what could be more fair than recompensing tribulation to those that trouble God’s people (Rev.13:10)?
Paul wasn’t talking about just any tribulation, but the Great Tribulation. We know this because the Second Coming will follow the Tribulation, and that’s what Paul talks about next in this passage (1:7,8).
God knows that in the Tribulation, more than ever before, men will say God’s judgments aren’t fair, that they don’t deserve them, so the Book of Revelation, that describes the Tribulation, insists that they are (16:3-6; 19:2).
What does this say about the doctrine of eternal punish-ment? If God’s judgments have always been fair through-out history, do you think He’ll abandon that principle when it is time to punish the unsaved?
There is a dispensational aspect to Verse 6. It sounds a lot like Isaiah 49:25, which is spoken to the Jews, the seed of Abraham, fulfilling Genesis 12:3. So why is Paul saying things like that to us, i.e., that God will recompense tribulation to those that trouble the Body of Christ?
Paul says a lot of things like that. He applies Hosea 13:14, which is about Israel’s resurrection (13:9-14), to us (ICor. 15:51-55). That’s one of the ways he uses the Old Testa-ment, he applies the principles. There is no sting in death for the believer no matter what dispensation you are in, and if you mess with God’s people you mess with Him, no matter what dispensation you are in. Although now that the dispensation of grace has fully set in He will delay recom-pensing tribulation to persecutors till after the Rapture.
Verse 7 is an exhortation as well as a prediction. We will be resting when the Lord comes in flaming fire (v.8), but we can rest in that prediction now. Paul was already resting in the midst of his tribulations (IICor.11:23-33 cf. 4:8), and he is telling the Thessalonians to rest with him (1:7).
How troubled will the persecutors be? The Lord will come “with His mighty angels” (1:7), one of which wiped out 185,000 men in one night (IIKi.19:35). The “angel of the Lord” is sometimes a theophany, but not here (IIChron. 32:21). Notice it doesn’t say He’ll come with “some” of His mighty angels, indicating He’ll come with all of them, “an innumerable company” (Heb.12:22).
And we don’t have to guess what their mission will be, they will gather out of God’s kingdom all that “offend” (Mt.13:41). Hey, that’s what the persecutors were doing to the Thessalonians, that’s what “offend” means (cf.Mt.18:6).
In addition to His mighty angels, the Lord will come “in flaming fire” (1:8), fire that is His, not the angels’ (Ps. 21:8,9; Mt.3:11). The flaming fire will come from the Lord’s mouth (Isa.30:33). If you can breathe warm air on your hands to warm them, imagine what He can do! If you can’t imagine, see Revelation 11:3-5. He’ll slay the wicked “with the breath of His lips” (Isa.11:4).
Of course, Revelation 19:11-15 says He’ll smite the nations with a sword that will come out of His mouth, not fire. A two-edged sword (Rev.1:16), the Word of God (Heb.4:12). But remember, God’s Word is “like a fire” (Jer.23:29).
Men won’t be able to say God didn’t warn them, for He made His Word a fire in the mouths of the prophets (Jer.5:14). If they didn’t receive Jeremiah’s words, they got burned up, and if men don’t receive the Word today they may have to face His fire (Mal.4:1).
When He comes He’ll be taking “vengeance” (1:8 cf. Deut.32:35,41) for the blood of His servants (Deut.32:43), as here in IIThessalonians 1:6. I’m sure He is in a hurry to avenge them, but so are they! (Rev.6:9,10).