NOTE. For more details see, McGee, 2 Thessalonians. This study is taken from that book. I have made modifications since I do not believe in Dr. McGee’s timing of the Rapture and some other details. The study is also available online in audio at: 2 Thessalonians
DATE A.D. 52-53. The second epistle followed shortly after the first epistle.
Paul’s first letter had given rise to further questions, and Paul is attempting to answer them in his second letter. There was circulating in the Thessalonian church a letter or report, purported to have come from Paul, which was inclined to disturb the Christians. This false report claimed that Christ had already come and had already gathered out the church to Himself, and that the world was then living in the judgments of the “day of the Lord.” These people were being persecuted as was shown in the first epistle. They were suffering for the Gospel’s sake, and it was easy for them to believe that they had entered the great tribulation period, and that all of the believers (not only the dead) had missed the Rapture. Paul attempts to allay their fears by writing this epistle and stating definitely that “our gathering together unto him” is yet future” (2 Thess. 2.1), and that “the day of the Lord” has certain forerunners which must come first: the apostasy and the “man of sin” must come first. Therefore they could reasonably believe they were not in the great tribulation.
Paul says that the outward organization of the professing church is going to go into total apostasy. The Lord asked, in a way that indicated a negative answer, “… when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” He will not find faith when He comes again. The organized churches will be in total apostasy. The organized “church” is the great harlot in Revelation 17.
The time of the great tribulation and the pouring out of the wrath of God to follow will be “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24.21). After the great tribulation, “shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not giver her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Mt. 24:30-31).
2 Thessalonians emphasizes the return of Christ in Judgment and His setting up of His kingdom here on earth.
The hope of the Old Testament saints was an earthly hope. They were looking for their Messiah to come and establish a kingdom here upon this earth—which would be heaven on earth. The expression “kingdom of heaven” means the reign of the heavens over the earth.
I. PERSECUTION of Believers Now;
Judgment of Unbelievers Hereafter (at the coming of Christ), 1.1-12
- Introduction, 1.1, 2
- Persecution of believers and Fruits of It, 1.3-7
- Judgment of Wicked at Coming of Christ, 1.8-12
II. PROGRAM for World in Connection with Coming of Christ, 2.1-12
2. Day of the Lord; Introduced by Total Apostasy and Appearance of Man of Sin, 2.2-5
3. Mystery of Iniquity Working Today; Man of Sin Restrained by the Holy Spirit, 2.6-8
4. Lawless One to Appear in Great Tribulation Period, 2.9-12
III. PRACTICALITY of Coming of Christ, 2.13-3.18
1. Believers Should Be Established in Word, 2.13-17.
2. Believers Should Be Established in Walk, 3.1-7
3. Believers Should Be Established in Work, 3.8-18
(Persecution of believers now and
judgment of unbelievers hereafter (at the coming of Christ))
v1.1: Paul identifies two of his co-workers who are brethren with him. This tells us something about Paul’s character. A man who had been a proud young Pharisee had become an humble follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and a servant and apostle of His. “Unto the church of the Thessalonians.” Paul believed in the local church. The position of that church was “in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This makes a true local church very important. Members of a true New Testament church can manifest Christ (since the Holy Spirit indwells the members) in the local neighborhood, in the community, in the town, the state, the nation, and the world showing forth the life of God. Paul had no doubt about the deity of Christ. Not all “churches” are “in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
v1.2 Grace comes first. One who is saved has experienced the grace of God. Salvation is God offering you, a hell bound sinner, the gift (you pay or do nothing for a gift) eternal life if you trust Christ. That is grace.
“Peace.” It is the peace that comes when you know that your sins are forgiven. Peace comes only from a supernatural source—from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”; it is supernatural.
PERSECUTION OF BELIEVERS AND FRUITS OF IT (1.3-7)
vv3,4. “Charity” here is love, God’s kind of love. In verses 3-4 we have that little trinity that Paul uses: faith, love, and patience. This again is the work of faith” which Paul mentions in 1 Thess. 1.3. Saving faith produces works, and it will produce a love in the heart for God’s children. If you are a child of god, you will have to love me whether or not you want to, and I’m going to have the love you. It is a wonderful arrangement as long as God’s children honor it. It hurts deeply the heart of a loving believer when a brother or sister does not love him/her.
The “patience in v 4 is not the patience of waiting in a traffic jam, or waiting for a light to turn green. It is the patience that is willing to live for God and accept whatever He sends your way, knowing that all things do work together for good. It is the patience that has as its goal coming not God’s presence someday. This enables you to get over the rough places that come into your life.
