Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 2

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-12



2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

In the beginning of 2 Thessalonians 2 Paul says that the second coming of Christ is not only not at hand, but it is not even imminent: "Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, not yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise; for it will not be," and then he goes on to tell what must precede it.

Upon that point I wish to speak very plainly. The second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ is the doctrine of the Christian’s future, and a wrong belief about a doctrine cannot escape damage. There were good people when the promise was made about the first coming of Christ that expected it in their day. Eve thought that the Seed of the woman had come in the birth of Cain. Poor woman, how badly she was deceived! How far off it was till the coming of the Lord! Prophets and kings longed to see the day, and men lived and generations passed away, and governments underwent revolutions, and ages and ages rolled on, and not till the fulness of time, the time appointed, the very day set aside by Almighty God, did Jesus Christ come the first time. Every predicted antecedent event had to precede it. So everything unrolled before the eye of the prophet touching any nation, any person, any church, any apostasy, any great religious movement, must come before Jesus can come the second time. Jesus said just before he went away that he would send the Holy Spirit, and they must wait until the Holy Spirit came. Was it possible for him to come before that descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost? Jesus said to Peter, "You shall die on the cross." Could Peter then expect to see the coming of the Lord in his time? In the very letter where he is discussing the second coming of Christ, Peter says, "The Lord has shown me how I must put off this mortal body, and I think it is right as long as I am in it to stir your minds up to a remembrance of the teachings concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ." Then he goes on to tell the long series of events that must come first. Precisely in that way did Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 24, when the disciples crowded around and said, "Lord, what is the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" And Paul does just like Christ. Jesus says, "Let no man deceive you. There will come a great many false christs. There will be wars and rumors of wars. There will be earthquakes and fearful signs in the heavens. But this is only the beginning of things. The end is not yet." How careful he was to show them that they must not every morning, when they got up, look out of the window to see if Jesus had come. John fills the whole book of Revelation with a series of mighty events covering hundreds and even thousands of years that must take place before the coming of Jesus, and it does not make a particle of difference to us about our dying before he comes. One dying is better for it. His soul gets to heaven quicker and his body gets to rest quicker.

Paul points out two stupendous events that must precede: "Except the falling away," or apostasy, comes first. Here was a marvelous turning away from sound principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ by professed Christians. That must take place first, and he says that the mystery of that thing was already at work; that is, there were men in his time that were beginning to deny certain fundamental doctrines of the gospel.

My own opinion is that this apostasy began to take definite form in the second and third centuries, and later ripened into the papacy and culminated in the Pope in 1870. So we ourselves have a view of the apostasy, already prolonged more than 1,000 years, and we are not to the end of it yet. We see the simplicity of the gospel changed, the engrafting of that simple gospel all of the types and shadows of the Old Testament, and mixing them with many heathen legends and customs, the union of church and state, the power organization called the scarlet woman seated upon the beast of seven heads, making herself drunk with the blood of the saints that she had slain. Nor has that apostasy yet reached its full fruition. How can it be possible for Jesus to come before that time? He has just said of that time, "the season and the hour are hidden from you."

But another marvelous event must precede our Lord’s final advent – the revelation of the man of sin: "Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away comes first, and the man of sin will be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming." If I had proof that the man of sin was living I would know that Christ would come in the lifetime of that man, because it is expressly declared that Jesus shall, at his coming, slay the man of sin.

This is one of the most mysterious passages in the Word of God, and on its interpretation, much as I have studied it, I will not assume to be dogmatic. I concede to anybody the privilege of differing with me about its meaning. Indeed, only the fulfilment itself when it comes can make plain and verify the true interpretation. The apostle is explaining why they should not expect the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ any time soon, and he assigns as the first reason that there must first come a great apostasy. That apostasy I have already discussed, but let us have the passage before us: "Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord ’is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: Only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

That is utterly unlike any other paragraph in the Bible. In the Old Testament there are some prophecies that are questionably construed to refer to the same thing, particularly Daniel 11:45, but in Revelation one passage at least connects in meaning with it, though it is symbolical language. But this passage here is literal, plain, straight-out prophecy. From the time these words were written by Paul until this hour this paragraph has perhaps excited more attention, called forth more discussion and developed a more voluminous literature than any other part of the Word of God. Indeed, every century has developed a special literature upon the subject, and many commentators devote a special excursus to it.

In the whole period of the Reformation it excited much attention, and by Protestants generally was construed to refer to the Romanish Church and the papacy, but it is not possible, considering the context, to refer both 2 Thessalonians 2:4 and Revelation 13:1-8 to the same person or institution. The importance of the subject is indicated by the persistent interest it has awakened and the controversies it has excited. One crucial fact differentiates this man of sin from all other antichrists: He will be alive when Jesus comes, and will be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord at his final advent. Another thing is certain – Jesus cannot come before that man of sin. In order to approach this subject properly, we need to consider other parts of the scripture leading up to it, which must be studied in connection with it, particularly Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation 13-20.

It is characteristic of prophecy to make a primary reference to an event forecast a more distant and important future event, and that event forecast a greater one beyond, just as the foothills between a spectator and a mountain peak are merged into one view with the peak, and a still higher peak beyond blends with the same view as if all three constituted one peak. But as the spectator draws nearer, the widely separated parts differentiate, and each elevation is isolated from the one beyond. So is the perspective of prophecy. A prophecy may commence with Solomon and then pass on to David’s greater Son, our Lord himself.

In the prophetic scriptures appear four great antichrists with characteristics so similar that they have been hopelessly confused by most interpreters. The person so forecast is never the same in any two instances, but each foreshadows his successor. Certain characteristics belong to all, which blend the view as if all were one. But as the first becomes historical, we see there is a greater one beyond, and so on through the series. Two of these persons have already become historical, and two are yet to come, the climax being the last, which is Paul’s man of sin. Anticipating the argument, I name the four in order:

1. Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 8:9-12), the little horn of the Greek Empire.

2. The papacy (Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:23-25), the little horn of the divided and changed Roman Empire. In Revelation he is the beast that looked like a lamb, but had a voice like a dragon (Revelation 13:11), who was developed out of the heathen Roman Empire after it, and who, by union of church and state, became "The Holy Roman Empire" (Revelation 13:1-10).

3. The secular ruler who seeks to destroy the Jews after their restoration to the Holy Land (Daniel 11:34-45; Zechariah 14:1-11; Revelation 19:11-21; Isaiah 63:1-6). This conversion puts the Jews in the lead as an evangelizing force, and ushers in the millennium (Isaiah 66:7-24; Zechariah 14:16-21; Revelation 20:1-6).

4. Paul’s man of sin, the last device of Satan after the millennium (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 20:7-10). His destruction is brought about by our Lord’s final advent, to wind up the affairs of time (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Matthew 24:29-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15).

Something of the details of the argument is this:

1. All the subsequent visions of Daniel are based on Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great, luminous image whose head was gold, whose chest and arms were silver, whose body and thighs were brass, and whose lower limbs were iron, which was destroyed by the little stone cut out of the mountain without hands (Daniel 2:31-35), and which was interpreted to mean five great world empires in succession, namely: the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, the Roman, and the kingdom of God.

2. The vision of the great tree in Daniel 4 gives a development of the head of gold under a new imagery.

3. The vision of the four beasts in Daniel 7 present under a different imagery the same four secular world empires with elaborations concerning the fourth not before given, and passes on to present the ascension and exaltation of one like a Son of man, who is the King of the fifth world empire, and receives an everlasting dominion. This elaborates the little stone kingdom of Daniel 2.

4. The vision of Daniel 8 presents under different images the details of the Medo-Persian Empire, and the Greek Empire after its division into four kingdoms.

5. The revelation in Daniel 9:24-27 dates the first advent of the King of the fifth world empire, his life and vicarious death, as Daniel 7 shows his exaltation and enthronement after his resurrection.

6. The vision in Daniel 10 is the same King in the glory of his royal priesthood as John saw him on Patmos (Revelation 1:13-18).

7. Daniel 11:1-33 describes the conflict between the Syrian and Egyptian divisions of the Greek Empire, with a distinct climax and pause at Daniel 11:33, while from Daniel 11:34 to the end of the chapter is a transition to the third antichrist – a vile person who worshiped only the god of forces. It is this person who embodies the atheism of modern evolution, a spirit already gaining strength in the world, and which is utterly godless. His reign is characterized by an absence of all reverence, and is dominated by a radical spirit of commercialism, materialism, and of mechanical and natural forces. He it is that seeks to blot out the Jewish people, and is destroyed by mighty displays of that supernatural power the very idea of whose existence he had scorned. It may not be a long time before he materializes. The trend of modern events forecasts his speedy coming. The coming of the Lord which destroys him is not a personal coming, but a coming in marvelous judgments, as at the destruction of Jerusalem. With him atheism, materialism, and godless commercialism forever die.

8. In Daniel 12:1-3 there is either a transition to the final and personal advent of the Lord, with a literal resurrection, or as is more probable, the paragraph is the climax of the preceding event with its figurative resurrections, as in Ezekiel 37 and in Revelation 20:1-6. In the latter and more probable sense, Daniel sees only the ultimate glory of the Jewish people in millennial days, and has no vision of Paul’s man of sin.

The similar characteristics of the four antichrists appear by comparing what is said of each. Of Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn of the third, or Grecian Empire, it is said: "And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them. Yea) it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the continual burnt offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered" (Daniel 8:9-12). Of the papacy, or little horn of the fourth, or Roman Empire, it is said, "And he shall speak words against the most high, and shall wear out the saints of the most high; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given unto his hand until a time and times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25). "And there was given to him authority to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in heaven. And it was given him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and there was given to him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain" (Revelation 13:5-8).

Of the atheistic, secular ruler who seeks to destroy the Jews, it is said, "And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his place shall he honor the god of fortresses; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones and pleasant things. And he shall deal with strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god; whosoever acknowledgeth him he will increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for a price" (Daniel 11:36-39). Of Paul’s man of sin it is said, "He that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4). We see thus how in the perspective of prophecy, before any one of them became historical, all may so blend into one view as to appear to be one, each so strikingly forecasting his more towering successor. The similarity of characteristics arises from a common origin. They have one father, the devil, who, while possessing a few original ’ideas, is a past master in variety of labels and costumes.

Passing now from the consideration of all preceding antichrists, let us analyze what is taught concerning Paul’s man of sin:

1. He is a person, and not a principle, nor an institution.

2. He will be alive at the final coming of the Lord. This one crucial fact differentiates him from all other antichrists, and makes it impossible to find him in history.

3. And since he is Satan’s last agent, making the last play of evil for the destruction of God’s kingdom, as is evident from his being alive and at work when the Lord comes, he cannot be located in any period before the millennium.

4. This is further evident from the restraint put upon Satan, in trying to bring him to the front, until God’s appointed season. It is idle to talk of the heathen Rome resurrection, since that power passed away more than a thousand years ago, and the man of sin has not yet appeared. God himself, directly or indirectly, is restrainer. And we recognize the restraint as we see Satan bound for a thousand years in order to introduce the millennium. He has successfully deceived the nations in bringing out and giving power to the first and second antichrists, and will again deceive them, and that soon, in bringing out and empowering the third and atheistic antichrist. But the prophecy says, "And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished; after this he must be loosed a little time" (Revelation 20:1-3).

In that long period the saints are on top, and the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord. The knowledge of the Lord will overspread the world as the waters cover the deep. Satan bound cannot deceive the nation nor palm off his impostures. And even when he is loosed from that restraint, it is only for a little season. Here, and here only, in this little season after the millennium, can appear the man of sin, who will be alive when the Lord comes, and be destroyed by the brightness of his appearing.

5. Paul says, "the coming of this son of perdition, this lawless one, is according to the workings of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Evidently this is Satan’s masterpiece of imposture, and by far the most highly accredited. Here we behold the depths of Satan.

6. But what most strikingly impresses the mind is not Satan’s originality of device, but his imitative power. This is more evident in the original Greek text than in any translation. But it is evident even in the translation:

(1) As Christ’s kingdom has a mystery of godliness, so Satan’s kingdom has a mystery of lawlessness.

(2) As Christ’s kingdom has an energy of the Holy Spirit, so Satan’s has an energy of his malignant spirit.

(3) As Christ’s kingdom was accredited by signs, wonders, powers and works, so Satan’s’ is accredited by all these.

(4) As Christ’s kingdom is received by faith, so Satan’s requires belief: the first, however, is the belief of the truth, while the second is the belief of a lie.

(5) As Christ’s kingdom has a pleasure in holiness (Greek – eudokia), so Satan’s subjects find a pleasure ’in unrighteousness.

(6) As the King of the divine kingdom is a human person, so here in the prophecy Satan’s kingdom enthrones a human viceregent.

7) As the Messiah of God’s kingdom had a first coming (elthe) and will have a manifestation (parousia) or second coming, so both terms are applied to the person of Satan’s man of sin. These terms lead up to the most startling characteristic of Paul’s man of sin.

