2 Thessalonians


This letter was written by Paul to the Church of the Thessalonians in the early 50's A.D. shortly after 1 Thessalonians was written. Notice this is long before the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. and long before Nero, the 666 of Revelation, began persecuting Christians in 64 A.D. He killed himself 3–1/2 years later with a sword and after that the Roman Empire fell into a civil war.



(2 Thessalonians 1:1) Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Others assisted Paul in writing this letter.

(2 Thessalonians 1:2) Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 1:3) We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet [proper], because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

The New Testament writers often mentioned that charity is to be directed toward fellow believers.

Two aspects to Christian living...

  1. faith
  2. charity (toward fellow believers)

(2 Thessalonians 1:4) So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

Almost a form of competition between local churches of which one endures persecutions and tribulations with more patience and faith.

The Churches of God are those local Churches governed by pastors and elders. If these leaders were unholy and corrupt, I doubt if Paul would be so pleased with them. Note that in the book of Revelation, Jesus rebukes those Churches having serious flaws.

(2 Thessalonians 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:

Their faith and patience is visible. It demonstrates that God is just in providing a way of redemption for those who receive it.

These Christians were suffering persecutions and tribulations because of their membership in the kingdom of God. The God-rejecting world hates those of the kingdom of God.

Notice the kingdom of God is future for each living person; it begins at death. The sequence: first they suffer (while alive), then they enter the kingdom of God.

(2 Thessalonians 1:6) Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

I think Paul is saying (1) that those who persecute the Church will get their due punishment in the final judgment, and (2) that it is righteous and just for God to punish people who have actively opposed the Church and the gospel.

(2 Thessalonians 1:7) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

We must wait until the final judgment for rest. Note that those who die before this event will get rest but not in the body — this must await the resurrected body.

This coming of Jesus refers to the second coming, not to the so-called rapture (there is no such thing) and not to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (ala Preterism).

Paul was not at rest when he wrote this; he is referring to his own future rest along with their future rest.

(2 Thessalonians 1:8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

We must obey which requires works.

(2 Thessalonians 1:9) Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

The phrase "everlasting destruction" doesn't actually make any sense; once something is destroyed it is eternally gone and can't be destroyed anymore. Unless, of course, the destruction is never finished. This implies only an infinitely small part is destroyed each moment. In other words, blessings are no longer imparted and life becomes moment by moment despair.

(2 Thessalonians 1:10) When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Since verse 9 is referring to eternal damnation, this verse refers to the final day of judgment. God will be glorified in those who are eternally redeemed. This matches very well with the idea of deification, that humans will be deified because Christ took on human nature and made it be part of God's nature. When we finally see God as he really is, (at least more so than we do now) we will certainly admire him.

(2 Thessalonians 1:11) Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

I wonder if those who are not counted as worthy of this calling are not called at all? After all, what good is it to be unworthy of this calling? Certainly Paul thinks this is a bad thing so he prays for them to become worthy and to remain worthy. What good is it if they start out worthy but later become unworthy?

Paul mentions that others are also praying for them. Presumably, he is referring to the others who travel with him. It seems they have regular prayer meetings in which they pray for such things for the Churches and Christians they interact with.

People are called because of God's goodness. God's power is required to redeem someone. God must, by his power, plant his Spirit within the soul of the redeemed so that the powers of darkness are neutralized and can't keep the person from exercise saving faith. Charismatic Christians seem to think that God can only manifest his power in wild and extravagant public displays of energy and passion.

Just as God derives pleasure from goodness, so do we. This is not always easy to discern in this life of hardship and suffering but it will be very pronounced in the new heavens and new earth. Of course our goodness derives from his goodness; God is the source of all things good.

(2 Thessalonians 1:12) That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.


The Forged Letter

In Chapter 2, Paul writes to clear up confusion about two topics of end-time prophecy...

  1. The second coming of Christ (the day of the Lord)
  2. The gathering of believers to Jesus Christ at the final resurrection

The Thessalonians got a forged letter stating...

  1. Paul's teachings about the day of the Lord were lies
  2. the day of the Lord was not far future but was already occurring
  3. the trials and tribulations in Jerusalem were from skirmishes of Jewish revolutionaries against the Romans
  4. there would soon be a Jewish political leader, a "savior", a "messiah", who would set up a visible, political kingdom centered in Jerusalem. Apparently, even Gentile Christians would find it appealing, the prospect of a utopian Jewish kingdom centered in Jerusalem. The Judaizers were busy everywhere insisting Christians must be Jewish. Perhaps some radicals of these wrote and distributed the forged letter.

Paul writes to remind them what he had already taught them...

  1. the "day of the Lord" (in its true meaning) had not yet come
  2. the Jewish rebellion (the lawlessness) was not a good thing but would result in the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (see Matthew 24)
  3. Paul calls the dominant leader of this rebellion the "man of lawlessness", the Antichrist (but Paul doesn't use this term)
  4. the coming of the "man of lawlessness" must occur prior to the "day of the Lord" (second coming of Christ); since this person was not yet on the scene, the day of the Lord had not yet occurred

Introductory observations...

  1. The disturbing information in the forged letter was believed by the Thessalonians. Therefore it must have been believable.
  2. The church in Thessalonica was composed of many God-fearing Greeks (previous converts to Judaism) and some Jews. (Acts 17:4)
  3. Paul had previously been plagued by the Jews in that area.
  4. The non-believing Jews were actively opposing Paul and the gospel by starting riots. (Acts 17:5,13)
  5. The Greek believers were likely versed in Greek philosophical ideas.
  6. The Jewish believers would likely be susceptible to falling back into Jewish legalism.
  7. Many Jews were actively seeking a Jewish kingdom and were planning to rebel against the Roman empire. They looked for a Jewish political leader (a messiah) to lead them in this.

In Chapter 1 of this book, Paul...

  1. Mentions the trials and persecutions of the church in Thessalonica (v4,5,7)
  2. Affirms that ultimately they will get relief (v5,7,9,10,11)
  3. Affirms that those who are persecuting them will ultimately be punished (v5,6,8,9)
  4. Commends their faith and perseverance (v3,4,10,11)

Chapter two follows immediately after these ideas.


The Great Contradiction

There is a Great Contradiction highlighted in these verses...

  1. Many, many New Testament passages refer to a happy event to occur within their lifetime, within "this generation".
  2. There is an unhappy event referred to in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 as the "day of Christ".

My resolution to the Great Contradition...

  1. The happy event to occur in everyone's lifetime is their death.

    Why would Jesus and the Apostles promise everyone a happy event but they all die before it occurs? And why would the promise also apply to all believers into the future? (and they all die too?)

    Jesus comes at death, judges us for our works, takes believers into the (partial) fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven.

    It doesn't make sense to be exhorted to wait expectantly for Christ's coming if it occurs thousands (millions?) of years after they have died.

  2. The second coming of Christ (and associated events) is the final event to occur on earth before the Great White Throne judgment.

    This will be preceded by hardships and difficulties: tribulation, persecution of Christians.

  3. Other attempts to resolve the Great Contradiction (Preterism, rapture) are absurd.

Forged Letter

(2 Thessalonians 2:1) Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

Preterists latch on to this verse in claiming that the parousia (second coming) of Christ would occur in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the temple. But Jesus didn't come then, so this event is yet-future. We will be gathered to him at his second coming.

After the crucifixion and before the resurrection, Jesus gathered those in Abraham's bosom to himself, but that was a past event at the time this letter was written. The only other times Jesus gathers people together are: (1) at each of our death, and (2) at his second coming.

(2 Thessalonians 2:2) That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand [has come].

We learn some important facts from this verse...

  1. They are troubled because: (1) they thought Paul had lied, (2) they believed the day of Christ will not be a happy occasion (Paul does not refute this).
  2. The day of Christ is an actual event.
  3. They thought the day of Christ will not be a happy time for Christians (the false teachers taught them this).
  4. Before hearing this false teaching they were waiting expectantly for the day of Christ thinking it to be a happy occasion.

I think we can rule out the option that the day spoken of is each believer's death. It seems to refer to some event everyone will experience. They thought it would occur in a few years time.

Some fundamentalist evangelical Protestants teach they were troubled because they missed the rapture. This is absurd in the extreme for several reasons...

  1. They would have noticed that some people were raptured (but just not them), but they didn't notice this.
  2. There was no teaching of a rapture until a couple hundred years ago.
  3. The implied reason they were troubled was because of a time of tribulation that would come upon them, but it would be far worse to miss the rapture — this would mean you weren't redeemed at all!

Antichrist

The man of sin, the Antichrist, was a messianic Jewish revolutionary, perhaps one of those who took up residence in the temple and starting the Jewish War against the Romans in 66 A.D. or perhaps Simon Bar Kokhba who led the short-term rebellion against the Roman Empire in 132 A.D.

(2 Thessalonians 2:3) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin [man of lawlessness] be revealed, the son of perdition [destruction];

Paul corrects their mistaken view by informing them the day of Christ has not yet come. Two implications...

  1. The forged letter was a lie.
  2. The day of Christ will be an unhappy time, even for Christians.

The second coming of Christ will not occur until these occur first...

  1. A falling away
  2. The man of sin

Why would it be good news to the readers to learn that the tribulation had not begun yet if it was about to occur. That's like telling someone, "great news; you didn't die yesterday; but you will die tomorrow". Or if the tribulation occurs in their children's lifetime?

In chapter 1 Paul mentions their present suffering. Whatever the bad news from this false teacher, it must have been far worse than that. Later, during the age of martyrs, people considered martyrdom to be a blessing. Therefore, the bad news must have been that they missed the second coming because they weren't redeemed. But why would they think they were not redeemed? Perhaps because they were Gentiles who did not follow the law and get circumcised; that's the first heresy of the Church by the Judaizers.

(2 Thessalonians 2:4) Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing [showing] himself that he is God.

I prefer to interpret the temple to mean a literal temple rather than referring to each believer as the temple of God. How can someone sit in the soul of a believer? Since the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. and has not been rebuilt since there are three possibilities...

  1. The event occurred in the Jewish War of 66–70 A.D. leading up to the destruction of the temple (this is my view).
  2. It is yet-future, before the new heavens and new earth.
  3. It is yet-future, after the new heavens and new earth. This option can be rejected out-of-hand. (There will indeed be a literal temple in the new heavens and new earth but this verse is not referring to that.)

The man of sin, the Antichrist, could perhaps refer to Nero, Vespasian, and Titus but none of them literally sat in the temple showing himself as God. Therefore, we should rule out this possibility.

How does the man of sin show he is God in the temple? (We should note: even premillennialists don't claim for Antichrist that he claims to be God but, rather, merely that he opposes God.) God did not reside in the Jewish temple when Paul wrote this; the Shekinah glory had vacated centuries earlier. Someone proclaiming themself as God in the temple would not have resulted in the Jews and their leaders worshipping them; more likely they would have been stoned for blasphemy.

This man of sin does not claim to be God but, rather, demonstrates his disdain for God by using the temple as a base of their revolutionary activities and even to store weapons.

(2 Thessalonians 2:5) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

(2 Thessalonians 2:6) And now ye know what withholdeth [restrains] that he might be revealed in his time.

The word "he" can mean "it". What is referred to is the soul of a person or a spiritual entity.

At the time Paul wrote this letter, this time was still future — but would occur soon, not thousands of years in the future.

Perhaps this restrainer is the person of the high priest who was deposed in 66 A.D.at the start of the Jewish war.

(2 Thessalonians 2:7) For the mystery [hidden power] of iniquity [lawlessness] doth already work: only he who now letteth [lets it happen] will let [it happen], until he be taken out of the way.

Satan could not conspire to destroy the temple of Jerusalem until the time allotted by God.

Radical Jewish revolutionaries were already stirring up trouble with violence.

There are wicked spiritual powers led by Satan operating behind the scenes in this world. These will finally be removed at the second coming of Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 2:8) And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

Notice this verse doesn't say these events will occur just before Christ's second coming, only that this spirit will be destroyed at that time.

(2 Thessalonians 2:9) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

Satan's primary goal is to discredit the gospel. He does this to the Jews by emphasizing their longing for freedom from Roman rule via a political revolutionary Messiah. Josephus records various miraculous signs in Jerusalem and the temple.

(2 Thessalonians 2:10) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Those who perish are non-Christians who rejected Christianity.

Many assume the man of sin causes hardship for Christians but these verses don't say this; rather, the Jews are the ones who rejected Christ and as a consequence were destroyed by the Romans (because they thought the Messiah would deliver them from Roman rule). Also, as Gentiles, many who were God-fearers, the Christians of Thessalonica were not directly involved with the temple in Jerusalem.

