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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 2

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I. The error confronting them: 2:1-2

II. The coming apostasy and the Man of Sin: 2:3-9

III. Who will be deceived: 2:10-12

IV. Gratitude and exhortation to faithfulness: 2:13-15

V. Paul's prayer for them: 2:16-17

“It was not only persecutors who were disturbing the peace of the Thessalonian church; it was false teachers as well. In fact, the intellectual assault on Christianity is often fiercer than the physical” (Stott p. 156). It is interesting to note that the same error which confronted the Thessalonians, is also often repeated, even in our own times. “The most common fallacy is the attempt to set a time, and particularly to proclaim that the Lord is immediately to appear” (Erdman p. 88). Here we see the importance of teaching and preaching on topics that the members have already heard ( 2Pe_1:12 ), for Paul had discussed this subject while he was with them (2:5), yet a number of members still missed the point. Hendriksen notes, “Paul had written about the sudden character of Christ’s coming and about the necessity of being prepared for it ( 1Th_5:1-11 ). Apparently this message had been misinterpreted, as if ‘sudden’ coming meant ‘immediate’ coming” (p. 167).

Verse 1

2Th_2:1 “Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him”

“Touching”: “Concerning” (Con). “And our gathering together unto Him”: “Our being gathered to meet Him” (TCNT). The coming of the Lord and the gathering of the saints are regarded as closely connected, as the use of a single article shows. They are two parts of one great event” (Morris p. 214). The coming of Christ and Christians ("our") being gathered together unto Him happen at the same time. We do not find two "days" of the Lord at the end of time, one for the righteous and one seven years later for the wicked ( 2Th_1:7-9 ). Notice also the order of this context. The coming of Christ (including His coming for Christians) happens after the apostasy and after the man of sin is revealed, and not before. “All of this leads us to say that the idea that the man of sin is to appear after the church has been gathered out of the world cannot be true. Strangely this is a rather popular idea. But please observe carefully that our gathering together unto the Lord, etc… is not to happen until the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin have occurred first” (Fields p. 188). The reader should note that Hal Lindsey, in “The Late Great Planet Earth” presented the view that Christians will be removed before the man of sin arrives (p. 110). That directly contradicts what Paul is teaching in this chapter.

Verse 2

2Th_2:2 “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”

“To the end”: The purpose of this exhortation. “Quickly shaken”: To waver, agitate, rock, topple or (by implication) destroy; figuratively, to disturb. “The verb suggests being tossed about in a stormy wind, and is used metaphorically of being so perturbed as to lose one's normal composure and good sense” (Marshall p. 186). “Always it would seem, there have been some Christians who have let their imagination rather than their reason dictate their understanding of the Parousia (Second Coming)” (Morris p. 214). The word "quickly" reveals that Christians who are not grounded in the faith ( Col_1:23 ) can very quickly find themselves won over by false teaching, even false teaching that is blatant or ridiculous ( 2Ti_2:18 ). “From your mind”: The battle is for the hearts and minds of men. What we allow ourselves to believe is the most important decision that we will ever make ( Pro_4:23 ).

“Troubled”: “The meaning is be unsettled or thrown into confusion” (Vincent p. 62). ‘Continually disturbed (present infinitive)” (Hendriksen p. 168). “It describes a state of ‘jumpiness’, or of worry. Just as some are easily thrown off balance, so others can fall into a state of constant fretting” (Morris p. 215).

“Either by”: Three possible ways in which they might be negatively affected. “Spirit”: Probably someone claiming to be speaking by inspiration ( 1Jn_4:1 ). “Any revelation” (TCNT). “By some message by the Spirit” (Wms). “By an alleged revelation of the Spirit” (Nor). This and other passages infers that people do lie and claim that God is speaking through them, when He is not ( 1Jn_4:1 ). “Or by word”: Probably some claimed oral communication that Paul had given. “This could refer to many things, such as a misinterpretation of something Christ Himself or Paul had said” (Fields p. 189). “Or by rumor” (Con). “Some remark” (Nor). Robertson notes, “Oral statement of a conversation with Paul, to this effect an easy way to set aside Paul's first Epistle by report of a private remark from Paul” (p. 48). “Or by epistle”: Which reveals that Paul knew that it was not beneath various false teachers to forge letters and attach his name to them. The very fact that Paul closes this letter, “I Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter” (3:17), demonstrates that Paul is taking every step possible to ensure that the Thessalonians can tell the difference between a genuine letter and a fake. “As from us”: Claiming to be from Paul and his assistants. In this verse Paul completely distances himself from the false report that has unsettled the Thessalonians.

We should be impressed that God knew that false teachers would arise and even infiltrate the church ( Act_20:28-31 ). Therefore, His revelation to mankind must be clear enough for the average member to distinguish truth from error. The Bible must be sufficient to refute any false doctrine that arises. God has even given us "tests" to detect various false doctrines ( 1Jn_4:1 ff; 1Ti_4:1-3 ), and one of the greatest tests, is that previously recorded revelation is the standard to test all spiritual claims ( Act_17:11 ). This verse should also remind us that God knew some people might try to claim inspiration for a letter or document that God did not author, such as the supposed Lost Books of the Bible, and the Book of Mormon.

“As that”: The specific false doctrine that was disturbing some in Thessalonica. “The day of the Lord”: That is, the Second Coming (2:1; 1Th_5:2 ; 2Pe_3:10 ). “Is just at hand”: “Has come” (NASV). Various writers argue that the proper rendering of the above phrase, should be translated "is now present", that is, that the Lord has already come. Years later others will teach that the resurrection was already past ( 2Ti_2:18 ). Morris notes, “There is no word for ‘just’ in the Greek. The verb does not really mean ‘to be at hand’, but rather ‘to be present’” (p. 216). Times have not changed. Stott notes, “A modern version of the belief that Christ has already come is found among Jehovah's Witnesses. Their founder, Charles T. Russell, first taught that the world would end in 1874, and then revised his calculations to 1914. After this year passed, his successor Judge J.F. Rutherford asserted that Christ did in fact come on 1 October 1914, but invisibly. On that day He exchanged an ordinary seat at the Father's right hand for the throne of His kingdom. So no parousia of Christ is to be expected; it has already taken place” (p. 157).

“It seems to me some may well have been teaching those constant errors of the Second Coming, that it was silent, invisible, past and over with. Perhaps they were teaching it was underway, maybe even about to break out” (Denton Lectureship p. 249). The A.D. 70 Theory, states that all the promises and passages dealing with the Second Coming were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, also fits this pattern of false teaching.

Verse 3

2Th_2:3 “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”

“Let no man beguile you”: To seduce wholly, to beguile and deceive. “In any wise”: “Whatever he may say” (Mof). “Paul broadens the warning to go beyond conversation and letter. He includes ‘tricks’ of any kind” (Robertson p. 49). This warning infers that Christians can be deceived and they can be badly or wholly deceived. Deception is a constant foe that the child of God must battle ( 1Co_6:9 ; Eph_5:6 ). “For it will not be”: That is, Jesus' coming and our being gathered to Him (2:1). “Except”: “Unless” (NASV). “Until” (Wms). “The falling away”: Defection from truth (properly, the state) apostasy, falling away, to forsake the faith.

The New Testament contains a number of verses that predict a coming apostasy that would come upon the church after the days of the apostles ( Act_20:30-31 ; 1Ti_4:1-3 ; 2Ti_4:2-4 ). In view of this fact certain points should be highlighted, the present reality in the denominational world proves the accuracy of the Bible. For we find many groups which profess that they are "Christian" who do not follow or teach what Jesus and the apostles taught. The fact that many professed Christians have not even done what is necessary to be saved, and that most churches have no connection with the Lord's church should not shock the person who has read their New Testament ( Mat_7:21-23 ). The condition of the modern denominational world is exactly what the Bible said would happen.

“The man of sin”: “Of whom sin is the special characteristic” (Robertson p. 50). “The better manuscripts read ‘man of lawlessness’. However, the difference in meaning between the two terms is not great. Lawlessness must be understood as failure to conform to the law of God, and this is what sin is (cf. 1Jn_3:4 ). In the last resort sin is the refusal to be ruled by God” (Morris p. 220). “For he sins and leads others to sin, for he will cause himself and others to be destroyed” (Denton Lectureship p. 250). “Be revealed”: “Whether the crowning even of the apostasy or another name for the same event” (Robertson p. 50).

“Son of perdition”: “Doomed to perdition” (NEB). “A man doomed to eternal misery” (Thayer p. 191). Quite a bit of misinformation exists concerning the man of sin in the religious world. Some view him as a superhuman personification of evil or the devil incarnated, yet the phrase "son of perdition" is elsewhere used in the Bible in reference to ordinary human beings ( Joh_17:12 ; Eph_2:1-3 ). Many try to argue that this is "The Anti-Christ". Fields notes, “We hear lots of preaching about THE antichrist. But John makes it rather clear that antichrist is not one supremely evil person, but that anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ--is antichrist ( 1Jn_2:18 ; 1Jn_2:22 ; 1Jn_4:3 ). Many people have been taught that this individual is revealed right before or very soon before Jesus comes, yet nothing in the text indicates that. Again, let it be noted that the popular doctrine of Premillennialism has this individual existing after the church is gathered to Jesus. In contrast, Paul taught that the apostasy and the “man of sin” would happen before Jesus came and Christians were gathered to Him (2:1).

Verse 4

2Th_2:4 “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”

“He”: The man of sin. “That opposeth exalteth himself against all that is called God”: “He actually supersedes all forms of religion and demands divine worship for himself alone” (Erdman p. 90). “ He demands religious veneration” (Morris p. 222). “Or that is worshipped”: “Paul meant to convey the idea that the antichrist would arrogate to himself all the reverence then claimed by the great civil lords of the earth such as emperors, or kings. Today men bow down before the pope in the same manner that men used to bow down before kings” (Fields p. 199). “So that”: So great will be his arrogance and defiance of God's law. “Sitteth in the temple of God”: Some say that the temple of God under consideration is the temple that existed in Jerusalem, yet that temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. Some argue for a rebuilt temple near the time when Jesus would come, yet the temple was part of an inferior system, a covenant that could never forgive sin ( Heb_8:6-13 ; Heb_9:1-4 ). Why would God want it restored? Christians would understand the language here, for the New Testament refers to the church as the temple of God ( 1Co_3:16 ; Eph_2:21 ). Hence there is a corruption that will happen within the church. The man of sin is a "professed Christian", a religious man, who assumes a role in the church which exclusively belongs to God.

“Setting himself forth as God”: “It is hard to see how the man of sin could be an atheistic communist and still sit in the temple of God and represent himself as God” (Fields p. 200).

Many have tried to identify the man of sin. Most make the same mistake of thinking that this character will not appear on the world scene until shortly before Jesus comes, yet nothing in the context demands that interpretation, in fact the context demands the opposite. I offer the following lines of evidence connecting the man of sin with the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church:

· His arrival and the apostasy are linked together (2:3). The Roman Catholic Church was the first great apostate body. It introduced countless corruptions-bishops over elders, infant baptism, many heathen rituals, such as the use of candles, incense, robes in worship, the deification of Mary as the “Mother of God”, confession of sins to a human priest, the Lord's Supper became a mass, a human head of the church, transubstantiation, indulgences, idolatry, tradition made equal to the Scriptures, purgatory, members deprived of the cup in communion, mandatory celibacy for the priests, sprinkling instead of immersion, the infallibility of the pope.

· The problem with Premillennialists is that they are still waiting for a great apostasy to come upon the church, without realizing that the vast majority of professed "Christian" churches are already in apostasy! Including the churches they are members of!

· Since the falling away has already taken place, centuries ago, then we must conclude that the man of sin is not one person (for he will still exist when Christ comes 2:8), but a succession of individuals.

· What would produce this man of sin was already at work in Paul’s time (2:7). Fields notes, “That being so, surely then Paul could not have been referring to things that would not happen until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (p. 196).

· In other passages, the "details" of this coming apostasy includes false doctrines that the Roman Catholic church has taught and still presently teaches ( 1Ti_4:1-3 ).

· The man of sin claims to be God (2:5). “The popes have called themselves by titles as great or greater than those of God. Note this title which has been used: ‘Our Lord God the Pope, another God on earth--doeth whatsoever he listeth, even things unlawful, and is more than God’” (Fields p. 200).

· The papacy did assume a position that the Bible reserves for Jesus Christ, that is, head over all things to the church ( Eph_1:22-23 ).

·“Biblical use of language permits us to call a series or group of men by the term ‘man of sin’. For example, Peter says, ‘Fear God. Honor the king’ ( 1Pe_2:17 ). Did he refer to one particular king or the whole succession of kings in any given land?” (Denton Lectureship p. 251).

· And lastly, but not least, this is not a new or weird view: “The early Reformers (Wycliffe in England, the Waldensians in Italy and John Hus in Bohemia) all referred the prophecy to the Pope. the sixteenth-century Reformers, including Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, Knox and Cranmer believed that the papacy itself was Antichrist” (Stott p. 166).


Verse 5

2Th_2:5 “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”

“Remember ye not”: “This little verse has surely been included in the sacred Scriptures to blast forever out of existence any idea that Paul at one time said that the Lord was going to come very quickly, and then that he later decided that the Lord was not going to come for a long time” (Fields p. 200). “When I was yet with you, I told you these things”: Paul had not changed anything he taught in reference to the Second Coming. It is a serious thing to charge that Paul changed his mind, because such a charge alleges that Paul did not write by inspiration. “I told you these things”: “The imperfect form of the verb to signify repeated instruction” (Marshall p. 192).

Verse 6

2Th_2:6 “And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season”

“And now ye know”: They knew, because Paul had taught them previously. “That which restraineth”: “You know now what the restraining influence is which prevents his appearing before his appointed time” (TCNT). Some argue that the restraining influence is the Holy Spirit or the Christians in the world, yet the apostasy has already happened with both of those influences present. Some Premillennialists argue that this man of sin comes to power when the church is removed from the earth. Besides the false doctrine associated with the mysterious removal of the church ( 1Th_4:16 ?), this context has the man of sin revealed while Christians are present (2:1). We have already identified the falling away with the rise of Roman Catholicism and the man of sin with the papacy, therefore already then know what the restraining power is, that is, the Roman government. As one writer noted, “The papacy could not reach the pinnacle of its power while Rome had all power” (Denton Lectureship p. 252). Fields notes, “During the first three hundred years of the history of Christianity it was a persecuted illegal religion. This fact hindered any power-hungry ‘Christian’ bishop from assuming a lot of authority. While some strong emperors occasionally resisted the popes for many centuries, the popes became so strong that kings (such as Charlemagne) received their crowns from the hands of popes” (p. 203). Gradually as the Roman Empire weakened, the bishops came to have more power and the emperors less .

Verse 7

2Th_2:7 “For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way”

“For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work”: “The hidden activity of lawlessness” (Marshall p. 195). When Paul wrote this letter the seeds of apostasy where already being sown ( 2Ti_4:3-4 ). This verse reveals that apostasy does not happen overnight or by accident. People do not fall away on the spur of the moment, rather people fall away because they have gradually allowed themselves to believe false concepts, and allowed themselves to be gradually worn down by evil. “Until he be taken out of the way”: “When the Roman empire collapsed, the Roman church became all-powerful” (Fields p. 204). Morris claims, “Moreover the Roman Empire in due course passed away without the events that Paul here associates with the End” (p. 225). Sadly such a claim must completely ignore the fact that a great falling away did happen. Anyone who cannot see that the Roman Catholic Church represents a tremendous apostasy from the religion of Jesus Christ is not qualified to discuss the "end time". If one cannot correctly "read" the past, then why should we listen to them when they discuss the future?

Verse 8

2Th_2:8 “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”

“And then”: When the Empire collapses, the apostasy which has been brewing will allow the papacy to fully emerge, and claim Christ's position in the Church. “The lawless one”: The papacy is not in subjection to God's law, in fact they claim that their communications are equal to Scripture, and they place themselves over the Bible, instead of being in subjection to it. The various traditions which they have "authorized" contradict God's law, and remember that the very position they have assumed also violates God's law ( Eph_1:22-23 ). Many people wrongly assume that the expressions "man of sin", "lawless one", can only describe an atheistic or very immoral type of person, yet Jesus called very religious people "lawless" in Mat_7:21-23 .

“Whom the Lord Jesus shall slay”: Some writers just assume that the man of sin will gain power, and then almost immediately Jesus will come. This text does not say that. Nowhere in the text is any "time-element" given between the arrival of the man of sin and the second coming of Jesus. This man of sin could exist a day or a thousand years before Jesus comes. “With the breath of His mouth and bring to nought by the manifestation of His coming”: “The breath of God is a very forceful, volatile, energetic figure, Psa_33:6” (Denton Lectureship p. 253). “The Lord will merely blow on him, so swift will be his destruction” (Hendriksen p. 183). The mere presence of Jesus will signal doom for all His adversaries. “The ease with which the Lord will destroy this terrible thing” (Morris p. 230). “There is no long battle, victory comes at once” (Stott p. 171). The expression “bring to nought” means, “abolished, utterly defeated, and put out of commission” (Hendriksen p. 183).

“His coming”: “All of this leads us to repeat once more that the Thessalonian epistles rule out the idea that Christ is coming one time to take His church out of the world, and then will come gain (a third time) with His church to punish sinners. There is only one parousia (coming) of the Lord, at the parousia the saints will be resurrected and caught up and the man of sin will be destroyed” (Fields p. 205).

Verse 9

2Th_2:9 “even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders”

“Even he”: The man of lawlessness. “According to the working of Satan”: “Will all Satan's influence to aid him” (Knox). “Through the cunning of Satan that this man of sin will come” (Nor). Satan is behind this apostasy and the papacy that it produces, compare with 1Ti_4:1 “doctrines of demons”. Satan realized that he could not destroy the church by persecution. So he tried the next best thing, that is, to corrupt it with false doctrines, create a counterfeit, that will give people the impression that they are saved and serving God, when they are actually serving evil. “With all power and signs and lying wonders”: “Deceptive miracles” (TCNT). “Pretended signs’ (Knox). “Counterfeit signs” (Knox). “Signs and wonders of a lie. Of a lie characterizes the three words, power, signs, wonders. All bear the stamp of fraud” (Vincent p. 66). “This last word is literally ‘of falsehood’, a genitive of origin, which may indicate the source, the nature, or the intention” (Marshall p. 202). “With all”: “There will be no lack of” (Knox).

The phrase “lying wonders” can be taken in two ways: The miracles are real, but they are used to deceive. The signs and wonders are fakes. It is this writers opinion that the signs and wonders are fakes, and here is what leads me to this conclusion: In the New Testament, the apostles ran into "wonder workers", but clearly such people had no miraculous power, even though they were serving Satan's agenda ( Act_8:9-11 ; Act_13:8 ). True miracles confirm the truth, not error ( Joh_3:2 ; Act_2:22 ; Joh_5:36 ; Heb_2:3-4 ). It is my contention that Joh_3:2 ; Act_2:22 and Joh_5:36 would not be true or accurate statements if the devil can equally perform the miraculous. If the servants of Satan can actually perform miracles, then miracles would not necessarily prove that God was with one.

“Think of all the religions that try to prove they are of God by the miracles they claim to do--Roman Catholic, Christian Science, Pentecostal, etc. It is interesting to note how the Roman church is almost built on claims of miracles. Every time a dead man is proclaimed a ‘saint’, there must be evidence brought forth that he or she did at least two miracles. The shrines of Romanism attract thousands of pilgrims, many of whom go away and say they are healed. We read about Catholics who have spontaneously bleeding wounds (stigmata) in the places where Christ was wounded on the cross. We are told that the bread and wine miraculously change into the very flesh and blood of Christ during the mass” (Fields p. 206).

Verse 10

2Th_2:10 “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 with”: In addition to the false miraculous claims. “All”: Every form or type of deception that evil can muster. “For them that perish”: Paul is now talking about those people who are lead astray by this apostasy. First of all, they will perish, and even religious people can end up lost ( Mat_7:22-23 ). “Because”: The reason they end up deceived, and observe there is no predestination here. The lost are responsible for their own lost condition. They do not perish because they were destined to perish, rather, they perish because they heard the truth, or could have heard it, but they did not love it. “They received not the love of the truth”: In the context, they preferred deception, instead of the truth. They ended up deceived, because they "received" the lies they were being told. They did not want the real truth of the matter ( 2Ti_4:3 ). “Still there are people who have known the truth, but are restless and desire to know things that God has not revealed. They are always looking for something novel and spectacular” (Fields p. 208). To love the truth is the same thing as embracing what the Bible teaches ( Joh_17:17 ; Pro_23:23 ). Being convicted that the Bible accurately gives us the views of God and everything that God has said ( Psa_119:128 ). The following passages describe in more detail what "the love of the truth" looks like in practical application ( Psa_19:7-14 ; Psa_119:1-176 ). This verse infers that all religious people do not have a love of the truth.

“That they might be saved”: This infers that one cannot be saved, unless one embraces the truth found in God's word ( Rom_10:17 ). Salvation is conditional and one cannot separate believing the right "doctrine" from salvation ( 2Jn_1:9 ). The devil loves it when people are told that “it doesn’t matter what you believe just as long as you are sincere”.

Verse 11

2Th_2:11 “And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie”

“And for this cause”: Because they reject the truth and do not love what God represents. “God sendeth them”: We already know that God does not entice anyone to sin ( Jam_1:13 ) and neither is He the instigator of false doctrine ( Jam_1:17 ; 1Jn_1:5 ; Tit_1:2 “God, who cannot lie”). Therefore the word "sendeth" must mean that God permits or allows error and deception to come their way, and will not prevent a person from believing error if that is what they desire ( Rom_1:28 ).

“Working of error”: If one rejects the truth, then the only thing left to believe is error. Note that error is something that is active and working. One cannot embrace just a little false doctrine. “Believe a lie”: From this statement we must draw some conclusions: (a) God will not stop people from rejecting Him and His truth. (b) God will not stop one from believing a lie. Too many people just assume that God would prevent them from believing something that is false. (c) Absolutes do exist, such as truth and error. (d) God will not stand in the way, if one is determined to destroy themselves ( Rom_1:18-28 ). (e) If one does not love the truth, then one will end up deceived. (f) Religious lies do exist. The wrong doctrine when embraced with cause one to end up lost ( 2Jn_1:9 ).

Verse 12

2Th_2:12 “that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”

“That they all might be judged who believed not the truth”: The word “judged” here is being used in the sense of condemned. Being deceived and ending up lost is a just and fair punishment for people who rejected God's saving message ( Mar_16:16 ). “Had pleasure in unrighteousness”: “Delight in wickedness” (TCNT). “Have made evil their playfellow” (Phi). “It is of great importance to observe that the opposite of ‘believing the truth’ is ‘delighting in wickedness’. This is because truth has moral implications and makes moral demands . Evil, not error, is the root problem. It tells us that the downward slippery path begins with a love for evil. The only way to be protected from being deceived is to love goodness and truth” (Stott p. 173). “The stark contrast reminds us that ultimately we must belong to one or other of two classes, namely, those who welcome and love God's truth, and those who take their pleasure in wickedness” (Morris p. 235). Which class we I fall into? See Joh_7:17 . Morris notes, “These men are not described as sinning through force of circumstances or any form of compulsion. They now find their pleasure in sin. They delight in wrong. For them evil was become good” (pp. 235-236).

Notice how false doctrine is not inherently linked to "difficult passages" or an intellectual problem in mankind, rather religious error is a moral problem. People who embrace error have an agenda for doing so ( 2Ti_4:3-4 ).

Thanksgiving and Encouragement

Verse 13

2Th_2:13 “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”

“But”: In contrast to those who do not love the truth, but delight in evil.

“We are bound”: Compare with 1:3. “He wants his readers to be in no doubt as to the justice of the thanksgiving that he offers” (Morris p. 236). “To give thanks to God always for you”: All too often we do take our brethren for granted, yet the above verse puts everything back in perspective. In view of the fact that so many do not love the truth and do delight in evil, we need to really appreciate those precious souls who embrace God's truth and who love goodness. “Beloved of the Lord”: “Loved by the Lord” (Ber). We sometimes forget how precious our brethren are in the sight of God. If God loves them, then we need to love them also. “God chose you from the beginning unto salvation”: “For, from the first, God chose you for Salvation” (TCNT).

In light of the fact that Paul has already inferred that these Christians could be deceived, if they were not careful (2:3); we must reject any Calvinistic slant on the words "from the beginning". These Christians could forfeit their salvation ( 1Th_3:5 ). The good news of the verse is that God wants people saved ( 2Pe_3:9 ). God backs the believer ( 1Co_10:13 ), and will not abandon the believer. If one ends up lost, then they have to abandon God ( 2Ti_2:11-13 ). God is 100% behind the Christian ending up saved, therefore a tremendous amount of incentives, encouragement, edification, and so on must exist, such as other believers, weekly worship services ( Heb_10:24-25 ), the all-sufficient Word of God ( 2Ti_3:16-17 ); what heaven will be like ( Rev_21:4 ).

“In sanctification of the Spirit”: Some commentators believe that the word "Spirit" in this verse, refers to the human spirit. See 2Co_7:1 ; 1Th_5:23 . “And belief of the truth”: It is the truth that will enable a person to end up purified from sin ( Joh_17:17 ; 1Pe_1:22-23 ). Thus the Holy Spirit uses God’s word to bring about our purification, but we must cooperate. Again, notice that those who are said to have been "chosen" had an obligation to believe the truth. They ended up "chosen" because they chose to accept God's invitation ( Mat_22:14 ). Notice how "belief of the truth" stands in strong contrast to the attitude mentioned in 2:12.

