This letter was written much later than Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians but it echoes the style and much of the subject matter of that earlier letter to this Macedonian church. That the return of Christ has still not happened seems to be difficult for some Thessalonians to deal with. In 2.3-5 they are reminded that there are signs that will come before there is any return, and that they should not let themselves be deceived. This advice, however, seems somewhat at odds with the advice of Paul in 1 Thessalonians that Christ's return will come as a complete surprise, “as a thief in the night” (1 Thes 5.2). This second letter urges them to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2.15) and cautions against false teachers. Some of the people have even quit work in the expectation that the return will be very soon (3.1-13). This prompts a stern warning against idleness (3.6,7), which can lead people to become meddlesome busybodies (3.11). The context here of people not doing their work makes clear that the Greek word ataktos (in 3.6,11) means “loafing” or “being idle” rather than “disorderly” as the KJV translators had assumed based on the Latin Vulgate rendering. (The true meaning of the rarely used Greek word was not known until the 1900s when ancient papyri using the term were discovered.) Persecution appears as an issue in this letter, and the Thessalonians are praised for their steadfast faith, which has remained strong despite their sufferings (1.3,4). They are warned about false teachers who claim that Christ has already returned, and urged to persevere in doing what is right.
True Teaching about the Return of Christ (1.1—2.17)
Prayers and Warnings (3.1-18)
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