The Man of Lawlessness, 1-12
2 Thess 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers,
The introductory prayer being concluded, the main part of the Epistle now begins. It concerns erroneous ideas about Christ’s return held by some of the converts. Paul is here supplementing oral teaching which he had given earlier, v5. This makes it impossible for us to see the whole picture, since he takes a number of things as already understood.
‘It should be remembered that throughout this notoriously difficult passage Paul is motivated by a purely pastoral purpose. He does not set out to gratify an unlawful curiosity, but deliberately limits his instruction to what is necessary to correct the enthusiasts and to encourage the fearful. Indeed it is only as we realise that prophecy was never intended to provide us with a blueprint of the future that we shall avoid falling into the very error these verses were intended to check.’ (Wilson)
The coming = Gk ‘parousia‘. The fact of Christ’s return is not in doubt. Whatever opinions and errors may be held about it, the event itself is absolutely certain.
Our Lord Jesus Christ – the full title is used in view of the solemnity of the subject.
Being gathered = Gk ‘episynagoge’, cf. Mk 13:27. The word itself is elsewhere used only in Heb 10:25, where it refers to Christians meeting together for worship. Paul had taught about the gathering of believers, both living and dead, to meet with the Lord, 1 Thess 4:13-18. All saints of all ages will be gathered together. They will be gathered to Christ, to be with him for ever. As this is a subject full of hope and comfort, so we should be careful to entertain right notions of it.
We ask you, brothers – The Thessalonian church was a suffering church, and in need of consolation, ch 1. Nevertheless, Paul, as a faithful pastor, sees the need to correct their errors and warn them against deception. Yet he does so with tenderness. Cf. Gal 1:10; 2 Cor 11:3.
2 Thess 2:2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.
Unsettled or alarmed – they were in a state of instability and excitement. ‘Unsettled’ brings to mind the motion of wind and waves, restlessly tossing a ship not securely moored and threatening to cast it adrift. People had turned the Parousia into their main topic of conversation, and some were so unsettled that they had stopped working altogether.
Some prophecy – lit. ‘spirit’. Consider how often teachers of falsehood have supported their claims by an appeal to an immediate revelation from God. But also consider how Paul seems to assume that prophecies will be uttered in the early churches, only that any prophecy ‘saying that the day of the Lord has already come’ was a false or ‘non-discerned’ one.
Supposed to have come from us – possibly covers all three types of communication just mentioned. Alternatively, refers only to a ‘letter’: either a forgery (cf. 2 Thess 3:17) or to 1 Thess, wrongly interpreted. Since he mentions three possibilities, Paul may have been uncertain as to the source of the false teaching.
‘The author of 2 Thessalonians is aware of forgeries made in his own name. He therefore warns his readers “not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us” (2 Thess 2:1-2) and provides them with some signature or token to enable them to distinguish which letters purporting to come from him were authentic and which were not. (2 Tim 3:17) If the author was not Paul, as many scholars think, then our pseudonymous author is in the odd position of condemning pseudonymous authors; a literary forgery damns literary forgeries. If the author was Paul, then the apostle himself makes it clear that he is aware of pseudonymity and condemns the practice, at least when people are using his name.’ (Carson, in DNTB)
That the day of the Lord has already come – AV has ‘that the day of the Lord is at hand’, but this is an unlikely translation, since Paul could assert elsewhere that ‘The Lord is at hand’, Php 4:5; cf 1 Pet 4:7. Obviously the Lord had not returned in the visible manner outlined in 1 Thess, but the false teaching no doubt was claiming that it was already beginning to take place, that events leading up to it were already unfolding, and that the dramatic climax would take place very soon. The mistake was in assuming that because Christ’s coming would be ‘sudden’, 1 Thess 5:2, it would be ‘immediate’. Cf. Mt 24:23.
Such teaching had an appearance of piety; but was sure to bring the Christian faith into disrepute when the event failed to occur when predicted.
One error may arise as an over-reaction to another. Paul, in 1 Thess, had had to reassure them of the truth of Christ’s return. Now, he has to cope with the opposite problem: the belief that the present age would end immediately.
