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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 2

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

General remarks. The background cf most of this chapter is historical, involving the original government of the church as it was established by Christ and the apostles. The ruling men were called by three different names as rendered in the King James Version; they are elders (Act 20:17), overseers (Act 20:28), and bishops (1Ti 3:1). There is some difference in the meaning of the words, because the duties of the men are so various that one word will not cover them. However, no distinction is made between their authority because of these names; each of them wore all the names. This is proved by the two verses in Acts 20 referred to above, where the same men are called elders and overseers. Incidentally I will add that bishop and overseer come from the same Greek word which is EPISKOPOS, and elder comes from PRESBUTEROS. The qualifications and work of these men will be explained when we come to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. For the present their authority and function as governors or rulers is what is to be considered. There was a plurality of elders in each congregation (Act 14:23; Tit 1:5), and their authority did not extend beyond their own congregation. As proof of this it is well to consider the case recorded in Acts 15. When the dispute arose in Antioch over circumcision because of the teaching of some from Judea, a group of them went to Jerusalem to consult the church. While the decision arrived at was sent to the brethren at Antioch, it was concerning the agitation among them caused by these who came from Jerusalem. Besides, this matter was enforced by the apostles, and they had authority everywhere. The time came when some of the elders became thirsty for more power than the others had, and they worked it around so as to dominate them in the affairs of the congregation. This was one thing that Paul had in mind in Act 20:30, where he says "of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." This ambition for power continued until in most of the congregations, one elder became virtually the head over the others, assuming the exclusive right to the title "bishop" and leaving the simple role of "elder" to the others. But human nature is such that when a man becomes desirous of more authority than he is supposed to have, he will not stop until he tries to obtain the rule outside his allotted realm. Hence these dominating bishops reached out and gained control over other churches in their general area. Such a movement as I have just described was going on in many parts of the world, until the government fell into the hands of the bishops in such centers as Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem, Rome, and others. The next struggle was among the bishops, to obtain superiority over all the other bishops, with a hungry mind upon a possible attainment of universal rule of one bishop over the brotherhood. But this concentration of power among the bishops was held back by another mighty force, which I will now describe as briefly as I can. The Roman Empire was the secular government in power, which was the fourth one of the "world powers" predicted in Dan 2:31-45. These world powers made their religion a state affair, so that whatever the state religion was, it was regarded as a mark of disloyalty to the government to oppose that religion. The religion of the Roman Empire was the pagan or idolatrous system, and its presence presented an obstacle to the growing ambition of these bishops in the church, for if they went too far in their activities, they were apt to run into trouble with the government. But a change took place in the Empire which turned out to the advantage of the bishops. Constantine became emperor and was pursuing a military course in behalf of his government. On his way to what proved to be one of the "decisive battles of the world," he claimed to see a cross in the sky, with an inscription that said, "by this sign conquer." He won that battle which he professed to believe was caused by the influence of the cross, the emblem of Christianity. On the basis of that victory and its causes, Constantine (as emperor) announced his support of Christianity with the weight of the empire in support of his decision. After that the Roman Empire presented no obstacle to the enlargement of the power of the bishops, since their religious professions were the same. That circumstance virtually united church and state, bringing on the apostasy and the Dark Ages, called by Paul the "falling away." With the foregoing paragraphs to consult frequently, the reader is now asked to consider the several verses in order. 2Th 2:1. By is from RUPEE, which Thayer defines at this place, "concerning, of, as respects, with regard to." It is the word for "concerning" in Rom 9:27. Paul beseeches the brethren concerning some very important events to occur in the future. One is the coming of Christ, and the other is our gathering together unto him. These events are prophesied in 1Th 4:16-17.

