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Instruction and Exhortation in regard to the antichristian consummation of evil
1. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-53.2.12
The warning, against allowing themselves to be easily misled into the notion of the day of the Lord being at the door (2 Thessalonians 2:1-53.2.2), is confirmed by reminding them that, as he had already told them orally, the Man of Sin must previously be revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3-53.2.5), that the mystery of lawlessness is still for the present restrained by an obstructive power, and will only reach its height when this is removed, and will then also come to its end by the appearing of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:6-53.2.8); of what sort the lying power of the enemy will be, is then more exactly described
1Now [But]1 we beseech you, brethren, by [concerning, ὑπέρ] the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our [and our] gathering together unto Him, 2that ye be not soon [quickly]2 shaken in mind [from your mind],3 or [nor yet]4 be troubled [alarmed],5 neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from 3[by, διά] us, as that the day of Christ [the Lord]6 is at hand [is present].7 Let no man [no one, μή τις] deceive you by any means [in any way]:8 for [because, ὅτι] that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [the apostasy, ἡ ] first, and that [the, ὁ] man of sin9 be revealed, the son of perdition, 4who opposeth, and exalteth himself above [against]10 all that is called God or that is worshipped [every one called God or an object of worship],11 so that he as God12 sitteth [sitteth down, καθίσαι] in the temple of God, showing himself 5[showing himself forth]13 that he is God. Remember ye not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed [may be rev.]14 in his [his own]15 time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work [For the m. is already working of lawlessness],16 only he who now letteth will let, until he [only until he, who with-holdeth for the present,]17 be taken out of the way; 8and then shall that Wicked be revealed [shall be rev. the lawless one],18 whom the Lord [Lord Jesus]19 shall consume with the spirit [breath]20 of His mouth, and shall destroy with the 9brightness [appearing]21 of His coming: even him, whose coming is after [according to]22 the working of Satan, with [in, ἐν] all power and signs and 10lying wonders [wonders of falsehood],23 and with [in, ἐν] all deceivableness [deceitfulness, ἀπάτῃ] of unrighteousness in them that perish [for those who are perishing];24 because they received [accepted]25 not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send [doth God send]26 them strong delusion [a working of delusion, ἐνέργειαν πλάνης], that they should believe a lie [the falsehood, τῷ ψεύδει]; 12that they all27 might be damned [may be judged]28 who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in29 unrighteousness.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-53.2.2.) But we beseech you, &c.; as in 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; over against the prayer of 2 Thessalonians 1:11-53.1.12 he now turns to his brethren; on account of, in regard to the coming, ὑπέρ, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Romans 9:27; not an adjuration, per, as you dread or desire that day (so Zwingli, Calvin, and others); but this use of the preposition does not belong to the New Testament; Lünemann, too artificially: in the interest of the coming [Jowett and Wordsworth: on behalf of; the former adding: “as though he were pleading in honor of that day, that the expectation of it might not be a source of disorder in the Church.”—J. L.], to obviate all mistakes on that subject; but certainly the coming itself has no such interest.30 He is speaking, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, of the coming of the Lord to judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:7-53.1.8), and the setting up of the kingdom; with Christ’s Advent he connects by means of one article our gathering together away (or upwards, Lünemann)31 unto Him; the two together form one event, the first completing itself in the second. For the topic, 1 Thessalonians 4:17 may be compared; for the word likewise, Matthew 24:31 (the verb; the substantive is used in Hebrews 10:25 of assemblies for Divine service). The import of the entreaty is expressed in the form of a purpose; εἰς τό, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; that ye should not be quickly shaken; ταχέως does not stand here, as in Galatians 1:6, in opposition to a previous better condition; nor does it mean, as Olshausen supposes, so soon after my exhortations to you; but (De Wette, Lünemann): so soon as any one tells you something of that sort, forthwith. Σαλευθῆναι, moreover, is the expression that denotes the heaving of the sea; then figuratively, to excite an uproar (Acts 17:13); connected with ἀπό it has a pregnant force (like καταργεῖσθαι , Romans 7:2; comp. also Romans 9:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9): shaken and thereby driven from [Wordsworth: drifted off from]; thrown out of your reason;32 for that is the meaning of the word, as in 1 Corinthians 14:14; 1 Corinthians 14:19; Romans 14:5; not sententia (Grotius), persuasio; that were γνώμη, or some such word. Accordingly: Hold fast a rational, sober thoughtfulness, which is required for your peaceful trial, and the due performance of your daily task. Attached to this, according to the best authorities, by μηδὲ (the manuscripts, indeed, vary exceedingly in the case of such particles), is θροεῖσθαι, which, again, is not simply synonymous with σαλευθ. (that would be implied in μήτε), but ascensive; θροεῖν signifies to cry aloud, make a noise, and then later, to frighten by uproar (Matthew 24:6). Zwingli: to perplex, confound; Bengel: moveamini, mente; turbemini, affectu; according to Hofmann, θροεῖσθαι also should signify merely to be discomposed; but then the climax would be destroyed. That a panic could not occur amongst the Thessalonians, it would be too much to assert. Even a crisis that is longed for, when it is one of so great and holy a sort, and so seriously searches the heart, can strike a momentary terror;33 whereas in σαλευθ. we think chiefly of being thrown from the track by an overpowering hope [?].—Neither by spirit, &c.; by this the Apostle intends a spiritual suggestion, pretended prediction, utterance of a prophet, comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 : Despise not prophesyings, but prove them, whether error is not intermingled. It is a mistake to understand thereby a false interpretation of Old Testament prophecy, or—which is still more absurd—delusive spiritual apparitions.—Nor by word nor by letter as by us; Theodoret, Grotius, Wetstein, De Wette, Lünemann [Davidson, Revision, Ellicott] would refer ὡς δι’ ἡμῶν to the two preceding members, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 the Apostle’s word and epistle stand together; and then some should have carried round a pretended oral utterance of his, others even a spurious letter. But 2 Thessalonians 2:15 cannot determine for 2 Thessalonians 2:2; and, reading μήτε three times (the evidence for the various readings is very precarious and unequal), we must regard the three members as coördinate, and not take two of them in closer connection with each other. Unless, therefore, ὡς δι’ ἡμῶν is to be confined to the last member merely, it must be referred also to the first [so Erasmus, Reiche, Barnes, Webster and Wilkinson.—J. L.]. But that is not possible, since a prophetic appearance could not be invented for the Apostle like a word or a letter. We therefore adhere to Chrysostom, Theophylact, Zwingli, Calvin, Ewald, Hofmann, in not regarding λόγου as a word hawked around as apostolic, but in understanding it, alongside of πνεύματος, of a διδαχή that reasoned without prophetic rapture, rather perhaps with proofs from (Scripture; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:26; Chrysostom: πιθανολογία. There is no occasion to think of a calculation of Daniel’s weeks of years. The last member, finally, first Jerome, then Kern, Hilgenfeld [Hammond, Webster and Wilkinson] and others, would explain to the effect that the Apostle is speaking merely of a misinterpretation of his First Epistle: Be not disturbed by letter, as if we had taught so. But in that case δι’ ἐπιστολῆς would not stand without the article; 1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 2 Corinthians 7:8 show the style in which he appeals to an earlier epistle from his hand. The two members, πνεῦμα and λόγος, denote means of seduction that had actually occurred, and had come, indeed from people in Thessalonica (nothing suggests, as in Corinth, foreign intruders); the same thing must hold good also of a letter, that was falsely attributed to him; Paul would not of himself have thought of speaking of it [against Jowett]; 2 Thessalonians 3:17 also cannot be naturally explained otherwise than as a precaution against a repetition of the forgery. It is as surprising that such a thing occurred at that time, as that Paul speaks of it so gently. Hug thinks that the forger need, have had no evil design; he merely wished, perhaps, with apostolic authority to agitate the secure, and work a reformation. Still a pia fraus is none the less a fraus. It is possible, however, that the letter was written anonymously, and merely shown around as Pauline. Otherwise, it is probable, Paul would speak more sharply.
The import of this deceptive pretence was: as that the day of the Lord is present [so Alford. Ellicott: is now come.—J. L.]. ὡς before ὅτι expresses what is supposed; 2 Corinthians 11:21; Winer, § 65. 9; ἐνέστηκεν denotes a standing at the door, immediate presence (Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 3:22; Galatians 1:4). The emphatic position of the verb in front shows, that the Apostle does not intend generally to put far away the expectation of the last day; we are merely not to let ourselves be surprised by the cry: Here it is now! Probably the fresh outbreak of singularly violent persecutions was explained in Thessalonica to this effect: Here is the beginning of the last day.
2. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-53.2.5.) Let no one deceive you in any way; be not deluded (Ephesians 5:6); in none of those three specified ways? or, in no other way? Both views are possible; at 1 Thessalonians 5:3 he had described the deception of a careless drowsiness, and now he points to the opposite snare, when a conscientious vigilance is perverted into an unwholesome excitement, which is then likely, in consequence of the exposure that follows, to threaten faith itself with shipwreck. Against this delusion, as against every other, they are to be on their guard.—Because, he thus confirms the warning. The protasis with ἐάν has no apodosis, as often happens with Paul; so Romans 2:17, according to the best reading; he lost sight of it in the course of the long description; sometimes also (Romans 9:22) there lies in the ellipsis a certain reserve of judgment. Here the very obvious supplement is οὐ μὴ πάρεσται ἡ ἡμέρα, or οὐ δύναται ἐλθεῖν δ κύριος, or some such expression. [Webster and Wilkinson: “The omission arises from the fact that he is reminding them of communications previously made concerning two future events, and wishes to fix their attention upon that which must precede the other. It may also be regarded as rhetorical, supplied in the Apostle’s dictation by a solemn pause, a gesture, and the significant and emphatic delivery of the words ἐὰν … πρῶτον, or as suggesting the sentiment, I am sorry to have it to say it will not come before; and so Bengel, abstinet verbis quæ non libenter audiret amator adventus Christi.”—J. L.] Altogether unsuitable is any thought of the oath-formula, אִם לֹא, certissime [Storr], besides that this also needs explanation as an ellipsis.—Except there come the apostasy first (ἀποστασία, later Greek for the older ἀπόστασις); this is erroneously applied by Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Augustine, to Antichrist, as if it meant an apostasy in one individual, whereas the two verbs suffice to distinguish also the two subjects; nor yet is it to be understood politically or semi-politically, but according to universal biblical usage it denotes apostasy from the faith or from God [Acts 21:21. Comp. 1 Timothy 4:1; Sept. Jeremiah 29:32.—J. L.]. Hofmann, correctly: 2 Thessalonians 1:0 having commended their steadfastness in the faith, the apostasy can only be one from the faith in Christ; and this is acknowledged also by Calvin. Indeed, the article denotes that apostasy known to the Thessalonians by oral instruction from the prophets; comp. Daniel 8:23; Daniel 11:30; the spreading apostasy from the faith. Then in ἀνομία of 2 Thessalonians 2:1 we find an intimation of the further result, that the revolt from God leads to the rejection of all Divine order. Already in those times of fresh faith is this foreseen and foretold by Paul.—And the Man of Sin be revealed; frightful counterpart to the revelation from above (2 Thessalonians 1:7); when there is a disclosure of that which is maturing as the wicked consummation of the evil principle in humanity—of that which at present is still μυστήριον, the counterpart of the heavenly (2 Thessalonians 2:7), but shall one day have its παρουσία (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The Man of Sin, again with the article, the one already known to them; plainly a single personality; if Zwingli after some of the ancients explains it collectively, as if it stood for filii perditi, there is no warrant for this in the context. The complete opposite to Christ is not a spiritual tendency, but a person. Nor is he called merely ἁμαρτωλός, but the Man of Sin, in contrast with Jesus, the Man of obedience; so to speak, the incarnate Sin, wherein the entire nature of sin is concentrated, incorporated, culminates; just as what follows marks the opposite pole to Genesis 3:0. There the desire came up, but still in childish form, to wish to be their own God; what began there will here be fully ripened. Thus is his nature described; and in connection with that his final destiny: the son of perdition, like Judas, his type, John 17:12. With the fact, that he wholly belongs to sin, coheres as fruit the fact, that he falls a prey to perdition; out of perdition springs his life in death; εἰς (Revelation 17:11). Others would take it actively, or at least unite the two ideas [Theodoret]: one who is a sinner and falls into perdition, and also drags others down into sin and perdition; according to 2 Thessalonians 2:9 sqq. he really does that; but in the phrase, son of perdition, there is rather a designation of the power to which he belongs; Estius: quasi ex perditione tanquam matre genitus; as if it were even said, a child of death. The mention of his fate is followed by a description of his manner of working (as 2 Thessalonians 2:8 by 2 Thessalonians 2:9); it is said of him: who opposeth, like Satan, Zechariah 3:1, Sept.; what the latter is for the world of spirits, that the Man of Sin is for the world of men; no incarnation, therefore, of Satan. We can take ὁ absolutely, and in thought supply of God or of Christ; the former, because he assails not merely the redemptive work of Christ, but the foundation of all fear of God; and for the second it may be said, that in an altogether peculiar sense he will be the antagonist, adversary, caricature of Christ; according to John’s expression, the ἀντίχριστος (1 John 2:18), the Antichrist; fain would he destroy Christ’s kingdom, and opposes him, as Bengel says, corde, lingua, stilo, factis, per se, per suos. But considering that the article is not repeated before the second participle, and that thus the two predicates are combined into one idea (negative and positive), we might prefer to refer the ἐπί by an easy zeugma to both participles.34 Who exalteth himself above all that is [against every one] called God or an object of worship; against the true God, and every one so called, comp. 1 Corinthians 8:5; to this the Apostle adds (every) σέβασμα, that is, object of worship, numen; Luthardt: whatever is holy to men, and passes amongst them as an object of fearful reverence; comp. Acts 17:23. To think of the defamation of the imperial majesty (the Σεβαστός) is still more inappropriate, than of angels; it was done in the interest of the interpretation which saw in Antichrist the Pope, as the despiser of worldly sovereignty. We have rather to understand it thus: above all that is called God and is divinely honored. He will thus no longer act as the old kings, Pharaoh and Sennacherib, acted, who indeed blasphemed the God of Israel, but still worshipped their heathen gods; he will despise also the gods of the heathen. To adore these was a profound corruption; still even in that caricature the need of worship announced itself. But the Man of Sin, being the consummmate ἀντίθεος, as Chrysostom calls him, will worship nothing any more, bow before nothing any more. All religion he treads under his feet. Herein consists the ripe poisonous fruit of evil, that with full consciousness self sets up to be the centre of all power, wisdom, and glory. The Apostle’s brief picture reminds us of (though it still transcends) Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:11; Daniel 7:20 sqq.: the horn with man’s eyes and a mouth speaking great things, which makes war with the saints and overcomes them till the judgment breaks forth. The modern interpreters see in this for the most part Antiochus Epiphanes; more correctly we shall recognize in this little horn of the 7th chapter the yet future adversary, of whom Antiochus, described in similar terms, is but a type (see Auberlen’s Daniel). Antiochus, the Old Testament Antichrist, is meant in Daniel 8:9 sqq., Daniel 8:23 sqq.; Daniel 11:36 sqq.35 The last passage, in particular, depicts him as speaking presumptuous things against the God of gods, and as despising also the gods of his fathers; only on the God of strongholds, that is, on military power, does he rely. Still, self-deification is not expressly asserted of him; Antiochus even turned the Temple of Jerusalem into a temple of the Olympian Zeus. Paul adheres to Daniel’s description, and can do so, just because Antiochus is a type of the last adversary. For the further stroke, with which he goes beyond Daniel, the self-deification of the Roman Emperor furnished him with a ready example.—So that he sitteth down in [εἰς τὸν ναόν, pregnant: intrudes into, and sits down in, &c.—J. L.] the temple of God; καθίσαι is intransitive; αὺτόν (not αὑτόν) is not redundant (Pelt), but emphatic; he, the audacious; he in person sits down enthroned in the temple; does not merely have his image set up; in the temple of God, the article and the addition, of God, showing that at any rate no heathen temple is to be thought of, but, if one of stone, then no other than that of Jerusalem, which, if the Epistle is genuine, was not yet destroyed. That that one is not to be thought of in an Epistle to a church of Gentile Christians (Von Gerlach), is a groundless objection. The temple which Christ had cleansed, and in which the first Christians prayed, and likewise Paul himself, that house of prayer for all people was an object of interest to every Christian church. Still, one can just as little perceive, why the sitting in the temple must be interpreted with all the rigid literality that, amongst others, Wieseler (Chronol. des apostol. Zeitalters, p. 258) and Döllinger (Christenthum und Kirche, p. 282) assert. We do not at once say with Chrysostom and others, that the temple signifies the Church in all lands, or with Hilgenfeld (p. 253), that the writer means figuratively the consummation of heresy establishing itself in the spiritual temple of Christendom (it then concerns him to show the feasibility of the Epistle having been composed under Trajan); but we suppose that, proceeding on a sensuous way of viewing the matter, and painting, as a prophet (Ezekiel 28:2), in colors of his own time, Paul depicts an act which, as a symbol of permanent spiritual significance, is confined to no locality, and means to say: He places himself in God’s room, and forces himself on mankind as a Divine ruler.36 See the Exegetical Note 3.—Showing himself forth that he is God, as described more at large in Revelation 2:13. What belongs to Christ, this impious person arrogates to himself, advancing the claim, that for those on the earth he is God; and thus wickedness becomes frantic. The self-exhibition we understand, with Chrysostom and most, not merely of assertions in words or proclamations, but of manifestations which should confirm the point by deeds; for the lying wonders, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 sqq., shall deceive many. We cannot see why Lünemann finds in this a contradiction of καθίσαι.—Gently chiding them, the Apostle finally reminds them of the instruction which he had orally imparted to them. So far had he gone during the three weeks into the details of eschatology. But to the Apostle this same point of doctrine was of more importance than to our moderns; comp. Paul at Athens, Acts 17:31. [Notice here also the force of ἕλεγον, I was telling, used to tell.—J. L.] Even the mediæval missionaries laid very great stress on the judgment. As the Thessalonians had to endure peculiar afflictions, Paul would seem to have led them into a special acquaintance with Daniel.
