2 Thessalonians

Living in Preparation for Christ's Return

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians is to understand the context and the root problem that was causing consternation in the new church. The new believers had allowed themselves to be deceived by false teaching that Christ had already returned, which in turn was unsettling the church in a number of ways. Some were considering giving up as Christians in the face of the persecution – why should they suffer for something that was now passed? Paul response is to encourage them to persevere. Others took the view that if Christ had returned there was no need to work anymore, why not just live off what other believers had? Paul rebukes hem severely and commands them to work. Every part of Paul’s letter is directly related to correcting the false teaching and sorting out the damage it had caused.


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above for an audio version of 2 Thessalonians.

 

Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling etc …

 

Listen to a Worship songAll hail the power of Jesus’ name

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyPT3lVSpmo


Read
Read

It will take you around 4-6 minutes to read aloud Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians. It is excellent practice to read the letter aloud every day for a week, each time asking God’s Spirit for illumination and then writing down the points that make an impression on you.

 

And since the proper understanding of every book in the Bible is only possible when the context has been carefully studied, you should read Acts 17:1-10 where there are important details about how Paul and his missionary team founded the church in Thessalonica, and then read Paul’s first letter to the church.

 

And it is essential to read Paul’s teaching about the return of Christ within the context of Christ’s own teaching on this subject. Read Matthew 24 & 25 and study how the same events are described in different ways by Jesus and Paul.

 


Watch
Watch
Watch here

I recommend this video as an example of the sort of teaching that disciples of Jesus should avoid.

 

 


Study
Study

Since the proper understanding of every book in the Bible is only possible when the context has been carefully studied you should begin by studying carefully the Acts 17:1-10 where there are important features of how Paul and his missionary team founded the church in Thessalonica. As the title indicates this letter is a sequel to Paul’s first letter to the new church which, for reasons that are not fully explained, he was prevented from re-visiting. So, once again a full understanding of this letter will only emerge once the letter of ‘1 Thessalonians’ has been carefully studied. It is important to study how the issues Paul addresses in ‘1 Thessalonians’ have developed into the problems Paul has to address in ‘2 Thessalonians’.

 

The letter is essentially straightforward. Paul addresses three leading subjects and a number of minor ones, but the framework of the letter follows a classically Pauline progression.

 


Meditate
Meditate

Suggested verses for meditation …

 

1:6-7   ‘God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled and to us as well.’

 

1:11   ‘… we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.’

 

2:13   ‘… from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.’

 

2:14   ‘He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

 

3:3   ‘But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.’

 

3:14-15   ‘If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.’

 


learn
Learn

Consider learning:

 

 

2 Thessalonians 1:11     

‘With this in mind we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.’

 

 


Challenge
The Challenge

The Challenge

 

Explanation: We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that challenging questions motivate them to master a subject.

 

Here are ten questions about ‘2 Thessalonians’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

 Easy:

Q1   What two events must happen before Christ returns?

Q2   How did Paul authenticate his letters?

Q3   What are the essential two defining features of a genuine church?

 

Straightforward:

Q4   What is the leading, dominant feature of the man who leads the final rebellion against God?

Q5   Is your Christian brother or sister ever your enemy?

Q6   What is God’s eternal purpose for all who believe the gospel?

 

Difficult:

Q7   What attitude should Christians have towards work?

Q8   What is so significant about the imagery that Paul uses to describe Christ’s return in 1:7?

 

Testing:

Q9   What happens to all who ‘delight in wickedness’ (2:12) and ‘refuse to love the truth’ (2:10)?

Q10   Which two gospel passages are closely aligned with Paul’s teaching in 2 Thessalonians?

 

 

Answers:

A1 – ‘The rebellion occurs, and the man of lawlessness is revealed’ (2:3, see also Matthew 24:14).

A2 – With his distinctive personal signature (3:17).

A3 – Faith and love (1:3).

A4 – He is lawless! This description is used four times (2:3,6,8,9).

A5 – Never! (3:15)

A6 – That we will share in the glory of Christ (2:14).

A7 – The general principle is that we should ‘earn the bread we eat’ (21:10,12)

A8 – Paul restates Isaiah’s teaching about God’s final judgement (Isaiah 66:4,15) but puts Christ directly in the place of God himself!

A9 – They are deceived (2:9), they become deluded (2:11), and they perish (2:10).

A10 – Paul’s teaching on being ‘worthy of the kingdom’ (1:5) and ‘standing firm’ (2:15) in persecution are both leading emphases in Christ’s mission-persecution discourse in Matthew 10, and Paul’s teaching about Christ’s return parallels the details Jesus himself taught in his discourse on the end of the age in Matthew 24.

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taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Summary - All the key features in a one page summary
    • Summary
    • /
    • Contemporary Story

    Summary and Exhortation

    Paul and his mission colleagues were only at Thessalonica for a short time before being driven out of the city. However, precisely because of this, the two letters written by Paul to these new believers in the following months contain important instructions about the essentials of discipleship in the Kingdom of God.

    The second letter, probably written sometime around the end of 49CE, reveals a fascinating situation from which the 21st Century apprentices of Christ can learn how we live for Christ, and prepare wisely for his return. The new Christians had somehow allowed themselves to follow some false teaching, allegedly from Paul, which stated that ‘the day of the Lord had already come’ (2:2). These new believers, who were continuing to suffer persecution from unbelievers, were so badly unsettled by this that Paul was compelled to write a second letter to them.

    In the letter Paul gently but clearly admonishes them for allowing themselves to be deceived by teaching that contradicted what he had taught them both verbally and in writing. He repeats his teaching about the events preceding Christ’s return and Christ’s future judgement on those who persecute believers. He affirms the Thessalonian believers’ new standing in Christ and emphasises that they will share in his glory when he returns. Finally, Paul severely rebukes a small number of ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6) members whose laziness was shaming the community. Throughout his whole message to them, Paul repeatedly affirms, encourages and patiently exhorts them to continue to persevere for Christ, to stand firm in their faith, and to grow in faith and love for one another through the grace of Christ.

