The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Thessalonians

1 2 3

1 Thessalonians 2

2Th 2:1

Vv 1-12: The Man of Sin destroyed by Christ at his coming.

Vv 1,2: Warning against false claims.

CONCERNING THE COMING: Not "by the coming" (as in AV). Paul refers to the subject at hand, which he has been discussing in 2Th 1:5-12. "Coming" = "parousia", a coming alongside, a visible presence (See Lesson, "Parousia").

AND OUR BEING GATHERED TO HIM: "Epi-sunagoge": "Our assembling" (RSV). The same word occurs as a noun in Heb 10:25, having to do with the assembling together of the church for the communion service. But this reference is "about" the return of Christ -- as the previous phrase and the whole context states: "assembly", then, must be the great assembly: the final gathering of believers (living and dead) (Mat 23:37; Mark 13:27; Luke 13:34; 1Th 4:17) to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

WE ASK YOU, BROTHERS: This is the apostle's introduction to an exhortation or request of great importance (cp 1Th 4:1; 5:12; Phi 4:3).

2Th 2:2

NOT TO BECOME EASILY UNSETTLED: "Easily" ("tacheos") actually means "quickly", or "hastily", "Unsettled" ("saleuo") = agitated, tossed, as by the action of strong wind or waves.

ALARMED: "Throemai": put in a tumult. This word is used in a similar sense with regard to the return of Christ in Mark 13:7 and Mat 24:6.

PROPHECY: This is, literally, "spirit", Gr "pneuma" -- here referring to the (supposed) "revelation" and teaching of a false prophet (cp 1Jo 4:1; 1Th 5:19,20; 1Co 14:12,32). They needed to "discern the spirits" and recognize the spurious (1Co 12:10).

REPORT: "Logos" -- a word-of-mouth communication, possibly purporting to come from Paul (cp his expression: "this we say unto you by the word of the Lord": 1Th 4:15).

OR LETTER SUPPOSED TO HAVE COME FROM US: The "supposed to have come from us" probably refers to all three forms of forged communication: spirit, report, and letter. Judaizers had resorted to publishing their own letters of commendation for the Corinthian ecclesia (2Co 3:1); this problem was acknowledged at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15:24). In view of the prevalent forgeries, and in order positively to prove his own authorship, Paul sent his letters by the hand of accredited representatives (2Co 2:3,4,13; 7:6-8; 8:16-24). Furthermore, he sometimes signed his letters (2Th 3:17; Col 4;18; 1Co 16:21); at least once, he wrote the whole letter himself (Gal 6:11).

SAYING THAT THE DAY OF THE LORD HAS ALREADY COME: The "day of the Lord" or "of Christ" is Paul's common expression of reference to the "parousia" or visible return of Christ (1Th 1:10; 5:2). Whereas the KJV has "at hand", the NIV is better: "has already come"; cp "has come" (RSV) or "is present" (RV). The expression is very strong in expressing suddenness or imminence: things present as distinguished from things to come (cp usage, Rom 8:38; 1Co 3:22; Gal 1:4; Heb 9:9).

It was not erroneous to teach, as Paul himself did, that Christ might soon come: Paul clearly believed himself that he might live to see that day (1Th 4:13-18), and he was no longer a young man. The error that was being foisted upon the Thessalonians was that the final events immediately preceding the return of Christ had already commenced.

2Th 2:3

Vv 3-9: The Man of sin revealed.

See Lesson, Man of sin.

See Lesson, Man of sin, first century.

See Lesson, Man of sin, Zec 5.

See Lesson, Man of sin = Beast of Revelation.

Vv 3-9: The parallels between the "Man of Sin" and the Serpent of Eden are many and obvious. How could it be otherwise when the "Man of Sin" is Scripturally defined as the "Seed of the Serpent?" "Like father, like son", certainly!":

2 Thessalonians 2
Genesis 3
Deceives believers (v 3); lying (v 9); deceit (v 10); strong delusion (v 11).
"The serpent beguiled me" (v 13).
The son of perdition -- or destruction (v 3).
"Thou art cursed" (v 14).
Opposes God (v 4).
"Hath God said...?" (v 1).
Exalts himself above God (v 4), as a "Satan" -- or adversary (v 9).
"For God doth know..." (v 5).
Sits in the Temple of God (v 4).
Antitype of serpent, sitting in Eden -- the place of God's sanctuary (v 24).
Manifested "in them that perish" (v 10) because...
"Unto dust shalt thou return" (v 19).
"...they received not the love of the Truth": (v 10).
Adam and Eve, given a command, disobeyed it.
"A lie" -- or "the lie" (v 11).
The foundation lie of all apostasy: "Ye shall not surely die" (v 3).

Proceeding through history with Bible in hand, we recognize that the "Man of Sin" apostasy has so many Scripturally-attested descriptions that we can scarcely fail to identify it. But perhaps the pre-eminent mark of the apostasy -- in all its faces -- is the great lie: "Ye shall not surely die!" Virtually every ecclesia of "Christendom" repeats, in one form or another, this original deception of its "father" the serpent.

The doctrine of the immortality of the "soul" -- borrowed from deluded pagans -- has become the cornerstone of apostasy. This doctrine alone effectively prevents its holders from perceiving the glorious, yet simple and reasonable truth of the gospel. This one doctrine, when given its logical (or illogical!) force, distorts almost every first principle. It is surely the great "delusion!"

DON'T LET ANYONE DECEIVE YOU: "Exapateo" = to greatly deceive. The influence of sin is deceitful (Rom 7:11; 1Co 3:18 -- sw). Jesus similarly warned his followers against misinformation as to the time of his appearing (Mat 24:5; Mark 13:5).

IN ANY WAY: That is, by claiming spirit-gift powers, by a word-of-mouth report, or by letter purporting to be from us (v 2).

FOR THAT DAY WILL NOT COME UNTIL THE REBELLION OCCURS: "That day will not come" does not have an exact parallel in the Greek text, but is added by the NIV translators (as it was by the KJV men) to give the sense of the text.

REBELLION: Gr "apostasia" -- a defection, rebellion, revolt, or apostasy. The sw is translated "forsake" in Acts 21:21, and the verb form "depart" in 1Ti 4:1. The presence of the definite article suggests as the correct translation "the apostasy" -- something which Paul had already discussed with the Thessalonians.

Gentiles who never knew God might be the grossest sinners, but they could never constitute the "apostasy." Only those who in some sense had been related to the worship of the true God could forsake or revolt from that faith, and thus become "apostates." (OT usage of "apostasia" in the LXX suggests a religious connotation also: Josh 22:22; 2Ch 29:19; 33:19; Jer 2:19). Paul elsewhere warns against such apostasy within the ecclesia: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29,30).

Later NT writers suggest such apostasy was truly increasing, even in the first century (2Ti 3:1-5; 4:3,4; 2Pe 2:1-22; 3:3-6; Jude 1:17,18; 1Jo 2:18,19; 2Jo 1:7-10; 3Jo 1:9,10).

THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS: This is a Hebrew idiom describing a predominant characteristic, as: "man of knowledge" (Pro 24:5) or "man of sorrows" (Isa 53:3). The predominant characteristic of this "man" is "lawlessness" or "sin"! The Gr manuscripts vary: some have "hamartia" ("sin") (as used by AV); others have "anomia" ("lawlessness"). There is, however, little difference between the two, since "sin is lawlessness" (1Jo 3:4, RSV).

The papacy has consistently claimed to be above the law -- being the supreme judge even of civil laws. While claiming to be the "true successors" to the apostles, the popes have, with very few exceptions, led lives of wickedness of the grossest character. The papacy has imposed grievous and unnecessary burdens on its deluded followers, and has dishonored God by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Jesus rightly accused first-century Judaism of the same thing -- Mat 15:9; Mark 7:7).

IS REVEALED: "Apokalupto" -- uncovered, unveiled. Just as the "man of righteousness", Jesus Christ himself, will one day be "revealed" or "apokalypsed" (2Th 1:7), so the "man of sin" must first be "apokalypsed." The similarity of expressions for each suggests that the one is the rival of the other -- hence, the "Anti-Christ": one appropriating to himself the honor and privilege due only to the true Messiah (1Jo 2:18). Paul's later words indicate this power of wickedness was already working in his day (2Th 2:7), but it had not yet attained the fullness of its power.

The two kinds of "apocalypses" (one of Christ, and the other of the counterfeit Christ, or antichrist, may be paralleled and contrasted:

2Th 1:
The Son of God
2Th 2:
The Man of Sin
Revealed from heaven (1:7).
Revealed in apostasy.
In the glory of his might (1:9).
In power (2:9) and wicked deception (2:9).
With the mighty angels (1:7).
With the activity of "Satan" (2:9).
In flaming fire (1:7).
Pretended signs and wonders (2:9); pleasure in unrighteousness (2:12).
Inflicting vengeance upon those who (a) do not know God, (b) do not obey the gospel, and (c) refuse to love the truth (1:8).
Opposes, exalts self (2:4); pretends to be a god, "taking his seat in the temple of God" (2:4).
To be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe (1:10).
To be slain by Christ's appearing and coming with the "breath of his mouth" (2:8).

THE MAN DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION: "The son of perdition" (AV): "Apoleia" = loss, destruction. This apostasy is the "father of sin" but also the "son of destruction"; its fate is sealed. Judas Iscariot, the first "apostate" from Christ, is called also "a son of perdition" (John 17:12). In the Revelation, or Apocalypse, the beast which carried the harlot goes at last "into perdition" (Rev 17:8).

2Th 2:4

HE WILL OPPOSE: "Antikeimai" = "to lie opposite to, to be set over against." The word is used of those who opposed Jesus (Luke 13:17), who opposed his people (Luke 21:45; 1Co 16:9; Phi 1:28; 1Ti 5:14), and who opposed true doctrine (1Ti 1:10). The Judaizers in the first century claimed to have the only way to salvation -- through circumcision and the law of Moses -- and they opposed and harassed and undercut all who taught the true gospel, especially Paul. Likewise, in later years the Roman Catholic apostasy claimed to be God's exclusive chosen "church", and opposed (even to torture and death) the "heretics" and "infidels" who dared differ publicly with it. After the invention of the printing press, the Catholics were the primary suppressors of all early Bible translations into the ordinary languages of Europe.

AND WILL EXALT HIMSELF: "Huperairo" = to lift above. The language echoes that describing the willful King Antiochus in Dan 11:36,37. The Roman system claims absolute religious supremacy, as borne out by numerous papal statements. It also claims, or at least has claimed when it was propitious to do so, absolute political prerogatives. Thus it has exalted itself above God in two ways.

OVER EVERYTHING THAT IS CALLED GOD OR IS WORSHIPED: "Worshiped" is the Gr "sebasma" (cp Acts 17:23) -- an object of veneration. That is, "above every so-called 'god' or object of worship" -- ie shrines, images, and relics. Roman Catholicism has, in fact, presided over a vast array of idols -- and incorporated them into its system and used them all for its own advancement.

When Catholicism has held absolute authority, no other object of worship -- true or false -- has been allowed. The pope himself is the greatest "object of worship": "His holiness", "the Holy Father", "the Bishop of Rome", "Vicar of Jesus Christ", etc. He has by decree claimed sovereignty over all mankind, both in religious and political spheres. And finally he has appropriated to himself the infallibility that belongs only to the God of Heaven!

"So that he as God" (KJV): These words are not in the Gr text and are deleted by RSV, NASB, NEB, and NIV. However, the last phrase of this verse says, essentially, the same thing anyway!

HE SETS HIMSELF UP IN GOD'S TEMPLE: He takes his seat, or establishes himself, in the "temple" of God. The Roman Emperor Caligula attempted to set up his own image in the Temple at Jerusalem, a gruesome blasphemy that was prevented only by his death about AD 40. It may well be that Paul had this incident still in his mind as he wrote these words: a foretaste of what would yet be.

"Naos" may signify the literal temple at Jerusalem (Mat 23:16), still very much in use when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. It was upon the necessity of continuing worship at this Temple that the first-century Judaizing element in the -- ecclesias made its stand. "Naos" (temple) may also signify the spiritual "temple" of believers -- the ecclesia itself (1Co 3:16,17; 2Co 6:16; Eph 2:21). The first-century apostasy, opposed strenuously by Paul, had set itself up as an integral part of the ecclesias.

In like fashion, the Roman Catholic apostasy, which had its beginnings in the church, came at last to enthrone itself in the most "beautiful" and "glorious" and elaborate of all "temples" ever built -- St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The Pope takes his seat in the "Temple of God" (a false claim, of course) when, gorgeously arrayed, he is carried on the shoulders of his cardinals, to the papal chair in St. Peter's. It is from this chair only, and in this temple only, that he may make "ex cathedra" infallible pronouncements as to the faith of his millions of followers.

PROCLAIMING HIMSELF TO BE GOD: "Apodeiknumi" = setting himself forth, a word in common use for the proclamation of a sovereign upon his accession, or official entry into office (Acts 2:22; 23:7). "Proclaiming himself to be God" (RSV): Taking his "seat" in the "temple" he will thus proclaim himself "God." The intended contrast is directly to the Lord God Himself, who sits enthroned upon the cherubim (Psa 80:1; 99:1). Other rulers have tried to appropriate to themselves the worship due only to the Deity (Eze 28:2; Acts 12:21-23), but this coming usurpation, Paul says, will be even more offensive.

2Th 2:5

DON'T YOU REMEMBER THAT WHEN I WAS WITH YOU I USED TO TELL YOU THESE THINGS?: Notice that here Paul uses "I" in contrast to his more customary "we" when addressing the Thessalonians. "I used to tell you", suggesting that the general theme of this chapter had been the subject of Paul's teaching to the Thessalonians more than once (cp expression, 1Th 5:1). In his first letter to them, Paul had referred to the persecuting power of the Jews even then active against their own countrymen (1Th 2:14-16); this power of evil he even called "Satan" (v 18) -- a significant link with the "man of sin" (2Th 2:9).

2Th 2:6

AND NOW YOU KNOW WHAT IS HOLDING HIM BACK: The Gr "katecho" signifies "to hold down" or "to hold fast": "is restraining" (RSV), "restraining" (NEB), or "restrains" (NASB). It is used of things (1Co 7:30; 2Co 6:10) and of people (Phm 1:3; Rom 7:6; Luke 4:42). An interesting parallel, or contrast, is Rom 1:18 -- where righteous men "restrain" the Truth. Paul, as the chief antagonist of the Judaizing influence in the ecclesias, was the restraining element as long as he was active. The paganism of the Roman Empire was, for many years, the restraining element that prevented the full religious and political development of the Roman Catholic apostasy. Paul himself had benefited at times from Roman intervention into Jewish affairs (Acts 17:6; 18:6; 21:32-39).

But, of course, in either case the true "restraint" was the Spirit of God -- ever active to ensure His interests are fulfilled in the world over which He bears ultimate authority (Dan 4:17,25).

SO THAT HE MAY BE REVEALED AT THE PROPER TIME: "Apokalupto" = "uncovered, unveiled" (as in 2Th 1:7). "In his time", or "in his season" (kairos), suggests that God has absolute control of the timetable for future events, even though men may not understand how and when God will act (1Th 5:2; Mat 24:36; Mark 13:32). No wicked person, nor group of wicked persons, nor wicked system, can overstep the bounds which God has appointed. God's sovereignty is dominant. Evil is strong, and will wax stronger in the last days; but the believer may take heart in the fact that God is always in control.

2Th 2:7

FOR THE SECRET POWER OF LAWLESSNESS IS ALREADY AT WORK: The Gr "musterion" means that which can never be known merely by the wisdom of men, but which is known only to the initiated (Mark 4:11; Rom 11:25; 16:25; 1Co 15:51; Eph 1:9; 3:3,4). "Iniquity" is "anomia", which signifies "lawlessness" (as RSV). This particular "lawlessness" is a "mystery", according to Paul, because it is masquerading as the very opposite of what it really is (that is, "the mystery of godliness" -- 1Ti 3:16), and therefore is deceiving many of the uninformed.

BUT THE ONE WHO NOW HOLDS IT BACK WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO TILL HE IS TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY: The KJV has "Only he who now LETTETH will LET, until he be taken out of the way", but this is an archaic, and now of course misleading, use of the word "let". The RSV is much better: "Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way."

The "what" that "restrains" in v 6 has now became "he" who "restrains." Obviously the true restraining influence is the Holy Spirit -- which operates either directly by inspiration (as in the case of Paul) or indirectly by providential arrangement. This would be the "what" of the previous verse.

The full flowering of the Roman Catholic apostasy was restrained or hindered by the power of pagan Rome, or specifically the power of the emperor -- although, undoubtedly, God's Spirit was providentially active there as well.

2Th 2:8

AND THEN THE LAWLESS ONE WILL BE REVEALED: Gr "anomos" = the lawless one. "Revealed" is "apokalupto" -- to be uncovered or unveiled. For the third time (cp vv 3,6), the "Man of Sin" is said to have his own "apocalypse", as though consciously to rival the coming "apocalypse" of Christ. He is more than the "enemy" of Christ; he is in fact the substitute, "pseudo", or "anti-Christ!"

WHOM THE LORD JESUS WILL OVERTHROW: Although the KJV has, simply, "the Lord", most mss read "the Lord Jesus". "Overthrow" = "katangesei", "slay" (RSV), "consume" (KJV). The word signifies to reduce to nothingness.

WITH THE BREATH OF HIS MOUTH: With his "breath" (RSV), or by his word (cp Psa 33:6,9). "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth" (Isa 11:4). "Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations" (Rev 19:15).

AND DESTROY BY THE SPLENDOR OF HIS COMING: "Epiphaneia'' has the root idea of splendor, and generally (four times out of five in the NT) refers to the second coming of Christ (1Ti 6:14; 2Ti 4:1,8; Tit 2:13). For "coming", see Lesson, "Parousia". The Thessalonians need not fear, no matter how eminent wicked men may become. Even the most outstanding of them will be far outshone, and summarily destroyed, by the Lord of these lowly believers when he appears.

2Th 2:9

THE COMING OF THE LAWLESS ONE WILL BE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE WORK OF SATAN: For "coming", see Lesson, "Parousia". What is "the work of Satan"? It is the work of an adversary. Paul uses the same language, when writing to the Corinthians, in describing Jewish adversaries who had assumed apostolic powers, disguising themselves as servants of righteousness (2Co 10:12-15). "To come with the work of Satan", therefore, is to disguise one's true character.

Likewise, the Roman Catholic "Church" claims to be the Bride of Christ, showing his love and glorifying God -- but all the while it is only a guise. The Catholic system is in reality the "Satan", or "Adversary", of all true religion -- claiming divine authority where it has none, persecuting believers of all other faiths, and actively suppressing the printing, distributing and reading of the Bible.

IN ALL KINDS OF COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES: A reference to papal claims and pronouncements. The history of the "Bishop of Rome" is one of continual grasping for greater authority and power and control over the lives of all his followers.

SIGNS AND WONDERS: Or, "pretended ('pseudo') signs and wonders" (RSV). Again, the Man of Sin is seen as striving to be the rival of the Man of Righteousness, and his apostles, who were truly revealed in signs and wonders (Acts 2:22,43; Gal 3:5; Heb 2:4). Jesus himself predicted such a parody of himself would arise (Mat 24:24; Mark 13:22). Some examples of this conscious deception: alleged miraculous cures, alleged miraculous appearances and revelations, wonder workers, exorcisms of "demons", and veneration of relics.

2Th 2:10

Vv 10-12: His followers deceived.

EVERY SORT OF EVIL THAT DECEIVES: "All wicked deception" (RSV). The Roman Catholic Church has forged numerous documents in an effort to bolster its power and authority. It has been guilty of blatant mistranslations, to justify its unscriptural practices -- such as masses, purgatory, and pilgrimages. It has even distorted the "Ten Commandments" so as to accommodate the worship of images.

The phrase belongs with the final phrase of v 9: The coming of the Man of Sin is attended by Satan-like activity, fraudulent signs and wonders and wicked deception.

THOSE WHO ARE PERISHING: "Apollumi" = to loose, to destroy. Here the verb is in the continuous tense: "them that are perishing." This is a typical phrase of Paul (1Co 1:18; 2Co 2:15; 4:3), intended to contrast with "those who are being saved." The followers of the Man of Sin will share his fate (cp v 8), since they share his character.

THEY PERISH BECAUSE THEY REFUSED TO LOVE THE TRUTH: They "gave the Truth no welcome", in contrast to the Thessalonians themselves, who received the word of God, and allowed it to work effectually in them (1Th 2:13). "Truth" here, as elsewhere in Paul's writings, is not to be thought of simply as an abstract moral quality; rather, it is intimately related to Jesus (Eph 4:21; John 14:6) and the gospel he preached.

AND SO BE SAVED: Knowledge of and obedience to the Truth of Christ's gospel are the divinely-provided means of salvation (1Ti 2:4; Heb 10:26; 1Pe 1:22). Those who do receive the love of the Truth are saved from the vengeance to be inflicted on those who do not know God (2Th 1:8), and from eternal destruction in the grave (v 9).

2Th 2:11

FOR THIS REASON GOD SENDS THEM A POWERFUL DELUSION: Literally, "a working (Gr 'energia') of error (Gr 'plane')." No longer would there be only an indifference toward the Truth, but now there would also be a divine, judicial influence toward error upon their hearts and minds. When men refuse to retain God in their knowledge, He may -- by His own deliberate action -- abandon them to their own reprobate minds (Rom 1:26,28). Of this abandonment in lawlessness Esau is one example (Heb 12:15-17). There are other similar examples, of the imposition of judgmental "blindness" (1Ki 22:23; Rom 11:8, citing Isa 29:10; cp 2Sa 24:1 with 1Ch 21:1; Exo 9:12).

SO THAT THEY WILL BELIEVE THE LIE: Note that it is, literally, "THE lie." In what is practically a parallel passage, Paul writes of those who exchanged the Truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25). The philosophy that essentially enthrones man as the center of the universe, and thereby displaces God from His rightful place, is to be considered the great lie -- and the root of all lies, errors, and deceptions. It is related to the first recorded lie, which was an attack on the character of God -- the lie of the serpent: "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen 3:4). Virtually all false religions perpetuate this precise lie in the erroneous teaching of the immortality of the soul.

2Th 2:12

AND SO THAT ALL WILL BE CONDEMNED WHO HAVE NOT BELIEVED THE TRUTH: Gr "krinos" = "judged." Each will be judged by God, but in another sense they have already judged themselves -- by knowingly rejecting the truth presented to them (cp John 3:18-20; 9:39-41).

BUT HAVE DELIGHTED IN WICKEDNESS: This contrasts with their attitude toward the Truth. There was no warmth in their attitude to the gospel, no welcome, no love, not even any belief. But they actively rejoiced in unrighteousness, finding pleasure therein. Again, compare this with Rom 1:32: "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but (also) have pleasure in them that do them."

It is in the nature of sin that, when persisted in, it ultimately deceives. Those who do not resist the impulses of sin, who are not mortified and repentant when they fail, soon find that they are unable to feel anything but pleasure in their sins. They have thus become "slaves" to sin -- the divinely imposed penalty that leads inexorably to condemnation. The downward process is not absolutely inevitable, but the man who has come at last to enjoy his own peculiar sin is standing on a very slippery slope.

2Th 2:13

Vv 13-17: Thanksgiving and encouragement.

Vv 13,14: Paul's thanksgiving.

WE OUGHT ALWAYS TO THANK GOD FOR YOU: In spite of the evident discouragement due to their misapprehensions (2Th 2:1-2), Paul reminds them again (as in 2Th 1:3), that he thinks highly of their profession of faith. We "owe it" (sw 2Th 1:3) ("opheilo") as money (Luke 7:41) -- we are under an obligation (Eph 5:28) to thank God for you.

BROTHERS LOVED BY THE LORD: Cp 1Th 1:4, where Paul speaks of the Thessalonians as "brethren beloved", being chosen (by "election" -- "ekloge") by God.

FROM THE BEGINNING GOD CHOSE YOU TO BE SAVED: The salvation of believers rests on the divine choice, not on human effort (cp 1Th 5:9).

An alternative reading (changing "ap arches" to "aparchen") produces the translations "God chose you as his firstfruits" (NIV mg) and "as the first converts" (RSV mg). The Thessalonians to whom Paul is writing are the "firstfruits" of his labors there (cp usage in 1Co 16:15; Rom 11:16; 16:5) -- implying that other converts would follow in due course. Or they were, in a more general sense, a part of all the "firstfruits" of Christ (cp James 1:18; Rev 14:4) -- who was himself in the very first instance, the "firstfruits" from the dead (1Co 15:20,23; Col 1:18).

THROUGH THE SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE SPIRIT: "In ('en') sanctification of spirit." There is no definite article before "pneuma." Therefore this phrase may be translated, as Moffatt does, "by the consecration of your spirit." The believers' "spirit", indeed his whole body, life, and spirit (1Th 5:23), is in process of sanctification now (cp 2Co 7:1) -- by the providence of God and the education of His Spirit-Word (cp 1Th 3:13; 4:7,8). Jesus himself tells us that the medium of sanctification is the Word of God (John 17:17). It is by this means that the salvation of the previous phrase is secured. (Compare the parallel phrase, and context, in 1Pe 1:2).

AND THROUGH BELIEF IN THE TRUTH: As in vv 10,12, "truth" is not simply an ethical quality, but the Truth of the gospel. Faith in the gospel of Christ is the primary means by which a believer is set apart, made holy, or sanctified in the midst of a wicked, corrupt, and apostate world.

2Th 2:14

HE CALLED YOU TO THIS THROUGH OUR GOSPEL: While it is perfectly true (v 13) that God chooses believers (cp 1Th 2:12; 4:7; 5:24), it is also true that He makes such choice by presenting the gospel to their attention. Paul calls it "our gospel" here because he has in mind his own preaching and that of Silas and Timothy (1Th 1:5). Therefore, there is also a reciprocal choice by believers of God. It is only our finite minds that may perceive "contradiction" in such a coupling of ideas; to the infinite God, whose mind and thoughts are far above ours (Isa 55:6,7), there is no difficulty at all.

THAT YOU MIGHT SHARE IN THE GLORY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST: These believers are called to the obtaining of glory; they are not called to glory. They are striving continuously to attain to the glory of Christ; they have not already attained. As in 1Th 5:9, "obtaining" here conveys the idea of progress through intensification of effort.

2Th 2:15

V 15: Paul's encouragement.

SO THEN, BROTHERS, STAND FIRM: Compare use of the same verb ("stand firm") in 1Th 3:8, where Paul had considered that their standing firm in Christ was more important to him than life itself. A continuing stability and firm grasp of all aspects of Truth might have prevented the believers' confusion and alarm that required Paul to write this second letter.

HOLD TO THE TEACHINGS WE PASSED ON TO YOU: The verb is used elsewhere by Paul only in Col 2:19 (of holding fast to Christ as the head). It is used in the literal sense of holding something with the hand (Mat 9:25), and figuratively of holding, with the mind, to the elders' traditions (Mark 7:3,8). "Teachings" ("paradosis" = precepts, ordinances; "traditions" in NIV mg) is a word that suggests that the Christian faith is derivative -- it was not "invented" by Paul, but passed along just as he had received it from a higher source (1Co 15:3). The single word in Greek does not necessarily carry negative connotations, as the English word "traditions" might. "Traditions" from God are to be gratefully received and obeyed (1Co 11:2).

WHETHER BY WORD OF MOUTH OR BY LETTER: Paul had both spoken these "traditions" to the Thessalonians when present with them, and written other "traditions" to them in his first letter. He puts no difference between the spoken and the written word; both were in very fact the word of God (1Th 2; 13; 1Co 14:37). Also, since both oral and written methods had been used to discredit Paul's teaching (2Th 2:2), both methods of Paul must again be endorsed.

2Th 2:16

Vv 16,17: Paul's prayer for their strengthening.

WHO LOVED US: The Greek is uncertain as to whether "God" alone is the antecedent, or "Jesus" and "God" both. Either way, the point is the same. The verb form is aorist, indicating one supreme act of love -- undoubtedly referring to the cross: ie "who has set love upon us" -- one act. (Cp the uses of the same verb form in Rom 8:37 and Gal 2:20.) God's loving and giving are very often equated with the death of His Son (John 3:16; Rom 5:5,8; 1Jo 4:10; etc).

AND BY HIS GRACE GAVE US ETERNAL ENCOURAGEMENT AND GOOD HOPE: Again, the verb is aorist, probably referring to the one great act of conversion in every believer's life. It is at that point that comfort and hope come all at once to the believer. "Encouragement" is "parakaleo" (comfort), derived from the same word often translated "exhort" (see 1Th 2:11), and suggests instruction. The related word is translated "encourage" in the following v 17.

Comfort and hope come from God through grace, emphasizing that they are independent of good works on the part of the recipient.

2Th 2:17

ENCOURAGE YOUR HEARTS: May the One who gave us comfort at our conversion continue to comfort (encourage, exhort) us day by day. Cp 2Co 1:3-7, where God is the "God of all comfort."

AND STRENGTHEN YOU IN EVERY GOOD DEED AND WORD: The verb "sterizo" signifies to strengthen, as a building; and is used primarily by Paul of the work of confirming new believers in their faith (see 1Th 3:2n).

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