3. (2 Thessalonians 2:6-53.2.8.) And now ye know what withholdeth; καὶ νῦν is taken by Bengel, Storr, Kern, Hilgenfeld and others as a temporal adverb in opposition to ἕτι of 2 Thessalonians 2:5. Lünemann’s objection, that in that case it must have been said: ταῦτα μέν ἔτι—νῦν δὲ καί, does not amount to a great deal, except, indeed, that one does not exactly know how the point in contrast should be conceived of. Are we to understand it thus: Now, since you have learned the beginning of that matter, you know it as you did not previously? But what, then, had occurred, that could give them such information, even without the Apostle’s explanation? Here Roos and Brandt think of the recent expulsion of the tumultuous Jews from Rome, and similar facts, which might show them how the pseudo-Messianic element was held down by the Roman power. But that would be at least very obscurely expressed, in a case especially where they needed a renewal of their earlier instruction; and now would he in such an altogether disguised manner announce the new topic, which present circumstances supplied in contrast with his oral instruction? This has little to recommend it. Still more arbitrary is Hilgenfeld’s inference, that in this opposition the later date of the Epistle betrays itself, as if καὶ νῦν could only be understood thus: and now, some 40 years after the Apostle’s death! De Wette, Lünemann, Ewald [Alford, Ellicott] see in καὶ νῦν the indication of a logical advance to a new thought: And now ye know surely (Lünemann: by way of passing on to a further point). They appeal to Acts 7:34; Acts 10:5; Acts 13:11; Acts 20:25; but in all these places νῦν may also be taken temporally, whereas in our text it is not apparent why the simple καί should not have been used. Olshausen, Wieseler, and others assume an inversion, as in the case of ἕτι in Romans 5:6 (various reading), Winer, § 61. 4. Of course, it would have been easy to write: καὶ τὸ νῦν κατέχον; but it is true that we most naturally expect in the first member of the verse an, offset to ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ. This Hofmann would obtain by taking also 2 Thessalonians 2:6 interrogatively, and the οὐ of 2 Thessalonians 2:5 as still operative: Remember ye not—, and know (ye not) now (when his time has not yet arrived), what withholdeth, &c.? This, however, is too artificial.
On the contrary, we obtain a very simple explanation of νῦν as a particle of time, if we understand it thus: And now, when ye recall my oral instruction, ye know. And so it follows also, what must have been probable beforehand (against Hilgenfeld), that the oral instruction already extended to the κατέχον, on which account he can speak of it the more briefly in writing. The meaning of the latter word is not, as Döllinger supposes, what possesses, controls, but, as in Romans 1:18, what restrains, hinders; Chrysostom: τὸ κωλύον; Calvin: impedimentum, causa moræ; but not: what hinders me from expressing myself freely; that were an altogether arbitrary interpretation, and is thoroughly confuted by 2 Thessalonians 2:7; but: what still retards the outbreak and manifestation of Antichrist. The neuter in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 denotes the power, the principle; the masculine in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, a personality at the head of that power; at least, this is a priori the most natural suggestion. Moreover, εἰς τό denotes, not so much the duration (until), as the purpose of God in the κατέχειν: that he may be revealed in his [own] time; he, none other than the Man of Sin, is to step forth from his concealment in his time, the time fixed for him, measured out to him as his own; a time will come, that belongs to him, as the present does not yet; measured out, indeed, to him also only by God; comp. Luke 22:53; the counterpart of the fulness of the time, Galatians 4:4. With the for that follows Paul accounts for his having spoken of the restraining of the Man of Sin, and of his revelation as still future. The ungodly element was really present already, and had a strong desire to break forth, but must still work as a dark mystery; not exactly in secret, but so that the wickedness does not yet expose its full nature. Μυστήριον forms an antithesis to ἀποκαλυφθῆναι of 2 Thessalonians 2:6; there is an emphasis in its being put first, and separated from its genitive, as in Galatians 2:6; Galatians 2:9. The latter is a genitive either of apposition [De Wette, Lünemann, Alford]: the mystery which consists in lawlessness, or of possession: which belongs to it;37 ungodliness also having its mystery, the frightful counterpart to that of godliness, 1 Timothy 3:16; comp. the βάθη τοῦ σατανᾶ, Revelation 2:24, over against the βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ, 1 Corinthians 2:10. Hofmann would understand it merely thus: the confounding, incomprehensible, inconceivable extreme of wickedness; but the contrast with the revelation should not be set aside. Olshausen goes beyond Scripture, when on account of the antithesis he speaks of an incarnation of Satan, when it will be said: ὁ διάβολος ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί; there is nothing of that here, and even John 6:70 is rather against than for it. Estius correctly: non diabolus, sed diaboli præcipuum organum est. Antichrist is, indeed, depicted as the caricature of Christ. But 2 Thessalonians 2:7 does not yet treat of his person, but of the principle of lawlessness now already in action privately. Thereby is denoted the profligacy which violates every Divine law, knows nothing but a complete autonomy, endures no will over it; Daniel 11:36 may be compared: He will do κατὰ τὸ θέλημα αὑτοῦ. Here the remark is not convincing, that the expressions ἀνομία and, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, ἅνομος point us for Antichrist to the Gentile domain (Romans 2:12; 1 Corinthians 9:21); still more groundlessly others say, to the Jewish. When Hofmann, starting from Daniel, remarks that the faithless will fall a prey to Antichrist, as the apostate Jews did to Antiochus, that is no doubt true; only it does not necessarily follow that he himself will proceed from among the Gentiles. Rather we may say that the result of apostasy from the gospel will be a new and consummate heathenism, the rejection not merely of faith, but of every Divine ordinance. At the height of the Antichristian wickedness, however, the differences between Jews and Gentiles disappear, as they do on the other hand under the gospel. The mystery is already working (ἐνεργεῖται never passive,38 but middle); ἥδη is in opposition to 2 Thessalonians 2:6, in his [own] time, and then ἅρτι answers to ἥδη, and the τότε of 2 Thessalonians 2:8 to in his [own] time. Paul regards the phenomena of the time with the eyes of the Spirit; in the opposition to the moral order of things, but especially in resistance to Christ, he perceives the beginning of the final rebellion against final grace. This is to him the working of a terrible mystery, such as not many yet recognize. He sees before him (De Wette) the scattered, shapeless mass of ungodliness, which is first to gain form and personality in Antichrist, and by which his appearance is prepared and introduced, as is the case with every historical personage. In Thessalonica especially he had lived to see the fanatical hostility of the Jews prove false amongst the heathen to their Messianic hope (Acts 17:7). The self-deification of the Emperor, and perhaps also already the false Gnosis of a Simon, were other features of that depravity.
In the sequel μόνον belongs not to what precedes [thus Jowett suggests as possible a connection with μυστήριον: only as a hidden mystery; Wordsworth connects with ἐνεργεῖται: worketh inwardly only;—both constructions equally untenable.—J. L.], which is already defined by ἥδη, but to what follows; the clause introduced by it limits in a certain way the preceding statement. As the Vulgate translates: tantum ut qui tenet nunc teneat, so many supply out of κατέχων a verb, κατέχει, καθέξει, κατεχέτω, or even (Bengel), from the following ἐκ μέσου γένηται, an in medio est. [Many supply simply the verb of existence, and with that Webster and Wilkinson connect ἅρτι: is now.—J. L.] Zwingli understands it thus (an interpretation already known to Augustine): “only he, who now holds aught, should hold it fast (whatever he has apprehended of the truth), till he (Antichrist) is taken out of the way.” But all these supplements are arbitrary. Calvin, who construes correctly, is just as mistaken in his explanation: until he (Antichrist), who now (that is, in the future for a short time) holds sway, is removed; and then he must refer the τότε to 2 Thessalonians 2:6. This view has simply everything against it; I urge only the one point, that he thus takes ὁ κατέχων in a totally different sense from τὸ κατέχον, 2 Thessalonians 2:6; whereas the remark cannot be avoided, that the one must correspond to the other, only that the masculine indicates a personality standing at the head. If again there are not two clauses but one, we have merely to recognize an inversion, namely, that as regards the sense ἕως ought to be first, whereas ὁ κατ. is put first for the sake of emphasis; comp. Galatians 2:10 [and so the clause is now generally construed; see Revision.—J. L.]. Accordingly: The mystery is already working, only until (so long must it remain a mystery), only until he, who withholdeth for the present, is out of the way. That the latter phrase might denote a violent death, is not to be denied; that it must do so, is not to be asserted; indeed, comparing Colossians 2:14, and not even reading here αἴρεσθαι, but γενέσθαι (comp. 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:14), we perceive that as to the manner, in which the κατέχων gets out of the way, the expression says absolutely nothing; by a peaceful withdrawal on his part, we shall of course not say, since there is a judgment in his being called off. Who now is the κατέχων, is really the darkest point in the whole passage, now that we have no longer the oral interpretation; a proof, what oral tradition would amount to without a written record. Comp. the Doctrinal Note 3.—And then shall be revealed the Lawless one; the ἀνομία in person, the Head of wickedness in full expression; certainly none other than the Man of Sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:3.—From the mention of the revelation, 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8, and of the παρουσία, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, Hofmann finally infers (die Heilige Schrift neuen Testaments, I, p. 330 sqq.), that there is here described a counterpart of Christ, that cannot be fully understood unless we recognize Antichrist also as already in existence, so that he will enter into the world anew from the supermundane sphere. It is not said, he suggests, that the ἀνομία, but that the ἄνομος will be revealed. This is the reason why Hofmann was so bent on setting aside the antithesis between μυστήριον and ἀποκαλ. Antiochus Epiphanes himself, he thinks, may again be expected. This, however, is an exaggeration of the Scriptural statements, that lapses into extravagance. The Man of Sin will come (παρουσία) and be revealed (will discover himself to be what he is, and what from a child he was not taken for) in and by the complete disclosure of the ἀνομία, which previously kept working as μυστήριον;—this surely is sufficient for us to find in him the counterpart of Christ. Even Hofmann will not go so far as to assume an incarnation of Satan. Comp. Auberlen, Daniel , 2 d edition, p. 456 sq., and Luthardt, die Lehre von den letzten Dingen, p. 150. The latter properly refers to Mal. 3:23 [Malachi 4:5], where there is a promise of the sending of Elijah, which, however, is afterwards explained, in Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:11-40.17.12, of John, the new Elijah,39 just as Revelation 11:6 holds out no prospect of the return of the former Elijah. It is not the Elijah of history, says Luthardt, that we have to expect, but the Elijah of prophecy; comp. also Ezekiel 34:23. Such literal interpretation as that practised by Hofmann should be left to the popular fancy of the Jews (Matthew 16:14).—Whom the Lord (Jesus) shall consume; he thus becomes νἱὸς ; the consolation that he is to be destroyed, is attached by Paul immediately to the mention of his appearance. The Godless one comes at the time appointed for him by God, and is consumed by Jesus; his tyranny, therefore, is no sign of weakness on the part of God. Isaiah 11:4 has not merely had an influence on the reading, but it is also a parallel for the subject matter.—With the spirit [breath] of His mouth, &c.; in German we do not have, as in Hebrew and Greek, the same word for spirit and breath. We must not with a coarse sensuousness think of a fiery wind, nor yet at once idealize the matter, as if what is meant were a word, shout, word of command; why in that case should not λόγος have been used? The explanation of the old Protestants was, that the word of God has inwardly, spiritually slain Antichrist (namely, the Pope), and the Advent will make a full end of him. The glowing parallelism of the clauses, however, intends not two acts, but only one. It is a counterpart to the description of creation in Psalms 33:6 Sept. The view proceeds on the ground of sense Nothing is required but the breath of the Lord, which has power, as being the spirit of life, quickening for them that are His (John 20:22), but, amongst His enemies, who can bear it? One breath of the Lord scatters haughty power. Comp. Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:21, the sharp word out of His mouth; Grotius refers also to Hosea 13:3. Equally sublime is the second clause: and (shall) destroy (him) with the appearing of His coming; καταργεῖν, to destroy, abolish (1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 15:24), does not imply the utter annihilation of his personal existence, for indeed he is cast into the lake of fire (Revelation). Elsewhere the Lord’s coming is denoted either by παρουσία, or by ἐπιφάνεια, 2 Timothy 4:8; here the two are combined: by the appearing, the visibleness of His coming; He could, of course, come also invisibly. Zwingli’s application of this to the daily coming of His word into the hearts of believers must be rejected. Mere caprice also is the Irvingite distinction between the parousia [coming], by which believers from among the Gentiles shall be caught away to the Lord, and the subsequent appearing of the parousia [coming], in which the Jews are concerned (comp. the Doctrinal and Ethical Notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and also Luthardt, p. 37 sqq., especially 43). Bengel’s remark might be more worthy of attention, that the expression denotes the first gleam of the Advent, as distinguished from the final judgment; though here also somewhat too great stress is put upon it.40 But this much is true, that there is needed merely the first outburst of the Advent, nothing but that He show Himself [Psalms 94:1], no organs for the exertion of His power; Bengel: prima ipsius adventus emicatio. An earnest of this in Joh 18:6.41
4. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-53.2.12.) Whose coming is, &c.; οὗ, as well as the ὅν of 2 Thessalonians 2:8, referring again to the ἄνομος of that verse. Only now, after he has already by way of consolation shown the end of the wicked one, is the description of his agency resumed. It will be terrible and destructive, but for that very reason will end in a holy judgment, and therefore the description can again resolve itself into thanksgiving, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 sqq., that the Thessalonians do not belong to the apostates. Hofmann accordingly takes 2 Thessalonians 2:9-53.2.17 together, there being here shown, he thinks, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:0, that punishment of unbelief, in which the appearance of the Lawless One will issue, in opposition to the salvation which will be for the Church the result of the proclamation of the apostolic message. It is true that the theme of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (the Lord comes not, till Antichrist has appeared) is discharged at 2 Thessalonians 2:8; but the description of his working, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 sqq., serves still for the completion of the picture, and indirectly for the warning of the readers: his power will be in the highest degree seductive; let every one, therefore, beware of the first beginnings of apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:2-53.2.3); for whosoever believes the lie is lost (2 Thessalonians 2:10-53.2.11). But ye, thank God, are of those who believe the truth, and are chosen to salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13); therefore abide therein, stand fast, and hold fast what ye have received (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The appearance of the Lawless is, takes place, says the Apostle in the present tense, doctrinally, without regard to the time; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:35.—According to the working of Satan, κατά, as in Colossians 1:29. Satan gives him power, as the Father does to Christ (Revelation 13:2); it is the most perfect mimicry of Christ: salvation (in wonders) without repentance and the cross. But it is asked, whether κατὰ, &c. is a definition of the ἐστίν, or of ἐστὶν ἐν, &c.; whether his appearance is already of itself in the might of Satan, or rather his appearance with wonders. Hofmann prefers the former view; that his coming Isaiah 1:0. according to the working of Satan, and 2. a coming in wonders. But it is better, with Lünemann and others, to understand his coming as attended with wonders to be that, the source of which is assigned by κατ’ ἐνέργ.42 There will be in it a putting forth of every power; πᾳσῃ without the article belonging by zeugma to all the three substantives. Δύναμις denotes the root of the operations; σημεῖα, signs, in their significance as indicating the divinity of him who performs them—here of course deceptive; lastly, τερατα, portenta, the marvelousness of these indications. The three terms are often used of the deeds of Christ and the Apostles. Here we have the caricature; comp. the wonders of the false prophets, Matthew 24:24, whereby even the elect would be deceived, were that possible. These prophets are, as it were, Antichrist’s apostles; in Revelation 13:13 sqq. it is the false prophet in the singular, who represents hypocritical, Godless wisdom, and by his signs procures homage for the first beast (the Godless despot). Paul does not yet say by whom (as distinct from the ἄνομος himself) the wonders shall be wrought.—The wonders are called wonders of falsehood (ψεύδους again belonging to all the three words) in opposition to the wonders of truth in the case of Christ and His Apostles (as Paul asserts that he had wrought wonders, 2 Corinthians 12:12). To find in the genitive ψεύδους a designation simply of the origin, or simply of the object, or simply of the quality of those wonders, is an unwarrantable separation of what belongs all together.43 Moreover, Augustine is already aware of a double interpretation, what is meant being either a deception of the senses by empty illusions without reality (so Theodoret), or real miracles misleading to a false belief in them as performed by Divine power. Augustine, referring to Job, prefers the second view, and so with reason most others. To this conclusion we are at once led by the emphatic description by means of three synonyms. We also expect as counterparts to the miracles of Christ real operations, which yet are called miracles of falsehood (Roos), because men who regard them as proofs of the divintity of the unrighteous One are thereby miserably deceived. Performed by dark, gloomy powers, they are indeed at bottom nothing really creative, but assumptions, imitations, manifestations of a sham strength which at last is a wretched impotence, monstrosities without any saving object, but not, therefore, mere juggleries. The Bible throughout treats sorcery in a more serious way than as if it were empty legerdemain.—What follows likewise: and in all deceitfulness of unrighteousness, &c., does not mean an idle illusion, but an agency which has the glittering show of righteousness, and yet is full of unrighteousness, proceeding from that, and leading to it; the absolute culmination of unrighteousness is in robbing God of His glory. (The oldest authorities omit the article at ἀδικίας, as well as at ψεύδους). The Apostle shows us as a mark of the Man of Sin, besides the false miracles, the profanity also of his spirit and walk, and, besides lying (which again is an intentional falsification of knowledge), the wickedness also of his will generally; both in contrast with the ἀλήθεια. This influence he has, however, only amongst those who are perishing, in their circle (if ἐν were genuine; comp. 2 Corinthians 2:15; 2 Corinthians 4:3); but the oldest authorities give simply the dative (incommodi): for the perishing (not a dative of judgment, as in 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 9:2). It belongs also to what is said at 2Th 2:9.44 The ἀπολλύμενοι (1 Corinthians 1:18) are not those who have already perished, nor yet those who deserve to perish, but such as are perishing, are actually on the way to perdition, and that through their own fault, as is said in the next clause: because they accepted not; ἀνθ’ ὧν, equivalent to ἀντὶ τούτων ὅτι, תַּחַתּ אֲשֶׁר, Luke 1:20. He does not say: they received not the truth, but: the love of the truth. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact err in supposing that by this Christ is meant, who has truly loved us (in that case the phrase should rather have been, the truth of love). The Apostle rather gives us to understand, that the natural man by himself is not merely destitute of the truth, but has not so much as the love of the truth; even this must first be implanted in him. The sentence is to be understood comprehensively of all truth, wherever and however it comes to men. Its introductory stages are shown in Romans 1:2, and in Christ it culminates. In like manner, the want of love for the truth reaches its consummation in obduracy against Christ, when clearly revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. For a long while a man may go along undecided; Antichrist will drive him to a decision. God does not force the truth on a man, who suffers it not to grow up in his heart. What hinders a man from receiving the truth? That is indicated by the profound opposition between truth and unrighteousness; comp. Romans 1:18, and the Doctrinal and Ethical Note, 5.—[That they might be saved; εἱς τὸ σωθῆναι αὐτούς, in order to their being saved; the end and result of a reception of the love of the truth, which reveals a Saviour, and brings His salvation near.—J. L.]—And for this cause doth God send them; (καί is wanting. only in D.1 67) for this cause—as a punishment—we refer rather to what precedes than to what follows (so that εἰς τὸ, &c. would be epexegetical). He sends it to them—according to the best authorities the present, like ἐστίν of 2 Thessalonians 2:9; but it does not signify already now, but is to be taken doctrinally, irrespective of time. Again, Luther’s translation is, strong errors [kräftige Irrthümer]; more correctly: strength or working of delusion. Does God do that? Or does He merely permit it to come, as the Greek interpreters and others soften the expression? No, indeed; the Apostle describes the mighty act of the Judge, punishing evil by evil. Not to believe the truth is sin [to refuse the love of the truth, still darker sin.—J. L.]; to have to believe the lie is the punishment of sin, the exposure of nakedness, like the abandonment to vice in Romans 1:24; in the lusts (ἐν), wherein they are ensnared, He gives them up unto uncleanness (εἰς), lets them slide down on the sloping path of their own desires, and that because they would not have it otherwise. The object of the sending is, that they should believe the falsehood; not merely the error, but the conscious, wilful, God-defying untruth. The singular with the article denotes, not a single lie, but the entire force, the entire element of the devilish perversion of all truth (John 8:44).45 Grotius compares Proverbs 1:29-20.1.31.—That they may be judged, object of the πιστεῦσαι, that is, God’s purpose therein. God has this decision in view, that they may be condemned as those in whom evil has come to maturity; Chrysostom: convicted as without excuse. They all together, who believed not the truth, who at that time shall not have believed; but had pleasure in unrighteousness [Webster and Wilkinson: the ultimate and secret source of all the evil which results in condemnation.—J. L.]; over against the εὐδοκία , 2 Thessalonians 1:11. A powerfully warning conclusion; Chrysostom: ἔρχεται ἐλέγξων αὐτούς. The Apostle has thus more exactly defined the nature of the judgment already spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 1:0 : The appearance of the Man of Sin must help to bring about the complete separation. It is true, therefore, that the matter does not proceed so swiftly and smoothly as you fancy; but yet with all terrible earnestness it will proceed gloriously.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. (2 Thessalonians 2:2.) The Apostle’s exhortations to the use of reason are far more frequent than Luther’s translation allows to be seen. It is its business to understand the manifestation of God in the creation (νοεῖν, Romans 1:20). The voice of conscience likewise is heard as the law of the reason (Romans 7:23).46 It is true that the power is not thus given to man, truly to overcome the law of sin in the members. That is possible only for the spirit which is renewed by the Spirit from God (Romans 8:0). Without this the spirit falls a prey to the carnality, vanity, pollution, which affect it and the conscience (Colossians 2:18; Ephesians 4:17; Titus 1:15). But even in the regenerate it has its work. Though the peace of God passeth all understanding, yet it too keeps the heart and thereby the thoughts (νοήματα, Philippians 4:7). The Spirit of God renews the reason, bringing it under obligation, and enabling it, to apply itself to a reasonable service of God (Romans 12:1-45.12.2), to attain a certainty of knowledge with full assurance (Romans 14:5), yea, to search into the mysteries of God (Revelation 13:18; Revelation 17:9). Whoever neglects to cherish it may, while standing himself in the Spirit of God, become unfruitful for others (1 Corinthians 14:14-46.14.19). The fulness of the Divine Spirit in the Apostle shows itself in this, that he does not so readily as we, on account of the abuse of which he too is aware, become distrustful towards the right use. The limits of the reason are indicated even in its German name [Vernunft]: it perceives [vernimmt] realities, which it does not itself originate.
