Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Its GENUINENESS is attested by Polycarp [Epistle to the Philippians, 11], who alludes to 2Th 3:15. Justin Martyr [Dialogue with Trypho, p. 193.32], alludes to 2Th 2:3. Irenæus [Against Heresies, 7.2] quotes 2Th 2:8. Clement of Alexandria [Miscellanies, 1.5, p. 554; The Instructor, 1.17], quotes 2Th 3:2, as Paul's words. Tertullian [On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 24] quotes 2Th 2:1, 2, as part of Paul's Epistle.
Design.—The accounts from Thessalonica, after the sending of the first Epistle, represented the faith and love of the Christians there as on the increase; and their constancy amidst persecutions unshaken. One error of doctrine, however, resulting in practical evil, had sprung up among them. The apostle's description of Christ's sudden second coming (1Th 4:13, &c., and 1Th 5:2), and the possibility of its being at any time, led them to believe it was actually at hand. Some professed to know by "the Spirit" (2Th 2:2) that it was so; and others alleged that Paul had said so when with them. A letter, too, purporting to be from the apostle to that effect, seems to have been circulated among them. (That 2Th 2:2 refers to such a spurious letter, rather than to Paul's first Epistle, appears likely from the statement, 2Th 3:17, as to his autograph salutation being the mark whereby his genuine letters might be known). Hence some neglected their daily business and threw themselves on the charity of others, as if their sole duty was to wait for the coming of the Lord. This error, therefore, needed rectifying, and forms a leading topic of the second Epistle. He in it tells them (2Th 2:1-17), that before the Lord shall come, there must first be a great apostasy, and the Man of Sin must be revealed; and that the Lord's sudden coming is no ground for neglecting daily business; that to do so would only bring scandal on the Church, and was contrary to his own practice among them (2Th 3:7-9), and that the faithful must withdraw themselves from such disorderly professors (2Th 3:6, 10-15). Thus, there are three divisions of the Epistle: (1) 2Th 1:1-12. Commendations of the Thessalonians' faith, love, and patience, amidst persecutions. (2) 2Th 2:1-17. The error as to the immediate coming of Christ corrected, and the previous rise and downfall of the Man of Sin foretold. (3) 2Th 3:1-16. Exhortations to orderly conduct in their whole walk, with prayers for them to the God of peace, followed by his autograph salutation and benediction.
Date of writing.—AS the Epistle is written in the joint names of Timothy and Silas, as well as his own, and as these were with him while at Corinth, and not with him for a long time subsequently to his having left that city (compare Ac 18:18, with Ac 19:22; indeed, as to Silas, it is doubtful whether he was ever subsequently with Paul), it follows, the place of writing must have been Corinth, and the date, during the one "year and six months" of his stay there, Ac 18:11 (namely, beginning with the autumn of A.D. 52, and ending with the spring of A.D. 54), say about six months after his first Epistle, early in A.D. 53.
Style.—The style is not different from that of most of Paul's other writings, except in the prophetic portion of it (2Th 2:1-12), which is distinguished from them in subject matter. As is usual in his more solemn passages (for instance, in the denunciatory and prophetic portions of his Epistles, for example, compare Col 2:8, 16, with 2Th 2:3; 1Co 15:24-28, with 2Th 2:8, 9; Ro 1:18, with 2Th 2:8, 10), his diction here is more lofty, abrupt, and elliptical. As the former Epistle dwells mostly on the second Advent in its aspect of glory to the sleeping and the living saints (1Th 4:1-5:28), so this Epistle dwells mostly on it in its aspect of everlasting destruction to the wicked and him who shall be the final consummation of wickedness, the Man of Sin. So far was Paul from laboring under an erroneous impression as to Christ's speedy coming, when he wrote his first Epistle (which rationalists impute to him), that he had distinctly told them, when he was with them, the same truths as to the apostasy being about first to arise, which he now insists upon in this second Epistle (2Th 2:5). Several points of coincidence occur between the two Epistles, confirming the genuineness of the latter. Thus, compare 2Th 3:2, with 1Th 2:15, 16; again, 2Th 2:9, the Man of Sin "coming after the working of Satan," with 1Th 2:18; 3:5, where Satan's incipient work as the hinderer of the Gospel, and the tempter, appears; again, mild warning is enjoined, 1Th 5:14; but, in this second Epistle, when the evil had grown worse, stricter discipline (2Th 3:6, 14): "withdraw from" the "company" of such.
Paul probably visited Thessalonica on his way to Asia subsequently (Ac 20:4), and took with him thence Aristarchus and Secundus: the former became his "companion in travel" and shared with him his perils at Ephesus, also those of his shipwreck, and was his "fellow prisoner" at Rome (Ac 27:2; Col 4:10; Phm 24). According to tradition he became bishop of Apamea.
2Th 1:1-12. Address and Salutation: Introduction: Thanksgiving for Their Growth in Faith and Love, and for Their Patience in Persecutions, Which Are a Token for Good Everlasting to Them, and for Perdition to Their Adversaries at Christ's Coming: Prayer for Their Perfection.
1. in God our Father—still more endearing than the address, 1Th 1:1 "in God THE Father."
Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. from God our Father—So some oldest manuscripts read. Others omit "our."
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
3. We are bound—Greek, "We owe it as a debt" (2Th 2:13). They had prayed for the Thessalonians (1Th 3:12) that they might "increase and abound in love"; their prayer having been heard, it is a small but a bounden return for them to make, to thank God for it. Thus, Paul and his fellow missionaries practice what they preach (1Th 5:18). In 1Th 1:3, their thanksgiving was for the Thessalonians' faith, love, and patience"; here, for their exceeding growth in faith, and for their charity abounding. "We are bound" expresses the duty of thanksgiving from its subjective side as an inward conviction. "As it is meet," from the objective: side as something answering to the state of circumstances [Alford]. Observe the exact correspondence of the prayer (1Th 3:12, "The Lord make you to abound in love") and the answer, "The love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth" (compare 1Th 4:10).
So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
4. glory in you—make our boast of you, literally, "in your case." "Ourselves" implies that not merely did they hear others speaking of the Thessalonians' faith, but they, the missionaries themselves, boasted of it. Compare 1Th 1:8, wherein the apostle said, their faith was so well known in various places, that he and his fellow missionaries had no need to speak of it; but here he says, so abounding is their love, combined with faith and patience, that he and his fellow missionaries themselves, make it a matter of glorying in the various churches elsewhere (he was now at Corinth in Achaia, and boasted there of the faith of the Macedonian churches, 2Co 10:15-17; 8:1, at the same time giving the glory to the Lord), not only looking forward to glorying thereat at Christ's coming (1Th 2:19), but doing so even now.
patience—in 1Th 1:3, "patience of hope." Here hope is tacitly implied as the ground of their patience; 2Th 1:5, 7 state the object of their hope, namely, the kingdom for which they suffer.
tribulations—literally, "pressures." The Jews were the instigators of the populace and of the magistrates against Christians (Ac 17:6, 8).
which ye endure—Greek, "are (now) enduring."
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
5. Which—Your enduring these tribulations is a "token of the righteous judgment of God," manifested in your being enabled to endure them, and in your adversaries thereby filling up the measure of their guilt. The judgment is even now begun, but its consummation will be at the Lord's coming. David (Ps 73:1-14) and Jeremiah (Jer 12:1-4) were perplexed at the wicked prospering and the godly suffering. But Paul, by the light of the New Testament, makes this fact a matter of consolation. It is a proof (so the Greek) of the future judgment, which will set to rights the anomalies of the present state, by rewarding the now suffering saint, and by punishing the persecutor. And even now "the Judge of all the earth does right" (Ge 18:25); for the godly are in themselves sinful and need chastisement to amend them. What they suffer unjustly at the hands of cruel men they suffer justly at the hands of God; and they have their evil things here that they may escape condemnation with the world and have their good things hereafter (Lu 16:25; 1Co 11:32) [Edmunds].
that ye may be counted worthy—expressing the purpose of God's "righteous judgment" as regards you.
for which—Greek, "in behalf of which ye are also suffering" (compare Ac 5:41; 9:16; Php 1:29). "Worthy" implies that, though men are justified by faith, they shall be judged "according to their works" (Re 20:12; compare 1Th 2:12; 1Pe 1:6, 7; Re 20:4). The "also" implies the connection between the suffering for the kingdom and being counted worthy of it. Compare Ro 8:17, 18.
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
6. seeing it is a righteous thing—This justifies the assertion above of there being a "righteous judgment" (2Th 1:5), namely, "seeing that it is (literally, 'if at least,' 'if at all events it is') a righteous thing with (that is, in the estimation of) God" (which, as we all feel, it certainly is). Our own innate feeling of what is just, in this confirms what is revealed.
recompense—requite in kind, namely, tribulation to them that trouble you (affliction to those that afflict you); and to you who are troubled, rest from trouble.
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
7. rest—governed by "to recompense" (2Th 1:6). The Greek is literally, "relaxation"; loosening of the tension which had preceded; relaxing of the strings of endurance now so tightly drawn. The Greek word for "rest," Mt 11:28, is distinct, namely, cessation from labor. Also, Heb 4:9, "A keeping of sabbath."
with us—namely, Paul, Silas, and Timothy, the writers, who are troubled like yourselves.
when—at the time when … ; not sooner, not later.
with his mighty angels—rather as the Greek, "with the angels of His might," or "power," that is, the angels who are the ministers by whom He makes His might to be recognized (Mt 13:41, 52). It is not their might, but His might, which is the prominent thought.
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
8. In flaming fire—Greek, "In flame of fire"; or, as other oldest manuscripts read, "in fire of flame." This flame of fire accompanied His manifestation in the bush (Ex 3:2); also His giving of the law at Sinai (Ex 19:18). Also it shall accompany His revelation at His advent (Da 7:9, 10), symbolizing His own bright glory and His consuming vengeance against His foes (Heb 10:27; 12:29; 2Pe 3:7, 10).
taking—literally, "giving" them, as their portion, "vengeance."
know not God—the Gentiles primarily (Ps 79:6; Ga 4:8; 1Th 4:5); not of course those involuntarily not knowing God, but those wilfully not knowing Him, as Pharaoh, who might have known God if he would, but who boasted "I know not the Lord" (Ex 5:2); and as the heathen persecutors who might have known God by the preaching of those whom they persecuted. Secondarily, all who "profess to know God but in works deny Him" (Tit 1:16).
obey not the gospel—primarily the unbelieving Jews (Ro 10:3, 16); secondarily, all who obey not the truth (Ro 2:8).
Christ—omitted by some of the oldest manuscripts, and retained by others.
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
9. Who—Greek, "persons who," &c.
destruction from the presence of the Lord—driven far from His presence [Alford]. The sentence emanating from Him in person, sitting as Judge [Bengel], and driving them far from Him (Mt 25:41; Re 6:16; 12:14; compare 1Pe 3:12; Isa 2:10, 19). "The presence of the Lord" is the source whence the sentence goes forth; "the glory of His power" is the instrument whereby the sentence is carried into execution [Edmunds]. But Alford better interprets the latter clause (see 2Th 1:10), driven "from the manifestation of His power in the glorification of His saints." Cast out from the presence of the Lord is the idea at the root of eternal death, the law of evil left to its unrestricted working, without one counteracting influence of the presence of God, who is the source of all light and holiness (Isa 66:24; Mr 9:44).
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
10. "When He shall have come."
glorified in his saints—as the element and mirror IN which His glory shall shine brightly (Joh 17:10).
admired in all them that believe—Greek, "them that believed." Once they believed, now they see: they had taken His word on trust. Now His word is made good and they need faith no longer. With wonder all celestial intelligences (Eph 3:10) shall see and admire the Redeemer on account of the excellencies which He has wrought in them.
because, &c.—Supply for the sense, among whom (namely, those who shall be found to have believed) you, too, shall be; "because our testimony unto (so the Greek for 'among') you was believed" (and was not rejected as by those "who obey not the Gospel," 2Th 1:8). The early preaching of the Gospel was not abstract discussions, but a testimony to facts and truths experimentally known (Lu 24:48; Ac 1:8). Faith is defined by Bishop Pearson as "an assent unto truths, credible upon the testimony of God, delivered unto us by the apostles and prophets" (originally delivering their testimony orally, but now in their writings). "Glorified in His saints" reminds us that holiness is glory in the bud; glory is holiness manifested.
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
11. Wherefore—Greek, "With a view to which," namely, His glorification in you as His saints.
also—We not only anticipate the coming glorification of our Lord in His saints, but we also pray concerning (so the Greek) YOU.
our God—whom we serve.
count you worthy—The prominent position of the "You" in the Greek makes it the emphatic word of the sentence. May you be found among the saints whom God shall count worthy of their calling (Eph 4:1)! There is no dignity in us independent of God's calling of us (2Ti 1:9). The calling here is not merely the first actual call, but the whole of God's electing act, originating in His "purpose of grace given us in Christ before the world began," and having its consummation in glory.
the good pleasure of, &c.—on the part of God [Bengel].
faith—on your part. Alford refers the former clause, "good pleasure of his goodness," also to man, arguing that the Greek for "goodness" is never applied to God, and translates, "All [that is, every possible] right purpose of goodness." Wahl, "All sweetness of goodness," that is, impart in full to you all the refreshing delights of goodness. I think that, as in the previous and parallel clause, "calling" refers to God's purpose; and as the Greek for "good pleasure" mostly is used of God, we ought to translate, "fulfil (His) every gracious purpose of goodness (on your part)," that is, fully perfect in you all goodness according to His gracious purpose. Thus, "the grace of our God," 2Th 1:12, corresponds to God's "good pleasure" here, which confirms the English Version, just as "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" is parallel to "work of faith," as Christ especially is the object of faith. "The work of faith"; Greek, (no article; supply from the previous clause all) work of faith"; faith manifested by work, which is its perfected development (Jas 1:4; compare Note, see on 1Th 1:3). Working reality of faith.
with power—Greek, "in power," that is, "powerfully fulfil in you" (Col 1:11).
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
12. the name of our Lord Jesus—Our Lord Jesus in His manifested personality as the God-man.
in you, and ye in him—reciprocal glorification; compare Isa 28:5, "The Lord of hosts shall be … a crown of glory and … a diadem of beauty unto … His people," with Isa 62:3, "Thou (Zion) shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem," &c. (Joh 21:10; Ga 1:24; 1Pe 4:14). The believer's graces redound to Christ's glory, and His glory, as their Head, reflects glory on them as the members.
the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ—There is but one Greek article to both, implying the inseparable unity of God and the Lord Jesus.