N.T. Wright argues: ‘Contrary to the thinking of both scholars and pietists of many backgrounds, Paul was not envisaging the ‘Parousia’ as an event which had to take place in his lifetime, and which would result in the ending of the space-time order. If that were so, how could he possibly write in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 that the church should not be alarmed if they received a letter saying that the ‘day of the Lord had come’? If Paul meant by ‘the day of the Lord’ the end of the space-time universe, the Thessalonians would presumably not need to be informed of the fact via the Roman postal service! Instead, Paul here reflects the early Christian tradition, going back to Jesus himself, according to which Jerusalem was to be destroyed, and according to which that destruction was to be interpreted as the wrath of God against his sinful people. In the same Thessalonian correspondence, Paul asserted that the wrath of God had indeed come upon them ‘to the uttermost’ (eis telos, 1 Thess 2:16).’
But Wright does not seem to consider the possibility that Paul did indeed envisage the ‘Parousia’ as an end to the space-time order, but that some of these false teachers themselves thought of it as some kind of ‘secret’ or ‘invisible’ event. There are modern versions of just such teaching. The founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles T. Russell, taught that the world would end in 1874, later re-calculating the date to 1914. After this second date passed, his successor Judge J.F. Rutherford claimed that Christ did return (invisibly) on Oct 1st 1914.
2 Thess 2:3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
Don’t let anyone deceive you – the cause of the disruption was doctrinal error. They were ‘deceived, led astray, deluded’ (Hendriksen).
In any way – by false prophecy, report or letter, v2. ‘There are many who lie in wait to deceive, and they have many ways of deceiving; we have reason therefore to be cautious and stand upon our guard. Some deceivers will pretend new revelations, others mis-interpret scripture, and others will be guilty of gross forgeries; divers means and artifices of deceit men will us; but we must be careful that no man deceive us by any means.’ (Matthew Henry)
The deception is serious, for a premature and unwarranted expectation of Christ’s immediate return, (a) brings the church and the Christian faith into disrepute; and (b) unsettles Christian believers.
The day of the Lord cannot be here already, because two things must happen first: a certain event must take place, and a certain person must appear.
The event which must take place is the rebellion = Gk ‘apostasia’; ‘the Great Revolt’ (JB). The definite article suggests that Paul’s readers had already been instructed about this revolt. In the last times there will be a terrible manifestation of the powers of evil arrayed against God, Mt 24:7ff; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 4:3-4; cf. Rev 12:7 ff. It is reasonable to suppose that this defection will be gradual at first, and then increasing until it culminates in the appearance of antichrist. ‘It is as though Satan were throwing all his forces into one last despairing effort’ (Morris). The last great religious revolt which will culminate in the revelation of the ‘man of lawlessness’.
‘It is not clear whether this refers to a Jewish or to a Christian apostasy. Certainly there was a Jewish rejection of the Messiah during the lifetime of Peter and Paul. The later New Testament documents also bear out very clearly that by the close of the apostolic age there had been a very significant falling away within the Christian church itself. For example, the original Church in Ephesus was a glorious church. It was to it that Paul sent that incomparable document, the ‘Epistle to the Ephesians’. What great Christians they were! What minds they must have had! Had they understood that great teaching, as Paul in the first chapter soars like an eagle, expounding ‘every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus’? Had their children listened to Ephesians 6 read in the congregation? But it is to this very church that the Lord says so sadly in Rev 2:4: ‘Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love.’ Had the apostasy not already come?’ (McLeod, A Faith To Live By)
The man of lawlessness – so the best manuscripts (others have ‘man of sin’, but there is no great difference, cf 1 Jn 3:4. This chief rebel is evidently the Antichrist, although not so called by Paul. See 1 Jn 2:18. Four titles are given or suggested: (a) ‘the man of lawlessness’ (v3); ‘the lawless one’ (v8) Cf Mt 24:12. He will be defiant of all law, and thus promote moral relativism and civil anarchy; (b) ‘the man doomed to destruction’ (lit. ‘the son of destruction’); (c) the one who will ‘oppose…God’; (d) the one who will ‘exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped.’ The first and last of these are emphasised.
‘The final apostasy of mankind prepares the way for the manifestation of this monstrous figure, the satanically inspired human agent who fully deserves the doom announced by the title ‘son of perdition’ AV because in him all wickedness will be summed up, v8.’ (Wilson)
‘Now is the time of restraint, in which the secret power of lawlessness is being held in check. Next will come the time of rebellion, in which the control of law will be removed and the lawless one will be revealed. Finally will come the time of retribution, in which the Lord Christ will defeat and destroy the Antichrist, and those who have believed the Antichrist-lie will be condemned. This is God’s programme. History is not a random series of meaningless events. It is rather a succession of periods and happenings which are under the sovereign rule of God, who is the God of history.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity)
2 Thess 2:4 he will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
He will oppose – the term ‘opposer’, or ‘adversary’ is sometimes applied to Satan, 1 Tim 5:14. This gives us a hint as to the link between the ‘man of lawlessness’ and his master.
