The second letter to the Thessalonians was evidently written not
long after the first, while still they were young in the faith and the
more likely to be misled by false teachers, especially in matters
pertaining to the coming of the Lord. The opening words are almost
exactly the same as in the first letter; Paul again associating with
himself the same two fellow-labourers.
The condition of this assembly still gave great joy and thankfulness
to the Apostle. Their spiritual health was good, in spite of the
persecutions and tribulations that were pressing upon them; we had
almost said because of their persecutions and troubles. The
world being actively antagonistic to them, they were not for the
moment, being tested by its seductions. The very pressure that it was
exerting against them had the effect of welding them together.
In verses 3 and 4, growing faith and abounding love are brought into
intimate connection with persecution and tribulation, and not without
good reason. Not only was their faith growing, but growing exceedingly not only was love there, but love was abounding. In
this the Apostle greatly rejoiced as being the sign of spiritual
vitality and progress, though he had nothing to say in this epistle as
to their knowledge or gifts. In contrast to this, he acknowledged the
knowledge and gifts of the Corinthians in his first letter to them,
whilst he had nothing favourable to say as to their faith and love; and
in them he could not boast, for they were carnal. Have we all grasped
the significance of this? To what do we look if we desire to see
spiritual advancement in one another?
The scripture shows us that real faith is a living thing. It is like
a living tree, with its roots striking down into the soil of the
knowledge of God. Faith is spiritual eyesight, and as we proceed our
sight should grow clearer and its range be increased. As we know God
better we trust Him more.
We must notice that in this second epistle Paul makes no allusion to their hope, though
he does mention their patience, which is one of its fruits. The reason
for thus is, apparently, that adversaries had made further attempts to
confuse their minds as to things to come in a way calculated to impair
their hope, and that for the moment they had succeeded How they did it,
and how the Apostle countered their efforts by this epistle, we shall
see more clearly as we proceed. That which follows-verses 5 to 10 of
this first chapter-was evidently penned with a view to setting matters
rightly before their minds. The attempt had been made to delude them
into thinking that their present troubles were a sign that the day of
the Lord was already come. This will be seen, if 2 Thess. 2: 1, 2 be
read. The word translated "at hand" at the end of verse 2 is really
In verses 5 to 10 the public appearing of the Lord Jesus is
presented as being the reversal of previously existing conditions, a
complete turning of the tables, we may say. The Thessalonians were
suffering tribulation, the men of the world being their troublers. When
the Lord Jesus appears, He will recompense the world with tribulation
and His saints with rest. In so doing, He will be acting in righteousness.
It is not difficult to see that it will be an entirely righteous
thing for God to presently recompense the persecutors of His saints
with tribulation. It is not quite so easy to see how the entrance of
the saints into the coming kingdom can be connected with righteousness,
for we should surely disclaim any thought of merit and protest that
grace alone could bring us into the kingdom of God. The thought in
verse 5 however, appears to be that though all is of grace yet God
desires to put His saints in possession of His kingdom, as those who
are counted worthy of it. Hence He permits the persecutions and
tribulations, which produce in them the fortitude and patience which He
loves and can righteously reward. In this patience and faith under
trial was seen a manifest token that God's judgment was righteous in
assigning them to the coming kingdom and its rest.
The description of the public appearing of the Lord Jesus, given in
verses 7 to 9, is indeed terrible. When He is unveiled from the
heavens, nothing will be lacking which is calculated to strike fear
into the hearts of rebellious men. Vengeance will fall upon those who
do not know God and who do not obey the Gospel. Everlasting destruction
from the presence of the Lord, will be the penalty inflicted. Many
attempts have been made to avoid the plain and evident force of the two
words, "everlasting destruction," but when all is said and done the
fact remains that destruction does not mean annihilation, and everlasting does mean lasting for ever, and this whether we consider the Greek original or the English translation.
Let us notice that the Gospel is a message from God which we are to
OBEY We are so apt to think of it as a kindly invitation which we are
to accept; and to present it only in that light to others.
Consequently, they think of it only as an invitation which they may
decline, or at least defer indefinitely, without any very serious
consequences; and that is to them a very fatal mistake. All who hear
the Gospel, are responsible to render to it in response the obedience of faith.
Notice also that there can be no worse fate than to be consigned to eternal ruin away from the presence of the Lord. We
saw in considering the first Epistle that to live together with the
Lord is the very height of bliss. The converse holds true. There can be
nothing worse than to be banished for ever from the presence of the One
who is the Fountain-head of life and light and love.
The appearing of Christ will however have two sides. He will be
glorified in taking vengeance on the ungodly. He will be also glorified
and admired in all those who have believed in that day. The preposition
here, you will notice, is not by but in. He will
certainly be glorified and adored by us, but the point here is that He
will be glorified in us. In that day, the saints will shine forth in
His likeness as His handiwork. Men and angels will look at them and
glorify Him, inasmuch as all that they am will be the fruit of His work.
Nowadays, all too often we are to His discredit. Of old, the
accusation had to be laid against Israel that, "the name of God is
blasphemed among the Gentiles through you." (Rom. 2: 24). and the same
indictment has to be brought against those who profess to be the people
of today. But in that day, what will be displayed, will not be our
crookedness or our peculiarities but the grace and power of Christ
reproduced in us. In us men will see the glorious effect of the mighty
work of God.
What a wonderful calling this is! No wonder the Apostle earnestly
desired that God would count them worthy of it, by fulfilling His good
pleasure in them now, promoting the work of faith with power in their
hearts and lives. In this way the name of the Lord Jesus would be
glorified in them now, and not only in the coming age. If He is to be
glorified in us then, it is surely right that we should be concerned
about it that He is glorified in us now.
The last verse of this first chapter emphasizes this, and adds the
fact that not only is He to be glorified in us in the coming age but we
are to be glorified in Him, for we shall then be shining in a glory not
our own but His. This will be "according to the grace of our God and
the Lord Jesus Christ." Nothing but the grace of God could produce so
wonderful a result as that.