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2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 . Paul, and Silvanus, [the Roman name of Silas] and Timotheus, to the church of the Thessalonians, in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The inscription is the same as in the first epistle. This was a very numerous and flourishing church, raised out of the dust in presence of their enemies. Those saints are not called the church of God, but the church in God, and in Jesus Christ, encircled in his bosom and shielded by his arm. The call and conversion of the gentiles was an emanation of God’s counsel and love from the beginning, and revealed at large to the prophets.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 . We are bound to thank God always for you, on seeing you stand fast in the Lord, amid the rage of complicated persecutions, and that you grow and flourish in all knowledge and understanding, and in all the hallowing forms of charity one towards another. In them the apostle saw the promise fulfilled, that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. Not only do we rejoice in you, but we also glory over you, and boast of you among the gentiles, as models of all the virtues which can animate and adorn the church of the living God.
Ver, 5, 6. Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, which hangs over the heads of your persecutors. They see that you are invincible, that God is with you, that they are exalting you in the eyes of all virtuous men, and covering themselves with shame and eternal disgrace. It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to bring upon them all the visitations they wished to inflict on others. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. The Lord will, sooner or later, render to every one according to his deeds.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 . To you who are troubled, rest with us, who have also been your fellow-sufferers. The time is not yet come to visit the jews, though the balance begins to tremble, and their measure is nearly full. Time must be allowed for the spread of the gospel, and for the saints, incessantly persecuted, to escape out of Judea. Then “the day shall come that shall burn as an oven,” and when heaven will cut off at a stroke all the families, root and branch, that have shed the blood of the saints. Know also, oh Thessalonians, that those visitations on the jews shall only be the prelude of the final judgment, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, the gibborim, the cherubim which excel in strength, and the seraphim, the burning ones, which surround his throne. Yes, he shall come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel.
These are strong words, words which belong to a scene, the sublime of terror. These are words which echo the denunciations of the ancient prophets on the rebels of future times, as may be seen in Psalms 50:3, and in Daniel 7:9-10.
Who saw the Judge with fiery looks,
And bolts of vengeance hurled;
And all the wide extended books,
Indictments of a world.
2 Thessalonians 1:9 . Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. The figure may be derived from the burning of Sodom, of which St. Jude says, that it endured the vengeance of eternal fire. This St. Paul calls a righteous thing, a sentence which shall be inflicted by the angry Judge. They had burned his martyrs in the flames; now their dwelling must be with devouring fire. The victims are persecutors who knew not God, but who scorned to know him, and to bear his yoke; the very men who despised the riches of his goodness, which would once have led them to repentance.
2 Thessalonians 1:10 . He shall come to be glorified in his saints, in their conversion and sanctification, and in all their sufferings. The expression coincides with the words of our Saviour to Peter, when he signified by what death he should glorify God. The saints have already glorified him on earth, by fidelity in bonds, in theatres fighting with wild beasts, in the midst of burning faggots, and in deaths oft; now he shall be glorified in their redemption from the grave, and their being made to bear the image of the heavenly.
We admire the fraternal feelings of St. Paul in associating brethren in the ministry with himself, and with no mark of distinction except the precedence of his name. Humility is the character of true religion, and they who are most worthy of power make the best use of it.
St. Paul gloried in the growth of faith and love in the Thessalonian saints during the long and painful persecution. Their supports were divine, and like the bush of Moses they flourished in the flame. What a proof of the faithfulness of God, and what a manifest token of perdition to their persecutors.
But the time and manner of vengeance belong to the Lord. He only knows, who cannot err. Here the passions and opinions of men must be subject to the sovereign pleasure of God. The believer must stay upon the promise, and rest on the anchor of hope. Time must be allowed the sinner for repentance; and a premature punishment might involve the innocent connections of those men in the most serious calamities. But the righteous Judge who counts the saints worthy of his kingdom will soon reckon with the wicked.
The advent of the Lord Christ shall be attended with the sublime of terror, of glory, and of joy. He shall come, as Daniel had foretold: chap. 7. Devouring flames shall issue forth as lightnings from his feet, while his mighty angels shall attest his justice, and execute vengeance on his enemies. And who may abide the day of his coming; when his anger shall be great as his love, and when his meekness shall disgorge the treasures of accumulated wrath? The characters to be punished are those that know not, and would not know God, and that obeyed not his gospel. Their other sins are not named, for the rejection of grace is more provoking than all actual transgressions. These are the gentiles who knew not God, and the jews who would not know him in his Messiah.
The punishment of the persecutors, the impenitent, and the unbelieving is twofold. First, that of loss; they shall be banished from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his throne; as they loved not the light, darkness shall be their dwelling. Their punishment is also that of sense, or everlasting destruction, gnawed by the death that never dies. Oh most striking and sanctifying display of hell’s eternal torments!
These awful considerations should induce us to pray the more, that the Lord would fulfil in us all the good pleasure of his goodness in securing to us the everlasting enjoyment of his love. Bishop Blackwall says, that the apostle could not find a phrase to express his ideas; therefore he coined this new one to utter the hope and happiness of the saints in the consummate enjoyment of what God has prepared for them in Christ Jesus.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29