2 Thessalonians: Apocalypse (again)!

Introduction: 2 Thessalonians is a letter that claims to be by Paul; modern scholars are divided over whether it actually is.  It is very similar to 1 Thessalonians in structure and content, but slightly different in writing style and eschatological outlook.  The letter encourages believers suffering hardship, describes what will happen at the coming of Christ, and warns against false beliefs.

2 Thessalonians: We always give thanks to God for you, and we boast about your steadfastness and faith during the persecutions you are enduring.  In the end days, Jesus will come with mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God or do not obey the gospel; they will be punished by eternal destruction.  Before Jesus comes, a lawless one will be revealed who exalts himself above every god and every object of worship.  He will declare himself God.  This lawless one is being restrained now, but after the restraints are gone, he will be revealed and Jesus will destroy him.

We must always give thanks to God for you, for God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through belief in the truth.  Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions you were taught by us.  Pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly, and so that we may be rescued from wicked people.  Keep away from idle believers–they should work for their bread, just like we did when we were with you.

Commentary:

  • Paul addresses two problems: some people claim the day of the Lord is already here, and some people have stopped working.  Possibly the two are related: the people stopped working because they expect the apocalypse to be imminent.
  • It is not clear who the “lawless one” is, and how he is currently being restrained.
  • Paul apparently believes that non-believers can also work wonders and signs through the power of Satan.  2:9 reads: “the coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved.”
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