Verse 2

2Th 2:2. There seemed to be a state of unrest among the disciples over the coming of Christ, thinking that it was "just around the corner," to use a familiar figure of speech. This doubtless was suggested by Paul's words in 1Th 4:17, "we which are alive and remain." It might seem to teach that Paul and some others would be living when Jesus comes, and hence that the event was due and might occur at any hour. As a result of such a notion, business and religious activities were at a standstill. Why should anything be done when the end was just at hand? To correct that error, the apostle takes occasion to make the famous predictions of this chapter, to tell them that all of this revolution will take place before the Lord comes. Soon shaken in mind refers to the unsettled condition which I have just described. To add to this disturbance, certain false teachers made claims of having "first hand" information on the subject, just as Jesus said some would do at the time preceding the destruction of Jerusalem (Mat 24:5 Mat 24:24). Paul mentions three sources of false information that might deceive the disciples, and he wants them to know that any theories claiming to come from such sources, that predicted the immediate approach of Christ, were false and not according to truth. Those three so-called sources were spirit, word, and letter. The first refers to those who claimed to have a gift of the Spirit. The second claims that they had received word from the apostles on the subject, and the third refers to some letters that had been forged as coming from the apostles. At hand is from ENISTEMI, which Thayer defines, "to stand in sight, stand near, to be upon, impend, threaten." This is commented upon at the beginning of this paragraph.

Verse 3

2Th 2:3. All who accepted this disquieting teaching were being deceived, and Paul bids them not to be deceived by any means. The words in italics denote that any information, from whatever source, that claims to teach this disquieting theory, is false. The second coming of Christ will not occur until after the falling away. Those words are from the Greek word APOSTASIA, which Thayer defines, "a falling away, defection, apostasy," which is a name for the formation of centralized rule in the church, described in "general remarks" at the beginning of this chapter. Man of sin would be a term of general application, were it not for the description that follows through several verses. It shows it means the bishop who finally got to the head of the church as it came to be, and he was finally known as the Pope of Rome. He is called the son of perdition, because the first word means "one who is worthy of a thing" (Thayer).

Verse 4

2Th 2:4. Opposeth and exalteth himself above is the same as saying, "he exalts himself in opposition to all" of what is to be named next. That is called God. Any person or thing that might be related to God or be claimed to be so related, would come under this phrase. Or that is worshipped. This is an extension of the thought expressed in the preceding phrase in italics. The thought is that this man of sin (the pope) will not, recognize any being or object of worship as his equal, regardless of whether it pertains to the One in heaven or the many earthly rulers who receive homage from men. Sitteth in the temple means in the church, for it is said to be the temple of God (1Co 3:16-17; 2Co 6:16). It is true that. the institution called the church in history at this period of development, was so corrupt that we could not acknowledge it to be the true church. But the pope and the system of centralized power over which he was head, was professed to be the church, and Paul is speaking of the subject historically, and from the standpoint of the pretensions of the Romish institution. At this point it will be well to state that all through these centuries that the apostasy was forming, there were some exceptions where congregations would not join in the departure, so that during the entire time of the Dark Ages there were faithful congregations here and there, which kept the pure church in existence, although as a woman persecuted for righteosness' sake, she had to flee to the wilderness of comparative hiding or obscurity, caused by the apostasy, to preserve her existence. (See Revelation 12:1-3 and verse 14 of that chapter.) Showing himself that he is God. No man can actually show or display proof that he is God, but he can claim such a high rank, and display himself under such a guise, hence the pope is presented to his people as "Lord God, the Pope."

Verse 5

2Th 2:5. I told you these things. Since signs of the apostasy, namely, desire for power were being manifested in those early years of the church (3Jn 1:9), it was natural that Paul would warn his brethren about it when laboring in their midst. He also instructed Timothy to remind the brethren where he preached, of this very defection that was to come into the world. In 1Ti 4:1-3 is such a prediction, and verse 6 directly advises the evangelist to do this service of remembrance for the brethren.

Verse 6

2Th 2:6. Withholdeth (likewise letteth in next verse) is from KATECHO, which Thayer defines, "to restrain, hinder, "and he comments on it as follows: "That which hinders, namely, Antichrist [the pope], from making his appearance; the power of the Roman empire is meant." I urge the reader to consult "general remarks" again, to learn why the Roman emperor was a hindrance to the coming of the pope into universal power over the church. In verse 5 Paul refers to previous information which he had given to the Thessalonians, to the effect that certain men were already showing signs of wanting this great power, and who finally would come out in the open and strive for it. The brethren might wonder why such a development did not then come to the fore, and he is explaining that this Roman power (which then professed the heathen religion), was withholding or hindering such a movement. Revealed in his time means when the time came that the religion of Rome would not be any hindrance, then would be the time for the pope to be revealed or come out in the open.

Verse 7

2Th 2:7. This verse virtually has the same thoughts that have been already explained, but in different words that give additional points. Mystery of iniquity means the concentration of power described in "general remarks." Doth already 'work. The thirst for power was already manifesting itself in those days (3Jn 1:9). He who now letteth (hin-dereth) will let. He (the Roman heathen religion) will continue to be a hindrance to the growing movement in the church for universal power. Until he be taken out of the way. This means until the pagan or heathen religion of the Roman Empire is replaced by the professed Christian religion that was claimed by the ambitious bishops. Again, let the reader consult "general remarks" at the beginning of comments on this chapter.

Verse 8

2Th 2:8. Then means when the pagan religion is replaced by the profession of the Christian, which finally resulted in the union of church and state. That wicked be revealed refers to the bishop who was to succeed over all the others in obtaining supremacy at the head of the church, and who later took the title of Pope of Rome. He was revealed or came out in the open after the hindrance of the pagan or idolatrous religion had been removed. Consume and destroy mean virtually the same if either of them is used alone. When both are used in one sentence, the former means a gradual using-up of something, and the latter denotes the final result of that consuming, namely, the complete canceling out of the thing spoken of. Spirit of his mouth is a figurative term for the truth spoken by the Lord through the apostles and others who were proclaimers of the inspired word. Brightness of his coming is the same as saying "the appearance of his presence." This does not mean that Christ was to appear in person, but would be present in the world or represented by the teach ers of divine truth, which was finally to counteract the power of the pope, by breaking up the union of church and state. This great event was accomplished by the Reformation, when the Bible (the spirit of his mouth) was given to the people in their own languages.

Verse 9

2Th 2:9. Even him whose coming. When the predicted man of sin does come, it will be like the coming and working of Satan. He is compared to Satan in that his power will consist of signs and lying wonders. The first italicized word is used in both a good and a bad sense in the New Testament, and it means an omen of something to come, or a supposed proof of something already in existence. It is used in a bad sense in this verse, since the signs are coupled with lying wonders. That refers to the deceptive means the pope and his associates will use, whereby the unsuspecting subjects of the Romish institution will easily be deceived.

Verse 10

2Th 2:10. Deceivableness and unright-eousness. All kinds of unrighteousness are to be condemned; but some kinds are naked and open so that everyone can understand them. However, the kind that this man of sin will use is such that his followers will be misled into doing it, with the notion that they are doing the right thing. In them that perish. The pope will not be able to deceive every individual on whom he tries his trickery. He will succeed only on those who are not honestly disposed to eternal life, and they are the ones who are destined finally to perish. The explanation for such an attitude is in the fact that they do not have enough love of the truth to obey it and be saved. In other words, since they do not love the truth, they will be "easy marks" for the agents of the pope, and consequently they will not be saved.

Verse 11

2Th 2:11-12. And for this cause. Because of the conditions just described, these people who are devoted to the pope and his system, will receive some deserved punishmnet. Strong delusion. This phrase is rendered "a working of error" by the Englishman's Greek New Testament. A correct and short term would be "active errors." The word that is a poor translation for it is from EIS, and that word has the idea of "unto" or "to the end that" or "with the result that." It is a statement of what results from the thing spoken of, and not intended as a term to show any motive on the part of God. Also, God sends things in other ways than by direct force; sometimes it is done merely by suffering a thing to happen. In Rom 11:8 it is stated that "God hath given them the spirit of slumber," yet we know it only means that He had given them over to their own determination to be blind to the truth. So in our passage it is preceded by the statement "they received not the love of the truth." For that reason God determined to "let them have their own determined way," and in so doing He sent them these errors that were so active that it resulted in their believing the lies of the leaders of the pope's system; this agrees also with verse 12. It does not say that they all would be damned because God had arbitrarily decreed it so, but it was because they "believed not the truth, and had pleasure in unrighteousness." That is the principle upon which God has always dealt with mankind. The Bible in no place teaches that God ever forces a man to sin, then punishes him for the wrong-doing. Neither does He compel man against his will to do right, but has always offered him proper inducements for righteous conduct, then left it to his own responsibility to decide what he will do about it.

