What is your understanding of 2 Thes 1:6-9?

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Question / Comment -  What is your understanding of 2 Thes. 1:6-9?

Greetings, What is your understanding of these passages and what does Paul mean by "rest," or "relief?" in vs. 7 Thanks

JPN Reply:


Thanks for the question. This is an often quoted passage by those that hold to a post-tribulation rapture because they believe that it is saying that Christians only receive their rest at the second coming of Christ and therefore they think it excludes a prior rapture. That may be your position, I'm not sure. Here is the passage:

2Th 1:4-10 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, (5) which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; (6) since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, (7) and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, (8) in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (9) These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (10) when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

The background, which we see in the text, is that believers at Thessalonica were experiencing persecution and tribulation. Paul writes that the day will come when those that are persecuting them will be judged and punished with everlasting destruction, while on the same day the believers are at rest. I do believe it is talking about the second coming of Jesus and not the rapture because it is talking about the day when those that are persecuting the believers are judged. In contrast, rest is certainly promised and experienced by believers at the second coming of Jesus. But Paul is not trying to say that that is the first time ever when believers will have rest. When it comes to our trials and persecutions:

  • Firstly God gives us rest and relief from trials and persecutions in this life. Paul himself obviously knew all about times of great difficulty but also God's deliverance and relief from (or sometimes in) the trial:
    1Co 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
  • Secondly believers receive rest and relief when they die. While we are in this body we will have trials (of various types). This all ends for the believer when we die:
    Rev 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."
  • Thirdly there is rest and relief at the Rapture of the Church for we shall meet Jesus in the air and forever be with Him... words of comfort!:
    1Th 4:17-18 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
  • Fourthly there is a different experience of rest at the second coming of Jesus when all of His enemies are judged, believer's are vindicated and the world is finally restored into the peace and rest that it had before the fall under the rule of the King of kings. This is what 2 Thes 1:6-10 speaks of. 

As an example, there is an interesting scripture in Revelation 6:9-11 where believers that had been slain for their faith are seen in Heaven. They are in rest... yet there is a different rest that they still wait for. 

Rev 6:9-11 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. (10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (11) Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Though in Heaven and free from the trials of this earth, they still want to know how long it will be before their enemies are judged and their blood is avenged. They are told to rest a little longer. So even though they were in Heaven, they still want to be vindicated, they still want to be avenged, they still want to see their enemies judged and for Jesus to rule and reign bringing true rest and peace to this earth. So we see that the fullness of the rest doesn't occur until the second coming and is what 2 Thes 1:6-10 speaks of.

Paul was contrasting then and now

So to sum up, Paul was not teaching those in Thessalonica that the first time they would receive rest is at the second coming of Christ after the tribulation. Nor should this scripture be used to teach that the rapture can't occur before the second coming at the end of the tribulation. Paul was not talking about the rapture in this passage but was contrasting the day of Jesus' return to earth (when everything is put right) with the current day (when it isn't):

  • Today the believer is persecuted by the world. When Jesus comes to rule they shall be in rest and peace.
  • Today the believer is looked down upon. When Jesus comes to rule the believers come with Him in glory.
  • Today the believer may not be avenged. When Jesus comes to rule He will take vengeance on the unbelievers.
  • Today the unbelievers are largely not punished. When Jesus comes to rule they will be punished.
  • Today those persecuting inflict suffering on believers. When Jesus comes to rule He will inflict suffering on them.
  • Today those persecuting often have lives of ease. When Jesus comes to rule they will experience everlasting destruction.
  • Today those persecuting often rule and have positions of power. When Jesus comes to rule believers shall rule with Him.

All believers look forward to that day when all is put right on this planet, when evil is put down and the true King of Heaven and Earth reigns here as He should. And they long and look for the rapture of the Church!

As a side but related note, below is a table from the Believers Bible Commentary contrasting the rapture and the Revelation (second coming):

God Bless!

William MacDonald in the Believers Bible Commentary provides the current contrasts between the rapture and 2nd coming:

The Rapture The Revelation
1. Christ comes to the air (1Th 4:17). 1. He comes to the earth (Zec 14:4).
2. He comes for His saints (1Th_4:16-17). 2. He comes with His saints (1Th 3:13; Jud 1:14).
3. The Rapture is a mystery, i. e. , a truth unknown in OT times (1Co 15:51). 3. The Revelation is not a mystery; it is the subject of many OT prophecies (Ps. 72; Isa. 11; Zech 14).
4. Christ's coming for His saints is never said to be preceded by celestial portents. 4. His coming with His saints will be heralded by signs in the heavens (Mat 24:29-30).
5. The Rapture is presented as a time of blessing (1Th 4:18). 5. The Revelation is identified with the Day of the Lord (2Th 2:1-12, NU Text).
6. The Rapture is presented as a time of blessing (1Th 4:18). 6. The main emphasis of the Revelation is on judgment (2Th 2:8-12).
7. The Rapture takes place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1Co_15:52). This strongly implies that it will not be witnessed by the world. 7. The Revelation will be visible world-wide (Mat 24:27; Rev_1:7).
8. The rapture seems to involve the church primarily (Joh 14:1-4; 1Co 15:51-58; 1Th 4:13-18) 8. The Revelation involves Israel primarily, then also the Gentile nations (Mat. 24:1-25:46)
9. Christ comes as the Bright and Morning Star (Rev 22:16). 9. He comes as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings (Mal 4:2).
10. The Rapture is not mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels, but is alluded to several times in John's Gospel. 10. The Revelation is characteristic in the Synoptics but hardly mentioned in John's Gospel.
11. Those taken are taken for blessing (1Th 4:13-18). Those left are left for judgment (1Th 5:1-3). 11. Those taken are taken for judgment. Those left are left for blessing (Mat 24:37-41).
12. No dating system is given for events preceding the Rapture. 12. An elaborate dating system is given for the Revelation, such as 1260 days, 42 months, 3½ years (see Dan 7:25; Dan 12:7, Dan 12:11-12; Rev 11:2; Rev 12:14; Rev 13:5).
13. The title “Son of Man” is never used in any of the passages dealing with the Rapture. 13. The revelation is spoken of as the coming of the Son of Man (Mat 16:28; Mat 24:27, Mat 24:30, Mat 24:39; Mat 26:64;  Mar 13:26; Luk 21:27).