2 Thessalonians Chapter 1
Paul and Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy,
(Vs.1-2) “To the Assembly of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Messiah: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus the Messiah.”
This is Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian assembly about 1 year after he wrote his first letter to them. He starts his letter once again reminding them that they are in God and also in Jesus the Messiah and are God’s family, having been predestined by God to receive adoption to Himself as His sons and daughters through Jesus the Messiah, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on them in the Beloved Son of God, having redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin in accordance with the riches of God’s unmerited, unearned favour, an eternal Biblical truth that applies to the corporate Body of the Messiah in every age (Ephesians 1:5-7).
Added to this, all the members of the Body of the Messiah have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise for the day of redemption when we will be completely rescued by Him who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Ephesians 1:13-14) (Galatians 1:4).
Once again Paul uses the words grace and peace. Grace (unmerited favour) is a Greek form of greeting whereas peace (Shalom) is a Hebrew form of greeting, reminding the assembly that they are one new man in the Messiah whether ethnically they are Jewish or Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-16). If we have been spiritually reborn by the Holy Spirit and that by the grace of God received through faith in the Messiah, then we will also have peace with God and the settled peace of God deep down on the inside. It is the supernatural peace of the Lord Jesus which the world cannot produce (John 14:27).
(Vs.3) “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;”
Often the task of one with an apostolic calling will face discouragement, opposition, physical infirmities, persecution, resistance by well-meaning brethren, hostility from family members and opposition by spiritually backslidden assemblies. Paul and his companions in ministry were not exempt from these kinds of afflictions. Paul always carried around inside with him an anxiety for the spiritual welfare of all of the assemblies he had started, an anxiety apart from the external trials, he faced daily, it was a tangible pressure he felt (2 Corinthians 11:28). In his first letter to the Thessalonian assembly about a year before Paul was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted them or lured them away from the truth and that the efforts that Paul and his co-workers had established might be in vain (1 Thessalonians 1:3:5).
However, after sending Timothy to them to check things out he came back with a glowing report about their faith and that it was growing and steadfast and an example and an encouragement to the other assemblies in the surrounding provinces and even beyond to remain steadfast in their faith. No wonder that Paul gives thanks to God for their spiritual development even under severe persecution. What an encouragement it must have been to Paul that acted like a buffer against the anxiety he wrestled with concerning the spiritual welfare of all of the assemblies. It was fitting to give thanks to God because “their faith was greatly enlarged” and “increasing beyond measure” and their love for one another “existed in abundance.” It was no ‘flaky sentimentalism’ but the agape of God that cemented them together in soul and spirit so that united as a body they could strengthen one another against the incessant attacks of the evil one.
(Vs.4-) …“therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the assemblies of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.”
The assembly at Thessalonica was no fellowship with a diet of lollies and sugar coated sermons, motivational feel good talks and ear tickling ear scratching messages, but were those of whom Paul could speak proudly of to the other assemblies he visited or wrote to because the Thessalonian believers were thoroughly grounded in the Word of God and putting it into practice, knowing that all who seek to live godly lives in the Messiah Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). They had also been taught by Paul that all New Covenant believers in the Messiah were destined by God for tribulations in this world (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
Paul commends them for their perseverance and faith. These two spiritual principles are linked. Perseverance strengthens faith and when faith is being exercised with persistence then perseverance will also come from it. In both Testaments the word for “faith” not only describes belief but also faithfulness to what we believe. In other words, if we have Biblical saving faith then we will be seeking by God’s grace every day moment by moment to be faithful to the faith we profess to have. While we are not saved by works, if we are saved, then we will have works along the line of that faith we have (Ephesians 2:8-10) (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Greek word for “perseverance” means “a consistent steadfast endurance” in the NT this is the characteristic of a man “that is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and godliness of life by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” It is “a patient enduring and sustaining perseverance.” Sometimes God will allow a situation that requires perseverance under pressure, a sense of being pressed down and our human tendency is to want to get out from under it if we can. However, God will keep the pressure on but never beyond what we can tolerate. His purpose is to teach us how to persevere so that when that time is finished, and it will end in God’s time, that we might come out of it more spiritually mature and complete and not lacking in any spiritual blessing (James 1:4). In this way the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction does so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
At Thessalonica the believers were most certainly persecuted and afflicted which they were patiently enduring. In these last days fellowship at this level and depth is a must for the spiritual welfare and survival of New Covenant believers individually and corporately. It has been said that if we cannot stand together we will never stand alone. The hour is late, fellowship in the Holy Spirit around the Lord’s table and around the Word of God is a vital necessity for the faithful Body of the Messiah, a fact which comes into stark reality in this second letter where we see the apostasy mentioned that will mark the last days and pave the way for the coming of the man of sin.
(Vs.5) “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.”
Their perseverance of faith in the midst of all their persecutions and afflictions which they were enduring were the absolute certainty that God’s righteous judgement would fall on those who were persecuting His saints because He considers His saints worthy of the kingdom of God. Just like the Lord Jesus did the Thessalonian assembly were suffering because of their stand against the world, the flesh and the devil. All of us want to share in the power of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection, and we will if we have endured to the end, but do we want to share in his suffering?
Now wanting to suffer and be persecuted and seeking it is not normal or natural because within the loving and wise providence of God we will have our share of it to a greater or lesser degree according to God’s good, acceptable and perfect will (1 Peter 4:19). Persecution will hit the Body of the Messiah hard when the man of sin with his beast empire comes to power. Already we see laws and political legislation in the western democracies historically associated with a Judeo-Christian Biblical heritage being put into place that will impinge on the freedoms of faithful New Covenant believers. One thing to also keep in mind that when we are afflicted God is afflicted (Isaiah 63:9).
Also we need to remember dear brothers and sisters in the Messiah our Lord Jesus that He has been tempted and tried in every way imaginable as we are tried, tempted and tested but never sinned at all. Our Lord Jesus never gave into Satan’s temptations and became the source of eternal salvation for all who repent and believe on Him and in His redeeming blood that results in the forgiveness of all of our sins according to the riches of God’s unmerited favour (Hebrews 5:8-9) (Ephesians 1:7). We may suffer because of seeking to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus, however, the deliverance will come and when this happens God will afflict those who afflict us. Paul makes this clear and this fact must have greatly encouraged the Thessalonian believers. Paul then writes…
(Vs.6-8) “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
The Word of God says; “Mighty is Your arm; strong is Your hand. Your right hand is exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; loving devotion and faithfulness go before You. Blessed are those who know the joyful sound, who walk, O LORD, in the light of Your presence” (Psalm 89:13-14). God’s right hand is His beloved Son and when we see the right hand of the LORD mentioned in the Old Testament it is referring to the eternal Son of God even before His incarnation in Mary’s womb. God has highly exulted His resurrected Son to His right hand, where, as God the Eternal Son, after He had made purification for sin once and for all time now sits on the throne with his Father at His right hand and is the one who ever lives to intercede for us as our Great High Priest (Hebrews 1:3).
As the author of Hebrews also writes concerning the Messiah our Lord Jesus; “But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely (to the uttermost) those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly befits us—One who is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:24-26).
Paul goes on the write that God Himself, whose throne is the foundation of righteousness and justice, will repay with affliction those who have afflicted His saints and that with the same affliction they themselves suffered at the hands of their wicked persecutors. Today we see the bloodshed of faithful believers by Islam. However when the Messiah our Lord Jesus comes back the blood of the armies of Islam will flow like a river for 180 miles as high as a horses bridle (Isaiah 63:1-6) (Isaiah 34:5-10) (Revelation 14:17-20) (Revelation 19:11-21).
The Messiah’s retribution will be poured out on all of the wicked in the world who have rejected salvation and especially those that have persecuted His blood redeemed saints. He will descend in flaming fire with His powerful angels and dealing out retribution to all those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Only those sheltering by faith under the blood of Jesus the Passover Lamb of God will be spared from this flaming vengeance of the Lord Jesus as the Israelites were spared in Egypt when the lamb’s blood had been splashed on the doorframes of their houses to protect them from the destroying angel.
