INTRODUCTION

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, often referred to as Second Thessalonians (US) or Two Thessalonians (UK) (and written 2 Thessalonians) is a book from the New Testament of the Christian Bible.

It is traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle, as it begins, "Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians" and ends, "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters."

Modern biblical scholarship is divided on whether Paul was the author or not; many scholars question its authenticity based on what they see as differences in style and theology between this and the First Epistle to the Thessalonians.

 

AUTHENTICITY

Scholars who support its authenticity view it as having been written around 51–52 AD, shortly after the First Epistle.

Those who see it as a later composition, assign a date of around 80–115 AD.

The authenticity of this epistle is still in widespread dispute. As Professor Ernest Best, New Testament scholar, explains the problem;

"if we only possessed Second Thessalonians few scholars would doubt that Paul wrote it; but when Second Thessalonians is put alongside First Thessalonians then doubts appear. There is a great dissimilarity between the two; this is not only one of words, small phrases and concepts but extends to the total structure of the two letters which is in addition different from what is taken to be the standard Pauline form. At the same time the second letter is alleged to be less intimate and personal in tone than the first, and in some of its teaching, particularly in relation to eschatology, to conflict with the first."

The structures of the two letters (to which Best refers) include opening greetings (1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:1–2) and closing benedictions (1 Thess. 5:28, 2 Thess. 3:16d–18) which frame two, balancing, sections (AA').

In 2 Thessalonians these begin with similar successions of nine Greek words, at 1:3 and 2:13.

The opening letter section (1:3–2:12) itself comprises two halves, 1:3–12 (where the introductory piece, A, is 1:3–5; the first development, B, is 1:6–10; and the paralleling and concluding development, B', is 1:11–12) and 2:1–12 (with pieces: A 2:1–4, B 2:5–7, B' 2:8–12).

The second, balancing, letter section (2:13–3:16c) also comprises two halves: 2:13–3:5 (with pieces: A 2:13–14, B 2:15–17, B' 3:1–5) and 3:6–16c (with pieces: A 3:6–9, B 3:10–12, B' 3:13-16c).

Of the twelve pieces in 2 Thessalonians seven begin with 'brother' introductions.

Of the eighteen pieces in 1 Thessalonians fourteen begin with 'brother' introductions.

In both letters, the sections balance in size and focus, and in many details.

In 2 Thessalonians, in 2:5 and 3:10, for example, there is a structural balance of the use of 'when I was with you...' and 'when we were with you...'.

 

SUPPORT FOR AUTHENTICITY

Of the books in the New Testament suspected of pseudepigraphy, 2 Thessalonians has the most evidence to support its authenticity.

While Paul's authorship of Second Thessalonians has been questioned more often than his authorship of 1 Thess., there is more evidence from early Christian writers for his authorship of Second Thessalonians than for First Thessalonians.

The epistle was included in Marcion's canon and the Muratorian fragment; it was mentioned by name by Irenaeus, and quoted by Ignatius, Justin, and Polycarp.

G. Milligan observed that a church which possessed an authentic letter of Paul would be unlikely to accept a fake addressed to them.

So also Colin Nicholl who has put forward a substantial argument for the authenticity of Second Thessalonians.

He points out that 'the pseudonymous view is ... more vulnerable than most of its advocates conceded. ... The lack of consensus regarding a date and destination ... reflects a dilemma for this position: on the one hand, the date needs to be early enough for the letter to be have been accepted as Pauline ... [on] the other hand, the date and destination need to be such that the author could be confident that no contemporary of 1 Thessalonians ... could have exposed 2 Thessalonians as a ... forgery.'. pp. 5–6

Another scholar who argues for the authenticity of this letter is Jerome Murphy-O'Connor.

Admitting that there are stylistic problems between Second Thessalonians and First Thessalonians, he argues that part of the problem is due to the composite nature of First Thessalonians (Murphy-O'Connor is only one of many scholars who argue that the current text of Second Thessalonians is the product of merging two or more authentic letters of Paul).

Once the text of this interpolated letter is removed and the two letters compared, Murphy-O'Connor asserts that this objection is "drastically weakened", and concludes, "The arguments against the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians are so weak that it is preferable to accept the traditional ascription of the letter to Paul."

Those who believe Paul was the author of Second Thessalonians also note how Paul drew attention to the authenticity of the letter by signing it himself:

"I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, which is how I write in every letter.".

Bruce Metzger writes, "Paul calls attention to his signature, which was added by his own hand as a token of genuineness to every letter of his (3:17)."

Other scholars who hold to authenticity include Beale, Green, Jones, Morris, and Witherington.

 

BACKGROUND

Thessalonica was the second city in Europe where Paul helped to create an organized Christian community.

At some point after the first letter was sent, probably soon, some of the Thessalonicans grew concerned over whether those who had died would share in the parousia.

This letter was written in response to this concern.

