2 Thessalonians 1
The Thessalonians had some questions about the Second Coming of the Lord that Paul would be dealing with in this little letter, and some of the saints needed to be corrected for their conduct, but for the most part, this church was an absolute blessing to Paul. Their faith was growing, along with their love so that they even became the objects of boasting by Paul the Apostle amongst the churches. The Thessalonians were patient and blessed with endurance in the midst of the many persecutions and tribulations they were experiencing.
As you read through verses 6-9 you get the sense that Paul is comforting the Thessalonians with the truth that God would one day deal with all the evil doers for all the evil they’d done, and God would one day comfort the church for all their faithfulness through the fiery trials on planet earth. They suffered for the Kingdom (v. 5) because they’re hated by the world (John 15:18) and the troublers would be “repaid” by God Himself (v. 6). The church gets her ultimate rest at the Revelation of Jesus Christ (v. 7) and as for those who reject the love of the Gospel, they only have a flaming fire of the vengeance of God to look forward to (v. 8) they’ll receive justice and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (v 9). You’ve probably heard that maxim, that for the believer, this is the closest thing to hell we’ll ever experience, and for the non-believer, this is the closest thing to heaven they’ll ever experience. What an encouragement to the Christian, and what a sobering thought for the non-Christian.
I love the way Paul prays for the Thessalonian Christians (always) for God to do a legit work in them, that their walk would be worthy (line up with their salvation), that they would fulfill God’s calling upon their lives – that there would be more faith and more power; that the name of Jesus would be glorified through their lives…of course, all of this by God’s awesome and amazing grace!
Amen and amen!
2 Thessalonians 2
The Thessalonians were tempted to be shaken up and out by the tribulations they were experiencing in conjunction with a false letter they’d received. Paul wrote to assure them, that they had not missed the rapture and they were not experiencing the Great Tribulation Period.
The falling away mentioned in v. 3 may be speaking of a great apostasy (the Greek word is apostasia) when the church departs from the faith. It may also very well be in reference to the rapture of the church. As Pastor Chuck Smith writes, “…the word can refer to the departure of the saints, the rapture of the church. The Day of the Lord will not take place until there is first a departure, such as when the church departs to be with the Lord.” Either way, Paul lets the Thessalonians know that certain events had to take place to usher in the Tribulation Period and the eventual Coming of Christ.
The falling away had to take place first (Rapture of the Church or apostasy).
The Anti-Christ had to be revealed. This son of perdition will exalt himself, declaring himself to be God as he sits in the future Jewish Temple (this is called the Abomination of Desolation spoken of in Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14). The mystery of lawlessness is already at work, the only thing holding the Anti-Christ back is the work of the Holy Spirit in the church (this is He who now restrains), but when the rapture takes place the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled, the church will be taken out of the way, and the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the Jews (Romans 11:25).
The Anti-Christ will eventually be defeated by the coming of Christ, His mere word and presence will defeat the devil, but not after Satan takes many souls with him. When Satan comes in the form of the Anti-Christ he will fool many with his signs and lying wonders. Verses 10-12 seem to indicate that those who understand the Gospel beforehand, and reject it, will be sent a strong delusion and they will not be able to believe during the Tribulation Period. The reason this is such a heavy warning is because there are some people who know the truth, but choose not to live that truth, even planning to get right after the rapture takes place – but according to this passage it’s not possible, for GOD will be the one sending them that strong delusion. Today is the day of salvation, we must not gamble with our eternity. If you refuse to live for the Lord now, what makes you think you’ll be able to die for the Lord then?
Paul was much more optimistic for the Thessalonians, he was grateful to God for their genuine conversion and sanctification in that they were chosen by God and they chose to believe – did you notice the balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? Paul exhorts them (and us) to stand firm in the truth we’ve been taught (v. 15). Paul closes the chapter with another prayer (we saw that at the end of chapter 1 and we’ll see it again at the end of the letter). He invokes the Father and the Son who love them and have graciously given them comfort and hope, to once again comfort their hearts personally, and establish them eternally. Every pastor’s prayer.
2 Thessalonians 3
Paul’s prayer request is that the Word of God would spread and be honored, just as it had been with the Thessalonians. Remember what we read back in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed itnot asthe word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”Do I still see the Bible that way? Am I reading this with the understanding that this is God’s Word?
Paul also asks the church to pray for their protection from wicked men – men who wanted them dead. Imagine that, he lived in that danger every day of his life.
Paul then turns the tables and promises protection for the Thessalonians based upon the fact that the Lord is faithful, who would establish them and guard them from the evil one. Thank You Lord!
Paul prays for protection, he also prays for direction (5) that God would direct their hearts to love like God and have the patience (endurance) of Christ. This morning I was listening to an old song that asks God to rid themselves of all but love. I thought that was cool. Isn’t that what it’s all about? All the law and all of life hang on those two commandments to love God and to love everyone else! May we allow God to do that in all of our lives (Matthew 22:36-40; Acts 13:22).
But what about those so-called brothers who were leeching off of the rest of the congregation? Apparently there were some among the Thessalonians who didn’t want to work; in doing so they were walking disorderly.
Warren Wiersbe strikes a wise balance, he said, “Those who cannot work must be cared for by others, but those who will not work must be disciplined.” For some reason we’ve come to think of hard work as bad and yet Dorothy Sayers said, “Work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do…”
Halley explains the background, “The idle (2 Thessalonians 3:6- 15) were lazy people who took advantage of the charitable disposition of the church (see 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10) and used the expectation of the immediate appearance of the Lord as an excuse for abandoning their ordinary occupations. They claimed the right to be supported by the members in the church who were well off. Paul was an ardent advocate of charity toward those who were really in need, and he spent a good deal of time collecting gifts of money for the poor. But he spared no words in condemning the able-bodied who could work but would not. In these verses he positively forbids the church to support such people—he even commands the church not to associate with them.”
When Paul was there he worked hard, he labored day and night, they paid for their own food, so that they could be an example and not be a burden to any. The command to the able-bodied person is simple, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (v. 10). May God help us not to grow weary in doing good (see also Galatians 6:9).