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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Thessalonians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ὑπὲρ τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου [ἡμῶν] Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς ἐπʼ αὐτόν. But we ask you, brothers, on behalf of the coming of the [or our] Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to (meet) Him. By δέ of contrast we pass from the certainty and blessedness of the παρουσία (2 Thessalonians 1:5 ff.) to the state of disquiet about it into which this Church is in danger of falling.

For ἐρωτάω in requests, see 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, and note on the former verse; as in the above instances, ἀδελφοί is naturally interjected where common Christian interests and sentiments are involved. Ὑπέρ may be nothing more than an equivalent for περί (about, concerning), stating the matter of request (see, for περί in like connexion, 1 Thessalonians 5:10, and note; 1 Corinthians 7:1; Philemon 1:10, &c.); but it may be questioned whether ὑπέρ in St Paul ever quite loses the stronger meaning, on behalf of: cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 13:8; Philippians 2:13. “In the interest of” that very advent, in which their future happiness is wrapped up (ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς), the Apostles warn their readers against deception. The Latin rendering, followed by the A.V., per adventum, is certainly erroneous: this ὑπέρ obtestationis, frequent in Homer after λίσσομαι (see e.g. Iliad xv. 660), is rare otherwise. The full title, “our Lord Jesus Christ,” heightens the solemnity of the appeal; see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:1, also 1 Thessalonians 5:9; and, for παρουσία, 1 Thessalonians 2:19.

The writers add καὶ ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς ἐπʼ αὐτόν, remembering what they had said in 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:10 concerning the reunion of departed and living saints at Christ’s coming; perhaps also under the painful sense of continued separation from their “brothers” in Thessalonica and the uncertainties of meeting in “this present evil world”: see 1 Thessalonians 2:17 ff; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:11, 2 Thessalonians 1:4 f.; and the pathetic “rest with you” of 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Ἐπισυναγωγή (the noun in Hebrews 10:25, δὶς λεγόμενον in N.T.; also 2 Maccabees 2:7, ἐπισυναγωγὴν τοῦ λαοῦ) recalls the prophetic words of Jesus in Matthew 24:31 f., Mark 13:27, ἀποστελεῖ τοὺς ἀγγέλους κ. ἐπισυνάξει τοὺς ἐκλεκτοὺς ἐκ τῶν τεσσάρων ἀνέμων κ.τ.λ., which rest on the promise of Deuteronomy 30:4 respecting the διασπορά of Israel; cf. the echoes of our Lord’s sayings on the Last Things noted in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11. The ἐπι- in this compound—a word of the κοινή, which loved cumulative prepositional compounds—implies “convening upon” some centre: Christ supplies this mark,—ἐπʼ αὐτόν (as in Mark 5:21); cf. note on ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς, 2 Thessalonians 1:10. Under the single article, παρουσία and ἐπισυναγωγή form one object of thought, the latter accompanying the former (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17); cf. εἰς τὴν βασιλείανκαὶ δόξαν, 1 Thessalonians 2:12.


Verses 1-12

§ 3. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. THE REVELATION OF THE LAWLESS ONE

In this Epistle, as in the First, the principal aim of the Letter discloses itself in the second chapter, after the opening act of praise. The writers’ thoughts gravitate towards it in their thanksgiving, from 2 Thessalonians 2:5 onwards. The near coming of Christ preoccupies both themselves and their readers (see §§ 8, 9 of Epistle I., and pp. xxvii. ff. of Introd.). To the preceding section this is related (see Introd. to § 2) as 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; in each instance the writers pass, by the contrastive δέ, from consideration of the import of the Parousia to that of its time,—there insisting on its uncertainty of date as a reason for watchfulness, here giving a premonitory sign as evidence that “the day” is not yet in sight and by way of dissuasive from premature excitement on the subject. Cf. Introd. pp. lii., lxiii. f. Chapters 1 and 2 are closed by Prayer and Thanksgiving, as they commenced with Thanksgiving and Prayer (cf. Ephesians 1-3.), being thus rounded off into a whole by themselves, like chaps. 1–3 of Epistle I. (cf. τὸ λοιπόν, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 below, with λοιπὸν οὖν, 1 Thessalonians 4:1); but the secondary topic of Epistle I. becomes the primary topic of Epistle II.,—a reversal due to the increased acuteness of the questions connected with the Parousia. The Thessalonian Church was too eager and credulous in its expectation of the Lord’s advent; the Apostles beg them “for the sake of [that] advent” to be cautious (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Some went so far as to declare that “the day of the Lord is already come” (2 Thessalonians 2:2). To enable the readers to “prove the prophesyings” (1 Thessalonians 5:20 f.) addressed to them on this matter, they are furnished with a token, or omen, of the Second Advent, which indeed St Paul had virtually supplied beforehand (2 Thessalonians 2:5). Preceding Christ’s return in judgement (2 Thessalonians 1:5 ff.), there must be a supreme manifestation of evil (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). This development, as it seems to be represented, will be twofold, producing [1] “the apostasy”; and [2] “the revelation of the man of lawlessness” (or “of sin”), in whom the sin of humanity will culminate, assuming an absolutely Satanic character (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). This gigantic impersonation of evil is exhibited as the antagonist and antithesis of Christ in such a way that, while St Paul does not give to his conception the name Antichrist, yet this designation correctly sums up his description; the term ἀντίχριστος (the climax of the ψευδόχριστοι of Matthew 24:24), subsequently made familiar by St John’s use of it (1 John 2:18 ff.), was not improbably derived in the first instance from this passage. Meanwhile, we are told, there exists [3] a “withholding” influence, which delays the appearance of Antichrist, though the lawlessness that comes to its height in him “is already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:6 f.). When the “revelation” of this “mystery” at last takes place, while it heralds the return of the Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:8), at the same time it will prove for His rejecters a signal means of judgement, captivating by its magical delusions all who are not armed against them by “the love of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:9 ff.).

This paragraph is the most obscure in the whole of the Pauline Epistles. It is composed in a reserved, elliptical fashion and bears reference to St Paul’s oral communications, without which indeed he does not expect what is here written to be understood. In their recollection of his spoken words the Thessalonian readers had a key, which was soon lost, to the words of the Letter. We must grope for the interpretation as well as we can. Considerable light is, however, thrown on this dark passage by its relation to O.T. prophecy, and by the historical events and current ideas of the apostolic age. An Appendix will be added on the subject.


Verse 2

2. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ἐρωτάω was construed, in the regular classical way, with the infinitive; in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, according to commoner N.T. usage with verbs of asking, it was followed by ἵνα and subjunctive; here, more loosely, by εἰς τό with infin., stating the matter of the request as its aim: see note on this usage, 1 Thessalonians 2:12.

εἰς τὸ μὴ ταχέως σαλευθῆναι ὑμᾶς ἀπό τοῦ νοὸς μηδὲ θροεῖσθαι, to the end you be not quickly shaken from your mind (out of your wits: ut non cito moveamini a sensu vestro, Vulg.; ne cito a mente dimoveamini, Beza; prœcipitanter for ταχέως, de Wette—more vividly), nor be kept in agitation. Σαλεύω (see Luke 21:25, σάλος θαλάσσσης, “tossing of the sea”) denotes a rocking motion, a shaking up and down: cf. Matthew 11:7; Luke 6:48; Acts 16:26; Hebrews 12:26 f. Lightfoot quotes in illustration from Plutarch’s Moralia II. 493 D, ὄρεξιν τοῦ κατὰ φύσιν ἀποσαλεύουσανὡς ἐπʼ ἀγκύρας τῆς φύσεως σαλεύει, suggesting that St Paul’s σαλευθῆναι ἀπό (ἀπο-σαλεύειν) is the opposite of σαλεύειν ἐπὶ (ἀγκύρας), so that the figure intended would be that of a ship loose from her anchor and at the mercy of the waves. But νοῦς scarcely holds the office of an anchor to the soul (in Plutarch, as above, the ὄρεξις, not the man himself, ἀποσαλεύει; and the verb is intransitive); it signifies rather the mental poise and balance, off (ἀπό) which the Thessalonians might be thrown by the shock of sensational announcements. Ταχέως does not require a terminus a quo in point of time (cf. Galatians 1:6); it implies a speedy disturbance, a startled movement. For νοῦς, the regulative intellectual faculty, cf. Romans 7:25; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 4:7; Titus 1:15 : it is here virtually contrasted with πνεῦμα (see next clause) as its check and counterpart, much as in 1 Corinthians 14:14 f., 19. The δοκιμάζειν of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 involves the application of νοῦς to “prophesyings.” Νοο̈́ς, νοΐ (1 Corinthians 14:15; 1 Corinthians 14:19) are 3rd declension forms, such as were assumed, on the analogy of βοῦς, by two or three 2nd decl. nouns in later Greek (cf. πλοός, Acts 27:9), and to some extent in the earlier vernacular; see Winer-Moulton, p. 72.

Θροεῖσθαι (the verb found besides in Mark 13:7, in like connexion; cf. Luke 24:37, Cod. B), signifies in the present tense an excited condition of mind following the shock of agitating news (σαλευθῆναι, aorist). The former clause describes the overthrow of mental equilibrium, this the nervous, fluttered state supervening. Hence μηδέ, “nor indeed”: some might have already experienced a σάλευσις, but even they should not be kept in θρόησος, in continued discomposure. Θροεῖσθαι may be used of any agitating emotion (cf. Song of Solomon 5:4, LXX)—not fear in this instance—“terreamini” of the Vulg. is misleading; in classical Greek, where the verb is chiefly poetical, it signifies to cry or tell aloud.

μήτε διὰ πνεύματος μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν, neither through spirit, nor through word, nor through letter as (coming) through us. The writers suppose three various means by which the report about the Advent may have been set on foot. It could not be traced to a definite and single source; the information forthcoming led the Apostles to think that each of these causes may have been at work. If e.g. it were believed in some part of the Church—through misunderstanding either of Epistle I. or of some other Letter of the Apostles, or from some Letter falsely circulated in their name—ὅτι ἐνέστηκεν ἡ ἡμέρα, both prophets and teachers would be found to enforce, and probably exaggerate, the epistolary statement or inference.

Πνεῦμα and λόγος are distinguishable in the light of 1 Corinthians 12:8-11; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 14:26 : they denote the agencies by which ἀποκάλυψις and διδαχή respectively are communicated; λόγος σοφίας and λόγος γνώσεως are there contrasted with προφητεία, which was the mark of possession by the πνεῦμα in the highest sense (1 Corinthians 14:1, &c.). While λόγος means “discourse of reason,” the expression of rational thought and judgement (proceeding in this case upon the data of revelation), πνεῦμα applies to the ecstatic or prophetic utterances of supernaturally inspired persons.

Ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν—parallel to διʼ ἐπιστολῆς; or to διὰ λόγου (see 2 Thessalonians 2:5) and διʼ ἐπιστολῆς together (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15)—indicates not a fact per se, but as subjectively conceived (cf., for the use of ὡς, Romans 9:32; 2 Corinthians 2:17; Ephesians 6:5; Philemon 1:14),—“supposing that it is through us,” viz. that the announcement of the arrival of “the day” comes from the Lord through His Apostles and has their authority. The deception in the case is implied not by the adverb ὡς, but by the context. Whether this impression was derived from an actual Apostolic Letter, or from a supposititious Letter, either circulated in the Church or only alleged to be in existence, it is impossible to say; the curious ambiguity of the words suggests that the writers were at a loss on this point. The language of 2 Thessalonians 3:17 suggests that spurious Letters of St Paul were in existence; the mere suspicion of this would be enough to dictate the precaution there taken. On the other hand, judging from the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:27, it appears to have been possible that some members of the Church knew the First Epistle only by report and at second-hand, in which case its expressions on the subject might be distorted to the effect described. The plainest words will be misinterpreted by prepossessed minds.

ὡς ὅτι ἐνέστηκεν ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου, supposing that the day of the Lord is now present. For ὡς ὅτι, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19; 2 Corinthians 11:21; “the idea of misrepresentation or error is not necessarily inherent in this combination of particles; but the ὡς points to the subjective statement as distinguished from the objective fact, and thus the idea of untruth is frequently implied” (Lightfoot): the Thessalonians are being alarmed and distracted “under the idea that the day of the Lord has arrived” (see note on ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν above: cf. also Romans 5:16; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 10:14; Colossians 2:20). For ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου, see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Ἐνέστηκεν, the perfect, with present sense, of ἐνίστημι, signifies more than nearness, more even than imminence (ἐπίσταται, 1 Thessalonians 5:3); it means to be in place, in course—not merely approaching but arrived—and is regularly contrasted with μέλλω (see Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 7:26; Galatians 1:4; Hebrews 9:9). “The day,” it was affirmed, had so come that while it was not actually visible, its hour had struck, and its light might break any moment on the eyes of men: “Christ has come,” was the cry—ὁ κύριος πάρεστι, though His παρουσία is not manifest (cf. Matthew 24:26 f., Matthew 25:6).

3a. μή τις ὑμᾶς ἐξαπατήση κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον. Let no one deceive you in any kind of way—i.e. in the way of πνεῦμα, λόγος, ἐπιστολή, or otherwise. The warning conveyed by μήἐξαπατήσῃ seems to be directed against a wilful, dishonest deception: cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10; also (for this verb) Romans 7:11; Romans 16:18; 2 Corinthians 11:3. Κατὰτρόπον (cf. Romans 3:2; Acts 27:25) differs slightly from ἐντρόπῳ, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, the former implying a more definite “way” or “ways” before one’s mind. For like warnings, from St Paul, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7; Colossians 2:4; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:13; Titus 1:10; from our Lord on this very subject, Matthew 24:4 f., Matthew 24:11; Mat_24:24; Luke 21:8.

WH, in the margin of their text, place a comma, instead of the full stop, after κυρίου, thus connecting 2 Thessalonians 2:3 a (elliptically) with 2 Thessalonians 2:2, through the μή of apprehension: (I say this) lest any one should, in any kind of way, deceive you; cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5, upon the common construction of the μή in that passage.


Verse 3

3 c, 4. καὶ ἀποκαλυφθῇ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας, ὁ ἀντικείμενος καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενον θεὸν ἤ σέβασμα: and there be revealed the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition, the adversary and exalter of himself against every one called god or (that is) an object of worship (aut numen, Beza). The emphatically prefixed ἀποκαλυφθῇ (substituted for ἔλθῃ of the parallel clause), which is repeated in 2 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8 (see notes; and cf. note on ἀποκάλυψις in 2 Thessalonians 1:7), gives to the coming of ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας a superhuman stamp (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9). He is identified in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 (see note) with τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας; he comes κατʼ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶἄνθρωπος τὴν φύσιν, πᾶσαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ τοῦ διαβόλου δεχόμενος τὴν ἐνέργειαν (Theodore)—and attended with manifold miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The terms describing his appearance and action are borrowed throughout from those belonging to the Parousia of the Lord Jesus, whose ἀντικείμενος he is to be,—a Satanic parody of Christ, His counterpart in the realm of evil.

This fearful personality is described by three epithets, the last of the three consisting of a double participle, and all three Hebraistic in form: (a) ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας (see Textual Note)—“the man” in whom “lawlessness” is embodied, “in quem recapitulatur sex millium annorum omnis apostasia et injustitia et dolus” (Irenæus), who takes this for his rôle (cf. “man of God,” “man of Belial [worthlessness],” “man of war,” &c., in O.T. idiom); more simply named ὁ ἄνομος in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. As “the man of lawlessness,” Antichrist concentrates into himself all that in human life and history is most hostile to God and rebellious to His law; he is the ne plus ultra of τὸ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός (Romans 8:7). (b) The first epithet refers to the nature, the second to the doom of Antichrist; he is ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας: cf. υἱὸς θανάτου, 1 Sam. (Kingd.: LXX) 1 Samuel 20:31; similarly in Deuteronomy 25:2 the man “worthy of stripes” is called, in Hebrew, “a son of smiting”; in Isaiah 57:4 the LXX reads τέκνα ἀπωλείας, σπέρμα ἄνομον, for “children of transgression, a seed of falsehood” (in the Hebrew). To Judas Iscariot alone this name is elsewhere given in Scripture (John 17:12); but “whose end is perdition” (Philippians 3:19), and “he goeth to perdition” (εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὑπάγει, Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:11; said of the seven-headed Wild Beast), affirm virtually the same thing. (c) Of the two terms of the third title, ὁ ἀντικείμενος (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9, 1 Timothy 5:14) is familiar, being equivalent to הַשָּׂטָן, ὁ Σατανᾶς, Satan, whom this “man of lawlessness” is to represent and whose power has its ἐνέργεια in him (2 Thessalonians 2:9 f.): see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:18; cf. also Zechariah 3:1 (LXX), ὁ διάβολος εἱστήκειτοῦ ἀντικεῖσθαι αὐτῷ. This participle might be complemented, along with the following ὑπεραιρόμενος, by ἐπὶ πάντα κ.τ.λ.; but it is a quasi-substantive, with a recognized and complete sense of its own. It is Christ to whom “the adversary” ἀντίκειται.

In the second and extended participial clause of (c)—identified with ὁ ἀντικείμενος by the single article—ὑπεραιρόμενος has a parallel in 2 Corinthians 12:7 (“exalted above measure”: St Paul is fond of ὑπερ-compounds). Ἐπί as distinguished from ὑπέρ, and in this context, is against. Πάντα λεγόμενον θεόν (illustrated by 1 Corinthians 8:5 b) embraces the entire Pan-theon of mankind, deposed by this Great Usurper in favour of himself; while καὶ σέβασμα extends the previous term, already so wide, by way of including every conceivable object of religious reverence. So σεβάσματα in Acts 17:23 embraces the religious monuments and emblems of Athens generally—shrines, altars, images, and the like: the only other N.T. instance of the word, which occurs besides in Wisdom of Solomon 15:17.


Verse 4

4 (continued). ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσαι, ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτὸν ὅτι ἔστιν θεός, so that he takes his seat within the temple of God, showing himself off (to the effect) that he is God! Ὥστε (with infin. of result) brings in the climax of the self-deification of the Antichrist. Καθίσαι (the verb is here intransitive, as in 1 Corinthians 10:7, Matthew 5:1, and commonly) is the aorist of the single (inceptive), not continuous, act (cf. Matthew 19:28, &c.); εἰς is suitable to the aorist, as implying motion towards,—putting himself “into” God’s seat in the ναός. By their several positions αὐτόν and καθίσαι are both emphasized: “He in the temple of God takes his seat,” as though that throne were his! Ναός, as distinguished from ἱερόν, is the temple proper, the inner shrine of Deity. For ἀποδεικνύναι, cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9; it implies a public display, a show—spectandum aliquid proponere (Winer); but the verb, as Lightfoot proves, bears in later Greek the technical sense, to nominate or proclaim one who accedes to office: so e.g. Philo, in Flaccum, § 3, Γαΐου δὲ ἀποδειχθέντος αὐτοκράτορος. The verb thus read is construed with ὅτι quite easily—“proclaiming himself that he is God”—with attraction of the dependent subject (see Winer-Moulton, p. 781). The present participle, qualifying the aorist infinitive (for indicative), denotes a course of conduct that attends and centres in the principal act. On the ordinary rendering of ἀποδεικνύντα, the ὅτι clause forms a second explanatory object, by a kind of synizesis: “showing himself off, (declaring) that he is God.” The rendering of Beza, “præ se ferens se esse Deum,” corrects the Vulg. translation, “ostendens se tanquam sit Deus,” which misses the essential point: ἀντίθεός τις ἔσται (Chrysostom).

The latter part of the description of the Antichrist, from καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος onwards, is based on Daniel 11:36 f.: καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἐπὶ πάντα θεὸν καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν τῶν θεῶν ἔξαλλα λαλήσεικαὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς θεοὺς τῶν πατέρων αὐτοῦ οὐ μὴ προνοηθῇὄτι ἐν παντὶ ὑψωθήσεται; cf. Daniel 7:25; Daniel 9:27; Isaiah 14:13 f.; Ezekiel 28:2 (ὑψώθη σου ἡ καρδία, καὶ εἶπας Θεός εἰμι ἐγώ, κατοικίαν θεοῦ κατῴκηκακαὶ ἔδωκας τὴν καρδίαν σου ὡς καρδίαν θεοῦ). In the above prophetic sketches the monarchic pride of the ancient world-rulers is seen rising to the height of self-deification; these delineations adumbrate the figure which St Paul projects on to the canvas of the Last Times. That self-deification forms the governing feature in this description of Jesus Christ’s Satanic counterfoil, presupposes the assumption of Divine powers on the part of Jesus; cf. note below on ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.

St Jerome gave the two possible interpretations of εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, writing in Epist. 121: “in templo Dei—vel Ierosolymis, ut quidam putant [so the older Fathers—Irenæus, Hippolytus, &c.]; vel in ecclesia, ut verius arbitramur” (so the later Greek interpreters). Chrysostom presents the latter view less exactly (for St Paul refers to the entire Church as ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ in 1 Corinthians 3:16 f., 2 Corinthians 6:16; cf. Ephesians 2:21; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 7:15), when he says, καθεδήσεται εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, οὐ τὸν ἐν Ἰεροσολύμοις ἀλλὰ καθʼ ἑκάστην ἐκκλησίαν. When the Apostles speak of “the sanctuary of God” without other qualification, they might be supposed to refer to the existing Temple at Jerusalem (cf. the usage of the Gospels, as respects ὁ ναός and the wider τὸ ἱερόν, which includes the courts and precincts; similarly in Acts, τὸ ἱερόν), to which the kindred passages in Daniel (Daniel 11:31, Daniel 12:11), cited in our Lord’s prophecy (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14), unmistakably apply. Attempts have been made to show that their words were practically fulfilled soon after this date by certain outrages committed by Nero, or Vespasian, upon the sacred building. But this is not clearly made out; and even the worst of the Emperors was but an adumbration of St Paul’s Antichrist. On the other hand, we have learnt from 1 Thessalonians 2:16 that St Paul believed national Judaism to be nearing its end,—the Temple presumably with it. Our Lord had predicted the speedy destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (see Luke 21:6; Luke 21:32, &c.), which, forsaken by the Son of God, could no longer be viewed by Christians as properly His “Father’s house” (see Matthew 23:37-39; Matthew 21:13; John 2:16). Along with the terms ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ (1 Thessalonians 2:14), Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ (Galatians 6:16), οἱ ἅγιοι and the like (cf. Philippians 3:3; 1 Peter 2:4-10), the presumption is that ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ belonged statedly, in Pauline dialect, to the new kingdom of God and had its “foundation” in “Jesus Christ”; this transference of the ναός-conception is assumed in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17, the next Epistle to ours in point of date, as a recognized fact (οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε; 2 Thessalonians 2:16); the true ναός is marked out by the indwelling of “the Spirit of God” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:8 above). It is true that there is nothing in our context to indentify ὁ ναός with ἡ ἐκκλησία; but we must remember that we have an incomplete context before us; the paragraph is throughout allusive to previous teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:5). The doctrine that the Christian community constitutes the veritable shrine of God on earth, may have been as familiar to the Thessalonian as it certainly was a few years later to the Corinthian Christians. Granted this equivalence, the connexion between ἀποστασία and ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας becomes exceedingly close: the Lawless One, in superseding all forms of religion except the worship of himself, assumes to sit within the Church of God, abetted by its apostates, and proclaims himself its supreme Head, thus aping the Lord Jesus and playing his anti-Christian part to the uttermost,—“quasi quia ipse sit Christus” (Theodore).

FURTHER NOTE on 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 : The premonition of the Lord’s advent the Apostle finds, therefore, in a previous counter-advent, and this is twofold: the coming (a) of “the apostasy,” (b) of “the man of lawlessness, &c.”—(a) a movement, (b) a personality. The former element in the representation remains in shadow, and is developed by the Apostle in later Epistles; the image of “the lawless one’ dominates this passage, but forthwith vanishes from the Pauline writings, to reappear, considerably altered, in St John’s Apocalypse. Three chief factors go to furnish the conception these verses give of the final manifestation of evil: [1] Its foundation lies in the data of O.T. prophecy, more particularly in the Apocalypse of Daniel, to which our Lord attached His own predictions of the Last Things and with whose “son of man coming in the clouds of heaven” He identified Himself. “The apostasy” and “the lawless one,” since they embody ideas from this source, appear to signify two distinct but co-operating agents, as distinct as were e.g. the apostates of Israel from the heathen persecutor, Antiochus Epiphanes, for whose coming their appearance gave the signal at the Maccabean epoch. The distinction is one pervading Pauline thought and teaching, viz. that between existing Jew and Gentile (Israel and the nations), which are reconciled on the true basis in the Church of Jesus Christ; the corresponding evil powers unite to form the conspiracy of Satan. The new Messianic community, of Jews and Gentiles in one body, has become “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), defection from which is “apostasy” (see 1 Timothy 3:15 to 1 Timothy 4:1 : ἀποστήσονται ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως); the old antagonism of Jew and Gentile has been resolved into the opposition of the people of God and the world—the antithesis, in short, of Christian and un-Christian. St Paul, to speak in modern phrase, appears to foresee the rise of an apostate Church paving the way for the advent of an atheistic world-power. So it is “out of the” restless, murmuring “sea” of the nations and their “many waters” that “the Wild Beast” of Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:15, “comes up.” This combination Daniel 8:23 already presents: “When the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance … shall arise”; cf. 1 Maccabees 1:10-15, for the parallel earlier situation. [2] While, for Christian believers, “apostasy” means revolt from Christ, by the same necessity the figure of the atheistic world-king, transmitted from the Book of Daniel and from the struggle with Antiochus, is clothed with an Antichristian character; “the lawless one” becomes from point to point the antithesis of the Lord Jesus,—a Satanic caricature of the Messiah-king, a mock-Christ. But [3] contemporary history supplied a powerful stimulus to the prophetic spirit of the Church, which already dimly conceived its Antichrist as the counterpart in the kingdom of darkness to the true Christ reigning in God’s kingdom of light. The deification of the Roman emperors, from Julius Cæsar downwards, was a religious portent of the times. This cultus must have forced itself on the notice of St Paul and his companions in their recent journey through the north-west of the peninsula of Asia Minor (Acts 16:6-10), where it already flourished; not improbably, their route led through Pergamum, a city which boasted, in its magnificent Augusteum, the chief seat of Cæsar-worship in the whole empire (cf. Revelation 2:13 : ὅπου ὁ θρόνος τοῦ Σατανᾶ). The attempt of the mad emperor Gaius (Caligula), made in the year 40, to place his statue in the temple of Jerusalem for Divine worship, an attempt only frustrated by his death, compelled the attention of the entire Jewish people whom it filled with horror, and of the Christian Church with them, to this blasphemous cult. The event was typical, showing to what lengths the intoxication of supreme power in an atheistic age might carry a man inspired by Satan. This attempt was, in Caligula’s case, but the last of a series of outrages upon “every so-called god.” Suetonius relates that this profane monster transported the statue of Olympian Zeus to Rome, displacing its head for the image of his own; also, that he built his palace up to the temple of the old Roman gods Castor and Pollux, and made of this a vestibule where he exhibited himself standing between the twin godships to receive the adoration of those who entered (De Vita Cœsarum, iv:22). The Apostles are only projecting into the future the development of a “mystery of lawlessness”—a tendency of inscrutable force, springing from unsounded depths of evil in human nature—that was “already at work” before the eyes of all men, masquerading in the robes of Godhead on the imperial stage at Rome. So far-reaching was the impression produced by the Emperor-worship, that Tacitus represents the German barbarians speaking in ridicule of “ille inter numina dicatus Augustus” (Ann. I. 59). The effect of this new Government cultus on what remained of natural religion in the rites of Paganism is indicated in the pregnant words of Tacitus (Ann. I. 10), the first clause of which might have been borrowed from St Paul: “Nihil deorum honoribus relictum, cum se templis et effigie numinum per flamines et sacerdotes coli vellet [Augustus].” Nor was the exaltation of the emperors to deity an act of mere autocratic blasphemy and pride of power. Rome and the provinces spontaneously gave Divine honours to Julius Cæsar at his death; and Augustus promoted the new worship out of policy, to supply a religious bond to the Empire and to fill up the void created by the decay of the old national religions, the very want which Christianity was destined to meet. In relating the obsequies of Julius Cæsar Suetonius says (Ibid. i.84, 88): “Omnia simul ei divina atque humana decreverat [senatus] … Periit sexto et quinquagesimo ætatis anno, atque in deorum numerum relatus est, non ore modo decernentium sed et persuasione volgi.” The unconscious irony of the above passage is finely pointed by the exclamation which the same historian puts into the mouth of the dying Vespasian (viii:23): “Vae, puto deus fio!” Cf. the tragic scene of Acts 12:20-23, ὁ δῆμος ἐπεφώνει· Θεοῦ φωνὴ κ. οὐκ ἀνθρώπουκαὶ γενόμενος σκωληκόβρωτος ἐξέψυξεν (Herod Agrippa I.). The shout of the Cæsarean δῆμος shows the readiness of a sceptical and servile heathenism to deify its human rulers, while the language of St Luke reflects the loathing stirred thereby in Christian minds. The Apostle Paul realized the significance of the Cæsar-worship of his time; he saw in it τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας at work in its most typical form. Antiochus Epiphanes and Gaius Caligula have sat as models for his Antichrist; the Emperor Elagabalus (218–222 A.D.), in more Oriental fashion, subsequently reproduced the type. The struggle between heathen Rome and Christianity was to turn, in reality, upon the alternative of κύριος Καῖσαρ (Martyr. Polycarpi 8) or κύριος Ἰησοῦς (1 Corinthians 12:3),—the point already raised, with a strange instinct (like that of Caiaphas respecting the Atonement, John 11:50 ff.), by the Jews when they cried to Pilate, “If thou let Him [Jesus] go, thou art not Cæsar’s friend” (John 19:12). Cæsar-worship being the state-religion, and the worship of Christ admitting of no sharer, Christianity became a religio illicita and its profession, constructively, high treason. Ὄμοσον τὴν Καίσαρος τύχην was the test put to Polycarp by the Proconsul of Asia in the stadium of Smyrna (Martyr. 9); and this challenge, with the martyr’s reply—πῶς δύναμαι βλασφημῆσαι τὸν βασιλέα μου; —is typical of the entire conflict of the Christian faith with its ἀντικείμενος, the veritable θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου enthroned on the Palatine. Cæsar’s titular name Σεβαστός, the Greek rendering of Augustus (cf. ὁ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πᾶνσέβασμα above)—to which Divus was added at death—was itself a blasphemy to Jewish and Christian ears. With σεβαστός the title υἱὸς θεοῦ was associated in popular use and even in business documents (see Deissmann’s Bible Studies, pp. 166 f., and Dalman’s Words of Jesus, p. 273), a circumstance that gave additional point to the rivalry, which forced itself on Christian thought, between the deified Cæsar and Christ.


Verse 5

5. Οὐ μνημονεύετε ὅτι ἔτι ὤν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ταῦτα ἔλεγον ὑμῖν; Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I used to tell you these things? cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1 f.; Philippians 3:18. With οὐ μνημονεύετε (wrongly rendered in Vulg. “Num retinetis?”—Ambrose, Beza, “Annon meministis?”) cf. in Pauline usage 1 Thessalonians 2:9; Acts 20:31. For ὢν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, see note on 1 Thessalonians 3:4, also 2 Thessalonians 3:1 below. Ἔτι ὣν implies that St Paul had spoken of these matters, as we should expect, toward the end of his ministry, when he had not “as yet” left them; cf. Acts 18:18, John 20:1, &c., for ἔτι. On the probable duration of the mission in Thessalonica, see Introd. p. 20. Ἔλεγον, imperfect, of repeated discourse; cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:4.

The first person singular in this reminder interrupts the plural pervading the Letter, and only appears again in 2 Thessalonians 3:17. St Paul’s self-consciousness comes to the surface. What had been said on this mysterious and awful subject came from the principal writer (see 2 Thessalonians 1:1), who had dealt with it on his own distinct authority; whereas in 1 Thessalonians 3:4 and in 1 Thessalonians 4:15—passages in different ways parallel to this—the communicative plural was used, no such personal distinctiveness of teaching being implied: cf. notes on the singular of 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; and Introd. pp. xxxix. f.

The reminder gently reproves the readers, who should not have been so easily disturbed by the alarmists, after what the Apostle had told them; it obviates further explanation in writing on a subject bordering upon politics, the more explicit treatment of which might have exposed the missionaries to a renewal in more dangerous form of the charges that led to their expulsion from Thessalonica: see Acts 16:6 f.; Introd. pp. xxix. f. St Paul’s enemies would be quick to seize on anything calculated to compromise him with the Roman Government.


Verse 6

6. καὶ νῦν τὸ κατέχον οἴδατε. And for the present, you know the thing that withholds. Καὶ νῦν might be construed with οἶδα, or the like, describing a present knowledge due to past instruction, whether immediate or more distant: cf. John 8:52; John 16:30; Acts 12:11; Acts 20:25; also 1 Thessalonians 3:8. At the same time, νῦν τὸ κατέχον does not stand for τὸ νῦν κατέχον, as some read it (ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, is different); but practically the same sense is arrived at by reading καὶ νῦν as equal to καὶ τὰ νῦν (cf. Acts 3:17 with Acts 4:29, Acts 5:38; Acts 20:22 with Acts 20:32; τὰ νῦν is never found in St Paul), and for the present, in contrast with the future ἀποκάλυψις ἐν τῷ καιρῷ αὐτοῦ of 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8. The stress thrown by 2 Thessalonians 2:7 on the actual, contemporary working (ἤδη, ἄρτι; see notes) of τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας points decidedly to this rendering of the emphatically placed temporal adverb (cf. John 4:18); see Lightfoot and Bornemann ad loc.

Τὸ κατέχον οἴδατε,—not “you know what it is that withholds”; but “you know the withholding thing”: the restraint is something within the range of the readers’ experience; they are acquainted with it, apart from their having been told of it by the Apostle; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:1 f., 2 Thessalonians 3:4; 1 Corinthians 16:15, &c. We have not, therefore, to look far afield for the bar then in the way of the Man of Lawlessness. Further definition is needless, and might have been dangerous on the writers’ part; verbum sapientibus sat. Τὸ κατέχον becomes ὁ κατέχων in 2 Thessalonians 2:7—here a principle or power, there a personal agency, as with τὸ μυστήριον and ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας. For the interpretation of the phrase, see the next verse. For the adverse sense of κατέχω, see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (otherwise applied in that passage); cf. Romans 1:18; Romans 7:6. The classical use of the neuter participle as a substantive is elsewhere confined to St Luke in the N.T.; see Luke 1:35; Luke 2:27; Luke 4:16, &c.

εἰς τὸ ἀποκαλυφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ καιρῷ, to the end that he (viz. ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 f.) may be revealed in his season. For εἰς τό with infinitive, blending purpose and result, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2, and note on 1 Thessalonians 2:12. For καιρός, see 1 Thessalonians 5:1, and note: “the Lawless One” has “his season,” the time fit and appointed for him in the development of events and in the counsels of God—one of the series of καιροί of which the Thessalonians had vainly desired to have the chronology. Antichrist has his set time, corresponding to that τῆς ἐπιφανείας τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἣν καιροῖς ἰδίοις δείξει ὁ μακάριος καὶ μόνος δυνάστης, 1 Timothy 6:14 f. The restraining power so operates as to hold back and put bounds to human lawlessness, until the hour strikes for its final outbreak in the Man of Lawlessness and the revelation of all its hidden potencies. This order of things belongs to God’s purposes. If He allows moral evil to exist in His creatures (and its possibility is inseparable from moral freedom), yet He knows how to control its activity, till the time when its full manifestation will best subserve its overthrow and judgement. The Jewish Law had also been in the Apostle’s view, and under the same theory of a Divine control and overruling of sin for its final extinction, a κατέχον and yet a δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας for its sphere and age, preparing for and leading up to the καιρὸς τοῦ χριστοῦ: see Galatians 3:19-24; Romans 5:13; Romans 5:20 f.; 1 Corinthians 15:56. The καιρὸς τοῦ ἀνόμου will be the last and worst of many such crises, chief amongst which was that of Luke 22:53 : “This is your hour (ὑμῶν ἡ ὥρα) and the power of darkness”; cf. again 1 Timothy 4:1.


Verse 7

7. τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας. For the mystery is already working (or set in operation)—(that) of lawlessness. For ἐνεργεῖται, see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:13. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 explains (γάρ) 2 Thessalonians 2:6; at present the Lawless One is held back till the fit time, “for he is already here in principle, operative as a mystery awaiting revelation, and checked so long as the withholder stands in the way” (see notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:6). Νῦν is nunc, now, at this time; ἤδη, jam, already, by this time; ἄρτι, in prœsenti, just now or then, at the moment: for ἤδη, cf. further 1 Corinthians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 5:3; Philippians 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 4:6; 1 John 4:3. The sentence identifies the present hidden with the future open and unrestrained working of the forces embodied in ὁ ἄνομος.

Τὸ μυστήριον, correlative with ἀποκαλυφθῆναι (as in Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; 1 Corinthians 14:2; Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:9 f.; Colossians 1:26; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:19 f.), is, like that, a term proper to the things of God and the manifestation of Christ, appropriated here to the master-work of Satan and the appearing of the Man of Lawlessness; cf. note on 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (ἀποκαλυφθῇ). Τὸ μυστήριον, in St Paul’s dialect, is not something strange and hard to understand; nor is it some secret reserved, like the Mysteries of Greek Paganism or of Jewish Alexandrian or Essenic esoteric systems, for the initiated few; it denotes that which is by its nature above man’s reason, and is therefore known only as and when God is pleased to reveal it (2 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8); 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 sets the Pauline use of the word in a full light: see the Note ad rem in J. A. Robinson’s Ephesians, pp. 234 ff. In the Book of Daniel, μυστήριον (LXX: rendered “secret”) first appears in its distinct Biblical sense; then in Wisdom of Solomon 2:22; Wisdom of Solomon 6:24, &c. In the Gospels (Matthew 13:11 and parallels) the word is once cited from the lips of Jesus, referring to the truths conveyed to disciples but veiled from others by His parables. So monstrous and enormous are the possibilities of sin in humanity, that with all we know of its working the character of the Man of Lawlessness remains incomprehensible beforehand. The history of Sin, like that of Divine Grace, is full of surprises.

μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μέσου γένηται: only (there is) the withholder for the present, until he be taken out of the way. Again a hiatus in the Greek, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, an incoherence of expression very natural in a letter written by dictation, and due seemingly to the excitement raised by the apparition of ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας before the writer’s gaze. Ἄρτι qualifies ὁ κατέχων: the restraint at present in exercise holds down (κατέχω, as in Romans 1:18) lawlessness, and veils its nature by limiting its activity, until ὁ καιρὸς τοῦ ἀνόμου (2 Thessalonians 2:6) shall arrive. Ἄρτι (see note on ἤδη above; also on 1 Thessalonians 3:6) indicates a particular juncture, or epoch; it suggests a brief transitional period, such as St Paul, without claiming certain knowledge, was inclined to suppose the current Christian dispensation to be; see note on 1 Thessalonians 4:15, also 1 Corinthians 7:29, &c. Ἕως and synonymous conjunctions, often in classical Greek and more often than not in the N.T., dispense with ἄν in governing the subjunctive of contingency,—perhaps after the analogy of ἵνα; see Winer-Moulton, p. 371, A. Buttmann, N. T. Grammar, pp. 230 f. For ἐκ μέσου, cf. 1 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Colossians 2:14 (ἐκ τοῦ μέσου, classical); and contrast 1 Thessalonians 2:7.

On ὁ κατέχων, see note to τὸ κατέχον, 2 Thessalonians 2:6. While the restrainer and the object of restraint are each expressed in both personal and impersonal form, it is noticeable that the former appears as primarily impersonal, while the latter is predominantly personal: the writers contemplate the power of lawlessness in its ultimate manifestation, as embodied in a supreme human antagonist of Christ; whereas the restraint delaying Antichrist’s appearance appears to be conceived as an influence or principle, which at the same time may be personally represented. It is better therefore to render ὁ κατέχων “he that restraineth,” rather than “one that restraineth” (R.V.); the expression seems to signify a class, not an individual: cf. Ephesians 4:28.

Where then are we to look, amongst the influences dominant at the time and known to the readers, for the check and bridle of lawlessness? where but to law itself,—Staat und Gesetz (J. A. Dorner)? For this power the Apostle Paul had a profound respect; he taught that αἱ οὖσαι ἐξουσίαι were ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι (Romans 13:1-7). Silvanus and himself were citizens of Rome, and had reason to value the protection of her laws; see Acts 16:35-39; Acts 22:23-29; Acts 25:10-12. About this time he was finding in the upright Proconsul Gallio a shield from the lawlessness of the Jewish mob at Corinth; the Thessalonian “politarchs” at least made some show of doing him justice (Acts 17:5-9). St Paul’s political acumen, guided by his prophetical inspiration, was competent to distinguish between the character and personal action of the Emperor-god and the grand fabric of the Roman Empire over which he presided.

As head of the civil State, the reigning Augustus was the impersonation of law, while in his character as a man, and in his assumptions of deity, he might be the type of the most profane and wanton lawlessness (witness Caligula, Nero, Elagabalus). Roman law and the authority of the magistrate formed a breakwater against the excesses of autocratic tyranny as well as of popular violence. The absolutism of the bad Cæsars had after all its limit; their despotic power trampled on the laws, and was yet restrained by them. Imagine a Nero master of the civilized world and adored as a god, with all respect for civil justice destroyed in the action of the powers of the State, and St Paul’s “mystery of lawlessness” would be amply “revealed.” Despite τὸ κατέχον ἄρτι, the reign of Nero, following in a few years the writing of this Letter, showed to what incredible lengths the idolatry of a wicked human will may be carried, in the decay of religion and the general decline of moral courage which this entails. This monster of depravity, “the lion” of 2 Timothy 4:17, stood for the portrait of “the wild beast” in St John’s Apocalypse, which carried forward St Paul’s image of “the lawless one,” even as the latter took up Daniel’s idea of the godless king impersonated in Antiochus Epiphanes. Döllinger, seeing in Nero St Paul’s ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, regarded Claudius, the reigning emperor, as ὁ κατέχωνscil. preventing, while he lived, Nero’s accession—because of the resemblance of his name to claudens, a Latin equivalent for κατέχων: but this ascribes to the Apostle an unlikely kind of foresight; and it credits him with a pun (made in Latin too, though he is writing in Greek) quite out of keeping with the solemnity of the subject. (Askwith identifies Claudius and his policy with ὁ κατέχων, τὸ κατέχον, inasmuch as he rescinded the edict of Caligula.) Nero fell; and the Roman State remained, to be the restrainer of lawlessness and, so far, a protector of infant Christianity. Wiser rulers and better times were in store for the Empire. Through ages the κατέχον of the Apostolic times has proved a bulwark of society. In the crisis of the 8th century “the laws of Rome saved Christianity from Saracen dominion more than the armies.… The torrent of Mohammedan invasion was arrested” for 700 years. “As long as Roman law was cultivated in the Empire and administered under proper control, the invaders of Byzantine territory were everywhere unsuccessful” (Finlay, History of Byzantine Empire, pp. 27 f.). Nor did Roman Law fall with the Empire itself, any more than it rose therefrom. It allied itself with Christianity, and has thus become largely the parent of the legal systems of Christendom. Meanwhile Cœsarism also survives, a second legacy from Rome and a word of evil omen, the title and model of illegal sovereignty. The lawlessness of human nature holds this “mystery” in solution, ready to precipitate itself and “to be revealed at the last season.” The mystery betrays its working in partial and transitional manifestations, until “in its season” it crystallizes into its complete expression. Let reverence for law disappear in public life along with religious faith, and there is nothing to prevent a new Cæsar becoming master and god of the civilized world, armed with immensely greater power. For other interpretations given to ὁ κατέχων, see the Appendix.


Verse 8

8. καὶ τότε ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος. And then (not before) shall be revealed the Lawless One: this sentence resumes 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, in the light of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 b. Καὶ τότε,—by contrast with the foregoing νῦν, ἤδη, ἄρτι, as in 1 Corinthians 4:5 (note also the previous ἕως), 1 Corinthians 13:12; with νῦν following, Romans 6:21, Galatians 4:8 f., Galatians 4:29. Ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας (2 Thessalonians 2:3), the principle of whose existence operated in τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας (2 Thessalonians 2:7), is briefly designated ὁ ἄνομος, just as the heathen, generically, are οἱ ἄνομοί (Acts 2:23; 1 Corinthians 9:21, &c.). For ἀποκαλυφθήσεται, see notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:6; and in its relation to μυστήριον, 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Thrice, with persistent emphasis, ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι is asserted of ὁ ἄνομος, as of some portentous, unearthly object holding the gazer spell-bound. His manifestation will be signal, and unmistakable in its import to those whose eyes are not closed by “the deceit of unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10); “the mystery of lawlessness” will now stand “revealed.”

ὂν ὁ κύριος [Ἰησοῦς] ἀνελεῖ (or ἀναλοῖ) τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, whom the Lord [Jesus] will slay (or consume) by the breath of His mouth. So that ὁ ἄνομος has scarcely appeared in his full Satanic character and pretensions, when he is swept away by the Redeemer’s advent. The sentence is a reminiscence of Isaiah 11:4, where it is said of the “shoot from the stock of Jesse,” πατάξει γῆν τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ (Heb. בְּשֵׁבֶט פִּיו, “by the rod of His mouth”) καὶ ἐν πνεύματι διὰ χειλέων ἀνελεῖ ἀσεβῆ (LXX)—the ἀσεβής of that passage becomes the ἄνομος of this: cf. Job 4:9, ἀπὸ πνεύματος ὀργῆς αὐτοῦ ἀφανισθήσονται; also Isaiah 30:33, נִשְׁמַת יהוה כְּנַחַל גָּפְרִית (“the breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone”), Psalms 18:8; Psalms 21:9, for theophanies of fiery destructiveness. Later Jewish teaching identified the ἀσεβής of Isaiah 11:4 with Armillus (or Armalgus), the Anti-messiah; see Appendix, pp. 218 f. The terrible metaphor is in keeping with the language of 2 Thessalonians 1:7 f. above, ἀποκάλυψιςἐν πυρὶ φλογός. Τὸ πνεῦμα (synon. with λόγος of Isaiah 11:4) τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ is not conceived as a physical agent: “the word” or “breath”—the judicial sentence—issuing “from the mouth” of the Lord, has an annihilating effect on the power of the ἄνομος, even as the O.T. λόγος Κυρίου, or πνεῦμα τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ (Psalms 32:6, LXX cf. Ps. 103:30), operated creatively in the making of the world. As the sight of the Lord Jesus brings punishment on the cruel persecutors of His saints (2 Thessalonians 1:9), so the breath of His mouth suffices to lay low the Titanic Antichrist; “a word shall quickly slay him.”

καὶ καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ, and will abolish by the apparition of His coming. Ἐπιφάνεια denotes a signal, often a sudden appearance, the coming into sight of that which was previously, or commonly, hidden. The word recurs in the Pastoral Epp., applied once to the First Advent, 2 Timothy 1:10; and four times to the Second (in place of παρουσία), 1 Timothy 6:14, Titus 2:13, 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:8. Ἐπιφανής, in Acts 2:20 (from the LXX, Joel 2:31), is rendered “notable”; the verb ἐπιφαίνομαι occurs in Titus 2:11; Titus 3:4, in like connexion. Bengel paraphrases the expression, “prima ipsius adventus emicatio,”—“the first dawn of the advent.” This noun belongs to later Greek: it is used of the “dawning of day” (Polybius), of the starting into sight of an enemy, of the apparition of gods to their worshippers, &c.; “dictum de Imperatoris, quasi dei apparitione, accessione ad regnum” (Herwerden, Lexicon Græcum suppletorium); much employed by the Greek Fathers in application to the various appearances of Christ. The Latin translators see in ἐπιφάνεια the brightness of the Advent (cf. ἐν πυρὶ φλογός, 2 Thessalonians 2:7): “illustratione adventus sui” (Vulg.), “illuminatione præsentiæ suæ” (Augustine); similarly Erasmus, “ut accipias claritate Christi advenientis obscuratum iri Antichristum.” For παρουσία, see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:19.

καταργέω, a favourite word of St Paul’s—found once in Euripides, then in Polybius, four times in 2 Esdras (LXX)—signifies by etymology to make idle (ἀργός, -εργός), inoperative, so to bring to nought, destroy, a thing or person in respect of power and efficacy, to make void, annul: cf., besides instances above, Luke 13:7; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Galatians 5:11. Severianus aptly says, recalling Colossians 3:4, ζωῆς οὐρανόθεν φανερουμένης, ἀδύνατον μὴ καταργηθῆναι τὸν τοῦ θανάτου πρόξενον. For the whole verse, cf. the description of Christ in Revelation 1:16 f.: ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ῥομφαία δίστομος ὀξεῖα ἐκπορευομένη, καὶ ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ήλιος φαίνει ἐν τῇ δυνάμει αὐτοῦ· καὶ ὅτε εἶδον αὐτὸν ἔπεσαὡς νεκρός; for the former part of it, Revelation 19:15. St Paul may be thinking here, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 f. (see note), of the sudden light and arresting voice by which the Lord Jesus was revealed to himself (Acts 9:3; Acts 22:6). Theodore paraphrases the verse in a striking fashion: ἐξαίφνης ἀπʼ οὐρανῶν φανεὶς ὁ χριστὸς καὶ μόνον ἐπιβοήσας παύσει τῆς ἐργασίας, ὅλον αὐτὸν ἀναλώσας (cf. ἀναλοῖ in text above).


Verse 9

9. οὑ ἐστὶν ἡ παρουσία κατʼ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ, whose coming is (or who has his coming) according to Satan’s working. The παρουσία of the Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:8 b) recalls the παρουσία of His “adversary” and false counterpart (see 2 Thessalonians 2:4 and notes), which is further set forth in its manner (κατά), and accompaniments (ἐν), as “in accordance with (in the way or fashion of) a working of Satan”—being such a παρουσόα as might be expected from such a source—and “in all manner of power and signs and wonders … and in all deceit,” &c. The ἐνέργεια τοῦ Σατανᾶ (in respect of its agent) is an ἐνέργεια πλάνης in respect of its method, 2 Thessalonians 2:11; Antichrist’s παρουσία is, on the part of “the god of this world,” a kind of mocking prelude to Christ’s. This noun and the corresponding verb ἐνεργέω (-έομαι, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 : see note) frequently have God or Divine powers for subject: see 1 Corinthians 12:6; Galatians 2:8; Galatians 3:5; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 1:19 f., Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 2:13, &c. As distinguished from δύναμις and ἰσχύς (see note on 2 Thessalonians 2:9), ἐνέργεια means power in operation (“efficacia Satanæ,” Beza). “Satan” holds toward Antichrist a relation analogous, in a shocking sense, to that of God toward Christ; the systematic and, as one might suppose, calculated adoption by Antichrist of the attributes of Christ is the most appalling feature in the whole representation. Even as God ἐνήργηκεν ἐν τῷ χριστῷ (Ephesians 1:20), “by powers and wonders and signs” crowned in His resurrection (Acts 2:22-24), Satan will find his supreme ἀποκάλυψις in the Antichrist (“diabolicam apostasiam in se recapitulans,” Irenæus; “medius inter Satanam et perditos homines,” Bengel), and will furnish him with δύναμις καὶ σημεῖα κ.τ.λ. to match. With ὁ Σατανᾶς we must associate ὁ ἀντικείμενος of 2 Thessalonians 2:4; see note.

The series of terms in which the counterfeiting of Christ by Antichrist is indicated (see ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτὸν ὅτι ἔστιν θεός, ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, μυστήριον, ἐνεργεῖται, παρουσία) concludes ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ σημείοις καὶ τέρασι,—the three expressions applied to the miracles of our Lord and His Apostles: see Mark 6:2; Luke 19:37; John 3:2; Acts 2:22; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:4, where they are variously combined. Of the three, σημεῖον is commonest, esp. in St John’s Gospel; occasionally σημεῖα and τέρατα are coupled together, somewhat frequently in Acts—τέρατα is never used in the Gospels of the actual works of Jesus; δύναμις (-εις, rendered in the plur., by R.V., “mighty works”) is most frequent in the Synoptics. Δύναμις names the miracle from its cause, the supernatural force acting in it; σημεῖον from its meaning, its significance; τέρας, portentum, prodigium, miraculum, from its abnormal nature and the astonishment it arouses. It is unfortunate that the “miracles” of Divine revelation have taken their modern name (through the Latin) from the last, which is the rarest and least characteristic of these synonyms; see Trench’s Syn. § 91, also On the Miracles, chap. 1. The three terms might constitute a collective idea, with πάσῃ at the beginning indicating the number and variety of Antichrist’s “signs,” and ψεύδους at the end qualifying them unitedly (Lightfoot); but—since δύναμις is singular, and rarely has this concrete sense except in the plural—we may better render the phrase: in all power—both signs and wonden of falsehood (cf. Romans 15:19, ἐν δυνάμει σημείων καὶ τεράτων; also 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Romans 1:4, Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:29, for ἐν δυνάμει). Ψεύδους, the genitive noun of quality, does not (like ψεύδεσιν) stigmative these as “false,” i.e. pretended miracles (with no supernatural δύναμις behind them); but as “of falsehood,” belonging to this realm, to the sphere of him who is ψεύστης καὶ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ (John 8:44), and serving his ends; they are signs attesting and suitable to a ψεῦδος, as our Lord’s miracles attest and are suitable to ἡ ἀλήθεια: cf. John 3:2; John 10:32; John 14:10 f., John 20:30 f. These marks of Antichrist’s coming were predicted by Jesus of the ψευδόχριστοι and ψευδοπροφῆται (Matthew 24:24 f.; Mark 13:22),—σημεῖα μεγάλα καὶ τέρατα ὥστε πλανῆσαι, εἰ δυνατόν, καὶ τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς. The Apocalypse ascribes them, in ch. Revelation 13:11-14, to the second Wild Beast with his “lamb-like horns” and his dragon-like speech,—the Dragon aping the Lamb. Miracles are never in Scripture made as such—apart from their moral character and aim—the proof of a Divine mission; see Deuteronomy 13:1-5. This weighty ἐν clause must be attached to ἐστίν, not to ἐνέργειαν, and forms indeed its principal complement.

10a. Already cumulative, the predicate is further extended by καὶ ἐν πάσῃ ἀπάτῃ ἀδικίας τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις (this clause belongs to 2 Thessalonians 2:9), and in all deceit of unrighteousness for the perishing,—words describing the subjective effect, as ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει κ.τ.λ. describes the objective nature, of Satan’s working in the Antichrist. Πάσῃ indicates a manifoldness of deception corresponding to the manifold forms of the deceiving agency, πάσῃ δυνάμει κ.τ.λ. Ἀπάτη ἀδικίας, construed similarly to εὐδοκία ἀγαθωσύνης in 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (see note), means such “deceit” as belongs to “unrighteousness,” as it is wont to employ—subjective genitive, not unlike σημεῖαψεύδους above. Ἀπάτη is the active and concrete “deceit,” not “deceivableness” (A.V.), nor “deceitfulness” (elsewhere in A.V.): see Matthew 13:22; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 2:8; Hebrews 3:13. On ἀδικία, the comprehensive term for wrong, wrong-doing, as between persons—synon. with ἀνομία (2 Thessalonians 2:8), which is wrong as committed against sovereign law—see further 2 Thessalonians 2:12; it is connected with ψεῦδος, as violation of conscience with perversion of intellect, and opposed to ἀλήθεια here, much as in Romans 1:18; Romans 2:8; 1 Corinthians 13:6.

Τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις is the dative to ἀπάτῃ, of the persons concerned; cf., for the construction, 1 Corinthians 1:18, τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν. For the sense of ἀπόλλυμαι, cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 f.; also 1 Corinthians 15:18; 2 Corinthians 4:3 f. (ἐν οἶς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων); Philippians 3:19. Οἱ ἀπολλύμενοι (see εἰς τὸ σωθῆναι following), the opposite of οἱ σωζόμενοι (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15); the present participle connotes their perdition as commenced and going on, in the loss of the sense for truth and right and of receptiveness for God: cf. Romans 1:18 ff., Romans 1:28 ff.; Ephesians 4:18 ff.; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:15 f.; Hebrews 10:26 f.; Judges 1:10-13. They follow the guidance of ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and share his ruin. Satan’s devices are deceit for the perishing, for men without the life of God, whose spiritual perceptions are destroyed through sin; while the children of God escape the deception, knowing how to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21): cf., as to this contrast, 1 Thessalonians 5:4 f.; 2 Corinthians 4:2-6; 1 John 4:1-6.

10b. ἄνθʼ ὧν τὴν ἀγάπην τῆς ἀληθείας οὐκ ἐδέξαντο εἶς τὸ σωθῆναι αὐτούς, because they did not receive the love of the truth to the end they might be saved; or “in requital of their refusal to entertain the love of the truth,” &c. For ἀνθʼ ὧν (pro eo quod, Calvin), see Luke 1:20; Luke 12:3; Luke 19:44; Acts 12:23 (also 3 Kingd. 11:11, Joel 3:5, in LXX Xenophon); for ἀντί of correspondence (‘tit for tat’), cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:15, &c. The dupes of Antichrist are treated after their kind; as they would not love truth, they shall not have truth, lies must be their portion: cf. the lex talionis in 2 Thessalonians 1:6 f.; also Psalms 18:26; Psalms 109:17 ff.; Revelation 16:6, and Matthew 25:29. For δέχομαι, implying welcome, the opening of the heart to what is offered, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13, describing the opposite conduct of the Thessalonian readers.

Ἡ ἀλήθεια is not the moral quality, “truth” as sincerity in the person, but the objective reality—“the truth” coming from God in Christ, viz. the Gospel, &c.: see 2 Thessalonians 2:12 f.; Romans 1:18; Romans 1:25; Romans 2:8; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Galatians 5:7; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:15; John 8:32, &c. Ἡ ἀγάπη τῆς ἀληθείας is the bent of the mind toward the truth, the setting of the heart upon it (cf. Proverbs 2:2 ff; Proverbs 4:6; Proverbs 4:13, &c.); this affection those condemned οὐκ ἐδέξαντο, inasmuch as they refused to entertain it,—they had no predilection for truth; “they loved the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19). Ἀγάπη in this connexion is synonymous with εὐδοκία (2 Thessalonians 1:12 : cf. εὐδοκήσαντες τῇ ἀδικίᾳ, 2 Thessalonians 2:12 below), but denotes the principle of affection, the radical disposition of the mind, while εὐδοκία signifies its consent and expressed inclination; cf. Romans 1:32. For εἰς τό κ.τ.λ., see notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and on 1 Thessalonians 2:12 : “that they should be saved” (see note on σωτηρία, 1 Thessalonians 5:9) is the result of that embracing of “the truth” offered in the Gospel, which these men refused to give; and such refusal marks them out as οἱ ἀπολλύμενοι.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 draw out the consequence of the criminal unbelief described in ἀνθʼ ὧν κ.τ.λ., affirming the terrible delusion above described to be a visitation on God’s part, and a δίκαιον παρὰ θεῷ (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6)—in fact a judicial infatuation. And since this fatal and wide-spread deception is effected by the παρουσία of Antichrist, that coming, while it is the consummate manifestation of human sin and Satanic power, is brought within the scope of the Divine counsels; it proves to be an instrument in God’s sovereign hand. Cf. the conclusion of Romans 9-11, setting forth the judicial πώρωσις of Israel: Ὦ βάθος πλούτου καὶ σοφίας καὶ γνώσεως θεοῦ· ὡς ἀνεξεραύνητα τὰ κρίματα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνεξιχνίαστοι αἱ ὁδοὶ αὐτοῦ.


Verse 10

10. To the Syrian editors appear to be due the article with αδικιας, and εν before τοις απολλυμενοις. D also reads της.

Χριστου after αληθειας, in D*, is an example of Western license.


Verse 11

11. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο πέμπει αὐτοῖς ὁ θεὸς ἐνέργειαν πλάνης. And on this account God sends them a working of error. For διὰ τοῦτο, and its backward reference, cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; καί consecutive,—almost “so for this cause” (Ellicott). Πέμπει, present (see Textual Note), by anticipation of the predicted certainty; or rather, as the affirmation of a principle already at work (see 2 Thessalonians 2:7)—what takes place in the victims of Antichrist is seen every day on a smaller scale. Αὐτοῖς is dative of persons concerned: πρός (or εἰς) with accus., in such connexion, denotes motion towards. Ὁ θεός is emphatic by position; see note below. Ἐνέργεια πλάνης is parallel to ἐνέργεια τοῦ Σατανᾶ. 2 Thessalonians 2:9, “Satan” being ὁ πλανῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 20:10; cf. John 8:44). On πλάνη, see 1 Thessalonians 2:3; it is an active principle, the oppositive in its “working” of the λόγος θεοῦ (1 Thessalonians 2:13); for ἐνέργεια, see note on 2 Thessalonians 2:9. This πλάνη is the ἀπάτη ἀδικίας of 2 Thessalonians 2:10 operative and taking effect,—the poison running in the veins; it is the ψεῦδος of Antichrist (see next clause) believed and followed. What “God sends” is not “error” as such, but error used for correction and with the train of moral consequences included in its ἐνέργεια.

This effectual delusion God sends on wicked men to the very end, foreseen by Him, εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι αὐτοὺς τῷ ψεύδει, that they should believe the lie. The question of Isaiah 63:17 is inevitable: “O Lord, why dost Thou make us to err from Thy ways?” Τὸ ψεῦδος—the opposite of ἡ ἀλήθεια (2 Thessalonians 2:10), the truth of God in the Gospel (cf. Ephesians 4:25; 1 John 2:21)—in Romans 1:25 taking the form of idolatry, is here “the liepar excellence, the last and crowning deception practised by Satan in passing off the Lawless One as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9 f.). This passage, in fact, ascribes to God the delusion that we have hitherto been regarding as the masterpiece of Satan (cf. the contradiction of 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1). Three things must be borne in mind in reflecting upon this: [1] that Satan is never regarded in Scripture as an independent power or rival deity of evil, like the Ahriman of Parsism. However large the activity allowed him in this world, it is under Divine control; see Job 1, 2; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 10:13, &c. [2] St Paul teaches that sin works out its own punishment. In Romans 1:24 ff. he represents the loathsome vice of the Pagan world as a Divine chastisement for its long-continued idolatry: “For this cause God sends effectual delusion,” is parallel to “For this cause God gave them up to vile passions.” In each case the result is inevitable, and comes about by what we call a natural law. That a persistent rejection of truth destroys the sense for truth and results in fatal error, is an ethical principle and a fact of experience as certain as any in the world. Now he who believes in God as the Moral Ruler of the universe, knows that its laws are the expression of His will. Since this delusion, set on foot by Satan, is the moral consequence in those who receive it of previous and wilful refusal of the light of truth, it is manifest that God is here at work; He makes Satan and the Lawless One instruments in punishing false-hearted men; cf. Ezekiel 14:9, and 1 Kings 22. [3] The advents of Christ and of Antichrist are linked together (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:9); they are parts of the same great process and drama of judgement, and the deceivers will suffer heavier punishment than the deceived: cf. Revelation 20:10. God, who “sends a working of error” in the Antichrist, will quickly send the Christ to put a stop to the delusion and to “destroy” its author by His sudden and glorious coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).


Verse 12

12. ἵνα κριθῶσιν πάντες, that they might be judged, all (of them)—or, all (of them) together (ἅπαντες). Ἵνα κριθῶσιν is parallel to εἰς τὸ εἶναιἀναπολογήτους of Romans 1:20 (this whole passage, as Bornemann points out, is full of parallels—some manifest, others recondite—with Romans 1:18-32, both in expression and thought). For the opposite purpose on God’s part, see 2 Thessalonians 2:13 f., 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, &c. All God’s dispensations, in dealing both with good and evil men, have this aim, and find their terminus in “the day of the Lord”: cf. Romans 2:5-16; Romans 14:10 f.; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:9 f.; Acts 17:30 f., &c.

Πάντες: “late ergo et diu et vehementer grassatur error ille” (Bengel). If the ἐνέργεια πλάνης and the ψεῦδος in question belong specifically to the παρουσία of Antichrist, Bengel’s diu is scarcely justified: Antichrist is but “revealed,” when his destruction comes (2 Thessalonians 2:8); his appearance signals to the Church her Lord’s approach (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Granting ἅπαντες the true reading (see Textual Note), then this judgement comes sweepingly, it descends on the deceived all together, in a body; for the delusion of Antichrist takes effect everywhere; this is the one thing in which the enemies of Christ agree, and serves as a crucial test of their character: cf. τὸ χάραγμα τοῦ θηρίου (Revelation 13:3; Revelation 13:16, &c.), and its universal currency.

“Judgement” implies here condemnation, as in Romans 2:1; Romans 2:3; Romans 3:7, 1 Corinthians 11:31 f., &c.; the point of the statement lies not in the nature of the sentence passed, but in the judicial purpose of God’s controlling action in the case. The subjects of this judgement of God are defined almost in the terms of 2 Thessalonians 2:10 : οἱ μὴ πιστεύσαντες τῇ ἀληθείᾳ recalls τῆς ἀληθείας; τῇ ἀδικίᾳ repeats τῆς ἀδικίας of that passage; while ἀλλὰ εὐδοκήσαντες κ.τ.λ. echoes οὐκ ἐδέξαντο τὴν ἀγάπην: who did not believe the truth, but had a good-will toward unrighteousness. Cf. with the two clauses respectively, Romans 1:18; Romans 1:28; Romans 1:32 (εὐδοκήσαντες κ.τ.λ., the climax of the denunciation); also Romans 2:18, for the whole expression. Εὐδοκέω is construed elsewhere with ἐν, importing the element in which the satisfaction lies; here only in N.T. with dative (scil. of interest, i.e. favour, inclination to, being parallel to πιστεύσαντες τῇ ἀληθ.): the same construction is found in 1 Maccabees 1:43, and in Polybius. “Obedience to unrighteousness,” instead of “truth” (Romans 2:8), is the practical expression of “favour (inclination) toward unrighteousness,” which excludes “faith in the truth.”

The men described are such as sin not through force of passion or example or habit, but out of delight in wrong; “the light that is in” them has “become darkness”; evil is their good. They are credulous of what falls in with their inclination: “the Man of Lawlessness” is welcomed as their Messiah and God; his advent is the Avatar of their hopes. Their reception of “the adversary” is itself a terrible judgement upon misbelievers, proving a touchstone of their falsehood of heart and leaving them open, without excuse, to the speedy condemnation of Christ’s tribunal. Men without love of truth naturally believe the lie when it comes; there is nothing else for them. As Christ came at first “for judgement into this world” (John 9:39, &c.), by His presence discriminating the lovers of truth and falsehood, so will it be, in the opposite sense, at Antichrist’s coming. He attracts his like; and the attraction is evidence of character. This is not, however, as yet the Last Judgement; it is possible that some, under this retribution, may repent even at the eleventh hour, seeing how shameful is the delusion into which they have fallen by rejecting Christ.


Verse 13

13. Ἡμεῖς δὲ ὀφείλομεν εὐχαριστεῖν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν. But, for our part, we are bound to give thanks to God always for you: a nearly verbatim reproduction of the opening words of the Epistle; see notes on 2 Thessalonians 1:3. The repeated ὀφείλομεν betrays in the missionaries a keen sense of personal debt for the support given them at this juncture by the faith of the Thessalonian Church; cf., in explanation of this, 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:8 f. Hence also the emphatic ἡμεῖς prefacing ὀφείλομεν, where we might have looked for περὶ δὲ ἱμῶν at the head of the sentence, to supply the main subject of the paragraph in contrast with οἱ ἀπολλύμενοι, οἱ μὴ πιστεύσαντες κ.τ.λ., of the foregoing: cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:4; Ephesians 4:20; also Hebrews 6:9. Contemplating the revelation of the Lawless One and the multitude of his dupes, the Apostles realize their deep obligation to God for the certainty that their Thessalonian brethren are of another disposition and have a happier destiny assured them. Περὶ ὑμῶν is emphasized by the terms that follow:—

ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ Κυρίου, brethren beloved by the Lord. In the εὐχαριστία of 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, &c.—and precisely at the same point, viz. in grounding their position as Christians upon the Divine ἐκλογή (εἵλατοὁ θεὸςεἰς σωτηρίαν)—the Thessalonians were addressed as “brethren beloved by God.” “The Lord” is Christ, as distinguished from “God” in the adjoining clauses; see notes on 1 Thessalonians 2:1, and 2 Thessalonians 1:12 above. Appalled by the thought of Antichrist, the Church finds in the love of Christ her refuge (cf. Romans 8:35-39); since He is κύριος, His love has at its command Divine power (2 Thessalonians 1:7 f.); to “the Lord” (Jesus), their strong Protector, the Apostles forthwith commit these persecuted “brethren” (see 2 Thessalonians 2:16 f., 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:5). St Paul is probably reminding himself in this expression of the ancient blessing upon Benjamin, his own tribe, pronounced in Deuteronomy 33:12 : “The beloved of the Lord (ἠγαπημένος ὑπὸ Κυρίου, LXX) shall dwell in safety by Him; He covereth him all the day long, and he dwelleth between His shoulders.”

ὅτι εἵλατο ὑμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς (or ἀπαρχὴν) εἰς σωτηρίαν, in that God chose you from the beginning (or as a firstfruit) unto salvation: a reaffirmation of εἰδότεςτὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν, 1 Thessalonians 1:4; see notes. Εἵλατο is used of the “choice” of Israel for Jehovah’s people in Deuteronomy 7:6 f. and Deuteronomy 10:15 (προείλετο); in Deuteronomy 26:18 f. (LXX) it stands, Κύριος εἵλατό σε σήμερον γενέσθαί σε αὐτῷ λαὸν περιούσιονεἶναί σε λαὸν ἅγιον Κυρίῳ τῷ θεῷ σου. Deuteronomy 7:8 accounts for this in the words, παρὰ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν Κύριον ὑμᾶς (cf. previous note). As respects the purpose of the choice (εἰς σωτηρίαν), the verse is parallel to 1 Thessalonians 5:9, οὐκεἰς ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας; see the note there on σωτηρία. Hence those whom “God chose for salvation” are set in contrast with “the perishing,” with those to whom “God sends an ἐνέργειαν πλάνης in order that they may be judged” (2 Thessalonians 2:10 f.). Cf. with this also the paragraph on “God’s elect” in Romans 8:33-39. For ὅτι after εὐχαριστέω, cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:13; for the hybrid aorist εἵλατο—with its strong stem and weak ending—see note on προείπαμεν, 1 Thessalonians 4:6.

It is doubtful whether ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς looks further back than to the time when God’s call in the Gospel reached the Thessalonians (cf. Philippians 4:15, ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου; also 1 John 2:7; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:11; John 6:64; John 15:27; John 16:4); without some indication in the context, the readers would hardly think here of a pretemporal election. The ἐκλογή of 1 Thessalonians 1:4 was associated with the arrival of the Gospel at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). Then, practically and to human view, “God chose” this people—i.e. took them for His own out of the evil world in which they moved: cf. the εἵλατο σήμερον of Deuteronomy 26:18. Such “choice” is intrinsically, and as the act of God’s loving will, ἀπʼ αἰῶνος (Acts 15:18). Hence in later Epp. the “beginning” is traced to its spring, and its origin is seen in the Divine love “predestinating” its chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4, &c.); the relative is grounded in the absolute ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς (1 John 1:1): cf. the double ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς of 1 John 2:7; 1 John 2:13 f., 24. But the Apostles speak here in the language of grateful remembrance, not of theological contemplation. The marginal reading of WH, ἀπαρχήν (primitias, Vulg.; see Textual Note), gives a thoroughly Pauline word—applied to persons in Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15 (also in James 1:18, Revelation 14:4)—and is quite suitable to the Thessalonian Christians, since they were along with the Philippians the “first-fruit,” in comparison with Achaia and Corinth (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:7 ff.), of the present mission.

ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας, in sanctification of spirit (or of the Spirit) and faith in (the) truth: an adjunct not to εἵλατο, but to σωτηρίαν (for similar ἐν clauses attached to verbal nouns, see 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; and 2 Thessalonians 1:7 f. above). “Salvation” is defined in its subjective ground and factors—“God chose you to a salvation operative and realized in sanctification and faith”: by the same signs the Apostles “know the election” of their Thessalonian converts (1 Thessalonians 1:3-7; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:7); on these conditions rests the σωτηρία spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Ἐὰν μείνωσιν ἐν πίστεικαὶ ἁγιασμῷ, 1 Timothy 2:15, presents the same conditions in the reverse order. For ἁγιασμός, see notes on 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (ἁγιωσύνη) and 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:7.

Πνεύματος may be (a) subjective genitive—“sanctification proceeding from (wrought by) the Spirit (of God)”: cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 f., Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 3:16 f.; and the formal parallel in 1 Peter 1:2. See 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Romans 5:5; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Galatians 3:3, Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30, Titus 3:5, for the offices of the Holy Spirit in the initiation and first movements of the Christian life. But (b) the word gives a sense equally good in itself if understood as objective genitive—“sanctification of (your) spirit”: thus read, the phrase recalls the memorable prayer of 1 Thessalonians 5:23, ὁ θεὸςἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶςκαὶὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα κ.τ.λ. ἀμέμπτωςτηρηθείη; on this construction, sanctification is viewed as an inward state of the readers, leading them to complete salvation at the coming of Christ, just as “unbelief of the truth and delight in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12) will bring “the perishing” to ruin through the fascination of Antichrist. This patent antithesis inclines one, after Estius (“anima, in qua sanctitatis donum principaliter residet”), to adopt (b), notwithstanding the preference of most commentators for (a): contrast μολυσμοῦ σαρκὸς καὶ πνεύματος, 2 Corinthians 7:1; and cf. Ephesians 4:23. Add to this ruling consideration the probability that the writer, if intending the Holy Spirit by πνεύματος, would for clearness have prefixed the article or attached to the generic noun some distinguishing term; and observe the fact that the genitive is objective in the parallel πίστει ἀληθείας. This ἁγιασμὸς πνεύματος is complementary to the ἁγ. σαρκός implied in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. The objection that (interior) “sanctification of spirit” should follow and not precede “faith in the truth,” applies with equal force to “sanctification by the Spirit” (cf. Galatians 3:2); on the other hand, “faith in the truth” in this context involves more than the initial faith of conversion (1 Thessalonians 1:8, &c.), or “the reception of the truth on the part of the person influenced” (Lightfoot); it signifies that habit of faith by which one adheres to the truth and so escapes the ἀπάτη ἀδικίας and ἐνέργεια πλάνης (2 Thessalonians 2:10 f.), and includes the ὑπομονὴ καὶ πίστις (2 Thessalonians 1:4) by virtue of which believers (οἱ πιστεύοντες) “stand fast”: see next verse; and cf. 2 Corinthians 1:24, Colossians 2:5, &c. Such abiding faith leads to ultimate salvation; it is co-ordinate with, not anterior to, sanctification.


Verses 13-17

§ 4. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:5. WORDS OF COMFORT AND PRAYER

Solatium post prœdictionem rerum tristium (Bengel). Turning from the awful apparition of Antichrist, the writers with a sigh of relief join in thanksgiving for those who will “prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). (a) Thanksgiving for the happier lot awaiting the Christian readers (2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.) passes (b) into exhortation that they should hold fast the treasure they possess (2 Thessalonians 2:15), which is followed (c) by prayer to this effect (2 Thessalonians 2:16 f.). With this supplication the Letter, in its main intent, is complete and might have appropriately closed at the end of chap. 2. But in praying for their readers the Apostles are reminded (d) of their need for prayer on their own behalf, to which they exhort the readers in turn (2 Thessalonians 3:1 f.); and this appeal for prayer throws the writers’ thoughts (e) upon the fidelity of God to His purpose of grace in the readers (2 Thessalonians 2:3 f.), for whom (f) the Apostles’ intercession is renewed (2 Thessalonians 2:5). Discursiveness is natural in the free outpouring of heart between friends and friends; it is a sign of unstudied epistolary genuineness. There is nothing incoherent, nor an irrelevant word. The passage grows out of the last section, to which it forms a counterpart, beginning with δέ of contrast and marked by a train of expressions antithetical to those there occurring. The contrast delineated between the followers of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12) and of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.) is parallel to that exhibited in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.


Verse 14

14. εἰς ὃ ἐκάλεσεν ὑμᾶς διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἡμῶν, to which end He called you through our good tidings, i.e. “through the good news we brought”: cf., for this genitive, 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 above; also 1 Thessalonians 2:13, λόγον ἀκοῆς παρʼ ἡμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ. Since “through our gospel” the Thessalonians were called to salvation, “we are bound to give thanks” on this behalf (2 Thessalonians 2:13 : see note). For the thought of God as “caller” of men in the Gospel, see 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:24, and notes. God’s summons gives expression and effect to His choice (εἵλατο, 2 Thessalonians 2:13); see note on ἐκλογή, 1 Thessalonians 1:4; also Romans 8:30, 1 Corinthians 1:26 f., for the connexion of election and call. Εἰς ὅ resumes εἰς σωτηρίαν ἐν ἁγιασμῷ κ.τ.λ., having the whole of this for its antecedent; the Divine call that brings men into the fellowship of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9) includes “sanctification” among its primary objects (see 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 f.).

εἰς περιποίησιν δόξης τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, unto the securing of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ: cf. 1 Peter 5:10, ὁ καλέσαςεἰςδόξαν ἐν Χριστῷ; and 2 Timothy 2:10, σωτηρίας τῆς ἐν X. . μετὰ δόξης αἰωνίου. This is an end not lying beyond or arising out of σωτηρία (2 Thessalonians 2:13), but virtually identical with it, so that the second εἰς clause is explicative of the first (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and represents objectively what εἰς σωτηρίαν (εἰς ὅ) states subjectively; the Christian’s ultimate salvation lies in the “glory” won by his Redeemer, wherein he shares: see Romans 8:17, ἴνα συνδοξασθῶμεν; 2 Timothy 2:11 f.; Revelation 3:21. Εἰς περιποίησιν δόξης τοῦ κυρίου κ.τ.λ. is therefore identical in substance with εἰς περιπ. σωτηρίας, 1 Thessalonians 5:9 : see note there on περιποίησις. The “δόξα of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the “glory” proper and due to Him as our Lord, to be received on “the day of the Lord,” when the winning of His kingdom is complete (see Matthew 19:28; Matthew 25:31; Luke 24:26, &c.; Philippians 2:9-11; Titus 2:13); its chief matter will be found “in His saints” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). God intends the glory of Christ in all that He does for men through Him; and Christ’s glory is in turn the heritage of those who are Christ’s (οἱ τοῦ χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ, 1 Corinthians 15:23 : cf. συγκληρονόμοι, Romans 8:17; also John 12:26; John 14:3; Revelation 22:3 ff.). To this end “God called” them in calling them to their own salvation; cf. notes on ἐνδοξασθῆναι κ.τ.λ., ἐνδοξασθῇ, 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:12 above; also on 1 Thessalonians 2:12 b. The δόξα is already won in principle, and its περιποίησις is guaranteed: see 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12, 2 Thessalonians 2:8 above; Matthew 24:30; Philippians 3:20 f.; Ephesians 5:26 f.; Colossians 1:22; Colossians 3:4; Romans 8:18 f.; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; John 17:24; Revelation 1:5-7, &c.


