15 The Lord will come down like a whirlwind with his flaming chariots. He will be terribly furious and punish his enemies with fire. 16 The Lord's fiery sword will bring justice everywhere on this earth and execute many people.
As someone who knows God as loving, kind, gentle and tender. As someone who knows God takes no pleasure in the death of the ungodly and teaches us to love our enemies and overcome evil by good Bible passages such as these are difficult to understand. We could of course try to allegorise and spiritualise this scripture by saying it refers to spiritual enemies such as demons, but the truth of the matter is that verse 16 clearly talks about the execution of people.
We may also think of those who perished in the flood, in Sodom, in Egypt’s plagues or during Israel’s occupation of Canaan and we can no longer deny that God does bring judgement on people and executes many of them or ordered their execution.
Honestly, I find this difficult to reconcile with God’s love for people for whom He gave His son while they were still ungodly, helpless and enemies in order to save and reconcile them to himself (Rom. 5:1-11). Yet at the same time I do understand that God in His love hates the evil that hurts and damages His creation and in particular what hurts and damages the people He created.
I therefore tend to see the judgement of God as a last resort, something He only does when there is no other option left. After all He says in Ezekiel 18:23
I, the Lord God, don't like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live.
So therefore God in His love and patience waits as long as possible to bring judgement on the wicked, giving people a chance to repent. This is confirmed in the New Testament when Peter explains why God is waiting with this final judgement talked about by the prophets in 2 Peter 3:1-15
1 My dear friends, this is the second letter I have written to encourage you to do some honest thinking. I don't want you to forget 2 what God's prophets said would happen. You must never forget what the holy prophets taught in the past. And you must remember what the apostles told you our Lord and Savior has commanded us to do.
3 But first you must realize that in the last days some people won't think about anything except their own selfish desires. They will make fun of you 4 and say, “Didn't your Lord promise to come back? Yet the first leaders have already died, and the world hasn't changed a bit.”
5 They will say this because they want to forget that long ago the heavens and the earth were made at God's command. The earth came out of water and was made from water. 6 Later it was destroyed by the waters of a mighty flood. 7 But God has commanded the present heavens and earth to remain until the day of judgment. Then they will be set on fire, and ungodly people will be destroyed.
8 Dear friends, don't forget that for the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. 9 The Lord isn't slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.
10 The day of the Lord's return will surprise us like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a loud noise, and the heat will melt the whole universe. Then the earth and everything on it will be seen for what they are.
11 Everything will be destroyed. So you should serve and honor God by the way you live. 12 You should look forward to the day when God judges everyone, and you should try to make it come soon. On that day the heavens will be destroyed by fire, and everything else will melt in the heat. 13 But God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth, where justice will rule. We are really looking forward to that!
14 My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living at peace. 15 Don't forget that the Lord is patient because he wants people to be saved. This is also what our dear friend Paul said when he wrote you with the wisdom that God had given him.
So let us not take Gods patience and love for granted, thinking that judgement may never come because for all of us it will come one day so let us be wise in how we live.