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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
2 Thessalonians 2

 

 

Verse 1

2 Thessalonians 2:1. Concerning the coming. The preposition used by Paul means perhaps something more than ‘concerning,’ and is equivalent to ‘in explanation or defence of.’ The coming of Christ had been misrepresented; Paul now does it justice by setting it in a clearer light.

Our gathering together. That is, the gathering together of all Christians to be for ever with Christ, spoken of in the First Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.


Verses 1-12

Instruction regarding the Coming of the Man of Sin, his Power, Falsneness, and Destruction.

In order to remove the misunderstanding and allay the anxieties regarding our Lord’s coming which had arisen from the First Epistle, Paul proceeds now to explain that previous to that great event certain others must occur. Especially he reminds the Thessalonians that the apostasy must first be developed, and that time must be allowed for the mystery of lawlessness to mature until it should finally culminate in the appearance of the Lawless One. The manner of his appearance is described and the destruction that awaits him foretold.


Verse 2

2 Thessalonians 2:2. That ye be not soon shaken out of your mind. Evidently Paul had heard that they had been excited by false impressions about the nearness of the Lord’s coming, and had acted as men who had lost their senses, giving up their ordinary occupations and scandalizing sober-minded people. The word ‘shaken’ ‘marks that agitated and disquieted state of mind, which, in the present case, was due to wild spiritual anticipations’ (Ellicott). This state of mind had been ‘soon’ brought about, i.e. without due consideration, and as soon as any one said to them, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or ‘Lo, there.’ To prevent this instability and a disorder so prejudicial to the cause, Paul now again writes to them.

Nor yet be troubled. It is the Lord’s own advice. ‘See that ye be not troubled,’ or panic-stricken. Matthew 24:6.

Neither by spirit. The first Christian congregations were often left by their founders in a state of ignorance of all but the fundamental truths. Persecution or openings in other places quickly forced the apostles to pass on and leave the young churches to themselves. To compensate for their loss and for the want of our chief means of knowledge—the New Testament canon—a prophetic order was raised up among them. Apparently in every Christian congregation the descent of the Spirit of Christ was signalized by the supernatural endowment of a number of teachers. That it was so in Thessalonica we see from 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20; and that Paul refers to such teachers in the words ‘by Spirit’ is probable, comp. 1 John 4:1.

Nor by word, nor by letter, as if by us. Word and letter, i.e. oral and written communications, comprise Paul’s methods of instructing his churches. See 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The words ‘by letter as if by us’ are generally, though not literally, rendered as in the English Version, ‘by letter as from us,’ implying that a forged letter purporting to be from Paul, and affirming that the day of the Lord was already come or immediately imminent, had been circulated among the Thessalonians. The strongest argument in favour of this view is the circumstance that at the close of this Epistle Paul draws attention to his signature as the test by which the genuineness of any of his Epistles might be ascertained. The weight of authority is decidedly in favour of this interpretation. But the reasons on the other side seem more conclusive.

1. The words in question, when literally rendered ‘as if by us,’ give a perfectly intelligible and strictly relevant meaning. ‘Be not troubled by letter, as if we had said that the day of the Lord,’ etc.: Be not disturbed by anything I have said or written, as if in my teaching there were ground for the impression you have received. The whole remonstrance amounts to this: Let no spirit be quoted to uphold this disturbing idea, nor let word or letter of mine be quoted, as if I had given ground for your disturbance.

2. Had Paul meant ‘a letter purporting to be from us,’ he would in all-probability have used another preposition more distinctly expressing the source from which anything emanates.

3. It is difficult to believe that he would have spoken so cursorily of so alarming a symptom in the church as a forged Epistle.

4. It is in itself an improbable thing, that while Paul was within easy reach and could be at once appealed to, so daring and profitless a forgery would be attempted.

5. It was natural that in this Second Epistle, which might seem to contradict what he had taught in the First, he should draw attention to his signature as evidence that both Epistles were from himself.

At hand. The word here used indicates the closest proximity or presence; but whether Paul means that the day of the Lord had been represented as having already begun or as being immediately imminent, it is difficult to say. The arguments Paul uses, and other general considerations, favour the latter view. From his former letter the Thessalonians had conceived the idea that the Lord’s return was to be immediate. As the most effectual means of convincing them that this is an erroneous impression, he proceeds to recount what must first of all transpire.


Verse 3

2 Thessalonians 2:3. Let no man deceive you by any means, either by professing superior enlightenment as if a spirit spoke through him, or by interpreting my words as if I had meant what he affirms.

The apostasy, of which Paul had spoken while at Thessalonica, and which our Lord predicted in Matthew 24:12 as a characteristic of the last days. Comp. also the concluding words of the parable of the importunate widow, ‘When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth.’ This general ‘going out from us’ of those who ‘were not of us,’ this widespread falling away from faith in Christ, will apparently be produced by distressing outward circumstances, the perplexed and disturbed state of nations, and calamities of the kind most difficult to be borne. So that when our Lord speaks of this apostasy, pity rather than surprise or reproach is the pre-dominating sentiment in His mind.

The man of sin. This title might appropriately be used of an element existing in many men, as Paul elsewhere speaks in that sense of ‘the old man;’ or it might be used as the designation of a class of men rather than of an individual, as we speak of ‘the intemperate man;’ but when we read on and find that all the expressions Paul uses regarding ‘the man of sin’ and his coming are not only personal but individual, we cannot but think he expected that the final outburst of evil would be headed by a personal Antichrist

Be revealed. Before Christ is revealed, Antichrist must first be revealed. The same term is used of both; strengthening the supposition that Paul speaks of a personal, individual Antichrist. Paul speaks of the revelation of the man of sin in contrast with the hidden working of iniquity which had already begun, 2 Thessalonians 2:7. ‘Even as Christ is now spiritually present in His Church, to be personally revealed more gloriously hereafter, even so the power of Antichrist is now secretly at work, but will hereafter be made manifest in a definite and distinctive bodily personality’ (Ellicott).

The son of perdition. The term applied to Judas, and signifying the most intimate connection of the person with perdition.


Verses 3-12

EXCURSUS ON MAN OF SIN.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.

The obscurity of this passage arises partly from its prophetic character, partly from the circumstance that Paul is merely referring to what he had already explained by word of mouth. He does not feel himself called upon to repeat explanations which he bad previously given. What is to us obscure was intelligible to his original readers; and ten words from Paul’s mouth would give us certainty where now there is much that is dubious.

The elements of which this prediction is composed are also found in the prophecies of Daniel, the last discourses of our Lord, the Apocalypse, and the Epistles of John. Daniel speaks of one who ‘shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High;’ of one ‘who shall magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished.’ John’s prediction is similar: ‘There was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.’ Our Lord, in His survey of the course which events would take, predicts that in the last times, ‘because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold;’ and indicates that when the Son of man cometh, faith shall be rare upon earth. This unbelief and heartlessness, the general falling away of the Church from faith in Christ which is to indicate the nearness of Christ’s second coming, will be produced by distressing outward circumstances and by delusive representations which are to mislead all but the elect. The end of this world is not spoken of as a fixed date at which the present order of things must abruptly close. It is not spoken of as a point of time arbitrarily chosen as the termination, irrespective of the moral condition and prospects of the world, but it is spoken of as conditioned by certain features in the world’s history which make the termination fitting if not necessary. The coming of Christ is to occur at that juncture when apparently nothing short of this could save the world from universal apostasy and the total extinction of Christianity. This final apostasy Paul represents as culminating in the revelation of the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, that wicked (or lawless) one. These expressions naturally lead us to suppose that a person is indicated. This view, though disputed by some interpreters, is confirmed by the definition of Antichrist given in 1 John 2:22 : ‘He is Antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son,’ a definition which applies to a person, not to a system. It is also confirmed by the fact that the similar predictions uttered by Daniel were fulfilled by a person, Antiochus Epiphanes. And weight must also be given to the observation of Alford, that ‘almost all great movements for good or for ill have been gathered to a head by one central agency.’

But the question, Who is the person thus ominously designated? divides interpreters still more seriously. There are some who solve the difficulty by supposing that the prophecy was a merely human anticipation engendered by Judaistic views of the end of all things, and that it has no fulfilment in fact. But of those who believe it to be a true prediction, some suppose its fulfilment still lies in the future; others, interpreting the ‘coming of Christ’ of some great historical catastrophe such as the destruction of Jerusalem, believe that it has long since been fulfilled.

Of these latter, or praterist interpretations, there may be said to be three classes. 1st. There are those who, with Grotius, Wetstein, and Döllinger, find the Man of Sin in one or other of the Roman emperors.(1) Much plausibility is lent to these interpretations by the manner of the prediction itself, which would seem to speak of a near and imminent catastrophe. And it cannot be wondered at, that when the Church was suffering severely at the hands of any individual, she should suppose that here at last was the Man of Sin revealed. Some confirmation has also been given to this view by the discovery, made simultaneously by four Biblical scholars, that the number of the beast in the Apocalypse corresponds with the name Nero. Godet has, however, shown that this decipherment, though supported by world-renowned names, is open to the gravest doubt. But the most conclusive argument against this application of the prophecy lies in the nature of prophecy itself, which would lead us to expect a ‘springing and germinant’ fulfilment along the whole line of history. This expectation is deepened when we find that however applicable one or two particulars of the prophecy are to one or other of the Roman emperors, there is always an unfulfilled margin, room left for some grander and more complete fulfilment.

n the same grounds the second class of interpretations must be rejected. This class refers the coming of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, and finds the Apostasy and the Man of Sin in the previous condition either of the whole Jewish nation (Whitby) or of a portion of it, such as the Pharisees or Rabbis (Schöttgen), or of an individual like Simon Magus (Hammond).

The third class has always been the most largely represented, and consists of those interpretations which find the Man of Sin in some misleading system of doctrine or worship, or some antichristian creed. In the Middle Ages, Mohammed was frequently branded as Antichrist. The Protestants have with much plausibility sought to demonstrate that the Pope is the Man of Sin; and the Papists have naturally retaliated by exhibiting the similarity between Luther and Antichrist.(2) And certainly there are many striking points of resemblance between some of the worst Popes, or even between the system of Popery itself, and the description here given by Paul. The points chiefly insisted on are the notorious profligacy and ambition of some of the occupants of the Papal See, the assumption of the title ‘our Lord God the Pope,’ the session of the newly-elected Pope on the high altar in St. Peter’s and his adoration by the cardinals, the lying wonders performed by the relics of saints, by images, and by officiating priests. It is also remarkable that this interpretation first arose not among Protestants, but long before the Reformation among Romanists themselves. Dr. Eadie (p. 340) cites a number of writers who adhered to the Church of Rome, and who yet with greater or less explicitness pointed to the Pope as fulfilling this prediction. ‘Gregory I., toward the end of the 6th century, had foreshadowed the opinion in asserting theoretically that any one possessing the kind and amount of power, which the Pope claimed soon after his time, would be the forerunner of Antichrist. His words are:—‘I confidently assert, that whoever calls himself or seeks to be called Universal Priest, is by his self-exaltation the forerunner of Antichrist, inasmuch as he proudly sets himself above others.’

This, however, seems to be the most that can be said, that the Pope or Popery is in some respects a forerunner of the Man of Sin. For in other respects the identification fails. It cannot, e.g., be said that the Pope ‘opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God.’ On the contrary, the creed of Rome has constantly affirmed Trinitarian doctrine, and the Church of Rome is still the refuge of those who thirst for God and are yet unable to prove His existence to the satisfaction of their own intellect. It might more plausibly be affirmed that Positivism is the Man of Sin, because it is in principle Atheistic or at best Agnostic, and it does fulfil the terms of the prediction by setting humanity in the place of God. But however much any system may prepare for the manifestation of Antichrist, and what-ever share it may therefore have in that ‘mystery of iniquity’ which ‘doth already work,’ this is a guilt which is probably not peculiar to it, and which does not justify us in identifying it with that yet unrevealed monstrosity of blasphemy and atheistic pride which Paul leads us to look for not in a system but in an individual.

The Man of Sin who is to be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord’s coming has not yet appeared. In persecutions which have crushed voting churches out of existence; in heretics who have seduced men from Christianity with arguments so plausible as to deceive, if it were possible, the elect themselves; in false religions or corrupted forms of the true religion, in misleading philosophies, in all these we find some of the characteristics of Antichrist, but in none do we find every feature which is here set down. In these iniquity is working in a mystery, in a hidden manner, the evil is rooting itself and growing and gaining ground. Revolution, war, social disorder, unbelief, these things and the causes of them are ever seething together, combining in forms we cannot always analyze, striving as it were to manifest themselves and bring all things to ruin. The forerunners of Antichrist are to be distinguished from him who is himself alone Antichrist. John says that even in his day there were many Antichrists.

It seems then idle to speculate in what precise form the Man of Sin will appear. It is possible that as in Paul’s day the Jews were the most bitter antagonists of the Gospel, so it is reserved for them to exhibit wickedness and opposition to the truth in the most aggravated form possible to man. This view has won many supporters. If we are to be guided by the name Antichrist, as signifying a counter-Christ or pseudo-Messiah, it is to Judaism we must look for this development. And those who have most closely studied this people will be the last to affirm that they are not destined yet to play a leading part in the last act of this world’s drama.

But what is it which prevents this mystery of iniquity which already works from reaching its full development? There is a very general consensus of interpreters that what Paul had in view when he spoke of ‘he that withholdeth’ or ‘that which now letteth,’ was the Roman power. It was the armed strength of Rome and their strict administration that prevented the Jews from exterminating the Christian Church, if not everywhere, in many places, and especially in Thessalonica. It was the Roman legions which kept down that restless ambition of the Jewish people, and which nipped in the bud every effort at revolt and establishment of a worldly Messianic kingdom. That particular form of the ‘withholder’ is gone, but the terms of the prophecy have still been fulfilled in one form or another of civil government, which for its own sake has kept down lawlessness and those outbursts of godlessness which seem from time to time to threaten the destruction of all civil arrangements and institutions as well as of all things sacred.

Any who wish to pursue this subject will find abundant material for doing so in the following books, in which references to others are given:—Encyclopedia Brit., s.v. Antichrist (by Dr. Sam. Davidson); Eadie on Thesslonians; Baring-Gould’s Myths of the Middle Ages; Bleeps Lectures on the Apocalypse; Renan’s L’ Antechrist (chapters on the Apocalypse); Reuss’ History of Apostolic Age; Godet’s New Test. Studies; Newman’s Essays Crit. and Hist., vol. ii., and his Discussions and Arguments. Bishop Wordsworth’s identification of Antichrist with the Papacy is certainly very worthy of consideration; see his pamphlet, Is the Papacy predicted by St. Paul? Farrar’s article in the Expositor for May 1881, or his Appendix to the Life of St. Paul. may be consulted for an opposite view.


Verse 4

2 Thessalonians 2:4. Who opposeth—who is the adversary of God and all that is good. The phrase will best be understood by referring to Daniel 11.

And exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped. The prediction of Daniel (Daniel 11:36, etc.) is couched in terms almost identical, and found partial fulfilment in the impious arrogance of Antiochus Epiphanes. If in our own day we look for a type of Antichrist which may help us to understand what the final form may be, we see at least this characteristic fulfilled in the Positivist worship of humanity. All that men have hitherto called God and worshipped is put aside with contempt, and man takes the place of God,

Sitteth in the temple of God. ‘The use of this image may have been suggested by the recent attempt of Caligula to place his statue in the Temple, as well as by the common practice of deifying the Roman Emperors’ (Jowett). More probably, however, it was suggested by the prediction in Daniel, which colours the whole of this passage, and in which it was announced as a sign of the end that ‘they shall pollute the sanctuary and shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.’ Comp. Matthew 24:15. In the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy it may not be the temple of Jerusalem which is thus desecrated; the terms of the prediction will be satisfied if the homage due to God is drawn aside to something human.


Verse 5

2 Thessalonians 2:5. This verse is inserted with a slight accent of surprise not altogether unmingled with reproach that they should have made so little of the instruction he had orally given them.


Verse 6

2 Thessalonians 2:6. And now. These words may either mark the present time in contrast with the time when Paul was with them, alluded to in the preceding verse; or may mark the slight transition to a different aspect of the subject.

Ye know what withholdeth. They knew because Paul had told them; we have not that advantage, and can but surmise what it is which from Paul’s time till now has exercised the restraining influence on wickedness. If we turn to our Lord’s discourse, the only thing to which such power is ascribed is the purpose of God that the Gospel should first be preached for a witness unto all nations, before the end come (Matthew 24:14). Until this be accomplished the fit time for the revelation of the man of sin has not arrived, and he is therefore held in check. By this interpretation, ‘he who withholdeth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:7) must be God Himself, and interpreters have generally refused to accept this reference, because the words ‘until he be taken out of the way’ could not be used of God. It is to be observed, however,’ that the expression so rendered in the Authorised Version is equally applicable to a voluntary withdrawal; indeed, it was not an unusual expression among the Greeks for declining battle. This interpretation might therefore appeal to the history of the world before the flood, in which God for a time kept down the wickedness, but when the time for judgment came pronounced the final word, ‘My Spirit shall not always strive with man.’ The interpretation which most modern writers agree in accepting is that which understands ‘that which withholdeth’ to be ‘the restraining power of well-ordered human rule, the principles of legality as opposed to those of lawlessness, of which the Roman Empire was the then embodiment and manifestation.’ This is corroborated by Paul’s own experience of the protection afforded by the Roman government, and also by the prophecy of Daniel already cited. In conformity with this, ‘he who withholdeth’ is understood to be the Emperor or other person in whom for the time being such government resides, or (as in Daniel 10:5; Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20) the good spirit (or angel) who aids the cause of God and His people by aiding human governments in the repression of those outbursts of godless lawlessness which threaten the destruction of all civil arrangements and institutions. Obviously, whatever the words signify, they must mean something which has existed from Paul’s day to our own, something which during that whole period has had the effect of restraining wickedness.

That he might be revealed in his own time. The purpose contemplated by God in thus restraining the man of sin was that he might not be revealed before his appointed time (comp. Daniel 11:36).


Verse 7

2 Thessalonians 2:7. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work. The wickedness which is finally to culminate in an individual, and in an open undisguised manner, already works in a hidden, mysterious way. In Paul’s own day there were shadows and forebodings, earnests, and operating elements, of that which was one day to come in its fulness. Just as the types of Christ went before Christ, so the shadows of Antichrist precede him. In truth, every event of this world is a type of those that follow, history proceeding forward as a circle ever enlarging’ (Newman, Discussions, p. 49). Similarly the Apostle John says (1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3), ‘Even new are there many antichrists;’ ‘This is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.’

Only he who now withholdeth will withhold. The latent iniquity would quickly appear in a fully developed form were it not for this restraining influence, here ascribed to a person, or at least personified.


Verse 8

2 Thessalonians 2:8. And then. As soon as the restraining influence is removed.

The lawless one. That is, the Man of Sin above spoken of.

Whom the Lord Jesus shall destroy. ‘Before describing his appearance, the apostle, as it were by way of consolation to the Church, anticipates his destruction’ (Jowett).

With the breath of his month. An expression denoting the ease with which omnipotence accomplishes its object. In Psalms 33:6 it is used of creative power, the hosts of heaven were made ‘by the breath of His mouth.’ Comp. also Isaiah 11:4, ‘With the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.’

With the manifestation of his coming. The word translated in the Authorised Version ‘brightness’ means simply manifestation or appearance, as of an enemy’s fleet coming in sight, or of gods making themselves visible to their worshippers, and points here therefore to the visible coming of Christ: His mere appearing will be sufficient to destroy His enemies.


Verse 9

2 Thessalonians 2:9. Whose coming. Having by anticipation described the destruction of Antichrist, Paul now gives the characteristics of his coming.

According to the working of Satan. The coming of the Man of Sin will be accompanied with such manifestations of power as are peculiar to Satan, viz.

in all power, and signs and wonders of falsehood. The qualifying addition, ‘of falsehood,’ refers to all three preceding nouns; and signifies that the power, signs, and wonders were all used in the service of falsehood, and had rather the appearance than the reality of true miracles.


Verse 10

2 Thessalonians 2:10. And in all deceitfulness of unrighteousness. This more comprehensive expression is added to complete the description of the deceitfulness of the Man of Sin; he will come and win acceptance not only by doing wonders which seem miraculous, but by every kind of deceit which unscrupulous wickedness can suggest.

In them that perish. This expression specifies the class of person in whom this deceit of the Man of Sin will take effect, and thus affords a tacit consolation to Christians, involving, as it does, the assurance that in their case the Satanic power shall not deceive them. Those who are deceived have prepared themselves for such deception and destruction.

Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Disinclination to learn the truth of course predisposes men to believe a lie, and gradually incapacitates them from discerning between the true and the false. For various reasons men seek to avoid the truth, to shut their eyes to it for the present, to live as if it were not true, and so doing they become darkened in their minds; they have their wish and cannot see the truth. On the words ‘that they might be saved’ Ellicott remarks that they denote the object that would have been naturally contemplated in their reception of it; and which was negatived and disregarded by the contrary course.

God doth send. ‘The words are definite and significant; they point to that “judicial infatuation” into which, in the development of His just government of the world, God causes evil and error to be unfolded, and which He brings into punitive agency in the case of all obstinate and truth-hating rejection of His offers and calls of mercy’ (Ellicott). ‘Of all the fatal effects of sin, none looks so dreadfully, none strikes so just an horror into considering minds, as that every sinful action a man does naturally disposes him to another; and that it is hardly possible for him to do anything so ill, but that it proves a preparative and introduction to the doing of something worse’ (South).

A working of delusion. This is the Satanic and delusive ‘working’ of the Man of Sin already referred to. Unbelief tends to become superstition. The Jews who rejected the true Christ were led away by false Christs. Newman (Patristical Idea of Antichrist, p. 70) illustrates this state of mind by a reference to the French rejection of God, and worship of liberty and Reason. ‘It would almost be incredible, that men who had flung off all religion should be at the pains to assume a new and senseless worship of their own devising, whether in superstition or in mockery, were not events so recent and so notorious. . . Men may oppose every existing worship, true and false, and yet take up a worship of their own from pride, wantonness, policy, superstition, fanaticism, or other reasons.’

A lie. We adhere to the Authorised Version, although many of the best interpreters prefer to translate these words ‘the lie,’ referring to the falsehood implied in the deceitful coming of the Man of Sin. But this does not afford so precise a contrast to ‘the truth’ in the succeeding clause, which evidently means truth in general.


Verse 12

2 Thessalonians 2:12. That they may all be judged. Ellicott says: ‘It need scarcely be said that κριθῶσιν is not per se “might be damned,” but simply “might be judged,” the further idea of an unfavourable judgment being supplied by the context.’ However, the familiar use of the word ‘judgment’ to denote the judicial punishment of men by God, shows that the fact that in the majority of cases judgment results in punishment has told upon terminology.

Took pleasure in unrighteousness. This was the reason of their rejecting the love of truth from their minds; they loved the darkness because their deeds were evil.


Verse 13

2 Thessalonians 2:13. But we are bound to give thanks. The awful destiny of those who have not believed to the saving of their souls suggests to the apostle the value of faith and salvation; and this leads him to thank God for conferring those blessings on his much-loved Thessalonians.

