2 Thessalonians 1

2 Thessalonians 1  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
THE SECOND LETTER to the Thessalonians was evidently written not long after the first, while still they were young in the faith and the more likely to be misled by false teachers, especially in matters pertaining to the coming of the Lord. The opening words are almost exactly the same as in the first letter; Paul again associating with himself the same two fellow-laborers.
The condition of this assembly still gave great joy and thankfulness to the Apostle. Their spiritual health was good, in spite of the persecutions and tribulations that were pressing upon them; we had almost said, because of their persecutions and troubles. The world being actively antagonistic to them, they were not for the moment, being tested by its seductions. The very pressure that it was exerting against them had the effect of welding them together.
In verses 3 and 4, growing faith and abounding love are brought into intimate connection with persecution and tribulation, and not without good reason. Not only was their faith growing, but growing exceedingly; not only was love there, but love was abounding. In this the Apostle greatly rejoiced as being the sign of spiritual vitality and progress, though he had nothing to say in this epistle as to their knowledge or gifts. In contrast to this, he acknowledged the knowledge and gifts of the Corinthians in his first letter to them, whilst he had nothing favorable to say as to their faith and love; and in them he could not boast, for they were carnal. Have we all grasped the significance of this? To what do we look if we desire to see spiritual advancement in one another?
The scripture shows us that real faith is a living thing. It is like a living tree, with its roots striking down into the soil of the knowledge of God. Faith is spiritual eyesight, and as we proceed our sight should grow clearer and its range be increased. As we know God better we trust Him more.
We must notice that in this second epistle Paul makes no allusion to their hope, though he does mention their patience, which is one of its fruits. The reason for this is, apparently, that adversaries had made further attempts to confuse their minds as to things to come in a way calculated to impair their hope, and that for the moment they had succeeded. How they did it, and how the Apostle countered their efforts by this epistle, we shall see more clearly as we proceed. That which follows-verses 5 to 10 of this first chapter-was evidently penned with a view to setting matters rightly before their minds. The attempt had been made to delude them into thinking that their present troubles were a sign that the day of the Lord was already come. This will be seen, if verses 1 and 2 of chapter ii. be read. The word translated “at hand” at the end of verse 2 is really “present.”
In verses 5 to 10 the public appearing of the Lord Jesus is presented as being the reversal of previously existing conditions; a complete turning of the tables, we may say, The Thessalonians were suffering tribulation, the men of the world being their troublers. When the Lord Jesus appears, He will recompense the world with tribulation and His saints with rest. In so doing, He will be acting in righteousness.
It is not difficult to see that it will be an entirely righteous thing for God to presently recompense the persecutors of His saints with tribulation. It is not quite so easy to see how the entrance of the saints into the coming kingdom can be connected with righteousness, for we should surely disclaim any thought of merit and protest that grace alone could bring us into the kingdom of God. The thought in verse 5 however, appears to be that though all is of grace yet God desires to put His saints in possession of His kingdom, as those who are counted worthy of it. Hence He permits the persecutions and tribulations, which produce in them the fortitude and patience which He loves and can righteously reward. In this patience and faith under trial was seen a manifest token that God’s judgment was righteous in assigning them to the coming kingdom and its rest.
The description of the public appearing of the Lord Jesus, given in verses 7 to 9, is indeed terrible. When He is unveiled from the heavens, nothing will be lacking which is calculated to strike fear into the hearts of rebellious men. Vengeance will fall upon those who do not know God and who do not obey the Gospel. Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, will be the penalty inflicted. Many attempts have been made to avoid the plain and evident force of the two words, “everlasting destruction,” (ch. 1:9) but when all is said and done the fact remains that destruction does not mean annihilation, and everlasting does mean lasting forever, and this whether we consider the Greek original or the English translation.
Let us notice that the Gospel is a message from God which we are to OBEY. We are so apt to think of it as a kindly invitation which we are to accept, and to present it only in that light to others. Consequently, they think of it only as an invitation which they may decline, or at least defer indefinitely, without any very serious consequences; and that is to them a very fatal mistake. All who hear the Gospel, are responsible to render to it in response the obedience of faith.
Notice also that there can be no worse fate than to be consigned to eternal ruin away from the presence of the Lord. We saw in considering the first Epistle that to live together with the Lord is the very height of bliss. The converse holds true. There can be nothing worse than to be banished forever from the presence of the One who is the Fountain-head of life and light and love.
The appearing of Christ will however have two sides. He will be glorified in taking vengeance on the ungodly. He will be also glorified and admired in all those who have believed in that day. The preposition here, you will notice, is not by but in. He will certainly be glorified and adored by us, but the point here is that He will be glorified in us. In that day, the saints will shine forth in His likeness as His handiwork. Men and angels will look at them and glorify Him, inasmuch as all that they are will be the fruit of His work.
Nowadays, all too often we are to His discredit. Of old, the accusation had to be laid against Israel that, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” (Rom. 2:2424For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (Romans 2:24)). and the same indictment has to be brought against those who profess to be the people of today. But in that day, what will be displayed, will not be our crookedness or our peculiarities but the grace and power of Christ reproduced in us. In us men will see the glorious effect of the mighty work of God.
What a wonderful calling this is! No wonder the Apostle earnestly desired that God would count them worthy of it, by fulfilling His good pleasure in them now, promoting the work of faith with power in their hearts and lives. In this way the name of the Lord Jesus would be glorified in them now, and not only in the coming age. If He is to be glorified in us then, it is surely right that we should be concerned about it that He is glorified in us now.
The last verse of this first chapter emphasizes this, and adds the fact that not only is He to be glorified in us in the coming age but we are to be glorified in Him, for we shall then be shining in a glory not our own but His. This will be “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (ch. 1:12). Nothing but the grace of God could produce so wonderful a result as that.