2 Thessalonians 2
PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|The Man of Lawlessness||The Great Apostasy||The Day of the Lord||The Wicked One||The Coming of the Lord and the Prelude to it|
|Chosen for Salvation||Stand Fast||Thanksgiving and Exhortation||You are Chosen for Salvation||Encouragement to Persevere|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
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
CONTEXTUAL AND THEOLOGICAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-12
A. This passage is very difficult to interpret as the numerous theories throughout church history illustrate.
B. Biblical Background
1. As chapter 1 dealt with the Second Coming of Christ and judgment of unbelievers, chapter 2:1-12 deals with the coming and judgment of the Anti-Christ. This is the most detailed description of this person in the NT. Paul does not use the Johannine term "Anti-Christ" (I John 2:18,22; 4:3; II John 7) but called him "the man of lawlessness" in v. 3 and "the lawless one" in v. 8.
2. The general background of this passage lies in the OT belief in a final confrontation between the people of God and the people of the evil one (cf. Ps. 2; 48:4-8; Ezek. 38-39; Dan. 7; Zech. 14). This conflict became personalized into individual leaders of both camps: God's Messiah and the Anti-Messiah (cf. Gen. 3:15; Daniel 7; 9:23-27).
3. The related passages in the NT are Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 17; 21; 1 Thessalonians 4-5; I John 2 and Revelation.
4. Three time elements are involved in v. 1-12.
a. current events
b. future events but preceding the Second Coming
c. future events concerning the Day of the Lord
C. It must be remembered that the whole subject of the return of Christ is presented in the Bible in a dialectical tension. On one hand, the imminent return of the Lord is balanced with several events which must happen first. One of these truths does not eliminate or contradict the other. Some examples of the predicted preliminary events would be:
1. the apostasy (cf. Matt. 24:1-13; I Tim. 4:1; II Tim. 3:1ff. and 2 Thess. 2:3ff)
2. the great tribulation (cf. Matt. 24:21-22, 29-31)
3. gospel preached to all nations (cf. Matt. 24:24)
4. revealing of Anti-Christ (cf. Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2; and Revelation 13)
5. salvation of the full number of Gentiles and Jews (cf. Rom. 11:11-36)
D. Many see this chapter as apocalyptic in genre. See Special Topic following.
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2:1-12
1Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8Then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of his coming; 9that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
2:1 "with regard to the coming" This is the Greek term parousia meaning "presence." The cultural background of the term was royal visits for which this word was regularly employed. Three words are used in the NT to describe the Second Coming.
1. parousia, cf. vv. 1,8; 1 Thess. 2:19
2. epiphaneia, cf. v. 8, a visible radiant coming
3. apocalypsis, cf. 1:6-7, meaning "an unveiling" for the purpose of revealing
The last word is also employed at the manifestation of the Anti-Christ in vv. 3,6,8.
"Second Coming" is not a biblical term. It was first used by Justin Martyr. See Special Topics: Jesus' Return at I Thess. 2:19 and NT Terms for Christ's Return at 1 Thess. 3:13.
▣ "our gathering together to Him" This is a reference to the "rapture" of 1 Thess. 4:13-18. From the context, one coming is intended (cf. Matt. 24:27,31; 25:31ff.; Mark 13:27), not two. Verse 3 speaks both of the saints experiencing tribulation and of the revelation of the Anti-Christ. These two verses, 1 and 3, contradict the view of a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial secret rapture of believers.
Usually Matt. 24:32-44 (cf. Luke 17:22-37) is used as support for a secret rapture of believers while the unredeemed are left. However, in context (Noah's day), the unredeemed are taken to be judged. In Matt. 24:39, "took them all away" describes those destroyed in the flood (cf. vv. 37-38).
The real theological purpose of some theologians for a secret rapture distinct from a later, visible return of Jesus is to remove the tension between the imminent return of Jesus and the necessity that some prophesied events must occur before the return and in the case of dispensational pre-millennialism to remove the church from earth so that the OT prophecies may be literally fulfilled to national Israel, which is surprising in light of 1 Thess. 2:13-16.
NASB"not be quickly shaken from your composure"
NKJV"not to be soon shaken in mind"
NRSV"not to be quickly shaken in mind"
TEV"do not be so easily confused in your thinking"
NJB"please do not get excited too soon"
This is an aorist passive infinitive which speaks of a mental confusion and anxiety caused by an outside agent, here a spirit, or a message. This word literally could describe an earthquake or the coming of God or the Spirit (cf. Heb. 12:26-28). Figuratively it refers to a mental state of wavering loyalty (cf. LXX of Ps. 15:8 and Acts 2:25).