2. Our chapter suggests a special instance of the sobriety required in 1 Thessalonians 5:0. At 1 Corinthians 15:34 the Apostle describes the denial of the resurrection as a case of intoxication [ἐκνήψατε, awake as from drunkenness]; here, on the contrary, he warns against an error in the opposite direction. For it is not merely the being overcharged with worldly pleasures and cares (Luke 21:34 sqq.) that hinders watchfulness; but the excitement also, which would anticipate the glory, is in danger of turning into so much the greater disappointment and lassitude, and is far from being that joyful uplifting of the head (Luke 21:28), which implies endurance to the end, literally an ὑπομένειν, a bearing up under (Matthew 24:13). An immoderate and presumptuous spiritualism easily ends in making shipwreck of faith. How many, who allowed themselves to be induced by a fantastic excitement to dispose of their goods and abandon their homes,47 sank down afterwards into a stupid worldliness! It is also very deserving of remark, that already in the apostolic age fanaticism was the fruitful mother of fraud. The man, who will carry out his nice favorite notions under the false pretence of an apostolic name, does not stand before God. The really pseudonymous Scriptures have a different character from those, which a perverse criticism would add to them. It is no good sign, when so many have no longer the sense for distinguishing an unwholesome, impure element from the truth of God. Moreover, as regards the warning of the Apostle, and the similar words of Christ: Go not forth! believe them not (Matthew 24:23; Matthew 24:26)! it may well seem strange, how often many have disregarded them. It is true, indeed, that a careless security goes not forth in advance, does not even believe that there is yet to be any Advent, and knows just nothing of the prayer, Come, Lord Jesus! Still, a bustling, eschatological excitement is merely a seeming faith, and in reality a self-willed precipitancy. When He actually comes, it will be as the lightning. Of the previous signs Paul says to his readers: “They will be severer than you think;” as Jesus likewise saddens the heart of His disciples, that He may then duly comfort them. Luthardt properly remarks (p. 54), in reference to the Irvingite doctrine of the translation, that to promise glory without the full experience of the cross is a sign, that the flesh has to do with these notions; and he describes (p. 49) as fanatical that expectation, in which the eye is held in mere searches into the future, and draws from it no genuine strength for work in the present. From experiences of his time, John George Müller of Schaff hausen (as reported in Gelzer’s Monatsblättern, October, 1863, p. 211), describes the reprehensible sect-spirit as of a denunciatory (or as Lavater calls it, a hangman) nature, delighting in strained inferences, the suppression of all reason, spiritual pride, superstition, the domination of a loud, talkative chief, &c. Apocalyptic study is of high importance, the more the mystery of lawlessness begins strongly to bestir itself; but it must throughout and constantly find its counterpoise in ethics. Indifference to the claims of the present, to the duties of the daily Christian walk, to one’s temporal calling, to the weal of our fatherland, and such like interests, is not Christianity. It is not she, that in the fulness of her truth turns Christians into unfruitful visionaries. The very remembrance, that they are but strangers and pilgrims on the earth (1 Peter 2:11), is expressly used to introduce those exhortations, which require from every one according to his position the greatest fidelity in details.
3. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-53.2.10.) The instruction concerning Antichrist is a highly important part of the prophetic word. The point, on which historically all are agreed, is the affinity of this section with the Book of Daniel; its dependence on the Jewish eschatology, say many; we express it more correctly by saying, that the Pauline prophecy has its root in that of the Old Testament. Let it be mentioned as a curiosity, that Tychsen would set aside the prophecy by the assumption, that Paul quotes sentence by sentence from a letter of the Thessalonians opinions which he then refutes. We need not prove that Paul is in earnest in delivering his doctrines. Besides the commentaries, we refer to Wieseler, Chronologie des apostolischen Zeitalters, 1848, p. 256 sqq.; Baumgarten, Apostelgeschichte, 2d ed., 1859, I. 603 sqq.; and especially the instructive excursus in Heubner, p. 168 sqq., and in Döllinger, Christenthum und Kirche in der Zeit der Grundlegung, 1860, p. 277 sqq., 422 sqq. Consideration is due also to what Ed. Böhmer has edited in Liebner’s Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie, i2Th 2 Thessalonians 2:3, from Schneckenburger’s remains (zur Lehre vom Antichrist); and yet, however learnedly the Jewish opinions and those of the primitive Christians are here discussed, the essay presents not much that is satisfactory for the understanding of our passage. [Perhaps the best sketch in English of the history of opinion on this important section is that given by Alford in his Prolegomena to this Epistle, and mainly taken, as he intimates, from Lünemann. See also the article Antichrist in Appendix B to Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, where will be found a list of the principal writers on the subject.48—J. L.] We classify the interpretations as follows:
I. The interpretation of the ancient Church. The Fathers are essentially agreed in expecting, immediately before the still future appearing of Christ, the appearance of the personal Antichrist; only Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 20, 19) already takes the idea in a collective sense, so as to embrace the prince with all his adherents.49 On the other hand, many understand the apostasy personally of the Antichrist. Theodoret [after Chrysostom] describes the adversary as a man who receives into himself the whole energy of the devil; if he even speaks of an imitation of the incarnation of Christ, he yet again restricts the idea to this, that Satan chooses for himself a man, who shall be possessed of all his own might. Some would also have it, that he shall be born of the tribe of Dan, and appear as a false Messiah of the Jews; but these are Jewish notions, which find acceptance only at a later period. Cyril of Jerusalem, for example, teaches likewise (Catech, x2Th 2 Thessalonians 2:4-53.2.8), that he will be very skilful in magic arts, will at first appear with flatteries, but afterwards will rage against the Christians with exceeding cruelty, and that for three years and a half. Some of these traits are derived from Daniel and the Apocalypse. The sitting in the temple most explain as do Theodoret and Theophylact50 of his usurping the presidency or lordship in the Church, and giving himself out as Christ and God. Yet Irenæus (Adv. Hær. 2:25) and Cyril of Jerusalem understand it literally of sitting in the temple at Jerusalem, which he is to display great zeal in rebuilding (Cyr.). The preparatory μυστήριον ἐνεργούμενον, or, as we may even say, a strong type of Antichrist, Chrysostom (and many after him) sees in Nero (inconsistently with the date of composition);51 Theodoret, on the contrary, in the Gnostic heresies, wherein, he thinks, is hidden the snare of lawlessness. The most uncertain point is the explanation of the κατέχων. Most saw in that the Roman Emperor (in the neuter, the Empire). Chrysostom: As the Babylonian, the Persian, the Macedonian, the Roman empires followed one another, so shall Antichrist follow the rule of the Romans. He, like Augustine and Jerome, supposes that the Apostle speaks so obscurely of the end of the Roman Empire, in order not to draw on himself the reproach of seditious preaching. He acts thus, not from cowardice, but to teach us that we should not provoke needless hostility. Chrysostom is aware also of the explanation, that the κατέχον denotes the continuance of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; but this he refutes. Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret propose another explanation to this effect: What is meant is not the grace of the Spirit, which cannot withdraw, since without that no one could overcome; nor yet the Roman power, since this is followed by no other; but what is meant is the purpose (ὅρος) of God to restrain the outbreak till the gospel be generally spread abroad, and idolatry destroyed. In this there is something aimed at that is correct as regards the thought; but the phraseology does not suit it. The ὅρος θεοῦ should not ἐκ μέσου γενέσθαι but πληρωθῆναι, as indeed Theophylact expresses himself in explanation. On, the whole, the interpretation of the Fathers is simply textual. Only as to how the prophecy adjusts itself to the temporary horizon of the Apostle, on that point they have little to say. It is not till the third century that some (and first Commodian) adopt the idea, that Nero will come again as Antichrist. Then in the middle ages fantastic notions were propagated about Antichrist as an ungodly tyrant; all sorts of fables being told concerning the place and manner of his birth, and the nature and region of his operation (comp. Heubner, p. 170; Döllinger, p. 432). But as the established Church and its hierarchy anticipated the glory of the kingdom, the coming of the Lord and also that of Antichrist retired more into the background. On the other hand, the way was preparing for
II. The interpretation of the Reformers. The sects of the middle ages, which arose in opposition to the secularized Church (Wiclifites, Hussites, likewise Savonarola and Gailer of Kaisersberg) declared the Pope to be Antichrist, and the German Emperor (as being heir of the Roman Emperor) to be the κατέχων. This was also the prevailing interpretation of the Reformers, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin; amongst the Lutherans even a, doctrine of their standards, Artic. Smalc., II. 4, p. 314, and in the Appendix, p. 347 (Rechenberg’s ed.). It was said, that the removal of the κατέχων of the western Roman Empire cleared the way for Antichrist; and then the abominations of the papacy were enumerated: A falling away from the gospel to commandments of men, lust of power, oppression of the conscience, cruelty, insane pride, wicked assumption of power in heaven and on earth, and that reaching even into the life of eternity, the abuses of indulgences, charges to angels in certain bulls, the asserted power of the priest in transubstantiation, authority to change the faith and laws. In all this, it was thought, the Pope puts himself in the place of God, yea, arrogates to himself Divine attributes and idolatrous worship. One is amazed to see how much of this applies, and yet this interpretation must be rejected; that is to say, there is indeed no mistaking the fearfully antichristian features of the Papacy, and consequently its typical relation to Antichrist; but still one cannot affirm, that the Papacy is the Antichrist. In the first place, it should have been possible to show still more of the Popish μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργούμενον, already in Paul’s days. Appeal was made perhaps to Galatians 1:2; Zwingli referred to the false apostles already existing at that time, who were still restrained by the great faithfulness and care of the Apostles; Bengel to Romans 16:17 sqq. and 1 Timothy 4:1 sqq. In all that, however, the Papal tendency did not yet reach a clear expression. The way, likewise, in which the κατέχων is explained, is by no means felicitous. The German Emperor, who took the place of the Roman, also fell, and Antichrist did not come. But even if that admitted of explanation, still the features of the prophecy are not at all fulfilled in the Papacy itself. In the first place, the word of the Apostle brings into view one personality. It is said, indeed, that the series et successio hominum are not inconsistent with that, since, as in a monarchy, there is still but one head; but perhaps that one may be a pious Pope? and besides our passage speaks of the one (without followers) who is swept away; which does not agree with the Papacy. And there are yet other points that do not suit. Whilst there have been wicked Popes (occasionally, also, those of a better character), still the Pope cannot be charged with utter apostasy from Christ. He confesses the Triune God, and does by no means despise σεβάσματα. Calvin tries in vain so to explain the Apostle’s description, as if it did not imply an express self-deification. If it is said with Bengel (and similarly Brandt), that the abomination of the Papacy will yet attain to the highest pitch, namely, to the casting away of the mask, and the open antichristianism of the Wicked One, then we really give up the interpretation of the Reformers, and reduce the Papacy to the rank of a (momentous) prognostic of that antichristianism. Of course, the Roman Catholic Döllinger cannot consent even to that; he also thinks that the supposition of an apostasy of such universal prevalence contradicts the promises given to the Church; as if the word about the “little flock,” or about the “few that find” the strait gate, had no place in the gospel. Roos, going beyond Bengel, expressly remarks, that there is much that is antichristian in the Pope, but that there are still important deficiencies; since he still acknowledges the supremacy of God, nor does he deny the Son. The apostasy, he thinks, is here with us, but not yet the Man of Sin. In the latter Roos properly recognizes a single person; according to the Apocalypse, the last head of the beast; the false Messiah. He is of opinion, that that will be the highest pitch of the Papacy, and that it presupposes, not the destruction, but merely a great alteration, of the fourth Empire (of Daniel); the Pope, having seized all the Imperial rule that has hitherto stood in his way, will then have become Antichrist. To us it simply appears to be undemonstrated, that this consummation of evil is to be looked for as the highest pitch of the Papacy, and not rather of a Cæsaropapism. It is yet to be noticed, that already some Greek interpreters, and then Western Catholics, and also Protestants, pointed to Mohammed as the Antichrist. Calvin reckons him and sectarianism as belonging to the great apostasy; whereas Melanchthon, Bucer, Musculus, Bullinger and others distinguish the Eastern Antichrist from the Western. Our fathers knew why they sang: “The murderous violence of Pope and Turk restrain.”52: In Mohammed also there are antichristian features; he too belongs to the “many Antichrists” (1 John 2:18); but neither is he the Antichrist, whom the Advent shall destroy. Just so think Roman Catholics, when they in return designate Luther as Antichrist. Döllinger (p. 438) admits, that what was perhaps said in polemical paroxysm is not really valid as the Church interpretation; and certainly Estius, for example, does not say here that Luther is the Antichrist described by Paul, but merely that Luther learned from the devil as his master, to designate the Pope as the Antichrist. In his opinion Luther would fall under the principle expressed by him at 1 John 2:18 : omnis hæreticus antichristus.53—The untenableness of the Reformation references to this or that phenomenon of Church history led to various
III. Rationalistic interpretations. We distinguish, a. such explanations resting on the history of the time as assert, that the prophecy has reference to single individuals or phenomena of the past, and was fulfilled in them or else not fulfilled; for the fulfilment can only be asserted, when the substance of the matter is eliminated from the text, and merely it most outward features are retained in a poor, dry, spiritless way. Ingenuity can be shown in this, historical erudition, and a sort of talent at combination, but the whole is paltry; the spirit of the passage is last. It is right to recognize the fact, that the immediate reference to the Apostle’s time should not be overlooked, but it is wrong to limit his word exclusively to the history of his time. The view which [Hammond], Clericus, Whitby, Schöttgen, Nösselt, Krause, Harduin support, understands by the Coming the judgment on Jerusalem, and consequently looks for the Antichrist somehow in the Jewish people. They are themselves the Antichrist (thinks Whitby), or the Pharisees and Rabbis (Schöttgen), or the Zealots (Nösselt, Krause), or the Highpriest Ananias, Acts 23:0. (Harduin), or the wicked ringleader, Simon, the son of Gioras (Clericus). The apostasy is understood either of the political revolt from the Romans, or of a religious falling away, or of both. The restraining power Clericus refers partly to the Roman governor, partly to Agrippa II. and the Jewish authorities, who disapproved of the rebellion; Whitby and Nösselt, to the Emperor Claudius, who was favorable to the Jews; Schöttgen to the Christians, who by their prayers delay the catastrophe. But this limitation of the catastrophe to the Jewish people is untenable. The Coming, of which the Apostle speaks, does not concern Jerusalem merely, but likewise the Thessalonians, because it regards the whole world; nor, according to Daniel to whom Paul goes back, is the Man of Sin the Jewish people, or a party in it, or even a member of it, but a tyrant ruling all the nations of the world. This is recognized by those who by Antichrist understand a Roman Emperor; first of all by Grotius, who herein found Caligula, that frantic madman, who would be worshipped as the supreme God, greater than Jupiter (Suetonius, Cal. 22 and 23), and tried at first to bring his statue into the temple at Jerusalem (Josephus, Ant. xviii. 8)—an attempt which the prudence of Herod Agrippa I. succeeded in frustrating (comp. Schneckenburger, Neutestam. Zeitgeschichte, 1862, p. 41 and 212). The κατέχων is the Proconsul Vitellius, who advised against it. But even after his removal the outrage was not carried out? Grotius answers, that before God the will is as the deed, as in the case of adultery with the eyes. He distinguishes, finally, the ἄνομος of 2 Thessalonians 2:8 from the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and sees in the former Simon Magus, along with the impius Princeps the impius Doctor, who is then consumed by the appearing of Christ, to wit, in the ministry of Peter. As this last explanation is utterly capricious, so the entire combination falls to pieces, as soon as we think of the chronology: Caligula was dead at least 10 years already, before Paul even made his first visit to Thessalonica. Wetstein would recognize in Antichrist Titus (the mild Titus!), who caused sacrifice to be offered in the temple-site (but not himself to be worshipped!), or, in a wider sense, the Flavian house; the κατέχων being Nero, who must first be killed, and the falling away relating to the struggles of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Such is profane exegesis. The spirit of the passage, however, is less destroyed, when Hammond would find in Antichrist Simon Magus, the father of heresy, who should reveal himself, that is, cast off the mask of Christianity, when the κατέχων, to wit, the νόμος should be set aside.54 But against all these explanations may be urged the question. What is left of the parousia [the Advent] in the full sense of the word? They therefore tend strongly to the view that is frankly explained by saying, that there is here an expectation expressed, which long ago found its confutation in history; so especially Kern, Baur, Hilgenfeld. According to them, we are to understand by the fallling away the profligacy of the Jews, wherein Christians also shall participate, and by the mystery of wickedness the Gnostic heresy (on this point the interpretation wavers); but the Antichrist is Nero, whose coming is looked for, when the κατέχων, namely Vespasian, is removed. But that such personal severities of language towards contemporaries should be concealed in our passage has, among other objections to it, this also against it, that it is á priori improbable that we should find one Emperor in Antichrist, and another in the κατέχων, two individuals, therefore, of the same class. In the κατέχων we expect to perceive a power of a different order from the Man of Sin. This holds likewise against Döllinger, who does not, as those last named, see in Antichrist the returning Nero (which implies a post-Pauline date of composition), but adjusts himself better to the circumstances of the time, in so far as in his view the stripling Nero stands for Antichrist, and the still reigning Claudius for the κατέχων; Nero was a devotee of magic arts, and, as he began the Jewish war, so he at least made a beginning of the profanation of the temple by the worship of the Emperors (p. 284). But this is surely a very inadequate fulfilment of 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Döllinger also concedes, that at the end of the days a perfect fulfilment will occur. But that the young Nero, who as yet had done nothing of so shocking a character, should have been regarded by Paul as Antichrist, and the dull Claudius, moreover, as the κατέχων (which he understands as meaning, who is now in possession), this too, viewed historically, is in the highest degree insufficient. Nor, finally, is it well that in the apostasy Döllinger sees a misleading by the Gnostic heretics, that is entirely independent of Antichrist, b. A rationalistic speculation in the opposite direction is that of those, who, like the otherwise sound Pelt and others, divest the prophecy as much as possible of everything concrete, and, retaining the general idea, explain whatever is found therein of personal features, as the dressing up of a tendency. Thus Schneckenburger also speaks of the personification of evil in its resistance to Christ. The idea then is, the climax of hostility to the gospel, prior to the Advent; but the Advent is by many regarded not as a single visible act, but as the final and general passing over of the nations to the gospel.