2 Thessalonians 1:7
We are taking a tour through the New Testament in chronological order. We have studied Matthew and 1 Thessalonians the last two weeks and today we will study 2 Thessalonians.
We date Pauls second letter to the Thessalonians in the same year as the first, 52AD. After the Apostle Paul left Thessalonica under the cover of darkness due to persecution he wrote back to the Christians very quickly. Timothy had stayed behind to continue to teach and encourage the new Christians in their faith. But when Timothy got to Corinth and gave a report Paul wanted to send them a very personal letter to encourage their growth in Christ.
1 Thessalonians 3:6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.
While Paul, Silas, and Timothy are still in Corinth there is a need to write another letter back to the Christians in Thessalonica. From the time of the churches founding in Acts 17 to the two letters being written would have been around 12 months or even less.
The reason for the second letter was three-fold: to encourage them to remain faithful in persecution, to correct the false understanding of the Lords return, and to motivate them to quit being idle.
Three reasons and three chapters that are still very relevant for us today. Lets take a closer look at all three themes.
How did the Thessalonians handle persecution?
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
Persecution and trails help us grow in our faith. We either grow or die we cant stay the same under persecution. We really dont face persecution in America; maybe if you own a bakery or a photography business or if you are giving valedictorian speech you will be pressured to conform to political correctness, your livelihood will be threatened and your speech censored but you are not under penalty of death. If you are a county clerk you may be arrested. (News stories over the last few years.) But that is nothing compared to the persecution our brothers face around the world.
During bible study Wednesday evening, we saw that the Apostles were beaten because they were preaching Jesus.
Acts 5:33 When (the religious leaders) heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 40 They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
The Apostles keep preaching and so did the Thessalonians. They did not let the threat of death stop them from being faithful to Jesus. But we let the fear of being disliked keep us from preaching Jesus; we let the fear of being fired keep us from preaching Jesus. I dont think the apostle Paul would have many kind words to say about us when we face persecution.
Preaching the truth got Stephen stoned, James beheaded and Peter arrested (Acts 8, 12). Eventually all the apostles were killed for their faith, less John, he was only boiled in hot oil and survived.
Lets be like the Christians in Thessalonica and persevere in the midst of trials.
Paul goes on to encourage the Christians that their suffering will end.
2 Thessalonians 1:5 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.
God is just the evil will be punished and you will be counted worthy for the Kingdom of God. That is good news, we believe in justice and so does God. These Christians who are suffering so much will get relief.
When will this relief get here? It cant be soon enough.
2 Thessalonians 1:7 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
Oh, no, we will have to endure suffering our whole life Lord Jesus come quickly!
We can have joy even in our trials but we will have trials and suffering until Jesus comes because Satan and those who dont believe in Jesus will continue to cause trouble.
This should have been comforting information to the Christians in Thessalonica but because they had received fake news about Jesus return they were very unsettled.
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not 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. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way,
They had heard that Jesus had already come and they were still suffering. How depressing is that? No wonder they had become idle. Their situation was not going to get better. They were looking forward to the return of Jesus for their relief but now there was no hope. Jesus second coming was part of Pauls foundational teaching.
2 Thessalonians 2:5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
1 Thessalonians 4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
There is no encouragement from these words if Jesus came back and they did not meet Him in the air.
That may be why Paul first told them they would be counted as worthy in 2 Thessalonians 1:5.
What I think is interesting if Paul wrote a letter saying that the day of the Lord had already come doesnt that mean he missed out also?
People hear with their emotions and not with their brain.
Satan had used someone to spread fake news about Jesus return and unsettle the Christians. It was a great plan to get them give up on Jesus but based on Pauls encouraging words it seems they remained faithful to Jesus even though they thought they missed the second coming of Jesus.
I have asked before if you would remain faithful to Jesus even if you did not receive a reward.
Do you love Jesus because you get something or because He is worthy of your worship?
Is God worthy of Worship because of who He is? Yes!
He has saved us from sin and has promised us a home with Him in Heaven, so it is hard to consider worshipping Him without the gifts. But it seems that the Thessalonians thought they had missed out on the second coming of Jesus and where still growing in their faith. Would you grow in your faith if you thought you had missed Jesus coming?
Now, maybe they were that spiritual or they just thought they werent good enough and if they did better Jesus would come and rescue them later.
Another point on 2 Thessalonians 2:2 it is important to know the author of the letter so the message of the letter can be trusted. That is why we can trust the early church fathers and what they wrote about the authorship of our Bible books.
I wonder if the idleness Paul condemns was because some of the Christians were so depressed that they had missed Jesus second coming and they were giving up.
Whatever the reason for the Christians idleness Paul strongly condemns it. Paul gives us our biblical approach to the welfare state here in 2 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. 14 If 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. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
If you dont work you dont eat. Quit being a busybody. If someone is idle we are not to associate with them. This is not to punish them or degrade them but to motivate them to do what is right. Even in their disobedience and idleness they are still a brother in Christ.
Ten years later Paul writes to the Ephesians something very similar.
Ephesians 4:28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
We cant be idle and take from others; our purpose as Christians is to work and give to those in real need. Those in need of physical help and more importantly spiritual help.
Lets conclude with the difficult part of the book. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to clear up the confusion about the coming of Jesus. But what he left us with was a passage that people have debated for the last 2,000 years.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He 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.
The misunderstanding of this passage causes many to believe that another Temple has to be built so the man of lawlessness can declare himself God.
What encouragement would the first century Christians gain from that kind of message. When Paul wrote to them the temple was still standing in Jerusalem for another 18 years. How discouraged would the Christians have been when Titus destroyed the temple but no one had declared themselves God.
Pauls words must have meant something to the Christians in 52 AD.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 For 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.
This verse could be translated
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work only until the one who prevails is taken out of the way.
Satan is not being held back as the translation infers but Satan is the one who is prevailing in the world.
The man of lawlessness, the rebellion, the man doomed to destruction, the one who exalts himself is Satan himself. He is the one who is prevailing He is the one bringing the persecution and trouble on the Christians.
You may say but what about verse 9?
2 Thessalonians 2:9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,
The Greek is present tense not future tense the lawless is already here not coming.
The issue is that the world does not see the evil activity as the work of Satan but the Christians are aware and know that the evil is from Satan. The world will know when Jesus comes again.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 And 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.
Satan will be revealed as the evil that is prevailing in the world and Jesus will overthrow him by His breath.
Jesus breath is more powerful than Satan.
My dad is stronger than your dad. I can beat you with one hand tied behind by back.
1 John 4:4 because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
The Thessalonian Christians knew they were fighting against Satans schemes but they had the Holy Spirit in them and they would overcome.
Do you have God the Holy Spirit in you?
When you are immersed into Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins you also receive the indwelling gift of God the Holy Spirit.
With the gift of the Holy Spirit you know you will inherit salvation.
Ephesians 1:13 Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.