“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” (2 Thess. 1:7)
There were some devout disciples of the Thessalonian church who were enduring “trouble” from the enemies of the gospel. It is very easy in midst of such tribulation and trouble to be anxious, fearful, and to lose any inner peace. The Holy Spirit gives these troubled Christians a hope of “rest”. When will this “rest” come? Our final rest from the trouble of this world will occur at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to destroy this world and to bring his children into “eternal rest” with God in heaven. We can “rest” together (“rest with us”) here in our lives expectantly looking for Christ’s second coming to usher in our eternal rest with God.
This Thessalonian church was faithfully enduring persecution and tribulation – “for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure” (2 Thess. 1:4). They properly commended vengeance over to God to exact righteous judgment on their adversaries. God will recompense tribulation on them that trouble you (v.5-6, Rom. 12:19). The disciples of the Thessalonian church were “troubled” – “to you who are troubled”. The word “trouble” here (thlibo, both in v.6&7) means “to crowd, to press (as grapes), to press hard upon, a compressed way”. This gives us the picture of grapes in a winepress. We are like the grapes beneath the feet of others being pressed and smashed to bring forth juice to be fermented into wine. We feel pressed down and compressed by this world, and we seek rest and relief.
This same word (thlibo, “to press hard as grapes”) is used by Paul to describe feeling boxed in and pressed from every direction. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;” (2 Cor. 4:8) Paul felt pressed and troubled on every side. “For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” (2 Cor. 7:5) The stress and pressure of this world can mount up very easily and we feel pressed from every direction in our lives.
The natural disposition of this world after sin is not “rest and peace” but “tribulation and trouble”. We shall have tribulation in this world. It is a guarantee from our Savior. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The word for “tribulation” (thlipsis) here is a synonym of trouble meaning “pressure, pressing together, distress, straits”. This world exerts so much “pressure” on the child of God, troubling us from every side.
The days of man’s life is characterized by trouble. Just a few days in this world and man is already full of trouble. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) The KJV translators’ alternate wording for “trouble” is “turmoil”. This word means “commotion, restlessness (of a horse), agitation”. A man is like an unbroken wild stallion, restless and agitated at the smallest commotion, bucking up controllably.
Lot made poor decisions that caused his soul to be vexed by the wickedness surrounding him. Lot’s righteous soul was “vexed” from the filthy conversation of the wicked around him in Sodom (2 Pet. 2:7-8). There are two different Greek words for “vexed” in those two verses. The word “vexed” (kataponeo) in v.7 literally means “oppressed, to wear down with toil, exhaust with labor”. The word “vexed” (basanizo) in v.8 literally means “tormented, to torture, to vex with grievous pains, test metals by fire”. No doubt, Lot’s soul was very discontented in Sodom, as he ought to be since his sinful decisions put him in that position. This world will really wear down our soul. This world can be very sharp, cruel, oppressive, exhausting, and tormenting to the righteous soul of the child of God.
It is very easy in a world filled with “tribulation” and trouble to let that pressure affect the peace of our heart. Jesus warned to not let the external trouble of this world get internal and get down into our heart. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1). The word “trouble” (tarasso) here means “to stir or agitate (roil water); to cause inward commotion, disquiet, make restless”. This world just stirs up and agitates our heart. It’s so easy to let the trouble of this world sink down in our heart. What is the remedy for a troubled heart? Faith in God – “ye believe in God, believe also in me”. God is a refuge and protection and help from the trouble of this world. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1) When our hearts become pressured and agitated with this world, we have to look up from the trouble of this world and fix our eyes upon Jesus.
We can certainly live with peace in our hearts since peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), but we will never be fully “at rest” in this world. This world will always pressure and trouble and vex our soul. Our soul will only be fully “at rest” when we are in heaven with God. During Job’s trouble in his life, he got depressed and wished that he had never been born because only then would he have rest (Job 3:13). Job wishes that he would have been as a miscarried baby that went immediately into rest without having to experience the trouble of this world. “16) Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. 17) There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.” (Job 3:16-17) In this world, the wicked never cease from troubling, but in that eternal bliss, not only do the wicked finally cease from troubling the righteous, but there “the weary be at rest”. When we are troubled in this world, it will surely make us weary (literally means “wearied of strength”). Thankfully, there is rest for the weary. That rest is in the eternal arms of Jesus.
The martyrs who have been slain for the name of Jesus are awaiting vengeance of the wicked who troubled, and ultimately killed, them. They are expectantly looking for the return of Jesus to judge their adversaries of their sins (Rev. 6:9-10). Even though the martyrs are seeking judgment, they are in a state of blessed “rest yet for a little season”. “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were , should be fulfilled.” (Rev. 6:11) Those martyrs are no longer dealing with the trouble of this world, and they now have “rest” for a little season.
In the depictions of the end of the world in Revelation, Babylon has just fallen and the wrath of God is poured out on the wicked. The wicked drink of God’s wrath and are tormented with fire forever and ever, and “they have no rest day nor night” (Rev. 14:11). The wicked prevent the righteous from having rest by their trouble in this world, but in the next world, they will never have any rest. On the other hand, there is perfect rest for the “blessed dead” children of God from that point forward. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Rev. 14:13)
These blessed dead that die in the Lord will have “rest from their labours”. This rest from our labours is not an eternal “retirement” but a separation from the pain of this world. The word “labours” (kopos) here means “a cut, toil, pains, a beating of the breast with grief or sorrow”. This world gives us so much pain and sorrow, it cuts to our soul and causes us to beat upon our breast with grief and sorrow. When Jesus returns, he is ushering in an “eternal rest from our labours”. In heaven, there will be no tears, no more death, no sorrow, no crying, no pain, and no more trouble (Rev. 21:5). The entire book of Revelation is giving encouragement to troubled and persecuted Christians of the return of Jesus and the hope of heaven. It’s no surprise that the book of Revelation and the entire canon of scripture closes with an excited expectation of Jesus’ second coming – “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20) We will have eternal rest with Jesus, but we can have rest now as well, as we trust and expectantly look for the second coming of Jesus.
Returning to 2 Thess. 1, Paul is troubled in this world as well, but he invites to church to “rest with us”. What is the source of Paul and the church’s rest? The second coming of Jesus Christ and the ushering in of “eternal rest”. “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; 10) When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (2 Thess. 1:7-10) We take comfort in the fact the wicked actions of those who trouble the righteous in this world will receive their just recompense of reward at Jesus’ second coming. Those wicked will have no rest day or night for eternity (Rev. 14:11) while we dwell in perfect rest in heaven with Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:5).
Let us rest today in the same place as Paul and the Thessalonian church. There is no true rest in this world. As we experience trouble in this world, let us rest in the fact that our discomfort and tribulation and pain is just for a momentary speck of time compared to an eternity of rest with Jesus Christ. That is why we can also reckon along with Paul that the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:18). We might have to briefly suffer trouble in this world, but that is nothing compared to our eternal rest in heaven! Let us rest right now in that hope, expectantly looking for the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to usher in eternal rest for the saints!