* Previously there will occur a falling away, that is admitted, but without the biblical sharpness of conflict, and without any leading55 personalities. According to Schneckenburger the κατέχων should be the imperial power of Rome as the binding head of the political order; according to Pelt (as with Theodoret), the purpose of God, who makes use of various means; in Paul’s time, of the Roman sovereignty; at all times, of that resistance to utter confusion, which proceeds even from a striving for honor and possession, or, as we might say, of conservatism; on the whole, of the better leanings of humanity, the never entirely extinct longing for salvation. The μυστήριον, &c., on the other hand, is the moral depravation already observable in Paul’s time; according to Schneckenburger, Jewish sorcery, which sought entrance also amongst the heathen (Elymas, Acts 13:0; the ἀντικείμενοι πολλοί, 1 Corinthians 16:9). To these general descriptions one can altogether assent; the neuters, τὸ κατέχον and τὸ μυστήριον, are explained satisfactorily, but ὁ κατέχων and the Antichrist are missing. Why? Because many, as Lücke (on 1 John), by setting aside individualities think to make the idea “more conceivable.” But this interpretation damages also what is said in 1 John 2:18 (comp. with 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7): “It is the last hour, in which the Antichrist cometh; there are even already many antichrists;” this does not mean: “These come instead of the One,” but: “These come as forerunners of the One, the future chief personality.” They show that the fulfilment draws near, already now is τὀ τοῦ in the world” (4:3); which answers to the μνστήριον of Paul, and is the sign of the Antichrist’s coming. Consequently, the explanation, which sets aside the personalities plainly indicated in the words of the Apostle, tends strongly, c. to that particular rationalistic view, in which the sense of the Apostle is on the whole correctly given, but is rejected as an opinion of the time. So De Wette and Lünemann. The former will see in the entire section nothing but a subjective outlook of the Apostle into the future of the Church, wherein he paid a tax to human weakness, in that here, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:0; 1 Corinthians 15:0; Romans 11:0, he wished to know too much beforehand. A fanciful interpretation of Daniel, in connection with philosophcal speculation, furnished the form. Lünemann also thinks that Paul erred, as the non-fulfilment has shown, and that he was disposed to lay down more exact conclusions regarding the course of events, than it is granted to man, even when filled with the Spirit of Christ, to know. But this at bottom is nothing less than the rejection of all prophecy, in spite of an assurance like that of 1 Thessalonians 4:15; and for what reason? because people proceed on a view of Daniel diametrically opposed to that of the Apostle, and on a corresponding modern speculation. At the same time, an undue stress is laid on the fact, that the expectation was not realized in the apostolic age. Therefore (Lünemann) it is altogether capricious to look for the fulfilment of the prophecy only in a remote future. Others will rather find in this assertion nothing but caprice. At all events the question concerns not merely the coming of Antichrist, but the Advent of Christ Himself. If the expectation of the latter is not to be rejected for the reason that it was not realized in the Apostle’s time, one cannot see why, before the yet future appearing of Christ, Antichrist also might not first appear in the future. Paul, indeed, merely hoped that it might happen, that he should yet live to see the coming of Christ, but nowhere does he say that it will be so; rather, that the times and seasons are unknown to us. If the prophecy of Immanuel (Isaiah 7-9) is brought into connection with the chastisement by the Assyrians, without having gone into fulfilment at that time, and yet after more than 700 years Christ was the true Immanuel, why cannot the same thing occur in the case of the Advent? Comp. our remarks on 1 Thessalonians 4:5.—To prove that Paul’s vision does not reach beyond the horizon of his own time, an improper stress would be put on the sitting in the temple, to wit, at Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus had foretold the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:2; Matthew 24:15), and that, in a passage which agrees so thoroughly with Matthew 24:0, Paul should take no notice of this is the less to be assumed, when we reflect what a judgment he holds out in prospect to the Jews. But we have said already, that his words need not be pressed with so narrow a literality, as if they stood or fell with the Herodian temple. He portrays, indeed, an outward act that connects itself with the temple; but this act is the expression of an abiding disposition and purpose, that is not confined to the one house of stone. It is possible that this or a kindred act of outward pomp, and ostentation in the sanctuary, serves as an expression of self-deification. Who will see beforehand, where and in what form of outward action it will come to pass, that the Man of Sin shall force himself on all the world as God? The language of a prophet must be understood according to the analogy of the prophets.
De Wette, to be sure, does not scruple to assert, that, without regard to the chronological difficulty, the prediction is in itself untrue. The personification of sinfulness and ungodliness, in connection with all the forces and arts of devilish imposture, as an exact counterpart of Christ, is a contradiction, he says, to the reflective understanding as much as to pious feeling and the honor of humanity. But this is true only of that sort of reflective understanding, which first misrepresents the Scripture doctrine of the devil, as a philosopheme; which thinks, that what is said of blasphemy against the Spirit (Matthew 12:0) is not to be taken according to the strictness of the letter; which indeed would be compelled in consistency to deny all actual perdition. But there is also another way of thinking which learns from Jesus, and a pious feeling which, instead of embracing ἐθελοθρησκεία, bows itself in adoration before the holy God. But as for the honor of humanity, where is it in the case of an Alexander VI. or a Marat? in the abomination of the Papacy, or the abolition of God in 1793, and the worship of a prostitute as the goddess of reason? In a word, the apostolic age is past, but the apostolic prophecy is still extant, and speaks to us with a high significance—most of all at a time, when the mystery of lawlessness is bestirring itself in greater strength than formerly.56 This brings us to the view which we hold to be the true one:
IV. The interpretation resting on the proper idea of the history of the kingdom. Generally speaking, there is concerned in it a resumption of the patristic interpretation, avoiding the reference to single phenomena of previous Church history, observing the point of connection within the horizon of the apostolic age, and leaving open the prospect of a still impending realization of the prophetic picture. Of this view Bengel and Roos were already the pioneers, and it is since maintained by Olshausen (who makes merely the unsuitable addition of the incarnation of Satan), Hofmann (deducting his Antiochus redivivus), first in Weissagung und Erfüllung (II., 291 sqq.), then in Schriftbeweis, and lastly in the Heil. Schrift Neuen Testaments (I., 312 sqq.); also by Luthardt, Baumgarten, Von Gerlach; likewise, on the whole, by Heubner, as in part by Döllinger (at least in so far as he affirms a second and future fulfilment); then by Thiersch (Die Kirche im apostolischen Zeitalter, 2d ed., 1858, p. 62 sqq., p. 139; and in the pamphlet, Döllinger’s Auffassung des Urchristenthums, 1861, p. 38 sqq.), Von Oettingen (De peccato in spiritum sanctum, 1856, p. 156 sqq.), the Englishman Alford [Ellicott. See also my Lectures, pp. 507–540], and others. Let us direct our attention chiefly to three points: 1. the failing away, 2. Antichrist himself, 3. the κατέχων.
(1) It is a momentous fact, that already in this almost the earliest Epistle Paul writes to the glorious young church about a failing away in Christendom, as Moses and the prophets did about the falling away of the people of God. For it is a falling away in Christendom that he intends, a reaction against its general extension. Thus Joel, Isaiah (2Th 27), Ezekiel (2Th 38), Psalms 2, 110, foretell a judgment on all nations, and so do Jesus and His Apostles the rise of false prophets who should deceive many, a grievous diffusion of the ungodly, worldly spirit; comp. Matthew 24:10 sqq.; John 5:43; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1; Acts 20:29-44.20.30; Jude and 1 Peter 2:0; 1 Peter 1:0 and 2 John, and the Revelation. A prelude to this Paul had witnessed in Thessalonica itself. The Old Testament teaches the comprehension of the revolters under one enemy of God as their head only, perhaps, in Psa 110:657 and with peculiar distinctness in Daniel; in the New Testament this is done in our text and in Revelation. The expression ἀντίχριστος is found only in the First and Second Epistles of John. But in our passage the falling away is by no means identical with the Antichrist (as the Fathers understood it), or even merely (as De Wette thinks) the working exclusively of Antichrist; rather, the general rush of violent departure from the faith precedes that final disclosure of the Antichristian despot. Thiersch: The abomination in the holy place, which introduces the judgment on Jerusalem, is the type of that desecration of the Church, which invokes the judgment by Antichrist, and soon also upon him. Olshausen and Hofmann are correct in stating, that in the time of the Maccabees faithless Jews broke the covenant, prior to the raging of Antiochus; they then sided with the tyrant, whereas the Lord’s people took courage, and many actually died as martyrs. Bengel reminds us that in the gospel likewise there is first a proclamation, that the kingdom has come nigh, and then the King himself comes forward. Thus it is only in the later periods of the Old and New Testaments, that the concentration of evil in a single head is plainly taught, but not as an isolated, peculiar opinion, but as a recapitulation. Answerable, that is, to the apostasy spreading ever more widely, and springing from it, is
(2) The Man of Sin, the ripest fruit of his time, the consummate product of evil; not so much a false prophet, as Wieseler imagines, as the Godless self-deifying ruler of worldly empire. The abominable worship of the Emperors, to which so many were enslaved, was a serious foretaste of this. Vainglorious falsehood, seduction, blasphemy, are the characteristics of this being. In every worldly empire a tendency to apotheosis had been observable (Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander); of this current Paul notes the shameless consummation. Why should it be “more conceivable,” that in this last empire the personal climax should be omitted, which was wanting in none of its predecessors? In all history there exists a reciprocity of action between the actual movement of the time and the achievements of an energetic personality. For every historical individual there is a thousand-fold work of preparation, and he makes his appearance not otherwise than as a child of his age. And again the drift of the time only reaches an irresistible supremacy, when one man conceives the spirit of the time at its height, with bold grasp brings to bear what is fermenting half obscurely in a thousand minds, and so stamps the age with his seal. He can do it, if he has the courage—after all, it will be the effrontery—to express and carry out what is in a thousand hearts. Those who were his forerunners then become his servants and helpers.
Of course, we do not yet know himself, the future head; a prolepsis there was again, when many were disposed to see in Napoleon 1. more than a type of him. But that the apostasy is advancing in Christendom, who can hide from himself? It is important to attend to this, in opposition to an overvaluing of the outward Christianity of the popular life and that of states. Faithfulness in little and the least, the thankful administration of what is still entrusted to us, will not be weakened in the smallest degree, if we hold less to an untenable ideal. But of this character is the opinion, that the development of the kingdom of God advances on the smooth and level road of “progress” in what is good, and that the question is about the easy and brilliant “transfiguration of the world” [Weltverklärung] by means of Christian culture.58 On the contrary, the prospect held out to us rather is, that in the last severe conflict evil will even obtain an outward victory, as over Christ on Good Friday, but shall then be destroyed by the Lord Himself. It is well worth while to give heed to the prophetic word, and that so much the more, as the day comes nearer; not throwing it into the shade with a shrug of the shoulder, as if it were a matter of fanaticism. Paul himself would have us prudently try the spirts, and hold fast our νοῦς. But the same thing holds good also of watchfulness, that we be not befooled by the fanaticism of reason, intoxicated with the giddy potion of the great words of philosophers and poets, nor suffer our sensibility to be dulled, till it is no longer wounded by any blasphemy. We refer the reader to the earnest words against the false boast of the world’s glorification by Christian culture, instead of by the cross and regeneration, in Auberlen’s Daniel , 2 d ed., p. 234 sqq., 239, 264. On p. 261 it is said: We are not to suppose that during the present dispensation Christianity will ever, or is meant to, succeed in Christianizing the world in a true and proper sense. An ameliorating influence it may and probably will exert on all the departments of life; but a proper glorification must necessarily be preceded by a regeneration, that is, by death and resurrection; in this way it behooved even Christ Himself to be glorified. In accordance with this Heubner says (p. 177): However the delicate and tender-hearted may shudder at the idea of such a degenerate, atheistical, as it were devilish, generation, yet according to the course of things it is probably what we have to expect. In humanity good and evil go forward parallel to each other (Matthew 13:30). As the culture of the understanding, science and art increase, man attains greater opportunity on the one side for improvement, but on the other also for deterioration.—In truth, we can trace more and more of this μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργούμενον: a widespread, daring, fundamental unbelief; a more and more conscious hatred of the Divine; even in the better class of spirits a deep, gnawing scepticism, that undermines the lowermost foundations of Divine and human truth and authority; thus little holds its ground in the consciousness unmolested as sacred, as was formerly the case even with rude transgressors; all piety is with many utterly shaken, and revolt elevated to a principle; to this is added the worship of genius, the emancipation of the flesh, the arrogance of rule over nature, a coarse self-deification. As a single instance, we may note the proclamation of Napoleon I. in Egypt, cited by Menzel in his Die letzten 120 Jahre der Weltgeschichte, II. 375. And how widely is this spread! How strongly does history tend to the result, that everything should assume the dimensions of a world-empire! Hindoos often nowadays despise, along with the idols of their fathers, the living God, and devour the productions of German and English infidelity, etc. Nor is it on slight grounds that a feeling is so widely spread as is that of uneasiness, yea, of horror, at the volcano fermenting in the depths of society.
One must be wilfully blind, to see in our populations nothing but an ill-understood bent of aspiration after Christianity in a more human form. Let us according to our ability become all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22); let us change our voice (Galatians 4:20), in order if possible to gain some by new methods. But do not let us forget, that he alone finds entrance to the faith, and to the clear, bright intelligence of faith, who does not disdain the strait gate of μετάνοια. But our testimony may give place to that of others, and, before all, of De Wette, who in the Preface to his exposition of the Apocalypse holds different language from that in his exegesis of the Thessalonian Epistle. There, under the impressions of the year 1848, he says, p. 2Th 6: “I could not help seeing in our time, though in a different outward form and in yet darker colors, the Antichrist depicted by John. The self-deification of Antichrist appears to me child’s play, compared with the God-denying, unbelieving, arrogant egotism of our day, with its rejection of all restraint; and what is a material persecution of the Christian faith with fire and sword, compared with the destructive dialectics of Young Hegelianism, or with the flattering speech and infatuation of the so-called love of freedom, which springs from the worst inward bondage, and is leading the poor people to a bondage both inward and outward? According to the counsel of those who pretend to stand at the head of the culture of the time, and whose claim to that effect passes current, the State should rid itself of Christian principle, and take up its position on the ground of indifference, if not even of atheism. What a progress—to a new and hitherto unexampled barbarism!” That, indeed, we have no reason to be excessively amazed at this, Luthardt asserts (p. 149), that, however much Christianity may come to be the world’s religion, and even gather the remotest barbarians within the pale of the Church, the future that lies before us is the complete inward estrangement of the masses from the Christian faith, and finally their open apostasy. And Von Gerlach expresses himself thus: In our days there has actually been made a beginning of a worship, in which humanity is deified and adored; and the complete dissolution of the Christian Church into the kingdoms of this world is already expected by many. For, say these errorists, the State is the only form in which the infinitude of reason, freedom, and the highest blessings of the human spirit in reality exists, and no higher fortune can befall religion and the Church, than that they should essentially coöperate with this phenomenon of the reason, and stand forth as institutions of the State.—The same: Assaults on the foundations of the Christian faith, more comprehensive and of deeper reach than ever before occurred—assaults, which notwithstanding their folly meet with the greatest applause amongst those whom the god of this world has blinded—these are signs of the appearing of the Antichrist, such as never existed in the times of Papal power.—[Alford: “If it be said, that this is somewhat a dark view to take of the prospects of mankind, we may answer, first, that we are not speculating on the phenomena of the world, but we are interpreting God’s word: secondly, that we believe in One in whose hands all evil is working for good,—with whom there are no accidents nor failures,—who is bringing out of all this struggle, which shall mould and measure the history of the world, the ultimate good of man and the glorification of His boundless love in Christ: and thirdly, that no prospect is dark for those who believe in Him. For them all things are working together for good; and in the midst of the struggle itself, they know that every event is their gain; every apparent defeat, real success; and even the last dread conflict, the herald of that victory, in which all who have striven on God’s part shall have a glorious and everlasting share.”—J. L.]—It is of great importance, that without any faint-hearted anxiety, or hasty, restlessness, or censoriousness, we should yet have our senses exercised to discern what—sometimes under a fair show, sometimes shamelessly enough—is not merely unchristian, but antichristian. We shall be so much the more thankful if at any time we fall in with the hindering, restraining power. That is, indeed, the obscurest point in the interpretation; the question, namely:
(3) What is the κατέχον? Who the κατέχων?
