PREPARATION FOR THE LAST DAYS
Arial view of modern Thessalonica (2009)
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from: The Holy Bible: New International Version®, NIV®,
Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011by the International Bible Society.
Copyright © Jim Gerrish 2015
The second letter to the Thessalonians was written shortly after the first one. It was written to the same people, from the same place and by the same author as the first letter. Therefore, rather than duplicating information here, we would simply ask our readers to go back and review the introduction to the first letter.
The Apostle Paul wrote Second Thessalonians from the city of Corinth. We mentioned in the first letter that Timothy and Silas had also joined him there prior to its writing. However, many scholars feel they did not help in writing the letter. It appears that after they had returned from Macedonia, other problems had arisen with the church. These problems seem to have fallen into three categories: The persecution spoken of in the first letter had gotten worse, bringing its victims close to despair. London pastor and Bible teacher, John Stott, feels that some may have begun to question the rationale of their afflictions. 1 Apparently a pseudo-Pauline letter had been circulated (2:2) telling believers that the end-time was already present. Finally, the old problem of waiting on the Lord’s appearing while shirking vocation and other responsibilities was still plaguing them. 2
With all this in mind we can understand that this second letter was probably also written sometime in AD 50, likely in the summer or latter part of the year. The letter certainly had to be written during the time of Paul’s stay in Corinth, since both Silas and Timothy were not with him after that period. 3
We should point out that Second Thessalonians has even greater evidence of Pauline authorship than First Thessalonians. Both the Apostolic Fathers and church fathers bear witness to its authenticity. 4
Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Thessalonians 1:1
Like the introduction, the opening greeting is also much the same as we found in the first letter. Again, in the interest of not repeating ourselves, we invite our readers to go back and look at our comments there as well. The only real difference in the first two verses here is that Paul repeats “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” in the second verse.
We see that Silas and Timothy are still with him. These men were well known to the Thessalonians, since they had helped in founding the church. Timothy had also just gone back to them to lend further assistance.
It is interesting that Paul does not declare his apostleship here as he does in most of his letters. This no doubt flows from the fact that he enjoyed a warm and intimate relationship with this assembly, just as he also had with Philemon and the Philippians. In these two books he also omits his claim to apostleship. 1
The word for “church” is the common Greek ekklesia, which refers to a group that is “called out.” It was used in the Greek Bible, the Septuagint (LXX) to translate the Hebrew qahal [meaning assembly]. 2
Several scholars have noted the construction “in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Baptist professor, Bob Utley, says that the one Greek preposition (en) used with the two objects, Father and Lord, is one of the ways New Testament writers linked Father and Son together (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1). Such a construction would attest to their unity and to Christ’s deity. 3 Coffman remarks about this, saying, “… The theological thrust of this expression is boundless. The oneness of the Father and the Son, the deity of Christ, as well as the whole doctrine of the incarnation are securely anchored in a text like this.” 4
“Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). The expression “Grace and peace” is a common one with Paul and is used over a dozen times in his epistles. Grace (charis) has the meaning of graciousness, favorable regard, kindness and goodwill, while peace (eirene) means freedom from war, concord and agreement. It corresponds to the Hebrew shalom. 5 Grace from God must come before any peace with God is possible.
PAUL’S THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER
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. 2 Thessalonians 1:3
Paul was always full of thanksgiving. We see him here actually taking the advice he gave earlier in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, to give thanks in all circumstances. The apostle had the unusual habit of thanking God for people. Most of us have somehow never gotten into that habit, but it would surely enrich our lives and the lives of others if we started doing it on a regular basis. Apparently this is not an optional thing, since the Greek word opheilomen has the meaning of owing a debt or being bound (cf. 2:13). 6 Thus, we are bound to thank God for others.
Paul is thankful that their faith was growing more and more. Faith is not just some dead or near-dead creed. Stott says of it: “…But faith is a relationship of trust in God, and like all relationships is a living, dynamic, growing thing.” 7 It is a key that unlocks the heavenly kingdom. The apostle is also thankful that their love for each other that keeps increasing. The Greek word used here is hyperauxanei and it communicates the idea of “growing beyond.” 8 It certainly pictures a vigorous growth, and that super growth was taking place under the most difficult circumstances.
Of course faith, to really be faith, must undergo testing. The church father, Chrysostom (c. 349- 407) asks, “And how, you say, can faith increase? It does so when we suffer something horrible for the sake of faith.” 9 Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed preacher, enjoyed many honors, even that of being Archbishop of Constantinople, but still he died in exile. His comment concerning it all was, “Glory be to God for all things.” Internationally known Bible teacher and writer of more than 150 books, Warren Wiersbe, says of it, “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted….Faith like a muscle, must be exercised to grow stronger…” 10
The apostle was also thankful for their love for each other. Here he speaks of the agape love, or the God-kind of love. We no doubt remember that God has poured out this agape love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). All we have to do is let his love slosh over into other lives. Apparently the Thessalonians were getting pretty good at that.
However, we notice something missing here. In his first letter, Paul spoke of the famous trilogy of faith, hope and love (cf. 1 Thess. 1:3), which they possessed. Here he mentions only faith and love. Obviously, the hope of this new church had come under some stress. It was the hope aspect that Paul was writing to correct. 11
“Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring” (1:4). It is really amazing that a brand new church, made up of people fresh out of paganism could accomplish so much, so fast. We have mentioned in 1 Thessalonians how that today it generally takes years for a new church to get on its feet and start doing things for the Lord. The Thessalonian church did it in a few months. Paul was rightfully proud of them for their accomplishments. He particularly mentions their faith and perseverance that had been proven through many trials. The word for perseverance is hupomones, and it means patient endurance.12 Today we might define it as keeping on keeping on.
We see here that the saints of Thessalonica, like all saints everywhere, were subjected to various kinds of suffering. We have two words used and they are diōgmos, meaning persecution and thlipsis meaning affliction, tribulation, and distress.13 This latter word helps us to see that affliction can take different forms and we may have been subject to it many times without realizing it. There are various kinds of sufferings that may afflict us in this life.
This suffering may come in the shape of thorns and thistles in our paths, physical, mental or emotional distress. There are many pressures that come from living in a sin-infested world. Along with earth’s normal pressures the true Christian will at times have persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” We need not think that all persecution involves getting our heads chopped off. Persecution for Christ might involve that promotion we didn’t get, that friendship mysteriously broken, etc. There are a thousand other ways that Satan can come against us to discourage and even try to defeat us because of our faith.
The Scripture points out how suffering is a normal thing for the Christian (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17-18; 1 Thess. 2:14; Jam. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). John Trapp quoting an old adage says: “Adversity hath whipped many a soul to heaven… which otherwise prosperity had coached to hell.” 14
GOD’S RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT
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. 2 Thessalonians 1:5
Paul continues on with the idea of the righteous suffering. Through suffering, the righteous will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom. There is no idea here that the righteous will be made worthy. With the Greek word axioo, we rather have the idea of being counted worthy. 15
There is an inherit problem that we experience with suffering. We may become depressed or discouraged with our situation, and in the end, call God’s judgment into question. Some of the Thessalonians may have been having this problem. In Scripture, we observe that even the Psalmist almost fell into this trap. He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psa. 73:2-3). Leon Morris, of Ridley College in Melbourne, sums this up saying, “There is a difficulty in that the persecutions and trials seem on the face of it to deny rather than to prove that God’s judgment is right.” 16
Paul seems to be coming against this problem by showing them the other side of persecution, and how it relates to the wicked. The early British Methodist scholar, Adam Clarke says, “The sufferings of the just, and the triumphs of the wicked, in this life, are a sure proof that there will be a future judgment, in which the wicked shall be punished and the righteous rewarded.” 17 The 19th century American theologian, Albert Barnes adds: “Their patience and faith under persecutions were constantly showing that they would ‘be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which they were called to suffer…’” 18
Morris comments, “It is part of God’s righteous judgment to use tribulations to bring his own people to perfection…” 19 In the end, suffering does some wonderful things for us. It builds our character (cf. 2 Thess. 1:11; Rom. 5:3-4; Heb. 5:8). It also drives us toward godliness (cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; Eph. 4:1; 5:2). 20 It causes us to really grow in our understanding. Of course, God’s pruning hurts at the time. Bishop N.T. Wright says, “You don’t get to share God’s life and escape without wounds.” 21 Yet, the benefits outweigh the hurts. There is a little poem by Robert Browning Hamilton that expresses all this very well:
I walked a mile with Pleasure, she chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser for all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow, and ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me! 22
“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” (1:6). It was the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who penned these lines: “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all.” 23 God will not forget our labors of love nor will he forget the perverse acts of the wicked. He is after all a loving father and will come to the aid of his hurting children. “Those responsible for troubling Christians will be repaid proportionately for the suffering they have caused.” 24
Nevertheless, as we suffer we need to remember the great sufferings of the Lord Jesus on our behalf. Our suffering is really nothing when compared to his suffering on the cross to gain our salvation (1 Pet. 4:12, 13, 16). We should strengthen our hearts with a new vision of his cross.