    So, as apprentices of Christ in the 21st Century, what perspective should we have as we wait in expectation for Christ’s return? First, we should hold onto and steer ourselves by Paul’s teaching, which he himself gave in the context of Christ’s own teaching (Matthew 24). Both Christ and Paul were quite clear that certain events must happen before Christ returns, and believers should ensure that these truths, and these alone, shape our understanding of history and especially our perspective of humanity’s future. Second, wise believers – that is the ‘wise virgins’ who prepare carefully for the bridegroom’s arrival (Matt 25:1f) – will grow in faith and love, persevere in their loyalty to Christ, ensure they have a sound understanding of Christ’s saving work, of their new standing in Christ, and their future with Christ after his return.  As they wait in patient expectation of this glorious future, they will work hard in order to provide for and earn the food they eat within their overall aim of glorifying Christ by living lives worthy of the Kingdom of God.

     

     

    False teaching about Christ’s return

    Paul wrote his second letter to the church at Thessalonica in order to address and resolve serious confusion from false teaching that Christ had already returned.

     

    ‘Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed.’            2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.

     

    Despite the Apostle Paul’s clear teaching, the founder and leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Brother Russell, consistently prophesied that Christ would return in 1914. When this did not happen, their leadership doctored their earlier claims to make it seem that 1914 was merely the beginning of the ‘conclusion of all things’.

     

    A full presentation and analysis of the facts can be studied at:

    https://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/failed-1914-predictions.php

    (If time is limited, skip to the conclusion of this article.)

     

    Contemporary Story >
      Book-in-a-Picture - The message and key features in a picture
    • Book-in-a-Picture
    • /
    • Paul's letters
    Paul's letters >
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Have you ever been specifically persecuted for your faith? Are you aware of the growth of worldwide persecution of the church in the 21st Century?


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    Question 2 -

    Why is it so unhelpful (and even dangerous) to become focused on ‘The Anti-Christ’?


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    Question 3 -

    Do you know any Christians who are ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6)?


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    starter course

    podcasts

    the essentials

    The Argument

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    Understanding God's Judgement

    Understanding 'the man of lawlessness'

    Discipleship in 2 Thessalonians

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    Situation: In 49CE Paul and his mission colleagues Silas and Timothy visited Thessalonica and established a new church there. This is described in Acts 17:1-9. They were however quickly driven out of the city by antagonistic Jews. Quite soon after the Thessalonians had received Paul’s first letter to them, Paul heard confusing reports that this new Christian community was in turmoil because an unknown source was teaching that Paul had stated that Christ had already returned. The implication being that those who were still alive had somehow ‘missed the cut’. This was clearly a disturbing blow to all the Thessalonian believers who were enduring severe persecution for Christ. This distressing situation was further exacerbated by a some of their number who, either because they thought Christ had returned, or because they thought his return was imminent, had chosen to ‘down tools’, stop work, and live off the resources of other believers.

    Date: A few months after Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, that is, around late 49CE or early 50CE.

    Genre:

     

    The document entitled, “2 Thessalonians”, is a personal letter that follows the customary pattern of personal letters of that culture and time; (Address, greeting, the body of the letter, final greeting and benediction). The letter exhibits several characteristic Pauline features in the structure and development of the argument and the type of literary phrases and tools used. Although it is relatively short there are several places where the meaning and turn of the argument is less clear because the letter is simply a brief window into an ongoing correspondence and interaction between the mission team and the new church.

    The Structure of 2 Thessalonians:

     

    The structure of the letter is essentially straightforward. In chapter 1, Paul encourages the new believers to persevere through the persecution they are experiencing. In chapter 2, he addresses his leading reason for writing the letter and appeals to them not to be thrown into confusion by false teaching about the Lord’s return. He stresses that the Lord’s return cannot have happened because two observable phenomena have not yet taken place, and he strongly assures them that when it does happen they will share in the glory of the Lord. Then, right at the end in the light of these axiomatic truths, he strongly rebukes some ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6) members of the church and commands them to work for their living.

     

    Part 1   1:1 – 12   Paul’s prayer and encouragement to persevere through the persecution

    Address and greeting (1:1-2)

    Encouragement and thanksgiving (1:3-4)

    Paul explains the justice of Christ’s future judgement on the persecutors (1:5-10)

    Prayer (1:11-12)

     

    Part 2   2:1 – 17   The timing of the Lord’s coming (Parousia)

    The problem: A false prophecy/teaching allegedly from Paul (2:1-2)

    Paul responds by carefully explaining the events that must precede the Lord’s return (2:3-12)

    • The rebellion and the coming of the man of lawlessness (2:3-4)
    • The man of lawlessness is being ‘held back’ (2:5-7)
    • The man of lawlessness’ coming and destruction (2:8)
    • Those who refuse to believe the truth are deceived and perishing (2:9-12)
    • The Thessalonians are being saved by the Trinitarian God (2:13-14)

    Summary: Exhortation and prayer (2:15-17)

     

    Part 3   3:1 – 18   Paul closes the letter and rebukes the ‘idle and disruptive’ very severely

    Interlude where Paul closes the main subject of the letter (3:1-5)

    Paul severely rebukes the ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6-15)

    Final greeting and authentication (3:16-18)

     

    Themes:

     

    1. Eschatology: The central topic of the letter is the return of Christ, and Paul argues to correct a serious misunderstanding that Christ has already returned. He writes to clarify his teaching about the events preceding Christ’s return, and the judgement he will exercise when he does return.

     

    1. Persecution: Paul writes to encourage and exhort the new Christians to continue to persevere and endure the severe persecution they are experiencing.

     

    1. Salvation: Paul repeatedly affirms different aspects of the new believer’s place in Christ; they are worthy of the kingdom, chosen, saved and sanctified, and they will share in the glory of Christ at his return.

     

    1. Theology of Work: Paul administers a strong rebuke to the ‘idle-disruptive’ members of the new church because they are not working

     

    Literary Genre >
      The Argument -

    The strategy of Paul’s argument in 2 Thessalonians:

     

    Paul’s main task is to silence the false teaching, wrongly attributed to him, that is causing such consternation in the new church and to tell the Thessalonians that they ought to be more discerning and remember his specific teaching to them about the events that will precede Christ’s return. He then repeats and clarifies his teaching about the Lord’s return and specifically the details about the ‘coming’ of the ‘man of lawlessness’ (2:3,9). Once this is established, he then admonishes the ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6) whose bad behaviour was not only upsetting the faithful believers, but also playing into the hands of the church’s persecutors. Paul is also keenly aware that he must give this correction and rebuke into a most sensitive church situation where his friends are suffering terribly for their faith in Christ.