It must at any rate be a beneficent force, which only according as God permits, prevails, or is taken out of the way, or, when He recalls it, retires; a power it must be, which already during Paul’s lifetime was working (ἄρτι), and is still to-day working, since the Antichrist is, indeed, not yet present. Two (eligible)eading interpretations at once present themselves: it is either a political power that is seen here (with the majority of the Fathers), or (with other expositors) one of a religious nature. The former view (in Tertullian, De Resurr. 2Th 24: Romanus status) is adopted by many Protestants and Catholics, who think that in the Apostle’s time the Roman Empire was to be understood by the neuter, and its ruler by the masculine. Paul knew by repeated experience, even in Thessalonica itself, that the Roman Government had a beneficent side (Acts 17:9; Acts 18:14 sqq.; Acts 21:32; &c.; comp. Romans 13:0). By means of the protection of law and its established political order it not merely suppressed lawlessness and sedition, but it afforded also to the gospel, by its rigorous resistance to Jewish malignity, a certain degree of shelter and opportunity. Daniel likewise had a similar experience of worldly power. By this method, however, it is rather the meaning merely of τὸ κατέχον that is cleared up, not so much that of ὁ κατέχων. The latter would have to be the Emperor existing at any time prior to the final Antichristian Regent. But wicked, in some cases most ungodly rulers, like Caligula, or even like Claudius, could scarcely appear to the Apostle as representatives of the power that still hinders the full outburst of evil. Even those less wicked were too much alike in quality to the bad men, in whom was exhibited the μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργούμενον. Hofmann says with reason, that certainly amongst the evil Emperors, who ruled in Paul’s time, it could not but be particularly manifest, that not men, but only a superhuman power, still checked the outbreak of utter wickedness. Wieseler also insists on the idea, that what hinders the outbreak of consummate ungodliness must be something good, and the supporter of what is good. Olshausen would make the distinction, that the same Emperors might have been personally types of Antichrist, and in their official position representatives of law, and so κατέχοντες; but this is certainly too refined and artificial.
If, therefore, we try the other view, which sees in the κατέχων a religious power, the perplexity becomes almost greater still, whether we say (with Koppe, Schott, Heydenreich and others), that the κατέχων is Paul with his intercession; or (with Zwingli, Diedrich, Grimm in the Stud. u. Krit., 1850, iv.), the Apostles generally, their fidelity, and vigilance, and spiritual power; or (with Calvin), the proclamation of the gospel; or (with Schöttgen), the intercessory Church. In the latter case, the masculine singular would be strange; might that perhaps be Christ? but how would this agree with ἐκ μέσου γενέσθαι? it is just after the brief tyranny of Antichrist that He is to appear to judgment; or Christ in them (Colossians 1:27), the young spirit of the Christian cause (Baumgarten-Crusius)? But if that withdrew altogether, there would no longer be any Church; and the Church cannot be taken out of the way before the appearance of Antichrist; it is impossible that the Antichrist should not come till after the Church is removed; for that which, not perhaps hinders his outbreak, but rather excites his wrath, is just the Church itself, which he persecutes, without being able to set it aside. Even the Irvingite reference to the company of the chosen ones, which should be caught away before the coming of Antichrist, is thoroughly untenable; that whole doctrine would have to be previously established, as is not the case, to make the reference of the κατέχων to that company even at all plausible.
If, however, we limit the import of the expression ὁ κατ. to a small part of the Church, or even to a member of it, the removal of the same becomes indeed conceivable, but there arises a new difficulty. If, for example, we were to suppose Paul to have meant himself by it, we could not, indeed, pronounce it à priori impossible that he should have ascribed so great an influence to his apostolic intercession in restraining the revelation of Antichrist; but it is impossible that he should have said to the Thessalonians: I am the κατέχων, and I must first ἐκ μέσου γενέσθαι. The latter phrase cannot be referred merely to his imprisonment, since his intercession would still not have been terminated thereby; it would have to be understood of his death, and then it is no longer intelligible how he could have said here: Antichrist does not come, till I am dead; whereas in 1 Thessalonians 4:0 and 1 Corinthians 15:0 he says: I regard it as possible that I may live till the Advent. And besides, whether we take Paul or the Apostles in general, they died, and the Antichrist did not come. This holds likewise against the interpretation of Wieseler, who seeks the κατέχων in Jerusalem, where also the session in the temple should occur. He understands by it the pious in Jerusalem collectively, or, if it must be an individual, then James the Just, who was called the bulwark of the people59 (Hegesippus, in Eusebius’s Church History, II. 23). Now James too died, and Antichrist came not. But to say nothing of the mistake, which we are not without reason to charge on the Apostle, it is likewise à priori unimaginable, that Paul should have spoken to the Thessalonians of James alone in a way which we should find scarcely conceivable as coming from the Jewish Christians; by whom the latter was regarded with an extravagant veneration.
Thus it seems that we are driven back on the first explanation, which understands τὸ κατέχον as the shelter and protection of the authority, at that time of the Roman, but still even now of essentially the same power; thus, in the judgment also of Lange (Positive Dogmatik, p. 1270): It is the old social order, Church and State, the latter especially, Romans 13:0; and, on the Catholic side, of Lutterbeck (Neutest. Lehrbegriffe, II. 231): It is every orderly power in the world. In the same sense Luthardt says (p. 157 sqq.): In the doctrine of antichristianity, as being the issue of worldly power, there would be for Christians a danger of putting themselves in thought, and perhaps also in outward conduct, in a false relation to public life and to the rulers of the civil commonwealth, did there not stand alongside of it the other doctrine, that in the civil order the will of God is fulfilled, and a blessed force has sway. Therefore also the Apostle enjoins subjection to the higher powers, as the Divinely appointed guardians of justice (Romans 13:0), and that prayer be made for them, that through them the Church may enjoy quiet and dwell safely (1 Timothy 2:2; comp. 1 Peter 2:13 sqq.). In the present consciousness of Christians, moreover, there is scarcely anything more certain than this, that the moral and legal order is a Divine dike, which at present still holds back the floods of a gloomy abyss, and who knows for how long? For it is the spirit of ungodliness, which declares itself also in the subversion of the order of human law. And thus it will be the moral forces of the natural life, which the Apostle understood to be that cheek upon ungodliness.—This appears to us to be a perfectly sufficient explanation of what τὸ κατέχον is; but ὁ κατέχων? how is this power to be comprehended in a single masculine subject? We saw how far it is from being satisfactory even for the Apostle’s time, to find this subject in any Roman Emperor of that period.
Ewald, who feels the necessity of recognizing here, not merely, with Wieseler, a good, but, with Hofmann, a supernatural power, has proposed an explanation of his own; that what is spoken of is nothing else but the expected return of Elijah, who is at present still in heaven, but, when he comes, will withstand the Antichrist, so that the latter will not reach his full power, until Elijah is removed (Matthew 17:11; Revelation 11:3-66.11.12). There is thus an Elias redivivus, as with Hofmann an Antiochus redivivus, only that Hofmann himself seriously believes in the latter. But, looked at closely, it is untenable that even Paul himself should have thought of Elijah. For how could the tarrying of Elijah in heaven be described as the κατέχον, and Elijah himself, who must first come, as the very κατέχων ἄρτι? That must be a personage who was already working, while Paul was alive.
Who he is, has been best shown by Hofmann (already in Weissagung und Erfüllung, etc.), and he is joined by Luthardt, Baumgarten, Auberlen (Daniel, 67), Von Oettingen. He starts with this idea, that since Paul appeals to his oral instruction, which, so far as the Antichrist is concerned, unquestionably rested on Daniel, it is to be expected that we shall best find in the same source the solution also of the κατέχων; and so it is too in fact. In Daniel 10:5; Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20 an angel prince says to Daniel: “I withstood the prince of Persia;”60 that is not the human king; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 shows that there is a distinction made between the מַלְכֵי פָּרַס and the superhuman prince, שַׂר מַלְכוּת פָּרַס; but an evil spirit is meant, who tries to incite the king of Persia to evil, and to whom the good angel has offered successful resistance. This good angel, therefore, is in Persia ὁ κατέχων, who strengthens whatever there is of τὸ κατέχον, and disposes the Persian king to treat with kindness the people of God. It is the good spirit, still active in the worldly power of heathenism. In the Greek empire, he intimates, he will no longer have this influence; there, to use Paul’s phrase, he will have to ἐκ μέσυο γενέσθαι, quit the field, and then this will be followed by the coming of the Old Testament Antichrist (Antiochus). The very same prospect Paul holds out for the period of the Christian Church: through the conservative action of a good spirit opportunity is given for the Spirit of Christ; when the former is compelled to withdraw, then will Antichrist come. Indeed, we speak also of the spirit of a time, in a good as well as a bad sense, meaning thereby a prevailing, or, so to speak, epidemic force, mightier than any individual; only we understand it as impersonally, anonymously, as in a neuter form; whereas Scripture adds to this the masculine, and shows us in the background of individual and national life a struggle of good and evil powers of a real and personal kind. It is obvious that this conflict of the two principles—on the one side the mystery of ungodliness, and, on the other, the restraining force—is the soul of history. It were a great matter to bring the lovers of truth to a consciousness of this; that they should no longer be satisfied with talking in a mere empty, formal way about progress, but bethink themselves: Progress—whither? Let both grow together! until the harvest!
[By the κατέχον and κατέχων Alford understands respectively “the fabric of human polity, and those who rule that polity, by which the great up-bursting of godlessness is kept down and hindered.”—Ellicott inclines to the view which refers τὸ κατέχον to “the restraining power of well-ordered human rule, the principles of legality as opposed to those of ἀνομία—of which the Roman Empire was the then embodiment and manifestation,” and on the change of gender to the masculine he remarks: “Perhaps the simplest view is to regard it, not as a studied designation of a single individual (e. g. St. Paul, Schott, p. 249), or of a collection of such (e. g, the saints at Jerusalem, Wieseler, Chronol., p. 273, or, more plausibly, the succession of Roman Emperors, Wordsworth), but merely as a realistic touch, by which what was previously expressed by the more abstract τὸ κατέχον is now, as it were, represented as concrete and personified; comp. Romans 13:4, where the personification is somewhat similarly introduced after, and elicited from a foregoing abstract term (ἐξουσίαν).”—J. L.]
(4) (2 Thessalonians 2:9-53.2.12.) If false prophets can work miracles, as did the Egyptian magicians, it is evident that miracles alone do not prove a cause to be Divine; rather, they themselves need confirmation, in order to become in their turn demonstrative signs. Already in Deuteronomy 13:0 it is announced that there may be wonders wherein a temptation lurks; if they aim at misleading to idolatry, the honest Israelite is to know what to think about them. And so with the powers of a Simon (Acts 8:0) or Elymas (Acts 8:0). In these cases it is impossible for us accurately to determine how much is idle jugglery, and how much real power of a baneful sort, nor is it required that we should so determine. When we perceive the criminal object in view, we should restrain ourselves from meddling with the matter. There is an unwholesome impulse to fall in with everything that has merely some show of the wonderful and extraordinary, we should understand that such a spirit may open the door to the Antichristian delusion. It is unskilful apologetics, that in this merely outward way would found on the supernatural the argument for the Divine. But it is not less mistaken, to reject altogether the evidence of miracles. What is obvious to common sense is stated by Jesus in express words, Matthew 11:5; Matthew 11:20-40.11.24; John 10:25; John 14:10-43.14.11; John 15:24 (over against John 4:48, and similar texts), and so by the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:12 (over against 1 Corinthians 1:22), namely, that we should have regard to Divine signs. To demand signs in wilful conceit is a perverse thing; but to disregard the signs which God vouchsafes is not less improper. Of those that are really given by God the convincing power lies in the harmony of the inward with the outward; on the one side, the powers of a higher order, which, healing and helpful, penetrate the death-life [1 Timothy 5:6]; on the other, an impress of holiness, which attests itself simply and clearly to the conscience. In the agreement of these two sides there is a strength of evidence, which neither the one nor the other possesses apart; and in what is called in John [John 17:4] the work of Christ the two sides are thoroughly combined. That the wonder-worker is a holy man of God, lies in the foundation of our trust in him. We judge the matter by the rule which God has planted in our conscience, not by one that we have made for ourselves. For this reason also, far from exalting ourselves above him, we bow in his presence. The want of this stamp of holiness would be a warning to us against a deceiver. And again, on the other hand, an individual, in whom we recognize the energy of sanctification, may probably be of service to us in the powerful edification and furtherance of our inner life. But without the power of extending a healing virtue likewise into our outer life, and guaranteeing to us a future perfection of life, the Saviour would still not be a complete Saviour. The work of Divine redemption must not be reduced to the proportions of a human tragedy.
(5) The contrast between truth and unrighteousness is of frequent occurrence (Romans 1:18; 1 Corinthians 13:6; comp. John 3:20-43.3.21). Though at first sight it appears to be not altogether valid, yet it proves to be very striking, when the inward development is examined. Whoever seeks satisfaction in sin and loves unrighteousness, thereby suppresses the truth of God which might germinate within him. With the truth, the question would be, to seek God and His righteousness,—to discern the way in which we are delivered from evil, and enabled to do well; but whoever cleaves to unrighteousness, in his case the uncleanness of the will is the beginning also of the obscuration of the intelligence, which thus becomes enslaved to falsehood. And inversely, for becoming righteous, for regeneration and sanctification, the first beginning is nothing else but in hearkening to the truth, yielding to the truth, submitting to be reproved by the truth. The man who pauses, and from a desire to see how he stands before God comes to the light, attains with this knowledge to the beginning of a change of mind. Only in him, who allows this love for the truth to be aroused within him, can the truth itself take effect, and become a power for righteousness.—Rieger: There is in the truth, as in the natural light, something lovely, delightful, comforting. In nothing has man so great a satisfaction as in the truth. But, of course, it comes with us into conflict with other violent tendencies. Truth, and faith therein, are obstructed by man’s evil desires, by the pleasure he takes in unrighteousness, and by his impatience of being reproved by the light. And where the truth is not received into the love of the heart, there also it exerts no saving power. Only in the love of the heart can the truth take root, and bear fruit. But the truth does not force itself against their will on those who despise it. God knows how, in connection with the truth, to regard also His own honor, and maintains His reserve. At first a man takes matters easily with respect to the truth and to being misled into error; he trifles with both, does not yield to the truth his heart’s love, but thinks that neither shall the error and the deception overmaster him. Behind error, however, lurks a power that is perilous to every one who is not armed with love for the truth.—Roos: They who perish have had the saving truth, but they received not the love of the truth. One cannot love the truth without believing it, nor can one believe it without loving it. It is certain, and should therefore be believed; it is beautiful, lovely, consistent, salutary, containing most excellent things, and should therefore be loved. But the world loves it not, but makes its greatest boast of the fact, that it still tolerates or endures it; whereas it is only of that which is evil that we say that it is tolerated or endured, to wit, when we cannot or are not disposed to prevent or exterminate it. Truth, on the contrary, should be loved, not tolerated. But there can be no greater unrighteousness than this, to take delight in inventing, reading, hearing, and still further propagating doubts against the sure, true, dear and precious word of God. The end of such must be, to believe the lie.
(6) Does God Himself send an energy of delusion? The Greek Fathers thought this too harsh, and softened the expression by taking the sending for a bare permission; but improperly. Our fathers of the Reformation especially insisted on recognizing the will of God as powerfully active even in judgments of this kind. Already in the Old Testament He sends evil spirits (1 Samuel 16:13 sqq.; 1 Kings 22:22); to wit, for the punishment of sin by sin (comp. Romans 1:24 sqq.). He is the holy God, and therefore is never the first Author of evil; but the evil that already exists He turns to His own holy ends. He does not produce in the heart falsehood and wickedness; but where they are already in the heart, there He puts a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets. From the corrupt seed that is in the heart he brings forth this fruit, that it serves His purpose. Thou art to have thy will, and reap what thou hast sown. This judgment is never a faint, impotent permission, but a powerful operation, though to the last with a salutary aim (Romans 11:32); only in cases where the period of grace is trifled away, does it issue in irreclaimable obduracy (Matthew 13:14-40.13.15). But even the rebel must in his way, since he would not otherwise, serve the gracious counsel of God. Frequently an evil is for a long while not yet manifest as such; it lies dormant, it lurks in ambush, its consequences have not yet broken forth. The power of delusion is so much the more effective, when truth and falsehood are mingled, and interesting individuals defend this mixture; even that which is worst can adorn itself with a fair seeming, and with plausible words deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:18). The exhortation is: Take heed, and turn from them; and the promise: The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet. This He does especially even by means of that judicial manifestation of the evil fruit. His action over against the free creature consists in the mere solicitation of its freedom. This proceeds from God; but it is in man’s power to say yes or no to it.61 Thus faith is the work of God, and yet also that which God requires; and so the hardening of the sinner is described sometimes as the act of God, at other times as the act of man. Of immense significance, moreover, and justice, is this form of judgment, that they who would not believe the truth must believe the lie. How many, who cry out against an implicit faith, when the Bible is in question, are ignominiously enslaved by an implicit faith over against anonymous journalists! How many, who in opposition to the word of God have nothing but unbelief, sink down into disgraceful superstition towards somnambulists, fortune-tellers, and rapping tables! Already Chrysostom remarks, that they who said: Since there is but one God, we could not believe in the divinity of Christ, are deprived by Antichrist of all excuse. And in our day, they who believe not that an almighty, wise God created the universe, do believe (for they have not seen it) that chance whirled together the atoms; and they, who believe not that Jesus changed the water into wine, do believe that the unconscious power of nature transformed the ape into a man. This collier’s faith of unbelief is a judgment. Before all the world must it be made manifest, that the motive of their unbelief was not a noble protest against a dependence unworthy of the spirit, but pleasure in unrighteousness. Verily, they too believe; only they would not believe in the holy truth of God; and therefore their punishment is, that their need of faith squanders itself on the most pitiful vanities. That which we already now see of this sort is a foretaste of what is coming. [Alford: God is sending must not for a moment be understood of permissiveness only on God’s part—He is the judicial sender and doer—it is He who hardens the heart which has chosen the evil way. All such distinctions are the merest folly: whatever God permits, He ordains.—Ellicott: The words are definite and significant; they point to that judicial infatuation, … into which, in the development of His just government of the world, God causes evil and error to be unfolded, and which He brings into punitive agency in the case of all obstinate and truth-hating rejection of His offers and calls of mercy.—Lectures: According to our Apostle, this child of hell comes to execute on earth a judicial, punitive, Divine mission. Paul does not say, that God compels any man to believe in Him; but he does say that, in lifting the veil that hides the Antichrist, one of God’s designs is to begin to avenge the wrong already done to “the truth,” by showing that in the free, spontaneous exercise of a depraved nature, the wilful despisers of His own saving grace will yield ready credence to the lie of the cruel and treacherous Blasphemer.—The same: The whole, then, is just as if it had been said: Men hate the truth, which God sends to them for their salvation, and even refuse to be reconciled to it. He then and therefore, instead of destroying them at once, takes measures to bring out all the sin and madness of their hearts; and this, in order to their being ultimately brought into judgment, when He shall be justified in His speaking, and shall be clear in His judging (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Psalms 51:4). In other words, God’s purpose is, by means of an extreme manifestation of human wickedness, to draw forth and vindicate the declaration of the Divine judgment. “When judged,” says Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 20:19. 4)—judged, that is, for rejecting the truth—“when judged, they shall be seduced; and when seduced, they shall be judged.”—J. L.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Thessalonians 2:1. The glory of Jesus and our glorification are most intimately connected. Now already the union with Jesus begins within; it will one day break forth also outwardly, and be thenceforth without hindrance.—Who can think highly enough of the Christian’s calling! Who can be faithful enough in that which is least!
