Counted Worthy

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. 

Crown of Rejoicing

I Thess. 2:19-20. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  For ye are our glory and joy.”

This is the reason Paul strongly desires to return to Thessalonica—it’s because of his deep love for the converts there. The language he uses is full of his love for them.  The only other church that gets this same kind of eloquent declaration of love is the church at Philippi. 

The phrase at the end of verse 19, at His coming,  makes it clear that Paul is speaking in eschatological terms; he is talking about the End Times.  He is looking forward to that wonderful day when both he and his converts will appear to stand before the Lord, reunited forever.  Hope, joy, crown of rejoicing:  The hope of heaven, the joy of fellowship with Christ and with each other, the crown of rejoicing with which Paul and his coworkers will be rewarded for their labors.  In this Olympic season, we’re reminded of what Paul is picturing.  Olympic winners in his day were rewarded with a crown of laurel leaves.  It is the symbol of victory. 

Finally, Paul tells his readers that they are indeed the laurel wreath, the crown of rejoicing.  He makes it clear that it is the people who matter, not the fame or the position; he is not in the work of spreading the gospel for his own glory, but for God’s. The people who receive the Word are his reward.