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- 2 Thessalonians
by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS
This second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written at Corinth by the Apostle Paul and in the joint names of Silvanus and Timotheus. How long after the first epistle cannot be correctly ascertained. It was probably a year after they had received the first document.
What Occasioned This Epistle
From the second chapter we learn that they were greatly troubled about something else. The first Epistle was written to comfort them on account of those who had fallen asleep and to make known the great revelation concerning the coming of the Lord for His saints. And now the apostle writes: “Now we beseech ye, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as if it were by us, as that the day of the Lord is present” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ). Evidently some one had troubled them and tried to convince them that the day of the Lord, with its threatened judgments, was actually present. When they had received the comforting first epistle, we can imagine how their waiting for the Lord was stimulated. With what simple, childlike faith they must have taken hold of the words, “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Daily, no doubt, they expected this blessed promise to be fulfilled.
Certain false teachers then appeared on the scene, telling them that their hope was vain and that the day of the Lord was actually upon them, that the threatened tribulation and judgment had begun and that they had to pass through all the horrors of the times preceding the visible manifestation of the Lord. They were passing through fearful persecutions and tribulations that these teachers probably told them that these sufferings were the indication of the beginning of the day of the Lord. It was this which greatly agitated them and robbed them of the blessed hope. If they were to pass through the tribulation and judgment which is in store for the world and be on the earth when wrath is poured out, then the blessed hope ceases to be that. And it seems these false teachers had gone so far as to produce a document, which they pretended was a letter from Paul, in which he confirmed their false teaching. For this reason, that they might know that the letter they received now was really his, he added, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle, so I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17 ).
But who were these teachers who aimed at the joy and hope of these earnest believers and troubled them with their false message that the day of the Lord was present? They belonged unquestionably to the same class of Judaizers who had sneaked among the Galatian churches. They attacked the blessed hope given to the Church and put in its place the judgment and tribulation of the day of the Lord. They swept aside the comforting revelation of the coming of the Lord and the gathering of the saints unto Him and put the Church on earthly, Jewish ground. What is in store for the ungodly nations and for the Jews, they taught would also be shared by true Christians; it would all come before the Lord comes for His own. To correct this error the Spirit of God moved the apostle to write this second epistle.
A Fundamental Prophecy
Chapter 2:1-12 contains the words of instruction to show that the day of the Lord was then not present. It furthermore tells us what must precede that day, which is nowhere related to the Church of God. It is a great unfolding of prophecy, fundamental and most important. It is needed for the correct understanding of what will take place when the Lord has taken away His true Church. Here is the prediction of the apostasy, which will have for its head and climax the man of sin, the final, personal Antichrist, the same person of whom Daniel speaks (Daniel 11:36 , etc.), who is described in Revelation 13:11-18 and in other portions of the prophetic Word. Here we read of the necessary condition before this apostasy can come and that lawless one is revealed, and what will be the fate of all who received not the love of the truth. The strong delusion of him, whose coming is, according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, will be believed and accepted by the apostates of Christendom. We have given to this portion of the epistle in our annotations the attention it deserves, and we trust it will be, under God, a help, and comfort to His people.
The Division of Second Thessalonians
The scope and divisions of this Epistle are very simple. In the first chapter the Apostle shows that while the Thessalonians had tribulation, they suffered not in a punitive sense, but for the kingdom of God, and that God would recompense tribulation to those who troubled them. The punishment for the world comes when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven. While that day brings this for the world, it will bring glory for those who have believed. As already stated in the second chapter, the day of the Lord, what must take place before that day comes is made known. Words of comfort, prayer and exhortations conclude the Epistle. This gives us three divisions.
I. THE REVELATION OF THE LORD JESUS FROM HEAVEN (1)
II. WHAT PRECEDES THE MANIFESTATION OF THE LORD (2:1-12)
III. THANKSGIVING, PRAYER, EXHORTATIONS AND CONCLUSION (2:13-3:18)
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany