1:3 THROUGH 2:17
The book of II Thessalonians addresses a group of Christians who have much need of help from the Lord. The Apostle Paul, who founded the church (Acts 17:1-8), gives encouragement, instruction, and admonitions to help these young Christians in their struggles.
I shall give my own comments on some of the passages in this book in this first article. In a second article I shall discuss issues that have been raised by some of the Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation Rapture advocates.
In the first chapter, Paul commends the Thessalonians for their growing faith and love (1:3). This growth is especially in evidence in the way they are enduring persecution and trouble (1:4). They will be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God (1:5).
Paul assures them that they have a good future with God. God will give them relief from their suffering and will wreak vengeance on their persecutors (1:6-8). These persecutors are among those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel (1:8). When will all this happen? Paul ties the relief from suffering and vengeance on the persecutors and judgment of unbelievers to the coming of Christ. The coming of Christ is characterized as follows:
· When Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels (1:7)
· He is revealed “in flaming fire” and inflicts vengeance (1:8)
· His judgment brings eternal punishment, including banishment from His presence (1:9)
· He will come “on that day” (1:10)
· He will come to be glorified in His saints and marveled at by believers (1:10)
· This triumph of Christ comes about, in part, because someone preached and someone believed (Romans 10:14-15); in this case, Paul preached and the Thessalonians believed (1:10) [foregoing loosely quoted and paraphrased from English Standard Version]
Keeping the struggles of the Thessalonians as well as their great future in mind, Paul prays for them (1:11). He prays that God will bless them to bring about the glory of Jesus through their lives as well as their glory in Christ.
As I have in mind the debate, which is so heavily contested, between the Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation Rapture positions, I shall high-light a few points in this passage.
Paul focuses on two responses of God to the sufferings that the Thessalonians are undergoing. First, he promises vengeance and then “relief.” The second is only mentioned in passing (1:7), whereas he magnifies the first both in verse 1:6 and in verses 1:8-9. He ties the vengeance on the persecutors to general judgment on all unbelievers.
The timing of these responses is at the Second Coming of Jesus. That coming is described as a time when Christ will be “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” “in flaming fire,” “glorified in His saints,” and “marveled at by believers,” as I have mentioned in the list above. Most of these are consistent with and echo other descriptions of the Second Coming, such as those that are found in Matthew 24:30-31, Luke 21:27, Acts 1:11, and Revelation 19:11-21.
Note in particular that the “relief” of 1:7 is tied to the Second Coming of Jesus to earth.
Paul turns from these words of encouragement to words of instruction and correction. His correction is not so much a rebuke as it is a gentle reminder of his previous instruction and an encouragement to return to that teaching.
The issue is stated in verse 2: The Thessalonians have been getting some false instruction. This has come to them in several forms. Some have supposedly spoken by a “spirit”—probably an ecstatic utterance claiming to be a prophecy from God. Others have simply given a message—perhaps a sermon or a teaching session. Others have claimed that they had an epistle from Paul containing the new teaching. All of these forms of communication were probably familiar to the Thessalonians. One might read I Corinthians 14:26-33 to get some idea of a first-century worship service (much more like a Pentecostal or Charismatic service today than a “high church” liturgy). But it is also obvious that those who are giving the new teaching are attempting to appear to bring a revelation from God.
The substance of the new teaching is that the Day of the Lord has come. The “Day of the Lord” is a very important concept that I continue to avoid discussing. I do so because it would require a discussion of a wide range of Scripture and a consideration of the doctrines and concepts of a number of people. Thus, to attempt such a project within this essay does not seem wise. Instead, I shall treat this concept as a bit of a mystery that we can only deal with as impenetrable whole, for the most part. In other words, to use a mathematical formulation:
“Day of the Lord” = X
In this way, we can talk a bit about the timing of X and have some notion of what it involves without cracking X open and solving the corollary:
X = W, Y, Z, and others
In this latter formulation, we will not necessarily know what W, Y, Z, and others consist of.
Whatever the Day of the Lord is, the teaching is saying it has already arrived. Paul wants them not to be unsettled by this teaching. He will explain why they should not be unsettled in the following verses. We might pause briefly and ask: “What was the nature of their being ‘quickly shaken in mind or alarmed’ (2:2)?” My question is, just how shook up were they and what was the nature of their alarm? It is easier to deal with the second part of the question than the first. That is, the “why” of their alarm is more easily debated than the “how great” of their alarm. Nevertheless, the “how great” question is relevant to the debate. I shall consider one answer to that question when I deal with the third chapter.
One side of the debate understands that the Thessalonians were deceived into thinking that they were already in the Tribulation. This deception, it is believed by some was due to one of two ideas:
1. The Thessalonians believed they had missed the Rapture.
1. The Thessalonians had been falsely taught that they must go through the Tribulation before the Rapture would take place.
In either case, they Thessalonians would naturally be “quickly shaken in mind or alarmed.”
The other side of the debate believes that the Thessalonians believed, among other things, that they were in the Tribulation and, therefore, Jesus was coming soon. This latter belief caused some of them to quit work and become radical in their lifestyle. Their state of mind was “not sorrow over a missed rapture… but wild anticipations of an immediate return of Christ.” Although I believe the evidence of the entire context of the book favors this latter conclusion, I must admit that the language of verse 2:2 favors the former ideas. I shall return to this debate later.
INTRODUCTION OF THE PROBLEM:
I skipped verse 2:1 in order to state the issue of chapter 2 at the beginning. Now, it is important to return to the beginning of the chapter:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, (II Thessalonians 2:1, ESV)
Now, we ask you, brothers, concerning the Parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together unto Him, (more literal and closer to the word order of the original than above)
By giving this introductory statement, Paul sets up the framework of the subject matter. The topic of whether the Day of the Lord has come is within the framework of the Parousia and our being gathered unto Christ. The opening word (it is actually second, as it always is) is “de.” This little word is of “but.” It is usually a “mild” “but,” and can be simply “and.” In this case, following others, I translate it “now,” which is also a possible use. The point is that this is continuing the discussion that has just been written (in chapter 1 in our modern versions). That discussion was concerning the “relief” and the “vengeance” that will take place when Jesus returns “in flaming fire” with His mighty angels (1:6-10). “Now” Paul continues this discussion of the Parousia and “our being gathered together to him.” (2:1) In the previous passage, Paul is reassuring the Thessalonians of God’s response to their persecutions and troubles. That response will take place at the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. Now he turns to a teaching that has shaken the Thessalonians about this issue.
THE PRECURSORS TO THE “DAY OF THE LORD”:
Paul answers the teaching that the Thessalonians have received. He makes it clear that this teaching has the power to deceive. He warns them not to be deceived by these supposed prophets who even send fake epistles from Paul. But he does not simply label the teachers false and rely on his apostolic authority to carry the day. Rather, he gives explicit rebuttal to their teaching.
Paul omits a chunk of material that the English translations supply: “that day will not come…” is not present in the Greek. There is adequate evidence to supply the clause. First, we have the problem stated in verse 2: “the day of the Lord has come.” Second, in verse 3 we have “first” as an adverb to give the time frame: the apostasy must come first and the man of lawlessness must be revealed. So these are precursors to the Day of the Lord. Before considering the meaning of these terms, I shall reflect briefly on the significance of verse 2:3.
This verse, as it is translated and as it is naturally understood, presents a problem for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory. The problem is that most who favor that theory believe that the Day of the Lord includes the Tribulation period. They believe that the Day of the Lord begins immediately after the Resurrection/Rapture and continues through the Great White Throne Judgment. Now, how can they deal with this verse? I cannot find that Pentecost directly deals with verse 2:3 in its import. Walvoord has a single statement:
Both of these would be necessary before the day of the Lord could really “come.” ((Walvoord, John F. (2010-12-21). The Rapture Question (Kindle Locations 3240-3241). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.))
Notice that Walvoord slightly twists the import of the verse. By inserting “really ‘come,’” he implies that Paul was saying something on the following order:
The Day of the Lord cannot really be said to have come in its full impact until the rebellion and the revelation of the Man of Lawlessness have taken place.
However, this is not at all what Paul is saying. All translations consistently maintain that two things must take place BEFORE the Day of the Lord—the rebellion (apostasy) and the revelation of the Man of Sin.
The first of the precursors is translated “rebellion” in a number of versions. The following is a brief survey of translations (thanks to www.biblegateway.com ):
King James Version
New King James Version
English Standard Version
New American Standard Version
New International Version
New Living Translation
A great rebellion against God
New Revised Standard Version
As one can see, the more “modern” translations tend to use “rebellion.” From comments, for example in the NIV Study Bible, I gather the context is the main consideration for using “rebellion.” Since there is considerable discussion of the Man of Lawlessness as well as the “mystery of lawlessness,” the translators conclude that “rebellion” is tied closely to the “Man of Lawlessness.” This is not necessarily a wrong conclusion. The Greek word (apostasia) can refer either to a political rebellion or religious apostasy. Jesus indicated in Matthew 24:10-13 that there will be an apostasy in the church as the last days approach. It is very likely that that development will be closely linked to developments in the world (see Matthew 24:12), so it is possible that apostasy in the church will be linked to general rebellion.
There is another possible translation of the Greek word. Some have proposed that “departure” is the best translation. This has led them to believe that this is indicating the Rapture. Gundry gives an extended discussion of this idea (114-118) and concluded that “departure” is not a reasonable translation of the word. Walvoord agrees with him, even though “departure” would favor the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory.
The second precursor to the Day of the Lord is the revelation of the Man of Lawlessness or the Lawless One. He is called the “son of destruction.” The expression “son of X” is common in the Bible. It generally means “having the characteristics of X.” In this case, it is more a case of “having X as one’s destiny.” It is ironic that this person should be said to have destruction as his destiny. No doubt, when he comes along, he will boast that he will last forever. In fact, his career is predicted to be less than seven years. One is reminded of Hitler’s slogan for Germany: the 1000-year Reich.
Verse 2:4 expands on the term “Man of Lawlessness” by giving a synopsis of his career. First, he defies all authority. He claims to be above every god or object of worship. Many in our day reject belief in the existence of any god. They would claim they worship nothing. But here is one who goes beyond that and usurps the place of any god that might be worshiped. In fact, he goes into the “temple of God” and proclaims himself to be God. That such a person would be taken seriously in today’s world does not seem possible, yet, as verses 2:9-12 explain, the world will be ready to believe such deception and worship this person.
The “temple” in this verse is the Greek naos. The alternative word is hieron. The second is generally used to signify the entire Temple precinct, including various courts and auxiliary buildings as well as the actual Temple. The first (naos) is generally used to signify the actual Temple, which consisted of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The two rooms of the naos were separated by a veil or curtain, which was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The Christian’s body is a naos of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), and the Christians in the church are also considered to be God’s naos (I Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-21). Thus, the Man of Lawlessness will enter into the naos of God and sit down there and declare himself to be God (II Thessalonians 2:4).
Jesus predicted an event of sacrilege in the last days:
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),” (ESV)
Jesus refers to Daniel as the background for this event. In Daniel 9:27 we read the following:
And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (ESV)
Another reference to an abomination is in Daniel 11:31:
Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.
The NIV Study Bible note on this verse ascribes this to the action of Antiochus Epiphanes, who set up an altar to Zeus in 168 BC in the Temple, and who might be considered a precursor to the one who will eventually perpetrate the Abomination of Desolation.
In addition, Revelation 13 describes the career of the person described as “the Beast.” This person has characteristics that echo the description of the Man of Lawlessness. His world-wide success and power culminates in his being worshiped by the whole world. A similar person is described in various passages in Daniel (see Daniel 7:7-8, 11, 9:27, 11:36-45). I believe a reasonable conclusion is that all of these passages are referring to one person, who is known as the Antichrist (from I John 2:18, 22, 4:3 and II John 7), the Man of Lawlessness, the Little Horn, or the Beast.
Paul says that this person must be revealed before the Day of the Lord comes. Exactly what that means is not certain, but one can infer certain things. Taking these various Scriptures together, I conclude that the Antichrist will enter into a place of prominence and even receive world-wide acclaim and power. However, when he reaches such a place of high arrogance that he declares himself to be god and demands worship, then there will be no doubt of his true nature. Those who choose to worship him will remain in a state of deception, but all who know the truth will discern who he has been revealed to be.
Paul now asks a rhetorical question (2:5): Don’t you remember that I told you these things? The Thessalonians were being thrown off the track of truth by deceivers. Paul gently chides them that they should have known better.
THE RESTRAINT OF LAWLESSNESS:
The next few verses are somewhat difficult to translate and to interpret. The following is the English Standard Version of 2:6-7:
And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
To help explain these verses, I have constructed the following table:
The mystery of
He who now
To do so
He is out of
Which helps us to understand why
Is in place
One to be
In this table, I depict a unified process of restraint. It is a restraint on the mystery of lawlessness. One component of that restraint is to restrain the Lawless One until that moment in history when he will be revealed. The restraining process is unified because the mystery of lawlessness and the Lawless One are unified.
In Revelation, chapter 12 describes the role of Satan, who is named the Dragon. The Dragon desires to devour the male child of the woman clothed with the sun. This male child is obviously Jesus Christ. Later, the Dragon vents his anger on the woman and upon her offspring who are believers in Jesus. Then, at the very end of the chapter, the Dragon stands “on the sand [shore] of the sea.” Then, chapter 13 opens:
And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. (ESV)
This beast is the Antichrist. We are prepared in chapter 12 to understand the motivation of the Dragon, who opposes God and His Christ. Now, the Dragon stands on the shore and welcomes the beast coming out of the sea to be the pseudochrist who is inspired by the Dragon to oppose God, the Christ, and the people of God. I believe that this picture in Revelation is encapsulated by Paul as he tells us that there is a “mystery of lawlessness” that will culminate in the Beast when the restraint on lawlessness is finally removed.
Who or what is the restrainer? Both Pentecost (259ff) and Gundry (122ff) have given synopses of various theories. These theories range from the devil to an angel (including Michael—see ESV Study Bible notes) to the Holy Spirit and from the Roman Empire to the church. When one considers Daniel 12:1 and Revelation 12:7, one might be attracted to the theory that the archangel Michael is the restrainer. However, the most likely of the candidates appears to me to be the Holy Spirit. Both Pentecost and Gundry agree on this conclusion, but they have different views on what that means. I shall discuss those views in another article. I believe the restrainer is the Holy Spirit because He is the most able of all possible candidates. His omnipotence and omnipresence can oppose the work of the devil in every way. His spiritual nature can meet and oppose the spiritual nature of the devil.
One of the grammatical issues in verse 6 and 7 is the gender of the restrainer. In the Greek “what is restraining him” (verse 2:6, ESV) and “he who…restrains” (verse 2:7, ESV) are participles with accompanying articles. The article and the inflection of the participle in verse 2:6 is neuter, and the article and inflection in verse 2:7 is masculine. There are a number of possible explanations (other than sloppy grammar by Paul), which include the following:
· Two different restrainers are in mind—one a non-personal entity and the other a person
· Considering that the term “Holy Spirit” in Greek is inflected as a neuter noun and also considering that He is often referred to as a person with the masculine pronoun, then the two gender alternatives are used in the two verses to refer to the Holy Spirit
· In verse 2:6, the process of restraint is in mind—a process carried out by a person; in verse 2:7, the person who is the restrainer is in mind. In the first case a neuter term is used to refer to the process, and the in the second case a masculine term is used to refer to the person.
I favor the third explanation, although the second has some merit.
In verse 2:7, the final clause has been the subject of much discussion. The following are translations from various versions (thanks to www.biblegateway.com ):
· King James Version: “until he be taken out of the way”
· New American Standard Bible: “until he is taken out of the way”
· New International Version: “till he is taken out of the way”
· New Revised Standard Version: “until the one who now restrains it is removed”
· English Standard Version: “until he is out of the way”
The literal Greek is “until out of midst (he) is [or becomes].” There is some evidence that this is an idiom for “until he is taken out of the way.” However, that idiom (according to the very brief entry in Bauer et al) seems to be when the verb is in the passive form. There is some scholarly precedence for the translation “until he gets out of the way” (Arndt and Gingrich). This is very close to the literal rendering. I note that only the English Standard Version uses this translation, but I think it is accurate. The relevance of this translation is that it opens the possibility that the restrainer takes himself out of the way. As Gundry (127) says: “he will step out of the way.”
THE DESTINY OF THE LAWLESS ONE:
In short order, the career of the Lawless One is related in verse 2:8: He will be revealed, and he will be destroyed. The destruction will come about by the coming of Jesus. He will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and with the very fact of His appearance. Two words are used that both are used of the Second Coming of Jesus—Parousia and epiphaneia. The latter word is used only six times, including the present use. Each time it is used to indicate Christ’s appearance at the Second Coming—II Thessalonians 2:8, I Timothy 6:14, II Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 4:8, Titus 2:13. So, the Lawless One, who boasts of his greatness to the point that he claims to be god, is shot down the moment the real Christ, the real Son of God, the real Savior of the world comes on the scene. He is called the “son of destruction” in verse 3 because, despite his high ambition, his real destiny is simply to be destroyed by Jesus.
THE ROLE OF DECEPTION IN THE RISE OF THE LAWLESS ONE:
The following are translations of verse 9:
· ESV: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders…”
· NIV: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie.”
· NIV (older edition): The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders…”
· Literal (mine): “Whose [the Lawless One’s] parousia is in accordance with the work of Satan, with all power and with signs and wonders of untruth.”
Notice “parousia” is translated as “coming” in most translations. Very possibly, Paul used this term to emphasize that the Lawless One will come as a false christ to deceive the world. The career of the Lawless One is spectacular. If this one will have the gall to declare himself God (verse 4), then he must have already generated some “press” that will give credence
to his claim. His rise to fame will come out of power supplied to him by Satan. This power will enable him to perform signs and wonders (see Revelation 13:13-14). In an older edition of NIV, these signs and wonders are called “counterfeit,” and this is the gist of the ESV translation, but the newer edition of NIV changed the translation to “signs and wonders that serve the lie.” I think this may be a good translation. The word pseudos means “lie.” It is in the genitive case, in which the noun serves as an adjective. So, the signs and wonders are “lie-type” signs and wonders. It does not necessarily mean they are false—illusions or tricks. The Lawless One comes with the power of Satan, which enables him to do signs and wonders. But these miracles do not point people to the truth, but rather to a lie. Thus, the King James Version has “with all power and signs and lying wonders.”
Verse 10 continues the thought:
· ESV: “…and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
· NIV: “and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
There is a subtle difference in the two translations. It is a tough call to say which is correct. ESV treats the genitive “wicked” as an adjective characterizing “deception” as “wicked.” NIV treats the same word as a noun that “possesses” the deception: wickedness contains deception within it. I favor the NIV version because an adjective form of the word is available, but Paul chose to use the noun form. The Lawless One comes to bring deception to people, and, as they are deceived and reject the truth, they perish. The battleground of human hearts is a confrontation between righteousness and unrighteousness and between truth and lies, especially the truth about Jesus Christ. The Lawless One is, by definition, a promoter of wickedness. But promotion of wickedness is generally disguised. It is often disguised under a “cause.” So, Timothy McVeigh thought he was doing some “cause” a favor by blowing up a building and killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6. Wickedness is disguised, often, as religion. So, terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the name of Allah. The Lawless One will come with great claims and deceive the world into thinking he is the Christ, in order to promote lawlessness.
Verses 2:11-12 (ESV): “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” In verse 2:11 we are jarred with a statement that forces us to go deep in our conceptions about how God deals with humankind. No doubt each of us—including myself—has a framework in which we deal with these kinds of verses. There are “hard determinists” and “soft determinists” and those who reject determinism altogether. I tend toward the free will end of the spectrum. I have to admit that there are a number of passages in Scripture that do not sit well with that viewpoint, and this is one of them. I believe we should make note of the previous verse, which states that those who perish “refused to love the truth.” More literally, it says, they “did not receive the love of the truth in order to be saved.” And it is “because of this” (verse 2:11) that God sends them delusion or deception so that they believe the lie. One is reminded of Jesus’ words (Matthew 13:12, ESV): “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Although this seems counter-intuitive, it really conforms to God’s ultimate will, which I take to be stated in II Peter 3:9 (ESV): “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Our humanistic notions give us the idea that people come to God in a gradual way, as they more and more “improve” on their understanding and their faith. Although we might say that this is the experience of some children who are reared in a Christian environment, it is not the experience of most (include those reared in a Christian environment). Most people come to God in crisis. People see the truth of the gospel, not because they meet God at every corner. In fact, people see the truth as it is starkly contrasted with the ugliness and falseness all around them. Paul in his expositions of God’s dealings with humanity makes this case. For example, in Romans 7, Paul details the personal struggle with sin, and he explains how the Law itself can be an occasion for sin. He explains how this can bring about God’s ultimate purposes in Romans 7:13 (ESV): “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” So, in the scenario of the final battle against evil, as people become entrenched in their unbelief, God hardens their unbelief through a lying spirit (see I Kings 22:22-23) so that they believe the lie. What is “the lie”? No doubt, it is the lie that the Lawless One is God.
Verse 12 gives the consequence of unbelief, which is condemnation. Notice that accompanying their unbelief is a delight in wickedness (unrighteousness or injustice).
This Scripture passage, which predicts that a person—the Man of Lawlessness or the Lawless One—will arise as a precursor to the Day of the Lord. He is described in verse 4 as opposing all other gods and exalting himself above everything that is worshiped. And the climax of this self-exaltation seems to be when he steps into the Temple of God and proclaims himself to be God. If one considers this scene for a moment, we would conclude that if a man were to walk into the Temple and declare that he was God, most people would decide that this was a lunatic. People would be horrified by his blasphemous audacity and perhaps filled with pity at his lunacy. However, the implication of verses 9-12 is that people will not react in this way. Rather, they will concur with the claim of the Lawless One and offer him worship as God. They already have entered into the culture of wickedness of which he is the vanguard (verse 10). Their darkened hearts have been hardened into rejection of truth and readiness to be deceived (verse 11). The signs and wonders and the Satanic power that he has displayed (verse 9) will convince them that he is God.
THANKSGIVING FOR THE THESSALONIAN CHRISTIANS:
Paul concludes this passage by giving thanksgiving for his readers (verses 2:13-15). They have been saved by the work of the Holy Spirit, which sanctifies them, and by their belief in the truth—a stark contrast to those of whom Paul has just written. He admonishes them to stand firm in their beliefs. The implication is that they need to resist the false teachings that they have been exposed to and review Paul’s teachings on the last days. He prays that God will encourage them and strengthen them in all that they do and say. In I Thessalonians 5, Paul described these same people as sons of the light and sons of the day (I Thessalonians 5:5). They are not people of the night and of darkness. Their destiny is salvation through Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 5:9). Paul does not hesitate to draw a sharp contrast between the people of God and the people of the world. In both of these books, he understands the Christian to have a great hope and reason for encouragement. In our present time, deception, unbelief, and lawlessness are dooming many persons’ souls. The hope for all is the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
DEALING WITH IDLENESS:
In 3:6-12, Paul deals with the issue of idleness. He does so in a very pointed way: he warns the Thessalonians to keep away from those who are idle. He is isolating these rebellious Christians from the main body. And he is warning those not yet affected by this trend: get away from this deception! He then gives himself as an example of a Christian who follows the rule—no work, no food. Finally, he gets around to addressing the offenders: earn your way.
Now, whether this situation is connected to the false teaching that is addressed in chapter 2 is not certain. In the next article, I shall describe how Gundry believes this to be true. He believes that the misinformation about the Day of the Lord had persuaded some to quit their jobs and become radical in their anticipation of Christ’s return. The fact that Paul makes no connection between these two developments—the false teaching and idleness—does not support Gundry’s idea.
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible. Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
And Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1952.
Gundry, Robert H. The Church and the Tribulation. Grand Rapids, MI: Acadamie Books,
Zondervan Publ. House, 1973
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publ. Co., 1958.
Walvoord, John F. (2010-12-21). The Rapture Question. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
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