God will not only pay back those who trouble his people, but he will come “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” (1:7). God will give his people relief. He will end their pressure, tribulation and persecution. The relief or rest spoken of here is the word anesin, and it means releasing the tension, as in the case of slackening a tight bowstring. 25 Trapp says, it will be like Noah’s ark, that after much tossing to and fro finally rested on the mountains of Ararat.” 26
The means of this relief is the appearing of the Lord from heaven. Stott comments: “The parousia (official visit) has now become the apokalypsis (unveiling) of Jesus Christ.” 27 The parousia and apokalypsis are just two of the several terms related to the return of Jesus. The 20th century Church of Christ commentator, James Burton Coffman remarks: “…but it is strongly believed that these variations do not imply different events, but one event only, namely, the coming of the Son of God for judgment in the final day.” 28
Here there is something very important about that day. The Lord Jesus will come with his holy angels and will be revealed in blazing fire. In his first visit, Jesus came in obscurity as the Suffering Servant of Israel. He died an ignoble death on a Roman cross. However, this time he will come in blinding glory and all the world will stand amazed at his coming.
We can only imagine how astounded and bewildered the godless world will be as Jesus breaks into history. There can be no denying this appearance, no philosophizing about it.
So Jesus will come with blazing fire (cf. Isa. 33:14; Matt. 13:42, 50). Some have tried to compare this with lightning, but there are numerous Scriptures that verify that the coming and judgment of God will be with fire (cf. Exo. 3:2; 19:18; 24:17; Deut. 5:4; Psa. 18:12; Isa. 30:27-30; 66:15-16; Ezek. 1:27; Dan. 7:9-10; Heb. 10:27; 12:29; 2 Pet. 3:7, 10; Rev. 1:13-14). Stott remarks about it: “The Parousia will be no petty, local sideshow…[but] an event of awe-inspiring, cosmic splendor…And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.” 29 The book of Revelation gives us a note telling us that at this appearing all the tribes of the earth will mourn (Rev. 1:7). However, there will be no mourning in the camp of the righteous, for they will rejoice with exceeding joy.
PUNISHMENT FOR THE WICKED
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:8
It should be pointed out that due to the complexity of this sentence, the “blazing fire” mentioned here in several translations (KJV, NKJV, NAB), is added on to verse 7 in the NIV and NAS versions.
Also in several translations the word “vengeance” is used here. Stott points out how this English word sounds harsh on the part of God. In the Greek language, the word is ekdikesis, and it does not have such overtones. Rather, it speaks simply of justice and judicial punishment. Stott makes plain though that this judgment will involve “weeping and gnashing of teeth for the condemned and that they will be alienated from their own true identity as human beings.” 30
Tragically, this verse is speaking of some of the Jewish people who had fought so hard against Paul and the gospel. “These are the persecutors against whom such strong feelings were evident in his first letter (1 Thess. 2:14-16).” 31 Again, as we said in 1 Thessalonians, the Jews were called of God to be a light to the nations (Isa. 51:4; 60:3). Yet, here we see some of them doing everything in their power to obscure the gospel light.
“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (1:9). How sad indeed that some Jewish people in Jesus’ day and in Paul’s day were resisting the gospel with all their might. These were called to be God’s covenant people, but we see them trying to destroy the New Covenant that God had promised them plainly in the words of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34).
However, it was not just the Jews but the Gentiles who had joined with them to persecute both those who preached and those who received the good news at Thessalonica.
The penalty in their case was drastic. They had brought everlasting destruction upon themselves. They were now shut out from God’s presence and glory forever. The term for destruction used here is olethros (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:3; 1 Tim. 6:9). Utley says, it means “the loss of all that gives worth to existence.” 32 Biblical professors and commentators, Charles Pfeiffer and Everett Harrison add: “Annihilation is not the thought but rather total ruin, the loss of everything worthwhile. Specifically, it is separation from the presence (face) of the Lord, the true source of all good things.” 33
Many people today scoff at hell but here we see that it is a very serious matter. It is probably one of the very most important matters in all of life. Hell is not just fire and ruin for an eternity, but it is separation from him who is truth, life, light, hope, love and blessing.
Morris says, “The final horror of sin is that it separates the sinner from God (cf. Isa. 59:2).” 34 Barnes adds: “The meaning then must be, that the soul is destroyed as to the great purposes of its being— its enjoyment, dignity, honor, holiness, happiness. It will not be annihilated, but will live and linger on in destruction…It would not be possible to state that doctrine in clearer language than this.” 35
Eternal destruction is a subject that is not clearly revealed in Scripture. We are given enough information so that we can avoid such an end. Rather than making foolish speculations about it as the English scholar Peter Pett says, “…We do well to leave to God’s understanding the final punishment of the wicked.” 36
Paul says they will be punished, “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” (1:10). What a contrast between the wicked and the righteous! The wicked will be weeping in horror unspeakable, while the righteous will be rejoicing with an unspeakable joy and glory.
It is really almost impossible to put all the meaning of this passage into words. The disciple John said: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2). Stott says, “The very essence of heaven is the eradication of our selfishness, our transformation into Christ’s image, and our preoccupation with his glory.” He continues, “we will glow forever with the glory of Christ…” 37 Morris adds: “The glory of the day will surpass anything we know…we will be lost in amazement. 38
Stott gives some additional clarification of this great day: “The glory of Jesus Christ will not be objective only (so that we see it), but also in his people (so that we share it… the final, eschatological glory of human beings will be more than a restoration; it will transcend their original created state).” 39 We know in this great hour that the righteous dead will be raised in unspeakable glory and those of us who are still living will be changed instantly into the likeness of Christ. With these thoughts, we are moved to cry out, “Come Lord Jesus!”
LIVING IN THE LIGHT OF HIS APPEARING
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. 2 Thessalonians 1:11
It is rather amazing how Paul could pray diligently and continually for all the churches. Here, however, he does not pray as he often does in his epistles. What we have is not a prayer so much as a prayer report.40 Once more, Paul mentions that the Thessalonians would be found worthy of the Lord’s calling. The Greek word axioo, again as in verse 5, does not speak of our actually being worthy but of God declaring us so. Stott says, “There is no possibility of our establishing or accumulating merit in such a way as to deserve God’s favor.” 41
The NET Bible may make the last part of this verse clearer. It says, “…we pray for you always, that our God will…fulfill by his power your every desire for goodness and every work of faith…” Once again, we must turn to that great verse in Philippians 2:13 which says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Paul closes out this chapter saying, “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” (1:12). Stott says, “The most striking feature of this chapter is its recurring references to the glory of Christ.” 42
Of course, there are many references to glory in the Bible and many of those speak of our glory in Christ and his glory in us. Isaiah 28:5 promises us: “In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people.” In 62:3 he also promises, “You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters,… 2 Thessalonians 2:1
Paul speaks here of the coming or Parousia of the Lord Jesus, a return to earth often promised in Scripture (cf. Mt. 24:27, 39; Jam. 5:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:13; 1 Jn. 2:28). As we remember, the apostle had spoken of this coming in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, and 5:23. Stott tries to focus on their problem, saying of the first letter: “At that time, the Thessalonians were troubled that the Parousia had not come quickly enough, since some of their friends had died before it had taken place; now their problem was that it had come too quickly, for some teachers were saying that the day of the Lord has already come (v.2), or is already here.” 1 College director and web commentator, David Guzik, further describes their situation saying, “…the Thessalonians were afraid that they were in the Great Tribulation (the Day of the Lord)....” 2
Next in this verse, we run into the word gathered (episynagoge), which simply means “gathered together.” This word is found in only one other place in the New Testament, and that is in Hebrews 10:25, where the saints of God are gathered for worship. 3 The idea of God’s people being gathered by angels is seen in other places, such as Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27. In Scripture, we also see that angels have the task of gathering out the lawless and wicked from the earth for their eternal exile and punishment (Mt. 13:41).
