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2 Thessalonians 1



Salutation Greetings Salutation Greetings Address
1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1 1:1-2
The Judgment at Christ's Coming God's Final Judgment and Glory Thanksgiving The Judgment at Christ's Coming Thanksgiving and Encouragement. The Last Judgment
1:3-12 1:3-12 1:3-4 1:3-4 1:3-5
    The Judgment of God    
    1:5-12 1:5-10  
      1:11-12 1:11-12

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
 In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. 2 Thessalonians develops the eschatological themes of I Thessalonians.


B. Verses 3-10 are one sentence in Greek. They describe Paul's confidence in the believers and confidence in God's judgment on the unbelievers. This is a very strong passage on God's final judgment. The earthly roles, the blessed and unblessed, of the persecutor and persecuted will be reversed.


C. Verses 11-12 are a summary of verses 3-10.



 1Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:1 "Paul" Saul of Tarsus is first called Paul in Acts 13:9. It is probable that most Jews of the "diaspora" had a Hebrew name and a Greek name. If so, then Saul's parents gave him this name but why, then, does "Paul" suddenly appear in Acts 13? Possibly

1. others began to call him by this nickname

2. he began to refer to himself by the term "little" or "least"

The Greek name Paulos meant "little." Several theories have been advanced about the origin of his Greek name.

1. the second century tradition that Paul was short, fat, bald, bow-legged, bushy eye-browed, and had protruding eyes is a possible source of the name, deriving from a non-canonical book from Thessalonica called Paul and Thekla

2. passages where Paul calls himself the "the least of the saints" because he persecuted the Church as in Acts 9:1-2 (cf. I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; I Tim. 1:15)

Some have seen this "leastness" as the origin of the self-chosen title. However, in a book like Galatians, where he emphasized his independence and equality with the Jerusalem Twelve, this is somewhat unlikely (cf. II Cor. 11:5; 12:11; 15:10).

▣ "Silvanus" Silas

1. He is called Silas in Acts and Silvanus in the Epistles

2 He, like Barnabas, was a leader in the Jerusalem Church (cf. Acts 15:22-23)

3. He is closely associated with Paul (cf. Acts 15:40; 16:19ff; 17:1-15; 1 Thess. 1:1)

4. He, like Barnabas and Paul, was a prophet (cf. Acts 15:32)

5. He is called an apostle (cf. 1 Thess. 2:6)

6. He, like Paul, was a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 16:37-38)

7. He, like John Mark, is also associated with Peter, even possibly acting as a scribe (cf. I Pet. 5:12)


▣ "Timothy"

1. His name means "one who honors God."

2. He was the child of a Jewish mother and a Greek father and he lived in Lystra (cf. Acts. 16:1). The Latin translation of Origen's commentary on Rom. 16:21 says Timothy was a citizen of Derbe. This is possibly taken from Acts 20:4.

3. He was instructed in the Jewish faith by his mother and grandmother (cf. II Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15).

4. He trusted Christ during Paul's first missionary journey (cf. Acts 13:49-14:25).

5. He was asked to join Paul and Silas' missionary team on the second journey (cf. Acts 16:1-5). He was confirmed by prophecy (cf. I Tim. 1:18; 4:14).

6. He was circumcised by Paul in order to work with both Jews and Greeks (cf. Acts 16:3).

7. He was a dedicated companion and co-worker of Paul. He is mentioned by name more than any other of Paul's helpers (17 times in 10 letters, cf. Rom. 16:21; I Cor. 4:17; 16:10; Phil. 1:1; 2:19,22; Col. 1:5; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6; 3:2; I Tim. 1:2,18; 4:14; II Tim. 1:2; 3:14-15).

8. Paul affectionately calls him "my child in the faith" (cf. I Tim. 1:2), "my beloved son" (cf. II Tim. 1:2), and "my true child in a common faith" (cf. Titus 1:4).

9. He was apparently in Rome when Paul was released from prison and accompanied him on his fourth missionary journey (cf. Col. 1:1; Philemon 1).

10. He is called an "apostle" (cf. 1 Thess. 2:6).

11. Two of the three Pastoral Epistles are addressed to him.

12. He is last mentioned in Heb. 13:23.


▣ "church" The Greek term ekklesia means "the called out ones." The same term signified called town meetings in Greek cities (cf. Acts 19:32). It was used in the Septuagint to translate qahal (BDB 874, i.e., Exod 12:6; Lev. 16:17; Num. 20:4; Deut. 31:30) or "congregation" of Israel. The early Christians saw themselves as the fulfillment and extension of OT Israel. See Special Topic at Gal. 1:2.

▣ "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" This phrase is one of the few differences between the introduction in 1 Thess. 1:1 and 2 Thess. 1:1. Believers can call God "our Father" (cf. Matt. 6:9). Of course, God is not our father in a physically generative or chronological sense, but in the sense of a familial relationship. See Special Topic at Gal. 1:1.

The grammatical structure (one preposition "en" with two objects "Father" and "Lord") is one of the ways that NT authors linked the Father and the Son (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1). This construction would assert their equality and thereby Jesus' deity.

Paul's favorite way of designating believers is "in Christ," but here he asserts that believers are also in the Father.

1:2 "Grace to you and peace" Many see this as a combination of the Greek and Jewish greetings. The repeated phrase "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" links the Father and Son by the conjunction "and" and the Single preposition, showing Paul's theology of Jesus' deity (just like v. 1). Theologically grace always precedes peace.

 3We 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; 4therefore, 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. 5This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8dealing out retribution to those who do not know God to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. 11To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:3 "We ought always to give thanks to God for you" This reflects Paul's prayer life for the churches (cf. v.11; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13 and Phil. 1:3-4; II Cor. 11:28). Paul felt an oughtness to always pray with thanksgiving (cf. 1 Thess. 5:18). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THANKSGIVING at 1 Thess. 1:2.

NASB"because your faith is greatly enlarged"
NKJV"because your faith grows exceedingly"
NRSV"because your faith is growing abundantly"
TEV"because your faith is growing so much"
NJB"because your faith is growing so wonderfully"

This metaphor from agriculture expresses vigorous plant growth (cf. II Cor. 10:15; II Pet. 3:18). See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at Gal. 1:13. Paul applauded the development of their faith and love. This is similar to 1 Thess. 1:3. But notice "hope" is missing. There was still much confusion in this area (i.e., the Second Coming, see Special Topic at Gal. 5:5).

▣ "the love of each one of you toward one another" In light of the internal fellowship problems within the church (cf. 1 Thess. 3:12; 5:12-13; I John 4:7,11,12,31), this affirmation of their love for one another was important .

▣ "grows ever greater" This expression was used metaphorically to invoke images of swelling flood waters.

1:4 "we ourselves speak proudly of you" The emphasis of this phrase is on "we ourselves" in contrast to "you." The church itself felt weak (cf. 1 Thess. 5:14). Paul saw and articulated their strengths. Their Christlikeness under persecution was evidence of Paul's effective ministry and thereby his apostleship (cf. 1 Thess. 2:19).

TEV"about the way you continue to endure"

This is literally "voluntary, active, steadfast endurance" (cf. 1 Thess. 1:3). It relates both to people and to circumstances. It was another evidence of the Spirit's work in their lives. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSEVERANCE at Gal. 5:4.

▣ "faith" This term in the OT was used of God's trustworthiness and mankind's response in trust (cf. Hab. 2:4, see Special Topic at Gal. 3:4). Here it is used of their faithfulness in the midst of persecution. Paul prayed for their faith in 1 Thess. 3:10 and praised them here for their faith. Through faith God's faithfulness becomes the believer's faithfulness. See Special Topic at Gal. 3:6.

▣ "in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure" Suffering is normal for believers in a fallen world (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17-18; I Thess. 2:14; 3:3; James 1:2-4; I Pet. 4:12-16). It often is the very means of our spiritual growth (cf. Heb. 5:8). See Special Topics: Tribulation at 1 Thess. 1:10 and Why Do Christians Suffer? at 1 Thess. 3:3.

1:5 "This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment" This refers to God's wrath poured out on unbelievers who persecute His people (cf. Phil. 1:28).

For a word study of "righteous" see Special Topic at Gal. 2:21.

NASB"so that you will be considered worthy"
NKJV"that you may be counted worthy"
NRSV"is intended to make you worthy"
TEV"because as a result of all this you will become worthy"
NJB"you may be found worthy"

This is an aorist passive infinitive, "to be declared worthy." The passive voice implies that God the Father is the agent. This is one purpose of suffering. It builds character (cf. v. 11; Rom. 5:3-4; Heb. 5:8).

This is a good example of the theological distinction between a positional righteousness in Christ yet also the need for a developing righteousness in the believer. Our standing before God is a gift (indicative), but also a mandate (imperative). One way to express this truth may be with an athletic metaphor. Believers have won the race by their faith relationship with Christ. Now they must run the race for Him in faithfulness. Gratitude, not required performance, drives the Christian to godliness (cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; Eph. 4:1,17; 5:2).

▣ "of the kingdom of God" This is such a key phrase in the Synoptic Gospels (see Special Topic at Gal. 5:21). Jesus' first and last sermons, and most of His parables, dealt with this topic. It refers to the reign of God in human hearts now! It is surprising that the Gospel of John has this phrase only twice (and never in Jesus' parables). In John's gospel "eternal life" is a key term and metaphor.

