The Latter Epistles – 2 Thessalonians 1

Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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.  Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
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.  God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 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.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 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.
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.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

2 Thessalonians 1:3  ‘The text plus the Holy Spirit’: “When you are trying to find out the condition of a church, do not just inquire whether it is evangelical.  Ask whether it is an evangelical rationalistic church that says, ‘The text is enough,’ or whether it is a church that believes that the text plus the Holy Spirit is enough …
“I would rather be part of a small group with inner knowledge than part of a vast group with only intellectual knowledge.  In that great day of Christ’s coming, all that will matter is whether or not I have been inwardly regenerated, inwardly purified.”

  • A. W. Tozer, Faith Beyond Reason

2 Thessalonians 1:3 ‘a flourishing faith’: “We must beware of imagining that we have reached a state of finality in religion.  Beware of that spirit, but rather imitate the example of the apostle Paul who wrote, ‘Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead.  I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus’ (Php 3:13-14).  We are not content with merely being alive; we wish to be healthy.  And we ought not to be satisfied with being saved; we should desire to have our faith in full strength and to have all our graces at the highest degree of development.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Thessalonians 1:5 ‘suffer’: “Having a right attitude toward suffering is essential, and that required attitude is concern for the kingdom of God.  The Thessalonian believers were not self-centered, but concentrated on God’s kingdom.  Their focus was not on personal comfort, fulfillment, and happiness, but on the glory of God and the fulfilment of His purposes.  They were not murmuring about the injustice of their persecutions.  Rather, they were patiently enduring the sufferings they did not deserve (v. 4).  This very attitude was ‘manifest evidence’ or positive proof that God’s wise process of purging, purifying, and perfecting through suffering was working to make His beloved people worthy of the kingdom (cf. 2:12) by being perfected (cf. James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 5:10).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 ‘The Coming of Christ to Judge the Wicked’: “In the final chapter of earth’s history, the Messiah will establish His earthly rule, ‘the kingdom of God’ (verse 5).  The suffering and persecution of the Thessalonians is working to show their perseverance and faith.  God’s judgment is right; He will punish all those who troubled and persecuted the children of God.  The believers were suffering, and ‘after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you’ (verse 6).  When Christ returns to earth to reign He will come ‘in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne’ (Matthew 25:31).  Paul calls the angels ‘His mighty angels [coming] in flaming fire’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7).
“Thomas Constable notes that this passage is: ‘not about the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; John 14:2-3_, for no judgment accompanies the Rapture.  Instead, it is the revelation of Jesus Christ in power and great glory (Psalm 2:1-9; Matt. 25:31), when He will set up His earthly kingdom (Rev. 19:11-20:4).  At His return He will destroy the Armageddon armies gathered against Him (Rev. 16:12-16; 19:19-21) and will then judge living Jews (Ezek. 20:33-38) and living Gentiles (Matt. 24:31-46) (“2 Thessalonians,” Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 716).
“Some argue that the Lord’s return to establish the Davidic kingdom is far removed from the times of the Thessalonian church.  But Paul seems to expand his thought about Christ coming for judgment.  It will be a retribution for the sufferings of the Thessalonians as well as all those who have paid a price for their faith through all generations.  Also, the punishment falls on all ‘those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus’ (verse 8).
“Vengeance is sure to come with eternal destruction…”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation

2 Thessalonians 1:9 ‘Destruction’: ”Greek olethros … does not mean annihilation or extinction, in which one would cease to exist, but rather the loss of everything good and worthwhile.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the word to speak of the immediate consequences of sin (1 Cor. 5:5).  Yet, in 1 Thessalonians 1:9.  He uses the same word to describe the eternal separation from the love of Christ.  Just as eternal life belongs to believers, endless suffering awaits those who rebel against Christ.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

2 Thessalonians 1:10 ‘first and second comings of Jesus’: “What a difference between the first and second comings of our Lord!  When he shall come a second time, it will be to be glorified and admired; but when he came the first time, it was to be despised and rejected of men.  He comes a second time to reign with unparalleled splendor, but the first time he came to die in circumstances of shame and sorrow.  Lift up your eyes and anticipate the change which will be as great for you as for your Lord – for now you are hidden, even as he was hidden, and misunderstood, even as he was misunderstood when he walked among the sons of men.  ‘We are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed’ (1Jn 3:2).  His manifestation will be our manifestation; and in the day in which he is revealed in glory, then shall his saints be glorified with him.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Thessalonians 1:10 ‘The Perfect Priest’: “When we see Christ, what will we see?
“We will see the perfect priest. ‘He was dressed in a long robe and had a gold band around his chest’ (Revelation 1:13).  The first readers of this message knew the significance of the robe and band.  Jesus is wearing the clothing of a priest.  A priest presents people to God and God to people.
“You have known other priests.  There have been others in your life, whether clergy or not who sought to bring you to God.  But they, too, needed a priest.  Some needed a priest more than you did.  They, like you, were sinful.  Not so with Jesus.  ‘Jesus is the kind of high priest we need.  He is holy, sinless, pure, not influenced by sinners, and he is raised above the heavens’ (Hebrews 7:26).
“Jesus is the perfect priest.”

  • Max Lucado, When Christ Comes

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ‘first prayer for the Thessalonians’: “This is the first of four prayers in this second epistle, although, strictly speaking, verses 11 and 12 simply record what Paul prays for.  ‘With this in mind, we constantly pray for you’ (1:11).  In the light of the Parousia, which will bring judgment on the wicked and glory to the saints, Paul prays for the Thessalonians.  The Parousia is an incentive to holy living (cf. 1 Thess. 3:13), and it is Paul’s prayer that God will count converts worthy of the call ‘into the kingdom and his glory’ (1 Thess. 2:12) – a call that is heard in the gospel.
“Paul is praying that the good intentions which God puts into the minds of his readers will be carried out.  Such intentions and resolves do not spring from the natural goodness of the human heart; even goodness itself is a gift of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  To carry out such good resolves, or to put it differently, the work of faith, one need divine strength.  Paul constantly prays that the Thessalonians may work out their faith by God’s power.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

My Thoughts

I have written on the one theme that runs through this chapter many times.  There will be suffering.  Everyone will suffer, but we have Jesus to give us strength and those who hold to the secular world have vain hopes and wishful thinking, no substance, no true hope.

Yet, there is suffering for righteousness’ sake.  I heard a radio program just before writing this and Rev. David Robertson, the Wee Flea, stated that you better be sure that the suffering of being made a fool is for righteousness’ sake, otherwise, you are just a fool.  There is that to consider, especially when looking through the reflection questions that follow.  Those that cling to the world may not have such persecution, and that persecution can range from the odd insult to being killed.  Yet, it is all persecution.

But then the Apostle Paul writes that God is just, and He will punish those who persecute us.

Let’s take a deep breath and think about that.

When I talk to someone about Jesus and they spew insults back at me, I can be hurt; I can get a bit miffed; I can feel frightened, angry, or even ill.  But I would have never spoken to that person if I did not love them.

Do I want God to bring down fire from Heaven and have them consumed?  No, although that has come to mind on rare occasions.  But if they see my faith as genuine and start to wonder why I will never back down, they might start a search for God themselves.

In the radio program, In the Market with Janet Parshall, on Moody radio, Janet had talked about a Chinese pastor who is in a jail cell for being a Christian and talking about it.  He was in general population in the prison, but he was converting too many people to Christianity.  Thus, he was moved to semi-isolation – in a cell with two staunch Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, so that he could be reeducated to be a mindless follower of the party.  Janet felt that after a while, the two-party members would either become Christians or they would beg to be reassigned somewhere else.

We need to know that we are saved from something and to something.  We will go to be with Jesus forever, but if we do not accept Jesus, failing to follow Him, we are doomed to Hell.  And if Hell is not bad enough, it seems that there is an even worse Hell for those who persecute Christians, just because they are Christians.

But in setting up this dual destination in this chapter, the Apostle Paul ends the chapter with a prayer that could easily be a charge to the persecuted Christians in Thessalonica.  If you are to be persecuted, make sure it is for doing as our Savior commanded, spreading the Gospel, and helping those in need – for your goodness (which is only possible through Christ) and your good deeds (which is an outpouring of the Love that comes from God).

We must all put our faith into action, and that faith in action is never seen more evident than when we are facing persecution.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. How will you exercise faith and love this week in some specific way or relationship?
“2. Which of your current struggles are a result of being a Christian?  How so?
“3. How do you feel about the punishment mentioned in verses 8-9?
“4. Put Paul’s prayer [vv. 11-12] in your own words and pray it for one another this week.

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

The Serendipity Bible has an interesting final “question.”  Whether you are using this as a small group study or a personal Bible study, we need to pray for one another.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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