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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
2 Thessalonians 1

 

 

Verses 1-12

I

Address for the Consolation of the readers under the fresh outbreak of persecutions

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

After the salutation ( 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2), the Apostle thanks God for their growth in faith ( 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4), cheers them by the prospect of judgment and salvation ( 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10), and prays that God would make them partakers of perfection ( 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus [Timothy], unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father[FN1] and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2Grace unto you, and peace, from God our 1 Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3We are bound to thank [give thanks to][FN2] God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity [love, ἀγάπη] of every one of you all 2 toward each other aboundeth; 4so that we ourselves[FN3] glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all 5 your persecutions and tribulations [the afflictions]3that ye endure: which is a manifest token [a token, ἕνδειγμα] of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6seeing [if indeed][FN4] it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you [to those who afflict you affliction],[FN5] 7and to you, who are troubled [afflicted], rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [at the revelation of the Lord Jesus, ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ Κ. .] from heaven with His mighty angels [with the angels of His power, μετ’ ἀγγέλων δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ], 8in flaming fire,[FN6] taking vengeance on them that [rendering vengeance to those who, διδόντος ἐκδίκησιν τοῖς] know not God, and that obey not[FN7] the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:[FN8] 9who shall be punished with [shall suffer punishment, δίκην τίσουσιν,] everlasting destruction from the presence [face][FN9] of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; 10when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe [those who believed][FN10] (because our testimony 11 among you [to you, ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς] was believed), in that day. Wherefore [To which end, Εἰς ] also we pray always for you, that our God would count [may count, ἀξιώσῃ] you worthy of this [the, τῆς] calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness [every desire of goodness],[FN11] and the work of faith with power; 12that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ[FN12] may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.[FN13]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2.) See the First Epistle.

2. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4.) We are bound, &c.—As in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, only that he there says simply εὐχαριστοῦμεν, and here declares the obligation ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13), in the earnestness of his spirit, drawn from the greatness of the grace; urgente animi exultatione (Bengel): We are bound to do this, and it is a debt which we shall never be able fully to discharge. It is by no means obvious, why this should be unpauline! is it only because we do not so read in any other Epistle?! The words, as it is meet, are referred by some only to ὀφείλομεν, as confirmatory of the obligation, and, taken thus, they seem to be somewhat dull and pointless; better therefore: “so to give thanks, as the greatness of the unmerited favor deserves;” Bengel: ob rei magnitudinem; Hofmann: as the state of the case requires. Theophylact (along with another explanation): in a worthy manner, by word and deed; for this is true thanksgiving. Too subtle is Lünemann’s interpretation; who, because καθώς does not mark the degree (though it does the way and manner), and because the insertion of ἀδελφοί forbids the close backward reference to εὐχαριστεῖν (but why?), would connect ἄξιον closely with what follows: “as it is meet, because.” But it is more natural to understand ὅτι thus: “We are bound to give thanks (for this), that.”[FN14] Ὑπεραυξάνειν is such an emphatic expression of entire commendation as the Apostle is fond of; αὐξάνειν is used elsewhere transitively, but once also as intransitive, Acts 6:7; and so the compound here: “your faith groweth even beyond expectation;[FN15] and love increaseth[FN16] continually.” Paul thankfully acknowledges the fulfilment of his wishes and exhortations ( 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:10); Rieger: the fruit of his exhortations and intercessions. Faith and love, of which Timothy ( 1 Thessalonians 3:6) had reported the existence among the Thessalonians, had only become stronger in the tempests; at 1 Thessalonians 1:3 he had added ὑπομονὴ τῆς ἐλπίδος, and that follows here in another form.—Of every one of you all, he thus quite explicitly applies it to every individual; toward each other; he speaks therefore of brotherly love. How can Paul thus praise, when in chh2,3he has yet to add reproof? Olshausen well: Even those excrescences (we add: which were found rather in individuals merely) were at least excrescences simply from a good stock. There is something of cordial encouragement in the fact, that Paul first recognizes the good that he finds in them, even though with some their faith and love are still lacking in wisdom.—So that we ourselves, not others merely, glory in you. Hofmann thinks this would require a καί, and prefers to understand it thus: we of our own accord, without being prompted; too artificial. De Wette (and Chrysostom before him) recalls 1 Thessalonians 1:8 : “We have no need to speak of it, since everywhere people are telling of it;” whereas here: “Not merely do others talk to us and speak of it everywhere, but we also (overcoming a modest reserve) must in our exceeding joy proclaim it.” To be sure, attention is not drawn to this contrast by any particle of time; it at once results, however, from a mere comparison of the two places. Paul not merely thanks God; he glories also before men. Instead of the Recepta καυχᾶσθαι, A. B. Sin17 [Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott] give the rarer and on that account, perhaps, the preferable ἐγκαυχᾶσθαι (A. B, not Sin, write ἐνκ.), which at the most slightly strengthens the sense; κανχ. ἐν means to place one’s honor in something, to boast of a thing ( 1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 3:21); there Paul forbids to glory in any men whatever; does he not here do so himself? By no means; he means to boast, not of the Thessalonians as men, but only of the work of God in them ( 1 Thessalonians 2:19). The relation is the same as between the ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν that is forbidden ( Galatians 1:10, flattery of the old man) and that which is enjoined ( 1 Corinthians 10:33, the cherishing of the new man with tender fidelity). He boasts of them in the churches of God, those of Achaia, where he is sojourning; Lünemann: Corinth and its branch churches (the plural points to the surrounding region, comp. Romans 16:1); an advance on 1 Thessalonians 1:8. Without any reason Hilgenfeld (p243) would detect a disagreement with 2 Corinthians 1:1, alleging that the genuine Paul does not at all describe the churches of Achaia as properly churches along with that of Corinth. The simple fact Isaiah, that in that place of the Corinthian Epistle he does not do Song of Solomon, it being surely equally possible for him to address a large number of saints, or to take them together as churches; but if one were disposed to extort from 2 Corinthians 1:1 the idea that the scattered Christians of Achaia had not yet been gathered into churches, we should then have to infer also from Romans 1:7; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2, that no churches had yet been organized in Rome, Philippi, Colosse, when Paul wrote to the Christians of those places!—Bengel’s reference of the ὑπὲρ, &c. to the remote εὐχαριστεῖν is unnatural; it is rather a closer definition of ἐγκαυχ. ἐν ὑμῖν: for your patience and (your) faith; their endurance stands first; the thing gloried in Isaiah, that they stood their ground not merely against a single attack; the root of genuine patience is faith, which is then again in its turn purified by patience. In faith everything is concentrated ( 1 Thessalonians 3:7); it is not of itself the same thing as hope [De Wette] ( 1 Thessalonians 1:3); nor, because πίστεως is connected with ὑπομονῆς by one article, are we required (as Olshausen and Lünemann suppose) to assume for πίστις the meaning of fidelity. No doubt, by omitting the second article Paul comprehends patience and faith, so to speak, under one conception; faith, however, retains the sense which it commonly bears elsewhere (and for the Greeks that is certainly less remote from the idea of fidelity than for us). There may be an endurance that does not proceed from faith, that Isaiah, from holding fast by the invisible God; and this would have no value; but just as little would a faith, that did not approve itself by its own steadfastness in affliction. In Revelation 13:10 also the two are joined together. The manifestation of both takes place in all your persecutions and the afflictions that ye endure, patiently bear, Hofmann; the αἷς ἀνέχεσθε in the second member answers to the ὑμῶν of the first. The persecutions proceed from hostile men; θλίψεσιν is more general, and presents the idea, how painful and distressing the suffering is in the experience of it; αἷς it is generally said, is an attraction for ἅς; Lünemann, for ὧν; both constructions occur; in the New Testament elsewhere always the genitive ( Colossians 3:13, and often). The present ἀνέχεσθε (over against the aorist of 1 Thessalonians 2:14) shows that there had been a fresh outbreak of persecutions.

3. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:5.) A token, &c.—ἔνδειγμα is not equivalent to εἰς ἐνδ. (cod73) [slightly favored also by the Syriac, and the Vulgate in exemplum.—J. L.], nor does it belong appositionally to the ὑμεῖς concealed in ἀνέχεσθε (that would have required ὕντες ἕνδειγμα, besides yielding no good sense); but it is (similarly as in Romans 8:3) an apposition to the clause αἷς ἀνέχεσθε, see Winer, § 599;[FN17] it is to be regarded as a nominative (De Wette, Lünemann [Alford, Ellicott, Webster and Wilkinson, &c.]), not an accusative; hence: which is a proof; ἕνδειγμα does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, though ἕνδειξις does ( Romans 3:25-26; Philippians 1:28). It is not the mere suffering of tribulation that is of itself an evidence of the judgment, as being perhaps an atonement for sins (Estius), or as an indication that the judgment must come; such is not the effect of mere suffering in itself, but of suffering in patience and faith, and accordingly αἷς ἀνέχεσθε is said to those whose patience and faith can be boasted of; and ἀνέχεσθε itself implies the patient acceptance. This patient endurance, then, is a proof of the righteous judgment of God. But to what extent is it so? The great majority of interpreters (Calvin, Pelt, De Wette, Lünemann, Hofmann, &c.) understand ἔνδειγμα (without warrant) as a presage of the future judgment, which has not yet appeared but is certainly impending; a token from which it may be inferred that it will come; so also Luther: which shows that God will judge rightly. They say that ἔνδειξις so stands in Philippians 1:28; but the perdition and salvation, whose evidence is there spoken of, are by no means impending merely in the future, but are already in progress at present, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:18; and the ἕνὃειξις of the righteousness of God, of which Romans 3:25 sq. speaks, is altogether meant as present. In behalf, however, of the view that our text speaks of a presage of the future judgment, there is alleged1. the article, as indicating the judgment κατ’ ἐξοχήν, and2. the connection with 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, where there is very explicit mention of the future retribution. Granting the latter point, still, if ἕνδειγμα in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 by itself is to mean a presage, its relation to the following εἰς τὸ καταξ. is anything but clear. Estius, Bengel, Hofmann, and others, make the latter clause dependent on ἀνέχεσθε, and it is true that this would not necessarily lead to the Catholic doctrine of merit (just as little as Romans 8:17), but in the present connection it would have this inconvenience of depressing ἕνδειγμα, &c. into a subordinate parenthesis, whereas plainly in that word is to be seen the new principal thought, the beginning of the new line of thought, which is then carried forward in 2 Thessalonians 1:6 sqq. This is perceived by De Wette and Lünemann, who are therefore essentially correct in assuming that εἰς τὸ καταξ. depends on δικ. κρίσεως; but how? shall it mean merely: with reference to the fact, that? or shall it be an epexegetical conclusion, like 2 Corinthians 8:6 : whose result will be, that (Lünemann)? or shall it even express simply the substance of the judgment (De Wette)? Theophylact even takes it as an equivalent to ὅπερ ἐστὶ καταξ. De Wette gives this paraphrastic explanation of the connection: By their steadfastness in persecution the Thessalonians approve themselves as worthy of the kingdom of God, and from this subjective worthiness may be inferred the objective righteous judgment of God, by which it is realized. But this is a singular confounding of two different modes of viewing the causal relation, as it were thus: Which steadfast suffering, since it shows what sort of people you are, is also a presage of what we have to expect from the righteous judgment of God, in pronouncing you worthy;—evidently an artificial and forced thought, which would still be but very unintelligibly expressed.[FN18] But on the whole it is always best, wherever it is possible, to hold fast in εἰς τό the idea of aim. Add to this the arbitrariness of understanding ἕνδειγμα as a foretoken of something future, as also Hilgenfeld remarks.

The preference, therefore, is due to the interpretation, which we find not quite distinctly in Zwingli, and then in Olshausen, needing only a somewhat more rigorous confirmation; the interpretation, namely, according to which ἕνδειγμα denotes the evidence of God’s righteous judgment already at present in force. The article can be no obstacle to this, since the judgment of God, present and future, is one process (like eternal life, John 17:3); and 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 also form no counter-argument, for there we are shown that coming issue of the judgment, of which the present judicial administration ( 2 Thessalonians 1:5) is the pioneer. But how, then, can the patient endurance of suffering be described as a manifestation of the already present judgment of God?

Here it is of importance rightly to understand the scriptural conception of righteousness and judgment. Now since the righteousness of God is certainly not synonymous with grace, we must not confound these ideas; it is the self-consistent relation of His holy love to the free creature; dispensing on both sides, to the believer according to his faith, to the unbeliever according to his unbelief. A judgment awaits also the former; Olshausen refers to 1 Peter 4:17-18; likewise 1 Corinthians 11:32 points us to a judgment for discipline and purification; thus: God fulfils in you His righteous judgment, not for your destruction, but for your trial, that He may be able to declare you worthy of the kingdom; He proves your standing in faith, and there is a righteous requital also in this, that He rewards faith with patience; or as Stockmeyer beautifully and clearly carries out the idea on this one side (in an unprinted sermon; see the Homiletic hints on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8): “First of all he represents to them the judgment of God as something, whereof they are now already permitted, in the midst of their tribulation, to have an experience in the highest degree joyful and comforting. That the Thessalonians were able to abide so patient in persecution, and so firm in faith, was already an evidence of the righteousness of God. Thereby God already proved Himself in their case to be the righteous rewarder of all that is good. For their obedience, in that they had received the gospel, God rewarded them by bestowing on them new grace, and new strength to suffer for the gospel’s sake, without becoming weary and faint-hearted ( Matthew 13:12).” What one might find to be wanting in this statement Isaiah, at the most, that it would suit the expression, proof of the righteousness, better than it does the one before us, proof of the righteous judgment. It must therefore be supplemented by remarking, first, that for believers also the operation of the Divine righteousness comes indeed to be an effective judgment, but that it is a strong consolation to fall into the hand of God, and not into the hand of men; moreover, as Von Gerlach notes, that it is the most frightful token (not merely a presage) of bursting doom, when God so hardens the ungodly that they persecute His children. Even this, however, must redound to the advantage of the latter.

The thought of our passage, therefore, would be this: Steadfastly and believingly ye endure your persecutions; that is a proof of God’s righteous judgment, of His inviolably self-consistent work of winnowing; which proof is to the end (εἰς τό)[FN19] that ye should be deemed worthy, that He should be able to pronounce you worthy, of the kingdom of God. Toward this mark the judicial and sifting operation of God is working; it will prevail with those who allow His judgment to take effect on them to their purification. It is obvious that, taken thus, εἰς τὀς καταξ. acquires a much better sense. Of course, as Stockmeyer goes on to say, this declaration of judgment, that already takes place at present, stands in closest connection with that last perfect demonstration of it, which is the hope of all believers. (The connection with 2 Thessalonians 1:6 sqq.: If it is a righteous thing that God should some day render a perfect retribution, there is already now a proof of His righteousness, in directing His judgments toward that end.)[FN20]

The kingdom of God, whereof we should be accounted worthy, is the holy dominion which, in distinction from the Church of the present time (the kingdom in the form of a servant), shall one day be revealed by the return of the King in victorious glory. Since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom, what avails for that is the death of the old Prayer of Manasseh, as the Apostle says: for which ye also suffer; he says also, to express the agreement that exists between their actual experience and God’s plan.[FN21] The ὑπέρ is understood by most to mean: in order to its attainment; and this again would not express any legal meritoriousness, any more than Romans 8:17, but would amount to this: Ye suffer for your faith in it, your confession of it, your faithfulness to it, when grace had received you. Hilgenfeld insists on the meaning, not: in order to its attainment, but: in order to its promotion; similarly Hofmann: to introduce this state of things; and even so there would be no warrant for the assertion of the former, that there is here betrayed an unapostolic estimate of martyrdom. But ὑπέρ (as in Romans 1:5; Acts 5:41) means: in reference thereto, in behalf of the kingdom, and includes the two ideas of serving it and participating in it.

4. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8) If indeed it is a righteous thing, &c.—The thought is expressed hypothetically, for the very purpose of strengthening its import, and to indicate that it is altogether incontestable, the writer appealing to his reader’s own judgment. Theophylact: The hearers cannot but say: ἀλλὰ μὴν δίκαιον. It is a righteous thing with God [Vulgate: apud Deum; Syriac—coram Deo.—J. L.], righteousness is therein fulfilled; to recompense, properly to render back ( 1 Thessalonians 3:9), to those who afflict you affliction, and to you who are afflicted relaxation, release, rest, refreshment ( 2 Corinthians 2:12-13); in opposition to θλῖψις, 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 8:13; similarly ὰνάψυξις, Acts 3:19; comp. also the resting in Revelation 14:13. For the present, he exhibits merely that negative side of the δόξα, for which the afflicted person first longs, freedom from earth’s sorrows; the positive side comes afterward, 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:12.—With us, says the Apostle in the assured joy of faith; without warrant is Bengel’s explanation (and Ewald’s): us, the saints in Israel; De Wette would understand it generally: with us, Christians at large; that may well be involved in the remoter deduction; but obviously the immediate suggestion of the actual phrase is: with us, the in like manner afflicted Apostles ( 2 Thessalonians 3:2), the foremost champions of the faith [Alford and Ellicott: the writers of the Epistle; Webster and Wilkinson: Paul.—J. L.]. Looking back from the final retribution ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6), we see that all the previous dealing also ( 2 Thessalonians 1:5) is righteous throughout. Of course, the θλίβεσθαι is not of itself meritorious, but 2 Thessalonians 1:7 likewise takes for granted θλιβομένους of steadfast faith ( 2 Thessalonians 1:4); so that Hilgenfeld’s censure of an unpauline thought falls to the ground.—Rest and refreshment will God give at the revelation of the Lord Jesus; it is a far more forced construction, when Grotius would refer this specification of time to the remote καταξιωθῆναι. Of the Lord Jesus is a genitive of. the object, though He is also the subject of it. Revelation is the same thing as παρουσία; only there is still more conveyed by ἀποκάλυψις; not merely that He will be present, but also that He will unveil Himself in His glory ( 1 Corinthians 1:7; Luke 17:30), whereas He is now hid in heaven ( Colossians 3:3-4), and is only invisibly nigh to us ( Matthew 28). The way and manner of His coming is shown by what is added: from heaven, comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:16; with the angels of His power, comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:13; the expression means that they belong to His power, therefore also form His power, are its servants and executors. Comp. the στρατεύματα of heaven, Revelation 19:14. Not: with His strong angels, mighty angels (Theophylact expressly, δυνατῶν), as if δυνάμεως were an adjectival definition of ἀγγ., and αὐτοῦ were to be connected with ἀγγ. Hofmann (because it is not said: μετὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων τῆς δυν. αὐτοῦ) would understand it as meaning with a host of angels,[FN22] ἀγγ. being put first emphatically, to distinguish the heavenly forces from all of an earthly kind (but for this there was no occasion), and δύναμις signifying an army-force likewise in Luke 10:19; Luke 21:26 (?), and in the Septuagint for צָבָה; αὐτοῦ, finally, he refers to what follows. This whole view is too artificial; and when he takes the words αὐτοῦ ἐν πυρὶ φλογὸς διδόντος together, and refers them to God, and at the same time regards ἐν τῇ ἀποκ. &c. as the beginning of this participial construction, this Isaiah, to say the least, as cumbrous as the ordinary view, according to which ἐν τῇ ἀπ. &c. more closely defines what goes before.—There might certainly be a doubt as to where ἐν πυρὶ φλογός belongs (the variation which we have noted meets us in like manner at Acts 7:30; the Recepta means flaming fire, glowing fire, not faintly burning). Too subtile is Theophylact’s remark, that the expression denotes fire that burns merely, and gives no light, it being merely consuming for sinners, and for the righteous merely luminous. It is possible to refer it to what follows as a specification of detail (Theodoret: τῆς τιμωρίας τὸ εἶδος; Hilgenfeld: In point of fact the fiery flame belongs immediately to the punishment);[FN23] but it may also be regarded as the last feature in the description of the Revelation, and this is still simpler [and so Alford and Ellicott]. Theophylact recognizes both explanations, and refers for the second to Psalm 97:3. The Lord is revealed in flaming fire, as in the burning bush, or as on Sinai; His throne is [not, as in E. V, is like.—J. L.] glowing flame ( Daniel 7:9); as in the Old Testament God, so here Christ comes in fire; thus shall His day also be revealed ( 1 Corinthians 3:13); this agrees with the δόξα at His coming ( Matthew 25:31); somewhat more remote is the glowing flame of His eyes ( Revelation 19:12); He Himself is a consuming fire ( Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 12:29); comp, moreover, in the Old Testament, Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30.

The terrible splendor of His majesty, which consumes all opposition, is concisely, but powerfully, delineated. We are not to inquire curiously into what is physical in this manifestation; not till the last end will the fire that melts the elements come in power ( 2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:10); but at every epoch of judgment fire is also the figure of the purifying ardor of the Holy Ghost, consuming all impurity; comp. Matthew 3:11-12.—The reference of what follows, (Jesus) rendering vengeance, dispensing punishment, is by Hofmann without reason felt to be a difficulty. The Greek expression answers in the Septuagint to the Hebrew נָתַן נְקָמָה, Ezekiel 25:14, and elsewhere; comp. ἕκδικος, 1 Thessalonians 4:6; ποιεῖν ἐκδίκησιν, Luke 18:7; see also Luke 21:22-23. The Apostle now traces back to the general Divine administration what he had previously promised to the Thessalonians in particular. Jesus will execute the Divine judgment on those who know not God; that it is not simply a want of knowledge, but a criminal blindness, that is here intended, is evident; comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:5; instead of seeking God ( Acts 17:27), many hold the truth down [κατεχόντων, depress, repress] in unrighteousness ( Romans 1:18); in angry defiance, like Pharaoh ( Exodus 5:2). In the First Epistle the Gentiles were expressly so described (comp. Psalm 79:6); here is described more generally the fundamental delinquency, ungodliness. It is further said: and to those, who obey not the gospel, &c.; the Lord Jesus has a right to claim obedience; faith Isaiah, after all, an affair of the will, the obedience of faith ( Romans 1:5; Acts 6:7). The repetition of the article τοῖς in the second member appears to place the disobedient as a second class alongside the first; and so indeed many (Grotius, Bengel, Ewald, Lünemann, Hofmann [Jowett, Alford, Ellicott, Webster and Wilkinson, &c]) distinguish, finding here the two classes of persecutors who vexed the Thessalonians; those who know not God would be the heathen, those who obey not the gospel the Jews (comp. Romans 10). But this same excessive strictness of historical reference is not at all advisable; Paul speaks generally of the judgment of the world. Moreover, Bengel himself says merely Judæis maxime, and Hofmann also [Estius, Cocceius, Whitby, Peile, Revision, &c.—J. L.] sees in the second class all who reject the gospel, whether heathens or Jews; in this we recognize the correct feeling, that to limit the second designation to the Jews is unjustifiable; but in that case the contrast is no longer clear, and there comes in the recollection of Christ’s reproach to the Jews, that they know not God ( John 8:55; John 15:21; John 16:3; they are wanting in the knowledge described in John 17:3); with which the Apostle’s expressions are to be compared ( Romans 3:11; Romans 10:2; Romans 11:8 sqq.). On the whole, since the antithesis here is different from that in Romans 2:12, one looks for a condemnation at last only on account of the rejection of Christ, in which alienation from God culminates. The οἵτινες also of 2 Thessalonians 1:9 comprehends in one the two seemingly different classes; so that we shall do better to find already in the eighth verse a description, not of two classes of men, but merely of the two poles of enmity against God: the fundamental aversion of men generally, and the consummation of their contumacy, when the opportunity of faith has been afforded them; so Calvin [Bishop Hall], Pelt, De Wette, Olshausen; the repetition of the τοῖς cannot force us to the opposite view,[FN24] if we compare Romans 4:12 [see also my Revision of Revelation 16:2, Note j. These two are much better examples than those which Ellicott cites, and objects to as questionable, viz. Matthew 27:3; Luke 22:4.—J. L.]. Moreover, the ἅγιοι and the πιστεύσαντες, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, are not two different classes (as Bengel consistently would have it), but two parallel designations of the same persons. At any rate, we see here that the θλίβοντες of 2 Thessalonians 1:6 come under the judgment, not as being merely human oppressors of men, but as enemies of God. [Wordsworth: μή implies that their ignorance and disobedience is the cause of their punishment.—J. L.]

5. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10.) Who [οἵτινες, who, as such.—J. L.] shall suffer punishment, &c.: properly pay, discharge; but the etymology disappears, as the opposition would otherwise be incongruous: (namely) everlasting destruction; ὅλεθρος we had at 1 Thessalonians 5:3; ὀλέθριον [Lachmann] is given only by A.; this were an adjective to δίκην; but it is too feebly supported (the Sin. is also against it), and is unsuitable to ἀπό, &c, and to δίκην which already has an adjective [?]; the mistake was occasioned probably by αἰώνιον. The latter word might perhaps denote a long but still limited period; against this, however, is the parallel ζωὴ αἰώνιος, Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46; therefore without limits. Olshausen thinks that Paul has not another text of equally decided import; but, though he does not use this expression, he yet does say unconditionally: βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσι ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The ἀπό, &c. is variously understood; Chrysostom, Bengel, Pelt, De Wette, Ewald, Hofmann explain from the face as of the efficient cause ( Acts 3:19, where, however, it is connected with ἐλδεῖν); προσώπου would be not simply equivalent to person, but more expressive: from His face, which will be turned toward them in a threatening, penal, terrible manner; that mere look destroys them; Chrysostom: He needs but to appear, and they are punished; Hofmann compares Jeremiah 4:26; Sept.[FN25] De Wette supposes that the second member especially: from the glory of His power, compels us to think of the efficient cause; but of that too an explanation may be found, that agrees still better with δίκην τίσουσιν, ὅλεθρον αἰώνιον, namely, as Beza, Lünemann [Jowett, Alford, Ellicott], and others understand it, away from. Olshausen compares Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21, Sept.: They will hide themselves, fleeing ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ φόβου κυρίου καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ, and finds in our text a breviloquence (as it were, hiding themselves from). But that is not at all necessary. We get the finest sense, and, as Lünemann properly remarks, a real advance, and not still the same thing merely that was already implied ἐν τῇ ἀποκ., when we understand it as destruction (away) from the face of the Lord (Jesus Christ); like ἀναθεμα ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ( Romans 9:3); comp. ἀπό also in Romans 7:2; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 5:4.[FN26] This is destruction, to be separated from the blessed vision of His face, from the Source of light and life, from the influence of His gracious aspect; comp. Matthew 7:23; and from the glory (the effulgence) of His strength; there is the less need of understanding this in De Wette’s sense, that it is not said simply, from His strength, but from the δόξα of His strength. Lünemann’s explanation indeed: from the glory which is the creation [Alford: visible localized result] of His power, is somewhat far-fetched; the parallelism leads us rather to understand by that something belonging to the Lord Himself; comp. also the Hebrew הֲדַר נְּאֹנד, Isaiah 2:10; Hofmann: from His strength appearing in its glory; Diedrich: the glory of His omnipotence, in its creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and in its entire communication of itself to the saved. And is not this a calamitous deprivation, to be separated from that glory of Christ’s power, which will glorify man into the likeness of the Lord? ( Philippians 3:21); and so to remain without any share in that which follows in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 : When He shall come, more exactly, shall have come [Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth]. And now the parallel members pour forth in the splendor of the prophetic strain, and bring the positive supplement to the ἅνεσις of 2 Thessalonians 1:7. To be glorified in His saints does not mean simply to be praised by or amongst them in words, but to be actually shown to be glorious in the glory that He effects in them, by letting His glory appear in the glorification of His saints, by dwelling in them, and imparting Himself to them; see 2 Thessalonians 1:12; John 17:10; John 17:22 sqq.; Romans 9:23. And so it is taken also by most expositors. The saints here are certainly Christians, not angels; the latter, indeed, were particularly named in 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Nor does Bengel succeed in proving, convincingly, that the believers are a different class from the saints; we rather recognize in this place merely the solemn parallelism of the members. But this does not exclude the climax implied in the πᾶσιν: in all, therefore also in you ( 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7). The being admired might be understood thus: In the hearts of His believers He will create for Himself an admiring adoration,; but the parallel member leads rather to this explanation: By that which He works in them He will show Himself wonderful; He will become the wonder and admiration of creation (especially perhaps of the angels, comp. Ephesians 3:10), when it is revealed, what He has known to make of His believers. Thus it is taken already by Chrysostom: δι’ ἐκείνων θαυμαστὸς ἀποδείκνυται; Theophylact [Webster and Wilkinson] thinks, in the presence of those who are now stiff-necked; Lünemann: The blessedness of believers being admired, Christ also is therein admired as the Author of that blessedness; comp. θαυμασθῆναι, Isaiah 61:6, Sept. It is worthy of note, how delicately one member of the statement answers to the other; the glory reveals what despised holiness Isaiah, and when it becomes manifest to what faith attains, that is a matter of wonder (Hofmann).—Because our testimony to you was believed; μαρτύριον, equivalent to κήρυγμα, εὐαγγέλιον; ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς belongs even without an article to μαρτ. (according to Winer, §202), that directed toward you (similarly Luke 9:5); were it to be referred to ἐπιστεύθη, πρός must have been used.[FN27] Bengel seems to take ὅτι as that, for he says: motivum admirationis, as if the clause supplied the subject of θαυμασθῆναι; whereas its subject is still the Lord. The words ὅτι to ὑμᾶς are already rightly regarded as a parenthesis by Theodoret and Theophylact, and then by Zwingli and Calvin; ἐν τῇ ἡμ. ἐκ. goes back beyond that, but not, as Bengel would have it, to the too remote ἕλθῃ; [still less, as Webster and Wilkinson would have it, to δίκην τίσουσιν.—J. L.], but to ἐνδοξ. and θαυμασθῆναι. Altogether untenable is Luther’s translation: Our testimony to you of that day ye believed; as little does it answer to take ἐπιστευθη for a future or (Grot.) a future perfect; to say nothing of other misinterpretations. The sense of the parenthesis with the verb put emphatically forward is this: Since our testimony to you was believed, therefore I can speak of πιστεύσασιν in application also to you (ὑμῖν, 2 Thessalonians 1:1); yes, you too belong to the believers; he would fill them with the comfortable assurance: Ye are of the number. The addition of in that day, on the other hand, says: It will not happen till then; till then, patience! Calvin: fidelium vota cohibet, ne ultra modum festinent. [Perhaps also the phrase, in that day, was intended strongly to suggest the thought, that the very same day, which brings terror and ruin to the ungodly and unbelievers, brings rest and glory to their former victims.—J. L.]—Hofmann understands the passage otherwise; to avoid the parenthesis, he supposes that with ὅτι ἐπιστ. there is a new beginning; and that ἐν τῇ ἡμ. ἐκ, belongs to what follows, namely, to ἵνα ὑμᾶς ἀξιώσῃ, thus getting now in his turn εἰς to ὑμῶν for a parenthesis;—intolerably harsh! For though the position of ἐν τῇ ἡμ. ἑκ. before ἵνα might perhaps be justified by Acts 19:4 and similar texts, yet to add to the inversion the parenthesis also is too Much.

6. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12) Darauf geht auch allezeit unser Beten fur euch (Thereunto tend also at all times our prayers for you); such was our German paraphrase; εἰς is not the same thing as δι’ , quapropter (Grot.); it might mean, in reference to which ( Romans 4:20; Lünemann); but the final signification is to be preferred: aiming at which, to which end ( Colossians 1:29; De Wette [Jowett, Revision, Webster and Wilkinson, Am. Bible Union, &c.]), and the objection to this, that the certain truth of the purpose of grace ( 2 Thessalonians 1:10) would thus be made dependent on the Apostle’s prayers, loses its force, so soon as we closely connect therewith περὶ ὑμῶν (with this view do we pray for you),[FN28] and further perceive that ἵνα, &c. merely carries out what εἰς at the forefront of the sentence indicates;[FN29] at 1 Thessalonians 3:10 likewise the import of the prayer is expressed in the form of a design. Bengel: hoc orando nitimur; that what was promised in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 may fall also to your share. We also pray, he says; we too for our part, in harmony with the purpose of God. This we do besides giving thanks ( 2 Thessalonians 1:3).[FN30]That our God (says Hebrews, with devout appropriation) may count you worthy of the calling; § Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen, Ewald, and many understand it of making worthy; Von Gerlach: that He may bestow on you the necessary qualities, of which what follows would thus furnish the explanation. But ἀξιοῦν is always to deem worthy, pronounce [?] worthy; therefore: that He may count you worthy of being adjudged the κλῆσις. But were they not called long since? what should this still impending κλῆσις mean? One might think, as in the parable of the supper, of repeated calls: that He may count you worthy of the last, decisive, energetic call, which brings you to the object; or as Hofmann says (and this might be separated from his distorted construction of our passage): that He may count you worthy of a calling, which brings to completion what began with our testimony and your faith therein; of the call δεῦτε ( Matthew 25:34), to which already Zwingli refers. But we may also with Lünemann (without regarding Philippians 3:14, βραβεῖον τῆς κλήσεως, as quite parallel) understand κλῆσις as meaning that to which you are called: May He at last pronounce you worthy of that, the opposite of which might also, indeed, follow a want of fidelity[FN31] comp. ἐλπίς, of the thing hoped for, Colossians 1:5. The difference, after all, is really unimportant; for Hebrews, who is finally thought worthy of the glory to which Christians are called, is thought worthy also of the last invitation: Come, then![FN32] The Apostle’s prayer is directed, moreover, to this point (in order that the ἀξιοῦν may be realized): that He may fulfil every desire of goodness, &c.; ὑμᾶς does not belong to this clause, πληροῦν not governing two accusatives, but the meaning Isaiah, in you. If we disregard obviously false interpretations (Grotius: your goodness, that is well-pleasing to Him; similarly Olshausen and others), the only question Isaiah, whether with Calvin, Bengel, Pelt, and others, we are to understand it thus: that He may fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, ex parte Dei, adds Bengel, and, at the second member, ex parte vestri. But that is not well here; De Wette, Lünemann, Ewald, Hofmann properly hold that the second member, which denotes something wrought in the Thessalonians, compels us to understand the first also of ἀγαθωσύνη in the Thessalonians. Besides, Paul never uses this word of the Divine, but always of human goodness ( Romans 15:14; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9). And again, if God’s goodness was to be spoken of, we must necessarily have had πᾶσαν τὴν εὐδ., and αὑτοῦ after it. The correct view, therefore, is: that He may bring (in you) to fulfilment every good pleasure in, every inclination to, goodness [so Alford, Ellicott, Webster and Wilkinson: “better, grace in them than towards them,” &c. Alford errs, however, in making ἀγαθωσύνης a gen. of apposition.—J. L.]. God must fulfil this; otherwise we are prone to evil; εὐδοκία of the human disposition we find also at Romans 10:1. Delight in what is good is partly the first preparation for faith ( John 7:17), and partly its fruit. But here the Apostle speaks, not merely of the furtherance of this disposition, but of its fulfilment. Thus we are not to think simply of a growing sanctification, nor, as regards the work of faith, simply, with Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, of the endurance of persecutions; but Paul has his eye on the final mark. On ἕργον πίστεως, comp. the exegetical explanation of 1 Thessalonians 1:3; for the completion and slight modification of that let it merely be added, that for the right understanding of that text it seems to us indispensable, 1. to take the three genitives in the same way, and2. to avoid every interpretation, by which one member of the statement would be confounded with another. It is very clear that the κόπος τῆς ἀγάπης is there the toil and labor springing from love, befitting love. This must guide us also in the first member; ἔργον τῆς πίστεως is the work springing from faith, befitting faith; not, however, the moral authentication of faith outwardly, which would encroach on the second or third member, but the fundamental inward work of faith in the soul; not the sum of the works which spring from faith, but that which is presupposed as the foundation of all moral activity, to wit, the primary act of breaking loose from self-confidence, and casting one’s self entirely on the living God. Instead of Galatians 5:6, the text for comparison is rather Romans 4:20-21. This energetic groundwork of faith Paul sees existing in the Thessalonians; he notes it in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, whereas here his prayer for them is that God may fully accomplish it, and through faith bring to perfection the new man; ἐν δυνάμει, in power, with force ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5); Lünemann: powerfully; resardua, says Calvin. It belongs to πληρώσῃ.—That the name of our Lord Jesus, &c. Compared with 2 Thessalonians 1:10, this word indicates that to Himself we can bring no glory, but His name is glorified in us, and we personally in Him. Yet is His (and in general the Divine) name itself something real, as is expressly shown by the present context, which in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 asserts of the name what 2 Thessalonians 1:10 says of Christ Himself. Hallowed be Thy name; in the name of Jesus we pray, and in the name of God the Father, &c. we are baptized; comp. Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 26:2; 1 Kings 8:29; Jeremiah 32:20; Psalm 48:11, 10]. What His name is in fact He Himself makes for Himself; it is not a name given by mere human invention and conception. He reveals Himself as he would be recognized and invoked, as He who is what He is called, and is effectively present wherever called upon. His name is glorified in us; and therefore this does not mean merely, that He is celebrated in the praises of our lips, but (as the second member shows) that He is in fact made glorious, when the Lord shows Himself in us true to His name, as the prayer-answering Saviour; when He prevails with us to have His name named upon us, as those who really belong to Him ( Deuteronomy 28:10; Amos 9:12; James 2:7)—And ye in Him, that Isaiah, may be glorified; a reciprocity, as in John 17. Most understand this as in Him, the Lord; Lünemann, Hofmann: in it, the name. As regards the meaning, the difference is unessential. This word likewise looks to the consummation; living in the Lord, we are to be made partakers of His glorified nature; in the name of the Lord: the power of that name, which is above every name. And all this, according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ. He thus quenches all human pride. Since the article stands before θεοῦ, and not before κυρίου, it is altogether most natural, with Hofmann, to refer θεοῦ also to Christ [but see Critical Note13.—J. L.], without this being, as Hilgenfeld supposes (p264), a mark of spuriousness; for not merely Titus 2:13, but also Romans 9:5 speaks of Christ in loftier terms than are agreeable to our modern critics (comp. John 20:28; 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:11). The distinction between God and Christ is not to be sustained by an appeal to texts like 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2, since there the article is wanting also before θεῷ and θεοῦ.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:3.) It is important for all life, that it also grow; otherwise it stands still, or rather retrogrades. But growth in the kingdom of grace proceeds in part differently from what it does in the kingdom of nature. Even a tree, indeed, must grow as well below as above. But still more does that saying of Starke hold good of the Christian life: This growth takes place either openly and sensibly, when a Prayer of Manasseh, after experiencing the sorrows of repentance, is sensibly comforted and quieted in his soul ( Psalm 103:1-5); or it takes place in a secret, concealed, hidden manner in circumstances of trial, when a man perhaps makes the most powerful advance, but God does not yet allow Him to be clearly and properly sensible of in—Still more important is another distinction, to wit, that every being in nature, even every man and every people, reaches on the natural side a highest point, and then declines and goes toward death, whereas by Christ and His Holy Spirit is implanted in the individual and in humanity a germ of imperishable life, that does not decay, but ripens to perfection ( 2 Thessalonians 1:11), and is just then most powerfully matured, when tribulation even to death wastes the outer man.

[Burkitt: As it is our duty, it will be our 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 excellencies, but see matter of praise and thanksgiving due unto God only, and nothing to themselves.—M. Henry: We may be tempted to think that, though when we were bad we could not make ourselves good, yet when we are good we can easily make ourselves better; but we have as much dependence on the grace of God for the increasing the grace we have, as for the planting of grace when we had it not.—J. L.]

2. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:4.) Are we at liberty even to glory in men? Not so as to foster our own ambition, or to flatter the ambition of others. Nor is all danger obviated by saying, that we extol God’s work in them; the old man seeks to catch his share also therein. Where faith is really put to the trial of patience ( James 1:2-5), there is the least risk of pride, and in such a trial there is incentive for others. They, who are commended, are not allowed by God to want for secret checks. For them too that word holds good: noblesse oblige.

3. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:5.) God’s rule is a constant righteous judging and sifting with a gracious purpose; for righteousness stands in the service of grace; grace reigns through righteousness ( Romans 5:21). But it is not always easy even for faith to keep track of this. Not merely are wilful, impatient persons offended, that it often seems to go ill with the good, and so well with the wicked; not merely do the frivolous and faint-hearted ask, Where is now the righteous God? but even Asaph had well-nigh slipped here. It is the triumph of faith, when it lays hold of the Apostle’s word, and in that very thing, which seems to conflict with all righteousness, learns to recognize the working out of righteous judgment. On one side it is a terribly earnest declaration of it, when God punishes sinners by giving them up to sin ( Romans 1:24 sqq.; Romans 9:17; Romans 11:8 sqq, Romans 11:32); the Christian likewise may be sensibly visited with chastisement, and it is hard to stand beneath the judgment of God; nevertheless, in the severity itself there is comfort, since it lifts us above dependence on men. And to him, who yields to the humiliation, there is the further help vouchsafed, that his faith is strengthened in the impossibility of the righteous God allowing confidence in His promise to come to shame; and still more, in the very confusions of time he perceives evidence of the righteous judgment of God, which in sending afflictions and persecutions, in hardening the ungodly, in the chastisement and purification of the pious, in their separation from the world, and in their confirmation to a believing constancy, accomplishes itself from day to day, till in the final consummation ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6 sqq.) it reaches the end of righteous retribution. Until then the account is still open; then comes the settlement.

4. Rieger: A man becomes meet for the kingdom of God under suffering; not as if by suffering he could deserve it. For truly our affliction is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us ( Romans 8:18). The mercy of God in Christ alone makes us meet for this inheritance ( Colossians 1:12). But God’s plan and order Isaiah, to try man’s intrinsic worth and value by their endurance in the fire of affliction, and whether they are possessed by a paramount delight in the invisible and eternal, or by an irredeemable tendency to vanity ( 2 Corinthians 4:17-18). The heirs of the kingdom must earn for themselves the witness, that they love not their lives unto the death ( Revelation 12:11). In the judgment of the world, it is true, they suffer as evildoers, as wilful, unmanageable people; but the testimony of God in a good conscience bids them rejoice, and leap for joy, and glory in tribulation, because they suffer for the kingdom of God ( Luke 6:23; 1 Peter 4:13; Romans 5:3; comp. Revelation 6:10 sq.; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 11:18).—We add, that a man cannot claim the reward, as if he had first given something to God ( Romans 11:35); but when God has trained, proved, and tested a Prayer of Manasseh, like gold in the fire, He crowns in him His own grace, and gives him the reward of his fidelity.

[Lectures: “That ye may be counted worthy, &c.;—if indeed it is a righteous thing, &c.” In using such expressions—and there are very many of them in the New Testament—the inspired writers proceed upon the ground of that gracious covenant, in which, through their union with Chrst, believers stand, and whose merciful provisions, on God’s part absolutely sovereign and free, alone give them all the claim they have on the Divine favor here or hereafter. But that claim, though thus originating, and because thus originating, is an infinitely and eternally valid claim. It is deep and abiding, as the love of the Father for the Son; strong and sure, as the word and oath of Him who cannot lie—cannot deny Himself—or frustrate any hope which He himself has raised. In this respect, as in many others, the gospel salvation reveals God’s righteousness no less than it does His love.—J. L.]

5. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7.) The jus talionis, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” or, “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” would be improperly described as a human right of retaliation. It is rather just the inviolable Divine order, though in a sensible, allegorical form. Jesus Himself does not in Matthew 5:38 sqq. reject the principle (comp. Matthew 7:2), but merely the arbitrary Pharisaic abuse of it. A Divine order it remains, and as such is engraven on the human conscience, that guilt shall recoil on the head of the perpetrator. However much and however long justice may lie oppressed amongst men, with God it stands unshaken. All God’s long-suffering does not annul the fact, that His proceedings tend in the long run to a perfect retribution. For this reason even the purpose of God’s grace is not accomplished by means of an amnesty setting justice aside, but through the satisfaction of justice by an adequate atonement. Whoever rejects this, draws upon himself the final judgment; whoever in the sense of a living, penitent faith acquiesces in the economy of redemption, in that man the righteousness of God can work out salvation ( 1 John 1:9; Romans 3:26). On the wrath of God, comp. the Apologet. Beiträge by Gess and Riggenbach, p89 sqq.—[Barnes: If it is right that the sinner should be punished, it will be done.—J. L.]

6. The eschatological excitement in Thessalonica, though it was known to the Apostle, does not at all hinder him from discussing these great truths. An abuse does not abrogate the proper use. And it is true that he speaks on the subject for the very express purpose of comforting those under persecution. But neither does he fail also to follow this up in 2 Thessalonians2with the needful sedatives. One chief mark of Scripture as originating with the Spirit of God Isaiah, that both in the teaching of doctrine and in the regulation of the life it speaks with so great depth and force, and yet at the same time also with so great moderation; never one-sidedly either in the way of exaggerating or in that of suppressing any truth. It is to be observed, moreover, that this expectation of rest at the return of Christ stands in distinct contradiction to the Irvingite doctrine of the translation; see the Doctrinal and Ethical Note on 1 Thessalonians 4:17.[FN33]

7. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.) But how should the prospect of the perdition of the ungodly serve to comfort the pious? This seems to savor of a malignant joy, or at least to express a strange longing for vengeance. To wait for the judgment of God, however, is something different from avenging ourselves ( 1 Peter 2:23). And the former should as little be wanting in the children of God, as God ever ceases to be holy. The oppressors spoken of here, as so often in the Psalm, are not at all opponents on trifling grounds of human quarrel, but they hate God’s servants and children, because they hate God’s truth. In our text 2 Thessalonians 1:8 especially shows that those are meant to whom salvation was offered, but they have trifled away their hour of grace. Respecting the violence and scorn of the ungodly the living sentiment of justice now cries to God. On this point no man can Judges, who has no inward experience of zeal for God’s glory. Paul testifies with joyful faith, that now already the righteous judgment of God rules, but withal he holds fast, as a postulate, the final, complete separation between the pious and the ungodly, as in Malachi 3:18. Scripture generally is far from any abstract, idealistic surrender of the final and absolute triumph of the cause of God. If then we think of the Apostle’s fervent longing to be made a curse for his brethren ( Romans 9:3), if they could thereby be helped, we shall give up entirely talking about vindictiveness. Yet how few have experienced the vehement desire, that right shall still be right, and God continue to be God, which must arise in a soul compelled to endure the harshest abuse and oppression of its faith! We need not wish to be more merciful than the eternal Mercy ( Matthew 7:14). There is a point, at which the flaming majesty of the holiness of God advances in power against the obdurate despisers of His grace. Nevertheless, the love of enemies remains in force ( 1 Thessalonians 5:15), so long as there is still anything to be hoped for. Calvin’s admonition Isaiah, that, although Paul promises vengeance, yet we are not to wish for it against any man. It is quite possible that the honor of God’s cause, and the salvation of those exposed to seduction, might impel an Apostle to call down a sharp judgment on the adversaries ( 1 Corinthians 5:5; Acts 13:10-11); but the design always Isaiah, wherever it is still possible, correction in order to salvation; and human violence is never allowed to interfere ( Matthew 13:29. Give place unto wrath ( Romans 12:19), that Isaiah, to the wrath of God; where that is kindled, it becomes Prayer of Manasseh, in the fulness of awe, and also of humble submission, as well as of sympathy towards those who are judged, to stand aside. There thus exists a fundamental likeness between the piety of the Old Testament and that of the New. The difference does not consist in the setting aside in the New Testament of the threatenings of judgment, but only in this, that in Christ’s redemptive work there is revealed an inconceivably larger grace than the Old Testament gave occasion to expect, whereby the uttermost is done to render possible a deliverance from judgment. While the revelation before Christ was to be altogether true—wholly that, and nothing more than that, which humanity before Christ was able to bear—yet, with all the glory of the words of grace even in the Old Testament, it was still impossible that the fulness of mercy should be made known as it was by Christ in word and deed. Comp. the essay on die Nächstenliebe, Stud. und Krit., 1856, p117 sqq.

8. On not knowing God, see the Doctrinal and Ethical Note on 1 Thessalonians 4:5. The heathen also are guilty, when they do not even inquire after God; but there are still many amongst them, who, for their own part, are at least in some measure excused by the general degradation. This is recognized in the words of the Lord respecting Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah ( Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24). The consummation of guilt Isaiah, when the original stupidity towards God develops itself into conscious rejection of His gracious counsel and work; and here again also blasphemy against the Holy Ghost marks the highest point. “Whosoever denieth the Song of Solomon, the same hath not the Father” ( 1 John 2:23); this word is receiving an ever-growing fulfilment in our day. It is possible for one to pray to a God who yet is rather sought than known. But wherever Jesus, the highest revelation of the true God, is not merely still unknown, but is denied and rejected, there at last nothing more is retained than a power of nature, to which it is impossible to pray as to a Father. But as the denial of Jesus betrays the repugnance of the heart, so faith is a matter of the will. In the former case, the meaning is: So thou sayest, but I will not, and thus God is made a liar ( 1 John 1:10); here the Apostle speaks of the obedience of faith. For this very reason the principle stands firm also with Paul, that a man is judged according to his deeds ( Romans 2:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10). But the innermost soul of right conduct is obedience to the command for the reception of grace; and that is just faith.

9. Holy Scripture knows nothing of the entire renunciation of all motives of fear and hope, such as is required by philosophic morality; nor is it known in actual life. Even the dullest indifferentism, even the haughtiest self-consciousness, cannot fully extinguish fear and hope; nor should it. The only point of importance Isaiah, that the living God become their object.

10. The eternity of punishment is to many a peculiar offence. But let us not forget that only those are threatened with this (especially in Matthew 12:31-32), on whom the merciful God, Father, Song of Solomon, and Spirit, has brought to bear His entire work of grace, and has done so in vain.[FN34] Through obdurate resistance to grace the state of inward desolation must have reached such a pass, that from a man in this condition even his neighbors necessarily become detached; whereas on the other hand we cannot think highly enough of the resources of the grace of God. Now since the grace of God Himself, being more fervent than a mother’s love, cannot forget, and therefore cannot, it would appear, cease to love, how is it possible that it should perpetuate the life of the damned, merely to subject them to perpetual torment? In the line of these thoughts we reach various attempts to set bounds to the eternity of the punishments of hell. The most obvious device still would be to take αἰώνιος in a limited sense; but the inference on the side of life [ Matthew 25:46] would scarcely be accepted. It must be allowed that, where we have to deal with first principles and final issues, we are least capable of viewing things as God Himself views them, and therefore also are least entitled to lay down definite doctrines transcending the rule of Scripture. Comp. Apolog. Beiträge, p239 sqq. [On the subject of this paragraph, see Lectures on Thessalonians, pp454–460.—J. L.]

11. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12.) Who can form to himself a sufficiently lofty conception of that glory, when the Lord shall glorify His own in soul and body—shall disclose to all the world their previously unknown inward blessedness and sanctifying forces—shall manifest them as the Temple of God, as His friends and children, and introduce them to His everlasting joy (Calwer Handbuch der Bibelerklärung)! What amazement will it then awaken, to see this mighty body (of which Christ is the Head), grown up from the small seed-corn of faith, and now standing there perfect in its beauty through the union of all its members with the Head (Von Gerlach)!

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

2 Thessalonians 1:3. Beginning and progress—both come from God; even growth therefore is no merit of ours.—Heubner: As the individual, so likewise the Church must be constantly on the increase.—Calvin: How disgraceful is our sluggishness, that we scarcely in a long while advance a foot!—The same: We owe God thanks also for the good that He does to our brethren. So dear to us should be the salvation of our brethren, that whatever is given them we should regard as our own good. The welfare of every member tends to promote the prosperity of the whole Church.—Paul seeks to keep all the churches bound to one another in cordial sympathy.—Berl. Bib.: In the growth of love consists the greatest beauty of a church.—Theophylact (after Chrysostom): We should not love one, and another not; partial love is not love, but the cause of quarrels.—The same: It is not tears and lamentations that our sufferings deserve, but thanksgiving.—[Bishop Wilson: If love abounds, faith also increaseth. This is a test.—J. L.]

2 Thessalonians 1:4. Heubner: Temptations verify faith; by persecution is Christianity sealed.—Stähelin: The fairest growth of faith, love, and experience flourishes on the stem of the cross.—In such circumstances a mere notion does not hold its ground.—Chrysostom: Where love and faith are weak, they are shaken by affliction; where they are strong, they become thereby still stronger.—How is it that in distress faith grows? and how love?

2 Thessalonians 1:5. To what degree is the patient endurance of persecution proof of the righteous judgment?—When things go well with the ungodly, the carnal mind says: There is no judgment.—Heubner: That which now appears to conflict with the Divine righteousness is for faith a confirmation of it. It is shown that God saves those only who are proved and sorely tried. Thy sufferings are necessary for the justification and glorification of the righteousness of God. Thou art thereby to appear as one worthy of salvation.—Berl. Bib.: Satan must not say: Christians do well to be pious; they are not allowed to suffer.—Stockmeyer: When it is said: Where is now the righteous God? why does He not own us? understand that, in enduring with patience and faith, thou hast already experienced a palpable demonstration of the righteousness of God.—The same: From the glorious end light is reflected on the darkest experiences, wherein, however, the righteousness of God even already wrought, to make thee by means of thy unjust suffering gradually worthy of salvation.—Starke: There is such a thing as the holy vengeance of God; Antiochus, Herod, Nero experienced it.—Heubner: To vex, afflict, oppress a man that loves God, and is loved by God, is in God’s eyes one of the most heinous offences.—Chrysostom: We would not vindictively rejoice over the punishment of others, but over our own deliverance from such punishment and torment.—God will assign to every one the position suitable to his inward state.—Berl. Bib.: The inward and outward and external will there be mutually reconciled.

2 Thessalonians 1:7. There is such a thing as coming out of great tribulation, a Sabbath rest, a blessed liberty of the children of God.—Heubner: Like faith, like trial, like reward.—Calvin: Much greater deference is given to those who have had long practice in that which they teach; Paul does not stand in the shade, and bid the Thessalonians fight in the sun.—Heubner: The angels have power to execute the judgments of God; the mightiest villain is powerless against them; one glance of an angel smites him to the earth.

2 Thessalonians 1:8. Chrysostom: By saying nothing about hell, wilt thou thus extinguish it?—The same: No one who keeps hell in view, will fall into hell.—The same: It is a great evil, to despise threatenings.—Theophylact: If those are condemned, who do not obey the gospel, how much more those who prevent the obedience of others!

2 Thessalonians 1:9. Mark that terribly serious word, everlasting.—Rieger: To appear before Jesus, and to be unable to stand in the presence of His glorious power, will be just as intolerable for the ungodly as their punishment itself; even as the trial and court-day are often felt more keenly than the penalty.—Heubner: To be banished from the face of Christ is more than all torture.

[Leighton: Glorified in His saints, &c.;—how much more in the matchless brightness of His own glorious person!—J. L.]—Stockmeyer: It will one day be manifest, that sanctification is glorification; at present many dread it as being the death of the old man.—Roos: Every one will wonder that from an insignificant root (faith) has sprung the splendid flower of glory, or that faith in the preached gospel should have drawn after it such glorious results.—The same: That Christ should be glorified and admired in the saints requires that they too have glorified bodies, and appear with Christ ( Colossians 3:4).—Stockmeyer: Many will be surprised, when too late, that many things which they pronounced impossible have yet come to pass.—[Lardner: The Wisdom of Solomon, power, and faithfulness of Christ, glorified in the perfect holiness, external glory, and great number, of His people.—J. L.]

2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 is one of the Epistles for the 26 th Sunday after Trinity (or else for the 27 th). It proclaims to us the righteousness of Divine retribution, 1. as consolation for oppressed Christians, who are growing in faith and love: a. already in the midst of their affliction let them recognize the holy rule of the righteousness of God; b. let them confidently expect, in the day of Revelation, not merely rest from their labor, but glorification; 2. as a serious warning for the adversaries, who are not merely a. driven now already from one degree to another of hostility to God, but are also, b. drawing upon themselves everlasting destruction; nor can they charge this on the gospel, but solely on their disobedience to it.

2 Thessalonians 1:11. Stockmeyer: Whoever is able to suffer for the cause of God, so long as it is still despised and assailed, is worthy also to rejoice with it, when it comes to honor.

2 Thessalonians 1:12. Heubner: Jesus is best glorified, and the honor of His name vindicated, in the life of Christians. Were this apology furnished by Christians, no written one would be needed, and their slanderers would be struck dumb.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. Stockmeyer: In this section are two things deserving of all consideration: 1. that the Apostle feels himself impelled, even for such a Christian church as that was, still to make continual intercession; and2. what it is that he asks for them1. The Apostles and Christ Himself lay great stress on intercessory prayer, whether it be the pouring forth of our heart’s sorrow for such as are still to us the occasion of sorrow, or whether it is because we reflect on how much is involved in a man’s persevering to the end in the right way. Of course, intercession is not a kind of convenient makeweight for laziness, which likes to do nothnig otherwise; but it seeks the blessing of God, without which we can do nothing2. The matter of the intercession Isaiah, that God would bring them to a point where He can count them worthy of the heavenly calling in its entire length and breadth; and, for this purpose, that He would grant them grace to remain faithful and obedient to the call to holiness. Thus will be fulfilled the saying: “I am thine, thou art mine.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - 2 Thessalonians 1:1.—[Sin 1 inserts καί before πατρί—the reading of two cursive manuscripts, but corrected in Sin2—J. L.] 2 Thessalonians 1:2.—ἡμῶν is wanting only in B. D. E.; it is found in the majority of uncials (also Sin.), versions, and Fathers. [It is bracketed by Lachmann, and cancelled by Tischendorf and Alford.—J. L.]

FN#2 - 2 Thessalonians 1:3.—[Εὐχαριστεῖν; see 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Critical Note2.—Sin 1 omits πάντων.—J. L.]

FN#3 - 2 Thessalonians 1:4.—For ἡμᾶς αὐτοὑς, Sin, with B. and a few cursives, reads αὐτοὺς ἡμᾶς.—Revision: “Grammatically, ὑμῶν belongs only to διωγμοῖς, and only ταῖς θλίψεσιν to αἷς ἀνέχεσθε.”—In the First Epistle E. V. always renders θλῖψς affliction, and often elsewhere.—J. L.]

FN#4 - 2 Thessalonians 1:6.—[εἴπερ, hypothetical, not causal; see the Exegetical Note4. Vulgate, si tamen; English Version in four out of the other five cases of εἴπερ, if so be (that), and so Alford and Ellicott here; De Wette and Lünemann, wenn anders.—J. L.]

FN#5 - 2 Thessalonians 1:6.—[τοῖς θλίβουσιν ὑμᾶς θλίψιν. Ellicott, who retains the Greek order: “The change seems to preserve more clearly the antithesis, and also to bring more into prominence the ‘lex talionis’ that is tacitly referred to.”—J. L.]

FN#6 - 2 Thessalonians 1:8.—πυρὶ φλογὸς is given by Sin. A. K. L, nearly all the minuscules, Chrysostom and others; φλογὶ πυρός, by B. D. E. E. G. [Scholz, Lachmann, Wordsworth, Ellicott]. Tischendorf prefers the former, because the other as being the more common might more easily arise from correction, and in other places where it is genuine there is never any appearance of change.

