For the background information, date time, author etc. please go to the study of 1 Thessalonians.
As we saw in our introduction to the Thessalonian letters, 1 Thessalonians was written shortly after the establishment of the church in Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-9, around 50-52 A.D. We also saw that the coming of Christ was mentioned in each chapter. The second letter appears to have been written just a few months, perhaps a year later whilst Paul was in Corinth.
We know that he stayed in Corinth for eighteen months, Acts 18:11 and so Paul can have written the first letter at the beginning of his stay, and written the second letter toward the end of his stay, around 53 A.D.
2 Thessalonians contains three short chapters and again the theme of the return of Christ runs throughout. After reading through 2 Thessalonians you would have noticed that the church in Thessalonica seemed to remain strong in the Lord despite the persecution they were receiving, 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, even though there was a lot of misunderstanding concerning Jesus’ return.
Some were troubled by false reports concerning the Lord’s return, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 and there were other members who simply thought that Jesus’ return was so imminent, they actually stopped working because they thought they didn’t have to work anymore, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12.
Paul wanted to encourage the saints in a time of persecution whilst also warning them about the many false conceptions concerning the Lord’s return and so inform the church on what they should do in terms of discipline, about those who refuse to work.
As Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians and most of his letters, along with much more, grace and peace are what a Christian has when they are in Christ. χάρις ‘charis’ which is the Greek word for ‘grace’ is that unmerited favour that we receive from God; it cannot be earned, deserved or merited. As we don’t have anything to pay for it, it is a gift from God. Grace is God’s active favour by which he bestows his greatest gift on those who deserve the greatest punishment. Remember grace isn’t just about saving us, grace also sustains us.
εἰρήνη ‘eirene’ is the Greek word for ‘peace’, in Hebrew, it would be ‘shalom,’ which is what all Christians have because of that grace that God gives us. It means a lot more than just being in the absence of trouble in our lives although that would be included, it also means being at peace within ourselves, with God and our fellow man.
Remember that grace and peace both come from God and cannot be found anywhere else. 1 Peter 5:10 reminds us that God is the Father of grace and Hebrews 13:20 reminds us that God is a God of peace. We know that grace and truth are from Christ according to John 1:17 and Jesus Himself is our peace according to Ephesians 2:14. As Paul writes ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’, he reminds us again that grace and peace ultimately come from God above.
Ask yourself, when was the last time to stopped to thank God for your brothers and sisters in Christ? If it’s been a while why not stop what you’re doing and do so now.
Paul says he ‘ought always to thank God,’ the KJV uses the word ‘bound’ which is the Greek word ὀφείλω ‘opheilo’ and this carries with it the idea of being under obligation. In other words, he felt it was his duty to thank God for his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. Why? Because their faith and love were growing.
Remember that Paul had already encouraged them in this way back in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and so now their faith was growing more and more, in other words, they were growing beyond measure.
They had come so far in the Christian faith in such a short time, this very young church, full of young Christians had turned from idols to serve the living, true God and they were growing. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. Their growth was also an answered prayer of Paul’s 1 Thessalonians 3:12, no wonder he thanked God.
Concerning the words faith and love Lightfoot writes: “The words hyperauxanei and pleonaxei are carefully chosen; the former implying an internal, organic growth as of a tree; the other a diffusive, or expansive character, as of a flood irrigating the land” (Notes on the Epistles of Paul, p. 98.)
‘Trails’ is the Greek word θλίψις ‘thlipsesin’ and in general terms means any trials or troubles they might meet. ‘Persecutions’ is the Greek word διωγμός ‘diogmois’ which are assaults made because of their Christian convictions.
And so this church in Thessalonica was growing and Paul was so happy about it, he couldn’t help but talk about them to other churches, 1 Thessalonians 8-9, in fact, he boasted about them, he boasted about their perseverance and their faith amid persecution.
Now remember that this congregation was born in tribulation, Acts 17:1-9 and this persecution obviously continued but they remained faithful and were continuing to grow, 2 Thessalonians 1:4 / 1 Thessalonians 1:3.
If anyone ever promised you, ‘become a Christian and your life will be free from problems’ they have told you a lie. There are many Christians who became Christians under the false illusion that their lives will be free from trials and persecution and sadly when difficult times come, they simply fall away. Jesus Himself warned His disciples that difficult times would come, John 15:19-20 / John 16:33, the apostles themselves went on to warn other Christians that difficult times would come, Acts 14:22 / 1 Thessalonians 3:4 / 2 Timothy 3:12.
And so Christians today should also expect difficult times, after all, we’re still living in a world that is filled with sin and evil and sometimes we have to suffer the consequences of the choices which others have made and ultimately because we have an enemy who seeks nothing less than to destroy us, 1 Peter 5:8-9.
Again, we should be thankful to God for the times when our lives are free from trials and persecution but at the same time, we should always be prepared for those times.
It’s especially during those difficult times that faith, love and patience are needed. Our faith is that incredibly strong conviction of things which are unseen, Hebrews 11:1, knowing that God is in control and trusting Him to deliver us from those difficult times, Job 19:25-27 / Habakkuk 3:17-19.
Our love for each other is the love which was taught to us by God Himself, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, and so it’s through the example of the Father’s love 1 John 4:9-11 and the example of Jesus’ love, 1 John 3:16 that love should increase more and more, 2 Thessalonians 1:3 / 1 Thessalonians 4:10 / 1 Thessalonians 3:12, this is the kind of sacrificial love that helps us in difficult times.
In other words, when hard times come we will be surrounded by brotherly love which will help us through those times. We also need to have patience during difficult times, this patience is based upon the hope we have, Romans 8:25, and is always strengthened when we remember others who went through hard times and when we keep our focus on Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-3. Patience makes us stronger and makes us complete, James 1:3-4.
Paul continues to tell us for those who have remained faithful and patient through those difficult times, 2 Thessalonians 1:4, that faith and patience are evidence of God’s righteous judgment to come and because we have endured trials and persecution we have been counted as worthy of the kingdom of God.
Remember that it is God who qualifies us for the kingdom, Colossians 1:12 and it is God who perfects, establishes, strengthens and settles us, 1 Peter 5:10. It is part of God’s righteous judgment to use difficult times to bring His own people to perfection, Hebrews 12:5-10.
But notice God’s protection of His own, Paul says that God will repay those who trouble His people, trouble will come upon them, which will be a righteous payment, 2 Thessalonians 1:6 / Romans 2:4-11.
Whilst those who cause trouble for Christians receive trouble in return Christians will receive relief or rest depending on your translation, the same relief enjoyed by Paul, Silas and Timothy. Also, notice that both the rest and the tribulation will be given at this time, John 5:28-29.
Take a moment to read the following passages and take a moment to think about what they are saying to those who go through persecution. Revelation 14:13 / 2 Timothy 2:12 / Romans 8:18 / Romans 12:19-21.
When will this relief be given to persecuted Christians?
When the Lord is revealed from heaven, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which as we know has been the theme of both letters to the Thessalonians. The word ‘revealed’ is the Greek word ἀποκάλυψις ‘apokalupsis’ which simply means an unfolding or uncovering. It is the revelation of a person who, at the present, is concealed.
Right now, Jesus is in heaven and so He is hidden from the world’s view, but one day He will be revealed by appearing, see also Colossians 3:1-4 / Titus 2:13 / Hebrews 9:28.
The use of the words, ‘blazing fire’ or ‘flaming fire’ as some translations have it, are used to indicate the Lord’s holiness which is manifested in judgement. Read the following passages, Exodus 3:2 / Exodus 19:16-20 / Isaiah 29:6 / Isaiah 66:15-16 / Psalm 50:3 / Psalm 97:3.
The apostle Paul reminds us that when Jesus is revealed from heaven He is not coming on His own, He will come with His mighty angels, Psalm 103:20. Take a moment to read the following passages which teach us the same thing. Matthew 16:27 / Matthew 24:31 / Matthew 25:31 / Mark 8:38 / Luke 9:26 / 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
Why are the angels involved in His coming?
Their function seems to be twofold: first, to gather the weeds, binding them in bundles to be burned, secondly, they will also gather the wheat into the Lord’s barn. Matthew 13:24-30 / Matthew 13:37-43.
Why is Jesus coming according to the text?
Punishment, the KJV uses the word ‘vengeance’ and we know that vengeance belongs only to God, Deuteronomy 32:35 / Romans 12:19-21 and remember what we saw in 2 Thessalonians 1:6, it is a righteous thing for God repay those who trouble Christians.
But exactly who is it that will be punished?
Those who don’t know God, Matthew 25:1-12 / Romans 1:18-23 and those who haven’t obeyed the Gospel of Jesus. Matthew 7:21-23 / Revelation 22:14-15. But what exactly is the Gospel?
The Greek word for Gospel is εὐαγγέλιον ‘euaggelion’ which simply means ‘a good message’. But what exactly is that good message? Romans 1:16-17 / 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
The good message is simply the good news concerning Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection, all of which point us to live by faith so we can be made right with God through faith and receive eternal life.
But as we know not everyone knows God because they don’t want to know God and not everyone will do what He asks and so it is those people who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord Matthew 25:30 / Matthew 25:41, and from the glory of His power.
In other words, there will be a penalty to pay for all the trouble they caused Christians, for not knowing God, and for not doing as He asks.
Now some religious people have concluded from this verse that the Bible teaches that the punishment will be annihilation, a going out of existence, being burned into nothingness, but this view is contrary to the Greek word translated “destruction” and to other Scriptural teaching 1 Corinthians 5:5 / 1 Thessalonians 5:3 / 1 Timothy 6:9.
The Greek word for destruction is the word ὄλεθρος ‘olethros’ which literally means ‘a loss of wellbeing’. Mark 9:43-48 / Matthew 25:41 / Matthew 25:46 / Revelation 14:9-11.
The very fact that this destruction is ‘everlasting’ shows that it does not amount to ‘annihilation’ or ‘going out of existence’.
On the contrary, it indicates an existence ‘away from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might’. This banishment from loving fellowship with Christ implies expulsion from ‘the glory (radiant splendour) of his might’ as it is manifested in the salvation of the saints. (New Testament commentary 1&2 Thessalonians William Hendrickson Page 160-161.)
Nobody knows when Jesus will return although many have speculated and tried to calculate the exact date, but when He does come its distinguishing characteristic will be its glory. The wicked will taste God’s vengeance and the saints will reflect His glory. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 / 1 John 3:2 / Philippians 3:20 / Romans 8:18.
At the moment many people reject Him, despise Him, and use His name in vain but when He returns everyone will bow down and confess His name, Philippians 2:9-11.
Jesus will be glorified in His saints simply because of what He accomplished through His life, death, resurrection and what He is doing now in heaven.
In other words, because of His power to change people’s rebellious lives around to lives that are holy and true. Philippians 1:20 / 1 Peter 2:9. Not only will Jesus be glorified in us but He will also be ‘marvelled at’ or held in admiration by those who believe, 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
And so, in summary, judgement day is coming 2 Corinthians 5:10, which will be a great, long-awaited day for Christians, it will be a time of relief, rest, for those who have remained faithful whilst being supported by their brethren in love and have been patient in their trails and persecution for the sake of the kingdom of God. It will be a time to enter our eternal glory in which Jesus Himself will be glorified.
For those who aren’t Christians, this will be a terrible day, a day of vengeance which will be their just payment for the troubles they brought upon God’s people, for not knowing God or obeying the Gospel. It will be a time of punishment that lasts forever, out of the presence and power of our Lord Jesus.
There is no doubt that the apostles were men of prayer and here they inform the church in Thessalonica what their prayer is, first, that ‘God would make them worthy of His calling’ 2 Thessalonians 2:14 / Philippians 1:27 / Ephesians 4:1
Secondly that ‘by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness’ 1 Thessalonians 1:3.
Thirdly ‘their every deed prompted by faith.’
We have to remember that the blessings we receive from God and God’s presence with them are based upon our faithful activity. James 2:24 / Galatians 5:16 / Hebrews 11.
This is important to remember because we don’t get God’s blessings and His presence in our lives simply because we do good deeds, Ephesians 2:9.
The reason for these prayers is simply to allow Jesus to be gloried in them as Christians, John 15:1-8 / Ephesians 3:21 / Romans 1:20-22, in other words, Paul wanted them to glorify God and His Son through their faith and deeds.
Paul began this chapter with an allusion to grace and he closes the chapter on the same note.