Verse 14

2Th_2:14 “whereunto He called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”

“Whereunto: To such a salvation. “To the whole program of being saved through sanctification of spirit and belief of the truth” (Fields p. 213). ‘He called you through our gospel”: God does not call people subjectively or mysteriously. God calls people with an objective and concrete message. Be impressed that all are called ( Mar_16:15 ). Therefore no one has been "chosen" for salvation or damnation apart from their own choices, after all why would God "call" everyone, He had previously excluded the vast majority from being able to accept such a call?

“Obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”: We are called to share His glory ( 2Co_3:18 ; Php_3:21 ; 1Jn_3:2 ; Rom_8:17 ). When Jesus comes again, believers will be glorified (1:10). In view of such a wonderful promise, let no one say that Christianity is for losers, that one cannot be successful and a Christian at the same time, or that the Church never "wins". The Christian is the only person in this world that is truly "bound for glory".

Verse 15

2Th_2:15 “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours”

“So then”: Great truths must have great conclusions or applications. “Stand fast”: See 1Co_15:58 ; 1Co_16:13 ; Gal_5:1 ; Php_1:27 ; Php_4:1 ). In the context "standing fast" means that one remains firm in the teachings handed down through the Apostles. The phrase "stand fast" infers that one can be fully convicted, and one can stand firm in the truth. The Bible is very clear and understandable, because one cannot stand firm in something that one does not or cannot understand. Black and white do exist and the Christian is expected to take a firm stand in doctrinal issues ( 2Jn_1:9-11 ). “Hold”: “Keep a tight grip on” (Wms). “Present imperative, to have masterful grip on a thing” (Robertson p. 54). “Traditions”: The word "tradition" simply refers to that which has been "handed down". What is handed down may be either God's views or man's views ( Mat_15:2 ). The "traditions" that these Christians are to hold on to are those teachings passed down to them by the apostles.

“Which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours”: “Whether by my words or by my letters” (Con). “Orally or by letter” (Mof). What is written has just as much authority as hearing Jesus or the apostles speak in person ( 1Co_14:37 ). The oral traditions of the above verse refer to what Paul taught these Christians while with them, that is, in public or private classes. Such teaching was then incorporated into his letters (2:5). Hence, Paul is saying, “Hold to what I have taught you, whether you heard that teaching in a sermon I delivered or whether you read it in my letter”. Obviously, the letters of the apostles were binding upon all Christians. Paul is not talking about holding on to traditions which are invented by men. Many of those traditions, if accepted would cause one to reject God's truth ( Mar_7:8-9 ). “He exhorts the readers to stick to what he had actually said and written and not to accept other views” (Marshall p. 210). The Catholic Church perverts this passage into meaning that the writings of those who lived after the apostles, the decrees of various Church Councils and the decisions of the Pope comprise a body of truth that is equal in weight to Scripture.

Paul’s Prayer for Them

Verse 16

2Th_2:16 “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace”

Verse 17

2Th_2:17 “comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word”

We must always remember that God loves us ( Joh_3:16 ; Rom_8:32 ). If we end up lost then it was our choosing. Notice how Paul ascribes the same qualities to the Father and the Son. The phrase "eternal comfort" infers that heaven will be a place of rest, refreshment, satisfaction and fulfillment ( Rev_21:4 ). Without "grace", we would all be hopeless. God does not comfort the heart of the Christian mysteriously. Comfort and strength come to the Christian through the inspiring and encouraging words that God has revealed to us ( Act_20:32 ; 1Th_4:18 “comfort one another with these words”). “A good hope ought to work itself out in a good life” (Stott p. 180). No one should walk away from the Bible in discouragement. Look at all of the incentives! The Bible is understandable ( Eph_5:17 ). God loves you, He gave His Son for you, He wants you saved! ( 2Pe_3:9 ). God has even been waiting for you to respond ( 2Pe_3:9 ). Perfection is not demanded, but the following are, honestly, loyalty and humility. Grace, unmerited favor is available to the humble and the repentant ( 1Jn_1:8 ).

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1999-2014.
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