Do you remember when the EU was formed and people thought that this was the End of the World, that Jesus’ coming back was imminent and and Christians started panicking? Remember at the end of the Millenium when the Y2K idea was prevalent and the world was going to end and there was generalized panic? So many times people have spread fear due to the “end of the world” theories, while many Christians have too spread fear and behaved irrationally because they have predicted (wrongly) Jesus’ coming. Well, the Thessalonians were facing similar rumors and they lived in fear and acted in ways that did not honor God. Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians to continue to encourage them under persecution, to correct their misunderstanding about the Lord’s return and to discipline those who had taken wrong actions due to this widespread fake news. Let’s see what Christ’s Second Coming should and shouldn’t do in believers as we explore 2 Thessalonians.
If you remember from last post, Paul had written the 1 Letter to the Thessalonians to encourage them to remain holy, steadfast and strong in the Lord in the face of persecution. Although the letter encouraged the Thessalonians, a widespread misunderstanding regarding the Coming of the Lord had intensified and many believers were taking actions that were both irresponsible and did not honor God. There was also a fake letter of Paul that had been circulated, which contained false teachings. So Paul writes another letter to the Thessalonians couple of months to 2 years later (there is debate among Bible scholars regarding the date of writing it) as a way to encourage them and instruct them in regards to the Second coming of Christ.
Paul opens his letter by encouraging the Thessalonians to remain steadfast and holy in the face of enraged persecution and danger. Persecution in Thessalonica had intensified and Paul was worried that they may become weary and give up. Paul reminds them of how he is thankful about their growing faith and reminds them that the suffering that they are facing is refining their faith, that this is not something that will last forever and that God will repay those who afflict them when Jesus comes back (2 Th. 1:10). Paul ends this encouragement by praying that God may make them worthy of their calling and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness so that Jesus may be glorified in them and they in Him through His grace (2 Th. 1:11-12).
This first part was a great reminder that even in the midst of suffering God is sovereign, that evil and persecution has a purpose because God does not waste suffering and that even in the midst of danger, Jesus can be glorified in us through His grace. Paul here does not shy away from the fact that as Christians look to Jesus while facing evil and glorify Him, others are being given an opportunity to turn from sin to God by faith in Christ. But that those who refuse to do so will be repaid according to their disobedience. People that die without Christ will face punishment for their sins and so even in persecution, danger and evil, Christians can find peace and even joy as God refines their faith, glorifies Himself in us and brings others to Himself.
The second part of the 2d Letter to the Thessalonians talks about what we suppose is a false letter that was being spread as Paul’s writing that said that Christ’s Second Coming was Imminent. With this excuse, many were spreading false apocalyptic reports as though the day of the Lord had come (2 Th 2:2) and somehow they had missed it! These news plus the increased persecution left the Thessalonians fearful and confused about the Coming of the Lord. Paul reminds them of the hope that The Coming of the Lord brings; not fear but hope! Paul goes on by reminding them that before the Second coming, a falling away must occur and the man of sin revealed. That the man of sin will be clear to everyone and will be obvious to everybody but in the end God will destroy him (2 Th. 2:3-8). Lastly, Paul encourages them by reminding them that they have been elected through sanctification through the Gospel to obtain glory and calls them to stand fast as they hold on to the traditions taught by The Word (2 Th. 2:15). Paul closes with a prayer for comfort as they are established in every good word and work.
Historically there have been many times when people had thought of different rulers as potential Antichrists. Nero, Caligula, Napoleon, Hitler, etc. The reality is that even though they have been extremely evil, their evil is being restrained. Reality is that in this world there will continue to be evil rulers who wanting to be God rebel and wreak havoc, but God will not allow this to go on forever. At Christ’s Second Coming, God will bring justice, end evil and deliver His people. This fact should bring comfort and hope when we face evil leaders because God is still in control and as we patiently endure we wait for the promises that Christ will bring when He comes back (2 Ts. 3:1-5).
The third and last part of the 2d letter to the Thessalonians addresses a specific action that many believers had taken because of this imminent return of Jesus: idleness. Many believers had quit their jobs and were acting irresponsible because they saw no point to continue because Jesus was coming back so soon. This was creating chaos within the church. Idleness made them meddle in the business of others (2 Ts.3:6-12). He exhorts them to remember that he himself worked and provided for himself as he served others. In work we not only glorify God but are able to give those in need and strive to serve others. So Paul tells them to live normal lives even as they wait for Christ. Paul finishes the letter with a prayer so that they would continue in patience obedience to the Word (2 Th. 3:13-15) and the Lord will bless them with His peace and presence in the midst of persecution (2 Th.316).
The reality is that living a normal, God glorying life as we wait for Jesus’ Second Coming is how Christians are called to live. The Christian life means living ordinary lives in an extraordinary way. Even amidst of evil, we are called to be salt and light in this world and we can only achieve it as we endure in faithfulness to our calling in Christ in every circumstance, in the hope that as we glorify God, God would call others to Himself. Whether Christ comes back today or in one hundred years, whether we face persecution and live under an evil ruler or not, Christians are called to patient endurance understanding that the Second Coming of Christ gives us fuel to persevere and hope to endure because we know that evil will not be forever but that it will be judged and vanished and give way to God’s Kingdom of righteousness when our King comes back.
So dear sister, as we close our study of the 2 Letter of the Thessalonians I ask you: Are you living in the hope of the promises of Jesus’ Second coming? Are you living a life of patient endurance even under the ruling of an evil dictator? Or are you easily swayed by apocalyptic predictions and live in the fear that you have missed it? Sister, may the 2d letter to the Thessalonians give you hope and peace in the grace of Christ as you patiently endure in obedience and faithfulness till He comes back.