     

    So:

    1. Paul begins by encouraging his friends in Thessalonica and citing their progress in the kingdom (1:3-5). He exhorts them to persevere, enduring the persecution in the firm knowledge that the Lord they are suffering for is coming to judge all humanity (1:5-10). When this happens they will share in the glory of the Lord (1:10).
    2. He then directly addresses the source of the false teaching, and gently admonishes them for allowing their community to be upset badly by something that directly contradicted what he had specifically taught them (2:1-2, 5).
    3. Paul then carefully clarifies his teaching that Christ will not return until two specific events have happened: ‘the rebellion occurs, and the man of lawlessness is revealed’ (2:3-4). He then gives a detailed description of the ‘coming of the man of lawlessness’ and how he will be destroyed at the coming of the Lord Jesus (2:6-12).
    4. Paul then contrasts the desperate state of those are deceived and perishing because they reject the truth with the Thessalonian believers who are secure in the hands of the Trinitarian God who loves them, is saving them, and will lead them to share in the glory of the Lord at his return (2:9-14).
    5. Throughout the letter, Paul affirms, encourages and prays for his friends in all they are facing and only at the end, when his love and deep concern for them has been repeatedly stated (1:3, 1:12, 2:13-3:5), does he give a very stern rebuke to the ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6-15). This has the effect of making the point but making it only to those to whom it directly applied.)
    6. He ends by authenticating the letter with his personal signature.

     

    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    How can you live a life worthy of the Kingdom of God (1:6)?


    Question 2 -

    ‘History is bunk!’ This famous quote may be wrongly attributed to the car manufacturer Henry Ford, but is history meaningless?


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    Question 3 -

    Is Christ about to return? Has the gospel of the Kingdom been preached in the whole world (Matthew 24:14), has ‘the rebellion’ occurred, and has the man of lawlessness been ‘revealed’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3)? Is this likely to happen in your life time?


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    Question 4 -

    Have you come across Christian teachers who have rejected Paul’s teaching? What happens when churches reject Paul?


    Question 5 -

    QQQ Are these young retirees doing what Paul exhorts?


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    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
    • /
    • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
    • /
    • 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

    Part 1   1:1 – 12   Paul’s prayer and encouragement to persevere through the persecution 

    Paul encourages the new believers by commending their perseverance and assuring them that not only will God judge their persecutors, but that they will share in the glorification of Christ when he returns.

     

    Address and greeting (1:1-2)

    Encouragement and thanksgiving (1:3-4)

    Paul explains the justice of Christ’s future judgement on the persecutors (1:5-10)

    Prayer (1:11-12)

     

     

    1:1 – 2   Address and greeting

    A straightforward introduction to the letter. Paul uses the same words as he used in the address of his first letter.

    V1   This introduction is significant in the light of the confusion that had been caused by the false prophecy/message/letter of 2:2, and in the light of Paul’s own validation and explanation of his ‘usual practice’ in 3:17. Paul’s careful authentication of the letter should not blind us to the astonishing and powerful truths that Paul always writes with his co-workers, they are a team of fellow-workers who rely on each other, that all believers in Thessalonica are in the church, and that all are already ‘In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’.

    V2   The supreme outcome of Christ’s atoning work is peace with God the Father, and oceans of grace to us in and through our fellowship with Christ. Grace is all the help Christ gives to us because he loves us, and in response we believe in him. In repeating the description of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul is emphasising that Jesus is divine, a truth he will illustrate in verse 7.

     

     

    1:3 – 4   Encouragement and thanksgiving

    Paul’s first aim is to encourage the suffering believers and he does this by listing their specific strengths for which he thanks God. Paul and his team are not only thanking God for the new believers’ progress; he is boasting to other churches about their perseverance and faith.

    Verses 3-12 are one very long sentence.

    V3   Paul usually begins his ‘thanksgivings’ by focusing on the two boundary markers that evidence ‘genuine church’. Faith is the boundary marker because everyone who has faith is in the church; love is then the evidence of that faith (John 13:35, Galatians 5:6). The obligation ‘we ought always’ comes not out of a sense of duty, but from the relief Paul feels on hearing the news that the believers in Thessalonica are not only surviving, but progressing in the Kingdom faith.

    V4   Although the word ‘perseverance’ only occurs here, it nevertheless drives the entire chapter. Paul’s primary concern is to encourage and strengthen the new believing community in the severe persecution they are experiencing.

     

     

    1:5 – 10   Paul explains the justice of Christ’s future judgement on the persecutors

    Paul’s primary concern is to encourage and exhort the new community of believers to persevere through their increasingly severe persecutions. He does this by stressing that God is just, stating that it is they who know God,  and stating that those who reject God and Christ for the whole of this life will themselves be rejected and separated from Christ in the next. These truths are summarised in his assurance that they will themselves share in the glory of Christ when he returns.

    In this extended thanksgiving Paul repeatedly draws phrases and concepts from Old Testament passages of judgement, especially Isaiah 66. His leading pastoral concern is to encourage, strengthen and assure the new Christians in Thessalonica that despite all the violence and hatred they are experiencing that, because of their faithfulness, they will not only be counted worthy of the Kingdom, but will join in the glorification of Christ. Paul’s leading doctrinal concern is firstly to emphasise that Christ is himself (Isaiah’s) divine judge, and secondly that Jesus will exercise the divine judgement principle (of lex talionis) where everyone receives what they have themselves given. On this basis, the Thessalonian believers stand to be welcomed into the glorious presence of Christ himself. The crucified one for whom they are suffering is also the coming one, to whom all humanity will answer as judge.

    V5   The Greek wording in this phrase is problematic, but Paul seems to be arguing that it is the perseverance and growing faith of the new believers which is the evidence that they are now, and will be, counted worthy to inherit the Kingdom.

    V6   This sentence is Paul’s leading point. The new believers must hold onto the axiomatic truth that God is absolutely and always just. The leading operating principle of the kingdom is ‘the measure you use will be measured to you’ (Mark 4:24), but the principle extends to all humanity so that those who cause ‘trouble’ will themselves suffer ‘trouble’. He will spell out the details in v9.

    V7   Since our experience in life seems to blatantly contradict the principle Paul has just stated, he immediately explains that this divine justice will only be properly and completely dispensed in the final assize at the return of Christ. The three features, ‘from heaven … blazing fire … and mighty angels’ are drawn from Isaiah 66:4,15.

    V8   It seems that Paul has in his focus not the billions who have never heard the gospel of Christ, but those who are militantly and aggressively rejecting God and his Christ Jesus: specifically, those instituting the persecution at Thessalonica. Since God has acted through Christ and has appointed Christ as judge, those who reject Christ reject God and demonstrate that they do not know God, whatever their claims to the contrary. Fee writes of this state: ‘it is to be forever incapable of knowing Christ’s presence as it has been revealed in Christ. For beings created in the divine image, this is the ultimate desolation’.