The problem then arises, as Raymond Brown points out, whether this letter is an authentic writing of Paul written by one of his followers in his name.

If this letter is authentic, then it might have been written soon after Paul's first letter to this community—or possibly years later.

Brown notes that Paul "most likely visited Thessalonica several times in his journeys to Macedonia". However, if the letter is not authentic, Brown notes that "in some ways interpretation becomes more complex."

Brown believes that the majority of scholars who advocate pseudonymity would place it towards the end of the first century, the same time that Revelation was written.

These scholars emphasize the appearance of "man of sin" in the second chapter of this letter, whether this personage is identified with the Antichrist of 1 John and Revelation, or with a historical person like Caligula.

 

CONTENT

The traditional view is that the second epistle to the Thessalonians was probably written from Corinth not many months after the first.

Biblical commentator and pastor John Macarthur writes, "The emphasis is on how to maintain a church with an effective testimony in proper response to sound eschatology and obedience to the truth."

Paul opens the letter praising this church for their faithfulness and perseverance in the face of persecution:

"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure" (2 Thess 1:3–5 [NASB]).

The letter contains a whole chapter regarding the second advent of Christ, among other themes and instructions.

From the inference of 2:1–2, the Thessalonians were faced with a false teaching, saying that Christ had already returned.

This error is corrected in chapter 2 (2:1–12), where Paul tells the Thessalonians that a great tribulation must occur before Christ's return.
Seeing as how this series of events has not yet happened, his argument reads, Christ cannot have returned yet.

He then expresses thanks that his readers were the elect of God, chosen for salvation and saved by His grace through faith, and thus not susceptible to the deception of the "Great Apostasy," (2 Thess 2:13–14) first mentioned here as is the "Katechon" (2 Thess 2:6–7).

In 2 Thess 2:15, Paul instructs his readers to "[h]old fast to the traditions (Greek: παραδόσεις, Latin: traditiones) which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by our letter."

Quoting this verse, in his On the Holy Spirit, Basil the Great writes, "These [traditions] have been passed on by word of mouth from Paul or from the other apostles, without necessarily being written down," and mentions the Trinitarian confession of faith as an example of "unwritten tradition".

Cyril of Jerusalem shares a similar view in his Catechetical Lectures, argues that the traditions stated by Paul should be preserved and memorized, at a minimum in the form of the Creed.

In his homily on this verse, John Chrysostom differentiates oral tradition from written tradition.

At that time, the oral tradition has been defined as the "tradition" and the written tradition as "Scripture", united together in "the authenticity of their apostolic origin".

Everett Ferguson says Paul's reference to tradition implicates that "what was delivered was from the Lord", and John Stott calls the tradition (Greek: παράδοσις, paradosis) "apostolic 'tradition'".

The letter continues by encouraging the Thessalonian church to stand firm in their faith, and to "keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us... do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.

Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thess 3:6–7, 14–15).

Paul ends this letter by saying, "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all" (2 Thess 3:17–18).

Macarthur writes, "Paul added an identifying signature (cf. 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18) so his readers could be sure he was truly the author."

CHAPTER 1

TO THE ELECT THESSALONIANS

1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

1:2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

THE CHURCH IN THE TRIBULATION UNTIL THE END

1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

1:4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

1:5 [Which is] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

1:6 Seeing [it is] a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

 

THE COMING DAY OF THE LORD

1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

1:10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

 

THE ETERNAL REWARD BROUGHT BY GOD AND HIS CHRIST

1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of [this] calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of [his] goodness, and the work of faith with power:

1:12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

CHAPTER 2

THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NOT YET HERE

2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him,

2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

 

CHRIST WILL NOT COME UNTIL THE ANTICHRIST FIRST TAKES POWER

2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come,] except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

 

THE ROMAN GOD-MAN APPEARS FIRST AND MAKES HIMSELF GOD TO ALL MEN

2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

 

THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY

2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let,] until he be taken out of the way.

2:8 And then shall that Wicked (one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

2:9 [Even him,] whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

2:12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 

THOSE WHO KEEP THE COMMANMENTS OF GOD AND THE FAITH OF JESUS

2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

2:14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

2:16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given [us] everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

2:17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

CHAPTER 3

PRAY FOR PROTECTION AGAINST THE FALSE CHRIST

3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have [free] course, and be glorified, even as [it is] with you:

3:2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all [men] have not faith.

3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep [you] from (the) evil (one).

 

WAIT FOR THE TRUE CHRIST

3:4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

 

SUPPORT YOURSELVES INSTEAD OF BECOMING A BURDEN

3:6 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.

3:7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

3:8 Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

3:9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

3:12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

3:13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

3:15 Yet count [him] not as an enemy, but admonish [him] as a brother.

 

THE AUTHENTICATION OF PAUL

3:16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord [be] with you all.

3:17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

3:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen.