About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

Home Page

2 Thessalonians 1

Next Section - Chapter 2

ch. 1:1+3    ch. 1:-12




The following commentary is based on the New International Bible, 1994 edition.  Chapter titles in this commentary correspond to chapter titles in this addition of the NIV Bible.        


Paul most likely wrote this second letter to the Thessalonian church shortly after he wrote his first letter.  That would place the date in the later half of 51 A  D.  He most likely wrote the letter from Corinth where he wrote his first letter to these believers. 


As in Paul's first letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he will continue to speak of the second coming of our Lord Jesus.  It's clear that his first letter did not solve all of the problems that some had created by saying that Jesus had already returned to earth.  


Opening Remarks  (ch. 1:1 - 2)


As in all of Paul’s writings he addresses his letter to those he is writing to, and in this case it is to “the church of the Thessalonians”.  Note there is only one church addressed here. This does not mean that there are not a number of small house assemblies in Thessalonia.  Paul appears to view all of the possible gatherings of Christians in this city as the church.  I believe in Paul's thinking, there is only one church per city


The Greek word that is translated as "church" here is “ekklesia”, simply meaning “an assembly of people set apart from the general population for a specific purpose”.  It is a secular word that was used for any gathering of people.  This word was not a “Christian only” word.  Paul and other New Testament writers used this word to denote Christian groups, no matter how small or large they were. 


I like the word "ekklesia", and wished the King James Bile would have transliterated it instead of making the word church out of it.  The problem with the word "church" today is that it really doesn't mean or portray what "ecclesia" meant to Paul as he wrote these words.  Most think of church as a building or an organization, but it isn't.  Church is simply people who have given their lives to Jesus.       


Paul does specify what kind of “ekklesia” this is.  That is to say, the church, or the assembly that Paul is addressing “is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  This is what distinguishes this gathering of people from other gatherings of people.  Note also that he does not speak about these people simply as the people “of God”, meaning some generic god that anyone can ascribe to.  The God that Paul is speaking about is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christians do not serve a generic God.  We serve only one God, and He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  If you do not believe in this God, then you do not believe in the Christian God. 


I've come not to really like the word "church" because it no longer resembles what church was meant to be.  Modern day church has little resemblance to what Paul taught.  Therefore, I prefer to substitute the phrase "the community of those who have handed their lives over to Jesus" when I read the word "church" in the New Testament.       


Paul also includes Silas and Timothy as co-writers, or at least fellow workers in the gospel.  The letter is from all three of these men.


There is a teaching going around these days in the church concerning submitting one's life to a spiritual father.  Those who promote this teaching state that Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy, and in one respect they are right.  But, note here that Paul considered Timothy a co-worker, not a son in the Lord.  Paul never considered Timothy as a child, maybe a son, but not a child.  Most of all, Paul considered Timothy a co-worker, someone equal to him in the service of the gospel. 


In verse 2 Paul speaks of grace and peace that comes from God the Father.  Both "grace" and "peace" have two aspects to them.  Grace is the unmerited favour shown to humanity.  It is also the ability that God gives us to do His will.  Peace is something we have within us from knowing God.  It is also the idea that we are no longer enemies with God.  Jesus has caused us to be God's friend, thus we have peace with Him.    


Thanksgiving And Prayer (ch.1:3 - 12)


In verse 3 Paul thanks God for these people, as he did in his first letter to these people.  He seems quite proud of them, especially concerning their faith and love that is growing more and more.  As noted in earlier commentaries, Paul often links faith and love together.  First comes faith, that is trusting one's life with Jesus, and then comes love for others.  I don't believe that you can express Biblical love without trusting Jesus, without finding strength to love from Him.  Biblical love is all about sacrifice; that is, sacrificing yourself for others.  The world's definition of love and the Bible's definition of love are two different definitions.


In verse 4 Paul says that he boasts of these people to other churches because of their faith in the midst of all the trials and persecutions they are going through.  You can see this boasting in his second letter to the Corinthians when he speaks about the Macedonian’s giving in spite of their extreme poverty.  Remember, Thessalonica was the capital of the province of Macedonia.  In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians he says that the Macedonians gave way beyond their ability to give.  So, when it came to true Biblical love, Paul was right when he acknowledges these believers love.    


