Letter to the Church at Thessalonica
Audience: The church likely included some Jews, since Paul began his ministry in the synagogue. However, 1:9–10 and Acts 17: suggest that church membership was predominantly gentile. Thessalonica was the largest city and chief harbor town of Macedonia, with a population of approximately 200,000.
The purpose of this letter was to caution the Thessalonians that the Lord’s coming was not immediately at hand—it would not be until after the “rebellion” or the arrival of the antichrist.
In this letter, Paul indicates various events that must precede the second coming of Christ.
Second Thessalonians tells Christians that they should continue working until the second coming of Christ. Christ’s coming will be preceded by the arrival of the antichrist.
In his first letter Paul had spoken of the Lord’s coming as being sudden and unexpected. In this letter he explains that it will not be until after the apostasy (the falling away from or renouncing of the Christian faith).
The particular feature of the Lord’s coming that is emphasized in this chapter is that it will be a day of terror for the disobedient—those who have rejected God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul lists major events leading up to the return of Christ.
After Paul’s departure from Thessalonica, ongoing persecution of the faithful believers continued.
Another serious problem was an erroneous assumption on the part of the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord had actually begun, and that the Messiah would soon appear. Perhaps using this expectation as an excuse, some had given up their work.
Paul specifically states in the earliest writings we have of him—the Thessalonian epistles—that he did not expect the immediate appearance of the Lord, and that it would not be until after the rebellion, apostasy, or falling away, which in his day was only beginning to work.
Paul encouraged and comforted the believers during their trials.
His words of encouragement include:
“Your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (verse 3).
“We ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure” (verse 4).
In verses 1-12 Paul clarified the misconception that Christ’s second coming was going to immediately occur. He said two events must come to pass before Christ will return. These are:
1. “The falling away comes first” (verse 3).
2. “The man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (verse 3).
Paul encouraged them to “stand fast” and to hold firmly to the teachings they were taught.
Paul urged them to pray for him and his party (verses 1-2). The Thessalonians were given the assurance that “the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one” (verse 3). At the same time Paul expressed confidence in God who would help them to be obedient and develop “the patience of Christ” (verses 4-5).
Perhaps as a result of the mistaken belief that Christ would soon appear, some members had stopped working and relied upon the generosity of others to support them and their families. Paul condemned these individuals and gave strict instructions that such disorderly conduct should end. He declared that “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (verse 10).
Paul was obviously addressing able-bodied individuals who were capable of working, and not those who were elderly or infirmed and unable to work.
He concluded with a prayer that God’s peace and presence remain with and among them. He ended with his personal signature to authenticate his letter (verses 16-18).
“The man of sin”
The context of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 shows that the individual spoken of is a religious figure. For a second time Paul warned them about a religious deception he had discussed with them on his previous visit (verse 5).
Consider these relevant points:
• The time setting: The man of sin will appear on the scene just before the second coming of Christ—he will be destroyed by “the brightness of His coming” (verse 8).
• The man of sin will be extremely arrogant: “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (verse 4).
• This skillful deceiver is controlled and influenced by Satan the devil, and he will perform spectacular miracles to deceive: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (verse 9).
• The man of sin is part of “the mystery of lawlessness,” and he will mislead people into “unrighteous deception” (verses 7, 10) and, therefore, unrighteous and ungodly behavior.
• He will encourage people to reject the truths of the Bible, and instead will teach lies about what the Word of God actually instructs (verses 10-12).
Author: Apostle Paul
The church in Thessalonica still had some misconceptions about the Day of the Lord. They thought it had come already so they stopped with their work. Paul wrote to clear up misconceptions and to comfort them.
A major theme of this book, especially chapters 1-2, is the return of Christ in judgment when He will put down all rebellion and bring retribution. Second Thessalonians anticipates Christ, the coming.
2 Thessalonians 1
Paul greets the church at Thessalonica and commends them for what he hears they are doing in the Lord. The Lord Jesus will appear in vengeance.
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
** He wrote to give an incentive for the Thessalonians to persevere by describing the reward and retribution that will occur in the future judgment of God (1:3-10).
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2
In chapter 2, Paul explains what will happen in the Day of the Lord. First the lawless one will appear, whom Jesus will destroy.
Paul refers to several Old Testament passages that had crept into the Thessalonian church which taught that the day of the Lord had already come. Here the apostle taught them that the day of the Lord had not come and could not until certain events had taken place, not for the rapture of the church which is imminent, but for the day of the Lord, Daniel’s seventieth week.
Paul then encourages them to stand firm and instructs them to keep away from idle men who don’t live by the gospel.
The Man of Lawlessness
1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.
**He wrote to clarify the prominent events belonging to the day of the Lord in order to prove the falsity of the claims that the day had already arrived (2:1-2).
3Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
5Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
13But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14He called you to this through our gospel that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings[c] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
16May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 3
Finally, pray for us. The Lord will guard you against the evil one. Keep away from anyone who walks in idleness. The Lord be with you.
Request for Prayer
1Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Warning Against Idleness
** He wrote to give detailed instructions covering the disciplinary steps the church should take in correcting those who refuse to work (3:6-15).
6In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.