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2 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians
At a Glance
Author: The apostle Paul
Audience: The church of Thessalonica
Date: AD 51
Type of Literature: A letter
Major Themes: Faith, perseverance, justice, Christ’s return, laziness, and disunity
Letter Opening — 1:1–2
Thanksgiving and Prayer — 1:3–12
The Day of the Lord — 2:1–17
Idle and Disruptive Believers — 3:1–15
Letter Closing — 3:16–18
About 2 Thessalonians
What will it be like to live in the last days before Jesus appears? What words of encouragement and warning would God want to give us? Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians gives us some answers. With only forty-seven verses, this book is packed with prophetic insight that will strengthen and prepare us for the coming days. Not only does 2 Thessalonians give us information about what is ahead, it is also a map to guide us through anything that might assail us as we approach the grand finale of all time—the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ with his glorious messengers of fire!
Although we spend our lives watching and waiting for his appearing, we must live every day for his glory. We are to be alert, awake, and filled with his holiness as we draw closer to the fulfillment of the ages.
In this letter we find encouragement for us to stand our ground, be faithful to the end, and always make the message of Christ beautiful by our lives. We must do more than combat evil; we must live for Christ and expect his coming to find us as passionate lovers of God, abandoned to him with all our hearts.
Paul wrote this letter from Corinth around AD 51 (less than a year after writing 1 Thessalonians) to his beloved friends in the city of Thessalonica. They were followers of Jesus who looked to Paul as their apostolic father and were asking him to clarify the events surrounding “the day of the Lord.” A faulty understanding of eschatology (the study of the last days) will lead to faulty conduct and even a detachment from our duties in this world. So Paul writes to inspire those who are idle to engage themselves with making a living and presenting the gospel of Christ through the holy example of their changed lives.
We all need the truth of 2 Thessalonians today to keep our lives focused on what is truth as we look to Christ alone to be our strength, no matter how difficult the future may appear. One day we will each be able to personally thank the apostle Paul for writing this inspired letter! May you be blessed as you read 2 Thessalonians.
Building off of his first letter to the Thessalonian church, which he sent just a year or so prior, Paul gets down to business. It seems the situation had deteriorated in the short time between planting this Christian community along with his coworkers in the gospel and his first letter. So he wrote to encourage them in three main areas: to hold fast to their faith, despite opposition, knowing that God will act on their behalf with promised justice; to live faithfully as they awaited the coming of Jesus in glory; and to confront a group of “busybodies” (3:11) who were burdening and disrupting the life of the community.
Reading this letter, written to this threatened community, will remind us of the gospel’s ultimate outcome—the glorious return of Jesus Christ—while helping us remain worthy of our calling by living our faith with conviction every day.
Author and Audience
Although some have suggested 2 Thessalonians was written pseudonymously (written by someone other than Paul, who used Paul’s name as his own), there are striking similarities between Paul’s first letter and this one. Both contain an extended thanksgiving and a wish prayer, and both close with a prayer of peace. Although this letter lacks the warmth of 1 Thessalonians, it’s clear the author already had a personal relationship with his readers. That makes sense if Paul was writing this as a follow-up letter to members of a community he founded, after a short period of time. Given how urgent the situation had become, Paul would have launched straight into his vital words of encouragement and exhortation.
This infant congregation of former pagans in the heart of the eastern region of the Roman Empire was struggling to understand their identity in Christ as well as how to live as God’s people in a hostile culture. Knowing they faced a dire situation and confusion about vital issues related to the gospel and Christian discipleship, Paul addressed these dear believers with the care of a spiritual father.
Major Themes
Perseverance of Faith through Persecution. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul acknowledged the suffering they were experiencing at the hand of a persecuting culture. He didn’t want them to be unsettled by their trials, and he worried that might disrupt the gospel work he began among them and destroy their faith. Now he returns to this theme, praising them for their “unwavering faith” and boasting in their “unflinching endurance” (1:4) through all of the persecutions and painful trials they had experienced.
We aren’t given specifics, but it seems persecution against these believers had ratcheted up significantly, so Paul wanted to encourage them that it wouldn’t be in vain. Their perseverance of faith through persecution stands as a model for all the church, one we are urged to follow in endurance, to be counted “worthy of inheriting the kingdom of God” (1:5).
The Promise of God’s Justice. In light of their persecution and trials, Paul wrote to encourage them that God hadn’t forgotten about them. He would act on their behalf by judging their persecutors in the person of Jesus Christ (1:5–2:12).
Consider all that God has promised to do on our behalf to put things right: he will trouble our troublers, giving rest to those who are troubled. “He will bring perfect and full justice to those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to embrace the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (1:8). The ungodly will suffer eternal destruction as a just penalty for their wicked ways, being banished from the Lord’s presence. All believers will be adorned with glory. With this in mind, “live worthy of all that he has invited you to experience” (1:11).
Confusion about Christ’s Coming Clarified. One reason Paul had written the believers in his first letter was to bring clarity as to what happens to believers at death and what will happen when Christ returns. Apparently, that letter didn’t lessen their confusion! “Don’t you remember that when I was with you I went over all these things?” Paul sarcastically writes. Apparently not! Therefore, Paul unveils further revelation-truth about what we should watch for and expect in these last days as we await the coming of our Lord in full glory.
As we wait, we’re exhorted to “stand firm with a masterful grip of the teachings” we’ve been given, an “eternal comfort and a beautiful hope that cannot fail” (2:15–16).
The Lazy, Unruly, and Undisciplined. One might not expect believers who are lazy and disruptive, undisciplined and unruly, to be called out by Paul in such a short letter, yet they are. There’s a reason: they “stray from all that we have taught you” (3:6), becoming a burden to the church. Such people refuse to work—“These people are not busy but busybodies” (3:11). The example of diligent, earnest work that Paul and his companions had set, and the teachings he laid out, were lifted up as a model for these believers. Since they themselves didn’t sponge off the church, neither should anyone else. Since they worked hard to provide food and lodging for themselves, so should every believer. Paul’s rule still stands: “Anyone who does not want to work for a living should go hungry” (3:10).
2 Thessalonians
Living in the Last Days





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