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2 Thessalonians

May 18, 2009

Background

I. Encouragement from the Past II Thess 1:1-12

  1. Remember your Gifts, Grace and Peace                        II Thess. 1:1-2
  2. Remember your Faith, Christ’s Ministry                       II Thess. 1:3-5
  3. Remember His Promises                                                      IIThess. 1:6-10
  4. Remember your Work, Ministry and Purpose             II Thess. 1:11-12

II. Encouragement for the Future II Thess. 2:1-17

  1. He will provide Special Discernment                           II Thess. 2:1-7
  2. He is the Victor                                                                      II Thess. 2:8-12
  3. Stand Firm in the Truth                                                      II Thess. 2:13-17

III. Encouragement for the Present II Thess. 3:1-18

  1. Pray for One Another II Thess. 3:1-3
  2. Love One Another II Thess. 3: 4-5
  3. Work on behalf of One Another II Thess. 3:6-15
  4. Experience Christ’s Grace, Peace and Presence II Thess. 3:16-18

Background

See the background notes for I Thessalonians. This letter is believed to have
been written later but still from Corinth. Paul evidently was continuing to
receive information concerning the status of the Thessalonian church and realized
their need to be further encouraged because of increased persecution.

This letter, also written by Paul and including Silas and Timothy, is shorter
than the first letter but very similar in content; thanking God for their perseverance,
asking that God be glorified through them, giving further instruction concerning
Christ’s Second Advent [Hope], requesting their prayers, and encouraging them
to work hard.

I and II Thessalonians give us the only definitive insight into what we as
Christians call the Rapture of the Saints.

I have focused on the theme of Encouragement, More Encouragement, and Much
More Encouragement from the first outline. The second outline may make more
sense to you if you study II Thessalonians separately from I Thessalonians.
The first outline makes more sense if you study the letters together as if they
were written close in time as most scholars believe. I will organize my comments
based on the first outline but the comments written will apply to both outlines.

If this is truly a letter of encouragement, just what and how does it encourage?
It offers encouragement by causing the Thessalonians to remember who they are,
what they have been given, and what they are about by reminding them of such
since they committed themselves to Christ and His work. They are encouraged
by having a deeper understanding of what the future holds and who the ultimate
victor is. They are encouraged to have faith in the present because of their
experiences of the past and their knowledge of the future. They have faith,
they have love, and they have hope. Therefore they can focus on the present
with confidence.

Encouragement from the Past                                               II Thess. 1:1-12

Remember your Gifts, Grace and Peace                      II Thess. 1:1-2

This is the very same greeting given in I Thessalonians except for the addition
that Grace and Peace are from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We can
and should greet people and wish them Grace and Peace but only God has the power
to grant such. These gifts are not ours to give but God’s to give. These gifts
have already been given to the Thessalonians by God and Paul [inspired by the
Holy Spirit] is reminding them as such in his greeting. They possess Grace and
Peace.

We have been given Grace and Peace too if we believe in Jesus as our Lord.
Armed with such knowledge we are able to withstand any/all persecution. We are
unflappable. We are ready for battle. Grace and Peace, the result of Christ’s
victory on the cross, is foundational to having victory over Satan and the “man
of lawlessness” later described as the anti-Christ who is ruled by Satan.

Remember your Faith, Christ’s Ministry                  II Thess. 1:3-5

Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians maturation in faith and love. They are
an example for others because of their experiences with persecution. They persevere
and are faithful; standing firm. We should look to know someone who perseveres
and remains faithful. They would be our encourager. We should be such a person
too, encouraging someone else in their faith. Our value [example/testimony]
is always greater to someone else than to ourselves. Christ’s example on the
cross was. Therefore, we are to willingly give to others that they may know
Christ and grow in love and faith.

Their persecution/trials because of their faith, love, and perseverance demonstrate
God’s righteous judgment. This is a classic war of right and wrong; light and
darkness; Christ and Satan. Something is wrong if we minister on behalf of Christ
and are not persecuted. We have the opportunity to compromise, complain, or
campaign on behalf of Christ. We can stand by or be a standard bearer. Growth
and maturity [sanctification] happens only when we are willing to participate
in the battle. Worthiness is associated with campaigning, working for the Kingdom
of God. Salvation is a gift but assurance comes from participation, being a
member of the team; showing others your team shirt, your white robe of righteousness

Being counted worthy results from faithful, loving and persistent service
upon experiencing our Lord’s Grace and Peace. So the attributes of worthiness
are:

  1. Grace
  2. Peace
  3. Faith
  4. Love
  5. Perseverance

Remember His Promises                      II Thess. 1:6-10

God’s judgment and relief is sure. However, it may not become true or fact
until He comes again in blazing fire and with His angels. The “day of glorification”
could mean:

  1. the day of Rapture
  2. the day Christ returns to reign or
  3. the overall period of time [millennium].

