"Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,"
After Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians the dangerous seeds of disruption had germinated. This letter was written less than twelve months after the first. It was possibly prompted by the returning courier bringing disturbing reports about some of their number becoming lazy busybodies. In his first letter he wrote to console and encourage them by reminding them of the Lord's return and Day. Some had taken this to mean that the 'Day of the Lord' had already begun and that Christ's return was imminent. This led to people retiring from work and depending on hand-outs from others.
1. THESE SHALL BE PUNISHED
Second Thessalonians 1
"These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,"
Jesus is coming back! Paul had used this theology to comfort the Thessalonians in his first letter. Rather than abandon this theology, he clarifies it. The church was being oppressed and persecuted. This time, Paul's theology about the return of Christ would firstly correct the error of parasitic laziness, and secondly comfort the church in its new situation of persecution.
Paul had already stated that the return of Christ meant resurrection for the believers. Life did not end at the grave! The dead believers would be the first to enjoy the resurrection. Paul said this should be an occasion of joy and comfort for living believers. But the return of Christ was also to be an occasion of judgment.
1. Note 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9. When Christ returns, what will be the result for those who are troubling His church?
The events described in Paul's first letter are now being clarified. The "catching up" of the saints and the return of Christ are similtaneous based on what Paul is now saying. Therefore, there can not be two separate events separated by a period of time. When Christ comes back, His church will meet Him in the air (1Thess. 4:16-17). But Christ isn't coming back to the earth to rescue His church by carrying them away. This Second Thessalonians passage says He's coming back in judgment.
In Matthew 25:1-13, Christ described an oriental wedding. He did this to illustrate His return (vs. 13). The picture He gave was of a bridegroom coming for his bride. He collects his bride as they come out to meet him, and continues on, not back, to the wedding. This is also the picture that Paul paints here.
The expression Day of the Lord is used frequently throughout Scripture. It refers to any occasion when God cataclysmically (dramatically, often with judgment) intervenes into human affairs.
2. How did Jesus describe God's intervention in Matthew 24:29-31?
3. What was the impression Amos gave about the Day of the Lord?
Many have wondered why God has allowed Christians to suffer and undergo persecution without stepping in. Many times, in His grace, He has intervened. His Word helps us to understand the 'laws' in which God moves. You might like to remember this saying-
When miracles become the rule, law becomes the exception!
When the extraordinary becomes common-place, the ordinary becomes the exception, might be another way of saying this. The extraordinary helps us to appreciate God's ability to intervene. If God always intervened, we would come to expect it and eventually demand it.
In this instance the law that God operates in is found in First Thessalonians 1:6. God will punish and repay severely all those who trouble the church! The greatest manifestation of this will be the final 'Day of the Lord'. In verses 7-9, Paul describes prophetically the scene of the actual Day of Christ's return.
2. THE FALLING AWAY COMES FIRST
Second Thessalonians 2
"Let no one deceive you by any means: for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,"
Second Thessalonians 2:3
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, . . ."
First Timothy 4:1
Paul tells the Thessalonians not to be deceived into the thinking that the final Day of the Lord had already begun. He lists a few things that must happen before the Tribulation would be upon the world.
4. What will be the first sign of an impending return of Christ? (2:3)
5. What will he the evidence that the tribulation of Matthew 24 has already begun? (2:3b-4)
Christ foretold of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. This was fulfilled in the year 69-70 AD when Tacticus invaded Jerusalem and literally fulfilled Christ's predictions and gave a reason for the warnings that Christ gave His followers about that time.
6. Had they already been told about these things? (2:5)
In verse seven Paul talks about a restrainer. He says this restrainer is stopping the 'man of sin' from being revealed. But soon the restrainer would be removed. The "restrainer" could be-
1. The Roman government.
2. The Holy Spirit.
3. The Devil.
The man of sin was to be responsible for fulfilling the prophecy of Matthew 24 by destroying Jerusalem and the temple.
3. DO NOT GROW WEARY
Second Thessalonians 3
"But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good."
Paul's words to them would make them realise that the Day of the Lord hadn't begun yet and there was a need for those who had given-up their jobs to get back to work. In the midst of their persecution he urges them to remain faithful and not grow weary in doing good.
7. Despite the attacks of Satan, what was God's promise? (3:3)
8. What two things did Paul pray for them? (3:5)
9. If anyone refused to return to work and rejected Paul's epistle, what was the church to do with that person and why?
10. What was the sign of all Paul's letters? Why would this be important?
PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETING BIBLE PROPHECY
The Bible contains about two-thirds predictive prophecy. For every prophecy regarding the first coming of Christ, there are eight regarding the second! On average, one in every twenty-five verses of the New Testament deals with the second coming. When we examine the fulfilment of prophecies regarding the first coming of Christ, we notice how literally they were fulfilled. Any prophecy about Christ that wasn't fulfilled in the first coming will be fulfilled in the second coming. Because of the literal fulfilment of the first coming we must assume that the same principle of prophetic fulfilment will apply to the second coming. Thus, where the Scriptures speak of Christ ruling the world, we expect that this will literally happen. His kingdom will never end.
New Testament Survey
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania