Introduction and Overview:
Paul wrote his first letter in 50AD and his second letter in 51AD and these were his first two letters he wrote as an apostle. Paul was also accompanied by Silas and Timothy who may well have aided Paul when writing his letters. It is clear from both letters Paul wrote that he, Silas and Timothy had taught the believers at Thessalonica a great deal about the end times, the coming of antichrist and about the Second Coming of Messiah and the events leading up to it including the rapture and resurrection of the faithful Body of Messiah. Also, it is clear that the Thessalonian believers had been suffering persecution but had maintained their witness and kept their loyalty to the Lord Jesus which was so powerful and effective that they were an example of perseverance in their faith under fire and an encouragement to the assemblies in many other provinces in the Roman Empire (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
Paul and his fellow workers spent only a very short time with the Thessalonian Body of Messiah. Some scholars think it was only for three weeks while others think it was three months, yet it was a very short stay because Paul and his other two co-workers had to keep moving as they were the constant targets of both the Jewish religious hierarchy and the Roman officials. Paul and his companions in the ministry were preaching about another King and His kingdom to come which would dethrone all other earthly kingdoms and consequently would have enraged any Roman Caesar. The very idea of another king ruling over an eternal kingdom would bring a swift response from Rome. Even today in countries like North Korea and China it is an offense to preach about the Second Coming of Messiah to inaugurate His Messianic rule on earth and to overthrow all earthly kingdoms arrayed against God.
No wonder there was at least 10 major imperial Roman persecutions of the faithful Body of Messiah before the Roman emperor Constantine arrived on the scene which is another matter in itself. The coming of Constantine saw the beginning of the last great apostasy Paul mentions in this his second letter to the Thessalonian believers which we are now going to look at, an apostasy that would have its climax at the end of this present age with the arrival of the man of sin and his beast empire and that his revealing will be preceded by a flood of Satanic counterfeit miracles signs and wonders that will deceive many including those within wider Christendom who have apostatised (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12). With these things in view let’s now look at the overview of 2 Thessalonians.
Chapter 1: About a year after Paul had written his first letter he writes to the assembly at Thessalonica for the second time. This time he writes primarily about the end-times and the subject of Eschatology is the main theme of this second letter. It is also clear that persecution was continuing unabated but in the midst of it their faith and witness as an assembly was growing more and more and their love for each other increasing. Paul extolled their perseverance and faith in all of the trials they were enduring. He also reminds them that God has His day when it will be pay-back time for those who have been persecuting them. God will send the Messiah our Lord Jesus back when as lightning flashes from the east to the west He comes out of heaven to be revealed in blazing fire to the world at His Second Coming to earth accompanied by His powerful angels. Paul also states that those who have rejected the Lord Jesus and the salvation He brought will be punished for all of eternity shut out from the presence of the LORD and from the majesty of His redeeming power. The word Paul uses for “destruction” is not annihilation where one ceases to exist, but an eternal consciousness and stark torment of one being discarded and no longer fit for the use for which they were created.
On that day when the Lord Jesus comes back He will be glorified in His holy people for all to see both in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth. His glorified and resurrected Body of believers will be full of glory and marvel at what He has done for them. With the Second Coming of the Messiah in mind Paul, Silas, and Timothy constantly pray for the assembly at Thessalonica that by God’s power He may fulfil every good purpose of theirs and their every act prompted by faith. Paul and his companions pray that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them corporately as a fellowship and they glorified in Him according to the unmerited, unearned favour of God and of the Messiah our Lord Jesus.
Chapter 2: “Paul now devotes a sizable portion of his second letter to them writing about Eschatology. Obviously it was vitally important to the assembly as in light of persecution they needed to be reassured that the Lord Jesus would turn everything upside down right side up at His return and that they would be the winners! He mentions the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus and the Body of Messiah being gathered around Him in the air to meet Him at His coming to earth, reaffirming what Paul had taught them and had written to them in his first letter.
Some of the believers had become unsettled concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus by some purporting to be apostles who had been circulating prophecies, reports and letters saying that the Day of the Lord had come which of course included the gathering together of Jesus’ faithful followers to meet Him in the air and that they had been left behind. The persecution and troubles they were facing compounded the error circulating that the Lord Jesus had come back and left them behind. In effect it was a false teaching of a form of a pre-tribulation rapture which scripture does not teach!