He sets himself up in God’s temple – it is unlikely that the Jerusalem temple is being referred to here, since under the New Covenant no special significance is attached to particular place of worship, Jn 4:21; possibly the church is meant, 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21; but most probably this is a more figurative reference to his usurping of God’s place as sole object of worship. ‘Having set himself against every object of worship, he will demand for himself the worship which he has forbidden to everybody and everything else.’ (Stott) In this terse phrase, then, the ungodliest of offences is summed up. ‘What Paul is in fact saying is that this evil person will arrogate to himself the divine status and homage that belongs to God alone.’ (Wilson) A feature of the final apostasy is the attempt to dethrone God himself.
The two principle foundations of society – religion and law; are destroyed, in order to create a new totalitarianism in which the Antichrist demands that worship and obedience are given to him alone.
Who is the man of lawlessness? Paul does not make the identity clear here, perhaps because he had already given instruction by word of mouth (5f). There are many gaps in our knowledge which are apt to be filled by speculation. History is littered with attempts to find a contemporary identification. Still, the theme of opposition to God runs throughout Scripture, Gen 3; Isa 14:13-14; Eze 28:2. An infamous rebellion against God and his people took place in 169 BC by the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes. He presumed to enter the Holy of Holies, erected an altar to Zeus, and sacrified a pig on it. This sacrilege was predicted in Dan 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; recorded in /APC 1Ma 1:54 ff; and alluded to by our Lord, Mt 24:15; Mk 13:14. Another notable sacrilege took place in 63 BC when the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem and intruded into the Holy of Holies. However, Jesus clearly taught that Daniel’s prophecy awaited its complete fulfilment. In AD 40 the mad emporor Gaius (Caligula) demanded the worship of all his subjects and gave instructions (never carried out) for an image of himself to be erected in the temple. A more probable reference is to profanation of the temple during the Jewish war of AD 66-70, first by Jewish zealots, and then by the Roman army, who carried their ensigns (bearing the image of the emperor) into the temple and offered sacrifices to them.
It seems that Paul picked up Daniel’s imagery, and painted a picture of a global, eschatological, rebellion in addition to the local, contemporary ones which had already (or would soon) take place. 1 Jn 2:18,22; 4:3 also teaches the coming of Antichrist, and, indeed, that many antichrists have already come. Their identifying feature is that they deny the incarnation.
It seems, then, that the biblical prediction of the Antichrist has multiple fulfilments. There have been those throughout history who have delighted to do Satan’s evil work, cf 1 Jn 2:18. And yet it seems that a final, decisive manifestation will take place in the person of a lawless and godless leader of rebellion, the precursor of the Parousia.
There is, of course, a venerable tradition which identifies the pope as the antichrist: so the reformers generally, the preface to the AV, the Westminster Confession, and so on.
This warns us ‘not to take for granted an uninterrupted progress of the cause of Christ through all ages on toward the end. As the reign of truth will be gradually extended, so the power of evil will gather force towards the end. The making all things right and new in the world depends not on gradual amelioration but on the final interposition.’ (Vos)
2 Thess 2:5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
Don’t you remember…? – Deception and false teaching are countered by holding on to the original teaching of the apostle. ‘Loyalty to apostlic teaching, now permanently enshrined in the New Testament, is still the test of truth and the shield against error.’ (Stott)
We, of course, cannot recall Paul’s oral instruction, and therefore do not have the key which would unlock the more obscure aspects of this present passage. ‘We don’t have that essential background information and that makes it hazardous to be confident who the Man of Sin was. There have been some very eminent theologians who held that it was the Roman emperor (the institution itself or a particular emperor). The Reformers were sure it was the Pope. Others have been equally confident it was Mohammed or one of the great leaders of world Communism.’ (McLeod, A Faith To Live By)
What is clear, however, is that there is a general apostolic tradition (cf. 1 Jn 2:18) that Antichrist, as opposed to the many antichrists already at work, must appear before the end.
A general lesson here is that we must test doctrines by what has already been revealed to us, Isa 8:20; Gal 1:8.