(8) As Christ’s first coming (elthe) was an incarnation in human nature by the Holy Spirit, so this man of sin will be an incarnation by Satan. He will be the devil incarnate.

(9) And as Christ will appear in glory at his final advent {parousia), so this devil incarnate will seek to anticipate Christ’s parousia by a counterfeit manifestation. In other words, he will claim to be the long-expected Messiah. No other wile or depth of Satan equals this. The millennium world will have reached the final advent, and will have prayed, "Come, Lord Jesus," and will be expecting the advent of the Judge.

Recognizing this expectation as good ground for the sowing of evil seed, and himself dreading that final advent, Satan introduces his man of sin as the long-expected Messiah, and accredits him with all manner of signs, wonders, and works. It will be as if he said, "Hear, you expectant world! Your Messiah has come! O Church or temple of God, receive your Lord! O bride, long waiting, behold the bridegroom!" Through his miracles he will deceive all but the elect, and he will lead his dupes to a final assault on the true churches which refuse to accept him. It is then that the sign of the real Christ appears in the heavens, namely, the great white throne of judgment. It is then that our Lord himself appears in glory, and all the holy angels with him. Then is fulfilled: "And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:7-10).

There are just two more thoughts in connection with the man of sin which I will discuss briefly. In the account of the man of sin we have these two expressions in 2 Thessalonians 2:6: "And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season," and, "Only there is one that restraineth now, until he [the restrainer] be taken out of the way." In other words, the man of sin cannot come until the one who has been restraining him is taken away. Now, what or who ’is it that restrains him?

I frankly confess that I do not know satisfactorily to myself. But I can tell you what commentators, wiser than myself, have said from the days of Paul to the present time. They say that the restraining power which kept down the mystery of lawlessness, and the consequent development of the man of lawlessness, or sin was the Roman power. The imperial government of Rome stood for order, and it ruled the world with an iron hand, and anywhere in the word that anything like disintegration or sedition or tumult or lawlessness in any form appeared, there is where the Roman thunderbolt struck. That is the general opinion of commentators. We do know that after this Roman power was removed, the Roman Empire collapsed. You will find a history of it in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and as that great central power went down, everywhere in the world men sprang up, prompted by a spirit of lawlessness, and there was no such reign of disorder in the history of the world aa came after the downfall of the Roman Empire.

That is what the most intelligent commentators say, but it is not satisfactory to me, because that restraint has been taken away for many hundred years and the man of sin has not yet appeared. It seems more reasonable that God himself, either directly or through intermediary agents, is the restraining power, and will keep on restraining until the appointed time. While that does not thoroughly satisfy me, it does satisfy me so much better than the one that the commentators give that I cannot accept theirs. The impression is that the one inspired of lawlessness would appear in a moment but for a pressure – a restraining power – and when that is taken away, then the man of sin will appear.

While I am on my opinion (and I give it as an opinion, but as a reasonable one), it is evident that in the millennial period the restraining power will be put on the devil. He will be bound for a thousand years, and there will be a great tide of revivalism, such as the world never heard of, for a thousand years. So long as that chain is on Satan he cannot develop his man of sin; but the account in Revelation says that after the thousand years is ended, Satan will be loosed, so there the restraining power is taken off) and then appears the last master stroke of the devil. I am standing on that interpretation.

The other thought is this: "For this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie." The men who turn away from God are sure to believe something worse than that from which they turn away, and they have not the liberty of choosing the delusion of error into which they fall, and the devil cannot choose it for them. God chooses it. He permits the devil to work it off on them, but the devil himself cannot arbitrarily select the kind of foolishness with which to fool the people that are to be lost.


1. According to this letter, is the second coming of Christ imminent?

2. Prove this from the analogy of his first coming.

3. What did Jesus say would come before his second coming?

4. What two great events, according to 2 Thessalonians, must precede the second advent of our Lord?

5. What is the great apostasy?

6.What crucial fact differentiates the man of sin from all other antichrists?

7. What is characteristic of prophecy relative to a great future event? Illus.

8. Following this line of thought, who the four antichrists, and what the time of the appearance of each?

9. What in outline are the details of the argument?

10. Cite the Daniel passage referring to the first antichrist, and show in order of time how he is distinguished from the other antichrists.

11. Quote the passage from Daniel which gives him the typical characteristics of Paul’s man of sin.

12. Cite the passage from Daniel that foreshadows the second anti-christ.

13. How, in order of time, is he distinguished from the first?

14. Quote the passage from Daniel giving him also the typical characteristics of Paul’s man of sin.

15. Identify in Revelation Daniel’s second antichrist.

16. What is the passage from Daniel for the third antichrist, and what other scriptures touching him?

17. What are his characteristic in the reference in Daniel?

18. What spirit of modern times does he embody, and what forever dies with him?

19. On what mission is he engaged when destruction over-takes him?

20. What glorious events follow, and what scriptures refer to each them?

21. What is the nature of the coming of the Lord which defeats him, and just where is this great battle to be fought?

22. What six facts of revelation concerning Paul’s man of sin, or the fourth antichrist?

23. Just where in the book of Revelation must Paul’s man of sin come in?

24. In what is the wonderful imitative power of Paul’s man of sin evident, even in the translation?

25. What furnishes a good ground for Satan’s deception in this, his last effort to defeat our Lord Jesus Christ?

26. What stupendous events immediately follow, and what scripture will then be fulfilled?

27. How do commentators interpret the "restraining power" (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) that keeps back the revelation of the man of sin?

28. Why is this explanation inadequate?

29. Supply a better interpretation, and give scriptural proof.

30. What is the interpretation of "God sendeth them a working of error," etc.?

Verses 13-18



2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:18.

We shall close this second letter to the Thessalonians by presenting four thoughts that follow a consideration of the man of sin.

1. Paul’s plan of salvation. It is expressed in these words (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14): "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Once I was talking to a distinguished theologian who has had much to do with the teaching of the Word of God to collegiates, and I asked him how he developed the analytical power in his students, and then I read this well-ordered plan of salvation. Let us reduce it to its constituent elements. Confining ourselves to what is here, let us see-what God’s plan is:

(1) "God chose you." What then is the first element of the plan? Election.

(2) "From the beginning." When did he choose you? In eternity.

(3) Unto what did he choose you? Salvation.

(4) What the means? "Through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth," i.e., that through which we get to salvation is faith in the gospel and the renovating power of the Holy Spirit.

(5) "Whereunto," that is, unto these things that have just been said, "He calls you." There is the calling of God.

(6) How did he call you? "Through the gospel." Away back yonder in eternity, God chose a man, and we do not know anything about it. Down here in time God calls the man that he chose. How does he do it? Someday that man hears a gospel sermon preached, and the Holy Spirit reaches his heart just as if a voice said to him, "Come to me! Come to me now!" That is his call.

(7) What is the object of the calling? "To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ was glorified when he was raised from the dead and exalted to his place at the right hand of God in heaven. When he calls us, he calls us unto that glory; that where Jesus is, we may be; that what Jesus is we shall be; that the power that Jesus exercises we shall exercise; that what Jesus inherits, we shall inherit. That is the plan of salvation in these two verses – election from eternity, unto salvation, in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, called in him through the gospel and the work of the Spirit unto the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. The prayer that Paul asked those people to offer for him. We get so accustomed to saying, "pray for me," that we do not mean it, and the people who say, "yes, I will," do not mean it. Paul never asked that unmeaningly, and he always knew exactly what he wanted them to pray for in his behalf. He put great stress upon the prayers of God’s people for the preachers. Now, we in our greatness may not need such things, but the little apostle was bound to have it. He felt that he could not get along unless God’s people lovingly and earnestly prayed for him.

The preacher goes out in his self-sufficiency, thinking that he has the world in a sling, and that he can do like Brother J. B. Jeter and Jesse Witt, who were employed by Virginia as missionaries. Riding along two and two, they came to an old log church and saw a great many horses hitched. Concluding that there was a religious service, they went in and heard the sermon. The first thing people say on leaving a church is, "What do you think of that sermon?" So as these two preachers stepped out, Jeter says to Witt, "What do you think of that sermon?" Witt modestly said, "Well, Brother Jeter, I am not much, but I do believe, that by the help of the Lord, I could beat that sermon myself." Jeter responded, "I could beat it, Lord or no Lord." When the young preacher or Christian goes out into his work with perfect confidence that he can do a thing, "Lord or no Lord," whether the brethren sympathize with him and pray for him or not, he makes a mistake.

In the days of my pastorate there were two or three people, particularly two old ladies, that when I felt very much depressed and my mind was dark, and I could not determine just what to preach about nor how to say it, and Saturday night had come, I would step over to see one or the other of these old ladies and state my case, and I would say, "Now, you pray for me." The solemnity with which either one of them would listen to what I said, the tenderness with which they would talk to me, and the suggestions they would make would be such that when I would leave that house I would have a sermon, and I would know how to preach.

Here is what Paul asked for, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you." That preaching at Thessalonica was the most successful preaching Paul ever did, and he always wanted to do as well somewhere else; that the word might have free course. Compare that prayer with one like this: "Lord, I have to preach next Sunday before a crowd of critical people; I need a new spotted cravat; I would like to have a mince pie for dinner, and I would like to know where I am to get my winter suit." Notice what he asked for. This is the thing on Paul’s mind – not eating, clothing, worldly honor, or money, but that the word of the Lord that he preached might have free course and be glorified. In other words, "Just let me do as well as I did at Thessalonica." Sometimes a failure does more good than a success.

I knew an old Baptist preacher – one of our early missionaries here in Texas. Sometimes he would get upon a mountaintop, and at other times he would be "snowed." I have sympathized with him in the midst of a great revival meeting when he realized what a miserable failure he had made. Once he said, "Brethren, my mind is dark tonight; I am not using this great occasion for the Lord; pray for me." There was a wave of sympathy produced by the modesty and humility of the man that would so tenderly and so pathetically confess his failure. There were more conversions that night than any other night in the meeting.

The next thing that Paul prayed is that he might be delivered from unreasonable men. The greatest thorn that a preacher can confront is an unreasonable man, or woman. Just one obstinate, fussy man in a community can block the way of angels. He ’is the toughest proposition that ever the aspiring mind of man attempted to dispose of. Paul knew all about it, and he wanted to be delivered from that class of men. Then from unreasonableness there was wickedness. One sinner can do much evil. One man can go around the outskirts of a meeting and whisper and slander and sneer and suggest, and almost break up the meeting. He says, "For all have not faith."

J. M. Pendleton made that his favorite text, and what a sermon he could preach from it! When he got to be an old man he visited his daughter, Mrs. Waggoner, wife of the president of the State University. I had read different sermons of his on that text. But I paid his expenses and gave him $20 to come to Waco and preach a new sermon on the same text. It was a great sermon – one that I shall never forget.

I have seen brethren get down in a meeting and pray that the meeting would not close until every man, woman, and child in the community had been converted. That does not happen, "for all people have not faith," and if we stopped at a place until we led everybody in that place to Christ before we go anywhere else, we would never move.

3. A case of discipline: 2 Thessalonians 3:6: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us." That is just as positive and binding as if Jesus Christ in person had commanded it. "If a member of any church will not walk in the gospel which has been preached by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and has a fixed standard of his own, and won’t make the gospel the rule of his life, and stubbornly goes against it, then we command you brethren in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from that man."

One of the greatest evils in the world today is the lack of scriptural discipline in the churches.

A great many country churches have a great deal of discipline; much of it is very injudicious and unscriptural. A great many city churches have no discipline at all; they just let things wag along. They would not take up a case of drunkenness, of audacious murder, of awful fraud, though the whole cause of Jesus Christ be suffering from the lack of scriptural discipline, and if I had to mention today wherein the ministry is most deficient, I would instantly put my finger upon discipline. First, they do not know what it is. Second, they do not know how to manage it. Third, when they find out they are afraid of it.

Let us look into this case of discipline: Paul appeals first to his teaching, next to his example: "You know my example; I never walked disorderly. I was guilty of no deceit, covetousness, or uncleanness. Boldly, justly, unblamably I lived among you when I was preaching to you. There you have my teaching and my example. Now, you have my commands."

Let us see at what particular point this disorder came in. We want to know exactly the nature of the offense. First, some of them would not work; they were lazy deadbeats, hanging around, living off the brethren. That is an awful sin. Paul saw that unless he could impress upon these people, the dignity of honest labor – no matter what kind of labor, whether honest work with a wheelbarrow, cutting wood, plowing, spinning, weaving, cooking, washing, it is honorable, and that there is a dignity and majesty about labor – then religion would lose the respect of the honest and industrious. Second, they were busybodies. Of course, an idle man is bound to have some business; a man that has no work to do is bound to be working at something, and if he is idle, then he will move around and do a great deal of talking. He will be busy about somebody else’s business.

Paul knew some women of that kind, as we find in a subsequent letter. He tells Timothy that they were tattlers and gadabouts. When once the tongues get to wagging and buzzing and humming in a community, then the archangel and a legion of his angels could not pick up the evil impressions as fast as they can sow them. They had idle people at Thessalonica. Most of these people were poor, hardworking people, and here was a lot of fellows that would put their hands in their vest pockets (if they had any vest) and talk about the glories of the coming of Christ, and they were filling their souls with the anticipation of Christ coming down, and they did not want such a thing as working for a day’s victuals to come between them and their joyful reflections.

John Wesley was once asked: "Mr. Wesley, if you knew that Jesus Christ was coming tomorrow night, what would you do?" He said, "I would go right along filling my appointments for tomorrow up to the time. When he comes I would like for him to find me working just that way." These men thought it a mark of superior Christianity that they should so retire from all occupation as to contemplate in pious, sweet meditation the second coming of Christ. It is a glorious theme to meditate about, but never quit doing a duty to meditate about anything.

Let us look further into this case. He says, "Brethren, you remember when we were with you, this we commanded you, if any will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busy bodies." Here is his command to the disorderly: "We command and exhort in Jesus Christ that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." But if they wouldn’t, here is the injunction to the church: "If any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed."

I have never yet seen that kind of corrective discipline. He says if there is a man who is walking disorderly (and he mentions what he calls disorderly walking), don’t let him partake of the Lord’s Supper. As he says elsewhere, "with such a one, no, not to eat." That is not turning him out of the church. Let a man of that kind see good men not wishing for his company; not rudely, but quietly turning away from him; it makes an impression on him. He sees that he is shunned by those who discountenance his disorderly methods.

Look again at the discipline: Why should they not keep company with them? It is to bring him to be ashamed of himself. But we are not through with it yet: "Count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." The idea in most of the country churches is, "I move that we turn him out." That leaves out a wide scope of corrective discipline, of laboring discipline, of faithful dealing with brethren.

4. Paul’s authorship. In the last verse it is written: "The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle, so I write." That proves, first, what is elsewhere so frequently asserted, that Paul was not accustomed to writing his letters. He dictated them. He suffered from acute ophthalmia, or to put it in plainer English, sore eyes. And when he wrote he made great sprawling letters. He wrote only one of his letters with his own hand, and that was the letter to the Galatians, and he called their attention to it: "You see with what sprawling letters I have written to you." Inasmuch as his custom was to dictate his letters, when he heard that the Thessalonians were reporting that they had seen a letter from Paul that said that Christ was coming right away, Paul says, "I wrote no such letter." And to guard against imposition upon the minds of his churches, coming from forged letters, as soon as he found out that a letter had been forged in his name, he adopted the expedient here of attesting his letters. "Now, hereafter you will know whether a letter is from me thus: ’The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand; so I write.’ " In other words, "When a man says he has a letter from me, you look to see if it has my signature. If I dictate a letter my signature will be there to show that it is really a letter from me." That is the token of the Pauline epistles. And it is only in the letter to the Hebrews that he did not do it, and I will tell you why he did not follow his custom and append his name to that letter when we come to it.


1. On 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, answer: (1) What the first constituent element of salvation? (2) When did God choose them? (3) Unto what did he choose them? (4) Through what? (5) How made effectual? (6) Through what did he call? (7) What the object of his calling?

2. What was the meaning of "the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ"?

3. In 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 what two things does Paul ask the brethren in his behalf?

4. What may we infer as to our need of the prayers of our brethren, and the suitable objects of prayer?

5. What illustration of self-sufficiency given?

6. What was the meaning of "all have not faith"?

7. What was the case of discipline in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, and what the greatest deficiency of the ministry today?

8. What three reasons assigned for this deficiency?

9. To what two things does Paul appeal in this case of discipline?

10. What was the nature of the offense?

11. What was the general topic of discussion among -these people, and how does Wesley’s program illustrate the contrary idea?

12. What remedy did Paul propose for the case?

13. What should be the attitude of the church toward one who if subject to corrective discipline?

14. What bearing has 2 Thessalonians 3:14 on the extent of apostolic authority and the inspiration of the letter?

15. What the proof from this letter that Paul found it necessary to attest his letters with his own signature; why did he usually dictate his letters to an amanuensis, and which one of his letters was written altogether in his own handwriting?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/2-thessalonians-2.html.
Ads FreeProfile