"Quickly" implies (1) Paul's surprise that so soon after he talked to them about these things that so much confusion, fear, and speculation had occurred or (2) their ready acceptance of another person's opinion on this subject.
▣ "or be disturbed" This is a present passive infinitive which speaks of a continuing occurrence by an outside agent, here a spirit or message. If the first term in v. 2 refers to their thinking process, this rare term refers to their feelings. This term is found only in eschatological contexts (cf. Matt. 24:6; Mark 13:7).
NASB"either by a spirit or"
NKJV, NRSV"either by spirit or"
TEV"by the claim. . .Perhaps this was said by someone prophesying"
NJB"by any prediction or"
Paul lists three things (using metē three times) which should not disturb the Thessalonian believers (i.e., "a spirit," "a message," and "a letter"). The first is the term "a spirit" (pneumatos) used in the sense of a prophet's message or another supernatural revelation (cf. I John 4:1, which also relates pneuma with the anti-Christ).
NASB"or a message"
NKJV, NRSV"or by word"
TEV"or by someone preaching"
This term (logos) could be rendered "by means of someone's personal interpretation" or "by means of someone's speech."
NASB"or a letter as if from us"
NKJV"or by letter, as if from us"
NRSV"or by letter, as though from us"
TEV"Or it may have been said that we wrote this in a letter"
NJB"or any letter claiming to come from us"
Paul began to personally autograph his letters to insure their genuineness (cf. 3:17). This could refer to someone's false interpretation of 1 Thessalonians or Paul's preaching at Thessalonica.
▣ "to the effect that the day of the Lord has come" This is a perfect active indicative, i.e., "The day of the Lord had come." This whole theological issue about eschatology was the major problem Paul was trying to clear up. The remainder of vv. 3-12 is an explanation as to why this statement cannot be true (cf. Matt. 24:23,26). The events that accompany the Second Coming had not yet begun (see Intro. to this chapter). For full discussion on "the Day of the Lord" see note at I Thess. 5:2.
NASB"Let no one in any way deceive you"
NKJV"Let no one deceive you by any means"
NRSV"Let no one deceive you in any way"
TEV"Do not let anyone fool you in any way"
NJB"Never let anyone deceive you in this way"
This is a strong double negative with an aorist active subjunctive + tis, implying a personal agency. Apparently purposeful deception was occurring.
▣ "for it will not come unless" This is a third class conditional sentence. Some events must happen first (cf. Introduction to this chapter, section C). This Second Coming was not immanent. In this context, two events are mentioned: (1) the great apostasy and (2) the revealing of "the man of sin."
NASB"the apostasy comes first"
NKJV"the falling away comes first"
NRSV"the rebellion comes first"
TEV"the final Rebellion takes place"
NJB"the Great Revolt has taken place"
This compound term apo + histēmi, literally means "to stand away from" (see Special Topic: Apostasy at Gal. 5:4). It can be used in a negative sense (rebellion) or a positive sense (away from sin, cf. II Tim. 2:19). This word was used in Greek literature (Plutarch and Acts 5:37) of political or military rebellion, but in the Septuagint (cf. Josh. 22:22) and Apocrypha, it often refers to spiritual rebellion. Who is rebelling is uncertain, but they are rejecting God and even trying to replace Him. It could be the pagans, the Jews, or part of the visible church (cf. Matt. 24:3-12; I Tim. 4:1; II Tim. 3:1,8,13; I John 2:18-19).
NASB"the man of lawlessness is revealed"
NKJV"the man of sin is revealed"
NRSV"the lawless one is revealed"
TEV"the Wicked One appears"
NJB"the Rebel. . .has appeared"
There is a Greek manuscript problem here. "Lawlessness" is found in the Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, the Coptic and Armenean translations, and the Greek texts used by Origen and Marcion, according to Tertullian, while "sin" is found in manuscripts A, D, F, G. K, L, P, and the Vulgate and Syriac translations and was known by most early church fathers. "Lawlessness" (anomias) is rare in Paul's writings (cf. Rom. 4:7; 6:19; Titus 2:14) and scribes may have substituted the more familiar term "sin" (hamartias). The term "lawlessness" is also used in vv. 7 and 8. The UBS4 rates "lawlessness" as "almost certain" (B).