2 Thess 2:6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.
And now you know – because they had been told previously by Paul. Therefore, Paul can satisfy himself with an allusion, the meaning of which we cannot be sure of.
The RSV, following some earlier interpreters, has, ‘And you know what is restraining him now.’ Similarly, Hendriksen translates, ‘…what is now holding him back.’ But the ‘now’ is ‘simply resumptive’ (Kelly).
What is holding him back – ‘Hold back’ could mean, (a) ‘hold fast’, 1 Thess 5:21; (b) ‘restrain’, Phm 13; or (c) ‘hold sway’. The second sense is usually preferred here.
At the proper time reminds us that God is in control of the whole process.
2 Thess 2:7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
Here are two processes at work: (a) ‘the secret power of lawlessness’ which ‘is already at work’ but not yet revealed. The subversive influence of lawlessness can be seen in the prevalent atheism, secularism, materialism, moral relativism and social permissiveness; (b) ‘the one who now holds it back’ and who will continue to do so until taken out of the way. Then will the secret rebelliousness break out into open revolt and only then will the Parousia take place. But, for the time being, the worst excesses of lawlessness are restrained and a measure of justice, freedom, order and decency prevails.
The secret power of lawlessness = ‘the mystery of lawlessness’. A mystery in the Biblical sense is a secret we cannot fathom, and which can only be know by revelation. This mystery ‘is already at work’. However, it cannot achieve its full force until the restraining power is removed. It was at work in the teachings of justification by works, Gal 2:16; worshiping of angels, Col 2:18; abstinence from certain foods, Col 2:21, and so on. It has a show of piety and faith, Col 2:23, but has a tendency to advance from bad to worse, 2 Tim 3:13.
‘”The secret power” translates to mystērion. It cannot here bear its usual meaning in Paul’s writings of ‘a truth once hidden but now revealed’, since it is still secret and is contrasted with the coming ‘revelation’ of the man of lawlessness. Before he is revealed openly, however, the lawlessness he embodies is operating secretly. His anti-social, anti-law, anti-God movement is at present largely underground. We detect its subversive influence around us today—in the atheistic stance of secular humanism, in the totalitarian tendencies of extreme left-wing and right-wing ideologies, in the materialism of the consumer society which puts things in the place of God, in those so-called ‘theologies’ which proclaim the death of God and the end of moral absolutes, and in the social permissiveness which cheapens the sanctity of human life, sex, marriage and family, all of which God created or instituted.’ (Stott)
Satan’s subtlety is such, that he sometimes works underground, content to do his evil work by degrees, and to remain largely undetected.
The one who now holds it back – What (and who) is this restraining influence? Augustine, reacting against unhelpful speculation, admitted, ‘I frankly confess I do not know what he means.’ The following identities have been suggested:
(a) The Holy Spirit and the work of the church. Certainly, Jesus taught that his people would, like salt, exert a restraining influence on society; but why would Paul write so obliquely of this? Moreover, if the church is to be ‘taken out of the way’, how could it be present to greet Christ on his return?;
(b) Paul and the preaching of the gospel. But, again, why would Paul be so cryptic in such a self-reference? And in any case, would he have seen himself as so central on the eschatological stage?;
(c) Rome and the power of the state. The natural restrainer of lawlessness is law, and the state is the guardian of law and order, public peace and justice, cf. Rom 13:1ff. As a Roman citizen, Paul himself had experienced Roman justice in Philippi, in Thessalonica itself, and in Corinth, from where this letter was written, Acts 18:12-16. The combination of the neuter and the masculine fits in with the twin notions of empire and emperor, of justice and judge, and law and law-enforcer. The cryptic nature of the reference is explained by Paul’s wish not to make to explicit his prediction that the state would be ‘taken out of the way’. The difficulty here is that Paul seems to teach that the appearance of the ‘man of lawlessness’ would take place soon after the removal of the restraining power, v8: however, the Roman empire has long since passed away, and Antichrist has yet to appear. It is perhaps best, then, to view this restraining influence as the principle of law and government, illustrated in the Roman Empire but continuing in other states. Another illustration of this restraining force is the Jewish law, restraining sin, Gal 3:19,24.
2 Thess 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
The lawless one will be revealed – this is the third time he is said to be revealed, and the emphasis here is on the supernatural aspect of his appearing. But Paul proceeds immediately to speak of his destruction in words reminiscent of Isa 11:4.
