As mentioned in my last post in 2 Thessalonians, which you can read here, I wanted to stop for a moment and share a complete post answering the question of does 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 teach that all people (including those who have never heard the gospel) are going to hell if they have not obeyed the gospel?
Let me first dig deeper into the exegesis.
The text clearly states that God will pass out vengeance upon two groups. This vengeance will include “everlasting destruction away from the presence of the Lord”, or what we typically call hell. The inclusion of the reference to the coming of Jesus, “that day,” and Jesus being “revealed” from heaven (1:7, 10), are further evidence that we are talking about the final judgment and God’s eternal punishment for the wicked in hell.
The next question becomes who will receive this punishment? Thus we must identify the two groups:
1. Those who do not know God. Our mind quickly jumps to atheists or those who worship a god other than the Bible, but I think we need to understand how Paul would use the term. Paul, being Jewish and trained in the law, I believe, is using this phrase to refer to the Gentiles. Those individuals who suppressed the truth about God. Thus Paul is saying the Gentiles are destined for punishment.
2. Those who have not obeyed the Gospel. The quick jump could be that if the first half refers to the Gentiles then the second half must refer to the Jews. This could be the case. It could be that Paul is referring to the Jewish people who rejected the gospel due to their rejection of Jesus as Messiah and His atoning work. However, I think it is more likely that Paul is referring to both Gentiles and Jews who refuse to obey the gospel.
Okay, so the text, as interpreted, says: God will punish to hell the Gentiles who do not know Him and the Jews and Gentiles who refuse to submit themselves to the gospel.
This is updated from Earlier Edition in Order to be More Precise. I thank those who through comments and private messages have shown where my language was less than adequate.
Now the next step is to ask the question how universal is this principle? We know from context that the main concern Paul has is to provide comfort for the Thessalonians by letting them know that they will receive rest while their tormentors will receive punishment. We cannot miss this as the MAIN point.
However, as is true with much Scripture there is also a secondary point that I think is legitimate. When you diagram the text (usually down in Greek but for our purposes English) the phrase “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and have no obeyed the gospel,” is modifying “when Jesus is revealed.” Thus the text is saying that God is going to punish the tormentor of the Thessalonians at the time of Jesus Second Coming, when Jesus will also punish those who do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel.
I hope this update helps.
So, my conclusion is that the text is PRIMARILY Concerned with the persecutors, but also teaches the truth that God will punish all who do not know God and do not obey the gospel.