The phrase relates to the eschatological (end-time) thrust of Jesus' teachings. This "already, but not yet" theological paradox relates to the Jewish concept of two ages, the current evil age and the righteous age to come, which will be inaugurated by the Messiah. The Jews expected only one coming of a Spirit-empowered military leader (like the Judges in the OT). The two comings of Jesus caused an overlapping of the two ages (see Special Topic: The Two Ages at Gal. 1:4) . The Kingdom of God has broken into human history with the incarnation at Bethlehem. However, Jesus came not as the military conqueror of Rev. 19, but as the Suffering Servant (cf. Isaiah 53) and humble leader (cf. Zech. 9:9). The Kingdom, therefore, is inaugurated (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; 11:12; 12:28; Mark 1:15; Luke 9:9,11; 11:20; 21:31-32), but not consummated (cf. Matt. 6:10; 16:28; 26:64).


NASB"For after all it is only just"
NKJV"since it is a righteous thing"
NRSV"For it is indeed just"
TEV"God will do what is right:"
NJB"God will very rightly"

This is an implied first class conditional sentence, assumed true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. God's judgment is just.

▣ "for God to repay" This is a moral world order. God will set things right (see full note at Gal. 6:7).

1:7 "to us as well" Paul was suffering too (cf. I Cor. 4:9-13; II Cor. 4:8-12; 6:4-10; 11:24-27).

▣ "when the Lord Jesus will be revealed" Literally "at the revelation of the Lord Jesus." There is no verb. Apocalypsis means "to clearly reveal" (cf. I Cor. 1:7). This refers to the Second Coming of Jesus. The time of God's righteous judgment (cf. v. 5) will be the Second Coming/Resurrection Day/Judgment Day (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15). See Special Topic at 1 Thess. 3:13.

▣ "with His mighty angels" This is a common biblical theme (cf. Deut. 33:2; Zech. 14:5; Matt. 16:27; 25:31; Mark 8:38; Jude 14; Rev. 19:14). He will also come with His saints (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Matt. 13:41 and 24:31 implying that angels will gather and separate mankind (cf. Matt. 13:39-41; 24:31).

▣ "in flaming fire" This is a symbol of God's judgment (cf. Isa. 29:6; 30:27-30; 66:14-15; Dan. 7:9-10).

Confusion exists whether this phrase goes with vv. 7 or 8. If it goes with v. 7 it relates to the angels; if it goes with v. 8 it relates to judgment. The NKJV, NRSV, and REB translations place it in v. 8.



NASB"dealing out retribution"
NKJV"taking vengeance"
NRSV"inflicting vengeance"
TEV"to punish"
NJB"to impose the penalty"

This is a present active participle. This is not an emotional, vindictive reaction but "full justice for all." God's creation will reflect God's character.

▣ "on those who do not know God" This word reflects the pagan's willful rejections of light (cf. (cf. Ps. 79:6; Jer. 10:25;

1 Thess. 4:5; John 3:17-21; Rom. 1:18,25; 2:14-15) and persecution of the believers at Thessalonica. This phrase does not only refer to cognitive truth about God (Greek concept of "know"), but also intimate fellowship with God (Hebrew concept of "know"). The term "know" has the Hebrew connotation of intimate fellowship (cf. Gen 4:1; Jer. 1:5; Mark 14:71; Titus 1:16).


▣ "to those who do not obey the gospel" Some commentators think this refers to a second group that is persecuting the Thessalonian believers; the first phrase referring to pagans ("those who do not know God") and the second to Jews.

1:9 "the penalty" This is the same root as "retribution" in v. 8.

▣ "eternal destruction" "Eternal" (cf. Matt. 18:8; 25:41; Mark 3:29; Heb. 6:2; Jude v. 7) shares the same root with "age" (cf. Matt. 28:20; Heb. 1:2). In Matt. 25:46 it describes both heaven and hell (cf. 1 Thess. 2:16). A person's response to the gospel in the present time (age) seals his/her future time (age).

The term "destruction" (olethros) is also found in I Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:3; I Tim. 6:9. It means "the loss of all that gives worth to existence" (Moulton, Milligan , p. 445), but not annihilation (exolethreuō, LXX of Deut. 18:19).


▣ "away from the presence of the Lord" This is the worse aspect of hell. In the KJV of Ps. 139:8 it says "if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there," but in Psalm this refers to Sheol or Hades (the holding place of the dead, cf. Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Rev. 1:18; 20:13,14), not Gehenna, which is the place of permanent separation from God (cf. Matt. 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

"and from the glory of His power" This may be an allusion to Isa. 2:10,19,21. Fallen mankind will flee the glorious presence of the Holy One of Israel. The tragedy of creation is that mankind's greatest need is fellowship with God, but because of sin and rebellion, we fear Him and flee from Him who created us like Himself for glorious fellowship.