Satan is not intended as in v. 9, but his yielded servant, his incarnation (a parody of Christ, cf. Rev. 13:1-8). Paul never used the term "Anti-Christ," but I John 2:18; 4:3; and II John 7 (written after Paul's death) refer to the same person. In I John "sin" and "lawlessness" are equated (cf. I John 3:4).
It is possible that Paul's "man of lawlessness" is related to the Jewish apocalyptic personification of "the worthless one" (belial) into a false Messiah, a Satanically inspired world leader. The term may be used in this sense in
1. Deut. 13:13, one who leads others away from YHWH to false gods
2. I Sam. 2:12, one who does not know YHWH
3. Nahum 1:15, personified evil
4. Book of Jubilees 1:20, personified spirit
5. Ascension of Isaiah, 4:18
The verb is an aorist passive subjunctive. The passive voice implies an outside agent. God, not Satan, is in control of history. In God's time (cf. 2:6) this parody of Christ, this incarnated evil, this servant of Satan will be allowed to manifest himself in history (the term "reveal" was used for Christ's revelation in 1:7).
The subjunctive mood does not imply that it may not occur, but confirms the ambiguous, but future, time of the revelation (cf. vv. 6,8).
Notice the phrases that describe this end-time person.
1. the man of lawlessness
2. the son of destruction
3. who opposes
4. who exalts himself
5. so that he takes his seat in the temple of God
6. displaying himself as God
This person not only opposes God, but tries to replace Him! The preposition "anti" originally meant "in the place of" and later came to mean "against." Both of these connotations fit this man of lawlessness. He wants power, control, and worship. The essence of the Fall, human and angelic independence, is personified (cf. Dan. 11:3,16,36).
In so many ways these descriptions characterize kings and potentates. A good example is Nero!
NASB"the son of destruction"
NKJV"the son of perdition"
NRSV"the one destined for destruction"
TEV"who is destined to hell"
NJB"the Lost One"
This Hebraic idiom literally translates "the son of perdition." It was used of Judas Iscariot in John 17:12. This eschatological person, like Judas, will be spiritually lost and doomed to eternal punishment although deeply involved in religion (cf. v. 4).
NASB"who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship"
NKJV"who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped"
NRSV"He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship"
TEV"He will oppose everything which men worship and everything which men consider divine"
NJB"This is the Enemy, the one who claims to be so much greater than all that men call ‘god,' so much greater than anything that is worshiped"
These are two present middle participles. What is represented here is an evil counterfeit and parody of Christ seeking glory and worship (cf. Isa. 14:13-14; Ezek. 28:2; Dan. 7:25; 8:9-14; 9:27; 11:36-37; Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14; Revelation 13).
▣ "exalts himself" This is the Greek compound huperairomai. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at Gal. 1:13.
▣ "so that he takes his seat in the temple of God" This phrase is often used by those who believe that all the eschatological events mentioned by Jesus (cf. Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 17,21) or John (cf. I John 2; Rev) are future events. If so, this seems to imply a rebuilt Jewish Temple, possibly along the lines of Ezekiel 40-48.
Other interpreters believe that these revealed eschatological events were "soon" to take place and, therefore, must refer to historical events of the first century Mediterranean world.
1. Caligula putting a statue of himself in the Temple in Jerusalem
2. the fall of Jerusalem to Titus in a.d. 70
3. Nero's and Domitian's reigns of terror and persecution of believers
Others of us see these eschatological events as referring to both past first-century events and future events. The OT prophets often took the events of their day and projected them into a future "Day of the Lord" setting. In this way the NT has a message to its own day and every succeeding period of history. We must take seriously the historical setting of the original author, but also the surprising 2000 year delay of the Second Coming.
This very specific and personal passage suggests a future personal historical fulfillment. Yet this text is also ambiguous. Notably this kind of language (i.e., "abomination of desolation," Daniel's name for this sacrilege) fits the Seleucid (Antiochus Epiphanes IV) and Roman (Titus) invasions of Jerusalem during which pagan gods were enthroned in the Temple area. This end-time figure also resembles the pride and arrogance of the kings of Babylon (Isa. 14) and Tyre (Ezek. 28), which possibly are types of Satanic apostasy.
This Greek term for "temple" (naos) was used for the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple, though no seat was in it. The term was also employed for pagan temples where deities were enthroned. This may imply that the Jewish temple must be physically rebuilt (cf. Dan. 9:24-27), possibly following Ezekiel 40-48, but not necessarily. Remember the Jewish temple had no place to sit. It was only a Greek temple (i.e., Zeus') which had a throne. If literal this phrase could not refer to a Jewish place of worship.
