The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
- Recipients, Author and Time of Writing
- Subject and purpose of writing
- Contents (overview)
1. Recipients, Author and Time of Writing
Author and Time of Writing
The second epistle to the Thessalonians begins with almost the same wording as the first epistle. Timothy and Silas/Silvanus who were the apostle's companions on his second missionary journey (51 to 54 AC) were with him now also. Paul refers to an earlier epistle (chap. 2:15). He reminds the Thessalonians of his habitual way of writing (chap. 3:17) and he mentions that he has received fresh news of some that walked among them (chap. 3:11). From these references one concludes that Paul wrote this second epistle after the first and probably still during his 18 month stay in Corinth in the year 52 AC (Acts 18:5-11).
While we find reminiscence of the second epistle with Polykarp (around 70 – 155) and Justin (around 100 – 165) the first explicit quotation of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians is found with Irenaeus (around 140 – 202 AC). Clemens of Alexandria (around 150 – 215), Tertullian (around 160 – 220) and the Muratori Canon (end of 2 nd century) all confirm Paul's authorship.
2. Subject and purpose of writing
The main subject of the second epistle is the same as in the first one: the coming of the Lord. While the first epistle deals mainly with the rapture of the believers the second epistle centres on Christ's appearing in this world.
The Thessalonians still suffered heavy persecution from the enemies of the gospel (2 Thess. 1:4; compare 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14; 3:3-4). Also fanaticism had come in among them. These people announced that the day of the Lord had already started (probably by means of a falsified epistle, which Paul was claimed to have written). See 2 Thess. 2:2.
Thus the Thessalonians who were still young in their faith had been confused and wearied in their living hope of the coming of the Lord. Paul had heard of it and is now writing a second epistle to teach and encourage them. This epistle's note is slightly less warm than the first one's was and the grievances are clearly talked about. However this epistle is still a document of the apostle's pastoral care. The first epistle shows Paul more as a nourishing woman or as a mother while the second shows him more as a father with his beloved children in the faith (see 1 Thess. 2:7-11).
Paul starts with the comforting words that those who now are persecuted for their faith in Christ will receive peace on earth at His public appearing, while their persecutors will receive their recompense be they heathen not knowing God or be they Jews not believing the Lord Jesus (chap. 1).
In chapter 2 the apostle writes on their anxiety as the Thessalonians had started to believe that the day of Christ was at hand. Paul gives a short but exact overview on the events preceding that day. Thus he proves that the day of Christ had neither dawned nor can even dawn before the rapture of the believers. The Christian therefore neither awaits the day of Christ nor the tribulation preceding it but the coming of the Lord to gather the believers into heaven.
In chapters 2:13 to 3:5 Paul encourages the Thessalonians to hold fast to the gospel of faith and concludes the epistle with some solemn admonitions regarding those Christians who thought it no longer necessary to work for their living.
The Appearing of the Lord
The day of the Lord begins at Christ's appearing or revelation to the judgment of the living (Matt. 25:31; Rev. 19:11-21). This “day of the Lord” is the term for the time in which Jesus Christ will be recognised Lord in this world. It also includes the time of the Millennium (compare 2 Pet. 3:10) at which end the actual old creation will make way for the new heavens and the new earth.
Before the Lord's appearing a time of tribulation for Israel and the whole world's population will take place. This is the time when Antichrist and the leader of the Roman Empire will appear. The time of tribulation is explained in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 to 18.
According to 2 Thess. 2:6+7 there are now still hindrances which retain Antichrist's appearing: the Holy Spirit and the blessed effects of Christendom. But once these effects will cease at the rapture of the believers (compare 1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 3:10-11) there will remain no hindrance for Antichrist's appearing (compare Rev. 13:11-18). The Lord Jesus though will appear with all his saints at the climax of ungodliness (apostasy) and will destroy the Antichrist as well as the leader of the Roman Empire (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20). After this the Millennium will begin (Rev. 20).
The meaning of the word “Antichrist” is “against Christ” or “instead of Christ” (1 John 2:22). Antichrist is the name of that man who will appear between the rapture of the believers and Christ's appearing to set up His kingdom of peace (the millennium) and will draw off the people from awaiting Messiah. He will show himself that he is God and will demand worship (2 Thess. 2:4). Being an instrument of Satan he will imitate Messiah as well as be hostile to him. This is why he is compared with a lamb and a dragon (Rev. 13:11). The Antichrist will be a Jew (compare Dan. 11:36-37). For the Jews would not respect another as their king.
Antichrist's names vividly speak of his character:
- The man of sin (2 Thess. 2:3)
- The son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3)
- The lawless one or the Wicked (KJV) (2 Thess. 2:8)
- The Antichrist (1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7)
- The liar (1 John 2:22)
- The deceiver (2 John 7)
- The false prophet (Rev. 19:20)
- The beast with two horns like a lamb, speaking as a dragon (Rev. 13:11)
The Lord Jesus will consume (or: destroy) the Antichrist at his appearing with the believers and the angels (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20) and then will cast both the Antichrist and the leader of the Roman Empire alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
4. Overview of Contents
Main Subject: Christ's Appearing in the World
- 2 Thess. 1:1-12: Consolation in Persecution
- 2 Thess. 2:1-12: Teaching on Christ's Appearing
- 2 Thess. 2:13 – 3:5: Encouragement to Perseverance
- 2 Thess. 3:6-18: Admonition for Service and Conduct
Translation by Veronique Vries