 In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kbd, BDB 458) was originally a commercial term (which referred to a pair of scales) which meant "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. Often the concept of brightness was added to the word to express God's majesty (cf. Exod. 15:16; 24:17; Isa. 60:1-2). He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold (cf. Exod. 33:17-23; Isa. 6:5). God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. Jer. 1:14; Matt. 17:2; Heb. 1:3; James 2:1).

The term "glory" is somewhat ambiguous: (1) it may be parallel to "the righteousness of God"; (2) it may refer to the "holiness" or "perfection" of God; or (3) it could refer to the image of God in which mankind was created (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6), but which was later marred through rebellion (cf. Gen. 3:1-22). It is first used of YHWH's presence with His people (cf. Exod. 16:7,10; Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10). See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at Gal. 1:5.


NASB, NKJV"to be glorified in His saints"
NRSV"to be glorified by his saints"
TEV"to receive glory from all his people"
NJB"to be glorified among his saints"

This phrase can be understood in at least two ways.

1. reflecting a Hebrew idiom, the majesty of the Second Coming will cause Jesus to receive glory from His followers

2. reflecting the normal meaning of the Greek preposition, in addition to the unusual compound with the preposition repeated with the noun, (vv. 10,12) that Jesus will be glorified among or in believers

"Saints" is literally "holy ones." The term "saints" is always plural except once in Phil. 4:21, and even there, it is corporate. To be saved puts us in Christ's body and in His family. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at 1 Thess. 3:13.

This is not so much an experience as a position. Hopefully our position is becoming more actualized in our daily lives. When He returns our glorification will be instantaneous and complete (cf. I John 3:2; Romans 8:30). Jesus is glorified in the godly lives of His godly ones (cf. v. 12; 1 Thess. 2:12; John 17:9-10).

▣ "on that day" This emphatic phrase is an OT metaphor of the time when God will return to His creation either for blessing (believers) or judgment (unbelievers). See fuller note at 1 Thess. 5:2.

NASB"and to be marveled at among all who have believed"
NKJV"and to be admired among all those who believe"
NRSV"and to be marveled at ... among all who have believed"
TEV"and honor from all who believe"
NJB"and seen in his glory by all who believe in him"

There are two ambiguous phrases in v. 10. They can mean (1) the saints are glorified with Christ and this amazes them, or (2) the angels are amazed at what God does for believers (cf. Eph. 2:7; 3:10; I Cor. 4:9).

▣ "for our testimony to you was believed" The believers' response was opposite of the pagans in v. 8. They had received the gospel as both a message and a person (i.e., John 1:12; 3:16,36; 6:40; 11:25-26; Rom. 10:9-13).

1:11 "we pray for you always" Paul continually prayed for these churches (cf. 2 Thess. 1:3; 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:2; 5:13-18). See SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER at 1 Thess. 1:2.

NASB"God will count you worthy of your calling"
NKJV"God would count you worthy of this calling"
NRSV, NJB"God will make you worthy of his call"
TEV"God to make you worthy of the life he called you to live"

God does it (cf. Phil. 1:6; 2:13; Eph. 4:4), but believers must allow Him and cooperate with the Spirit (cf. Phil. 2:12; Eph. 4:1). It is the paradox of God's sovereignty and mankind's free will that there must be an initial and a progressive faith response. In this context the emphasis is on the Christian's new life (cf. Eph. 4:1; 5:2,15). The gospel is a person to welcome, a message about that person to believe, and a life like that person's to live.


▣ "and fulfill every desire for goodness" Paul was praying that their new intentions be actualized (cf. 1 Thess. 1:3). As with their new heart (cf. Ezek. 36:26-27), they have acquired a new mouth, hands, and feet (cf. Rom. 6:4; II Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:10).

Paul uses the concept of "goodness" often in the Thessalonian letters:

1. agathos, 1 Thess. 3:6; 2 Thess. 2:16-17;

a. agathon, 1 Thess. 5:15

b. agathōsunē, 2 Thess. 1:11

2. kalon, 1 Thess. 5:21

3. eudokia, 2 Thess. 1:11


1:12 "the name of our Lord Jesus. . .in Him" Here it is obvious from the parallel structure that "the name" represents the person. See Special Topic below.


▣ "in you, and you in Him" Jesus is glorified in believers and believers are glorified in Him.

▣ "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ " It is common in the Thessalonian letters for Paul to emphatically link the Father and the Son (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1,3; 3:11,13; 5:18,23; 2 Thess. 1:1,2; 2:12; 2:13,16; 3:5).

It is possible that this phrase refers to Christ alone. If so, it would be in line with other NT texts that assert Jesus' Deity (i.e., John 1:1; 8:57-58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; I John 5:20; II Pet. 1:1,11).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the central theme of chapter 1? How is it different from 1 Thessalonians 1?

2. Why is suffering normal for believers? (verse 5)

3. Is God vindictive and vengeful? If not, what does verse 8 mean?

4. Is Hell forever?