FN#7 - 2 Thessalonians 1:8.—[Or: and to those who obey not. This construction, naturally suggested by the repetition of the article, is adopted by very many, and understood to designate a different class from the μὴ εἰδόσι θεὸν. See in opposition to this view Exegetical Note4, and in favor of it the Revision of this verse, Note a.—J. L.]

FN#8 - 2 Thessalonians 1:8.—Χριστοῦ is added in Sin, A. F. G, and many versions; it is wanting in B. D. E. K. L, Coptic and others.—[Riggenbach follows Knapp and Lachmann in bracketing Χρ.; it is omitted by Bengel in his German version, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott.—J. L.]

FN#9 - 2 Thessalonians 1:9.—[προσώπου. Comp. Matthew 18:10; Luke 1:76; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:12; Revelation 20:11—J. L.]

FN#10 - 2 Thessalonians 1:10.—All the uncials [and critical editions] give πιστεύσασιν; only a few minuscules have πιστεύουσιν.

FN#11 - 2 Thessalonians 1:11.—[πᾶσαν εὐδοκίαν ἀγαθωσύνης. See the Exegetical Note6, and Revision, Notes q and r. Desire ( Romans 10:1), though not precisely an equivalent for εὐδοκία, is in this instance convenient, and at least more readily intelligible than Ellicott’s phrase, every good pleasure of goodness. Am. Bible Union: all the good pleasure of goodness.—J. L.]

FN#12 - Riggenbach omits it, as do Tischendorf, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott. Knapp and Lachmann bracket.—J. L.]

FN#13 - 2 Thessalonians 1:12.—[Or: our God and Lord Jesus Christ. So Riggenbach and some others. Generally, however, this case is regarded as an exception to the ordinary rule of grammar, on the ground that “Κύριος . Χ. is a common title of Christ, and is often used independently of all which precedes it” (Middleton).—J. L.]

FN#14 - Lünemann’s construction, however, is the common one, and is preferred by Alford, Ellicott, Webster and Wilkinson: “Added to introduce the special subject of thankfulness, as one that fully justifies the assertion, εὐχ. φείλομεν.”—J. L.]

FN#15 - über die Erwartung. Better in the version: übersehr, exceedingly, beyond measure.—J. L.]

FN#16 - mehrt sich; in the version, zunimmt.—J. L.]

FN#17 - Rather to all that precedes from ὑπὲρ τῆς ὐπομονῆς to ἀνέχεσθν. So Fritzsche, De Wette, Lünemann, Alford, Ellicott. See the Revision, Note k.—J. L.]

FN#18 - The above is scarcely an exact representation of De Wette’s view. He indeed parenthetically suggests as a possible explanation of εἰς τό the idea of the substance or purport (Inhalt) of God’s righteous judgment, as he does also that of Lünemann (Folge, result); but he himself plainly prefers allowing the Greek phrase its usual final force: der Zweck des göttlichen Rechstspruches. Nor does De Wette speak of the subjective worthiness being realized by means of the objective judgment of God; what he says Isaiah, that by the latter the Thessalonians shall be actually and in fact translated into God’s kingdom: das Rechtsurtheil Gottes, durch welches sie wirklich und in der That in das Reich Gottes werden versetzt warden. He errs merely in restricting the Divine judgment to its future manifestation.—J. L.]

FN#19 - Lectures: “Such being the design and tendency, and such the certain result, of God’s righteous judgment concerning His afflicted saints.”—J. L.]

FN#20 - I cannot but fear that the above elaborate discussion still leaves the matter somewhat obscure. Ellicott, perhaps too rigorously, confines the δικαία κρίσις to that which “will be displayed at the Lord’s second coming;” but he appears to be quite right in saying, that “to refer it solely to present sufferings, as perfecting and preparing the Thessalonians for future glory (Olsh.), is to miss the whole point of the sentence: the Apostle’s argument is that their endurance of suffering in faith is a token of God’s righteous judgment and of a future reward, which will display itself in rewarding the patient sufferers, as surely as it will inflict punishment on their persecutors.” In my Revision and Lectures the case was put thus: “The patience and faith of the Thessalonians under persecution indicated the righteous judgment of God, by which they were even now, and hereafter were to he still more gloriously, accredited as meet heirs of His kingdom; just because, and in so far as, there was thus indicated the realization in their character and condition, as God’s justified, sanctified, and at the same time suffering people, of the very grounds on which, by the laws of that kingdom, such a judgment must proceed.”—J. L.]

FN#21 - Ellicott: “The καί with a species of consecutive force supplies a renewed hint of the connection between the suffering and the καταξιωθῇναι, κ.τ.λ.” Alford: “q. d ye accordingly,”—J. L.]

FN#22 - And so the Peschito Syriac, Drusius, Michaelis, Koppe, except that they connect the αὐτοῦ with ἀγγέλων.—J. L.]

FN#23 - So the Syriac, Beza, and many others.—J. L.]

FN#24 - Ellicott, however, is of opinion that it renders that view “all but certain.”—Revision: “I see no reason in the present case to waive the operation, of the ordinary grammatical rule, especially as ignorance of God is frequently with Paul the specific characteristic of Gentilism; 1 Thessalonians 4:5 (comp. Sept. Jeremiah 10:25); Acts 17:23; Acts 17:30; Romans 1:28; Galatians 4:3; Ephesians 2:12, &c.; and it Isaiah, moreover, probable that the present ( 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5), no less than the previous ( 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Acts 17:6, &c.), sufferings of this church had a double source, in the blind ungodliness of the heathen in general, and the special malignity of all such as resisted the grace of the gospel.”—J. L.]

FN#25 -

[Comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Exodus 14:24; Psalm 104:32; Habakkuk 3:6. My Revision cites Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar, i 2 Thessalonians3 :

“Cæsar shall forth: the things that threaten’d me,

Ne’er look’d but on my back; when they shall see

The face of Cæsar, they are vanished.”—J. L.]

FN#26 - Also Genesis 4:16; Proverbs 15:29; Jeremiah 32:31; Matthew 22:13; 1 John 2:28 (in the Greek;—and see the other references in my Revision of that verse, Note a).—J. L.]

FN#27 - And then with the genitive, not, as here, the accusative.—J. L.]

FN#28 - It Isaiah, however, taken for granted throughout, that the Thessalonians were of the number of the saved; and therefore the ultimate answer to the objection is that given in my Revision: “It is no part whatever of Pauline philosophy, that the gracious and unalterable purpose of God vacates the prayers and efforts of faith. Only by means of these could Paul and his brethren aspire to be co-workers with God toward the predestined result. See 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Philippians 2:12-13, &c.”—J. L.]

FN#29 - Not exactly so. Εἰς refers immediately to the future glorification of the Lord in His saints; ἵνα, &c. to the preparatory sanctifieation of the Thessalonians.—J. L.]

FN#30 - Alford: “We pray also (as well as wish).” Ellicott: “Besides merely longing or merely directing your hopes, we also avail ourselves of the definite accents of prayer, the καί gently contrasting the προσεύχ with the infusion of the hope and expectation involved in the preceding words, and especially echoed in the parenthetical member.” Lectures: “As that ( 2 Thessalonians 1:10) was to be the result of the Advent in believers generally, so also, and with a view to the same consummation, Paul’s continual request at the throne was, that the necessary preparatory work might be completed in the members of this particular church.”—J. L.]

FN#31 - τῆς κλήσεως;—not, your calling (Peile, Alford, Ellicott). Comp. 3 John 1:7, ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος.—J. L.]

FN#32 - Ellicott:“κλῆσις, though realty the initial act; comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:12), includes the Christian course which follows ( Ephesians 4:1), and its issues in blessedness hereafter.” See Revision and Lectures. I am still inclined to refer ἵνα ὑμᾶς ἀξιώσῃ τῆς κλήσεως to God’s final judgment on the Thessalonians as having walked worthy of their vocation (ἀξίως τῆς κλήσεως ἧς ἐκλήθητε, Ephesians 4:1. Comp. the invariable New Testament use of ἀξίως, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, and the import of ἄξιος in Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20). But as those whom God counts worthy He first makes worthy, the rest of the verse describes this preparatory process.—J. L.]

FN#33 - I am not aware of any sufficient scriptural evidence of the doctrine referred to. But just as little, so far as I can see, is it contradicted by our text.—J. L.]

FN#34 - This seems to mean that none are in danger of eternal punishment but blasphemers of the Holy Ghost. Believing this doctrine to be thoroughly unscriptural, I shall be allowed here simply to express my firm dissent.—J. L.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/2-thessalonians-1.html. 1857-84.

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