In chapter 1, there is a disturbing passage.
Paul tells the Thessalonians,
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you…He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. (6:8-9)
If you want to define hell, verse 9 pretty much sums it up. It’s being shut out from the presence of the Lord forever. Some people try to think of destruction as annihilation, but every scripture we see shows hell is a conscious state. And what is hell if it isn’t being shut off forever from the One who is life, love, and joy?
But why? Why are people shut off from him?
I think we see the answer in this chapter.
Here Paul addresses a misunderstanding of something he had written earlier. Some people were worrying that Jesus had already come and that they had somehow missed it.
And Paul says, “No, when Jesus comes, it will be crystal clear. There will be no missing of it. You will know.”
In short, Antichrist must come first. He will oppose God, and he will set himself up as God in the temple, probably one that has yet to be built in Jerusalem. From the time of Paul, and even before that, we have seen the power of lawlessness in the world, inspired by the Father of Lies who would destroy us. But he has been restrained, probably by the Holy Spirit.
The day will come, however, when the Spirit will step aside and all hell will literally break loose, with Satan having free reign on this earth. This Antichrist will come with counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders, and many will be deceived into thinking he truly is Christ. And ultimately they will perish for it. (3-10)
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (10-11)
Here we see the main reason why so many people perish in hell. God has given them the truth of the gospel. Even those who never hear the gospel, they have the witness of creation and their own conscience (Romans 1). And yet, they refuse to love the truth that they may be saved. Instead, they delight in their own wickedness.
Most people today don’t believe, not because they can’t believe, but they don’t want to believe. Because they know that if they choose to believe, they cannot simply continue in their sin, but must repent. And they don’t want to do that.
And so God says, “Fine, you don’t want to believe the truth. Here is a very powerful lie. Go ahead and consume it.”
They do, and for all eternity, they will embrace their wickedness, cursing God, never coming to repentance. That’s why people perish.
How about you? What do you do with the truth? Will you embrace it and be saved? Or will you cling to your own sin and perish?
Remember the words of the Lord who said,
As surely as I live…I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! (Ezekiel 33:11)
Why choose death when you can choose life? The choice is yours.