“Tribulations” are afflictions. The Patience and faith of these Thessalonian believers was unshaken as they were enduring a great deal of trouble, persecutions, and afflictions. 1 Peter 4:12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
v5. Our suffering prepares us for our eternal state.
v7. The Lord Jesus is coming in judgment.
JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED AT THE COMING OF CHRIST. VV. 1.8-12
vv 8-9 The Bible speaks little of heaven. It is so wonderful we could not comprehend it. God does not want us to be so heavenly minded we are no earthly good. He wants us to keep our noses to the grindstone. He has a purpose for our lives on earth which He wants us to fulfill.
Scripture says less about the condition of the lost than it says about heaven. The HS has drawn a veil over it since it is so awful. There is enough about hell in Scripture to give us a warning. Hell, though is an awful reality. Quoting what is said here: He is coming “1:8: In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
vv10-12 “That the name of Christ may be glorified in you.” Somehow I am more impressed with the little woman lying flat on her back in a hospital or in her home—yet has a radiant testimony for Christ thereby glorifying Christ—than I am by the testimony of one whom “God made a business success.”
(The program for the world in connection with the coming of Christ to earth)
v1 The gathering together is the Rapture.
v2 The OT often mentions the day of the Lord. It begins with night. Joel tells us it is darkness and not light. It is a time of judgment. “Not by word, nor by letter”: Apparently someone had been circulating by letter or by oral word among the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord had come. There are always those super-duper saints that imagine that they don’t need to study the Word of God. They imagine that they get their information directly from dreams or visions or special revelations. I admit that it is much easier to get your information in a telephone conversation than it is to go to school or study the Bible, but it won’t come straight from God. A special revelation had come to the church at Thessalonica, something brother Paul had not told them.
“Not by letter as from us.” Supposedly, the letter was from Paul, Timothy and Silas.
The word they circulated was “The day of the Lord is at hand.” This had caused a problems with the Thessalonian believers. They were enduring persecution.
The day of the Lord speaks of the period preceded by, as Peter wrote, “Acts 2:20: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:” Peter is saying that the Day of Pentecost was similar to the day Joel described in Joel 2. Joel 2 describes it in some detail. Because of Joel’s prophecy, the orthodox Jews in that day believed that there was a day coming when God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh—on the Day of Pentecost it was not poured out on all flesh. The day of the Lord is yet future.
Peter says the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night (also, 1 Thess. 5.2). But He will not come as a thief in the night for the church (1 Thess. 5). True churches and believers are to be awake and waiting for Him. 2 Peter 3:10: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Again, this did not happen on the Day of Pentecost.
Revelation 6:17 “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” This begins the outpouring of the wrath of God. Believers will not go through the wrath of God. Notice that Re. 6.9-11 speaks of those slain “for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (v9) (during this period of Great Tribulation prior to the outpouring of the wrath of God). Re. 6.11 states: “Revelation 6:11 “And white robes were given unto every one of them [those who had already been martyred]; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
v3 The day of the Lord will not come until (1) “There come a falling away first,” and (2) “that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” Neither one of these has happened yet. There are two kinds of falling away that will take place. 1st, the organized “church” will depart from the faith (that is apostasy). There will be total apostasy when the Lord comes, and that cannot take place until true churches and believers are removed. The Lord asked, “Luke 18:8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” When He says “faith,” He means that the body of truth which He left here. The answer is no. There will be total apostasy because of two things: (1) the organization of the church has departed from the faith—it has apostatized, and (2) there has been another departure, the departure of the true church from the earth. The departure of the true church leads into the total apostatizing of the organized church. The day of the Lord cannot begin—nor the day of God’s wrath on the earth—until the departure of true believers and true churches. Note. This last paragraph is from Dr. McGee. I will be studying this out more when I get back to the study of Revelation. I am not sure I agree.
We see the total departure of the organized church pictured as the great harlot in Re. 17.
The second thing that must happen is that the “man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” He is revealed after the wrath of God is poured out. John calls him antichrist (John is the only one who uses this term). He is a subject of the OT. He will be Satan’s man. This is the man who will put the Roman Empire back together again. He will become a world dictator. He will deceive the world.
v4 Paul tells us more about him. He will claim to be god. In Re. 13, we find that the beast out of the sea (the antichrist) brings together western Europe and put it bac together again. When he does this, he will show himself as God. The world will think he is Christ.
v5 Paul did not hesitate to talk about these things. Some say a preacher should not, how sad.
MYSTERY OF LAWLESSNESS WORKING TODAY, RESTRAINED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
v6 The HS is the only one who can withhold evil in the world today.
v7 The mystery of iniquity was already working in Paul’s day and continues to work. The enemy has sown tares in the world. The tares and wheat are growing together—the word of God and iniquity are growing together.
Iniquity continues to get worse and worse, but the HS will not let Satan go all the way in this age. When the HS is “taken out of the way,” it will be like taking the stopper out of the bottle—the liquid of iniquity will pour out all over the world in that day. The HS will have a different mission when He is “taken out of the way.”
v8 2 Thessalonians 2:8 “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” He will be a world dictator. No one can stop him. No power—only the coming of Christ to establish His kingdom—can stop him. The believers who are on the earth cannot stop him.
“The Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth,” that is, the Word of God. All God has to do is speak.
Christ’s 1st coming had 2 episodes: 1st began when He was born a little baby, and the 2nd at 30 when he began His ministry by walking into the temple and cleansing it. Christ’s 2nd coming will have 2 episodes: “He calls believers to meet Him in the air and He comes to earth to establish His kingdom.” At time the antichrist shall be consumed and destroyed with the brightness of His coming.
LAWLESS ONE TO APPEAR
v9 This is the antichrist, Satan’s man, the man of sin, the lawless one. “Power” means physical power whose source is supernatural. He will be a healer and miracle worker. We should fear that miracle workers are from Satan. That is why is so important to get our eyes off men and on Christ, to walk by faith in Him.
“Signs” means tokens. They have the purpose of appealing to the understanding. This man will have signs that will appeal to the scientific world, politicians and the religious world. People who are not rooted and grounded in the Word of God will fall for all kinds of signs.
“Lying wonders” will affect observers. People all over the world will be talking about the man of sin in a positive way as to what he can do. Why will they fall for his lying wonders?
v10 Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
v11 God will let the world believe a lie. Like with Pharaoh, whom God forced into a situation which revealed whot was already in his heart. Many so-called believers today are closed to the truths of God’s Word. So God will send them “strong delusion.” Why? Because they would not receive the truth.
People who have stopped going to churches where they heard the gospel or who do not study their Bibles are wide open to the cults and the “isms” of our day. That is why so many cultists go around knocking at doors. When people reject the truth, they believe the lie. God is separating the sheep from the goats. If people will not receive the love of the truth, God sends them a “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”
v12 God is going to judge those who have rejected the truth. If someone tries to present the truth from the Word of God to you, then you are wide open for anything that comes along to delude and deceive you. You will never be able to go into the presence of God and say, “I never heard the truth.”
PRACTICALITY OF THE COMING OF CHRIST
Now Paul moves to the practical side of the epistle. In the light of the knowledge of future events, the believer should live a life that demonstrates that he believes in the coming of Christ. Believing that Christ will come will be manifest in 3 different ways: it will affect his attitude to the Word, his walk, and his work.
BELIEVERS SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD.
vv13-14 These 2 verses give the total spectrum of salvation: all the way from the past, the present, and down into the future. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we shall be saved. It is all the work of God.
“Chosen you to salvation.” This is clearly taught in Romans 8 (See Ro. 8.28-31; Paul is writing the same thing here.). It simply mean that it does not surprise God when you choose Christ. There is another side of the coin. “Whosoever will may come” (There are many verses to the effect in the Bible). The “whosoever wills” are the chosen ones, and the “whosoever won’ts are the nonelect. John 7:37 “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” If you won’t come, the reason is not because you are not elected. It’s because you’re not thirsty. If you are thirsty, then come to Christ.
“Through sanctification of the Spirit.” “Chosen to salvation” looks back to the past. This looks to the present. You are sanctified both as to position and to practice. Positional salvation is established when you accept Jesus Christ as your own Saviour (you are in Christ) and that is past tense. Practically, you are to grow in grace.
“Belief in the truth.” That means the believer is going to study the Word of God.
“To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is future. 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Colossians 1:27: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” That looks forward to the future.
v15. The Word enables the believer to stand and be stable.
vv16-17 The Lord Jesus Christ brings comfort and consolation to our hearts. He does this through His Word. That will establish us in every good word and work. The study of the Word of God will lead to the work of the Lord. The Word of God will also edify us. We will be “stabhished” so we are not carried away with every wind of doctrine.