Paul made it very clear to these people when he first met them that if they gave their lives to Jesus, they would suffer persecution. They suffered persecution from both the Roman government and the Jewish establishment.  Becoming a Christian for these people was something they thought seriously about.  It was not some quick decision made by them based on an emotional plea.  Paul seldom used emotion in his pleas.  He used more intellect than anything else.  When these people gave their lives to Jesus, they expected their life to be very difficult as a result.  They knew all this in advance.  Paul made it clear.  He did not sugar coat the gospel.  Of course, the conviction of the Holy Spirit aided these people in their conversion.     


In verse 5 we see the words "God's righteous judgment".  I believe, because of the context here and following, that this judgment is the end time judgment of the tribulation period when God will pay back those who persecute these believers.  If you recall the martyred saints of Revelation 6, they called out to God, asking when He would avenge their murderers for the blood they have shed.  Jesus answered by saying that there was still more believers who would die for His cause.  Only after the last saint was killed would He avenge their blood.       


In verse 5 Paul is saying that their suffering “will count them worthy of the Kingdom of God ”.  The use of the word “will” suggests to me that Paul is speaking of the future Kingdom of God that will be established at the return of Christ, not the present spiritual Kingdom of God that Christians enjoy now.  This mentality has always been part of Paul’s life and ministry.  Present suffering meant little in relation to the future glory in the next life.  We often don't view suffering in the same way as Paul did.  We complain about suffering.  Paul rejoiced in suffering.


The point that Paul makes at the end of verse 5 may be a bit disturbing to our modern mind.  Paul says that the suffering of persecution these people are going through is making them worthy of the Kingdom of God.  The point I believe Paul is making here is that if we are not willing to suffer for God's kingdom, we're not worthy of His kingdom.  This makes being a Christian a serious matter.  Such seriousness I believe has been taken out of the modern day gospel.  This should not be the case, especially in light of the fact that as time goes on, western world Christians will suffer for their association with Jesus. 


In verses 6 and 7 Paul tells these people that God will bring affliction to those who cause their present suffering.  He also says that God will help them through their suffering.  He also says, and I believe Paul is speaking of the affliction of those making these people suffer; will take place at the end of this age when Jesus is revealed.  That means, when Jesus returns to earth. 


The idea here is that God Himself will avenge the evil being done to these people.  That's why the Bible says "vengeance is mine says the Lord."  We do not have to pay back evil for evil.  If someone does evil to us, God will do a much better job than we will ever be able to do to repay the evil done to us.  That's also why Jesus told the martyred saints in Revelation 6 that He would avenge their blood.  The thing to note here is that God can, and, sometimes does, judge those who make us suffer, but if for some reason He doesn't, you know that He will take care of it in the future.  We can only trust Him for it.        


Paul goes on to say that “He will give relief to those who are troubled, and to us as well”, since Paul and his friends are always suffering for Jesus’ sake as the Thessalonians were suffering. This too is part of God’s just judgement at the end of the age.  He will punish those who do wrong and will reward those for doing good.


In case you aren’t sure that Paul is speaking of future events here, he says in verse 7, “this will happen when Jesus is revealed from Heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels”.  In 1 Thessalonians 3:13 Paul says that he will come with all of his “holy ones”, who in this verse says are angels.  Here Paul seems to clarify to a degree who these holy ones are.  My understanding of the return of Jesus is that He will bring both the saints and His angels back with Him.


Paul also says that Jesus’ return will be like a “blazing fire”.  In his first letter to these people he said that Christ’s return would be sudden and destructive. Here he adds another thought, and that is concerning the blazing fire.  The power of God is often seen as fire in the Bible.  There was fire on Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  There is fire in the eternal Lake of Fire .  Fire is often associated with God and with Jesus.  It is a source of purification and judgment.  


For those who don’t believe that God will, or can punish anyone, in verse 8 Paul clearly says that God “will punish those who do not know God or obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus”.  If a so-called Christian tells you that God does not punish people, then they don't understand Scripture.  Note here that obeying the gospel of Jesus means trusting Him for salvation, or faith in Him alone for salvation, not of works, lest any man should boast.


How will these people be punished?  They will be punished with “everlasting destruction”.  The destruction that Paul mentions here may be compared to the destruction that he spoke about in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 and 2.  Yet Paul says that this destruction is “everlasting”.  It is not a one time event.  These people are constantly and forever experiencing destruction.  They will always be in the process of being destroyed, but never being destroyed.   This is a subject that some may not want to talk about because it is scary and negative, but it is a part of Scripture and should not be forgotten.  Another way I like defining eternal judgment is one being in the process of always dying, and always wanting to die, but never being able to die.  


Paul also says in verse 9 that these people “will be shut out from the presence … and majesty of God”.  The fact that God’s presence will be nowhere found might be punishment enough, but still, I do believe it is more than the lack of the presence of God.  In today’s world God’s presence is available for those who wish it.  His majesty can be seen in creation, as well as in other ways, but not in the days ahead for those who reject the gospel. These people will be no where close to God's immediate presence as the believer will be.


Paul says that all this punishment will begin when Jesus returns “to be glorified in His holy people”.  At that day, and that day only, will God’s people find perfection as Jesus returns in person to be with us.  His prayer in John 17 for His disciples to live in unity will finally find its fulfillment on the day He returns for His people. 


We should understand "people" here to be all people, not just Jews.  Paul specifically says that these believers in Thessalonica will be included in God's holy people on that day.  Many of the believers in Thessalonica were Gentiles.  They weren't Jews.  Therefore, God's holy people on that day were not just Jews. 


Not only will Jesus be glorified among His people, but “He will be marveled at among all those who have believed”. The Greek word “teras” is translated here as “marveled”.  This is the same word that is translated as “wonders”, as in “signs and wonders’ elsewhere in the New Testament. It means “something strange that causes one to sit back and marvel, or wonder in their imagination”. 


When Jesus returns to earth to rule for a thousand years from Jerusalem , and then from the new earth as seen in the last two chapters of Revelation, it will surely be a thing to be marveled at.  It will be absolutely amazing, something beyond our wildest dreams.  


Paul re-affirms that the Thessalonians are part of the people who will someday marvel concerning the return of Jesus.  Why?  It's because they have believed the good news of Jesus.  It is as simple as that.


Because of all the end time events that Paul will speak of, in verse 11 he continues prays for his readers that “God may count them worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of them and every act prompted by their faith”.  Paul is praying that God will help these people in whatever they do as a result of trusting in Jesus.  This may suggest something.  Sometimes people think that they should do nothing as Christians unless they feel the Lord telling them to do it.  Paul, at least in my thinking, says that we can do things as a result of our faith.  If because we trust Jesus we want to do something good, Paul hopes and prays that God will bring success to our endeavor. If our desire is to teach children about Jesus, for an example, go ahead and teach children, and pray that God will bring success in what you do.  This can be in whatever endeavor you may feel like doing as a Christian. 


Note that Paul continually prays for these people.  We should remember that Paul has concerns for a number of believers in a number of cities and towns.  The point to be made here is that Paul's heart is always in prayer for those God has called him to care for.  This should be the stance of all pastors today.  One doesn't have to be on his knees to pray.  One can live in a spirit of prayer all of the time.  I'm sure of that.  


The words "count you worthy of His calling" are important.  God has called us to a number of things.  First and foremost He has called us until Himself and all that salvation means in its various aspects.  That being said, He has called us all to a specific ministry.  He expects us, by His Spirit, to fulfill this ministry, and thus, He is able to count us worthy of the ministry He has called us to.    


In verse 12 Paul tells his readers why he prays for such success in whatever they do.  It is so that Jesus will be glorified, and, that Jesus may be glorified in them, meaning being seen in them in all His power and splendor.  It is so Jesus will be seen for whom He is in His people by the success they have in doing good.  This is the purpose of the church on earth.  That is, Jesus being seen in us to the world so others will want to become a part of the Kingdom of God .  It's my thinking that the church hasn't always done a good job of this over the years. 


Paul closes this chapter with the phrase “by the grace of our God and our Lord Jesus Christ”.  It is only by God’s grace that any good thing we do could bring glory to Jesus.  If it is done purely in a humanistic way, in our own human strength, then the glory will go to us and not to Jesus where it belongs.  Anything good that we do should be done to bring glory to Jesus, not to us.


Note the word "grace" here.  We often think that grace is God's unmerited favour, and that it is, but here we see the second definition of grace.  Grace is also the God given ability to do His will.  Many miss this aspect of grace but here it is clearly seen.  We cannot interpret grace here as unmerited favour because it just doesn't fit into the thought of this verse.  The only way that these people could glorify Jesus and Jesus be glorified in them is if they can do God's will with the ability God has given them.     


Notice the many references to the coming of Jesus at the end of this age in this chapter.  Much of what Paul says is in light of this fact.  The coming of Jesus seems to be in the forefront of Paul's thinking.  The same should be so with us.


Next Section - Chapter 2   

Home Page