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Bible Commentaries

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT

2 Thessalonians 1

Verse 1

These two verses contain the inscription of this epistle in the very same words with the former, in the foregoing epistle.

In which observe, 1. The writer of the epistle, St. Paul, joining himself with his two assocites, Silvanus or Silas, and Timotheus or Timothy.

2. To whom it was written, To the church of the Thessalonians, in God the Father, that is, established in the knowledge of God the Father, and in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. The usual salutation, Grace and peace, under which are comprehended all spiritual and temporal blessings: and these are set forth as flowing to us; first, from their fountain, God the Father: secondly, from their means of conveyance, Jesus Christ, as Mediator; intimating, that whatever spiritual grace or temporal blessing we now receive from God, we have it from him, not barely, as a Creator, but as a Father, as a gracious Father in Christ, in and through whom all kinds of blessings are conveyed to us.

Now, 1. From St. Paul's using the very same form of words in this epistle, which he had made use of in the former, we may observe, That the Holy Spirit of God, in inditing of the scriptures, did not so much regard variety of words and style, as the purpose intended by those words; and accordingly the ministers of Christ, in the expounding and explaining of the scriptures, should rather study solidity of matter, than variety of expression, or elegance of style; it was none of the apostle's business, God grant that it may be none of ours, to please the wanton wits and gratify the luxuriant fancies of men, with a pompous sound of words; but solidly to instruct them in the great and necessary duties of the gospel, and to furnish them with the strongest arguments and motives to a good life. Plain truths, without any art or varnish, may be conveyed with more warmth and vigour to the conscience,than all the charms of human eloquence from the most fluent and popular tongue. But though we must come in plainness, yet not in rudeness of speech.

Note, 2. From St. Paul's writing this epistle to the Thessalonians, when he ws providentially hindered in his purpose of coming to them, and preaching amongst them, we may learn, That as the wisdom of God has appointed several means for the edification of his church, sometimes preaching, at other times writing, so the ministers of Christ are obliged and bound to endeavour the church's edification by all means: when they cannot do it by public preaching, to endeavour it by writing: and when they can by both, their labours from the press, and from the pulpit, should be jointly employed in the church's service.

Verse 3

Observe here, 1. The holy wisdom and pious prudence of our apostle, who being about to magnify and extol the graces of the Spirit wrought in the Thessalonians, particularly their faith and charity, instead of commending them for these graces, he breaks forth into praises and thanksgivings unto God for them: We thank God that your faith groweth exceedingly, and that the charity of every one of you aboundeth. His business was not to celebrate the praises and commendations of them, but to admire the special grace of God conferred upon them, and conspicuous in them.

Learn hence, that as it is our duty, it will be or great wisdom and prudence, so to speak of the graces of God, which we see and observe in others, as that they may not be puffed up with any conceit of their own excellences, but see matter of praise and thanksgiving due unto God only; and nothing to themselves.

Note, 2. The special and particular graces which St. Paul, observed in the Thessalonians: their faith, and their charity, together with the evidence of the sincerity of these graces namely, that their faith was a growing faith, their love an abounding and overflowing love: Your faith groweth exceedingly, and your love aboundeth,

Learn hence, That as the saving graces of faith and love do admit of degrees, and do not come to their height and perfection at once; so all other graces do either increase or decrease, grow or fade, together with these; vigour or decay of these cardinal graces have an answerable influence upon all our other graces.

But how did St. Paul know that their faith did thus grow?

Ans. He knew the increase of their faith by their constancy in sufferings.

Note, 3. Our apostle doth not barely commend these graces of faith and love, which were found in the Thessalonians, but he makes an holy boast of them, he glories in them, and excites other churches to a praise-worthy imitation of them; We glory in you in the churches of God.

But for what?

Even for your courage and patience under sufferings, persecutions, afflictions, and tribulations, for the sake of Christianity, and for your constancy in the faith of Christ.

Learn hence, 1. That persecutions, afflictions, and tribulations, for the sake of Christianity, (when maintained, especially in the power of it,) are the common lot of God's faithful children and servants.

Learn, 2. That it is the highest glory of a Christian to bear afflictions, and undergo persecutions, for the sake of the gospel, with and undaunted courage and an invincible patience.

Learn, 3. That it is not unlawful, but sometimes necessary and expedient, for a minister to glory in his people; not in their multitude, nor in their riches, not in their greatness, nor in their high estimation of his person and abilities, but in the eminent graces of God's Holy Spirit in them, and in the great services and sufferings undergone by them: We glory in you for your patience and faith, in and under all the persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.

Verse 5

As if he had said, " Which tribulations and persecutions, or which patience under your present persecutons, is a sign and token, yea, and evidence and manifestation, that God, the righteous judge, will reward you with a part and share in that kingdom for which you suffer, being in his account worthy of it: not with a worthiness of merit, but with a worthiness of meetness, they being made meet and fit for heaven hereafter by their patience and constancy under sufferings and persecutions here."

Learn hence, That as none can enjoy the kingdom of heaven by meriting heaven, but by being made meet for heaven; so patience under sufferings and reproaches, under persecutions and sharp trials, is a special qualification to make us meet for the enjoyment of that glorious kingdom: That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.

Verse 6

Our apostle had shown in the foregoing verse, that their patience under persecution was a manifest evidence of God's intending them a portion of that kingdom, for which they suffered persecution; now in this verse he denounces the persecutor's doom upon them, namely, That the righteous nature of God did oblige him to recompense tribulation, and to repay trouble, to all such as did trouble them, and unkindly persecute them for righteousness' sake.

Learn thence, That as persecutors generally do continue finally impenitent, so the heaviest stroke of divine vengeance shall fall on such, in the day of God's most righteous judgment: It is a righteous thing with God to render tribulation to them that trouble you.

Verse 7

That is,"As God will certainly punish your persecutors, so he will ere long give rest to you his sufferers, together with us who are companions with you in the same sufferings; you that are troubled shall have rest with us, his persecuted apostles: you shall have rest as well as we, and you shall have rest together with us."

Blessed be God that there is a day undoubtedly coming, when all the troubles of his people shall be ended indeed, and all his suffering saints shall be fully and finally rewarded for all their services and sufferings; and this distribution of rewards and punishments shall be in the presence of the whole world, at the great day, for the glory of divine justice. Then all those, who doubt or complain of God's justice, shall awfully admire and adore it. To you that are troubled, rest with us.

Where note, 1. That the present time is a time of trouble to the people of God: their time of rest hereafter.

2. That Almighty God alloweth his troubled saints a liberty to comfort themselves with the expectation and hope, that their troubles shall shortly end, and their everlasting rest begin.

3. That it addeth much to the excellency of that rest which the troubled saints expect, that it shall be enjoyed, not by a few of the most eminent sufferers, but by all of them: All you that are troubled shall rest with us.; with us apostles, with all the prophets and faithful servants of God.

Hail, happy day! when all the saints shall sing and rejoice together; when there shall be not one wicked person among them to damp their mirth, or to diminish their joy. How desirable is the communion of saints here! How happy do they esteem themselves when they can get together by themselves! But how joyful will the time and place be, when they get to heaven, where none shall interrupt their quiet, nothing shall disturb their rest! God will recompense tribulation to them that trouble you: and to you who are troubled, rest with us.

When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In these words we have an awful description of the day of judgment, and of the process of that solemn day.

Where observe, 1. The judge described, The Lord Jesus, he shall be revealed from heaven: since his ascension, the heavens have contained him, and concealed him also from our sight and senses; but he shall then visibly appear, and locally descend from the highest heavens into the region of the air. He shall come in the clouds, and every eye shall see him.

Observe, 2. His noble attendants; the mighty angels, every one stronger than an host of armed men. As the work Christ comes about is a great and mighty work, so he will have instruments strong and mighty, sufficient for that work; yet doth Christ make use of the angels, not for necessity, but for majesty, he can do his work without them.

Observe, 3. The manner of his coming: in flaming fire, by which the heavens and the earth shall be burnt up, and in which the damned shall be eternally tormented.

Observe, 4. The end of his coming: to take vengeance on the ignorant, and on the disobedient, on such as knew not God, and on them that do know, but obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Learn hence, 1. That it greatly tends to the comfort and support of persecuted Christians, that Christ their righteous judge will come: He shall be revealed, and nobly attended; he shall come as an exalted king, accompanied with a glorious train of mighty angels.

Learn, 2. That the dread and terror of the day of judgment, will be matter of comfort to the godly, no ways terrifying. Those very flames which shall set the heavens and the earth in a blaze, and occasion dreadful consternation and fear to the wicked and impenitent world, shall be a comfortable sight to the godly, and the fore-thoughts of them may and should yield comfort to them under their present troubles.

Learn, 3. That ignorance, whether in pagans or in Christians, doth very much, but disobedience to the gospel doth very much more, expose persons, and lay them open to the vengeance of the great day: If Christ will render vengeance to them that know him not, much more to them that do know, but obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Verse 9

Observe here, The tremendous dreadfulness of that wrath and vengeance which at the great day will be inflicted on the ignorant and disobedient part of mankind; to denote the greatness of it, it is called destruction, not as if it were an abolishing of their nature, and utter extinction of their being, as the destruction of beasts is; but a loss of their happiness and well-being, as the destruction of the fallen angels was; and to set forth the duration of it, it is called everlasting destruction, a dying life, and a living death; their debt will never be paid, they will never come out of prison; they will be always satisfying, but never able fully to satisfy, divine justice.

And observe farther, As their punishment of sense is here described, so we have their punishment of loss declared: they shall be banished from the presence of the Lord, that is, for ever excluded from the sight of his blessed face, and the enjoyment of his gracious presence: the presence of his favour they shall never find, the presence of his fury they shall ever feel.

Lord, how is thy presence here on earth, life, light, and joy, to thine own people: how much more will it be so in heaven! But how terrible and dreadful will thy presence be to the wicked at the great day, even everlasting destruction! Lord, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear, when thou appearest! Thy very presence shall punish and torment them, and thy glorious power drive them away to the place of torment prepared for them. They shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; that is, destruction shall come forth immeniately from the presence and glorious power of Christ upon them, and that without any measure of mitigation; the sentence denounced will be instantly executed, and the sinner that is banished from Christ's presence shall be everlastingly tormented by his power.

Verse 10

The former verses represented to us the great end of Christ's appearance to judgment; with respect to the wicked, it was for punishment, they shall be punished with everlasting destruction, & c. Now here we have assigned the gracious design of Christ's coming with relation to the godly: he shall come to be glorified in his saints.

Where note, The character of Christ's saved ones, they are saints, all such, and only such; not by visible profession barely, but by inward sanctification, and holiness of conversation also; and also all believers, who are endued with the grace of saving faith.

Note, 2. The end of Christ's coming, with reference to his own children.

1. To be glorified in his saints: mark, not to be glorified in them: the head will not only be glorious in himself, but glorified in his members. The glory God gave the Son, he hath given the saints, and will put such a glory upon them in soul and body, as he himself shall be thereby glorified.

2. Admired in all them that believe, that is, he will do such things for believers, as will be to their own and others' admiration; things that will not only exceed their unbelief, but their faith too.

Plainly thus, the Lord Jesus at the great day will put such glory upon believers as never was expected either by themselves or others, and consequently shall be admired, greatly admired, eternally admired, by all beholders.

But, Lord, if the glory put on the saints shall be thus admired, how much more shall thyself be admired, the bestower of that rich transcendent glory! The glory of thy justice in the damnation of the wicked will be admired, but not comparably with the glory of thy mercy in the salvation of believers. O! how will this strike the adoring angels into an ecstasy of holy admiration, and transport thy admiring saints into an eternal rapture, when thou shalt come to be glorified in the saints, and admired in all them that believe.

Verse 11

In these words St. Paul assures the Thessalonians, that although he could not come to them, that yet he prayed fervently for them: We pray always for you. The faithful ministers of Christ can as soon forget themselves as their people in their prayers to God.

Observe next, what he prayed for, on their behalf,--

1. That God would count them worthy, that is, fit and meet for his calling; that is, for the fore-mentioned glory, which they were called to the expectation of, for they were already called; and therefore calling here must denote that unto which they were called, even the kingdom of glory.

2. That in order to this, God would fulfil, fully perform and accomplish, his whole purpose, here called his pleasure, and the pleasure of his goodness; to show that nothing but his own goodness was the cause of his own purpose.

3. He prays that God by his own power would strengthen the work of faith in them. And the work of faith with power.

Where note, 1. That we are not only saved by God's good pleasure, but by faith.

2. That there is no saving faith, but what is a working faith.

3. That faith is wrought by a wonderful power, which doth produce wonderful effects.

Verse 12

Our apostle declared at 2 Thessalonians 1:10, how Christ should be glorified in his saints hereafter; now he prays that the name of Christ may be glorified in them here.

Where note, That sanctifying grace maketh Christians a glory to the name of Christ, not by adding any glory to him, which before he had not, but by setting forth that glory which he already hath.

Note also, That as the name of Christ is glorified in the saints now, so they shall be glorified in him then, and glorified with him, and by him. The same glory, for kind, shall be put upon the head and members; grace is the only way to glory, and glory will be the certain reward of grace.

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Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. 1700-1703.