II Thess. 1:5. “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.”
A continuation of verse four, the phrase which is a manifest token refers to the patience and faith the Thessalonians showed in their tribulations. A manifest token is a “thing pointed out, a thing proved”; so, in this context, it is used in the sense of being evidence, a plain indication of the righteous judgment of God. But how is tribulation paired with “righteous judgment of God”? There are those who like to see this as deserved punishment for a lack of faith. I think that’s a stretch, and doesn’t take into account the context of the entire passage, or Paul’s spirit of gratitude for their patience and faith.
A better way to understand this statement is to put it in both the present and future context. Verses 5-10 are clearly eschatological in nature, referencing things to come during the end times. The “righteous judgment” is still future, and they would need grace to continue to endure. The fact they they were able to endure to that point was evidence of God’s working in their lives, and assurance that He will not allow their sufferings to go unrewarded.
“The righteous judgment of God” looks forward to the future day of judgment at Christ’s return. This future reference is clear to a student of the language, and involves articles, pronoun numbers, verb tenses, and the following verses. I’ve checked it out with several different authorities, and there is near-universal agreement that verse five is the beginning of an eschatological passage. The judgment mentioned is righteous, just, and without partiality as He distinguishes and separates the good from the evil. More on this in future posts.
Paul also realized that the suffering of the Thessalonian believers was being permitted “to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” He is telling them not to despair, not to give in; that the final result will be worth what they are enduring and that the present result is their faith and patience, and their growing love for one another. They are being put through the refiner’s fire.
Job 23:10 says, “But He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” After Terry’s surgery, his pain was terrible to experience and to watch. No pain is pleasant while it’s being endured. But already, such a short time later, he talks about it being a time when his complete dependence was on God, when prayer was the only thing he could hang onto, and when he knew he was being tested by Satan. He was spiritually strengthened through the pain. Found worthy.