    V9   The New Testament uses the word ‘destruction’, and not the word ‘hell’, to describe the future punishment meted out by the Lord. Since the persecutors have militantly rejected Christ and God, they will through the application of the judgement principle outlined in v6 be separated from Christ and God. They will simply receive what they have themselves consistently chosen!

    V10   Paul continues to draw on Old Testament (Psalms 67 and 89) descriptions of the great judgement, but very significantly here places Christ in the place of God. This passage, written around 16 years after the resurrection, demonstrates that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was already fully developed and taught in CE49.

     

     

     

    1:11 – 12   Paul’s prayer

    Everything Paul has written up to this point has been driven by the missionary team’s deep concern that all the new believers survive the harsh persecution they are experiencing. Paul now brings this section to a close by (very typically) articulating the prayers the team are praying for the new Thessalonian church.  

    The intention of the prayer is for the very goal Paul has already articulated: that they be counted ‘worthy’ by God (v5). Paul then adds that this consists in God fulfilling ‘every good purpose … and every act of faith’ (v3). This in turn serves the overall goal of all things: ‘that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified’ (v10), as per the second phrase of the Lord’s Prayer. Throughout these two verses there is a wonderful interplay of the work of both the human and the divine. As apprentices of Jesus in the Kingdom, we should study New Testament prayers very carefully so we learn how and what to pray and thereby ensure our prayers are in step with the great creating work of the Spirit of God in creation (Romans 8:26-27).

    V11   To be ‘worthy’ is a concept that comes straight from Jesus’ mission discourse (Matthew 10:11, 37). This concept has deeply influenced Paul’s mission strategy (Acts 13:46, Colossians 1:10).

    V12   Although Paul’s concern is that the new believers continue to be faithful despite the persecution, Paul’s prayer for them focuses on the revealing of God’s glory because it is as God works to make them more Christ-like, even using their suffering, that God himself and his glory will be revealed.

    Part 2   2:1 – 17   The timing of the Lord’s coming (Parousia)

     

    The problem: A false prophecy/teaching allegedly from Paul (2:1-2)

    Paul responds by carefully explaining the events that must precede the Lord’s return (2:3-12)

    • The rebellion and the coming of the man of lawlessness (2:3-4)
    • The man of lawlessness is being ‘held back’ (2:5-7)
    • The man of lawlessness’ coming and destruction (2:8)
    • Those who refuse to believe the truth are deceived and perishing (2:9-12)
    • The Thessalonians are being saved by the Trinitarian God (2:13-14)

     

    Summary: Exhortation and prayer (2:15-17)

     

    Having used the ‘thanksgiving’ section of the letter to exhort the believers at Thessalonica to continue to persevere throughout persecution, and to assure them that because God is just he will himself mete out justice on their persecutors, Paul now immediately addresses the leading problem that has caused him to write this letter.  The problem was some sort of false prophecy or teaching in the Thessalonian church that the Lord had already returned. This is clearly the cause of significant distress in the new church, and Paul acts swiftly to counter its destructive effect. Paul’s argument – and his assurance to the new believers – is that the day of the Lord cannot take place until two other events have happened: the rebellion, and the ‘coming’ of the man of lawlessness. The man of lawlessness will be completely destroyed by the Lord’s own ‘coming’. Paul then contrasts the desperate state of those who resist the truth with the secure position of the Thessalonian believers who are being saved through the work of the Trinitarian God and who will share in the glory of Christ when he returns. The section ends with a firm instruction to adhere only to what Paul has himself taught and written, and then with a prayer.

     

    It is essential to maintain a level-headed approach to this unusual and unexpected passage. A significant number of believers at the new church in Thessalonica have begun to believe a line of false teaching that Christ has already returned, and by implication has already taken those who he wants to be with him (2:1). Paul counters this, stating that the Lord will not return before an outbreak of unparalleled lawless rebellion has taken place under the leadership of ‘the man of lawlessness’ (2:3). Paul’s argument focuses on two ‘Parousias”, that is, “comings” or “revealings”. Although the “revealing” of the man of lawlessness will astonish humanity and gain worldwide loyalty, it will be completely dwarfed by the “revealing” (“coming”, “Parousia”) of the Lord Jesus.

     

     

    2:1 – 2   The problem: a false prophecy/teaching allegedly from Paul  

    V1   New believers are often especially interested in the return of Christ and this was certainly the case in Thessalonica. Paul had already addressed the issue in 1 Thessalonians, where the subject is mentioned in every chapter and directly in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11.

    V2   The essence of the problem is false teaching that the ‘day of the Lord has already come’. The corollary implication – that all the believers at Thessalonica have been left out of Christ’s new community – was causing considerable alarm (v1-2).

     

     

    2:3 – 12   Paul responds by carefully explaining the events that must precede the Lord’s return:

     

    The rebellion and the coming of the man of lawlessness (2:3-4)

    V3   We must not miss the astonishing point Paul is making. In all his teaching about the end of the age in Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus gave only one event that must happen before his return: ‘This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world and then the end will come’ (Matthew 24:14). Paul then adds these two other pre-requisites. These two fixed points should guide all our speculation about the last days. Although Paul does not follow John and use the title ‘Anti-Christ’ (1 John 2), there is no real doubt that they are describing the same individual, although John uses the word to include his minions. Throughout, Paul uses three attributes in connection with this leader of anarchy: ‘lawlessness’, ‘rebellion’ and ‘doomed to destruction’. The essence of the point is very simple: lawlessness is always (by definition) doomed for destruction. In the final analysis it is utterly impossible for lawlessness to survive.

    V4   The man of lawlessness will both oppose all forms of divinity, but also set himself up above all forms of religion. In choosing to use the illustration of the image in the Temple, Paul is building on the illustration used in Daniel 11:31 and Mark 13:14. Whatever the details may prove to be, this is in essence a focused totalitarian rebellion against God.

     

    The man of lawlessness is being ‘held back’ (2:5-7)

    V5   Paul writes gently because the community is suffering, but his admonition is clear enough: they should not have allowed themselves to fall for this nonsense teaching. He will return to this point again in v15.

