It is thought that II Thessalonians was written just a few months after the first letter to the church in Thessalonica. Because of the close proximity in when the letter is written, the themes doesn’t seem to change much. Paul encourages the church as they persevere during harsh persecutions. He constantly reminds them of the example that they are setting of keeping the faith in the face of tribulations.
Let’s look at the first chapter of this three chapter letter. Do you sense a different tone with Paul in his writing in this chapter so far? The first 4 verses seem pretty normal with Paul effusively dumping praise on the church including telling them that he boasts about them to everyone with whom he comes into contact. But then it seems like the tone changes.
Yes, the whole last letter he spoke about how proud he was of the church for maintaining their faith even in the face of persecution, but now he basically addresses those who are persecuting the churches. He says that God will surely repay the afflictors with affliction. It sounds a lot like eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Yes, Jesus did say that it would be better for a person to have a millstone tied around their neck and them thrown into the sea than if they misled a child of God (Mark 9:42). Yeah, that’s pretty rough.
When you look at vs.9 you see a pretty graphic description of what I would call hell. Yes, I do believe in a literal hell. Just like I believe in a literal heaven. Yes I believe in an inclusive Gospel, but there is an exclusivity which is built around the belief that there is a singular way to God the Father which is through Jesus Christ. There is no embarrassment in this claim, but rather a willingness to leave it all up to God and to sort it out. But I do not shy away from a belief that has God including all of humanity in a salvation while at the same time recognizing that there is an exclusivity with its foundation built on the only way, truth, and life being found in Jesus. II Thessalonians 1 speaks to this.