It is the Word of God then that will lead you to do the work of God. It is deceitful to talk about how much you love the Lord if you do not study his Word and apply it. If you really believe Christ is coming, you’re going to be busy working for Him. You are going to give an account someday.
(Theme: The practicality of the coming of Christ (continued))
Here in chapter 3, Paul says there are certain responsibilities that we have as believers. Paul said to the Ephesians: “”Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” He is saying the same thing to the Thessalonian believers.
BELIEVERS SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED BY THEIR WALK
vv1-2 The Word of God enables the believer to walk before the wicked world. The Word establishes a believer in his walk.
“”Pray for us.” All believers should pray. Every work must have prayer behind it if it is to succeed.
Paul had a unique ministry. He was a missionary, he was an evangelist (as we think of evangelists today), he was a teacher of the Word. He had led the Thessalonians to the Lord, taught them, and now he is acting as their pastor in his letters.
“That the Word of the Lord may have free course.” Paul is not only instructing them in the Word, but he is attempting to comfort them and to counsel them.
He is also enjoining the to pray. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ as they seek to glorify God. Pray for others whom you know who are seeking to glorify God. Pray for your pastor. Paul asks prayer that he “may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” Many times, wicked men come into a church. A pastor and other church members need to be delivered from such men. The spreading of the Gospel can be hindered more by people in a church than by anything else. In churches, there are a lot of saints and a lot of “aints.” The “aints” can give the pastor a rough time.
“For all men have not faith.” They do not hold to the doctrines of the faith. The foundation of a church rests upon the doctrine which the apostles have given to the churches. If we really love Christ’s appearing, we will prove it by our relationship to the Word of God and by our walk through this life.
v3 The Lord never lets the believer down. He is faithful. He will “stablish you.” Right now, the home, the church,, and the lives of believers are in disarray. A believer can be established by coming to the Word of God and letting it have its influence in his life. The Lord operates through His Word. The Word of God will keep you from evil. “The Bible will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from the Bible.”
v4. Christians are commanded to do certain things. There were 22 commandments in 1 Thess. 5. Paul had confidence in the Thess. church.
v5. The believer is to walk in the “love of God.” Only the Spirit of God can make God’s love real to us. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. “Into the patient waiting for Christ.” This does not mean that you are to argue about being premillennial or pretribulational or postribulational or amillennial, but that you are be patiently waiting for Christ.
v6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;” The believer is not to go into the bar and sit down with the drunkard and have a beer with him as we witness to him.
v7 Rather, we are to follow those who behave not themselves disorderly.
BELIEVERS CHOULD BE ESTABLISHED IN THEIR WORK
The Thessalonians were walking in a right relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and they were being persecuted for it. Paul comforted, instructed and encouraged them. Paul now lets them know that he also is undergoing persecution.
v8 On his first missionary journey, Paul paid for what he ate. He would not let anyone pay him for his missionary work among them. He took no love offerings. When he was establishing churches, he supported himself by tentmaking.
However, after the churches were established and Paul had come back to visit them a 2nd and 3rd time, he did receive an offering from them. He made clear to the Galatians that they should give. He thanks the Philippians for their gift. He took an offering on his 3rd missionary journey for the poor saints in Jerusalem.
There are a lot of fanatics. … However, if you believe Christ is coming, you will work for him.
v9. Paul is saying that as an apostle who led them to the Lord and established a church among them, he had the right, the authority, to claim an offering. However, he did not as an example to the believers in Thessalonica. that they might not be led to some fanatical position.
v10. A believer who is looking for the Lord to return is not a dreamer; he is a worker. No work—no food. This is the rule laid down by the apostle.
This epistle deals largely in prophecy, but almost half of it is given over to that which is practical. We are to mesh and gear prophetic truth in to our living down here so that it is practical and working. We are to work while we wait.
v11 There were busybodies among them, disorderly, working not at all. They were causing trouble in the church. It takes just one bad apple to spoil the ointment. They were busy as termites and just as effective as termites in the church at Thess.
v12 Paul commands them that are such to work quietly and eat their own bread. That doesn’t sound very spiritual or theological, does it? But it is practical.
v13 Be not weary in well doing.
v14-15 People ought to withdraw from troublemakers in the church. Admonish him as a brother.
vv16-18 The end of the letter which Paul wrote w/his own hand. Ends w/a benediction.