[Burkitt: At the day of judgment there shall be both a congregation and a segregation.—M. Henry: Christ the great centre of their unity. They shall be gathered together to Him to be attendants on Him, to be assessors with Him, to be presented by Him to the Father, to be with Him for ever, and altogether happy in His presence to all eternity.—The same: The doctrine of Christ’s coming, and our gathering together to Him, is of great moment and importance to Christians; otherwise it would not be the proper matter of the Apostle’s obtestation.—Lectures: How much and how earnestly were the Apostles and their churches occupied about the coming of the day of God! Can we persuade ourselves that it is any improvement on their habits, that we scarcely ever think about it at all, but have taken to making the best of the present evil world?—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:2. Zwingli: True Christians do not suffer themselves to be frightened by idle alarms, knowing that they are reconciled to God, whether they live or die.—If we cannot but be frightened, that is a sign, that we are not standing in the full spirit of disciple-ship. Art thou prepared?—But only God’s grace in Christ can take away completely all terror from the heart.—Luthardt: Let the Lord come by day or by night, when He does come, that is His day.—Divine truth, even when most clearly delivered, can easily, be misunderstood. The duty of the teacher is, as far as possible to remove the misconception.—Heubner: The Christian must exercise a holy criticism.—Roos: On this false notion (that the day of Christ is present) there would have arisen divisions amongst true Christians; some would have regarded it as important and necessary, others as futile.—Wherever there is an awakening from the sleep of [spiritual] death [Ephesians 5:14], there is very apt to be a mingling of flesh and spirit.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-53.2.2. To gaze from earth away towards heaven, and to turn away from heaven to earth—both may be wrong, and both right (comp. Acts 1:0). The certainty, that the Lord cometh, must never withdraw us from present duty.
[Alford: Every expression of the ages before us, betokening close anticipation, coupled with the fact that the day has not yet arrived, teaches us much, but unteaches us nothing: does not deprive that glorious hope of its applicability to our times, nor the Christian of his power of living as in the light of his Lord’s approach, and the daily realization of the day of Christ.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:3. [Leighton: He seems not to assert any great tract of time to intervene, but only that in that time great things were first to come.—J. L.]—Calvin: Christ also warns His disciples to prepare themselves for severe conflicts. When the Church is torn in pieces, we are not to be frightened as by something unexpected. The Church must first fall into horrid ruin, before it is fully re-established. How useful is this prophecy! One might otherwise think: This cannot surely be the building of God (it being so wasted); or others might say: Christ can not so grievously abandon His bride (and find in this a pretext for all corruptions).—The preparation and warning close with the promise of victory.—Rieger: God allows the evil free course, and scope for further development. The loss, which His glory thus seems for a time to suffer, He again makes good by judgments, and meanwhile His time of patience becomes salvation to many others.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-53.2.4. Diedrich: The Man of Sin will make Adam’s sin his very religion, and will glorify sin. This can only be an apostate Christian, a consummate Judas.—Berl. Bib.: These things always follow one upon the other: Apostasy in Christianity, and an absurd, mad throne of government for the punishment of the previous folly, which imposed the yoke on itself.
2 Thessalonians 2:5. Calvin: How forgetful are men, when their eternal salvation is in question!—Hence the need of their being ever anew reminded of what has been said—of an ever-fresh watering of that which has been planted.—Chrysostom connects with this verse a very impressive exhortation to the right hearing of the word.
2 Thessalonians 2:6. Nor can wickedness come at its own will, but only at the set time assigned to it by God. The servant is not above his master (Luke 22:53).
2 Thessalonians 2:7. Heubner: Wickedness is a mystery: 1. The origin of evil is a mystery, and hides in the dark; so with 2. its connections, and the means which it employs; 3. its progress; and 4. its tendency.—At present the mystery of lawlessness is stirring more strongly than formerly.
2 Thessalonians 2:8. Roos: Antichrist, indeed, is coming, but Christ also comes behind him. Therefore let no man’s heart fail him, who is concerned for the honor of Christ’s cause.—Berl. Bib.: The strong one can be opposed only by One stronger than he.—Calvin: God exhorts His people to patience, because it is only for a little while that He afflicts His Church.—Berl. Bib.: Supposing that Antichrist and all his adherents were brought under (subdued),62 what would it avail us, if we have an antichrist in our own body?
2 Thessalonians 2:9. Diedrich: The whole being of Antichrist comes from falsehood; falsehood is all that he does; and again the object of the whole is likewise to promote falsehood.
2 Thessalonians 2:10. Diedrich: Whoever does not, like Paul, seek for truth above all things, but is bent on gold and honor and the friendship of the world, has come under the power of the devil, and serves Antichrist to his own steadily advancing and utter ruin.—The truth itself excites love for the truth, but does not force it.—Stähelin: Oh that we had but a greater horror of the Antichristian abominations, prayed more fervently for the poor, misled people, and made use of the truth for ourselves in a more thankful and devout spirit!
2 Thessalonians 2:11. Stockmeyer: All unrighteousness is a lie; in promising man satisfaction, it lies.—Diedrich: The just God rules also in this, that con tempt for His pure, saving truth must be punished thus (by belief in falsehood).—Rieger: God’s word and our own conscience sufficiently assure us, that God has no share in what is evil; and yet He can employ the agency of evil spirits and evil men for the attainment of His purposes.—[The reader is referred to two admirable Discourses of South on this verse: “Ill-disposed affections, both naturally and penally the cause of darkness and error in the judgment.”—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:12.—Roos: To doubt, deny, start objections, and be indifferent to all the articles of the Christian faith, such is the reigning fashion; but hereafter people will believe lies.—Stockmeyer: To love sin, and concoct for one’s self a righteousness that is nothing but unrighteousness whitewashed, this is to block up the way of truth.—The same: Wherever the truth reaches, it effects a separation; judgment is separation, κρίσις.—Calvin: When he says all, he intimates that contempt for God will not be excused by the great multitude of those who refuse to obey the gospel. God is the Judge of all the world, and can just as well inflict punishment on a hundred thousand, as on one individual.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-53.2.12. Heubner: What practical value has this prophecy of Paul for us?
1. It affords us important instruction on the nature of the human heart, and also on the nature of Christianity. Our race is in a state of corruption, which must still more and more develop itself; this must fill us with shame and humiliation. But Christianity, because it contains the strongest antidote to the evil, for that very reason stirs up the evil spirit, and excites it to its most strenuous efforts; these, however, the Lord Himself will bring to naught. No religion has so unmasked and combated the evil, as the Christian.
2. This prophecy warns us against indifference to the earliest, weak beginnings of evil, and to the motions of unbelief. We are to regard these as approximations to that time of extreme degeneracy. We are to watch and be on our guard against them, even against the least assent to principles that disparage Christianity.
3. So much the more is it our duty to hold firmly and immovably by true Christianity, which can alone preserve us from that aberration. The man, in whom is the Spirit of Christ, cannot be harmed by the spirit of Antichrist. We should also be concerned for our descendants, to maintain the true faith among them.
4. This prophecy, moreover, may console us, as we look on the signs, the preludes, or finally the actual irruption, of the Antichristan period God long ago foresaw it, announced it, permitted it; it cannot, therefore, destroy His work, but must rather serve for the more certain and speedy consummation of the kingdom of Christ. Christ will protect His own, will comfort them under violence, secure them against falsehood, and finally achieve their complete redemption.
2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:1.—[Revision: ‘ “Yon see, then, what is to be expected, and prayed for, as your portion at the coming of the Lord. But, in regard to that coming itself, &c.’ Or perhaps the Greek arrangement may rather suggest an opposition between ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς here and προσευχόμεθα περὶ ὑμῶν of 2 Thessalonians 1:11.” The latter is Riggenbach’s idea; whereas Webster and Wilkinson thus: “Such is our hope and consolation, but because it is such, by every consideration connected with the great fact which gives it its character, I beg of you, &c.”—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2.—[ταχέως; immediately on being thus tempted. Comp. E. V., Luke 14:21; Luke 16:6.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2.—[ἀπὸ τοῦ νοός; rendered as above, from your mind, in several of the older versions (Tyndale, Cranmer, Geneva, Bishops), and recently by Starke, Jowett, Wordsworth, Alford. Ellicott: from your sober mind; Riggenbach: vom vernünftigen Sinn.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2.—The best copies [including Sin., and Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott, &c.] give μηδέ, which is also the proper particle, and then μήτε three times. Comp. Winer, §55:6.
2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2.—[θροεῖσθαι, a stronger word than σαλευθῆναι. Such equivalents as terrified, dismayed, perterreri, erschrecken, &c., are given for it in the versions.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2.—Instead of the Rec. Χριστοῦ, which has few authorities, the most and the best (also Sin.) give κυρίου [and so all the recent editions.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2.—[ἐνέστηκεν; Riggenbach, after Luther, vorhanden wäre. On this word, see an elaborate note in Revision.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:3.—[κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον; comp. E. V., Romans 3:2; Philippians 1:8.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:3.—Instead of ἁμαρτίας, which, however, has many old authorities, and amongst others Or. 5, in its favor, B., Sin., and some other Alexandrian sources give ἀνομίας, arising probably from 2 Thessalonians 2:7-53.2.8.
2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:4.—[ἐπί with the accusative. Ellicott, in the Commentary: above (and against); in the Revision: against; and so Wordsworth, and recent English translators generally, and the Am. Bible Union, &c.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:4.—[πάντα λεγόμενον θεὸν ἢ σέβασμα. Revision: “E. V. and the older English versions apparently follow the Vulg. omne quod=πᾶν τό, which however, I find in no printed text but that of Beza, and there it is avowedly for no reason except that Jerome might seem to have read it, and that in Beza’s own opinion it yields a richer sense: mihi tamen uberius videtur.” Riggenbach, likewise, retains Luther’s über alles das. But very many from Faber to Alford and Wordsworth have preferred the masculine construction.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:4.—The ὡς θεόν before καθίσαι in the Elzevir is brought under suspicion as a gloss by A. B. D.1 Sin., most of the versions, and the oldest Fathers. [It is condemned by Mill, and cancelled by the majority of critical editors. Riggenbach likewise omits it.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:4.—[ἀποδεικνύντα. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:9. Here, for the Vulgate ostendens, Augustine and others use ostentare. Ellicott: exhibiting, displaying; Wordsworth, as above.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:6.—[εἰς τὸ ; comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:10.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:6.—[τῷ ἑαυτοῦ; the time assigned to him—then, and not sooner.—Sin.1 A, K.: τῷ αὐτοῦ.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:7—[τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς . The emphasis of τὸ μυστήριον, as opposed to the double αποκαλυφθῆναι of 2 Thessalonians 2:7-53.2.8, is strengthened by the Greek order.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:7.—[μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως, κ.τ.λ. See the Exegetical Note 3.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.—[ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος. Here again the revelation, as being now the main idea, is put foremost.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.—Ἰησοῦς is supported by Sin. A. D.1 E.1 F. G. L.2, and most of the Versions and Fathers [and nearly all the critical editors.—J. L.]; it is wanting in B. D.3 E.2 K. L.1, and most of the minuscules.—The variation ἀνελεῖ (from Isaiah 11:4, Sept.?), for ἀναλώσει, makes no change in the sense; if Sin. a prima manu gives αναλοι [Sin.2 Thessalonians 2:0 : ανελοι] that is a corruption, holding the middle between the two readings.
2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.—[πνεύματι. Comp. the English version of Isaiah 11:4; and so very many here, including the Am. Bible Union.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.—[ἐπιφανεία̣. This word occurs six times in the New Testament—once, in reference to the Lord’s first coming; five times, in reference to His second—and is always elsewhere rendered in our Version, appearing. In the present instance E. V. follows the Bishop’s Bible. Alford and Ellicott have appearance, after Tyndale, Cranmer, Geneva; Wordsworth, Webster and Wilkinson, Am. Bible Union: manifestation.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:9.—[κατά Comp. Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 3:20; &c.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:9.—[τέρασι ψεύδους. The genitive belongs to all the three nouns.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:10.—The authorities [including Sin.1] preponderate for the simple dative, whereas the Rec. prefixes ἐν.—[τῆς before ἀδικίας is wanting in Sin.1 A. B. F. G., Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:10.—[ἐδέξαντο. See 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Exeg. Note 2.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:11.—The present πέμπει [Scholz, Schott, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Theile, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott.—J. L.] deserves the preference over the future πέμψει. Here, as in the previous instance [2 Thessalonians 2:8], Sin. a prima manu goes with the oldest authorities; the correction by a later hand, with the Elzevir.
2 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:12.—For ἅπαντες (all together), are sin. A. F. G. [Tischendorf, Alford]; for πάντες, B. D. E. L. The former is to be preferred as the rarer. [According to the American edition of Ellicott, there is in regard to the reading here an instance of the too frequent discrepancy between the Commentary and the Translation.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:12.—[κριθῶσι. Revision: “Out of 113 instances E. V. makes κρίνω κατακρίνω only in 7, including Revelation 18:20 (where see Revision, Note k); the others being John 3:17-43.3.18 (twice); Acts 13:27; Romans 14:22.”—For may, comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:16.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:12.—ἐν is given by the Codd. A. D.3 E. K. L. and Sin. a secunda manu; it is omitted (probably to conform it to τῇ .) by B. D.1 F. G. and Sin. a prima manu. [Lachmann brackets it.—J. L.]
[Alford and Ellicott partially adopt Lünemann’s suggestion. I should rather say that ὑπέρ here, instead of περί, carries with it an indication of the strong personal interest felt by the writer and his readers in their Lord’s coming. So Green, who refers also to Acts 5:41; Rom 9:29; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 8:23; &c.; Webster and Wilkinson.—J. L.]
[There is neither away nor upwards (hin oder empor) in the ἐπί, which simply “marks the point to be reached—losing its idea of superposition in that of approximation to or juxtaposition” (Ellicott). Webster and Wilkinson: “to meet Him.”—J. L.]
[Revision: “The nearest approach that our idiom allows is, when we speak of a man being driven out of his mind.”—J. L.]
[If the Thessalonians were induced to believe that the day of the Lord had really come (the proper force of ἐνέστηκεν), there would be a sufficient ground of alarm in the apparent failure in their case of the promise in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. For a careful discussion of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-53.2.2 the reader is referred to my Lectures on the Thessalonians, pp. 491–504.—J. L.]
[And so Benson, Koppe, Pelt, Webster and Wilkinson. But the best interpreters generally reject the zeugma (De Wette, Lünemann, Alford, Ellicott, &c.). In the New Testament ἀντίκειμαι is construed with the simple dative.—J. L.]
[Ellicott: “This characteristic of impious exaltation is in such striking parallelism with that ascribed by Daniel to ‘the king that shall do according to his will’ (Daniel 11:36), that we can scarcely doubt that the ancient interpreters were right in referring both to the same person,—Antichrist. The former portion of the prophecy in Daniel is apparently correctly referred to Antiochus Epiphanes, but the concluding verses (Daniel 2:36 sq.) seem only applicable to him of whom Antiochus was merely a type and shadow.”—J. L.]
[Ellicott, without excluding the figurative interpretation of Chrysostom, at the same time leans strongly to an ultimate fulfilment in a future temple (Ezekiel 37:26) at Jerusalem.—J. L.]
[Ellicott: “Simply a gen. definitions, or gen. of the characterizing principle or quality.”—J. L.]
[As Bishop Bull makes it both here and at 1 Thessalonians 2:13.—J. L.]
[That the promise in Malachi was exhausted by the ministry of the Baptist, is not quite so certain. Comp. Olshausen on the passages cited, also Judge Joel Jones’ Notes on Scripture, Philadelphia, 1861.—J. L.]
[That there is an interval of time between our Lord’s descent from the right hand of the Father into the region of the air, where His gathered saints are admitted into His presence, and His coming with them to the judgment of the nations, is not only in itself a perfectly reasonable and scriptural idea, but one of use in harmonizing the various, and at first sight apparently discrepant, descriptions of the manner of the Advent, and of the condition of the world in that day.—J. L.]
[Comp. Revision, and Lectures, on this verse.—J. L.]
[So the German versions and commentaries generally. In behalf of the other view it was remarked in Revision, that the clause κατ’ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ, “taken by itself, or at least as the leading feature in the statement, yields this fuller and more appalling intimation, that the entire coming of the Man of Sin—his spirit and aims and measures throughout—will be instinct with the energy of Satan (Chrysost.: ἄνθρωπός τις πᾶσαν αὐτοῦ δεχόμενος τὴν ἐνέργειαν: Some man receiving all Satan’s energy. So Theodor. and Œcumen.), and that, even as the Church is ‘the body of Christ, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all’ (Ephesians 1:23; comp. Ephesians 5:19; Ephesians 3:20; &c.), so in Antichrist, his masterpiece, will Satan, so to speak, exhaust himself; putting forth through him all his own resources of strength and guile, in both the spheres of his operation, the external (ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ σημείοις καὶ τέρασι ψεύδους) and the spiritual (ἐν πάσῃ ). In this regard, the Syriac is worthy of note,=Murdock: for the coming of that (evil One) is the working of Satan.”—J. L.]