From the beginning chose you. In this compact passage we get the whole series of ideas essential to the Gospel; the eternal (‘from the beginning’) election of God, the call of God through the preaching of the Gospel, the belief of the truth and the sanctification of the believer by the Holy Spirit, and the consequent obtaining of salvation or fellowship in Christ’s glory. All this results from God’s election of them to it, and therefore Paul gives God thanks for it all, and specially for the election. Antinomianism, which is said to result from believing in election, is precluded by the ‘sanctification of the Spirit,’ which is here introduced as the essential link between election and salvation. It is to be observed that in pursuance of the idea, with which Paul has been occupied, that wicked hatred of the truth is at the root of unbelief, he now speaks of sanctification of the Spirit as if it preceded belief in the truth. A man cannot believe till the Spirit has wrought in him a humble and holy willingness to receive the truth.


Verses 13-17

Exhortation suitable to those whom God has saved from Unbelief and Unrighteousness

Paul contrasts the condition and prospects of the believing Thessalonians with those persons of whom he has been speaking, who being habituated to untruth should fall victims to the deceit of the Man of Sin. He thanks God for them, exhorts them to stedfastness, and commends them to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Verse 14

2 Thessalonians 2:14. Whereunto. That is, to salvation through sanctification and faith.

He called you by our gospel. ‘Calling, in the phraseology of Paul, is not a mere invitation or exhortation addressed in the name of God to an individual, through the medium of an apostle or other messenger, and to which the man may or may not yield himself according to the feeling of the moment. ... To this outward invitation there is added, as an invariable and essential element, a corresponding inward feeling produced directly by the contact of the soul with God. Calling, in Paul’s sense, cannot fail or remain barren. In truth, calling and election are one and the same thing, with the one exception of the different epochs to which man—always obliged to apply the measure of time to the operations of God—necessarily assigns the two acts in question (Reuss, Theol. Chretienne, ii. 120).

The glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, the glory which our Lord now enjoys, and of which all His people are to partake (see John 17:22-24).


Verse 15

2 Thessalonians 2:15. Therefore, brethren, stand fast. ‘It might seem as if, when election is spoken of, God had already done all, and nothing was left for man to do. The opposite inference is that of the apostle’ (Jowett). But the inference expressed in the word ‘therefore’ is not from the immediately preceding assurance, but from the whole account he has been giving of the future; and his meaning is: ‘Since these other events must precede the coming of Christ, be not shaken and troubled (2 Thessalonians 2:2) as if this coming were imminent, but stand fast; and that you may do so, do not listen to what every one says, but keep clearly in mind what I have communicated to you, and maintain your faith in that.’


Verse 16

2 Thessalonians 2:16. But may our Lord Jesus Christ himself. As all the instruction we can give you may fail to comfort and establish you, may the Lord Himself effect these blessed results in you, inwardly enabling you to accept the consolation and hope which are really within your reach.

Who loved us. This apparently refers only to ‘God our Father,’ but see below on the word ‘comfort.’


Verse 17

2 Thessalonians 2:17. Everlasting consolation. Everlasting, in contrast to all other comforts which are liable to come to an end, to be confronted with emergencies for which they are insufficient. The word ‘consolation’ here indicates not so much the act of consoling as the ground of comfort.

Good hope. ‘Good, because of the pre-eminent excellence of the object of it, the impregnable basis on which it rests, and the purifying influence which it exerts in the heart and life’ (Lillie).

Through grace. Added to denote the manner of God’s giving: equivalent to ‘who graciously gave us,’ etc.

2 Thessalonians 2:17. Comfort. It is very worthy of remark, that both here and in the parallel instance (1 Thessalonians 3:11) the two persons, ‘the Lord Jesus and God the Father,’ are followed by a verb in the singular number. No reason can apparently be given for this except the unity of the Father and Son.

Stablish you. Comfort should result not only in the feeling of personal security, but in an unanxious and unselfish diligence in every good word and work. The energies which were frittered away in vain speculations and gloomy forebodings should now, when our future is provided for, be concentrated on the duty of the hour.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
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