Verse 15

15. Ἆρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε. So then, brothers, stand firm: the practical conclusion of all that has been said, from 2 Thessalonians 2:2 onwards. “Since the Lord’s return is delayed and its date uncertain, and in prospect of the coming of Antichrist whose deceptive influence is already at work,—inasmuch as God by our means has made you heirs of His kingdom and sharers in the promised glory of Christ, we bid you STAND FAST!” For ἆρα οὖν, see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:6. Στήκω, formed from ἕστηκα (cf. γρηγορέω, 1 Thessalonians 5:6), is a derivative of the κοινή. The verb occurs seven times in Paul, thrice in John (including Rev.), twice in Mk; cf. note on 1 Thessalonians 3:8, also its hortatory use in 1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1; Philippians 4:1 : the opposite of σαλευθῆναι, 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Similarly in 1 Corinthians 15:58, Colossians 1:23, hope is the incentive to steadfastness.

καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε, and hold fast the traditions which you were taught. Παραδόσεις (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, for one particular here included; 1 Corinthians 11:2; also Romans 6:17, 1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3, for St Paul’s use of παραδίδωμι in referring to his teaching) embraces all that the readers “had been taught” of the Gospel received through St Paul and his companions, whether on points of faith or conduct (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:1 f., 1 Thessalonians 2:9-14, 1 Thessalonians 3:3 f., 1 Thessalonians 4:1 f.; 1 Thessalonians 2:5 above). The παράδοσις (-σεις) of earlier Epp. becomes the παραθήκη, deposit, of the Pastorals; it is, on its practical side, a παραγγελία (-αι): see 1 Thessalonians 4:2, and note. On παράδοσις, see Lightfoot’s note ad loc. He observes that this term in the N.T. connotes “an authority external to the teacher himself.” What these Apostles “hand on” to the Thessalonians is not their own doctrine as such, but the facts and teachings about Christ coming from Himself and belonging to all Christians. For the accusative of thing retained with passive of a verb governing two accusatives, see Winer-Moulton, p. 286, and the ordinary Greek Grammars.

For κρατέω (κράτος)—to have or apply strength, to grip, master, hold firmly—with like object, cf. Mark 7:3; Revelation 2:14 f. Elsewhere in St Paul the synonymous κατέχω, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 15:2.

εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν, whether through word or through letter of oursἡμῶν qualifies both nouns; in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 the pronoun has, less certainly, the same twofold reference. The writers put their “epistle” on the same level with their spoken “word”; they bid the readers hold by what they had learned from their fathers in Christ, whether through this channel or that, thus guarding themselves against every attempt to “deceive” them (2 Thessalonians 2:3): cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2, for the emphasis thrown on adherence to Apostolic teaching; similarly in Romans 6:17; Ephesians 4:20 f.; Philippians 4:9; Colossians 2:6 f.; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 John 2:24; Matthew 28:20, &c. For the importance now beginning to be attached to St Paul’s Letters, see notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:2 and 2 Thessalonians 3:17; and for the possibility that an epistle might be undervalued at Thessalonica, see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:27.


Verse 16

16. Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς καὶ [] θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν—. But may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father—. For αὐτὸς δέ, and this form of prayer, cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and notes. This invocation corresponds in its position to that of 1 Thessalonians 3:11 ff., completing the Epistle in its first and main part, the sequel in each case being appended by (τὸ) λοιπόν (see 2 Thessalonians 3:1 below). But while the corresponding petition of Ep. I. bears on love and holiness as needed for the Church’s perfectness at Christ’s coming, this bears on strength and steadfastness of heart as needed for present duty; στηρίξαι (2 Thessalonians 2:17) is common to both passages. Here Christ’s name precedes the Father’s (as later in the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:13), which leads Chrysostom to exclaim, ΙΙοῦ νῦν εἰσιν οἱ τὸν υἱὸν ἐλαττοῦντες; “Our Lord Jesus Christ” is foremost in the writers’ thoughts; He in whose “glory” the readers were “called” by God to take part at the “winning” of His kingdom, is invoked to help them toward this end. Christ and the Father are one in love to this Church (1 Thessalonians 1:4, and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 above), and in all saving action; so the singular predicate, παρακαλέσαι κ.τ.λ. (2 Thessalonians 2:17), is natural, as in 1 Thessalonians 3:11. There is a chiasmus, or crossing, in the arrangement of the parallel names, ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν balancing ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν, while ὁ θεός is set over against Ἰησοῦς Χριστός.

ὁ θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν is described as ὁ ἀγαπήσας ἡμᾶς καὶ δοὺς παράκλησιν αἰωνίαν καὶ ἐλπίδα ἀγαθὴν ἐν χάριτι, who has loved us and given (us) eternal encouragement and good hope, in grace. The readers have just been told that they are “beloved by the Lord” (Jesus: 2 Thessalonians 2:13); that reference is complemented by their inclusion, along with the Apostles, in the special love of God the Father. Now God’s love, in view of His “call” and its purpose stated in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, carries with it a παράκλησιν and ἐλπίδα which minister the very strengthening of heart the readers require. Ἀγαπήσας and δούς are bound in one by the single article, the second being, as the case stands, the necessary outcome of the first. For God’s loving and giving, cf. John 3:16; John 3:35, 1 John 4:10; also Matthew 7:11, Luke 12:32, for the fatherly regard which prompts God’s gifts; similarly of Christ, in Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25. These parallels support Lightfoot’s observation, that “the aorist ἀγαπήσας (not ἀγαπῶν) refers to the act of God’s love in giving His Son to die for us”: this is borne out by ἐν χάριτι, qualifying δούς; for it is in this act above all that “God commends His own love to us,” and in it “the grace of God, and His gift in grace, overflowed” (Romans 5:8; Romans 5:15). From the supreme evidence of God’s love an “eternal comfort” is derived; see the way in which St Paul draws out this παράκλησις, and builds up this ἐλπίς, in Romans 8:31-39. Though the cross of Christ is never mentioned in the two Letters, and His death but twice (1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:10) in cursory fashion, “the grace of God” therein displayed furnishes the basis and fulcrum of the entire system of doctrine and life implied in the Epp.; cf. the notes on 1 Thessalonians 5:9 f., to the same effect. In the passage just referred to the essential connexion is assumed, that is latent here, between God’s purpose of salvation for men and the death of Jesus Christ on their behalf.

For the term παράκλησις, see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:3. For God as ὁ παρακαλῶν, cf. Romans 15:4 f.; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Philippians 2:1; Hebrews 6:18; Hebrews 12:5; Acts 9:31. God’s παράκλησις follows up His κλῆσις (2 Thessalonians 2:14). The “comfort” is “eternal,” inasmuch as it continues unshaken by the losses and sorrows of life, rising above all temporal conditions and defying death: see Romans 8:35-39, 1 Corinthians 15:55-58, 2 Corinthians 4:16 to 2 Corinthians 5:8, for the scope of the Christian consolation. Here only and in Hebrews 9:12, in N.T., has αἰώνιος a distinct feminine ending; also in Numbers 25:13, and elsewhere in LXX otherwise, according to rule for adjectives in -ιος, the -ος is common in gender.

The added καὶ ἐλπίδα ἀγαθήν shows that the Divine cordial here held out lies in the prospect of faith: see the parallels above given; to which add 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11; Romans 5:2-5; Romans 5:17; Romans 5:21; Romans 8:17-25; Romans 15:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 6:17-20; Hebrews 7:19; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 Peter 5:4; 1 Peter 5:10, &c. A hope is “good” (ἀγαθήν; cf. note on 1 Thessalonians 5:15) as it is sound in itself and salutary in its effect—a hope which it is good to have. This is amongst the best of God’s “good gifts” (Luke 11:13; James 1:17). The same adjective is attached by St Paul to πίστις (Titus 2:10), and to συνείδησις (1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19; Acts 23:1), as human faculties. For χάρις as the sphere and basis of God’s gifts in the Gospel (ἐν χάριτι qualifies δούς, not ἐλπίδα), see note on this word in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 : along with ἀγαπάω (see previous note), χάρις points to the work of Divine Redemption, on which Christian “hope” specifically rests; see Romans 5:2; Romans 5:15-21; Ephesians 1:7; Titus 2:11 ff; Titus 3:7; &c.


Verse 17

17. παρακαλέσαι ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας καὶ στηρίξαι ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ ἀγαθῷ, (may our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father …) encourage your hearts, and establish (them) in every good work and word. For the sense of παρακαλέω, see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:11; for God as subject, cf. references under παράκλησις, 2 Thessalonians 2:16; see note on 1 Thessalonians 3:11 for the singular predicate. For καρδία, note on 1 Thessalonians 2:4. The emotional sense of “heart” in modern English, and the rendering of παράκλησις by “comfort,” suggest consolation as the blessing desired in these words; rather it is the rousing and cheering of the whole inner man which the Apostles pray for,—that the Thessalonians may be animated to brave endurance and vigorous activity: see the words στηρίξαι ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ κ.τ.λ. following; and cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:2 f. above; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Colossians 4:8; Colossians 2:2. For στηρίζω, see notes on 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (where στηρίξαι ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας was anticipated), also 2 Thessalonians 3:3 below. St Paul uses this word four times in these two Letters, and only in Romans 1:11; Romans 16:25 besides. The phrase στηρίζειν τὴν καρδίαν occurs in James 5:8, and somewhat frequently in the LXX—Psalms 103:15; Psalms 111:8 (ἐστήρικται ἡ καρδία αὐτοῦ, οὐ μὴ φοβηθῇ); Sirach 6:37, &c. It is the opposite of σαλευθῆναι, 2 Thessalonians 2:2; God’s στηρίζειν makes possible the στηκειν and κρατεῖν enjoined in 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

The terms of the antithesis ἔργῳ κ. λόγῳ are usually in the reverse order (Romans 15:18; 2 Corinthians 10:11; Colossians 3:17); but where the thought of strength is present, ἔργον naturally precedes (Luke 24:19). Λόγος must not be confined to doctrine, as when it is opposed to πνεῦμα (2 Thessalonians 2:2) or associated with ἐπιστολή (2 Thessalonians 2:15); coupled with ἔργον, it covers the whole business of life: “May God give you courage and confidence of heart in all the good that you do and say.” The Apostles know that their readers are busy in doing good (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:10); they would have them do it with a good and cheerful heart (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 f.; Romans 2:7; Colossians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:21; 2 Timothy 3:17).

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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