This will be no protracted contest between equal adversaries. Antichrist will be overthrown in an instant.
The breath of his mouth – cf. God’s creative power, Ps 33:6.
The splendour of his coming = the ‘epiphany’ of his ‘parousia’. The Lord Jesus has resistless power, and the mere ‘appearing’ of his ‘presence’ is sufficient to destroy his opponent.
The breath of his mouth – this expression occurs only here in the NT, but cf. Job 15:30; Ps 33:6; Isa 11:4. The ‘lawless one’ will be terrible in his power and wickedness, but the Lord Jesus will destroy with ease.
2 Thess 2:9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,
V9f – Note the parallels between the coming of Christ and that of the lawless one: (a) both are referred to as the ‘parousia’; (b) both are to be ‘revealed’; (c) both are to be accompanied by powerful manifestations. Accordingly, both comings will be personal, visible, and powerful. The coming of Antichrist will be a clever parody of the coming of Christ, and many will be deceived because they hate the truth, v10.
All kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders – AV ‘with all power and signs and lying wonders’, prompting the Sceptic’s Annotated Bible to claim that this verse is stating that Satan, rather than God, is all-powerful. A modern translation, such as the NIV here, clears this up in an instant.
The ‘lawless one’ will embody the power of Satan. The ‘counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders’ are perhaps not so much fakes as works which deceive rather than enlighten. Antichrist is elsewhere called a liar and a deceiver, 1 Jn 2:22; 2Jo 7.
Satan’s power, although limited, Job 2:6, is nevertheless very considerable, Eph 2:2.
Note how thoroughly Satan apes Christ: he erects an earthly kingdom of which he himself is the head, Rev 13:11-12; cf. Ps 2:6; he empowers his human instruments to do his work, Rev 18:13-14; cf. Col 1:29; he confirms his work by miracles, v9; cf. Heb 2:3-4.
2 Thess 2:10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Every sort of evil – false doctrine seems to be particularly in mind, since it is opposed to ‘truth’, v 12. Included may be philosophical disputations, Col 2:8, pretexts to piety, Mt 23:14, boastfulness and lustfulness, 2 Pet 2:18. Satan has many devices: if one does not work, he tries another.
Those who are perishing – cf. 1 Cor 1:18. The use of the present tense makes the image very vivid. The process is going on already. But, although God’s people may be prone to error from time to time, Php 3:15, they cannot arrive at that state of malicious blindness which belongs to ‘those who are perishing’.
They perish – attention now turns to the followers of the lawless one.
They refused to love the truth – that is, the truth of the gospel. These people seem to have received some knowledge of God’s truth, but did not welcome, receive, or love it.
‘There was once a young man, named “John,” who leaned on the Saviour’s bosom, and was his particular favourite. What if you should be thus highly honoured. Would it not be an amazing instance of love and condescension? And what does the Saviour do less, for all that feel themselves poor, lost, undone sinners? Nay, does he not do for them infinitely more? Yes, he does. Come to him, therefore, by faith, and he shall embrace you in the arms of his mercy, clothe you with his righteousness, sanctify you by his spirit, guide you by his counsel, and after death receive you up into glory. Look up, then, and never rest till you have it. Conviction is not conversion. But you know who has promised not to quench the smoking flax, or break the bruised reed. That this promise may be fulfilled in your soul, is the hearty prayer of, your sincere friend, G. W.’ (From George Whitefield to John F., an Orphan, 27th July, 1741. In Letters, 1734-1742, 301)
2 Thess 2:11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
God sends them a powerful delusion – he ‘gives them over’ to their own wilful blindness, Rom 1:24-25. See 1 Kings 22:23, where God puts a lying spirit into the mouths of false prophets. Compare also 1 Chron w 2 Sam 24:1, where the same action is ascribed to Satan and to God. ‘In Hebrew thought the powers of evil are allowed no independent existence, but are always dependent on God.’ (Morris) The consequences of sin are not the result of an impersonal process, but of the sovereign hand of God whereby the sinner receives the just recompense of his sin.
‘It is not inconsistent with the Lord’s holiness, but most agreeable to his unspotted justice, to punish sin with sin, by giving the sinner up…to the slavery and tyranny of that sin wherein he so much delights.’ (Fergusson)
‘God is love. He is not a cruel monster who deliberately and with inward delight prepares people for everlasting damnation. On the contrary, he earnestly warns, proclaims the gospel, and states what will happen if people believe, also what will happen if they do not believe. He even urges them to accept the love for the truth. But when people, of their own accord and after repeated threats and promises, reject him and spurn his messages, then – and not until then – he hardens them in order that those who were not willing to repent may not be able to repent but may believe the falsehood that “the man of lawlessness” is God, the only God, and that everyone should obey him.’ (Hendriksen)
The lie – the denial of God, and the assertion of Antichrist. Note that the natural and inevitable consequence of refusing the truth is believing falsehood.
Note the opposition of ‘believing the truth’ and ‘delighting in wickedness’. Truth has moral implications and practical demands. ‘Delighting in wickedness’ shows how perverted they have become, whose true end was ‘to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever’. Their path to evil was by degrees: they failed to believe the truth, then believed untruth, and finally delighted in wickedness.
There is a sort of pleasure, satisfaction, and peace, in believing error, but it is delusive. But it reminds us not to test doctrine by feelings or experience, but rather the reverse.
2 Thess 2:12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
All will be condemned – ‘Multitudes of sinners concurring in one and the same guilt, doth neither lessen the guilt, not make God either through fear abate, or from pity moderate, the deserved punishment.’ (Fergusson)
See the logical progression here: (a) a love of evil; (b) a rejection of the truth; (c) deception by the devil; (d) a judicial hardening by God; (e) final condemnation.
The whole paragraph has unfolded the process in three stages: (a) restraint; (b) rebellion; (c) retribution.
‘It is of great importance to observe that the opposite of “believing the truth” is “delighting in wickedness”. This is because the truth has moral implications and makes moral demands. Evil, not error, is the root problem. The whole process is grimly logical. First, the delight in wickedness, or “make sinfulness their deliberate choice” (NEB). Secondly, they refuse to believe and love the truth (because it is impossible to love evil and truth simultaneously). Thirdly, Satan gets in and deceives them. Fourthly, God himself “sends” them a strong delusion, giving them over to the lie they have chosen. Fifthly, they are condemned and perish. This is extremely solemn teaching. It teaches us that the downward slippery path begins with a love for evil, and then leads successively to a rejection of the truth, the deception of the devil, a judicial hardening by God, and final condemnation. The only way to be protected from being deceived is to love goodness and truth.’ (Stott)
Stand Firm, 13-17
2 Thess 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
‘There is nothing narrow-minded about the apostle Paul! His horizons are bounded by nothing less than the eternities of the past and of the future. In the eternity of the past God chose us to be saved. Then he called us in time, causing us to hear the gospel, believe the truth and be sanctified by the Spirit, with a view to our sharing Christ’s glory in the eternity of the future. In a single sentence the apostle’s mind sweeps from “the beginning” to “the glory”.’ (Stott)
2 Thess 2:14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thess 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
The teachings we passed on to you – Gk. ‘paradoseis‘, lit. ‘the traditions’. This verse is used by Roman Catholics to support their notion that the traditions, as well as the writings, of the apostles have authority in the church.
This word ‘stands for all Christian teaching, oral or written. The essential thing is that it is handed on by one to another and that it was received in the first place from God. ‘The prominent idea of paradosis … is that of an authority external to the teacher himself’ (Lightfoot)…This is another way of putting the truth (insisted on in 1 Thess. 2:13, etc.) that the gospel is not of human origin; the preacher is never at liberty to substitute his own thoughts for what he has received. The traditions came both by word of mouth and by our (hēmōn) letter (probably 1 Thessalonians). It does not matter in which form God’s word was delivered. Either way it was authoritative.’ (Morris)
According to Fee, these ‘traditions’ are those that have been passed down by Paul himself. His use of the word ‘is his way of indicating that his teaching at the same time belongs to the much larger community of faith, of which they themselves have now become a part. Thus, by turning aside from his prior teaching, the Thessalonians have also turned aside from the common teaching of the early believers.’ Fee says that we can be sure that Paul is referring to his own teaching by his reference to its twofold source – ‘word of mouth’ refers to his own teaching when among them, and ‘letter’ refers to 1 Thessalonians.
‘We should regard the two exhortations of this verse as effectively one, expressing the end and the means to that end and reminding us of what we may have forgotten: the importance of Christian education.’ (Williams, UBCS)
2 Thess 2:16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
2 Thess 2:17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.