I received the following question:
2 Thessalonians 1
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
In this passage we are told to obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Would you please explain what this gospel entails?
The word “gospel” in Greek is the word euangelion, The prefix “eu” means “good,” but good in the sense of being right. “Angelion” means a message, and is related to the Greek angel or “messenger.” So a gospel is a right or true message. One example I like to give as a “gospel” is if you were sleeping at night, and suddenly you were woken up by a shout, “Fire! Get out!” This would be far from good news, yet if it was true, it would be the right news, and the news you needed to hear.
Yet there are several ideas that also go along with this. First of all, a gospel must be spoken in view of a need. In the case of the fire, you needed to hear about it so you could wake up and get out of the burning building. A gospel must also contain an element of promise. In the case of “Fire! Get out!” the promise implied is that if you do get out of the burning building, your life will be saved and you will not die in the fire. So a message must contain these elements in order to be considered a gospel.
Now that said, the gospel in Scripture we are most familiar with and are always likely to talk about is the gospel of our salvation. This is the right and true message that can bring salvation to a sinner. Yet this is not the only gospel contained in the Scriptures. For example, in Galatians 3:8, we read:
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’”
Now no sensible person could say that the gospel proclaimed to Abraham here was a gospel that was going to save Abraham from his sins, or that it was the same as the gospel of our salvation today. Yet what was proclaimed to him was a good message. It was the right and true message to him. It was spoken in view of a need, for he needed to know that the God Who had called him out of his home in Ur of the Chaldees was truly trustworthy and would provide him with the seed and heir he had been promised. It also contained an element of promise, for he was promised that in him and his descendants all the nations shall be blessed, a great promise indeed.
So we come to the gospel that all must “obey” at the time of the beginning of Christ’s parousia. This gospel is one that all people must obey at that time or be destroyed by His parousia. What exactly it is is hard to say. If we compare this passage with Matthew 24:13-14, we might get a clue.
13. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
If this is the same gospel referred to, it may be, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” Yet even in Matthew 24 this is not abundantly clear, and the “true message” Christ refers to might be the entire message of chapter 24, and not just verse 13.
Nevertheless, the point is that the gospel that must be obeyed in II Thessalonians 1:8 is a gospel that is specific to people living at the time of the revolt against the kingdom. It is a gospel they will need to know and obey, but it is not necessarily anything we need to know and obey. They will be enduring as sons of the kingdom in spite of the temptations, opposition, and persecutions of the revolt against the kingdom. Their way of pleasing God then will be to stand strong and stay faithful. We might not face the same situation as they will, but we too need to stand strong and stay faithful in all our trials and testings. “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.” II Timothy 2:10. Yet their gospel is one of obedience, whereas ours is one of faith. This passage is not speaking directly to us, or of anything that will happen to us in our day. In that day, we will need to stay faithful to what God has given us to do at that time, but since we will have been metamorphosed to be like Christ, as Colossians tells us, I am sure we will do so.
Thanks for the great question. Keep studying the Word!