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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
2 Thessalonians 2

 

 

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Verses 1-12

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. The Misconception of the Parousia.—This section forms the heart of the epistle. The previous chapter is merely an introduction, and the following chapter merely a conclusion, to this paragraph. The Thessalonians seem to have misinterpreted Paul's teaching about the Parousia, with disastrous effect. The belief that Christ was immediately to reappear thoroughly disorganised their lives. In this paragraph Paul tries to remove the misconception, and definitely affirms that the Parousia cannot take place till certain conditions have been fulfilled. First of all must come the apostasy and the revelation of the Man of Sin. At present, however, there is a restraining power at work which makes this revelation impossible. When the restraining power is removed, the lawless one will appear, and will be followed by Christ, who will slay him with the breath of His mouth.

The meaning of this section has been keenly and voluminously debated. The two points which have to be decided before the passage can be rightly interpreted are: (a) Who is the "Man of Sin"? (b) What is the "power that restrains"? Probably the most satisfactory answer to these questions is. (a) the "Man of Sin" represents Antichrist, who is expected by Paul to arise out of the Jewish nation. Hitherto, it must be remembered, opposition to Christianity had come almost entirely from the Jews, and it was quite natural for Paul to think that the intense hatred of Judaism would embody itself in the person of some Jewish antagonist. Just as the spirit of love had become incarnate in Jesus Christ, so the spirit of hate would embody itself in Antichrist. This view seems, on the whole, more satisfactory than the theory that the "Man of Sin" will emanate from the pagan world, though the phrase "he sitteth in the Temple of God, setting himself forth as God" would be very applicable to Caligula's attempt to profane the Temple, and the later cult of Csar worship which deified the Roman Emperor. (b) "The power that restrains" on this theory is the Roman Empire, which had always hitherto protected Christianity against lawless attacks from the Jews. Cf. pp. 616, 631, 774f.

In plain English the passage seems to mean: The Parousia will not come without signs and warnings. Antichrist must appear first, and Antichrist will embody the Jewish hostility to the Christian faith. At present the Roman Empire is holding this hostility in check. The time will come, however, when this restraint will be withdrawn. Then Antichrist will be let loose and Christ will reappear to challenge and destroy him.

[It is in favour of the view that the mystery of lawlessness, and self-deification of the man of sin, refers to the temper manifested in Caligula, that it is difficult, with all Paul's reason for exasperation with the Jews and lurid anticipations of their impending fate (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16), to believe that he would expect such an outbreak of lawlessness and deification of a man to spring from a people so passionately monotheistic and devoted to the Law. It is accordingly at least plausible to interpret the passage in the following way:—The mystery of lawlessness has already manifested itself in Caligula. At present it is held in check by Claudius, the reigning emperor of Rome. When he is "taken out of the way," his successor will be the man of sin, carrying to a climax the impious tendencies already revealed by Caligula. The guarded character of the language is much easier to understand if Paul identified the man of sin with the next Roman emperor. There was no such need for cautious language if the Empire played a good part throughout.—A.S.P.]

2 Thessalonians 2:2. by epistle as from us: forged letters, purporting to come from Paul, were apparently circulated by his opponents. The view that 1 Th. is meant does not seem likely.

2 Thessalonians 2:3. the man of Sin: Antichrist.

2 Thessalonians 2:4. The "Man of Sin" will, by his own deliberate action, usurp the dignity and prerogatives of God.

2 Thessalonians 2:6. that which restrained: the Roman Empire (see above). The term "mystery" is used in NT not in its modern sense, i.e. something that is unintelligible, but to signify "a secret which has been or is to be revealed" (Ephesians 1:9*). Paul's statement that the "mystery of lawlessness doth already work" puts out of court all theories which try to find Antichrist in some later historical figure, e.g. Napoleon.

2 Thessalonians 2:8. slay . . . breath of his mouth: cf. Isaiah 11:4, Psalms 33:6.

2 Thessalonians 2:9. power . . . signs, etc.: the three words used here are the NT words for "miracles."

2 Thessalonians 2:11. God sendeth them: cf. Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28. We should state this differently in modern phraseology. We should say "God has ordained that those who disobey Him and wilfully blind their eyes to the light shall fall into error. These people disobeyed Him and therefore fell under the scope of the law." Paul puts the matter more shortly, and makes God the direct agent in the individual case.


Verses 13-17

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. Further Thanksgiving and Prayer.—In contrast to the men mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, Paul thanks God for the Christians whom God chose for salvation. The paragraph concludes with a brief doxology.

2 Thessalonians 2:15. traditions: here refers to the actual teaching given by the apostle, whether oral or written.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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