    V6   Although the Emperor maintained order throughout the Empire, Paul is referring to the whole civilization of humanity, which has been given by God to restrain evil (Romans 13:1), of which the Roman Emperor was at that time the current local expression. Paul makes his comment cryptically because of the charge against the missionaries when the church at Thessalonica was established: ‘They are defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus’ (Acts 17:7).

    V7   I John 2:18 expresses the same concept: lawlessness is secretly at work in the world and will one day reach a crescendo in the person of the Anti-Christ, the man of lawlessness.

     

    The man of lawlessness’ coming and destruction (2:8)

    V8   Although the ‘revealing’ (the ‘coming’, Parousia’) of the man of lawlessness will astonish the world and win the world’s allegiance, it will be completely dwarfed by the ‘revealing’ of the Lord Jesus.

     

    Those who refuse to believe the truth are deceived and perishing (2:9-12)

    Paul goes into some detail about the process of deception in the lives of those who choose to hate and resist the truth. He seems to have in view not only those who will be deceived at the end of the age, but those deceived members of the city of Thessalonica who are persecuting the new believers. He will immediately contrast their ‘perishing’ with the secure and glorious state of the Thessalonian believers (2:13-14).

    V9   These details directly parallel Jesus’ own teaching about the end of the age (Matthew 24:24).

    V10   This echoes the principle that lawlessness is always bound for destruction (v3). By ontological definition, every person who ‘refuses to love the truth and be saved’ will find destruction comes into their lives. It is impossible to reject the truth about Christ and the Kingdom and remain standing for ever: that person’s house will fall (Matthew 7:26-27).

    V11-12   Since these people have denied God and chosen the Anti-Christ, God hands them over to ‘their own willful blindness’ (Romans 1:24-25). Instead of ‘believing the truth’ they have ‘delighted in wickedness’. Stott comments: ‘the only way to be protected from being deceived is to love goodness and truth.’

     

    The Thessalonians are being saved by the Trinitarian God (2:13-14)

    Now, in contrast, Paul strongly affirms the secure state of the Thessalonian believers who are persevering in their trials. Not only are they ‘loved’, ‘chosen’, and ‘saved’ through the ‘sanctifying work of the Spirit’, and through their ‘belief in the truth’ of the gospel (v13), but this Trinitarian God is doing all this in order that they will ‘share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (v14).

    V13   Some manuscripts read ‘God chose you as his first fruits’, which picks up the rich Old Testament picture of the initial harvest being offered back to God. The Thessalonians were indeed some of the very first ‘fruit’ of the gospel in Europe (Acts 16:6 – 17:9).

    V14   Note 1:5 and 1:12, where Paul is stressing that their present suffering is directly linked to the quite astonishing truth that they will share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ when he returns!

     

     

    2:15 – 17   Summary exhortation and prayer

    V15   This verse is related directly to the cause of the leading problem that Paul is addressing in this his second letter to the new church in Thessalonica, as described in 2:1-2 and referred to in 2:5. By returning to it, Paul binds all he has written from 2:1 – 2:17 into one unit. ‘Stand firm’ is a not only a favourite pastoral imperative of Paul’s (1 Corinthians 15:58, Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:11-14, etc), but his use of this imperative alongside the concept of being ‘worthy’ (1:5,11) demonstrates that Paul was thoroughly aware of Jesus’ use of these leading concepts from the mission discourse of Matthew 10 (10:11, 37 and 10:22, 33).

    Part 3   3:1 – 18   Paul closes the letter and rebukes the ‘idle and disruptive’ very severely

     

    Interlude where Paul closes the main subject of the letter (3:1-5)

    Paul severely rebukes the ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6-15)

    Final greeting and authentication (3:16-18)

     

    When Paul needs to write and exercise strong pastoral discipline, his usual practice is to address the matter very firmly but succinctly as a separate item towards the very end of the letter. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Corinthians 16:22, 1 Timothy 6:17-19 are examples of this, along with 2 Corinthians 13:1-10, or perhaps all of 2 Corinthians 10-13. When the entire church is responsible, as is the case in 1 Corinthians 5 (see 1 Corinthians 5:2), Paul directly addresses the matter in the main body of the letter, as is the case in the whole of the letter to the Galatians (see Galatians 1:6). By addressing the issue as the very last item, Paul effectively sections the disciplinary matter so that it applies as a separate item on its own relating only to the people in question. This is why Paul begins this final section with what appears at first to be a completely different subject: prayers for his ongoing mission (v1-2), and upbuilding statements of encouragement and assurance of the type that Paul often writes in the closing section of his letters after he has himself requested prayer.

     

     

    Interlude where Paul closes the main subject of the letter   3:1-5

    This short section has two very different purposes. First, as described above, Paul is deliberately sectioning the very strong rebuke of the ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6) from the main body of believers at Thessalonica. Secondly, Paul does this by following his usual pattern of ‘closing’ his pastoral letters,  with his prayer requests, words of affirmation and greetings, which here he delays to v16-18. Verses 1-5 ought therefore to be understood as the beginning of Paul’s closing of the letter.

    V1   This request closely parallels Paul’s requests in Ephesians 6:19-20, Colossians 4:2-4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:25.

    V2   This parallels Romans 15:30-33, the closing of the main body of the letter of Romans.

    V3   Paul is keenly aware of the persecution the Thessalonian believers are enduring, but he assures them that, despite whatever they experience physically, they can be absolutely sure that Christ will protect them from spiritual evil. Since the Greek words Paul uses demonstrate a very close similarity to the Matthean wording of the ‘Lord’s prayer’, ‘but deliver us from evil’, this sentence is further evidence that Paul was familiar with Jesus’ teaching.

    V5   This more passive, ‘invoking’ form of intercession is also used in 2:16-17 and follows that of Psalm 67.

     

     

    3:6 – 15   Paul severely rebukes the ‘idle and disruptive’

    As explained above, Paul now disciplines the ‘idle and disruptive’ in a specific sectioned unit at the close of the letter.

    The flow of v6-15 does not read very easily, because v11 and 12 appear to repeat what Paul has already said, but in a more moderate tone. For whatever reason, Paul’s instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 about ‘the idle and disruptive’ have not been followed and the situation has become a lot more serious. So, Paul addresses the church leaders in v6-10, building directly on his instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, and explains in some detail that when they were with them his missionary team set a very clear example of working hard and taking responsibility for providing for their own needs.

    V6   This is the strongest imperative in the entire Pauline corpus.

