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New Testament Overview: Second Thessalonians

The Pauline Epistles

The Pauline Epistles
The Prison Epistles
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    @ bible.org by J. Hampton Keathley, III {original source}  

AUTHOR AND TITLE:

As with 1 Thessalonians, this letter was also written by Paul (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1). However, Paul’s authorship of this epistle has been questioned more often than that of 1 Thessalonians, even though it has more support from early church writers. There is no evidence among the writings of the early church fathers that his authorship was ever doubted.

In fact several fathers mentioned Paul as the author of this epistle in their writings. It was not until the 19th century that certain questions were raised about the authorship of this epistle. The doubts came from rationalistic critics who likewise refused to accept the Bible’s claim to divine inspiration. Regardless, external and internal evidence support Paul as the author.

Objections are based on internal factors rather than on the adequacy of the statements of the church fathers. It is thought that there are differences in the vocabulary (ten words not used elsewhere), in the style (it is said to be unexpectedly formal) and in the eschatology (the doctrine of the “man of lawlessness” is not taught elsewhere). However, such arguments have not convinced current scholars. A majority still hold to Paul’s authorship of 2 Thessalonians.fn62

As the second letter to the church at Thessalonica, this epistle is called in the Greek text, Pros Thessalonikeis B, the “Second to the Thessalonians.

DATE: A.D. 51-52

Because the historical circumstances are very similar to those of 1 Thessalonians, most believe it was written not long after the first letter—perhaps about six months. While conditions in the church were similar, the persecution seems to have grown (1:4-5), and this, with other factors, led Paul to write this letter from Corinth sometime in A.D. 51 or 52 after Silasdb01 and Timothydb02, the bearers of the first letter, had returned with the news of the new developments.

THEME AND PURPOSE:

Second Thessalonians was evidently prompted by three main developments that Paul heard about:

(1) there was the news of increasing persecution which they were facing (1:4-5),

(2) to deal with the reports of a pseudo-Pauline letter and other misrepresentations of his teaching regarding the day of the Lord and the rapture of the church (2:1f.), and

(3) to deal with the way some were responding to belief in the imminent return of the Lord. This belief was still being used as a basis for shirking their vocational responsibilities.So the apostle wrote to deal with the condition of idleness or disorderliness which had increased (3:5-15).

To meet the needs that occasioned this epistle, Paul wrote this epistle to comfort and correct. In doing so he pursued three broad purposes.

He wrote:

(1) to give an incentive for the Thessalonians to persevere by describing the reward and retribution that will occur in the future judgment of God (1:3-10),

(2) to clarify the prominent events belonging to the day of the Lord in order to prove the falsity of the claims that the day had already arrived (2:1-2), and

(3) to give detailed instructions covering the disciplinary steps the church should take in correcting those who refuse to work (3:6-15).

KEY WORDS:

The key words or concepts are

  • judgment,
  • retribution,” and
  • destruction

all revolving around the return of the Lord in the day of the Lord. In fact, in this epistle, 18 out of 47 verses (38 percent) deal with this subject.

1 Thessalonians, the focus was on

  • Christ coming for His Church (4:13-18) where as in

2 Thessalonians, the focus is on

  • Christ coming with His Church in judgment on the unbelieving world (1:5-10; 2:3, 12).

KEY VERSES:

2:1-41 Now regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered so as to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 that you not be easily shaken from your composure or be disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not be here unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God.

3:1-51 Finally pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s message may spread quickly and be honored as in fact it was among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil people. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 And we are confident about you in the Lord that you are both doing, and will do, what we are commanding. 5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts toward the love of God and the endurance of Christ.

3:1616 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.

KEY CHAPTERS:

Chapter 2 is key in that it corrects a serious error that had crept into the Thessalonian church which taught that the day of the Lord had already come. Here the apostle taught them that the day of the Lord had not come and could not until certain events had taken place, not for the rapture of the church which is imminent, but for the day of the Lord, Daniel’s seventieth week.

CHRIST AS SEEN IN 2 THESSALONIANS:

A major theme of this book, especially chapters 1-2, is the return of Christ in judgment when He will put down all rebellion and bring retribution. Second Thessalonians anticipates Christ, the coming Judge.

OUTLINE:

Apart from the salutation and benediction, the book easily divides up into five sections:

  • I. Salutation or Introduction (1:1-2)

  • II. He Commends and Comforts Regarding Persecution (1:4-12)

  • III. He Corrects and Challenges Regarding the Day of the Lord (2:1-17)
    • A. In Relation to the Present (2:1-2)
    • B. In Relation to the Apostasy (2:3a)
    • C. In Relation to the Man of Lawlessness (2:3b-4)
    • D. In Relation to the Restrainer (2:5-9)
    • E. In Relation to Unbelievers (2:10-12)
    • F. In Relation to Believers (2:13-17)

  • IV. He Commands and Convicts Regarding Idleness (3:1-16)
    • A. The Confidence of the Apostle (3:1-5)
    • B. The Commands of the Apostle (3:6-15)

  • V. His Concluding Benediction and Greeting (3:16-18)
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Footnotes
62 NIV Study Bible Notes, Zondervan, 1985, electronic media.
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Key
db* = Content added by Dailybread.com.au to assist the reader
db01 Silas: a leading member of the Early Christian community, who later accompanied Paul on parts of his first and second missionary journeys [From Wikipedia]
db02 Timothy: Timothy (Greek: Τιμόθεος; Timótheos, meaning "honouring God" or "honored by God") was the first first-century Christian bishop of Ephesus, whom tradition relates died around the year AD 97. He was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor, became Paul’s disciple, and later his companion and co-worker. The New Testament indicates that Timothy traveled with Saint Paul, who was also his mentor. [From Wikipedia]
     
 
 
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