Now Paul clearly and plainly tells them to not let anyone deceive them in any way concerning what had been circulated as having come from Paul and his fellow co-workers. He tells them that before the day of the Lord comes three things must first occur. Firstly; he says the apostasy must come. Secondly; the apostasy must be followed by the man of sin doomed to destruction that sets himself up in God’s Temple to demand worship as god. Thirdly; he tells them that all kinds of Satanic counterfeit miracles signs and wonders will pave the way for the man of sin. Paul mentions again that when he was with them he told them these things and also about the one restraining or holding the man of sin back from being revealed which was the Holy Spirit. He also mentions that spiritual deception will abound and that those who refuse the love of the truth will be deceived by the lies of the man of sin spread throughout his empire.
To those who refuse to love the truth and have delighted in practicing wickedness so as not to be saved, God Himself will send them a powerful deception so that they will believe what the man of sin tells them and blend in with his beast empire and its dictates and who will no longer be capable of believing and receiving the truth even when they hear it. It is clear Paul was not teaching a pre-tribulation rapture. If he was then why would he have taken the time to mention these things to occur before the day of the Lord if the Body of Messiah was no longer on earth?
Paul then goes on to thank God for them and their steadfastness and faithful endurance, and they, because they were loved by the LORD, had been chosen from the beginning, even before the foundation of the world, to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. They had been called by God to this salvation through the preaching of the gospel to which they had responded by faith. Paul taught these things that they might share in the glory of the Lord Jesus, to stand firm, holding to the teaching that had been passed onto them whether by word or by letter which Paul had written to them previously about a year before this second letter.
As he starts to wind up this second letter Paul pronounces over them that the Lord Jesus the Messiah Himself and God the Father, who loved them and who by His unmerited, unearned favour had given them corporately as a fellowship eternal encouragement and good hope, and that their hearts might be encouraged and strengthened in every good deed and word.
Chapter 3: In closing his second letter to them Paul asks for their prayers that the message of the Lord Jesus might spread rapidly and be honoured by others at it had been honoured by them. Paul also needed their prayers that he and his fellow workers in the ministry might be continuously delivered out of the hands of wicked and evil men without any faith at all. Paul also adds that the LORD is faithful in this matter and that he will strengthen and protect them also from the evil one. Paul expresses his confidence in them that they will keep doing the things commanded by the Lord for them to do through the apostle’s teaching they had received. He adds that the LORD may direct their hearts into God’s love and the Messiah’s perseverance.
He then addresses practical matters such as idleness and wrong living not according to the teaching received. He mentions how he and his fellow workers lived among them and that it was to be the example for them to follow as an assembly of the Messiah. He also says that those who remain idle and lazy to work should become useful and work both in their secular jobs and in the fellowship. They were not to live off of others while just sitting around themselves.
In light of the fact that there had been reports that the Lord Jesus had come back and left them behind may well have had some influence on why some members of the assembly had become lazy and even opted out serving the Lord Jesus with their whole hearts. These were to be admonished to get a job and continue to serve the Lord Jesus with fervency. Those who refused to comply with what Paul and Silas had taught them were to be distanced from their fellow believers that they might reflect on their attitude and conduct, but not to be expelled from the fellowship. Such a one was not to be regarded as an enemy but to be warned as a brother in Jesus the Messiah.
Paul’s benediction was that the Lord of Peace, the prince of Peace the Messiah our Lord Jesus might give them peace continuously at all times and in every way and that the LORD would be with them. Paul wrote the greeting in his own handwriting but the letter he dictated was written by possibly Silas or Timothy as Paul did have a problem with his eyesight (Galatians 4:15). Of all of his epistles he wrote these two letters contain the most regrading Eschatology. These also were his first letters he wrote and as far as he was concerned Eschatology was high on the agenda. It is a tragedy that there is much less emphasis on the Second Coming of the Messiah today in many assemblies within wider Christendom than there was 30-40 years ago and the Coming of the Messiah is much closer now than it was back then! So let’s begin…