2 Thessalonians is a letter about the future written by the Apostle Paul. It is a weighty letter. Some of the future Paul shows us is dark. I'm aware that a number of the articles I wrote and published a year ago, and am now finally posting on my blog, carry that dark weightiness. But... that is the nature of consistent exposition of the Bible. There are high mountain peaks of truth to explore and deep valleys to journey through, but it is all equally true... and equally necessary.
2 Thessalonians 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
I published a post some time ago discussing the word “damned” in Mark 16:16. The word translated in that verse means: To be actually under sentence after a determination of guilt and the pronouncement of the sentence. The sentence is pronounced but the execution of the sentence is in the future. But the verb used in 2 Thessalonians 2:12 is slightly different.
This verb, as used in this verse, means: "the act of inflicting the penalty on one." Thayer Bauer-Danker says it this way: "the temporal punishment which God brings upon sinners." While in the first usage, Mark 16:16, there may be time between the legal process of judgment and the execution of the penalty, in this usage the penalty is being sealed and executed.
This verse in its context teaches us that God is constantly observing unbelievers. They have already been legally judged and condemned, but are living under His common mercy. He is aware of all their decisions and actions while His mercy restrains the justice that awaits them. There is a time, sadly, when God’s gracious patience gives way, mercy evaporates, justice is all that remains, and the penalty is executed.
The unique thing about this verse is their doom is sealed while they are still living on earth. Today, as far as we know, any unbeliever who draws breath can believe the Gospel and find everlasting freedom from condemnation and guilt. There is always hope. But this passage portends a time when God seems to close that opportunity for some. The rope of God's mercy securing their place on the precipice of life will be cut, but they will still retain life for the moment while they streak toward the rocks of His final justice waiting beneath them. Damned... but still alive.
In other words there really are consequences for sin and unbelief. If the consequence has not yet been experienced it is because God’s mercy has held it back. But never take His mercy for granted. The gospel is the only hope we have in this life.