In 2 Thess. 1:7,8 we read that Jesus will come down from heaven with the angels of his power, in flaming fire, taking revenge of those who do not know God, and of those who do not obey the Gospel. We find the word “vengeance” in various versions of the Bible: the Latin Vulgata, the Brazilian translation of João Ferreira de Almeida, the Jerusalem Bible, etc. The word vengeance contradicts John 3:17, where we read that Jesus did not come to condemn anyone. Jesus came to save the lost (1 Tim. 1:15). The word VENGEANCE does not agree with the spirit of Christ, his loving nature, his gentleness and kindness.
The word that Paul used in the Greek manuscript is EKEDIKHSIS, which when translated is PUNISH, not avenge. Why do so many translations render the word vengeance instead of punishment? That is because they believe that Jehovah, the God of vengeances, is the father of Jesus, or even Jesus himself. The rule of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, expresses the vindictive character of Jehovah. They want to connect Jesus to Jehovah, even though Jesus opposes to the character of Jehovah in the Sermon of the Mount (Matt. 5:38-48), where he declares to be against Jehovah’s vengeance.
The word PUNISH is harmonious with Christ’s kindness, for he was constituted by the Father as Judge of the living and of the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1). To punish those who do not know God is just, for those that do not know him practice evil, whereas taking vengeance reveals hatred. In the Scofield version, we read that Jesus will come with retribution; and in the French translation of the Benedictine monks, we read that he will come to execute justice. The best translation for EKEDIKHSIS is, then, to execute justice or, to punish, though never, “to take vengeance”.
As to the expression “Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire” (2 Tim 1:7), it is figurative language. In Matt. 13:42 we read: “and will cast them into the furnace of fire”. It is also figurative language. God does not have any furnace. In Is. 31:9 and 48:10, we read that Jerusalem was a furnace. Flaming fire or blazing fire is an appropriate language for the end of this world (2 Pe. 3:7).
This is a necessary explanation because Jehovah is the God of fire. Jehovah sent fire from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. And it was real fire, not figurative fire (Gen. 19:24). Fire from heaven was the sign of the power and of the glory of Jehovah. King Ahab gathered four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, plus four hundred prophets of Asherah for a confrontation with the prophet Elijah. Elijah told them: Build an altar to Baal, cut up an ox and lay it over it. I will prepare the other ox and place it on the other altar. You will call on Baal, and I will call on Jehovah. Whichever god answers with fire, this is the true God. After the prophets of Baal were tired of uselessly calling on their god, Elijah called on Jehovah, and fire came down from heaven and consumed the holocaust, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and the water (1 Kings 18:19-39). Fire is one of the ways that Jehovah uses to kill. The sons of the High Priest Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, put strange fire in their fire-pans and brought it before Jehovah. So fire came down from heaven and consumed them both, and they died before Jehovah (Lev. 10:1-2). On another occasion, Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, fell through the lattice of a very high chamber and got seriously hurt. He sent messengers to ask of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, about his fate. Jehovah, offended, told Elijah to go meet the messengers that Ahaziah had sent, with the following message: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die”. And Elijah went away. Ahaziah, mad at Jehovah, sent fifty soldiers and a captain after Elijah. The captain said: Man of God, the king says: “Come down.” Elijah answered: “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty”. The king sent again another captain with fifty men. The captain said: “O man of God, thus says the king: ‘Come down quickly.’ And Elijah answered and said to them, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Then the fire of God came down and consumed him and his fifty”. Poor captains and poor soldiers! If they did not obey the king, they would be killed for rebellion, and when the obeyed the king, they were killed by Jehovah. Which was their fault, that they had to die? How many widows and how many orphans were left on the streets! What disgrace! (2 Kings 1:1-12).
Jesus, when the days of his ascension were near, decided to go to Jerusalem, “and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered the village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him”. The Samaritans did not receive him. John and James told the Master: “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Jesus said: “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9: 51-56).
As we have said, Jehovah is the God of fire, which destroys, kills, and burns. “Clouds and thick darkness surround Him” (Ps. 97:2). “By the fury of the Lord of Hosts the land is burned up, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no man spares his brother” (Is. 9:19). It is the fire of the wrath of Jehovah (Jer. 15:14). “Before Him goes pestilence, and plague comes after Him” (Hab. 3:5). The passion for consuming everything by fire is characteristic of Jehovah (Amos 7:4). Then the prophet Amos rebuked Jehovah saying: “Lord God, please stop!” And Jehovah repented (Amos 7:5-6). This is the consuming fire, which is Jehovah (Deut. 4:24).
In the New Testament, the fire of Jesus is the Fire of the Holy Spirit. The ones who were baptized with the Holy Spirit were filled with the fire of love for the lost souls (Matt. 3:11). In the Pentecost, the fire of the love of Christ showed up over the heads of 120 disciples, which began to preach and testify of Jesus, in such a way, that almost three thousand people were converted (Acts 2: 1-41). This is the fire that Jesus came to throw upon the earth (Luke 12:49).
The book of Revelation speaks, in the New Testament, of a fire coming from heaven. This is the fire of the beast come to deceive men (Acts 2: 1-14). The fire that does not deceive anyone, and does not destroy the souls of men, and that has also come down from heaven, is the fire of mercy, of the Father’s compassion, revealed in Christ on the cross, to save all men (Titus 2:11; Tim. 4:10).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira