1 Thessalonians 2:16
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come on them to the uttermost.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles.—The Apostle indicates the special way in which their contrariety showed itself.

To fill up.—Literally, unto the filling up. Not exactly their intention in forbidding, but, the end to which such conduct was steadily (“alway”) tending. (Again comp. Acts 7:51, and Matthew 23:32.) St. Paul seems to mean that there may be a certain sum of wickedness which God will allow a nation, a church, a person, to complete, before cutting” them off from all spiritual help; the Jews were industriously labouring to complete the sum.

For.—The Greek word is but; and the point is this:—“The Jews have been working up to the rounded perfection of their sin; but (they had not much left to do) the wrath burst suddenly upon them to its uttermost.” The word for “is come” (which should be the simple preterite “came”) is the same as that used in Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20, of a sudden, unexpected apparition. “The wrath” is the wrath from which Jesus is delivering us (1Thessalonians 1:10), and it had already come upon the Jews, though its outward manifestation in the destruction of Jerusalem was not to come yet awhile. The particular moment at which St. Paul means that the wrath “came” must have been the moment of their final rejection of the Messiah.

2:13-16 We should receive the word of God with affections suitable to its holiness, wisdom, truth, and goodness. The words of men are frail and perishing, like themselves, and sometimes false, foolish, and fickle; but God's word is holy, wise, just, and faithful. Let us receive and regard it accordingly. The word wrought in them, to make them examples to others in faith and good works, and in patience under sufferings, and in trials for the sake of the gospel. Murder and persecution are hateful to God, and no zeal for any thing in religion can excuse it. Nothing tends more to any person or people's filling up the measure of their sins, than opposing the gospel, and hindering the salvation of souls. The pure gospel of Christ is abhorred by many, and the faithful preaching of it is hindered in many ways. But those who forbid the preaching it to sinners, to men dead in sin, do not by this please God. Those have cruel hearts, and are enemies to the glory of God, and to the salvation of his people, who deny them the Bible.Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles - see Acts 17:5, Acts 17:13. No particular instance is mentioned in the life of Paul previous to this, when they had formally commanded him not to preach to the pagan, but no one can doubt that this was one of the leading points of difference between him and them. Paul maintained that the Jews and Gentiles were now on a level with regard to salvation; that the wall of partition was broken down; that the Jew had no advantages over the rest of mankind in this respect, and that the pagan might be saved without becoming Jews, or being circumcised; Romans 2:25-29; Romans 3:22-31; notes, Colossians 1:24. The Jews did not hold it unlawful "to speak to the Gentiles," and even to offer to them eternal life Matthew 23:15, but it was only on condition that they should become proselytes to their religion, and should observe the institutions of Moses. If saved, they held that it would be as Jews - either originally such, or such by becoming proselytes. Paul maintained just the opposite opinion, that pagans might be saved without becoming proselytes to the Jewish system, and that, in fact, salvation was as freely offered to them as to the children of Abraham. Though there are no express instances in which they prohibited Paul from speaking to the Gentiles recorded before the date of this Epistle, yet events occurred afterward which showed what were their feelings, and such as to make it in the highest degree probable that they had attempted to restrain him; see Acts 22:21-22, "And he (Christ) said unto me (Paul), Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. And they (the Jews) gave him audience unto this word, and then lift up their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live."

That they might be saved - That is, as freely as others, and on the same terms, not by conversion to Judaism, but by repentance and faith.

To fill up their sins alway - At all times - πάντοτε pantote - in every generation. That is, to do now as they have always done, by resisting God and exposing themselves to His wrath. The idea is, that it had been a characteristic of the nation, at all times, to oppose God, and that they did it now in this manner in conformity with their fixed character; compare Acts 7:51-53, and notes on Matthew 23:32, on the expression, "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers."

For the wrath is come upon them - This cannot mean that the wrath of God had been then actually poured out upon them in the extreme degree referred to, or that they had experienced the full expressions of the divine displeasure, for this Epistle was written before the destruction of their city and temple (see the Introduction); but that the cup of their iniquity was full; that they were in fact abandoned by God; that they were the objects even then of his displeasure, and that their destruction was so certain that it might be spoken of as an indubitable fact. The "wrath of God" may be said to have come upon a man when he abandons him, even though there may not be as yet any external expressions of his indignation. It is not punishment that constitutes the wrath of God. That is the mere outward expression of the divine indignation, and the wrath of God may in fact have come upon a man when as yet there are no external tokens of it. The overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple, were but the outward expressions of the divine displeasure at their conduct. Paul, inspired to speak of the feelings of God, describes that wrath as already existing in the divine mind; compare Romans 4:17.

To the uttermost - Greek - εἰς τέλος eis telos - "to the end;" that is, until wrath shall be "complete" or "exhausted;" or wrath in the extremest degree. It does not mean "to the end of their race or history;" nor necessarily to the remotest periods of time, but to that which constitutes completion, so that there should be nothing lacking of that which would make indignation perfect: "εἰς τέλος eis telos - gantz und gar" - thoroughly, entirely, through and through." Passow. Some have understood this as meaning "at the last," or "at length," as Macknight, Rosenmuller, Koppe, and Wetstein; others as referring to duration, meaning that it would follow them everywhere; but the more correct interpretation seems to be to refer it to that extremity of calamity and woe which was about to come upon the nation. For an account of this, see the notes on Matthew 24:21.

16. Forbidding—Greek, "Hindering us from speaking," &c.

to fill up their sins alway—Tending thus "to the filling up (the full measure of, Ge 15:16; Da 8:23; Mt 23:32) their sins at all times," that is, now as at all former times. Their hindrance of the Gospel preaching to the Gentiles was the last measure added to their continually accumulating iniquity, which made them fully ripe for vengeance.

for—Greek, "but." "But," they shall proceed no further, for (2Ti 3:8) "the" divine "wrath has (so the Greek) come upon (overtaken unexpectedly; the past tense expressing the speedy certainty of the divinely destined stroke) them to the uttermost"; not merely partial wrath, but wrath to its full extent, "even to the finishing stroke" [Edmunds]. The past tense implies that the fullest visitation of wrath was already begun. Already in A.D. 48, a tumult had occurred at the Passover in Jerusalem, when about thirty thousand (according to some) were slain; a foretaste of the whole vengeance which speedily followed (Lu 19:43, 44; 21:24).

Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved: their contrariety to all men is expressed particularly in this instance; they forbade the apostles to preach to the Gentiles, which were the greater number of men; though they opposed also their preaching to the Jewish nation: for the Jews could not endure to hear that the Gentiles should be received into the church, or into special favour with God; as appears by Christ’s sermon in the synagogue, Luke 4:28, and in the apostle’s apology for himself at Jerusalem, Acts 22:21,22. And their forbidding them implies, not an act of authority, for they had it not, but their hindering them what they could, and stirring up the people and rulers against them, as Acts 17:6.

To fill up their sins alway; to cause it to rise up to such a measure and degree as will at last bring destruction. Though this was not their intention, yet through the just judgment of God it was the event. They killed the prophets; but killing Christ, and persecuting the apostles, and hindering the salvation of mankind thereby, this filled up their sin. The expression alludes to what is said of the Amorites, Genesis 15:16, and foretold by Daniel, Daniel 9:27, called the consummation. As here is a perfecting of holiness, and filling up of grace, so also of sin. And sin against the gospel ripens sin more than against the law. And because they made a constant progress in sin, they are said to fill it up; Fill ye up the measure of your fathers, Matthew 23:32.

For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost: first they filled up their sin, and then comes this wrath, or that wrath foretold by Daniel, Daniel 9:27; and by our Saviour, Matthew 23:38. It was their last destruction by the Romans. God’s wrath broke forth upon them several times before, but not to the utmost till now. Or, to the end, as in the Greek. In former punishments God removed his wrath and restored them again, but this continues to the end. Or, some, by the end, understand only the perfection and consummation of this wrath. And its coming may be read in the Greek, it hath prevented them; as bringing them to judgment beforehand in this world; as the destruction of the old world, Sodom, and Jerusalem, were figures and forerunners of the last judgment. And yet this doth not contradict what the apostle speaks, Romans 11:1-36, and many of the prophets, concerning their calling into the faith and church of Christ before the end of the world. Also we must understand it with an exception of the remnant of God’s election that was amongst them. Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved,.... Speaking or preaching the Gospel is the ordinary means of saving souls, or of acquainting them with the way of salvation, the necessity of it, and of the application of it to them, and with this end and view it is preached: now though the Jews disbelieved the Gospel, and despised the ministry of it, and disavowed any such use and end of it, yet such was their envy at the Gentiles, and their hatred of them, that could they have believed it to be the means of salvation, they would have forbidden the preaching of it to them, as they now did; and it is certain, that even the believing Jews, through ignorance, did at first disapprove of the ministry of the word to the Gentiles; see Acts 11:1 such was the aversion of that nation to all others, and which perfectly agrees with their general sentiments, which forbid the explanation of the law to the Gentiles; and therefore it need not be wondered at, that they should do all that in them lay to hinder the entrance and spread of the Gospel among them, of which take the following proof (f):

"whoever has not the holy name sealed and bound in his flesh (i.e. is not circumcised) "it is forbidden to make known to him a word of the law", and much less to study in it--and whoever is not circumcised, and they give to him , "the least thing in the law", it is as if he destroyed the world, and dealt falsely with the name of God--Hillell and Shammai did not make known to Onkelos a word of the law, until he was circumcised--and the traditions are, that even though a man is circumcised, yet if he does not do the commands of the law, lo, he is as a Gentile in all things, and "it is forbidden to teach him the words of the law":''

nay, it is a rule with the Jews (g), that

"if a Gentile studies in the law, he is guilty of death:''

and thus were they left in providence, to judicial blindness and hardness of heart,

to fill up their sins alway; the measure of their own and their fathers' iniquities; see Matthew 23:32 a phrase expressive of the abounding of their sins, and of their being under a divine appointment, and of their being limited and restrained by a divine power, and overruled by infinite wisdom, to answer some ends and purposes of God's glory;

for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost: which is to be understood, not of their wrath and fury being come to its highest degree and pitch against the followers of Christ, but of "the wrath of God", as the Vulgate Latin version and Beza's ancient copy express it; and designs not so much "eternal punishment", as the Ethiopic version renders the phrase, or everlasting wrath and damnation on the reprobate part of that people, as temporal ruin and destruction, which was now near at hand, and hung over their heads; and therefore is said to be come to them, and which in a little time fell upon their nation and city, and temple, even to the uttermost, to the last degree; and was, as the Arabic version renders it, "wrath consuming"; or "the consummation, and that determined poured upon the desolate", spoken of in Daniel 9:27 and which, as it is come upon them, will remain "unto the end", as the phrase may also be rendered; unto the end of the world, until the fulness of the Gentiles is brought in, and then God's elect among the Jews shall obtain mercy, and be called, and so all Israel shall be saved, Romans 11:25.

(f) Zohar in Lev. fol. 30. 2, 3.((g) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 59. 1. Maimon. Hilchot Melachim, c. 10. sect. 9.

Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to {k} fill up their sins alway: for the {l} wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

(k) Until that wickedness of theirs which they have by inheritance as it were of their fathers, has grown so great, that the measure of their iniquity being filled, God may come forth to wrath.

(l) The judgment of God who was angry, which indeed appeared shortly after in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, where many fled even out of various provinces, when it was besieged.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 2:16. κωλυόντων κ.τ.λ., defining (Luke 11:52) from the Christian standpoint that general and familiar charge of hatred to the human race (ἐναντίων κ.τ.λ.) which was started by the exclusiveness of the ghetto and the synagogue.—ἔφθασε κ.τ.λ., “the Wrath has come upon them,” apparently a reminiscence of Test. Levi. vi. 11. This curt and sharp verdict on the Jews sprang from Paul’s irritation at the moment. The apostle was in no mood to be conciliatory. He was suffering at Corinth from persistent Jewish attempts to wreck the Christian propaganda, and he flashes out in these stern sentences of anger. Later on (Romans 9-11.) he took a kinder and more hopeful view, though even this did not represent his final outlook on the prospects of Judaism. Consequently, it is arbitrary to suspect 1 Thessalonians 2:14 (15)–16 as a later interpolation, written after 70 A.D. (cf. the present writer’s Hist. New Testament, pp. 625, 626). But the closing sentence of 1 Thessalonians 2:16 has all the appearance of a marginal gloss, written after the tragic days of the siege in 70 A.D. (so e.g., Spitta, Pfleiderer, Primitive Christianity, i. 128, 129, Schmiedel, Teichmann, die Paul. Vorstellungen von Auferstehung u. Gericht, 83, Drummond, etc.). The Jews, no doubt, had recently suffered, and were suffering, as a nation in a way which might seem to Paul, in a moment of vehement feeling, a clear proof of condign punishment (so e.g., Schmidt, 86–90). But neither the edict of Claudius nor the bloody feuds in Palestine quite bear out the language of this verse. And ὀργή is surely more than judicial hardening (cf. Dante’s Paradiso, vi. 88–93); its eschatological significance points to a more definite interpretation.16. forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved] R. V., may be saved. As much as to say: “These Jews, if they had their way, would prevent us speaking a single word to you about the Gospel; they would willingly see all the Gentiles perish!” This stamped them as enemies of the human race. They were furious to think that unclean Gentiles claimed a share in their Messiah! Their murderous hatred against Paul was due to the fact that he preached Christ to the heathen and declared God to be the God of Jews and Gentiles equally, saving both alike through faith in Christ. So when in his defence before the Jewish multitude at the Temple he came to the words, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles,” they broke out in uncontrollable rage, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live!” (Acts 22:21-23). The Jews of Thessalonica seem to have been especially mean and fanatical (Acts 17:5; Acts 17:11; Acts 17:13); and the Apostle wishes his readers to see how entirely he is on their side as against his fellow-countrymen.

to fill up their sins alway] After the death of Christ a space for repentance was allowed them, the “forty years” alluded to in Hebrews 3:9; Hebrews 3:17. Had they accepted Christ’s message of reconciliation through the apostles and become His witnesses to the Gentiles, the judgement would have been averted (Acts 3:19). The measure allowed to the nation’s sins was not yet full; but this last refusal made their cup overflow—slowly filling, as it had been, for many ages. “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers,” Jesus had said to them (Matthew 23:32); and this they had done, beyond all question. The phrase fill up their sins, signifying ripeness for judgement, is used in Genesis 15:16 of the Amorites in Abraham’s time—an ominous parallel. “Alway:” comp. Stephen’s reproach, “As did your fathers, so do ye” (Acts 7:51).

for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost] but the wrath (R. V.), not for; as though he said, “But the end comes at last: they have always been sowing this harvest; now it has to be reaped.” Whose wrath this is, goes without saying; so in Romans 5:9 God’s anger is called with impressive emphasis “the wrath.” It is indeed “the wrath” of ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (see note): there regarded in its final and general manifestation to the world, here in its imminent relation to the people of Israel. There it is “coming;” here it “is come,” or has arrived.

These words are prophetical; but the announcement goes beyond prediction. The Jews as a people had decisively refused the gospel of Jesus Christ, and their fate was sealed. The nation was moving swiftly and visibly down the inclined plane to ruin. And this calamity was to be final. “To the uttermost,” says the Apostle; lit., unto an end. In former threatenings the Lord had said, “Yet will I not make a full end” (Jeremiah 4:27, and often). He does make a full end this time—an end of the Old Covenant and of national Israel as the elect people; still it is not “the end,” as though God had no further dealings with ancient Israel: see on the contrary Romans 11.

In the year 70 of our Lord Jerusalem fell, after the most dreadful and calamitous siege known in history; and the Jewish people ever since have wandered without a home and without an altar. Tristis exitus, says Bengel: urgebat miseros ira Dei, et εἰς τέλος (tandem, at length) urbem cum templo delevit.1 Thessalonians 2:16. Λαλῆσαι, to speak) Less is said than he wishes to be understood by Ταπείνωσις.—εἰς τὸ ἀναπληρῶσαι, that they may fill up) Obstinacy against receiving the word above all fills up the measure of sins.—αὐτῶν, their) the sins of the Jews.—πάντοτε) as always, so now also.—εἰς τέλος, [tending] to the end) A sad closing catastrophe [Engl. Vers. to the uttermost]. The same phrase occurs at Luke 18:5. Under Herod Agrippa the Jewish state had begun again to flourish, but after his death, Acts 12:23, the Roman procurators returned. Cumanus and Felix, and their successors, more and more harassed the Jews. This epistle was written in the year of our Lord 48, and about that time a tumult arose at Jerusalem during the feast of the passover, and an immense multitude were slain: some say, more than thirty thousand. The wrath of God closely pursued these miserable men, and εἰς τέλος, [at the last] at length, destroyed their city and temple.Verse 16. - Forbidding us - by contradicting, blaspheming, slandering, laying snares - to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved. Not that the Jews were averse to the proselytism of the Gentiles, provided they were circumcised -rod kept the Law of Moses; on the contrary, Judaism at this period was a proselytizing religion; but their great objection to the preaching of the gospel was that the preachers did not insist on the Gentiles becoming Jews before they became Christians. And, accordingly, we learn from the Acts of the Apostles that the unbelieving Jews were the most violent and implacable enemies of the gospel. Of the numerous persecutions mentioned in the Acts, there were only two, namely, those at Philippi and Ephesus, which were not occasioned by the Jews. To fill up their sins always; so that the measure of their iniquity became full to overflowing. Their forbidding the apostles to preach to the Gentiles was the last drop which caused the cup of their iniquity to overflow (cutup. Genesis 15:16, "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full"). The remark of Professor Jowett is well worthy of notice: "In the beginning of sin and evil it seems as if men were free agents, and had the power of going on or of retreating. But as the crisis of their fate approaches, they are bound under a curse and the form in which their destiny presents itself to our minds is as though it were certain, and only a question of time how soon it is to be fulfilled." For the wrath; that wrath which was predicted and is merited by them. "Wrath" is here used for punishment, which is the effect of wrath. Is come upon them to the uttermost; literally, to the end. The apostle here refers to the judgments of God, which were impending on Jerusalem and the Jewish people; judgments which were fearfully executed in the awful sufferings they endured in the Jewish war, and in the destruction of their city by the Romans. To speak - that they might be saved (λαλῆσαι ἵνα σωθῶσιν)

Not, to speak to the Gentiles in order that they might be saved, but to tell the Gentiles that they might be saved. Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:33.

To fill up (ἀναπληρῶσαι)

The verb means the making up of what is lacking to perfect fulness; the filling of a partial void. Comp. Philippians 2:30. Once in lxx of filling up of sins, Genesis 15:16. Always blind and stubborn, the Jews filled up the measure of their sins by their treatment of Christ and his apostles.

Alway (πάντοτε)

Emphatically placed at the end of the sentence. At all times - before Christ, in Christ's time, now - the Jews by their resistance to the divine word fill up their sins.

Is come (ἔφθασεν)

The verb not frequent in N.T. and used mostly by Paul. See on 2 Corinthians 10:14, and comp. Romans 9:31; Philippians 3:16.

To the uttermost (εἰς τέλος)

This is not the meaning of the phrase in N.T. It is to the end: see Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Luke 18:5; John 13:1. The wrath of God had not come upon them to the uttermost. The meaning is that the divine wrath had reached the point where it passed into judgment.

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