[Alford likewise combines all three ideas; Ellicott hesitates between the second and third, but inclines to the last.—J. L.]
(Revision: “Looking at the passage in the light of Matthew 24:24 and 2 Corinthians 4:3, I am disposed to retain the close connection of these words with ἀπατῃ τῆς ; and then it is intimated that Antichrist, though sitting in the temple of God, and displaying his pomp and his wonders before all the worshippers, shall nevertheless succeed in deceiving only the ἀπολλύμενοι; the reasons of which success immediately follow, as they exist on man’s part (2 Thessalonians 2:10), and (2 Thessalonians 2:11) on God’s.”—J. L.]
[Alford and Ellicott: “the falsehood implied in the preceding words, οὑ ἐστὶν—ἀδικίας not falsehood generally.” Revision: “The reference may be to the ψεύδους of 2 Thessalonians 2:9 (comp. 1 John 2:21-62.2.22, ψεῦδος—ὁ ψεύστης), or possibly to that characteristic lie of Antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, in which the Satanic promise in the garden (Genesis 3:5) may be considered as finding its last and highest, but still appropriate, fulfilment.”—J. L.]
[What Paul calls “the mind” (νοῦς) in Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25 is nothing different from “the inward man” (ὃ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος) of Romans 2:22; and that is not the natural man or carnal mind (Romans 8:7), but the soul as renewed.—J. L.]
[Another allusion (see p. 336) to the sort of Millerite agitation that prevailed in some parts of Germany in 1836.—J. L.]
[In the Amer. edition of Smith’s Dictionary, now in course of publication, the article Antichrist (by Rev. Fred. Meyrick), with additions by Prof. Hackett and E. Abbot, is found in its proper alphabetical order, vol. i. p. 102–113.—P.S.]
[St. Augustine gives this simply as the opinion of others, De Civ. Dei, lib. 20. cap. 2Th 19: “Nonnulli, non ipsum principem, sed universum quodam modo corpus ejus, id est, ad eum pertinentem hominum multitudinem simul cum ipso suo principe hoc loco intelligi Antichristum volunt.”—P. S.]
[Chrysostom: καθεσθῄσεται εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, οὐ τὸν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰς τὰς πανταχοῦ ἐκκλησίας.—J. L.]
[Chrysostom’s own words are: Νέρωνα ἐνταῦθά φησιν, ὡσανεὶ τύπον ὄντα τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου.—J. L.]
 [From Luther’s hymn:
Erhalt uns, Herr, by devnem Wort,
Und steur’ des Papsts und Türken Mord, &c.—J. L.]
[For a good statement and defence of the Protestant interpretation, see Wordsworth in loc. He gives references also to some of the earlier literature of the English Church on the same side.—J. L.]
[Hammond’s notion is, that the temporary conformity of the Apostolic Church to the Jewish law, by appeasing Jewish hatred, delayed the opportunity for which the early heretics were watching, of stirring up persecution against the Christians.—J. L.]
[This idea our author properly brands as rationalistic. On the contrary, very many, who pride themselves on their evangelical orthodoxy, admire it as being what they call spiritual.—J. L.]
[Jowett’s improved method of emptying the prophecy of all Divine force and reality is simply a combination of several of the worst elements of the rationalistic interpretation with a “conjecture” of his own to the effect that the restrainer is “the Jewish law, the check on spiritual licentiousness which for a little while was holding in its chains the swarms of Jewish heretics, who were soon to be let loose and sweep over the earth”!—J. L.]
[מָחַץ ראֹשׁ, “He has smitten the head.”—J. L.]
 [This very familiar but plainly unscriptural delusion was recently asserted with characteristic frankness by America’s most popular preacher in the following terms (see the New York Independent, May 31, 1866):
“The last period is that which has just come. I know not whether the second advent of Christ is at hand, or not. I know not even what the meaning of it is. That there is to be a literal visit of Christ to the earth again they may believe who are wedded to physical interpretations of Scripture. I do not so read the Word of God. But that there is to be a power of Christ upon the earth that may be fitly called His second coming; that the world is to be so filled with His glory that no man shall have occasion to say to his fellow-men, ‘Know the Lord,’ because all shall know Him, from the greatest to the least; and that there is to be a new heaven and a new earth, in which dwell righteousness, I do profoundly believe. I believe in a glorious period of development, that is to make the world’s history as bright as noonday. What it may be, I know not; and how near we may be to it, I know not. The signs of the times are auspicious, and they all point in one way.” Comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 and Ezekiel 13:10-26.13.16.—J. L.]
[That being the import of his other name Oblias, from עָם עֹפֶל.—J. L.]
[Literally: “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me.”—J. L.]
[Sein Thun gegenüber der freien Kreatur besteht in lauter Sollizitiren der Freiheit; von Gott geht es aus, der Mensch aber kann es bejahen oder verneinen—an unguarded statement, I should say, and itself an undue softening of the plain representations of Scripture in regard to man’s spiritual bondage and helplessness. True enough, our fallen nature, which now says No to God, still retains the very same faculty of will with which it was originally endowed for the purpose of saying Yes. But, perverted and paralyzed by sin, it has never yet in any single instance since the fall said Yes, and in no single future instance will it make that response, except as, not merely solicited, but renewed, strengthened, and enabled by Divine grace. What, then, is the value of that figment of ability to please God, which, owing to the absolute and universal conditions of the case, brings forth only fruit unto death (Romans 7:5) 1. And how much better is it than inability?—J. L.]
[Untergebracht (besiegt)—the former word being scarcely now used in this sense.—J. L.]
2. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-53.2.17
Exhortation, growing out of the foregoing instruction: Christians, whom God has saved from the Antichristian ruin are the more encouraged to stand fast, and for them the Divine guardianship is besought
13But we are bound to give thanks always to God [Greet order: to God always] for you, brethren beloved of the Lord,63 because God hath from the beginning chosen you [God chose you from the beginning]64 to salvation through 14[in]65 sanctification of the Spirit and belief [faith]66 of the truth; Whereunto He called you67 by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus 15Christ. Therefore [So then],68 brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions [instructions]69 which ye have been taught [were taught, ἐδιδάχθητε], whether by word, or our epistle [by our word or epistle].70 16Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father [But may He Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ and our God and Father],71 which hath loved us, and hath given [who loved us, and gave, ὁ , καὶ δούς] us everlasting consolation and good hope through [in, ἐν] grace, 17Comfort your hearts, and stablish you [establish you]72 in every good word and work [work and word].73
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-53.2.14.) But we are bound, &c.—Paul concludes the section on the coming of Antichrist with thanksgiving for the election and salvation of the readers; with an exhortation to steadfastness; and finally with a prayer for their stability. After the serious and agitating topic, of which he had been speaking, he is the more inclined to utter a word of thanksgiving, exhortation, and comfort. Already Theophylact remarks: He now softens his address, after the words of terror. For even though the prospect of the final conflicts was of itself a matter of consolation for true believers, yet the grave question still presented itself: How shall we endure? We are bound to give thanks, he says, and so reverts to 2 Thessalonians 1:3. There he gave thanks for their steadfast faith amid persecutions from without. Now his thanksgiving is still further enlarged, the ground being salvation likewise in view of the afflictions of the last time; and he gives thanks, notwithstanding that he had to make mention of the apostasy within Christendom (2 Thessalonians 2:3). We, he writes, namely Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy [Jowett, Conybeare, Webster and Wilkinson: Paul alone]; most say: in opposition to the perishing, 2 Thessalonians 2:10, who fall away to Antichrist. But this antithesis does not come out right; a suitable contrast to the perishing would be the Thessalonians, not the preachers of the gospel. Theophylact perceives this, and therefore remarks: “If we give thanks for you, how much more are ye bound to do so!” It is better, therefore, to understand the matter with Hofmann, thus: Over against the Antichristian deception which God will send (and which, as an active mystery of iniquity, has already begun), we, the preachers of the gospel, give thanks for what He is now working by us, to save you from the coming judgment, and we the more give thanks, when we see how the way of this judgment is already preparing.—Brethren beloved of the Lord, this is his anchor-ground; here is his comforting assurance: Those grievous sinners cannot hurt you. In 1 Thessalonians 1:4 the word is ὑπὸ θεοῦ, which is given here only by D.1 Vulg.; Sin. and A., τοῦ καυρίου; most, κυρίου without the article; which is here distinguished from θεός before and after, and yet one with the Father: Christ; in opposition to Antichrist, to whom the others fall away. In the former place Paul gave thanks for their ἐκλογή, here in the same sense: ὅτι εἵλατο ὑμᾶς (this Alexandrian form, instead of the Rec. εἵλετο is given by nearly all the uncials). For you, which is now more fully explained: to wit, that74 God chose you. Elsewhere Paul says ἐκλέγεσθαι, to select for one’s self; only here, αἱρεῖσθαι, to choose, that is, for something, here εἰς σωτηρίαν; in the Septuagint the word is not of rare occurrence; for example, Deuteronomy 21:18, of the choosing of the people of God. Instead of ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, Hofmann also prefers the reading ἀπαρχήν, which cannot be understood as in Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:15. Lünemann observes that the Thessalonians could not be so called, since they were neither generally, nor even in Macedonia merely, the first that believed. This reading is one of the considerations by which Grotius would support his strange hypothesis, that the Epistle was addressed to Christians from Judea. Hofmann, according the reference to earlier or later conversion, finds here simply the idea of firstfruits consecrated to God, in opposition to the mass of the profane, and compares Revelation 14:4. But the reading is too feebly supported. We therefore adhere to ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, from the beginning. Is this, however, to be taken relatively, or absolutely? Such as prefer the former idea understand it as Zwingli: ab initio prædicationis, amongst you, or in Macedonia generally. Nor can it be positively required that in this case there should have been an addition like that in Philippians 4:15 (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου); for even without any addition the expression has this signification at 1 John 2:7; 1 John 2:24. But certainly the connection there favors this view, as it does not here; for even to say, that the phrase is to be explained in opposition to the last things, does not suggest this limitation: in the beginning of the gospel. Moreover, the expression so understood would imply that the time, when Paul wrote, was already considerably remote from the time when the church was founded. Calvin remarks still further, that he meant to furnish a ground of consolation, which should be available, not merely for those converted at the commencement of preaching, but for all the elect. But the decisive consideration is this, that that restriction does not suit εἵλατο. God’s election is eternal, and only the accomplishment of it by means of the call takes place in time. It is therefore equivalent to from eternity, as we men can form a conception of that; so far as we can go back in thought; or to πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (Ephesians 1:4; comp. 2 Timothy 1:9). Ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς is similarly used in 1 John 1:1; 1 John 2:13; Isaiah 43:13 Sept.; and thus it is understood by Calvin, Bengel, and the moderns generally. He hath chosen us to salvation, in opposition to those who received not the truth that they might be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10). In the subsequent ἐν ἁγ. alongside of εἰς De Wette would find an indication of the nearest object (1 Thessalonians 4:7): to sanctification; but in this way the change of the preposition would be ill accounted for. The ἐν, &c. cannot belong to εἵλατο, since the objective purpose of free grace is not conditioned by the subjective process in us. Even Lünemann’s view, that it belongs to the whole of εἵλατο εἰς σωτηρίαν, and denotes the means through which the past election to eternal salvation should be realized, is liable to the same objection: It is not the election, but the being saved, that is accomplished in sanctification; Hofmann: The choosing does not need this means. In is instrumental—equivalent to by means of, as already Chrysostom explains ἐν by διά, and has a close connection with εἰς σωτηρίαν, as Theophylact intimates: ἔσωσεν ὑμᾶς, ἁγιάσας διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος.75 Sanctification is now inwardly the aim of the Divine counsel towards us (1 Thessalonians 4:3), in opposition to the having pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:12); it is the way likewise to the future outward δόξα (2 Thessalonians 2:14). But how are the two following genitives to be understood? ἀληθείας must be a genitive of the object, as in Philippians 1:27; but πνεύματος is not essentially so co-ordinate as that the parallelism could force us to understand that genitive in the same way. Were πνεύματος also a genitive of the object, it would denote man’s own spirit, which is to be sanctified through the operation of the Holy Ghost, and then rule the whole man. It would be strange, however, and contrary to 1 Thessalonians 5:23, that the spirit alone should be designated as the object of sanctification. And since even so the parallelism would not be at all a conclusive one, it is better to give it up entirely, and regard πν. (with Theophylact, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, and most of the moderns) as a genitive of the author: in sanctification proceeding from the (Holy) Spirit (1 Peter 1:2); and faith of the (Divine) truth, the latter clause being opposed to belief of the lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11). It is unsuitable to explain ἀληθείας as an adjective: in true faith (Chrysostom, Pelt). Olshausen makes a great difficulty of the fact, that the first thing in order (faith) here follows after, and therefore thinks we must here understand that faith perfected in judgment, which already presupposes sanctification; similarly Chrysostom, Theophylact: Even after sanctification we require much faith, that we may not fall away from it. But it is simpler to understand with Lünemann, that the objective, the working of the Holy Spirit (whose final aim in this world is sanctification), is followed by the subjective, the receptivity of faith for the Holy Spirit’s operation; faith following on ἁγιασμός, as the first thing that the Holy Spirit works, and as the way to the achievement of sanctification. [Webster and Wilkinson: No precedence of time, or sequence of cause and effect is to be inferred from the order of the clauses;
cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11. Holiness which is ascribed and is due to the immediate action of the Holy Spirit, is also produced instrumentally by belief. And belief is the result of the Holy Spirit’s influence upon the heart, an influence which changes and sanctifies.—J. L.] The truth is to be understood here in its highest perfection, as in John 14:6; John 18:37; whoever is faithful in the first principles of truth, is then open to the voice of truth in its perfection. The contrast to this is, that ἀδικία, on the other hand, rushes into bondage under falsehood (2 Thessalonians 2:11).—Whereunto He called you; it is not said εἰς ἣν (πίστιν, or some such word), but εἰς ὅ, so as to embrace all that precedes; whereunto, namely, to this σωθῆναι ἐν ἁγ. καὶ πίστ. (Lünemann). The γαλεῖν is the carrying out of the εἵλατο; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.—By our gospel, our preaching of the glad tidings (1 Thessalonians 1:5); the gospel which we proclaim (to that extent only, ours; Romans 2:16). [Burkitt: “It is also a word of esteem, love, and affection; what we love, we call ours.”—J. L.] This is the historic condition; how can they believe, if there be no preaching? (Romans 10:14.) Now follows a second εἰς, an explanatory apposition to εἰς ὅ,76 or the final object of faith and sanctification—a distinction of no importance, and depending merely on whether we understand the σώζεσθαι, contained substantially in εἰς ὅ, in a narrower or a comprehensive sense. At all events the Apostle is now speaking of the final consummation of the σωτηρία: to the obtaining, acquisition, taking possession, of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; to a participation therein, to be glorified with Him. So we are to understand περιποίησις (comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:9), with Grotius, Olshausen, De Wette, Lünemann, Ewald, Hofmann. Incorrectly Luther [Calvin, and others. See the Revision on this verse, Note e.—J. L.]: for a glorious possession of Christ, namely, that we should become so; but it is not well to sink δόξης to a merely adjectival idea, and in the explanation of περιπ. to vary from 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Paul does not mean merely: Thy purchased heritage, but: Thy purchased heir am I. Still more unsuitable is the explanation of Chrysostom, Theophylact [Vatablus, Corn, a Lapide], and others: to acquire glory for Christ, the glory of Christ, the Friend of man, consisting in the salvation of many. The thought would be a beautiful one, but in that case we must have had τῷ κυρίῳ. What Paul says is rather in substance the same as in Romans 5:2; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:21; John 17:22 sqq. (participation in the life of Christ’s glorification). Such is the description of the final consummation of the redemptive work: the receiving of spiritual life, powerful, and exempt from death. That will be the crowning of the last stage—of sanctification, namely—that is aimed at in the unglorified, earthly life. The destiny thus promised to the Thessalonians is confirmed by the exhortation that follows.
2. (2 Thessalonians 2:15.) So then, brethren, stand [fast]; since such an end awaits you, and God overlooks nothing that concerns you, do you your part. Encouragement (by a thankful recognition of the good that exists) and exhortation stand always together in reciprocal relation. [Webster and Wilkinson: The most assured hope of salvation does not render exertion and admonition unnecessary; on the contrary, the exhortation to steadfastness and watchfulness here follows as an inference from the assertion of certain safety.—J. L.] Stand fast (1 Thessalonians 3:8) in the conflict; opposed to the σαλευθῆναι of 2 Thessalonians 2:2; and hold (the same word in Mark 7:3, of the Pharisees), nil addentes, nil detrahentes, Bengel; in order to personal steadfastness it is required to hold fast the traditions [instructions]; Luther: Satzungen [statutes]; Zwingli: institution; Calvin rightly: not merely external discipline, but whatever was offered to you in doctrine and precept for knowledge and practice. We are not to think so much of transmission from fathers to children, as of the delivery of that which the Apostle had received for them from God; comp. παρέδωκα of Christ’s death on the cross, 1 Corinthians 15:3; of the Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:23; τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε (as here κρατεῖτε), 1 Corinthians 11:2.—Which ye were taught (comp. Winer, § 32. 5); whether by word (at first, oral preaching) or by epistle (the subsequent confirmation) of us; ἡμῶν belongs to both substantives, word and epistle denoting merely two different forms for the same substance, and εἴτε—εἴτε showing the closeness of the connection (1 Corinthians 13:8); Zwingli: quæcunque docui sive præsens, sive absens. By δι’ ἐπιστ. without the article is denoted not any single particular epistle, but the one method of instruction over against the other; not merely therefore the First Epistle, though, of course, the expression suits that in the first instance, but they should also hold what they were taught in this Second Epistle, and, should he follow it with a third, they were to lay that likewise to heart, and generally to give heed also to the epistolary instruction (comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:27), holding fast whatever in word or writing really comes from him, and is not merely ascribed to him falsely, as that letter of 2 Thessalonians 2:2.
3. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-53.2.17.) But may He Himself, &c.—The Apostle concludes the section with a benediction, as at 1 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23. He Himself, not merely we, who taught you; not merely you, whom we exhort: στήκετε.—Our Lord Jesus Christ and our God and Father; Father, that is, through Christ. Commmonly the Apostle follows the reverse order; but here he goes back from Christ (who is for us also possessor of the glory that was last spoken of) to the Father, the ultimate ground of all blessedness, the ultimate Source of all exhortation, comfort, and confirmation. Theodoret (in the interest of the controversy with Arius) finds herein a proof, that the sequence of the names is no indication of a difference of dignity77—Who loved us (all Christians) and gave us everlasting consolation (flowing from this love). The root of all is the unmerited love of God; the aorist denotes the historical proof of love, the work of redemption (comp. Ephesians 2:4; John 3:16; 1 John 4:10); the same thing is said of Christ, Galatians 2:20 [Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25], The everlasting consolation is by Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others, improperly taken as synonymous with hope; Pelt interprets it of the everlasting blessedness (Luke 6:24; Luke 16:25 : to be comforted). The latter is no doubt the highest end, but too far from being a present attainment, and still too tautological with what follows. Properly to distinguish it from that, we understand by everlasting consolation something real, now already present, which makes us of good courage now under the distress of the present time; not so personal, as in Zwingli’s explanation: quæ est ista consolatio? Christus Jesus; but yet a benefit now already granted us in Christ, and showing itself to be an inexhaustible source of joy; namely, reconciliation with God as the foundation of all further hope.78 With this the hope of the consummation of glory is connected also in Romans 5:1-45.5.2; and the same truth in a somewhat different combination is expressed likewise in Romans 8:28 sqq.—And good hope; with which should be compared the blessed hope of Titus 2:13, in heaven, Colossians 1:5, which non-Christians, the heathen especially, do not have, 1 Thessalonians 4:13.—In grace, without merit of ours, is best referred to δούς, not so well (with De Wette, Lünemann [Castalio, Estius]) to both participles (it being less suited to ἀγαπ.). This is the foundation of his confident intercession: Such a God is ours, and in accordance with this His disposition I am able to desire for you, that He may comfort your hearts; for the two subjects the verb stands only in the singular (1 Thessalonians 3:11); the two are one, even in the innermost and most glorious operations of grace. Herein shines the Divinity of Christ; it is not possible that the name of any man could be so often joined with the name of God. It is better here to understand the calling to [zusprechen, παρακαλέσαι] on the side of comforting encouragement, than on that of exhortation [as in 1 Thessalonians 3:2; see there Exegetical Note 5.—J. L.]; the question is about their holding faith, and being free from fear and anxiety (2 Thessalonians 2:2), even in view of the aggravation of their afflictions; comp. Psalms 119:32.Psalms 119:79—[ Ellicott: “The Apostle does not say merely ὑμᾶς, but ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας (comp. Colossians 2:2); it was the καρδία, the seat of their feelings and affections, … the καρδία that was so full of hope and fear about the future, that the Apostle prayed might receive comfort.”—J. L.]—And establish, &c.; if we do not read ὑμᾶς, it is simplest to regard the preceding καρδίας as still the object; it is less natural to supply in thought, with Lünemann [and most others; see Critical Note 10.—J. L.], a ὑμᾶς out of ὑμῶν. May He strengthen [establish] them, that your sanctification may be perfected, and ye be not entangled in the apostasy of Christendom.—In every good work and word; not by work and word [Chrysostom, Theophylact, Bengel], to wit, God’s work and God’s word; but with this παντί does not well agree, and ἀγαθῷ still less; since in that case no distinction would be necessary between good and bad. The adjective belongs to both substantives, not, as Luther translates, in every doctrine and good work. Nor is λόγος properly restricted to the idea of doctrine, as Calvin too would have it: sana doctrina, and Pelt, because, he says, it so stands at 2 Thessalonians 2:15. But there the connection is different, the parallel member in this instance being ἔργῳ, which comprehends every action, and so does λόγῳ likewise (especially with παντί) every good word; Zwingli: bonus sermo. Doctrine is a part of that. The order, word and work, would be ascensive; in the more strongly supported reading work has the precedence as being the main thing; that must speak first of all. May God strengthen you in every good work wherein you are engaged (in opposition to unrighteousness), and then also in every good word, of truth, faith, love (in opposition to falsehood); when it comes from the bottom of the heart, and corresponds to the work, it is itself a work, yea, the criterion of perfectness (James 3:2).
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-53.2.14.) On election, see at 1 Thessalonians 1:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-52.5.24. There is no question of a capricious preference of one, and disregard of another; such partial views are not taken by faith as faith; rather, in those who believe the consciousness prevails, that their salvation is not at all founded on their own merit. A faith even, which should be ever looking only at itself, would for that very reason be constantly threatened again with disturbance and agitation. Assurance is maintained only by going out from self, and casting one’s self on the everlasting love and grace, whose purpose from the beginning, before the creation of the world, was the salvation of believers. Excellently Rieger: In the description of the most formidable troubles eternal election is often introduced as the shelter of the saints, Matthew 24:22; Matthew 24:31; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8. But that which comes first is not the triumphal song of Romans 8:0, but the way of righteousness (Romans 1-7). Election provides a secret deposit; sanctification is election disclosed; and the root of that is faith in the truth.80 But how does one become sure of his election? Rieger: The purpose is seen in its accomplishment; the building shows the plan.—Calvin: Because we are unable to penetrate into the secret counsel of God, that we may there become certain of our salvation, He gives us more accessible tokens and pledges of our election, to wit, in our sanctification by His Spirit, and our illumination in order to faith in His gospel,—Böhl: The Second Helvetic Confession (Vienna, 1864), p. 2Th 19: It is in the way that we are to discover, whether we are on the way; we should not torment ourselves and others with the inquiry, whether even before the foundation of the world we were put on this way; we are rather to examine ourselves whether we have the way beneath our feet; and Christ is that way.—For the same reason we are not at liberty to place a false reliance on a donum perseverantiæ, as if we could be sure of any such thing out of Christ. The following admonition to steadfastness (comp. 2 Peter 1:10) is seriously meant, and so is the benediction with which the section concludes.
2. (2 Thessalonians 2:15.) This verse is one of the words, by which of old (as early as Chrysostom) it was proposed to show the equal authority of oral tradition alongside of Scripture. But when John Damascene with this amongst others defends the worship of images, we have a striking instance of pretended tradition in conflict with Scripture. It is indeed clear, and no one contests it, that Christ did and spake many things that are not recorded, and in like manner that the preaching of the Apostles was first of all oral, which was then fixed and ascertained by writing; of course, in a short Epistle like ours, only very partially, still so as to guard against misapprehension and deterioration of doctrine. If then it is said that we are to believe also oral tradition, we answer: Yes, when its apostolic origin and character are proved to us. But this very chapter shows us, how quickly the oral teaching was forgotten (2 Thessalonians 2:5), and was subjected to misconceptions or even falsifications (2 Thessalonians 2:2), so that it needed to be corrected and certified. The evangelist John also says (John 20:30-43.20.31), that Jesus truly did many things which are not written, but that the preceding selection was written for the confirmation of faith in the Son of God, and of life in that faith. For this, therefore, the written word is a sufficient source, and for whatever claims to be apostolic the only authentic rule. But can that be a genuine tradition, which contradicts the written gospel? Paul knows simply a double form for one and the same substance, nothing of additions that introduce a new and heterogeneous substance. In point of fact, there is beside the Bible no well-attested tradition. Zwingli: Paul, however, had taught nothing else but the gospel of Jesus Christ. Calvin: When Paul will cast no snare on the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:35), how do they pretend to give out all their self-made ordinances as of equal dignity with the Pauline? Heubner: Paul does not say, that the tenor of the oral teaching was different from that of the written. [Macknight: No doctrines merit the name of traditions in the Scripture sense of the word, but such as were taught by the Apostles of Christ, or by other spiritual men, who received them by immediate revelation from Him.—J. L.]—It must be considered, on the other hand, how emphatically the Apostle here asserts the authority of his written word. It is no dead letter, but a seed-corn that is quickened in every susceptible heart. We know also that generally the written word is still more carefully weighed than that which is spoken. Many have an unintelligent aversion to all authority. They confound it with coercion and bondage. But authority is such an ascendency as rests on intellectual preëminence,81 commends itself to rational conviction, and educates the obedient into true freedom. The mere fact that men are not self-created, implies that they cannot be absolutely autonomous; to say nothing of sinners, who need redemption. The true freedom is that with which the Son makes free (John 8:36), and the means to this emancipation is holding fast His word in the obedience of faith. The highest freedom and joy is to live and move in the word of truth.
3. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-53.2.17.) Evangelical comfort is something different from a transient and essentially vain feeding with illusions. Christ and His Apostles seem first to trouble the hearts of those whom they comfort, and show them that there may come a much severer experience than the frivolous mind imagines, but that all comes from God and for the promotion of His kingdom. To have God for ours, throughout even the hardest fortune, such is the everlasting consolation of the gospel. We must not at once think of the worst, that it will not turn out so bad; this is to comfort with unwholesome vanities, after the manner of the world. Such theoretical optimists readily become, when things go ill, practical pessimists, and in their despair disgracefully lay down their arms. It is better to be theoretically a pessimist, prepared for the worst, and practically through the grace of God an optimist, confident even in the worst.—[ Jowett: The Greek philosopher would have spoken of wisdom as an ἰάτρεια ψυχῆς, as we speak of the gospel as remedial to the ills of human nature. St. Paul uses stronger language; with him the gospel is a consolation. Within and without, the Christian is suffering in this evil world. The gospel makes him sensible of this state, and at the same time turns his sorrow into joy.… Romans 15:5; 2 Corinthians 1:3.—J. L.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Thessalonians 2:13. Rieger: With every contemplation of what the enemy has done and will yet do, the servants of God nevertheless lose not their joy in God’s husbandry [Matthew 13:25; Matthew 13:28; 1 Corinthians 3:9]; they are merely driven the more under the wings of God’s grace.—Heubner: The election of a man to salvation is for others also a subject of thanksgiving.—Diedrich: Allow thyself to be sanctified in faith, and it is certain that thou art eternally chosen.—Chrysostom: Not by works, not by righteous conduct, but by faith of the truth do we attain to salvation.—Stockmeyer: So we resist not this will of God, but yield ourselves to it, who shall be able to hinder its being carried through to a glorious issue?—Berlenb. Bibel: They who perish are ruined, not because they are absolutely rejected, but because they have no care for the truth. Believers are preserved, not because they deserve it, but because they cleave earnestly to God. Whoever concerns himself about the truth, so as to lay hold on God, is saved. But whoever meddles with God’s word, and that not rightly, is only made worse by it.—[ Burkitt: 1. Election is to the means as well as to the end. 2. Sanctification and holiness, not the cause of our election, but the effect and fruit of it. 3. Sanctification being the fruit, it is also the evidence of our election. 4. The necessary connection between the sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:14. Zwingli: The gospel is God’s alone; but ofttimes God communicates to us what is His. Paul could say that the gospel was his, as regards service and office.—Diedrich: Whatever Jesus has, that according to the will of the Father is also to be wholly ours.
2 Thessalonians 2:15. Over against the Antichristian deception, it concerns us to abide the more firmly by the word; only by the word can we overcome, as Christ overcame; Matthew 4:0.—[M. Henry: He doth not say, Ye are chosen to salvation, and therefore ye may be careless and secure; but therefore stand fast. Comp. 1 John 2:27-62.2.28.—Lectures: An unwavering adherence to apostolic teaching is at once the great manifestation, and an essential condition, of Christian stability.—J. L.]
[Whitby: How can she (the Church of Rome) be relied on as a sure preserver and true teacher of (unwritten) traditions, which hath confessedly (Anselm, Estius) lost one of great moment (2 Thessalonians 2:5-53.2.6), deposited with the Thessalonians, and the primitive Church?—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:15-53.2.17. Stockmeyer: There is no success without our own earnest willing and doing, nor without our own pains and labor; but the power which worketh in us both to will and to do is the Lord’s. For this reason also, the Apostle is able to express what he had on his heart, in behalf of those who had become believing Christians, in a twofold manner, as an exhortation, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and again as a benediction and intercession, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-53.2.17. The one does not exclude the other. The one is possible only through the other.
2 Thessalonians 2:16. There is mention of a good hope also in Proverbs 10:28; Proverbs 11:23.82—[Lectures: Good, because of the preëminent excellence of the object of it, the impregnable basis on which it rests, and the purifying influence which it exerts in the heart and life.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:16-53.2.17. Roos: Whoever has no experience of the love of God, and has obtained no consolation reaching into eternity, and no good hope through grace, on that man no doctrine and no exhortation to good works has any hold. When God comforts, He strengthens the soul, and when He strengthens, He comforts it.—[M. Henry: 1. Comfort is a means of establishment; for the more pleasure we take in the word, and work, and ways of God, the more likely we shall be to persevere therein. And, 2. our establishment in the ways of God is a likely means in order to comfort; whereas if we are wavering in faith, and of a doubtful mind, or if we are halting and faltering in our duty, no wonder if we are strangers to the pleasures and joys of religion. What is it that lieth at the bottom of all our uneasiness, but our unsteadiness in religion?—J. L.]—Heubner: The consolation of Christianity is an everlasting consolation, true, certain, satisfying, a consolation of salvation; the consolation of the world is a spurious, pitiful consolation, which leads the deeper into perdition. God alone can put comfort into the heart, penetrating and abiding. Here is comfort: God loves thee, God chooses thee, God keeps thee.—Berlenb. Bibel: The everlasting consolation is a permanent, new-created life of the spirit, implanted amidst the anguish of suffering in truly following Jesus Christ, and so not liable to death or destruction.
2 Thessalonians 2:17. Word and walk must always go together.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-53.2.17. The good assurance of an evangelical preacher in behalf of his converts rests entirely, in its beginning, middle, and end, on God: 1. Eternal election, fulfilling itself in time in the call to faith and sanctification, makes the beginning; 2. the exhortation to steadfastness in apostolic truth forms the middle; 3. the end can be prosperous only by God carrying out in His everlasting faithfulness the work that He has begun.
2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.—[Sin.1 A.: ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.—[ εἵλατο—so nearly all the critical editors (on large uncial authority, including Sin.), instead of the Rec. εἵλετο—ὑμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ’ ἀρχῆς.—J. L.] We retain the Rec. ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, which, besides A. D. E. K. L. and most of the Fathers, is given also by the Sin. The reading ἀπαρχήν, B. F. G., Vulg. primitias [Lachmann], is an (unnecessary) attempt at alleviation; see the exposition.—[Sin.¹ D.¹: εἵλ. ἡμᾶς.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.—[ἐν; comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:7, and see the exposition.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.—[ πίστει with the genitive of the object. Revision: “See E. V, Mark 11:22; Acts 3:16. Nowhere else, out of two or three hundred instances, does E. V. render πίστις, belief.”—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:14.—The connection requires ὑμᾶς, which, besides many other authorities, is retained also by Sin.; itacism led in A. B. D.¹ to the reading ἡμᾶς [Lachmann.—Sin. F. G.: εἰς ὅ καὶ ἐκ.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15.—[ ἄρα οὖν. See 1 Thessalonians 5:6. Critical Note 9.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15.—[ παραδόσεις; Riggenbach: Ueberlieferungen. Revision: “Campbell: ‘The word tradition with us imports, as the English lexicographer rightly explains it, “anything delivered orally from age to age;” whereas παράδοσις properly implies, “anything handed down from former ages, in whatever way it has been transmitted, whether by oral or by written testimony; or even any instruction conveyed to others, either by word or by writing.” In this last acceptation we find it used in … 2 Thessalonians 2:15.’ ”—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15.—[ διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι’ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν=by word or by epistle of us. Ellicott (Am. Bible Union): by word, or by our epistle (letter). But the ἡμῶν belongs to both nouns.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:16.—[ αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς καὶ ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ ἡμῶν. The grammatical construction is the same as in 1 Thessalonians 3:11, where see Critical Note 8, and Exegetical Notes 9, 10.—J. L.] The reading καὶ θεός without ὁ seems to connect θεός as another predicate for Christ with the previous κύριος; but the most important authorities that omit the article before θεός (B. D.¹) read for it afterwards ὁ πατήρ instead of καὶ πατἠρ, so that even this reading gives no different sense from the Recepta. [Lachmann reads thus: ὁ χριστὸς καὶ (ὁ) θεὸς ὁ πατήρ; Sin.¹ thus: Ἰησ. Χρ. καὶ ὁ θεὸς ὁ πατήρ ἡμῶν; and a correction cancels the letter ὁ.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:17.—The majority of the oldest codd. [including Sin.] versions and Fathers [and modern critics] omit ὑμᾶς after στηρίξαι, so that to this verb τὰς καρδίας also belongs as object [to which Alford properly objects that these are not the agents in ἔργον and λόγος.—For ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας, Sin., as A., reads τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν.—J. L.]
2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:17.—The preponderance of authorities (also Sin.) is in favor of the order, ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ [and so nearly all the critical editors], instead of the reverse order of the Recepta.
[So Riggenbagh, with many others (as Luther, Lünemann, De Wette, Ellicott, &c.), prefers to render the ὅτι.—J. L.]
[Ellicott: “The prep. ἐν may be instrumental (Chrysost., Lünem., al.) but is perhaps more naturally taken in its usual sense as denoting the spiritual state in which the εἵλατο εἰς σωτηρίαν was realized.” Webster and Wilkinson: “ἐν ἁγ. following εἵλ. indicates that their present state, character, and qualification for future blessedness, are the effect of God’s choice, involved in it, as part of His original purpose of grace towards them. So in 2 Peter 1:1-61.1.2. And see Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4-49.1.6.”—J. L.]
[Better this, than to call it with Ellicott “a more exact specification of the preceding εἰς σωτηρίαν.”—J. L.]
[Chrysostom employs the same argument.—J. L.]
[Lectures, p. 2Th 552: “Who laved us. This is sometimes restricted to God the Father” (Lünemann, Ellicott), “and to His act of sending the Son to save us” (Lünemann, Riggenbach). “I prefer to understand it of the eternal love—the love ‘from the beginning’ of both the Father and the Son. (To this the singular is no objection, since this very anomaly is admitted in the next verse.) And then the latter half of the verse refers to the manifestation and effects of that love in time: and gave us, in the finished redemption of the cross, in the forgiveness of sin, in the presence of the Comforter, &c.” The same distinction will be found applicable to nearly all the texts cited above.—J. L.]
[Luther’s somewhat free translation of the latter clause of that verse being: Wenn du mein Herz tröstest, dost comfort, &c.”—J. L.]
[In this is implied, what Scripture no doubt teaches, that election is the Divine root of faith. See 2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 6:37; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-45.8.30; Eph 2:8; 1 Peter 1:2; &c.—J. L.]
[In things pertaining to God, on a Divine commission.—J. L.]
[Luther’s version of the latter text: Der Gerechten Wansch muss doch wonl gerathen.—J. L.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent