The second epistle to the Thessalonians was written soon after the first. The apostle was told that, from some expressions in his first letter, many expected the second coming of Christ was at hand, and that the day of judgment would arrive in their time. Some of these neglected their worldly duties. St. Paul wrote again to correct their error, which hindered the spread of the gospel. He had written agreeably to the words of the prophets of the Old Testament; and he tells them there were many counsels of the Most High yet to be fulfilled, before that day of the Lord should come, though, because it is sure, he had spoken of it as near. The subject led to a remarkable foretelling, of some of the future events which were to take place in the after-ages of the Christian church, and which show the prophetic spirit the apostle possessed.
The apostle blesses God for the growing state of the love and patience of the Thessalonians. (1-4) And encourages them to persevere under all their sufferings for Christ, considering his coming at the great day of account. (5-12)
Verses 1-4 Where there is the truth of grace, there will be an increase of it. The path of the just is as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day. And where there is the increase of grace, God must have all the glory. Where faith grows, love will abound, for faith works by love. It shows faith and patience, such as may be proposed as a pattern for others, when trials from God, and persecutions from men, quicken the exercise of those graces; for the patience and faith of which the apostle gloried, bore them up, and enabled them to endure all their tribulations.
Verses 5-10 Religion, if worth anything, is worth every thing; and those have no religion, or none worth having, or know not how to value it, cannot find their hearts to suffer for it. We cannot by all our sufferings, any more than by our services, merit heaven; but by our patience under sufferings, we are prepared for the promised joy. Nothing more strongly marks a man for eternal ruin, than a spirit of persecution and enmity to the name and people of God. God will trouble those that trouble his people. And there is a rest for the people of God; a rest from sin and sorrow. The certainty of future recompence is proved by the righteousness of God. The thoughts of this should be terrible to wicked men, and support the righteous. Faith, looking to the great day, is enabled partly to understand the book of providence, which appears confused to unbelievers. The Lord Jesus will in that day appear from heaven. He will come in the glory and power of the upper world. His light will be piercing, and his power consuming, to all who in that day shall be found as chaff. This appearance will be terrible to those that know not God, especially to those who rebel against revelation, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the great crime of multitudes, the gospel is revealed, and they will not believe it; or if they pretend to believe, they will not obey it. Believing the truths of the gospel, is in order to our obeying the precepts of the gospel. Though sinners may be long spared, they will be punished at last. They did sin's work, and must receive sin's wages. Here God punishes sinners by creatures as instruments; but then, it will be destruction from the Almighty; and who knows the power of his anger? It will be a joyful day to some, to the saints, to those who believe and obey the gospel. In that bright and blessed day, Christ Jesus will be glorified and admired by his saints. And Christ will be glorified and admired in them. His grace and power will be shown, when it shall appear what he has purchased for, and wrought in, and bestowed upon those who believe in him. Lord, if the glory put upon thy saints shall be thus admired, how much more shalt thou be admired, as the Bestower of that glory! The glory of thy justice in the damnation of the wicked will be admired, but not as the glory of thy mercy in the salvation of believers. How will this strike the adoring angels with holy admiration, and transport thy admiring saints with eternal rapture! The meanest believer shall enjoy more than the most enlarged heart can imagine while we are here; Christ will be admired in all those that believe, the meanest believer not excepted.
Verses 11-12 Believing thoughts and expectations of the second coming of Christ should lead us to pray to God more, for ourselves and others. If there is any good in us, it is owing to the good pleasure of his goodness, and therefore it is called grace. There are many purposes of grace and good-will in God toward his people, and the apostle prays that God would complete in them the work of faith with power. This is to their doing every other good work. The power of God not only begins, but carries on the work of faith. And this is the great end and design of the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, which is made known to us, and wrought in us.
2 Thessalonians 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, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 "in God THE Father."
2. from God our Father--So some oldest manuscripts read. Others omit "our."
3. We are bound--Greek, "We owe it as a debt" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ). They had prayed for the Thessalonians ( 1 Thessalonians 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 ( 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ). In 1 Thessalonians 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 ( 1 Thessalonians 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 1 Thessalonians 4:10 ).
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 1 Thessalonians 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, 2 Corinthians 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 ( 1 Thessalonians 2:19 ), but doing so even now.
patience--in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 , "patience of hope." Here hope is tacitly implied as the ground of their patience; 2 Thessalonians 1:5 2 Thessalonians 1:7 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 ( Acts 17:6 Acts 17:8 ).
which ye endure--Greek, "are (now) enduring."
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 ( Psalms 73:1-14 ) and Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 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" ( Genesis 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 ( Luke 16:25 , 1 Corinthians 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 Acts 5:41 , 9:16 , Philippians 1:29 ). "Worthy" implies that, though men are justified by faith, they shall be judged "according to their works" ( Revelation 20:12 ; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:12 , 1 Peter 1:6 1 Peter 1:7 , Revelation 20:4 ). The "also" implies the connection between the suffering for the kingdom and being counted worthy of it. Compare Romans 8:17 Romans 8:18 .
6. seeing it is a righteous thing--This justifies the assertion above of there being a "righteous judgment" ( 2 Thessalonians 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.
7. rest--governed by "to recompense" ( 2 Thessalonians 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," Matthew 11:28 , is distinct, namely, cessation from labor. Also, Hebrews 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 ( Matthew 13:41 Matthew 13:52 ). It is not their might, but HIS might, which is the prominent thought.
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 ( Exodus 3:2 ); also His giving of the law at Sinai ( Exodus 19:18 ). Also it shall accompany His revelation at His advent ( Daniel 7:9 Daniel 7:10 ), symbolizing His own bright glory and His consuming vengeance against His foes ( Hebrews 10:27 , 12:29 , 2 Peter 3:7 2 Peter 3:10 ).
taking--literally, "giving" them, as their portion, "vengeance."
know not God--the Gentiles primarily ( Psalms 79:6 , Galatians 4:8 , 1 Thessalonians 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" ( Exodus 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" ( Titus 1:16 ).
obey not the gospel--primarily the unbelieving Jews ( Romans 10:3 Romans 10:16 ); secondarily, all who obey not the truth ( Romans 2:8 ).
Christ--omitted by some of the oldest manuscripts, and retained by others.
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 ( Matthew 25:41 , Revelation 6:16 , 12:14 ; compare 1 Peter 3:12 , Isaiah 2:10 Isaiah 2:19 ). "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 2 Thessalonians 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 ( Isaiah 66:24 , 9:44 ).
10. "When He shall have come."
glorified in his saints--as the element and mirror IN which His glory shall shine brightly ( John 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 ( Ephesians 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," 2 Thessalonians 1:8 ). The early preaching of the Gospel was not abstract discussions, but a testimony to facts and truths experimentally known ( Luke 24:48 , Acts 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.
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 ( Ephesians 4:1 )! There is no dignity in us independent of God's calling of us ( 2 Timothy 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," 2 Thessalonians 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 ( James 1:4 ; compare Note, Working reality of faith.
with power--Greek, "in power," that is, "powerfully fulfil in you" ( Colossians 1:11 ).
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 Isaiah 28:5 , "The Lord of hosts shall be . . . a crown of glory and . . . a diadem of beauty unto . . . His people," with Isaiah 62:3 , "Thou (Zion) shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem," &c. ( John 21:10 , Galatians 1:24 , 1 Peter 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.