God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:6–8)
There will come a time when the patience of God is over. When God has seen his people suffer for the allotted time, and the appointed number of martyrs is complete (Revelation [6:11]), then a just and holy vengeance will come from heaven.
Notice that God’s vengeance on those who have afflicted his people is experienced by us as “relief.” “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted.” In other words, the judgment on “those who afflict” us is a form of grace toward us.
Perhaps the most remarkable picture of judgment as grace is the picture of Babylon’s destruction in Revelation 18. At her destruction, a great voice from heaven cries, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” (Revelation [18:20]). Then a great multitude is heard saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (Revelation 19:1–2).
When God’s patience has run its long-suffering course, and this age is over, and judgment comes on the enemies of God’s people, the saints will not disapprove of God’s justice.
This means that the final destruction of the unrepentant will not be experienced as a misery for God’s people.
The unwillingness of others to repent will not hold the affections of the saints hostage. Hell will not be able to blackmail heaven into misery. God’s judgment will be approved, and the saints will experience the vindication of truth as a great grace.
By John Piper