Verse 13

2Th 2:13. With the preceding verse, Paul concludes his great prophecy of the apostasy and formation of the church of Rome. He now comes to matters more directly pertaining to the Thessalonians. He is thankful for their standing with God, which was brought about by their acceptance of the truth. This is far different from the characters described in the foregoing verses, who were condemned because they did not accept the truth. From the beginning is both general and specific. It was always God's plan to choose any who would accept the truth. The Thessalonians did so at the first opportunity, or from the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel among them. On the Lord's side of the plan, they were chosen through sanctification, which means a setting apart for a holy purpose, and it was by the Spirit because the truth that sanctified them (Joh 17:17) was given by the Spirit. But this alone would not have caused them to be chosen; it required also the belief of the truth on their part,

Verse 14

2Th 2:14. Called you by our gospel. God does not call people into His service from the world, for the sake of their personal salvation, by any direct contact with them. In every case of conversion recorded in the New Testament, there was a third person or other means used for the purpose. The people of Samaria heard the word through Philip (Act 8:5-6). The eunuch heard the Gospel from the mouth of Philip (Act 8:35-38). Saul was instructed to go where he could be told what to do (Act 9:6). Cornelius was to be told "words" whereby he could he saved (Act 11:14). The Philippian jailer became a saved man by hearing the word of the Lord (Act 16:30-33). All this is in keeping with 1Co 1:21, which says it is by the foolishness of preaching (called foolishness by the critics) to save them that believe. Hence our verse says the Thessalonians were called by the Gospel. Paul calls it our gospel in the sense that it was the Gospel which he preached. The word is not used with the meaning of possession, but to show relationship. When a man speaks of "my country," he does not mean he owns it, but that he is related to it and not to some other. The result of having been called by the Gospel was that the Thessalonians might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stated in other words, the italicized phrase means that the salvation coming from Christ is the most glorious or praiseworthy thing a man can obtain.

Verse 15

2Th 2:15. Stand fast denotes that they were to remain firm in their belief of this Gospel, and not be deceived by the tricky teachers of the Romish system. Traditions is from PARADOSIS, which Thayer defines, "a giving over, giving up; i.e. the act of giving up, the surrender. A giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing." The word is used in both a good and a bad sense in the New Testament. Any doctrine or rule of conduct becomes a tradition when it has once been given over from one person to another. Whether it is good or bad, and whether it is of any authority or not, depends upon the person or persons handing over the doctrine. Hence the traditions Paul is recommending to the Thessalonians are of authority since they come from him, either "by word of mouth" (oral preaching), or by his epistle.

Verse 16

2Th 2:16. God and Christ are again named in a manner that proves they are two separate individuals, although they are a unit in spirit and purpose. The title of God denotes his supreme deity as head over all creation, while that of Father pertains to his spiritual relationship to all who will become members of the spiritual family through obedience. Lord is a title that means ruler, and the Son has been given the rule over the church (Mat 28:18). Jesus means saviour and is given to him because he is the Saviour of the world (Mat 1:21). The title Christ belongs to him because he was anointed (figuratively crowned) to be over the. kingdom (Act 10:38). Everlasting consolation is thus named because the consolation that comes from God and Christ is not temporary. Good hope simply means that the things for which Christians can hope are good in the highest sense. Through grace denotes that the entire benefit is a gift from on High, and not a return for labor, since that cannot earn or merit eternal life.

Verse 17

2Th 2:17. The preceding verse gives a general statement of the provisions or spiritual benefits possible for man, and this verse expresses Paul's wish for all such good things to come upon the Thessalonian brethren. One result of such comfort would be to stab lish (make firm) them in every good word and work; no other kind of works will be blessed of God.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1952.
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