Chrysostom interpreted "a temple" as a common Pauline metaphor for the Church (cf. I Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). This view sees the Anti-Christ as manifesting himself in the visible church.
▣ "displaying himself as being God" The lawless one actually claims deity. He is a parody of Christ, he is Satan incarnated.
In the Revelation of John there is a Satanic trinity (beast from the sea, beast from the land, which is the false prophet, and Satan). The beast from the sea is a parody of Christ, i.e.,
1. has a fatal wound but is alive, cf. Rev. 13:3,14
2. title "who is like the beast" reflects YHWH's description in Isa. 40:18-22; 43:11; 44:6,8,9-20; 45:6
3. performed great signs cf. Rev. 13:13
4. gives an identifying mark to his followers, cf. Rev. 13:16, like God's mark on Christ's followers, cf. Rev. 7:3
2:5 "I was telling you these things" This is an imperfect tense signifying that these believers had repeatedly heard preaching or teaching about this subject. They had information about this subject that modern readers do not have (cf. v. 5, "do you not remember" and v. 6, "you know.") Therefore, all modern interpretations, to some extent, are incomplete and suppositional. Dogmatism must be avoided though careful exegesis is helpful. It is uncertain if this phrase is referring to the information given in vv. 1-5 or vv. 6-12.
2:6 "you know" This implies that (1) these believers knew who/what Paul was referring to or (2) they were currently experiencing the power/person in their lives.
NASB"what restrains him now"
NKJV"what is restraining"
NRSV"what is now restraining him"
TEV"there is something that keeps this from happening now"
NJB"what is still holding him back"
This verb can mean
1. "hold back" (cf. Luke 4:24; Philem. 13)
2. "hold fast" (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21; Luke 8:15)
3. "hold away" (no biblical example)
The context favors "hold back" or "restrains." The real question is: who or what is this restrainer? An interesting grammatical change occurs from the neuter in vv. 6 & 7 to the masculine in vv. 7 & 8. This implies an influence capable of personification. Because of this, at least three interpretations are plausible.
1. law vs. anarchy, personified in the Roman emperor
2. angelic authority, personified in a specific angel(s), cf. Rev. 7:1-3
3. God, in the person of His Spirit or the Spirit's empowering the preaching of the gospel
The first theory is very old and pervasive, first stated by Tertullian. It fits the contextual criteria that the Thessalonian Christians would have understood. Paul also spoke of his experiences with and the benefit of law (cf. Rom. 13:1ff; Acts 17-18). The second theory is closely related. It uses Daniel 10 as evidence for angelic control and authority over nations and their law systems. The third theory is of a more recent vintage. It has much to commend it but is also very presuppositional. This is employed mostly by particular dispensationalists to support a secret rapture.
The spirit of the Anti-Christ has always been in the world (cf. I John 2:18; 4:3; II John 7), but one day he will be ultimately personified. Satan does not know God's plan and possibly has evil people ready in every age. This restraining force is ultimately supernatural and under God's control and plan (cf. vv. 6b-7).
▣ "so that in his time he will be revealed" The person/power referred to is apparently being restrained by God. At the appointed time in the future, he will be allowed to manifest himself.
2:7 "the mystery" God has a unified purpose for mankind's redemption that even preceded the fall (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 17:31; Luke 22:22). Hints of this plan are revealed in the OT (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6; and the universal passages in the prophets). However the full agenda was not clear. With the coming of Jesus and the Spirit it begins to become more obvious. Paul used the term "mystery" to describe this total redemptive plan (cf. I Cor. 4:1; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3; I Tim. 3:9). However, he used it in several different senses.
1. A partial hardening of Israel to allow Gentiles to be included . This influx of Gentiles will work as a mechanism for Jews to accept Jesus as the Christ of prophecy (cf. Rom. 11:25-32).
2. The gospel was made known to the nations, which are all included in Christ and through Christ (cf. Rom. 16:25-27; Col. 2:2).
3. Believers' new bodies at the Second Coming (cf. I Cor. 15:5-57; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
4. The summing up of all things in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:8-11).
5. The Gentiles and Jews are fellow-heirs (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).
6. Intimacy of the relationship between Christ and the Church described in marriage terms (cf. Eph. 5:22-33).
7. Gentiles included in the covenant people and indwelt by the Spirit of Christ so as to produce Christlike maturity, that is, restore the marred image of God in fallen humanity (cf. Col. 1:26-28).
8. The end-time Anti-Christ (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-11).
9. Early Christian creed or hymn (cf. I Tim. 3:16).
This term may also be used in the sense that God has a "mystery plan" for the future, so too, Satan has a "mystery plan." These verses reveal how the personification of evil will mimic Christ.
▣ "of lawlessness is already at work" This is a present middle indicative. It is a concept also revealed in I John (cf. I John 2:18-29; 4:3). This compound form of the term "work" (energeō) is used almost exclusively of supernatural agencies (cf. I Cor. 12:6,11; II Cor. 4:12; Gal. 2:8; 3:5; Eph. 1:11,20; 2:2; 3:7; 4:16; Phil. 2:13; 3:21; Col. 1:29; I Thess. 2:13; 2 Thess. 2:9; I Timothy 2:12). This spiritual rebellion has been occurring since the fall. The rebellion will one day be personified. Currently God is restraining this influence. The Scriptures project an end-time confrontation between personal evil and God's Messiah (cf. Psalm 2).
NASB"only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way"
NKJV"only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way"
NRSV"but only until the one who now restrains it is removed"
TEV"until the one who holds it back is taken out of the way"
NJB"and the one who is holding it back has first to be removed"
This is a present active participle with an aorist middle (deponent) subjunctive. God (or His agent) is still continuing to restrain, but sometime in the future this restraining influence will be removed. For the theories about the identity of "the one restraining," see v. 6. Who or whatever it is, God, not the lawless one, is in control of history.
2:8 "Then that lawless one will be revealed" The time element is the question. The text implies immediately after God removes the restraining power. The following verses detail his activity (cf. Dan. 7:13; 8:29; 9:24-27).
NASB"whom the Lord will slay"
NKJV"whom the Lord will consume"
NRSV"whom the Lord Jesus will destroy"
TEV"the Lord Jesus will kill him"
NJB"The Lord will kill him"
There are two Greek manuscript problems in this verse. The first is the name "Lord" or "Lord Jesus." The single title is in manuscripts B, Dc, and K. The double title is in manuscripts א, A, D*, G, P and the Vulgate, Syrian, and Coptic translations.
The second problem is the verb. "Destroy" is in manuscripts א , A, D*, G, and P as well as the Vulgate, Syrian and Coptic translations. Paul was possibly alluding to Isa. 11:4, where this same verb (slay) occurs in the Septuagint. The unusual term "consume" is found in manuscripts F and G and a variant form in Dc and K. The Second Coming will end this period of rebellion.
▣ "with the breath of His mouth" The OT background for this is Job 4:9; 15:30 or Isa. 11:4; 30:28,33. The NT usage is Rev. 2:16; 9:15. The Hebrew and Greek terms can refer to both, wind, breath, or spirit as John 3:8 shows, but here the context demands "breath." This may refer to (1) the power of His words (John Calvin) or (2) the power of the spoken word in the OT (cf. Genesis 1; Isa. 55:11).
NASB"bring to an end"
NJB"will annihilate him"
This is a very popular word for Paul. He used it over 27 times. This phrase means "to make inoperative" not "to eliminate" or "to destroy" (cf. Rom. 3:3; 6:6). See Special Topic: To Make Null and Void (Kartargeō ) at Gal. 3:17.
TEV"his glorious appearing"
NJB"his glorious appearance"
This term has many possible translations: "brightness," "radiance," "splendor," "glory." This is strong affirmation of a visible manifestation of Christ's physical return to earth (cf. I Tim. 6:14; II Tim. 1:10; 4:1,8; Titus 2:11,13; 3:4). The English "epiphany" is a transliteration of this Greek term. See note at 2:1. See Special Topic on Christ's Return at 1 Thess. 3:13.
▣ "of His coming" This is the Greek term parousia which means "presence." In its day it referred to a royal visit. It even came to be used in Greek literature of the coming of a god. It is used of Jesus in vv. 1 and 8, but of Satan's pawn in v. 9. See SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS' RETURN at 1 Thess. 2:19.
2:9 "with the activity of Satan" The lawless one is empowered and directed by Satan (see SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL at 1 Thess. 2:18. cf. Rev. 13:2). Since the time of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the Anti-Christ has been seen as an ape or imitator of Christ. Notice in this context how much like Christ this one is: "revealed" or "unveiled," vv. 3,6,8; "coming," v. 9; "signs" v. 9; "he will have a committed following," vv. 10,12.
NASB"with all power and signs and false wonders"
NKJV, NRSV"with all power, signs, and lying wonders"
TEV"with the power of Satan and perform all kinds of miracles and false signs and wonders"
NJB"there will be all kinds of miracles and a deceptive show of signs and portents"
Miracles are not automatically a sign of God (cf. Exod. 7:11-12,22; Deut. 13:1-5; Matt. 7:21-23; 24:24; Mark 13:22; Revelation 13). Satan counterfeits everything to trick and confuse the children of Adam. Verse 9 seems to precede verse 8 chronologically. Also, verses 9-10 may involve a considerable time.
2:10 "with all the deception of wickedness" Satan tricks unbelievers (cf. Matt. 13:19; II Cor. 4:4) as well as believers (Eph. 4:14) if they remain spiritually immature.
▣ "they did not receive the love of the truth" This is not in the abstract sense, but a reference to
1. the person and work of Jesus, cf. John 14:6
2. the Spirit, cf. John 14:17; 15:16; 16:13
3. the message about Jesus, cf. John 17:17
"Receive" is used in 1 Thess. 1:6 and 2:13 in the sense of personally welcome as a guest. These unbelievers refused to believe the gospel and welcome Jesus. See Special Topic: Truth at Gal. 2:5.
▣ "so as to be saved" In the OT this term meant "physical deliverance" (cf. James 5:15). However, in the NT it takes on spiritual/eternal significance.
NASB"For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence"
NKJV"And for this reason God will send them strong delusion"
NRSV"For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion"
TEV"For this reason God sends the power of error to work in them"
NJB"The reason why God is sending a power to delude them"
This is a present active indicative used as a future. The major truth here is that God is in control of all things, even Satan (cf. Job 1-2; Zech 3). This sending is either: (1) God's actively sending judgment on them who reject the truth (cf. Rom. 11:7-10) or (2) God's passively allowing the consequences of their unbelief to become manifested in their lives (cf. Ps. 81:12; Hos. 4:17; Rom. 1:24, 26, and 28). This ambiguity exists also in the OT account of Pharaoh, where it is said, Pharaoh hardened his own heart (cf. Exod. 7:14; 8:15, 32), and also God hardened his heart (Exod. 4:21; 7:3,13; 9:12,35; 10:1,20,27; 14:4,8).
The plural pronouns refer to the wicked men of v. 10.
NASB"so that they will believe"
NKJV"that they should believe"
NRSV"leading them to believe"
TEV"so that they believe"
NJB"and make them believe"
The human who refuses Christ is rejected by God (cf. Hos. 5:6c; John 3:17-21). This is not double predestination, but the consequences of active unbelief (cf. I Kings 22:19-23).
TEV"what is false"
NJB"what is untrue"
This is literally "the lie" (cf. John 8:44; Rom. 1:25). It is in contrast to "the truth" of verse 10. In I John "the liar " is the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (cf. 2:22). This liar is called the "antichrist."
NASB"in order that they all may be judged"
NKJV"that they all may be condemned"
NRSV"so that all. . .will be condemned"
TEV"The result is that all. . .will be condemned"
NJB"to condemn all"
The KJV translated this as "damned." This term means "to be fairly judged" (as did "damned " in a.d. 1611).
▣ "but took pleasure in wickedness" They were not only cold to the truth but warm to evil (cf. Heb. 11:25).
CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 13-17
A. This context is a prayer to God for His initiating and electing grace (opposite of 2:11) in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians. As 1:3-4 is a prayer of thanksgiving for the believers, this is a prayer for God's continuing activity in their lives.
B. In many ways the close of chapter 2 is similar to the close of chapter 1.
C. Verses 13ff are in obvious contrast to the doom of the unbelievers in verses 11-12.
D. Three thought units appear in this section:
1. Verses 13-14, the believer and sanctification
2. Verse 15, the believer's perseverance
3. Verses 16-17, the believer's encouragement and hope issues in "good things"
(in each section God's initiating grace is balanced by mankind's appropriate response)
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2:13-15
13But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
2:13 "we should always give thanks to God" This same truth is expressed in 5:18. See Special Topic: Paul's Praise, Prayer, and Thanksgiving at Gal. 6:18.
▣ "God. . .Lord. . .Spirit" Paul often alluded to the Trinity (cf. Rom. 1:4-5; 5:1,5; 8:1-4,8-10; I Cor. 12:4-6; II Cor. 1:21; 13:14; Gal. 4:4-6; Eph. 1:3-14,17; 2:18; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; I Thess. 1:2-5; Titus 3:4-6). It is also assumed by other NT authors (cf. Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; John 14:26; Acts 2:32-33,38-39; I Pet. 1:2 and Jude 20-21). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Gal. 4:4.
▣ "brethren beloved by the Lord" "Beloved" is the perfect passive participle form of agapaō. This implies election (cf. Rom. 1:7; Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4). The wonderful Messianic title "My Beloved" (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5) has now become a designation for His followers. They are beloved because they love the truth (cf. 2:10).
NASB"because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation"
NKJV"because God from the beginning chose you for salvation"
NRSV"because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation"
TEV"For God chose you as the first to be saved"
NJB"because God chose you from the beginning to be saved"
This is an aorist middle indicative meaning God Himself has chosen believers (cf. Eph. 1:4). This is the theological opposite of 2:11. The doctrine of election is (1) a call to holiness (Eph. 1:4), not favored standing; (2) not against the lost, but for the saved. It is mentioned several times by Paul in the NT (cf. Rom. 9; I Cor. 7:7; Eph. 1:4-13; II Tim. 1:9). It is alluded to in 1 Thess. 2:12; and 5:9. God's control of salvation and history is the focus of this context. Evil exists in the spiritual and physical realms, but there is no dualism. Although believers cannot fully understand the mystery of election, they have confidence that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is in complete and loving control of all things.
Election is a wonderful doctrine. However, it is not a call to favoritism, but a call to be a channel, a tool, or a means of other's redemption. In the OT the term was used primarily for service; in the NT it is used primarily for salvation which issues in service. The Bible never reconciles the seeming contradiction between God's sovereignty and mankind's free will, but affirms them both! Two good example of the biblical tension are Romans 9 on God's sovereign choice and Romans 10 on mankind's necessary response (cf. 10:11,13).
The key to this theological tension may be found in Eph. 1:4. Jesus is God's elect man and all are potentially elect in Him (Karl Barth). Jesus is God's "yes " to fallen man's need (Karl Barth). Ephesians 1:4 also helps clarify the issue by asserting that the goal of predestination is not heaven, but holiness (Christlikeness). John 15:16 says Jesus chose us to bear fruit! We are often attracted to the benefits of the gospel and ignore the responsibilities! God's call (election) is for time as well as eternity.
Doctrines come in relation to other truths, not as single, unrelated truths. A good analogy would be a constellation versus a single star. God presents truth in eastern, not western, genres. We must not remove the tension caused by dialectical (paradoxical) pairs.
The theological concept of "covenant " unites the sovereignty of God (who always takes the initiative and sets the agenda) with a mandatory initial and continuing repentant faith response from man. Be careful of proof-texting one side of the paradox and depreciating the other! Be careful of asserting only your favorite doctrine or system of theology.
The phrase "from the beginning" is from the Greek manuscripts א , D, K, and L and the Peshitta translation (cf. NEB). But manuscripts B, F, G, and P, the Vulgate, and the Harclean Syriac translations have "first fruits" (cf. NIV, NAB). The problem is that the phrase, "from the beginning," is not used by Paul elsewhere. A. T. Robertson thinks it was the original wording, cf. Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. IV, p. 54 and the UBS4 gives it a "B" rating (almost certain). He uses, "from the ages," (cf. Col. 1:26) or "before the age," (cf. I Cor. 2:7). However, Paul never used the concept of "first fruits" to illustrate election. See Appendix Two on the Principles of Textual Criticism.
▣ "through sanctification by the Spirit" Two aspects of the concept of holiness present themselves: (1) initial holiness is positional in Christ and (2) progressive holiness is growth toward Christlikeness (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:19). The Spirit woos us to Christ, convicts us of sin and convinces us of the truth of the gospel, baptizes us into Christ, and forms Christ in us (cf. John 16:8-16). See Special Topic on Sanctification at 1 Thess. 4:3.
▣ "and faith in the truth" "Truth" in v. 13 is parallel to "gospel" in v. 14.
2:14 "It was for this He called you" This is another emphasis on election (cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; 5:9,24). This small, persecuted, discouraged group of believers was the chosen people of God. They were called to holiness (cf. Eph. 1:4), to Christlikeness (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:9).
▣ "through our gospel" The gospel is both a message to be believed and a person to be received. It is the mechanism of God's blessing flowing to fallen man. There is no other channel.
▣ "that you may gain the glory of our Lord" This is a restatement of 1:12. "Glory" is difficult to define. It is used many different ways in the OT. In this context it reflects the believers' call from the Father to be sanctified by the Spirit through the work of Christ (cf. Eph. 1:4). Believers are to be like Christ and at the Second Coming they will share His glory (cf. I John 3:2).
See fuller note at 1:9 and SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at Gal. 1:5.
▣ "Lord" The covenant name for God in the OT is YHWH. This verb may be alternately rendered "I will be what I cause to be" or "I am what I am." The Jews were reluctant to pronounce this name aloud when they read the Scriptures, in fear of taking God's name in vain (cf. Exod. 20:7). Therefore, they substituted the Hebrew word adon, which meant "owner, husband, master, or lord." Our English Bible translates YHWH in all capitals, Lord. When the NT authors use this term for Jesus, it was one of their ways to identify Him with the God of the OT. See Special Topic: The Names for Deity at 1 Thess. 1:9.
▣ "Jesus" When used by itself this term was the NT author's way to refer to the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth.
▣ "Christ" This is a transliteration of the Hebrew term for "Messiah" which is literally "an anointed one." In the OT three different types of offices were anointed: prophets, priests, and kings. It was a symbol of God's calling and equipping for special service. Jesus fulfills all three OT offices (cf. Heb. 1:2-3).
2:15 "brethren" This shows a transition to a summary statement.
▣ "stand firm" This is the first of two present active imperatives. Paul often uses this metaphor for perseverance (cf. I Thess. 3:8; I Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:11,13). This emphasizes the need for believers to persevere in the face of physical and mental persecution and false teaching. In I Cor. 15:1 this term is used for our position in Christ. This brings a balance to the above emphasis on election. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSEVERANCE at Gal. 5:4.
▣ "hold to" This is another present active imperative. Believers are to continue to cling to the truths that Paul preached (cf. I Cor. 11:2). This is the theological balance to election.
▣ "the traditions" This term (pardosis) is used in several senses:
1. in I Cor. 11:2,23 for gospel truths
2. in Matt. 15:6; 23:1ff.; Mark 7:8; Gal. 1:14 of Jewish traditions
3. in Col. 2:6-8 of gnostic speculations
4. Roman Catholics use this verse as a biblical proof-text for Scripture and tradition being equal in authority
However, in this context it refers to Apostolic truth either spoken or written (cf. 3:6).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2:16-17
16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
2:16-17 This is a prayer, like 1:2 and 3:16.
2:16 "our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us" In the Greek text there are two subjects but with an intensive singular pronoun, "himself" and two singular aorist participles (loved and given). Also notice that Jesus is mentioned first. This shows the unity and equality of the subjects (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1,2; 3:11). The Son and the Father have given us eternal comfort and good hope. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHER at 1 Thess. 1:1.
NASB, NRSV"eternal comfort"
The believers' comfort and hope are based on the grace of God seen and enacted through Christ. Notice the pastoral context of encouragement just like 1 Thess. 4:18. Paul's insights about the Second Coming were not given to fill out our charts and theories, but to energize our daily Christlikeness (cf. I C or. 15:58).
▣ "good hope" This specific form is only used here in the NT. The term "hope " is often used in the NT in the sense of the Second Coming (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HOPE at Gal. 5:5). This is especially true in the Thessalonian letters which focused on this theological subject. "Good hope " only comes by God's grace.
2:17 Jesus Christ and God the Father have loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by means of Their grace, which is designed to
1. comfort our hearts
2. strengthen our hearts for the purpose of
a. every good work
b. every good word
This is the same term in Greek as "comfort" in v. 17. These two verses form one sentence in Greek. Notice that believers are encouraged to do and say "good things." We are not saved by doing good things but we are saved for doing and saying good things. Our relationship with Christ must lead to Christlikeness. We were called unto good works (cf. Eph. 1:4; 2:10). The goal of every believer is not only heaven when we die but Christlikeness now. These good works and sayings are to help us as believers reach those who do not know our Savior.
▣ "hearts" See Special Topic at Gal. 4:6.
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. Why is the subject of the Second Coming so debated in the Church?
2. Is the Second Coming imminent or must certain events occur first?
3. Does God cause people not to believe?
4. What is "the lie"?
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