    V7-10   The fact that Paul goes into such detail to defend his team’s practice of not being idle, but working day and night so that they would not be a burden, implies that ‘the idle and disruptive’ had been trying to use Paul as a pretext for expecting the church members to provide for their own needs! Paul is clearly very angry about this which helps explain the severity of his command in v6.

    V9   Paul expounds this principle at much greater length in 1 Corinthians 9.

    V11-12   These gentler verses, almost every detail of which has already been stated in v6-10, appear to be addressed to the wider church membership. This reverses the structure of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 where the membership was addressed first (5:12-13) before the leadership (5:14). Paul characteristically includes a pun on the word ‘busy’ perhaps to soften the severity of the command in v6.

    V15   As John Wimber correctly and wisely taught, ‘Your brother is never your enemy!’ and ‘Your brother, is your brother, is your brother’. There are many strange believers in our heavenly Father’s family, but every one of them is my brother or sister, no matter how strange or immature or confused they are. Some will need to be warned, perhaps severely, but none are to be rejected. The most extreme example in the New Testament is the exceptionally immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5.

     

     

    3:16 – 18   Final greeting and authentication

    Paul closes the letter with a prayer/blessing of peace, his own signature and a blessing of grace.

    V16   There was deep anxiety in the young church over the three issues that Paul has addressed in this letter: the persecution they were continuing to face, the heretical teaching that the Lord had already returned, with the implication that he had ‘left them behind’, and the troubling influence of some members who by refusing to work were taking advantage of their benevolence. Romans 5:1 states that through faith in Christ we have been declared ‘justified’ and are therefore in a ‘state of peace’ with God the Father. At the deepest level, there is peace and order in our relationship with God whatever we may be experiencing in our bodies. It was this peace Christ gave to his disciples just before he went to the cross (John 14:27).

    V17   This verse is very significant in that it not only provides evidence that Paul authenticated his letters with his own personal signature, but it demonstrates that even at this early stage of Paul’s ministry in 49CE, he had an established ministry of writing letters. If Paul wrote an average of one letter every month for thirty years then he will have written around 350 letters, of which we have 13.

    V18   Paul always ends his letters with a ‘grace blessing’. Believers in Christ are in a place of ‘grace’. If we turn back from believing in Christ and his atoning work and start trying to achieve our own righteousness by obeying religious law, then in the words of Galatians 5:4 we ‘fall away from grace’. An excellent ‘Holy Habit’ would be to bless one another with a ‘grace blessing’ every time we meet or say good-bye to one another.

    2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Applications
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of the letter:

     

    Paul’s main message in his second letter to the Thessalonian church is that they should have known better than to allow themselves to be deceived and unsettled by the false teaching that Christ had already returned, because this specifically contradicted what he himself had taught them. Paul clarifies his teaching about the events that will precede Christ’s return, and the judgement Christ will then enact on those who are persecuting them. Throughout, he repeatedly encourages and affirms these new believers, assuring them that they are saved and will share in Christ’s glory when he returns. In this context, he strongly rebukes some ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6) members who have stopped working and earning their living.

    The leading imperatives:

     

    1:3  We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters.

    2:1  (Do) not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us — whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter.

    2:15   So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

    2:1   (Do not be deceived into thinking) that the day of the Lord has already come. 

    2:13   But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 

    3:1  Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. 

    3:2   Pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 

    3:6   In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 

    3:7   We command and urge (the idle and disruptive) in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.

    3:13   As for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

    3:14   Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.

    The implied imperatives:

     

    1:4   Encourage others by telling them about their progress in the Kingdom: ‘Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.’

    1:5   If we are faithful when we suffer, we shall be counted worthy of the Kingdom: ‘All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

    1:11   Pray for others that God will make them worthy of their calling: ‘We constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.’ 

    1:12   Pray that Jesus will be glorified in other Christians: ‘We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

    2:9-10   Do not be deceived by Satan: ‘The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.’

    2:10   Love the truth and be saved: ‘They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

    2:17   Be active in good words and deeds for Christ: ‘Encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.’

    3:4   Do what Paul commands: ‘We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.’ 

    3:5   ‘May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.’

    3:7   We should follow Paul’s example and work to ‘earn our keep’: ‘For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”’

    Applications:

     

    • Don’t allow yourselves to be deceived by false teaching, but hold onto what Paul taught about Christ’s return.
    • Don’t give up, but persevere in following Christ.
    • Don’t be idle and disruptive, but work to earn the food you eat.
    • Have a proper understanding of what scripture teaches about how Christ will judge those who reject God, the gospel and then persecute believers.
    • Have a clear understanding of present standing in Christ, and our future with him when he returns. 

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    • Study carefully and hold onto the central truths taught in the New Testament about the events that will take place at the return of Christ.
    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    ‘God is just’ (1:6): this is one of the five defining statements about God in the New Testament (John 4:23, 1 John 4:17, 1 Peter 1:15, 1 John 1:5). Have you ever experienced such suffering that you no longer believed that God is just? What three assurances does Paul give to the new Christians to assure them that God is just?


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    Question 2 -

    The desire for revenge can be dangerous. How should Christians hold the truth that God is just and he will repay trouble to those who trouble his children?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    What are the main points of Paul’s teaching about the ‘man of lawlessness’?


    Question 4 -

    What will it mean for us to share in the glory of the Lord (2:14)?


    Question 5 -

    Paul’s command in 3:6 is the most powerfully worded pastoral imperative in the whole of the New Testament! What should we learn from this?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on 2 Thessalonians

     

    Lord we intercede for all who suffer for believing in you, that by your power you would bring to fruition every desire for goodness and their every deed prompted by faith, so that they bring glory to your name and are counted worthy of you and the Kingdom, are delivered from evil people, and ultimately so that the gospel message spreads throughout the world. Amen.  

     

    Commentary:

    Lord we intercede for all who suffer for believing in you (1:4), that by your power you would bring to fruition every desire for goodness and their every deed prompted by faith (1:11), so that they bring glory to your name (1:12) and are counted worthy of you (1:11) and the Kingdom (1:5), are delivered from evil people (3:2), and ultimately so that the gospel message spreads throughout the world (3:1). Amen.

     

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    BfL Recommends:

     

    For a leading exhaustive commentary on the original Greek text of 2 Thessalonians read:

    The first and second letters to the Thessalonians’ by Gordon Fee in ‘The New International Commentary on the New Testament’ Series: 2009, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids. 365 pages (about 111pp on 2 Thessalonians).

     

     

    For a readable, godly perspective on 2 Thessalonians read:

    The Message of Thessalonians’ by John Stott in ‘Bible Speaks Today’ Series: 1991, IVP, Leicester, England. 216 pages.

     

     

    Beale’s commentary reflects the fruit of focused work on the letter, but is sadly communicated in a heavy and sometimes laborious way.  There is material here that serves well in a secondary role:

    1-2 Thessalonians’ by G. K. Beale in the ‘The IVP New Testament Commentary Series’: 2003, IVP, Downers Grove. 279 pages (about 100pp on 2 Thessalonians).

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Sermon Series on ‘2 Thessalonians’

    (Updated: September 2018)

     

    Series Title: Living in preparation for Christ’s return

     

    Comment:  Since this letter contains topics which are only related to the context of the Thessalonians’ decision to follow false teaching, a preaching series on ‘2 Thessalonians’ would best fit into a month’s study in a church’s programme.

     

    Text Subject Subject
     2 Thess 1:1-12

    ***********

    Key verse: 1:5   

    ‘Living worthy of the Kingdom’ The first sermon should set the CONTEXT for the series. Explain the developments from Acts 17:1-9 to 1 Thessalonians, leading to the specific issues that necessitated Paul writing this second letter. Paul adapts his usual pattern of ‘address, greeting, thanksgiving, prayer’ to include a long explanation of how Jesus, the one for whom they are suffering, will return as judge, and how he will then judge those who are currently persecuting them. He writes all this in order to encourage them to persevere, enduring severe persecution. Highlight briefly the key subjects in the letter and include clear guidance about how the church members can themselves engage with this short letter over the next four weeks.
    2 Thess 2:1-17

    ***********

    Key verse:

    2:3

    ‘The man of lawlessness’ Since the subject of ‘the man of lawlessness’ is complicated and has often been hijacked by unwise, overzealous and badly informed believers, this will be the most difficult sermon in the series. Nevertheless, it provides an excellent opportunity to cut through the ‘madness’ and teach a measured and balanced perspective, as well as modelling to believers how we should handle contentious subjects. It will be wise to write out the full text of the sermon so that the contentious points are carefully articulated. In my opinion John Stott’s exegesis of 2:3-12 is still, in the final analysis, the most convincing. Both the main point and the main imperative of the whole section is articulated in 2:15, so the force of this verse should be stressed by the preacher. The point throughout is that as soon as we let go of the central points that Jesus and Paul taught about Christ’s return, we immediately spin off into all types of nonsense that lead directly to bad Christian behaviour.
    2 Thess 3:1-18

    ***********

    Key verse: 6

    ‘Authority and discipline in church’ Since Verse 6 contains the strongest imperative in the whole of the New Testament, and since some Christians have very regrettably been damaged by over-assertive, dominant church leaders, this is an opportunity to address the sensitive topic of the use of strong authority in a church. The small number of ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6) people at Thessalonica were clearly causing very severe problems for the church, most likely giving the persecutors grounds to reject the new faith.
    2 Thess 3:1-18

    ***********

    Key verse: 12

    ‘Earn the bread you eat’ This principle, along with Paul’s aphorism in verse 10, underlies all of Paul’s teaching about how the Christian believer should view and practice work. Since for most people their work is the main focus of their week’s activity for most of their lives, this is an excellent opportunity to teach a full sermon on the central subject of the theology and practice of work for an apprentice of Jesus in the Kingdom.
     

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Do you agree with Gordon Fee that ‘pseudepigrapha’ is an all too misleading word and that we should ‘call a spade and spade’ and state bluntly that if Paul wasn’t the author then this letter is a forgery?


    Question 2 -

    How should we operate the practice of making those who are behaving badly ‘ashamed’ (3:14), and over what issues should this principle be applied?


    Waiter's Brief

    Coaching Questions

    Answers to Questions

    Questions

    • Coaching Questions -

    Discipleship Coaching Session                        2 Thessalonians

     

    Podder:

    Start: ‘Hello’ and Beginning

    Key current things in your life

    Last pod you said you wanted to make progress in …  How have you got on?

     

    10 min: Prayer:        Ask for the Spirit’s help now.  

    11 – 45 mins: ‘Understanding the content’

         How did you go about engaging with Paul’s letter to 2 Thessalonians’?

     

          What do you want to talk about from your study of ‘2 Thessalonians’?

                       Do you have any questions – points to clarify?

     

          What are the main themes and points?

    • Experiencing persecution
    • QQQ – Have you ever experienced persecution? Have you seen others persecuted? What happens to people who are persecuted?

     

    • ‘Worthy’
    • QQQ – What does it mean to be counted ‘worthy of the Kingdom’ (1:5)?

     

    • Understanding ‘the man of lawlessness’
    • QQQ – How will we recognise the ‘man of lawlessness’? What will he do? In what ways will he be like (a parody of) Christ? What will happen to those who follow ‘the man of lawlessness’? Why?

     

    • QQQ – What are the leading features that differentiate believers in Christ from those who follow the ‘man of lawlessness’ (2:13 – 3:5)?

     

    • The ‘idle and disruptive’
    • QQQ – Why does Paul deal with the ‘idle and disruptive’ so severely?

     

    • *** Use some of the Menu Questions

     

     

    45 – 60 mins:    Personalised Coaching Qs for “the Podder

    Talk together and explore what it means in practice to live a life worthy of the Kingdom as we wait in anticipation of the Lord’s return. What will there be ‘more of’ and what will there be ‘less of’? What would be a good step forward from here?

     

    60 min: Prayer: Lord we intercede for all who suffer for believing in you, that by your power you would bring to fruition every desire for goodness and their every deed prompted by faith, so that they bring glory to your name, are counted worthy of you and the Kingdom, and are delivered from evil people so that ultimately the gospel message spreads throughout the world. Amen. 

      Answers to Questions -

    Taster Course Questions:

    QQQ   Have you ever been specifically persecuted for your faith? Are you aware of the growth of worldwide persecution of the church in the 21st Century?

    Comment:   

    All Christians ought to be aware of the continual growth of worldwide persecution and the identity of the perpetrators of persecution. ‘Open Doors’ is a responsible organisation serving the worldwide persecuted Church. They identify the agents of persecution as: Radical Islam, Communism, Indian Nationalism, Totalitarian Secularism, and the drug cartels of Central America.

     

     

    QQQ   Why is it so unhelpful (and even dangerous) to become focused on ‘The Anti-Christ’?

    Comment: 

    It ‘glorifies’ Satan by focusing all attention on him, and it has the effect of focussing believers on him and away from Christ. In the whole of Paul’s letter of Romans, Satan is only mentioned once, at the very end, as a defeated irrelevance!

     

     

    QQQ   Do you know any Christians who are ‘idle and disruptive’ (3:6)?

    Comment:   

    As a welcoming community that is committed to loving people and providing for the sick and needy, a Church is always vulnerable to those in society who are looking for others to take advantage of so that they can be lazy. Missionaries in the past referred to them as ‘rice Christians’, people who became Christians in order to get rice so they didn’t have to work to buy food!

     

     

    Starter Course Questions:

     

    QQQ   How can you live a life worthy of the Kingdom of God (1:6)?

    Comment:   

    Paul both affirms the Thessalonian believers as worthy of the Kingdom because of their growth in faith and love in the context of persecution, but also prays (1:11) that God will make them worthy of his calling to them. The unbelievers at Pisidian Antioch are an important contrast to this, (Acts 13:46). Jesus gives a full description of the essential features of ‘worthiness’ in Matthew 10:37-39.  

     

     

    QQQ   ‘History is bunk!’ This famous quote may be wrongly attributed to the car manufacturer Henry Ford, but is history meaningless?

    Comment:   

    Absolutely not. Under God’s sovereign governance, history is moving towards the return of Christ. We live in the period of restraint. There will come a period of rebellion after which the Lord himself will return. 

     

     

    QQQ   Is Christ about to return? Has the gospel of the Kingdom been preached in the whole world (Matthew 24:14), has ‘the rebellion’ occurred, and has the man of lawlessness been ‘revealed’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3)? Is this likely to happen in your life time?

    Comment:   

    There is a lot of confused and contradictory teaching about the events preceding the return of Christ on the internet. This subject seems to be the ‘go to’ for every self-styled and self-appointed independent Christian teacher. A wiser approach is to hold only to the specific teaching of Christ and Paul and to hold our opinions with an open hand, conscious that so much foolishness has been taught by the sort of people who wildly promote their views on the internet.

     

     

    QQQ   Have you come across Christian teachers who have rejected Paul’s teaching? What happens when churches reject Paul?

    Comment:   

    The issue at Thessalonica was that they had decided to believe a line of teaching – that Christ had already returned – contrary to what Paul had taught them. The point is that believers must hold to the teaching given to us by Jesus’ apostles. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 is instructive on this.

     

    QQQ

    Are these young retirees doing what Paul exhorts?

    Comment:

    It depends on whether they are ‘idle and disruptive’. The command is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:11&12. The question is whether or not they are fulfilling this.

     

    Main Course Questions:

     

    QQQ   ‘God is just’ (1:6): this is one of the five defining statements about God in the New Testament (John 4:23, 1 John 4:17, 1 Peter 1:15, 1 John 1:5). Have you ever experienced such suffering that you no longer believed that God is just? What three assurances does Paul give to the new Christians to assure them that God is just?

    Comment:   

    First, that in and through their sufferings, their faith and love are increasing and becoming stronger. Second, God will pay back trouble to those who trouble you, which is the application of the principle of Galatians 6:7. Third, it will be Jesus himself for whom and for whose Kingdom the new believers at Thessalonica are suffering, and he will be the one who comes from heaven to execute the final judgement.

     

     

    QQQ   The desire for revenge can be dangerous. How should Christians hold the truth that God is just and he will repay trouble to those who trouble his children?

    Comment:   

    We should hold this truth strongly. The judge is coming and he will bring justice to the earth. This truth should lead us often to praise and worship the Lord. 

     

     

    QQQ   What are the main points of Paul’s teaching about the ‘man of lawlessness’?

    Comment:   

    His leading characteristic is ‘lawlessness’. He will deceive people (those who are perishing) through his ‘coming’, that is his ‘parousia’, but it will all be deception and lies established through the agency of Satan. He will head up an unparalleled rebellion against God, while paradoxically setting himself up as the world religious leader, ‘in the temple’ (2:4), proclaiming himself to be God. He will be destroyed by Christ himself at Christ’s ‘parousia’.

     

     

    QQQ   What will it mean for us to share in the glory of the Lord (2:14)?

    Comment:   

    Paul endorses this in 1:10. It is one of the truly astonishing truths of the gospel, that not only does Christ save us, but at his return his glory will be revealed IN us (Colossians 1:27, Romans 8:17-18). Paul seems to be teaching that Christ’s own character will be revealed in every faithful believer. Just as a fruit tree spends winter and spring preparing for the harvest, so at Christ’s return, all faithful believers will be like trees over-laden with the character of Jesus himself. 

     

     

    QQQ   Paul’s command in 3:6 is the most powerfully worded pastoral imperative in the whole of the New Testament! What should we learn from this?

    Comment:  

    It is my view that Paul is directing this astonishingly strong imperative to a very small group of ‘rice Christians’ who were ‘sponging’ a living off the kindness of the new believers in Thessalonica. The strong subject of persecution in this letter leads me to the view that the lazy behaviour of these individuals, no doubt spurred on by the false teaching that Christ had already returned, was one of the reasons why outsiders were not only rejecting the gospel, but were actively persecuting the new church.

     

     

    Dessert Course Questions:

     

    QQQ   Do you agree with Gordon Fee that ‘pseudepigrapha’ is an all too misleading word and that we should ‘call a spade and spade’ and state bluntly that if Paul wasn’t the author then this letter is a forgery?

    Comment:  

    Yes. Only very few now view 2 Thessalonians as non-Pauline. Those who persist in seeing it as a forgery have yet to give a convincing explanation why a forger would include such unusual and developed teaching about the ‘man of lawlessness’ when trying to construct a ‘Pauline’ letter. Nowhere else does Paul refer to this subject in the Pauline corpus.

     

     

    QQQ   How should we operate the practice of making those who are behaving badly ‘ashamed’ (3:14), and over what issues should this principle be applied?

    Comment:   

    Church history is full of many examples of churches getting this spectacularly wrong. It seems wiser to stick closely to Paul’s teaching and only follow this practice in the issues that Paul himself instructs: the idle and disruptive whose behaviour was bringing contempt to the church at Thessalonica, the extremely immoral man at Corinth, (1 Corinthians 5:4-5, 9-11) and the divisive teachers in Crete (Titus 3:10). Paul himself instructed Timothy to avoid Alexander (2 Timothy 4:15).