For the beleaguered Thessalonian assembly this was good news in that they were to be avenged when the Lord Jesus comes back, a great comfort to those who were being afflicted and persecuted then and down through history and especially in these last days we are now living in. In all of these matters they were continuing in steadfast endurance and walking in the love of God for each other and for the lost knowing that the recompense against their persecutors was coming. As Paul also writes to the assembly at Rome; “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink for in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:18-20).
Now Asaph the psalmist thought how it could be that the unsaved and wicked seem to get away with their wickedness, and many prosper and do not suffer in this world as believers suffer? However, it was when he went into the House of God that he discerned their end (Psalm 73:1-17). Physical death is not the end. Either we will go to heaven or to hell if we physically die before the Lord Jesus comes back because God’s Word says; “Just as man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). However, when the Messiah our Lord Jesus returns those who are still alive on earth who are not believing and obeying the gospel will be cast alive into hell, a holding cell of conscious torment to await that great white throne judgement where they will appear before of our Triune God for sentencing to the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). As it is also written; “The wicked will return to hell (Sheol), all the nations who forget God” (Psalm 9:17). The gospel is a message to be believed but also to be obeyed. Our Lord Jesus said; “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides or remains on him” (John 3:36 NASB). What else does Paul write on this matter?
(Vs. 9-10) “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.”
One of Satan’s best kept secrets is to convince the unsaved that there is no such place as hell or the lake of fire and many who are not saved think that once you are physically dead you cease to exist. Others just laugh at the concept that the devil even exists and that there is a judgement to come and the eternal hell that awaits all who reject the salvation found only in the Lord Jesus (John 14:6) (Acts 4:12).
“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” The penalty described in the Greek text is “a judicial hearing, or a judicial decision, especially a sentence of condemnation or the execution of a sentence resulting in punishment” It is that penalty based on righteousness and justice which are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). This penalty we are told is an “eternal destruction” which does not mean annihilation or that one ceases to exist after they physically die. In the Greek text it means; “without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be.” The word “destruction” itself also signifies “ruination with its full, destructive results however and does not imply “extinction” (annihilation). Rather it emphasizes “the consequent loss that goes with the complete “undoing.” In other words it means something that can no longer fulfil its original purpose for which it was created is discarded, ruined beyond restoration, yet it does not cease to exist. This eternal destruction will result in an eternity separated from God and from the glorious splendour of His power. This ultimate judgment will come when the Messiah our Lord Jesus comes back to earth to be glorified in His saints at the rapture and resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
“…when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed” His raptured and resurrected saints will be full of His life, His light, His presence with them, and His power, especially when they see Him unleash His flaming vengeance on those who have not believed and have persecuted His saints. As the prophet Habakkuk writes; “His splendour was like the sunrise; rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden” (Habakkuk 3:4).
“…for our testimony to you was believed.” What an encouragement Paul’s teaching was to these tried, tested and persecuted brothers and sisters in the Messiah our Lord Jesus. They had believed the testimony to God’s Word given to them by Paul and his co-workers and by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The gospel came to them not simply with words, but also with the power of the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. They had not only believed but they had also welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6). They turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God with joyful expectation waiting for God’s Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead-Jesus who will rescue all who are New Covenant Bible believers from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
Also the Thessalonian assembly had the assurance based on God’s unchanging Word imparted to them by Paul and his fellow workers that they were not appointed to wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus the Messiah. Saving faith is based on the unchanging written Word of God (John 20:31). While our feelings and moods fluctuate God’s Word will say the same thing tomorrow as it does today. Forever His Word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89). The Messiah died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him, sharing in the power of His resurrection. All of us within the Body of the Messiah are to comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). This was specifically true for the saints at Thessalonica who were already encouraging one another and whose hope was not in this world or in the things of this world, who’s eyes were fixed on spiritual and eternal realities in the unseen eternal spiritual ream, and not fixed on those things of earth which are physically seen and are temporal and have no eternal value (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Paul also writes about this eternal reality to the assembly at Corinth; “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). Now let’s continue…
(Vs.11-12) “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfil every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus The Messiah.”
Paul and his co-workers Silas and Timothy pray for the Thessalonian believers. “…that our God will count you worthy of your calling.” They were called to sanctification or living lives separated from the world to God. This was God’s will for them and for all of New Covenant believers (1 Thessalonians 4:3a). He who had called them out of the kingdom of darkness in Satan and into the kingdom of light in the Lord Jesus and to reflect Him in their daily lives especially in their relationships with their fellow believers, and though this God would count them as worthy and pleasing to Him in their calling to living a lifestyle set apart to Him, being in this world but not of this world.
“…and fulfil every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.” Having had the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit they had the desire to serve the Lord Jesus and to help and encourage those who needed to be strengthened in their faith. Paul and the others with Him were praying that the desire the Thessalonian believers had to be pleasing to the LORD by living a good life in Him accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit would be fulfilled for them despite the severe and prolonged opposition they were facing. Faith empowered by the blessed Holy Spirit of God will always result in good deeds approved by God. Just as we read about our Lord Jesus of whom we are told; “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and His power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him“ (Acts 10:38).
This is the work of faith in action which marked the assemblies that were walking in step with the Spirit that Paul and his co-workers had established. Undoubtedly the assembly at Thessalonica were doing these things as Jesus had done when He walked among us. Spiritual gifts were in abundance in the early assemblies of the Messiah and in the last days they will be in abundance once again within the faithful wider Body of the Messiah.
“…so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus the Messiah.” When the Holy Spirit is manifesting His power through the local Body of the Messiah He will always lift up the name of the Lord Jesus before men. He will never promote Himself or His gifts, or the ones who are exercising His gifts in the local assembly of believers. As the Lord Jesus said; “However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you. Everything that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take from what is Mine and disclose it to you” (John 16:13-15).
It is by God’s grace that we are earthen vessels through which the glory of our Lord Jesus and the splendour of His spiritual power can operate. He is our life (Colossians 3:4). We are so dependent upon Him for everything we need to live godly, spiritually productive lives that bear spiritual fruit for Him that will be pleasing to God (John 15:1-5). Whether it is in temporal matters of daily life or in spiritual matters, being linked together, we are co-dependent entirely upon being united with Him in which our spirit is fused together with His Spirit making us one with Him in spirit and in truth (1 Corinthians 6:17). Whatever we need in life He will supply according to His good, acceptable and perfect will which at times will cross our will, hence the need to walk under the cleansing blood of Jesus in sanctification by faith being empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:7) (Galatians 5:25).
None of us are perfect of course and the closer we get to the light of God shining through His Word the more specks and dark spots of our fallen human nature we see which will drive us to the blood of Jesus which will cleanse us from that sin when we confess it for what it is without any excuses for it (1 John 1:9). The Word of God firstly shows us our fallen sinful nature with its passions and desires that can be likened to looking in a mirror which does not lie. When this happens we have one of two choices to make. We can shut God’s Word or we can keep looking at it because it is the law of liberty that shows us how to get rid of sins lure and power when we continue to look in this mirror that is God’s Word. It will show us the spiritual disease that clings so close to us like a corpse that is chained to us, but then show us how to be cured and set free from that chain of spiritual corruption by the Messiah’s cleansing blood applied to the door frames of our heart by the blessed Holy Spirit.
As James writes; “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:21-25).
When we bear spiritual fruit for God and His Word remains in us the Lord Jesus is glorified in us. As the Lord Jesus said; “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain in My love” (John 15:7-9). It is all by the grace of God as we have no grace to do any spiritual work for God within ourselves. This grace to live for God and to persevere in faith comes from Him and from His Son our Lord Jesus. Without this grace enabling an active faith in us we are all spiritually speaking “basket cases!”