The ever-expressive F.B. Meyer describes the wondrous event in store for God’s people: “He is surely coming, and as surely will his saints be gathered to him, as the drops of moisture are drawn up from ponds and oceans, to cluster in the clouds in radiant beauty around the sun….” 4
We remember here Paul’s astounding account in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, where he says:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 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.
This gathering together should not be a surprise to the godly who are watching. However, it will be a dreadful surprise to the ungodly, and will come upon them as a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2-4). The righteous will be awake, watching and clothed but the unrighteous will be ashamed and found naked, spiritually speaking (Rev. 16:15). They will be found bereft of the robes of righteousness in Christ (Col. 3:12-14).
Paul asks the people, “…not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us— whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter— asserting that the day of the Lord has already come” (2:2). The words “unsettled” and “alarmed” are the Greek saleuo and throeo. The former word pictures a group of sailors in a storm at sea becoming shaken or agitated. 5 An example of this situation is found in Psalms 107:27.
The latter word describes an ongoing or continuing state of agitation or anxiety. 6
These were troubled that the day of the Lord may have come. John Stott gives us a present-day example similar to what might have happened in Thessalonica: “A modern version of the belief that Christ has already come is found among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their founder, Pastor Charles T. Russell, first taught that the world would end in 1874, and then revised his calculations to 1914. After this year had passed, his successor Judge J. F. Rutherford asserted that Christ did in fact come on 1 October 1914, but invisibly.” 7
Apparently, Paul was at a loss to explain what had actually happened to so disturb the Thessalonians. It is possible that some false letter had reached them, a letter supposedly from Paul himself. Also, it is possible that they had received a word of false prophecy. Paul had already warned the people to test such words of prophecy (1 Thess. 5:20-21). It could also have come through a spoken word of preaching or other ministry. 8
However it came, this false message had greatly troubled the church. “The report is that the day of the Lord had already come….The report would mean that this series of events had already begun to unfold (perhaps the sufferings of the Thessalonians were said to show this).” 9
With this verse, Paul introduces the subject of the Day of the Lord. For many centuries and millennia man has had his day. Satan, the adversary, has also had his. However, the time is coming when both of these awful days will end and the Day of the Lord will begin. We see clearly in Scripture that the Day of the Lord will include many cataclysmic events both in the earth and in the heavens.
The prophets see that the Day of the Lord will bring down the proud and lofty. Isaiah says, “The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:11). It is a day of disaster and destruction upon the ungodly (Isa. 13:6). We see this also pictured in Revelation 6:17: “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” God will shake the earth terribly (Isa. 2:19). Then the people will cast their idols of gold and silver to the moles and bats (Isa. 2:20). Earth’s great and mighty ones will cry for the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of the Lamb (Rev. 6:15). The cry of that day will be bitter (Zep. 1:14). Wicked hearts will faint as they are seized with terror (Isa. 13:7-8). The heavenly bodies will no longer give their light (Isa. 13:10-13). A devouring fire will break out on the earth as the Lord comes (2 Thess. 1:7).
While the day of the Lord will be an unmitigated disaster for the ungodly, we see that it will be a day of blessing for the righteous (cf. Rev. 3:10). The prophet Malachi also says that the righteous will go forth leaping like calves released from a stall. In Malachi 4:3 he says: “Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things….” We who love and serve the Lord will actually be able to lift up our heads as the Day of the Lord approaches (Lk. 21:28). We will have great confidence and boldness in that day (2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Jn. 4:17). After all, when Jesus appears we will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4), and be like him (1 Jn. 3:2-3). In 2 Thessalonians 1:10, we see that he will come “…to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed…”
THE LAWLESS ONE
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.
2 Thessalonians 2:3
With this, Paul makes a bold statement designed to give rest to the troubled saints in Thessalonica. He makes plain that the Day of the Lord absolutely cannot come about until certain things happen. First, the rebellion or apostasy (apostasia) must take place (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Pet. 3:3-6; Jude 1:18-19). This information should greatly alarm us today. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s in North America, there arose a mighty rebellion against the Judeo-Christian heritage. 10 This movement had its beginning in Europe several decades before. The rebellion continues to rage after half a century, and it grows, showing no signs of abating. During this time, many of the foundations of Christianity and orderly society were washed away by this awful tidal wave of ungodliness and lawlessness.
Paul does not give us a time frame for this great rebellion so we need to be alert here. Obviously, such a movement would take some time to get started. No doubt, some roots of the rebellion go all the way back to the Renaissance (14th through 17th centuries). At that time, great emphasis was placed upon humankind and upon humanism. Certainly, many of the roots of rebellion can be seen in the later Enlightenment, or Age of Reason (1650s to 1780s), where philosophers challenged the church, the Bible, the family, and other foundations of society. These periods were certainly not all bad, for they produced Michelangelo, Dante, Da Vinci, Galileo and many others. They also included numerous cultural and scientific advances. Still, a great wave of lawlessness was unleashed upon the world and that lawlessness continues to grow almost exponentially.
Actually, the seed of this lawlessness can be traced all the way back to Bible times. We remember how the Apostle John spoke of the spirit of lawlessness (or antichrist) which was already unleashed in the world (1 Jn. 4:3). In fact, at his time there were numerous antichrist-types alive and in the world (1 Jn. 2:18). Many of these antichrists were denying the divinity of Jesus (1 Jn. 2:22), as antichrist types still do today. John is the only biblical writer who mentions the Antichrist by name. Paul will soon call him the “lawless one” (2:8-9), and in other places he is referred to as the Beast (Daniel 7:5-23 and Revelation chapters 11-20). We can now glimpse the fact that law first must be taken out of the way before the lawless one can arise.
Obviously, it is easy for us to be deceived about the coming of this person. Paul sternly warns us not to be deceived about him. Unfortunately, many people have already been deceived. Bethel College Professor, Micahel W. Holmes, gives us a long list of people who have been named as the Antichrist by over-zealous folks. We have greatly abbreviated this list here, and we will just include the more famous names, such as Mohammed, Pope Gregory IX, Martin Luther, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, Khruschev, Gorbachev, Khomeini, Arafat, Kissinger, and Ronald Reagan. 11 Years ago, I heard of a man who said he quit predicting antichrists when his third one died.
Holmes says, “Surely we deceive ourselves if we think that we will be able to identify this master deceiver.” 12 We need to make sure that most of our interest is in Christ and not the Antichrist. Holmes adds, “When novels about Antichrist outsell books about Jesus, it seems to me that there is something seriously out of balance.”`13
Since the Reformation, many, including numerous commentators, have seen the Pope in Rome as the Antichrist. Today we realize that this is much too simplistic.14 The Antichrist is far too complex a figure just to be the leader of Catholics.
We see in this verse that the Antichrist is doomed to destruction. This will be treated in some detail in verse 8. We will only say at this point that the phony Christ will be judged and destroyed when the real Christ appears again triumphantly on this earth. We might explain that the Greek prefix “anti” can mean either “against” or “instead of.” 15 The Antichrist fulfills both of these meanings, he is against Christ and he is also trying to replace Christ.
