Today: [2 Thessalonians 1:] The Parousia Revealed. In chapter 1 of 2 Thessalonians Paul writes a second letter to the troubled congregation in this city of Macedonia. Brutal persecution is ongoing, and many questions about the resurrection that Paul referred to in his first letter have left the people in dismay. Paul comforts the people and in so doing discloses an authoritative revelation of the character of the church for whom Christ will return at the end time.
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[2Th 1:1-12 KJV] 1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; 4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 [Which is] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 Seeing [it is] a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed ) in that day. 11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of [this] calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of [his] goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second letter of Paul to the Thessalonians was written by the apostle from the city of Corinth just a few years after his first communication with them. Scholarship is divided on the authenticity of this letter for several reasons. Those who disagree with Paul’s authorship contend that the theology of this letter and its historical references indicate a composition by an unknown writer during the reign of Caligula. The more widely accepted view, however, is that Paul indeed is the author as indicated by reference to his signature attached to it as was his custom in all of his letters as stated in the last chapter.
The subject of the letter is mainly dealing with matters of eschatology as being introduced in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 and enlarged upon here in this second communication. The concern is that some teachers are suggesting that the parousia or catching away of the saints is past and therefore the fate of living believers is in question and that those passed away were somehow not eligible for resurrection. Paul clears all of this up in this writing.
In verse 1 Paul refers to his traveling companions Silvanus and Timotheus who send their greeting. Timothy is well known to us. Silvanus is known to be another name for Silas and is mentioned in a total of four epistles of the scripture. It is interesting to note that the Eastern Orthodox church from antiquity considered Silvanus not to be a later convert but actually numbered among the seventy disciples who followed Jesus along with the twelve. It is known to history that he goes on in later years to become the bishop or presiding elder to the city of Thessalonica, so his mention in this letter is notable.
Paul begins with an expression of thanks for the testimony of the congregation’s faith and their mentionable love one toward another. Would that we could all be a part of a church family whose most notable feature was their bold confidence and deep compassion for one another. These things are cause for Paul (v. 4) to glory (or boast) about them to other churches because these refinements were present even in the midst of great oppression and harassment brought against them by the Jewish population and the pagan influences in the city.
Paul encourages the people in v. six that regardless of what they are suffering that God would repay those who troubled them. What were the troubles that they might have faced? Loss of employment. Public harassment of their children. Physical harm including beatings and martyrdom. Do you think such things might happen today in the United States? At the time of this writing, Kitty and I are attending a church near Tucson, Arizona where a young man with a conspicuous Christian testimony and reputation for street evangelism was beaten to death by street thugs. It was not considered noteworthy enough for reporting in local, state or national media outlets either liberal or conservative. In our courts across the nation, Christians are badgered by members of the LGBT lobby resulting in loss of their businesses and financial ruin. Across the south throughout the 1990s there was a string of serial arsons targeting churches from Florida to New Mexico that are known to have been connected and have never been solved although sporadic attacks on other special interest groups have been front page news regularly. In Colorado dear friends of ours lobbied state and federal government for assistance in finding their son who was lost in the Colorado mountains without little and no reporting by either the conservative or liberal media although a woman who went missing at the same time in the same mountain range has been in the news daily for all these months. The only difference is that our friends and their son were devout and vocal Christians. These things are severely under-reported in the media including media outlets who claim to speak for the Christian political lobby who apparently have no genuine interest in the misfortunes of men and women of faith though they did cover the Oscars and other salacious news of Hollywood celebrity they thought their views vitally needed to be informed of. If you think you are living in an egalitarian culture of freedom and equity for people of faith, you may need to reconsider some things.
As grievous as things of this nature might be for the Thessalonians Paul (v. 7) calls on those who are troubled to rest in the comfort that there will come a day when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven accompanied by angels to redress every wrong and every injustice against His saints. In v. 8 Paul describes vengeance coming in flaming fire upon those who know not God or obey not the gospel resulting (v. 9) with everlasting punishment and destruction. In these verses perhaps we see the reason why liberal scholarship wants to undermine the authenticity of this letter. When we read of such things it goes against the grain of our culture, that champions a false ethic of “to each his own” and “live and let live.” Such thinking is not grounded in a Biblical world view. At the end of all things, God is not going to sit on the throne and give lost humanity leave to go on their way without any accountability. There will be a judgment, and all of those who refuse to bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ from the ranks of humanity in its entirety from Adam down to the very last child born on the earth will be unquestionably judged and punished. Those who have not accepted Jesus as savior and received him as the active Lord of their life will be consigned to an eternity of unspeakable suffering. To believe otherwise is to reject the faith as a whole and to be something other than the scriptural definition of a Christian.
In v. 10 Paul makes an interesting statement that gives us insight into what the church will look like at the time of Jesus’ appearing. He speaks of Jesus coming to be glorified IN US before He comes for us. He will come to be glorified in the saints and put on display to all of humanity and the church at large. This then describes a group of saints within the community of believers who will be set apart for an experience or testimony of supernatural qualities that all will see before Jesus takes the whole of the church to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Some teachers have touched on this describing it as the baptism of fire, the manifestation of the sons of God, the adjudication of the saints, body felt salvation, putting on immortality, etc. Whatever the descriptor may be, a reading of Rev. 12 does give us some insight as it speaks of the church appearing in the heavens as a bride great with child, bringing forth a manchild company who is caught up to God and his throne. We cannot speak with absolute clarity about these things other than to suggest that the state of the church at the coming of Christ will be anything other than business as usual.
Paul makes mention of these things and (v. 11) exhorts the congregation in light of what he is disclosing that they would walk worthily in hopes of participating in the glories that he is describing i.e., specifically (v. 12) that the Lord Jesus Christ would not only be glorified in them but that they would be glorified in him. This for us conveys the thought, not of a weak and crumbling church on the verge of total collapse at Christ’s return but a triumphant company of believers who have conquered the last enemy who is death and with Jesus return to the throne of God to deliver up the kingdom to the glory of God the Father.
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