I believe “2.” is the most appropriate answer in that the raptured
Church will return with Christ to reign for 1000 years after the pouring out
of God’s wrath upon the unbelievers. The final destruction takes place after
the millennium reign. The Thessalonian believers are to be included in this
celebration. Be clear; God has the final say and we will marvel at His power
and His glory upon His return to earth to defeat His enemies and set up His
millennial reign. This is our Hope. It keeps us faithful and enables us to persevere
until He comes.

The true Christian longs for the future, whether it is God’s judgment or God’s
glory. We are considered worthy by Him and the results for being worthy are:

  1. Citizenship in heaven
  2. Relief from persecution
  3. Judgment of our enemies
  4. Glorified with Him
  5. Present with Jesus
  6. Experiencing God’s power
  7. Awestruck

Remember your Work, Ministry, and Purpose                 II Thess. 1:11-12

Paul prays that God will continue to use the Thessalonians for His glory,
for His ministry, because they have remained strong and faithful. They have
remained one in the Spirit with God, in His will, and in His way. Paul prays
this prayer so the Thessalonian Church will continue to be strong.

As we minister in Christ and for Christ, He in turn ministers to us. We can
choose to work together with Christ or separately. But to be counted worthy,
we must work together.

Each of us should have someone, called by God, for which we are praying; praying
that God may use them, that they would envision God’s purpose, and that they
would live faithful and obedient lives. We are to pray for all things but it
seems that our emphasis should be on praying for Christ’s work. We are to be
people of vision and not concern ourselves with the past or the present. We
are to sow and harvest expectantly, looking forward and focused on the finish
line. We are not to travel through life in a maze. We are to know our job and
do it. We are to be “worthy Kingdom workers” and not worthless kingdom
workers. Christ wants to count on us.

Let us intercede for each other, that we may be worthy and have a ministry:

  1. Powered by the Holy Spirit
  2. According to His will
  3. Glorifying Christ
  4. Of intimate fellowship and
  5. Rich in Grace.

See the diagram below for a better understanding of manifesting His Glory.

2thess_gods_plan

In summary:

When one understands that God counts us as worthy through His Grace and Peace,
we can feel encouraged [in spite of persecution] knowing that the Lord is Faithful
and Just. So let’s persevere in growing our faith and our love for the brethren
as we bring Glory to His Name according to His Will and for His Purpose.

Encouragement for the Future                                                  II Thess. 2:1-17

This Chapter is probably the main reason for Paul writing this letter since
much of II Thessalonians is the same as I Thessalonians. It too contained teaching
on the return of Christ and now Paul takes this opportunity to go further and
clarify what he said earlier. I Thessalonians 4 and II Thessalonians 2 are the
most definitive scriptures relating to what we Christians refer to as the Rapture
of the Saints. Without them, I doubt the doctrine would even exist. Other scriptures
support the doctrine but they do not come close to defining it.

Today there are two main schools of thought among evangelical Christians concerning
the Rapture. The majority believe the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation
[pre-tribulationists] and others believe the Rapture will take place at the
mid tribulation or just prior to God’s wrath being poured out [mid-tribulationists].
John F. Walvoord has written several books supporting the pre-tribulation theory.
The best book I have seen on the mid or pre-wrath theory is The Pre-wrath Rapture
of the Church by Marvin Rosenthal. There are other schools of thought but they
are weak/insignificant at this point in time.

I will try and take a somewhat neutral stance but my studies, particularly
of this passage, have led me to change my position from a pre-tribulationist
to a mid-tribulationist belief. I came to this belief on my own, looking only
into scripture. My current view is not the result of reading a book by a known
and respected author. Keep in mind that this portion of scripture can be interpreted
to support either point of view. I just happen to think it supports the mid-tribulationist
theory better.

Christians sometimes get carried away on studying and pontificating on the
“end times”. Remember that the will of God is simple. We are to:

  1. Know Him intimately
  2. Grow in Him continuously
  3. Fellowship with Him eternally.

These three steps are in order of priority. Each one is dependant on the preceding
principle[s]. It does one no good to focus on #3 [representing the contents
of this chapter] at the expense of #1 and # 2. Keep your study of His Word in
proper balance.

He will provide Special Discernment                 II Thess. 2:1-7

Evidently there was some false information concerning the end times being
circulated in the churches and Paul was rumored to be the source. This situation
accentuates the need to understand what has been written so we are not deceived.
Deception is one of Satan’s tools. Only knowledge of the truth can prevent deception.

Paul addresses three key points for clarity.

  1. There will be a rebellion against the Church, the Gospel, Christ and His teaching.
  2. The anti-Christ will be revealed and there will be no question as to who he is and who is represents.
  3. He, the anti-Christ, will oppose all things of God and will set himself up as God in the temple.

This seems to imply a mass rebellion against the Church taking place during
the seven year tribulation period. Verse 4 speaks concerning the “abomination
that brings desolation” at the midpoint of the seven year tribulation period.
Assuming the Church is here during these events, the Christian will be able
to discern what is happening if he has an understanding of the basic truths
revealed in God’s Word. In fact, why concern ourselves with this information
if the Church is to be raptured before these events take place? Is this information
only for the Jews? Remember, the Thessalonian church was predominately a gentile
church and this information is written specifically to them.

The anti-Christ [man of lawlessness] is being held back at this time either
by the Church, the Holy Spirit, or the message of the gospel. All three reasons
may be true because the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer, the believers are
the Church, and the Church proclaims the gospel. Therefore, when the rapture
occurs, the Church is gone, the work of the Holy Spirit is finished, and Satan
has free reign. Christ’s return is necessary to restore order because sin reigns
and creates chaos on earth. So Satan is at work now but is being held back by
the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers who belong to the Church that preaches
the gospel.

With the information given here, the Church will be able to discern who the
anti-Christ is. He will be that person [leader] who opposes all the things of
God and sets himself up as God, who requires one to worship him as God, and
who believes he has the power of God and is sovereign over all things.

Over the centuries, theologians have speculated on who this person might be.
We tend to think of an individual who rises up in power from a ten nation confederacy.
But it could also be a nation or organization who rejects God [the USA, the
UN]. The USA is the predominate power in the world and people look to us to
bail them out of all sorts of disasters. We make war on nations who would do
us harm. We elect a president every 4 years. When administrations change, so
does our foreign policy. We could make peace and protect Israel for 3 ½
years and then turn, setting ourselves up as God in their temple. I’m not saying
this as a belief but to challenge us to be alert to all possible interpretations
relating to the facts given in scripture and not to theological speculations.
Be very careful when going beyond the statement in the previous paragraph.

He is the Victor II Thess. 2:8-12

Jesus will return to defeat the anti- Christ. It will be a very short battle.
The simple but powerful Word of our Lord Jesus Christ will be enough to defeat
him.

We also learn a little more about the anti-Christ in these verses. In addition
to opposing Christ and His teachings, and claiming to be God, we learn that
he will be capable of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. He will do evil
against mankind to deceive them.

The people are deceived and will perish because they forsook the truth. They
refuse to believe that Jesus is God and came to save us from our sin. They believe
in man’s word over God’s Word, God’s message, and God’s messenger, Jesus Christ,
God’s Son. Here begins the initial separation; those who believe God’s Word
and those who believe man. We can easily be deceived too if we do not employ
the plumb line associated with God’s Word. Knowing God’s Word enables us to
discern truth from error, preventing our being deceived.

Man condemns himself by what and in whom he believes. God finally gives up
on man [see Romans 1] because He knows their heart.

Finally, His Word assures us that God loves us and that we have been chosen
to share in His Glory…..a message of assurance and a warning not to seek
another way. Our encouragement come from God personally in that He loves us,
He gives us hope, He encourages our hearts, and He strengthens us in our daily
activities. He alone is worthy of our praise and worship.

The next two pages attempt to summarize some verifiable facts versus stated
opinions we have concerning Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians and some principles
we must keep in mind so we do not stray from God’s intended purpose.

2thess_facts_opinions

2thess_principle

Encouragement for the Present                                             II Thess. 3:1-18

Pray for One Another                          II Thess. 3:1-3

Paul is asking for prayer for Silas, Timothy, and himself that they may be
delivered from the wicked and evil men persecuting them. Their request is supported
with reasons namely:

  1. That the Gospel will spread rapidly and be honored similar to what happened in Thessalonica.
  2. Wicked and evil men abound.
  3. The Lord is faithful and will protect them too.
  4. They know the Thessalonians are faithful and loving. [vs.4]

Praying believers are:

  • Faithful believers,
  • Purposeful believers, and
  • Interceding believers
    • for God’s protection, encouragement, and glory in the rapid sowing of the Gospel message.

Safety is important when working on behalf of Christ so consider this work
place analogy. It’s bad work practice to place yourself in the “line of
fire” [stored energy] but that is exactly what Christ did in His ministry
and what Paul did too. It is also what the Thessalonians were doing and what
we Christians are commanded to do. But we do so with His Personal Protective
Equipment [PPE]. Our PPE is the armor of God [Eph. 6], the Holy Spirit, and
His angels. And it is the prayers of believers. Without God’s PPE, we would
stand a good chance of being killed.

We are to pray for the protection of those ministering. And someone should
be designated to pray for us. We are to pray that the gospel will spread rapidly
though out our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, and our workplace etc.
Praying believers are the foundation stones to the Kingdom. Christ is the cornerstone
of that foundation. Let us pray for one another. All who have placed our faith
in Christ Jesus are ministers of the Gospel.

Love One Another                        II Thess. 3:4-5

Paul’s command was for the Thessalonians to be faithful and loving; that their
ministry would continue to be effective and grow. Verse 5 is not only part of
Paul’s prayer but it is in the form of a blessing. He is asking the Lord to
guide and push the hearts of the Thessalonians further into God’s love and Christ’s
perseverance. After all, Christ went all the way to the cross.

We are to love and never stop loving. This is not a choice. It is a direction,
a purposeful direction. We are His workmanship; we are to love Him with all
of our heart and love others as ourselves. This is a prayer for enabling us
to accomplish His Great Commandment.

If you want to love someone more you must first love God more. In other words,
the more you love God the more you can love your fellow man. This too is a foundational
stone of the Gospel message. God’s love was demonstrated through His Son and
the cross. Christ’s perseverance was demonstrated through the cross and His
love for His disciples/Church [us].

Work on Behalf of One Another              II Thess. 3:6-15

Paul brings up the subject of idleness once again. He mentioned this subject
in I Thessalonians 4 and in II Thessalonians 1. Idleness and lack of commitment
to Christ seem to be related. The points Paul was making in chapter 1 are subtle.
They were:

  1. One must participate to grow. [vs.5-6]
  2. Working for Christ assures Christ working in us. [vs.11-12]
  3. A working Christian is a valuable Christian. [vs.11-12]

Paul is laying out some basic Human Resource Principles. They are:

  1. A working man remains sharp and is respected.
  2. A lazy man becomes lazier and loses respect.
  3. The busier we are, the better we perform.

This is all about respect; that the gospel message will be honored. It also
demonstrates that Christ will meet our physical needs as He has promised. Work
enables one to have a common contact point with unbelievers. That contact point
is the workplace, not the church banquet hall. Others should be able to find
Christ through our work ethic. Our work ethic ought to attract, not repel, people
to Christ. Idleness is seen by the world as non-committed or not responsible.
How we live our lives is an example to others. Concerning the subject in chapter
2, we are to working on behalf of the Rapture; not waiting for the Rapture.

This speaks against retirement as such. Ones duties, interests, responsibilities
may shift but they do not shift away from working.

Idleness is not reason to doubt one’s faith but it is certainly worthy of
correction. It’s hard to get support from others if you are unwilling to support
yourself [another HR Principle]. In other words, you can’t get if you don’t
give. Teamwork! [see Romans 12:4-5] A Christian should have the best work ethic,
always willing to go the extra mile.

Going back to the beginning of this chapter, it’s hard to support one with
prayer, important as it is, when one is unwilling to put forth the expected
effort. Idleness is to be treated like a sin. If we know someone who is idle,
we have a responsibility to bring it to their attention in loving correction.
It takes courage and compassion that only God can provide.

How do people see us? Do they seek our advice or do they recognize our vice
[idleness]? We are to be:

  • Enablers, not one who is unable to do anything;
  • Willing, not unwilling;
  • Busy, not a busybody;
  • A positive influence instead of a negative influence.

Experience Christ’s Grace, Peace, and Presence             II Thess. 3:16-18

Paul closes this letter with a prayer and a blessing, asking for the Lord’s
peace, presence, and grace to be bestowed upon the Thessalonian church. Let
us close with these two statements.

  1. Our knowledge of God’s Grace leads to Peace which enables us to sense God’s Presence.
  2. Grace, Peace, and Presence are three key ingredients for encouragement and perseverance in running the race….The needed pick-up when we fall.

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