(2 Thessalonians 2:11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

The lie was simply that the gospel was in error, that Jesus was not the Messiah, that the Messiah was a political leader who would liberate them from the Romans. The Jews believed this lie and as a consequence perished or were enslaved in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Christians in Jerusalem did believe Jesus and escaped to safety.

(2 Thessalonians 2:12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

(2 Thessalonians 2:13) But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

A cornerstone to Protestant teaching is the clear division between justification and sanctification; you are saved by faith only, then, after that, you strive to become more and more holy over time. This verse directly contradicts this view: it equates salvation and sanctification. Works are required for salvation.

(2 Thessalonians 2:14) Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 2:15) Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Christians are to hold to the traditions taught them by the apostles. These traditions were taught by the preaching of the apostles and in letters written by the apostles. Christianity is an apostolic religion — the teaching of the apostles is the final authority. Any place where this teaching resides is, therefore, also the authority. As is common in the New Testament, Paul is addressing false teaching and seeking to correct people's understanding. He tells them the two trustworthy sources of information: his words in person and in writing. They are to reject any teaching from any other source. They are to judge every other teaching and compare it with Paul's teaching and reject any that don't match. These people are easily fooled: as soon as Paul has been away for a while, they forget what he said and believe things taught by others.

Notice that Paul doesn't include scripture in this list of two items, for example, he doesn't refer to the four gospels but only to his own letters to these people. In other words, Paul is saying the following: "My teaching is true; believe it; whether you hear it from my lips in person or read it in one of my letters to you".

This verse does not provide an over-arching approval of anything the Catholic Church claims to be big-T Tradition. To be valid apostolic tradition, it must have actually been taught by the apostles. It is wrong to claim that the apostles taught something if there is no early record of it either in the New Testament or the writings of the early church fathers. Thus, the apostles did not teach indulgences and it is not part of apostolic tradition. (That being said, I believe indulgences to be valid, but not for the reason claimed by the Catholic Church. God is all-too-happy to bless us in all kinds of ways based on our faith. An example is the woman who believed she would be healed if she could but touch the hem of Jesus' garment.)

(2 Thessalonians 2:16) Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

(2 Thessalonians 2:17) Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

(2 Thessalonians 3:1) Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

(2 Thessalonians 3:2) And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

(2 Thessalonians 3:3) But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

(2 Thessalonians 3:4) And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

(2 Thessalonians 3:5) And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 3:6) Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

Apostolic tradition is the measure of true Christian faith. This was imparted to them directly via the spoken word. In order to be tradition is has to be taught specifically by the apostles and written down in the New Testament. Some churches consider tradition as something passed along verbally for centuries, developing under God's guidance until today it bears no resemblance to apostolic teaching. That is not tradition but, rather, false teaching.

Apparently Paul is here speaking to the majority of Christians who are living out their life of faith properly, exhorting them to shun those who are not. He mentions in verse 10 and verse 11 what they are doing that is so bad they should be shunned.

(2 Thessalonians 3:7) For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

(2 Thessalonians 3:8) Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

(2 Thessalonians 3:9) Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample [example] unto you to follow us.

While ministering to the Churches, Paul worked to pay for his needs. He could have commanded the Churches to pay for this, but he chose not to. He did this to illustrate by example how they were to live and also so they couldn't accuse him of being greedy.

Paul is being an example to the Christians at-large who should work for a living. He is not being a very good example to the leaders who he says can receive all they need to live from the Churches they oversee.

(2 Thessalonians 3:10) For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

An important verse about charity; no handouts for those too lazy to work. Also notice that charity is only for Christians. The apostolic church focused on helping Christians, not society at large.

Perhaps they quit working because they expect Christ's second coming any day.

(2 Thessalonians 3:11) For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

(2 Thessalonians 3:12) Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

(2 Thessalonians 3:13) But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

(2 Thessalonians 3:14) And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

We should not hang around with worldly Christians.

(2 Thessalonians 3:15) Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

(2 Thessalonians 3:16) Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

(2 Thessalonians 3:17) The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

Paul wrote the final greeting himself, not using a scribe or secretary. Therefore, a scribe or secretary actually wrote this letter. It may bear the imprint of this writer's grammar, syntax, and writing style. Thus, you cannot use grammar, syntax, and writing style to identify who wrote a New Testament writing, yet modern interpretation of the Bible does just this.

Paul wrote the final greeting of all his letters himself, not using a scribe or secretary.

(2 Thessalonians 3:18) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.


King James Version