Date: 49-51 AD, shortly after 1 Thessalonians
Chronology: some suggest 2 Thessalonians to be written first, this is unlikely, see 2.15.
Theme: 2nd Coming, clarification of eschatology, 1) that Jesus has already return, 2) that the tribulation had begun
Chapter one is structurally considered to be the “thanksgiving” section of this epistle. Wherein, one can see Paul instruct, pray for, and praise the recipients.
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- “Silvanus” – aka Silas. A Jewish prophet, who became a major aid and companion to Paul in his missionary journeys. He played an important role in the formation of churches in Thessalonica and Corinth.
- “church” – The church is an assembly of people, called out from the city’s throng to worship Christ, then sent back into the city to proclaim and live his goodness.
- “our” – for Paul, the church forms the family of God.
- “father” – connotes both authority and benevolent concern. The term reminds readers not only that a relationship exists between the father and his children (cf. Rom 8:12–25; Gal 4:1–7) but also between the siblings. Children who share the same Father are bound together in a single family and should demonstrate familial love and care for one another.
- “Lord Jesus Christ” – Therefore the believers’ task is clear: they must continue to obey the Christ whom they have owned as Lord. Neither persecution (1:5–10) nor false teaching (2:1–11) nor human weakness (3:6–15) can be allowed to discourage the church from persevering in their commitment to the one who has called them into his kingdom.
- “Grace to you and peace from God” – These two words address significant dilemmas which all people face: the struggle for personal significance and the assault of personal guilt and failure. Paul directed us to the answer: God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Real grace and peace flow directly from the Giver, and can only be experienced through Jesus.
- “Grace” – God is the wellspring of grace. He has a passion to give, and this extravagance issues from his love. Grace is any action or gift freely given; it cannot be earned or retained by personal effort. And when we are speaking of God’s grace, it covers everything.
- “peace” – Peace can be achieved only through Jesus Christ. Peace deals with our legal standing in the court of God’s justice. No person could ever survive the divine judgment without divine intervention. The cross and resurrection give us access to God through faith in Christ; we are admitted into his presence.
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
- “We ought” – Paul literally had an outstanding debt before God, and it was a debt of thanks. Hearing of the spiritual life and development in the Thessalonians, he knew that God’s faithfulness undergirded their progress. The word “ought” reminds us that thanksgiving for the believer is never an option.
- “faith is growing…love…is increasing” – Paul recognizes the source of their spiritual growth comes from God. His praise is not only that they are growing, but that God has enabled growth to occur, thus the thanksgiving is not directed to the church, but to God who is strengthening it. The persecution of the church has not hindered its growth.
- “faith” – refers to the outworkings of Christian belief. It is not just doctrinal dogma, but coherence of belief and action.
- “love of everyone” – Paul praised these Thessalonians because they expressed love indiscriminately toward all the brethren.
- “we boast about you” – their growth in the midst of suffering serves as a tool of encouragement to the other churches Paul is in contact with.
- “persecutions” – The persecutions and trials they encountered were varied, yet unspecified. These could have been anything which resulted from faith in Christ and from seeking to live righteously in a hostile culture.
The Judgment at Christ’s Coming
5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—
- “the righteous judgment of God” – The truth of the gospel, the transformation of their lives, and the certainty of the future justice of God were proved by their ability to withstand the various trials. In addition, their lives proved God’s indwelling power. The Thessalonians’ endurance came from something besides human capacity. By their lives they validated God’s work and strength and the transforming energy of his Spirit.
- “considered worthy” – Suffering with strength not only proves the power of God; it also proves the saving faith held by these Christians: as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. They did not attain their salvation through suffering; they demonstrated it.
6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
- God is just and holds individuals accountable for persecuting His children.
7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
- God is also gracious in suffering allowing it to all be temporary. His children never suffer permanently.
- “revealed” – The eyes of all people will see the reality of what already exists—Christ the judge.
- “flaming fire” – Terminology indicates judgment.
- “inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel” – Paul then explained who would receive Christ’s judgment. It is reserved for those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Note that Paul links knowledge and obedience in this verse.
- APP: The converse of this statement is also true. If we know God, we should obey Him.
- THEO: God’s judgment on unbelievers is real.
9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
- Judgment will be final and irrevocable. The punishment will be everlasting destruction. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). THEO: This is not annihilation or extinction. The most significant aspect of God’s eternal judgment is separation from the merciful attributes of God’s grace.
10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
- 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” Re 5:11–12.
- “marveled” – Believers have a different experience at the return of Jesus. Instead of separation, they experience delight in the overwhelming nature of God. We will marvel.
11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- “make you worthy of his calling” – Paul’s prayer is that they not be removed from suffering but that God would use it in increasing their spiritual fortitude and sanctification.
- “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith” – The good purposes and acts prompted by faith come from the regenerated believer. These are consistent desires and actions that issue from faith—wholeness of mind, spirit, and body—founded in harmonious belief and life. But even these will be ineffectual if we attempt them on our own. Effectiveness is totally dependent upon the power of God. It is an affirmation of Jesus’ words in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (emphasis added).
- “his power” -No one is worthy of the call they have received. However, when believers live in and by the power of God, it shows their appreciation of such a high honor.
- “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified” – Paul’s purpose in praying this way was because his main desire was that Christ be glorified, not that they could live in ease. Paul also knew that God could work in them was magnified in times where they intensely focused on Him.