This verse makes crystal clear that Jesus will not return to this earth until this time of lawlessness has arrived and the lawless one or Antichrist has appeared on earth. That time may be close indeed. Commentators and editors, Kenneth Barker and John Kohlenberger III, state: “He will be alive for years before his unveiling, but his dramatic public presentation will occur after the rebellion begins.” 16
THE LAWLESS ONE EXALTS HIMSELF
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. 2 Thessalonians 2:4
Here we see that the Antichrist will exalt himself, even in the place of the True God. Perhaps it would help us if we could better understand this person. To do so, we need to take some time to trace his roots in Scripture.
In his seventh, eighth and eleventh chapters, the prophet Daniel gives us the picture of an antichrist type. This person appeared in the Greek Empire. He arose after the time of Alexander the Great, and even before Rome became a world power. We know him from history as Antiochus Epiphanes (c. 215 – 154 BC). Daniel refers to this man as a “little horn” (Dan. 7:8 & 8:9-12). We can learn about the real Antichrist by studying this type.
The prophet Daniel describes for us the work of this antichrist type in Daniel 8:23-25. We see in this important passage that rebels must become completely wicked before his rise. We note that he will attack and partially defeat the Lord’s people, but finally he will be overthrown by God’s power. We see this one more fully revealed in Daniel 11:36-45. In this section we see the real Antichrist of the last days beginning to emerge.
We know from Jewish history that this antichrist type did arrive on the scene, and that he created great havoc. He invaded Israel, defiled the sacred altar by sacrificing a pig upon it, and utterly forbade the practice of Judaism. Many were persecuted and were even martyred in his wake. All this occurred around 165 B.C.
Chapter eleven of Daniel gives us some additional color concerning the Antichrist. We see that he will attack the temple and set up the “abomination of desolation.” We also learn that God’s true saints will sternly resist him (Dan. 11:31-32).
The prophet further speaks of the great trials of these days. He speaks of God’s saints being burned, captured and plundered (Dan. 11:33). This evil ruler will do as he pleases. He will greatly magnify himself and even speak against the True God (Dan.11:36).
It was the valiant Maccabees who finally arose to withstand the antichrist type of their day. Ultimately, they defeated this evil man and his program. All this gives us a better understanding of the real Antichrist who appears in Revelation chapters 11 through 19. It is clear from Revelation that valiant overcomers will stand against the real Antichrist.
The prophetic Scriptures indicate that his total reign will be about seven years. In that time he will gather a large following of nations (Rev. 19:19). He will institute a covenant with Israel and will be involved in building the Jews a temple (Dan. 9:27). Unfortunately, after three and a half years the Antichrist will bring a reign of terror to earth unlike any ever seen before. He will break his covenant with Israel and seat himself in the new temple, proclaiming himself as god (Dan. 9:24-27). 17 This will be known as the abomination that causes desolation (Mk. 13:14). Tragically, the whole earth will worship him (Rev. 13:11-12). A time of great worldwide distress will follow, but for the sake of the elect this awful time will be shortened (Matt. 24:15, 21-22; 29-31; Rev. 13:14-15). We see by this that the elect will still be on the earth during these dreadful events, but they will be sealed in hearts and minds against this evil one (Rev. 7:2-3; 9:4).
Some of the early church fathers comment on this terrible time. Irenaeus (early second century) says, “…he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem. And then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds.” 18 Lactantius in the early fourth century adds: “Power will be given him to desolate the whole earth for forty-two months…When these things happen, then the righteous and the followers of truth will separate themselves from the wicked and flee into solitary places…” 19 It is clear that in his reign, the church will be almost overcome and there will be a flood of martyrdom (Dan. 12:7-8; Rev. 6:9-11).
THE ONE RESTRAINING
Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.
2 Thessalonians 2:5-6
Once more, we realize how thoroughly Paul taught the Thessalonians. No doubt, he had even taught some of the people as he stitched tents during the daytime. It is impressive that he taught them so much in such a short amount of time. Unfortunately for us, we were not in on those blessed apostolic conversations and thus the Thessalonians knew some things that we still do not know.
Therefore, we can only guess at who or what the restraining power is, that even now prevents Antichrist from coming. Through the centuries, many ideas have been put forth. The Dispensationalists such as Scofield, Chafer, and Walvoord, for instance, feel that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, 20 but this does not give us a fitting explanation. However, several of the early church fathers, such as Tertullian, Chrysostom and Lactantius were certain that the restraining power was the Roman Empire. 21 This makes a lot more sense, as we shall see.
We might say that the idea of the Roman Empire as the restrainer is now the most popular idea among commentators. 22 Some commentators such as Morris, Pfeiffer and Harrison have favored this option but have sighed that the Roman Empire is no more.23 They really do not need to sigh, because the Bible makes plain that the Roman Empire is still with us.
Daniel is clear that when the sovereign theocracy of Israel fell in 586 BC, God brought about four world governments that would last and guard society until the end of the age. In fact, they would all fall at the same time (Dan. 2:35), at the advent of Antichrist. These world governments were Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome. We have benefited from the principles of all these governments and we still do so. Rome was the last and the strongest of them. We can see how through history Roman law has kept the world from anarchy.24 Until the early part of last century Latin was studied by most learned people. It was not uncommon for the older commentators on the Bible even to write a few sentences in Latin. Years ago, we all used Roman numerals in our writing, but in recent years all this Roman influence has declined sharply.
The idea of Roman government as the restrainer is seen in the grammatical changes of verses from 6-8 of this passage. The Greek words go from neuter in verses 6-7 to masculine in verses 7-8. 25 This change makes it possible to speak not only of the Roman form of government but of the ruler himself.
It should be of special concern today that we may be living in the very time Daniel spoke of when the Roman power, authority and law would wane and even begin collapsing. The same would be the case with the Greek and the other two cultures that were so important to civilization. Just a few generations ago it was customary for educated people to know the Roman and Greek classics. All that has now passed away. On every hand we are now seeing lawlessness arise. These lawless ones not only oppose biblical law but all other kinds of law and social refinement. For instance, such organizations as ISIS are totally lawless movements. They are attracting thousands of lawless youth from the west who are happy to join in all the bloodshed, rape and pillage. There is hardly a day that we do not witness senseless, lawless acts by supposedly civilized people. There is even a creeping lawlessness in our churches today.
THE EVIL SECRET
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. 2 Thessalonians 2:7
With this Scripture, we realize that there is a mystery (musterion) in lawlessness. It has the ability to keep itself camouflaged. On the positive side, there is also a mystery in godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). Often true godliness goes unnoticed, particularly the wonderful mystery of the incarnation of Christ.
Stott comments about this lawlessness saying:
Presumably this means that he will be defiant of all law, both the moral law (asserting that there are no such things as moral absolutes) and the civil law (advocating anarchy in the name of freedom). Antichrist will be the ultimate antinomian. Jesus himself predicted that, in the future, “Because of the increase of wickedness [anomia, lawlessness], the love of most will grow cold…” 26
So, right before our eyes the mysterious spirit of lawlessness has gained ground and has now almost taken over in our society. Things that would have left decent people aghast a couple of generations ago, now hardly raise an eyebrow. For instance, we are told that in 2010, unmarried couples in the US had climbed to 12 percent of all couples. This was a 25 percent increase in just ten years, according to the census data. 27 Even Christian young people now do not hesitate to move in with their sweethearts before marriage. Also, as I write this, a German pilot has just committed suicide by crashing his plane and taking 150 innocent passengers with him. This is total selfishness and total lawlessness. It is unbelievable— it is mysterious!
Several commentators state that this whole passage (1-12) is one of the most obscure and difficult passages in the Pauline corpus or even in the whole New Testament. 28 We would certainly have to agree with their assessments.
“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” (2:8). The apostle passes over several important things here as he makes his summary. We know from Revelation that the Beast will lead all the nations of earth into one final and foolish battle against Israel. This is clearly the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). As all the armies of earth will probably amass themselves at Haifa Port, in the Valley of Jezreel near Megiddo and even in Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus will appear. It is interesting that the very appearance of Christ totally destroys the Antichrist and his forces. It likely will be the shortest battle in history but it will result in dreadful and shameful defeat for the nations.
We are told that the breath of Jesus’ mouth (the word of God – Isa. 11:4) and the very brightness of the Lord’s coming will destroy Antichrist. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown note: “Christ‘s mere approach is enough to consume Antichrist. …He is seized and “cast alive into the take of fire (Rev. 19:20).” 29
EVERY SORT OF EVIL
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 2 Thessalonians 2:9
The Antichrist will be Satan’s man. Some have even ventured to say that he will be Satan incarnate, just as Jesus was God incarnate on earth. However, this cannot be substantiated from the Scriptures. Stott says, “It would be more accurate to think of the coming of Antichrist as a deliberate and unscrupulous parody of the second coming of Christ…” 30 Stott also adds: “The rebellion will take place, according to Paul, publicly and visibly on the stage of history. It will be seen in a world-wide breakdown of the rule of law, of the administration of justice and of the practice of true religion.” 31
We see some interesting things about this reign of Antichrist. It will be accompanied with great energy (energeian) and power from the devil. It will also be attended by some astounding signs and wonders. Many folks run after miracles today, but in the last day this could prove fatal. Utley says, “Miracles are not automatically a sign of God (cf. Exod. 7:11-12, 22; Deut. 13:1-5; Matt. 7:21-23; 24:24; Mark 13:22; Rev. 13).” 32 In Scripture we are told to judge the false prophet to see if his life and his doctrine line up with Scripture. Jesus says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matt. 7:16).
Regarding the miracles worked by Antichrist, Stott says: “For his will be counterfeit miracles, probably not in the sense that they will be fakes, but in the sense that they will deceive rather than enlighten.” 33 We no doubt remember the false miracles worked by the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres (Exo. 7:11, 22; 2 Tim. 3:8), as they opposed Moses.
Paul continues to describe the last-day deception saying, “…and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2:10). It is clear that the Antichrist will bring about a massive deception upon humanity. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). The Antichrist will make a deceptive covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 13:15-17). The Scripture is plain that deceiving spirits will go out of the Middle East to draw all nations into a disastrous battle against Israel (Rev. 16:13-14).
The really alarming thing is that the antichrist spirit will tamper with truth itself. Since the middle of the Twentieth Century we have seen this happen. In our western societies there is no longer such a thing as absolute truth, a universal standard of truth or eternal truth. Truth has become relative so that each person can have his or her own private “truth,” that may not match with the “truth” that others have. It also will probably not match with reality. We often hear the expression, “It may be true for you but it is not true for me.” David Dockery in his book, The Challenge of Postmodernism, tells us that 72 percent of Americans now deny the existence of any absolute truth. 34
Much of the breakup of truth has come about mostly because of some French philosophers of last century. These postmodern philosophers were Michael Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard. One of these influential philosophers, Richard Rorty, was from the US. These men have literally turned truth upside-down. The Christian philosophic writer Nancy Pearcey says: “The very meaning of the word true has been distorted. It no longer means that a statement matches what really exists in the world but only that it matches my inner experience.” 35 Pearcey goes on to advise us saying: “Christians must always lean against the predominate error of their age. And the most characteristic error today is the break-up of truth….” 36
We see that many people will perish because of the Antichrist. He will even war against the saints and bring about the martyrdom and even defection of some (Rev. 13:7; Mt. 24:11-12, 24; 1 Tim. 4:1ff.; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; 3:3-6; Jude 17-18). The early writer, Lactantius, who appears to have some prophetic gifting, says: “At that time there will be no faith among men, nor peace, kindness, shame, or truth. As a result, there will be no security, no government, nor any rest from evils. The entire earth will be in a state of tumult. Wars will rage everywhere. All nations will be in arms and will oppose one another…” 37 He adds, “For the human race will be so consumed, that scarcely the tenth part of mankind will be left…Two-thirds of the worshippers of God will perish as well. But the third part, which will have been proved faithful, will remain.” 38
“For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2:11-12). We can see from this statement just how far we may be along into the great deception. Many people today believe the lie about truth. They are living with a false truth and a broken truth that does not correspond with reality or with the Bible. God promises that he will send such as these a powerful delusion that they will believe the lie. They are indeed all prepared for receiving the Antichrist with open arms. They have pleasure in wickedness and lawlessness so they will be able to accept the Lawless One without blinking.
Such as these will perish in the last days. In fact, they are already perishing. The use of the present participle (apollymenois) indicates that the process of perishing is already happening (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18). 39
What a time in which we are living! Obviously, we have gone far into the last days without realizing it. It is surely time to wake up, to watch and be sober. Barker and Kohlenberger exhort unbelievers concerning this passage: “What an incentive this powerful passage is for non-Christians to turn to God before the rebellion and delusion arrive!” 40
SAVED, SANCTIFIED AND STANDING STRONG
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
Paul continues his unique practice of thanking God for people (cf. 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3). God had chosen them to be some of the very firstfruits of Europe. God had called them to be saints. The Scottish master, William Barclay says, “A ‘saint’…is a person who makes it easier for others to believe in God.” 41 People are saved by the blood of Christ, and they continue to be sanctified through the word and through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11-12; 1 Pet. 1:2). Because the continuing work of sanctification is done by the Holy Spirit it is very important that we Christians do not grieve the Spirit by our lifestyle in these last days. It is the Spirit who seals us from the horrors of this end time (Eph. 4:30).
There is a problem with some Greek texts as to whether this passage should read “firstfruits” (aparchen) rather than “from the beginning” (ap’arches). Other translations read “from the beginning” (NKJ, NAS, NET). Morris feels like this should be the favored translation. 42 In Ephesians 1:4 we read, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ….”
Again, it is Meyer who puts this idea into heavenly words: “‘From the beginning!’ Who shall compute the contents of the vast unknown abyss, which is comprehended in that phrase? The beginning of creation was preceded by the anticipation of Redemption, and the love of God to all who were one with Christ.” 43
Sometimes this wonderful predestination is just too difficult for us to contemplate. Utley says:
Election is a wonderful doctrine. However, it is not a call to favoritism, but a call to be a channel, a tool, or a means of other’s redemption…The Bible never reconciles the seeming contradiction between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will, but affirms them both! …Doctrines come in relation to other truths, not as single, unrelated truths. A good analogy would be a constellation versus a single star. God presents truth in eastern, not western, genres. We must not remove the tension caused by dialectical (paradoxical) pairs…. 44
Barnes asks: “Can there be any higher ground of praise or gratitude than that God has chosen us to be eternally holy and happy, and that he has from eternity designed that we should be so?” 45
Several commentators note that once again, all three members of the Godhead are mentioned together in this verse. This is the subtle way in which New Testament writers insist on the doctrine of the Trinity long before the doctrine was officially formulated.
“He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:14). Stott says, “… the biblical doctrine of divine election has always perplexed Christian people. Yet, although it perplexes our minds, it greatly comforts our hearts, and it is entirely consistent with our experiences.” 46 It is almost unthinkable that we, as mere fallen humans, will one day share in the glory of the exalted Christ. So it will be, as Wiersbe says, “What begins with grace always leads to glory…” 47
“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2:15). Paul, who often acts like a drill sergeant, gives us two commands, that we “stand firm” (stekete) and that we “hold fast” (karateite). Paul often pictures the first imperative to describe Christian perseverance (cf. 1 Thess. 3:8; 1 Cor. 16:13). Not only are we to stand firm, but we are to hold fast to the traditions (paradosis) of our ancient faith. In his context here, Paul is referring to anything of the apostolic truth that is spoken or else written. 48
Sometimes Protestant folks are turned off by the word “traditions.” We must understand that at the time Paul was writing, very few New Testament documents were in existence, since the Thessalonian letters were some of the first written. Believers had to rely upon oral teachings from preaching or prophecy. Even today, all traditions are not bad. We have many good traditions like Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, that will help us to grow and mature in the faith. We must not desert these good things. Stott says that if we are left to ourselves it is easy to misinterpret God’s word. We desperately need the checks and balances of our Christian family to keep our rampant individualism in check. 49
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2:16-17). Paul is closing out this chapter with an intercessory prayer much akin to that of 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13. Stott comments here saying of prayer, that it is, “…the God-appointed way of enabling him to do what he has promised to do and enabling us to inherit his promises. God’s promises and our prayers must not be separated…” 50
Paul knew that difficult times were coming as this evil age draws to a close. People would have to be strong in order to endure to the end and be saved (Matt. 24:13). Coffman reminds us of some of the Scriptures that speak of the end day and the importance of our standing firm and holding on. 51 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1); But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power…” (2 Tim. 3:1-5); “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1
Coffman calls Paul the “most successful missionary who ever lived.” 1 It is truly amazing that this most successful missionary would stop and ask for the prayers of some new Christians at Thessalonica. Actually, it was Paul’s custom to ask Christians everywhere to pray for him and his ministry (cf. Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 1:11, Eph. 6:18-19, Phil. 1:19, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25; Phile.1:22). Barclay says of Paul, “Nowhere is Paul’s humility more clear to see…it is very difficult to dislike a man who asks you to pray for him.” 2 The church father, Maximus of Turin (early 5th century), said: “If the apostles used to ask for prayers on their own behalf, how much more does it behoove me to do so?” 3
Paul asked for prayer not just for himself but that the message or the gospel would be able to spread rapidly and be honored. Paul might have been thinking about Psalm 147:15 which says, “He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.” Or he could have had in mind Psalm 19:4, “Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…” It seems that his prayer request was answered. During that last part of his life, as he was a prisoner in Rome, Luke says of him, “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ— with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:31).
Wiersbe sighs, “Too much Christian work these days is accomplished by human plans and promotion, and not by the Word of God….” 4 How little we seem to rely on things like prayer and the word of the Lord as we make our plans. Stott says about all this: “Evangelism is not a merely human activity undertaken by human energy and ingenuity. Unseen spiritual forces are also at work. Hence the call to prayer.” 5
“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith” (3:2). It seemed that everywhere the apostle went, wicked men literally came out of the woodwork to oppose him. So often, it was those Jews who were opposed to the gospel. The reformer, John Calvin, describes them as “Jews, who with a mad zeal for the law furiously persecuted the gospel.” 6 The Greek word to describe these is atopos, and it has the meanings of being out of place, being absurd, strange, unreasonable and wicked. 7
THE LORD’S FAITHFUL HELP
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Trapp says of the saints of God, “They go always under a double guard, the peace of God within them, Philippians 4:7… and the power of God without them, 1 Peter 1:5.” 8 Actually, the term “protect” or guard (phulasso) is another of the several military terms we find in this chapter. 9
There has been some discussion as to whether the last part of this verse speaks of just “evil” or of “the evil one.” The great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson feels that the usage here is probably masculine,10 and thus it would read as the NIV has it, “the evil one.”
“We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. (3:4). Once again, we bump into a military term, paraggellomen. Stott citing Morris says that this word reflects a normal military command given by an officer to his men.11 Wiersbe remarks about the sad state of the church today saying, “Christ is the Captain of our salvation; we are his soldiers (2 Tim. 2:3-4)…If the recruits disobeyed their officers’ orders the way some church members disobey the Word of God, they would be court-martialed.” 12
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (3:5). The word “direct” is yet another military term (kateuthyno), and it has to do with making something straight by removing the obstacles.13 The Lord wants us to be directed more and more into his love. What else is there in this fallen world of ours? The apostle speaks here of Christ’s perseverance (hupomnēn tou Christou). This is an unusual expression that is found no other place in Paul’s writings. Obviously, it is Christ’s endurance that provides the wonderful example for our own endurance.14
Coffman comments, “One of the most hurtful tendencies of the current era is that toward impatience…Jesus said, ‘In your patience possess ye your souls’ (Lk. 21:19 KJV); and, alas, there are many who, through a burning impatience, no longer possess their souls.” 15
PAUL’S WARNING AGAINST IDLENESS
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6
Apparently, since the Thessalonians were Greeks and since Greeks looked down upon any sort of manual labor, the problem with the idle (atakos) was a deep-seated one. As we remember, Paul had dealt with it initially in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. The early Roman ascetic writer John Cassian (c. 360 – 435) states: “…Those very people [the Thessalonians] whom in his first epistle Paul had treated with the gentle application of his words, he endeavors in his second epistle to heal with severer and sterner remedies…Rather he says, ‘We command you’…In the first letter Paul asks; in the second he commands.” 16
There was a vast difference between the Greek and Hebrew ideas concerning manual labor. To the Hebrew, work was not something that resulted from the fall recorded in Genesis. Adam was assigned work to do before he ever fell into sin (Gen. 2:15). The Jewish people felt there was a great dignity in honest toil. It was a teaching of the rabbis that the father was obligated to teach his son to work. They had said, “He who does not teach his son a trade, teaches him to steal.” 17 We remember how Jesus was a carpenter in Nazareth, apparently trained by his father Joseph. Paul was a tentmaker, likely trained by his own father.
In this verse Paul introduces the sometimes troubling subject of church discipline. He once again commands the church and he commands them to severely discipline the brother or sister who refused to work. We are at a great disadvantage today, for we live in a time when the individual is emphasized rather than the community. This is expressed so often in the statement, “It’s all about me!” Today many government and court decisions favor the supposed “good” of the single individual over the good of the whole community. Many ancient peoples did not look at things in such a way. In the Middle East, the family and clan was protected over the supposed rights of any individual. Such a thing is still the practice by many in the area.
So, let us carefully approach the whole subject of church discipline. Holmes says of the subject, that many congregations do not even attempt to make efforts at church discipline, since the social setting today is so different from the first century.18 He goes on to explain the vast differences between New Testament times and our own day. He says, “In Paul’s day, the church was essentially the only source of Christian fellowship, and churches were few and far between…This meant that people who joined the Christian movement had a high personal investment in the group and, therefore, generally had strong motivation to maintain their association with it.” 19
Obviously, we live in a much different world today. In our “seeker friendly” churches there is often little commitment to the group and little personal investment. People “graze” through modern and postmodern churches “smorgasbord style” until they find a church that is pleasing to them. When the church stops being pleasing, they quickly move on to some other church that better suits their fancy. In these situations, church discipline must be applied very judiciously and with great caution. Pastors and church leaders today must really have the leading of the Lord before exercising such discipline.
Paul commands that we keep away or keep aloof from such unruly folks. The word he uses is stellesthai and it means to withdraw oneself from the disorderly (ataktōs). This latter word is another military term and means to be out of ranks. 20 Once more, Paul mentions the importance of following after good traditions of the apostles.
We should be aware that church discipline is not only good for the congregation but is good for the person disciplined. Holmes says, “The purpose of disciplinary action is redemptive and remedial, not judgmental or punitive…” 21
“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor 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.” (3:7-8). Paul had no trouble advising people to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul worked with his hands to preach the gospel and Jesus also worked with hands as a carpenter.
This brings up the whole subject of compensation for ministers of the gospel. Obviously, the early Christian ministers were not put on salary as many are today, but they nevertheless received a suitable portion from the offerings. Viola and Barna state: “In the third century, Cyprian of Carthage was the first Christian writer to mention the practice of financially supporting the clergy…but it did not become widespread among Christians until the eighth century.” 22 They further state: “As far as clergy salaries go, ministers were unsalaried for the first three centuries.” 23
It appears that much of our salary structure for ministers today is far removed from the New Testament pattern. The early 20th century Wesleyan evangelist, William Godbey, who pulls no punches, says “All this so strikingly contrasts with the financial policy of modern ecclesiasticism, hiring the preacher like a rail-splitter.” 24
We see that on other occasions Paul willingly gave up the right to be supported from the church (1 Cor. 9:6-14). He did it for the welfare of the new believers. “He supported himself in spite of much fatigue (laboring: v. 8) and many obstacles (‘toiling,’ v. 8; cf. 1 Thess. 2:9).” 25 Still, at some of those times, he may have received love offerings from other churches (2 Cor. 11:8). Pett feels that he learned the importance of his own manual labor from the time he was a Pharisee. The Jewish Rabbi was required to have a trade so that he would not live off his study and teaching of the Law. 26 After all, the God whom we serve is still at work (Jn. 5:17) and we are laborers together with him (1 Cor. 3:9). It is thought that while he was writing this epistle he was working to make tents with Aquila in Corinth. (Acts 18:3). 27
Paul did not eat other people’s food without paying for it. The actual word the apostle uses is “bread” (arton). Morris feels this is a Hebraism speaking generally of eating food.28 The Bible says of the worthy woman, “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (Pro. 31:27). In the days of the Old Testament it was required of the Lord that people work for six days each week (Exo. 20:9). That is still the case in modern Israel. “In the words of James I. Vance, ‘God is on the side of the worker. The worker has rights; the willful idler has none.’” 29
Coffman remarks, “Man’s great happiness is served by work; even Eden was not a place of idleness, but of work (Gen. 2:15)…Gross laziness will destroy any people foolish enough to indulge in it…America was not built by a forty-hour, five-day week; and the issue has not yet been determined whether or not such a work-week will be sufficient to preserve our nation and hand it down to posterity.” 30
A MODEL TO FOLLOW
We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 2 Thessalonians 3:9
It is crystal clear in the Bible that Christian workers have a right to receive support from the congregations they serve (Mt. 10:10; Lk. 10:7; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). However, Paul at times gave up this right so that he could set a good example for the new churches. No doubt, the church of Thessalonica really needed his good example regarding work. Morris comments, “More than once Paul declined to exercise this right, but he never forgot that he had it.” 31
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat’” (3:10). On the surface, this seems to be a rather hard teaching. Utley suggests that we balance it with Paul’s teaching in other letters regarding Christian responsibility for the poor (cf. Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:26-29; Gal. 2:10). 32
Once again, this whole biblical teaching is at odds with our present culture, particularly in the US. To this Holmes remarks:
This connection between work and sustenance is one that is under attack from a number of directions in contemporary culture…policies…have frequently done so in a way that has severely weakened (if not actually severed) the connection between assistance and work; this has been psychologically debilitating…the proliferation of gambling has also contributed to a weakening of the bond between “eating” and “working.” Outrageous sums of money are paid routinely to people engaged in activities (e.g. sports) that have little to do with any traditional understanding of work…One consequence of these developments has been the creation of a cultural environment in which the ability to “eat one’s bread” becomes a matter of chance rather than work.33
Let us pursue the matter of excessively high salaries and gambling. The statistics prove that these windfalls do little good in the long run. Luther Elliss reports on NFL players: “Within 3 years after retirement 70 percent of players will be divorced, bankrupt or homeless. The statistics for all professional sports players is 60 percent.” 34 Gamblers fare little better. Perhaps this story from Wichita, Kansas illustrates their sad fate:
Authorities say two brothers accidentally blew up their house after celebrating a $75,000 winning lottery ticket by purchasing marijuana and meth. Wichita police Sgt. Bruce Watts says one of the brothers was taken to a hospital and the other to jail after Friday’s explosion. The Wichita Eagle reports that the injured 27-year-old brother is in serious but stable condition with second-degree burns on his hands, arms and chest. 35
It appears that neither the gamblers, the gambling institutions, nor the cities that authorized such things fared too well in the end. A good example of this is Atlantic City. This city was once famous for its gambling, but now many of its buildings are either boarded up, burned out or torn down. It is now called the “Slum by the Sea.” 36
Holmes cites Miroslav Volf who observes that, “the stress on the pursuit of self-interest in modern societies is at odds with one of the most essential aspects of a Christian theology of work…” 37 Some time ago the Christian psychologist James Dobson lamented that Americans now spend more on gambling than we spend on our groceries. 38
All this reminds us of the sound biblical teaching found in Proverbs 23:5: “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” It also reminds us of Proverbs 13:11: “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
No doubt God expects us all to work and to eat our bread by the sweat of our own brows (Gen. 3:19). Psalm 128:2 tells us: “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” The golden mouthed preacher John Chrysostom says:
Consider, then, how prudent the ant is. Consider how God has implanted in so small a body such an unceasing desire for work!…learn from the bee a lesson of neatness, industry and social concord! For the bee labors more for us than for herself, working every day…As, then, the bee travels across the meadows that she may prepare a banquet for another, so also O man, you do likewise. And if you have accumulated wealth, spend it on others. 39
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 2 Thessalonians 3:11
So, some of the Thessalonian Christians were idle (ataktōs), and as a result were disruptive to the church. As Holmes says, “rather than ‘working hard’ (ergazomenous), they are ‘hardly working’ (periergazomenous)…” 40 The devil always has his eye on such as these. As Isaac Watts wrote: “For Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do.” Wiersbe says, “They had time on their hands and gossip on their lips, but they defended themselves by arguing, ‘The Lord is coming soon!’” 41
It seems that if we are not busy we eventually become busybodies, meddling in the affairs of other people and causing trouble in the church. When we are busy we do not have time or energy for such nonsense.
Guzik adds: “There is plenty of well-wishing in the world, well-resolving, well-suggesting, and well-criticizing are also found in plenty. Many people are good at well-talking, but there is not enough of simple well doing.” 42
“Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat” (3:12). Paul again is acting like a military commander and using military terms. They didn’t listen when he asked nicely so now he commands in the name of the Lord. The NIV reads here, “earn the food they eat,” but the Greek doesn’t quite bear this out. Rather it reads “eat their own bread.” 43 We would have a hard time proving from Scripture that we actually earn our bread. No doubt we remember the Lord’s Prayer where we are told to ask of the Lord, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). It is clear in Scripture that God is always the giver and we have the task of gathering what is given. God also gives to the birds but we see them out there pulling the worms out of the ground.
It is often demeaning when we give without some reciprocal action from those who receive. As the saying goes, it is better to teach a person to fish than merely give him fish to eat. Maimonides said: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Guzik comments: “The early church did provide for the truly needy among them, but only after being certain that they were truly needy and after putting them to work for the church (1 Timothy 5:3-16).” 44
“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good” (3:13). Paul says a similar thing in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” As we have seen previously, the Lord himself went around doing good, healing the sick and oppressed (Acts 10:38). He left all us a wonderful example.
Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 2 Thessalonians 3:14
Godbey says, “We never can redeem the church from sin, Satan, and hell, unless we enforce New Testament discipline.” 45 Clearly, this discipline was redemptive in nature and not just punitive. It was designed to bring people back into the warm fellowship of the Christian body. Holmes says that in the Mediterranean culture shame was a matter of great concern. 46 That is still true today, especially with the Moslem culture. Holmes goes on to describe the discipline that was recommended. They were to “cease having contact with any such people and thus amounts to an early insistence of what later came to be termed ‘excommunication.’” 47
“Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer” (3:15). We can sense here the gentle spirit in which church discipline is to be administered. Augustine (354-430) says of it: “There’s the quarrel. But notice how it’s a quarrel of doves, not of wolves.” 48
PAUL’S FINAL GREETINGS
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. It is interesting that “peace” was the first word that the resurrected Christ spoke to his disciples (Jn. 20:19). Peace is much talked about today but it is often not the peace of the Lord. The peace he gives is not of this world and cannot be taken away from us (Jn. 14:27). His peace is given always and in every way, or at all times and in all places. 49
“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write” (3:17). As the apostle often does, he now takes the pen from his secretary and authenticates the letter with his own handwriting. Perhaps this was done to avoid false letters, as we might have seen reflected in 2:2.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (3:18). This benediction is virtually identical to the one in 1 Thessalonians 5:28. Paul always talked a lot about grace and the Lord’s grace is vitally important to us all. I keep an article up on my website entitled God’s Great Grace. Over the years I have noticed that is one of my most popular articles. Grace is so important to our Christian lives. Years ago, there was a popular and oft recorded African American spiritual entitled Ezekiel Saw The Wheel. The chorus goes:
De big wheel run by faith
Little wheel run by de grace of God
Wheel in a wheel
Way in de middle of de air
As we close 2 Thessalonians we have to stand in awe at its brilliance. Coffman says, “Despite the brevity of this little jewel of a letter, however, it is freighted with some of the most interesting and instructive teaching in Holy Writ. Thanks be to God for the gift of his word!” 50
Several sources I have cited here are from the electronic media, either from websites or from electronic research libraries. Thus in some of these sources it is not possible to cite page numbers. Instead, I have cited the verse or verses in 2 Thessalonians (e.g. v. verse 1:1 or vs. verses 1:5-6) about which the commentators speak.
1 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991), p. 140.
2 Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary,
Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 875.
3 Ibid., p. 874.
1 James Burton Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 1983-1999), v. 1:1. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?bk=51&ch=3.
2 Dr. Bob Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, 2013, v. 1:1.
3 Ibid., vs. 1:2-3.
4 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 1:1.
5 G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1960), pp. 479, 226.
6 Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, & David Brown, Commentary on 2 Thesssalonians, Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible, 1871-78,
v. 1:3. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=3.
7 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 144.
8 Leon Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press; Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), p. 226.
9 Peter Gorday, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, IX (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p.103.
10 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), p. 732.
11 Ray C. Stedman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, 2010, vs. 1:1-12. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rsc/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=1
12 Strong’s Concordance No.5281
13 Ibid., Nos. 1375 & 2347.
14 John Trapp, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, John Trapp Complete Commentary, 1865-1868, v. 1:3. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=2.
15 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 146.
16 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 117.
17 Adam Clarke, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, The Adam Clarke Commentary, 1832, vs. 1:5. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=3.
18 Albert Barnes, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, 1870, v. 1:5. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=3.
19 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p.118.
20 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 1:5.
21 N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope, Rethinking Heaven, he Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper, Collins, 2008), p. 280.
22 Goodreads. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/289683-i-walked-a-mile-with-pleasure-she-chatted-all-the
23 Goodreads. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/255749-though-the-mills-of-god-grind-slowly-yet-they-grind
24 Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 876.
25 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p.119.
26 Trapp, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, John Trapp Complete Commentary, v. 1:7.
27 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 147.
28 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 1:7.
29 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 152.
30 Ibid., p. 154.
31 Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 878.
32 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 1:9.
33 Charles F. Pfeiffer & Everett F. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 1362.
34 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 120.
35 Barnes, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, 1:9.
36 Peter Pett, Commentary on 2Thessalonians, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the
Bible, 2013, v. 1:9. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/view.cgi?bk=51&ch=2.
37 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, pp.150, 153.
“The Christian view of history, therefore, is linear, and neither circular nor cyclical. We believe tat it will come to a planned end, a grand finale, consisting of the Parousia, the Resurrection, the Judgment and the Kingdom……a sub-title of this exposition A Christian perspective on history. (Stott p. 140)
38 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 121.
39 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, pp.150,153.
40 Michael W. Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), p. 215.
41 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 150.
42 Ibid., p. 151.
1 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 157.
2 David Guzik, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, 1997-2003, vs. 2:1-2. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=2.
3 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 124.
4 Frederick Brotherton Meyer, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, F. B. Meyer’s “Through the Bible” Commentary, 1914, vs. 2:1-12. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbm/view.cgi?bk=51&ch=2.
5 Clarke, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, The Adam Clarke Commentary, v. 2:2.
6 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 124.
7 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 157.
8 Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 880.
9 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 125.
10 Stedman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, 2:1-12.
11 Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 241.
12 Ibid., p. 242.
13 Ibid., p. 245.
14 Guzik, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible,
15 Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 736.
16 Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 882.
17 “This Greek term for “temple” (naos) was used for the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple, though no seat was in it. The term was also employed for pagan temples where deities were enthroned. This may imply that the Jewish temple must be physically rebuilt (cf. Dan. 9:24-27).” (Utley, v. 2:4)
18 Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), p. 506.
19 Roberts & Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6, p. 215.
20 Pfeiffer & Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1364.
21 “We know that a mighty cataclysm hangs over the whole earth. In fact, the very end of all things threatens dreadful woes. And this is only held back by the continued existence of the Roman empire.” Tertullian – c 197 (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, pp. 42-43).
22 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 2:6.
23 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 128.
See Pfeiffer & Harrison, p.1364.
24 The principles of the four world governments continue to affect us all. For instance Greek humanism is still very strong in our society. However, Rome was the strongest power and we are still governed and protected by Roman law to a degree. We think here of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and various governments like for instance the Holy Roman Empire. Clearly the influence of all these former governments will disappear at the arrival of Antichrist.
25 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 2:6.
Pfeiffer and Harrison add: “The neuter participle would refer to the state; the masculine, to the emperor…This view leans upon Paul’s charitable attitude toward government as a means of maintaining law and order so that the church may do its work (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; Tit 3:1; 1 Pet 2:13, 14, 17)…” (Pfeiffer & Harrison, p. 1364)
26 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 160.
27 USA Today, May 26, 2011.
28 Morris says: “This passage is probably the most obscure and difficult in the whole of the Pauline writings and the may gaps in our knowledge have given rise to extravagant speculations” (Morris, p. 124).
Holmes adds: “By common consent one of the most obscure in the Pauline corpus…” (Holmes p. 228). Barclay agrees saying: “This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult passages in the whole New Testament” (Barclay, p. 211).
29 Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, Commentary on 2 Thesssalonians, Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible, v. 2:8.
30 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 172.
31 Ibid., p. 171.
32 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 2:9.
33 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 172.
34 David S. Dockery, ed., The Challenge of Postmodernism, An Evangelical Engagement (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), p. 365.
35 Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo, A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), p. 30.
36 Ibid., p. 36.
37 Roberts & Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, p. 212.
38 Ibid., p. 214.
39 Pfeiffer & Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1365.
40 Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, pp. 884-885.
41 William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, Revised Edition (Louisville: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 214.
42 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 134.
43 Meyer, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, F. B. Meyer’s “Through the Bible” Commentary, vs. 2:13-14.
44 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 2:13.
45 Barnes, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament,
46 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 175.
47 Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 739.
48 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 2:15.
49 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 179.
51 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 2:16.
1 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 3:1.
2 Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 216.
3 Gorday, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, IX, p.117.
4 Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 741.
5 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 188.
6 John Calvin, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, 1840-57, v. 3:2. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=1
7 Barnes, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, v. 3:2.
8 Trapp, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, John Trapp Complete Commentary, v. 3:3.
9 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 3:3.
10 A.T. Robertson, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1932-33, Renewal 1960, v. 3:3.
11 Cited in Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 189.
12 Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 741.
13 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 140.
14 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 3:5.
15 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 3:5.
16 Gorday, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, IX, p. 120.
17 Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 218.
18 Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 278.
19 Ibid., p. 281.
20 Robertson, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, v. 3:6.
21 Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 281.
22 Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, p. 176.
23 Ibid., p. 179.
24 William Godbey, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, William Godbey’s Commentary on the New Testament, vs. 3:7-13. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/view.cgi?bk=52&ch=2
25 Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 887.
26 Pett, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible,
27 Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, Commentary on 2 Thesssalonians, Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible, v. 3:8.
28 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 142.
29 Quoted in Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 3:8.
30 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 3:8.
31 Morris, 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p.142.
32 Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians, v. 3:10.
33 Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 284.
34 Interview with Luther Elliss on the Huckabee Show 8/28/10.
35 “Brothers blow up house while celebrating lottery win with drugs.” Published February 18, 2013, Associated Press.
36 D. James Kennedy, What If America Were A Christian Nation Again?, p. 142.
37 Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 284.
38 Kennedy, What If America Were A Christian Nation Again?, p. 136.
39 Gorday, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, IX, p. 123.
40 Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 273.
41 Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 742.
42 Guzik, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, vs/ 3:11-12.
43 Robertson, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, v. 3:12.
44 Guzik, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible,
45 Godbey, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, William Godbey’s Commentary on the New Testament, vs. 3:14-18.
46 Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary 1 And 2 Thessalonians, p. 276.
47 Ibid., p. 275.
48 Gorday, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, IX, p. 126.
49 Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 197.
50 Coffman, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 3:17.