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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
2 Thessalonians 1



Verse 3

We are bound - as it is meet

The accumulation of cognate expressions indicates the apostle's earnestness.

Groweth exceedingly ( ὑπεραυξάνει )

N.T.oSee on 1 Thessalonians 3:10.

Verse 4

Glory ( ἐνκαυχᾶσθαι )

N.T.oThe simple verb καυχᾶσθαι toboast, and the kindred nouns καύχημα groundof boasting, and καύχησις actof boasting, are favorites with Paul.

Verse 5

A manifest token ( ἔνδειγμα )

N.T.oComp. ἔνδειξις , Philemon 1:28. The token is the patience and faith with which they endure persecution and tribulation. It is a token of the righteous judgment of God, in that it points to the future glory which God will confer at the final judgment and the righteous award which will be dispensed to the persecutors. Similarly Philemon 1:28.

That ye may be counted worthy

The structure of the sentence is loose. These words should be directly connected with righteous judgment, and denote the purport of that judgment - their assignment to an inheritance in the kingdom of God.

Of the kingdom of God ( τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ )

The phrase is not frequent in Paul. βασιλεία θεοῦ four times; βασιλεία τοῦ χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ kingdomof Christ and of God, once. Here in the eschatological sense - the future, consummated kingdom, the goal of their striving and the recompense of their suffering. See on Luke 6:20.

Verse 6

Seeing it is ( εἴπερ )

More literally, if so be that. Confirming, in a hypothetical form, the assertion of God's judgment upon persecutors, 2 Thessalonians 1:5. It implies no doubt, but rhetorically puts a recognized fact as a supposition. So Romans 3:30; Romans 8:9, Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 8:5.

Verse 7

Rest ( ἄνεσιν )

See on liberty, Acts 24:23. With this exception only in Paul.

With us

According to Paul's habit of identifying his experience with that of his Christian readers. See 1 Corinthians 4:8; Romans 8:23; Philemon 1:29, Philemon 1:30; Philemon 2:18; Philemon 3:20, Philemon 3:21; 2 Corinthians 1:7.

When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed ( ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ κυρίου Ἱησοῦ )

Lit. in the revelation of the Lord Jesus. For ἀποκάλυψις revelationsee on Revelation 1:1.

With his mighty angels ( μετ ' ἀγγέλων δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ )

Lit. with the angels of his power.

Verse 8

In flaming fire ( ἐν πυρὶ φλογός )

Lit. in a fire of flame. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:13; 2 Peter 3:7.

Taking vengeance ( διδόντος ἐκδίκησιν )

Lit. giving or rendering. Vengeance is an unfortunate rendering, as implying, in popular usage, personal vindictiveness. See on 2 Corinthians 7:11. It is the full awarding of justice to all parties.

On them that know not God - obey not the gospel ( τοῖς μὴ εἰδόσι θεὸν - τοῖς μὴ ὑπακούουσιν τῷ εὐγγελίῳ )

To know God is to know him as the one, true God as distinguished from false gods; to know his will, his holiness, his hatred of sin, and his saving intent toward mankind. Two words are used of such knowledge, εἰδέναι and γινώσκειν . Both are applied to the heathen and to Christians, and both are used of the Jews' knowledge of God. Ἑιδέναι , of heathen, Galatians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Γινώσκειν of heathen, Romans 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:21. Ἑιδέναι , of Christ and Christians, John 7:29, John 8:19, John 8:55; John 14:7. Γινώσκειν of Christ and Christians, Galatians 4:9; 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14; 1 John 4:6, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:8; John 10:15; John 17:3. In John, γινώσκειν of Jews who do not know the Father, John 16:3; John 8:55: εἰδέναι , John 7:28; John 8:19; John 15:21. The two are combined, John 1:26; John 7:27; John 8:55; 2 Corinthians 5:16. A distinction is asserted between γινώσκειν as knowledge grounded in personal experience, apprehension of external impressions - and εἰδέμαι purely mental perception in contrast with conjecture or knowledge derived from others. There are doubtless passages which bear out this distinction (see on John 2:24), but it is impossible to carry it rigidly through the N.T. In the two classes, - those who know not God and those who obey not the gospel, - it is not probable that Paul has in mind a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were not ignorant of God, yet they are described by John as not knowing him. The Gentiles are described by Paul as knowing God, but as refusing to glorify him as God (Romans 1:21). Paul rather describes here the subjects of God's judgment as one class, but under different aspects.

Verse 9

Shall be punished ( δίκην τίσουσιν )

The verb (N.T.omeans to pay or render. Lit. shall pay penalty.

Everlasting destruction ( ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον )

The phrase nowhere else in N.T. In lxx, 4Macc. 10:15. Rev. properly, eternal destruction. It is to be carefully noted that eternal and everlasting are not synonymous. See additional note at the end of this chapter.

From the presence ( ἀπὸ προσώπου )

Or face. Ἁπὸ fromhas simply the sense of separation. Not from the time of the Lord's appearing, nor by reason of the glory of his presence. Πρόσωπον is variously translated in A.V. Mostly face: also presence, Acts 3:13, Acts 3:19; Acts 5:41: person, Matthew 22:16; Luke 20:21; Galatians 2:6: appearance, 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 10:1: fashion, James 1:11. The formula ἀπὸ προσώπου or τοῦ προσώπου occurs Acts 3:19; Acts 5:41; Acts 7:45; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 12:14; Revelation 20:11. In lxx, Genesis 3:8; Genesis 4:14, Genesis 4:16; Exodus 14:25, and frequently.

Glory of his power ( δόξης τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ )

For glory see on 1 Thessalonians 2:12. Ἱσχὺς powernot often in Paul. It is indwelling power put forth or embodied, either aggressively or as an obstacle to resistance: physical power organized or working under individual direction. An army and a fortress are both ἰσχυρὸς. The power inhering in the magistrate, which is put forth in laws or judicial decisions, is ἰσχὺς , and makes the edicts ἰσχυρὰ validand hard to resist. Δύναμις is the indwelling power which comes to manifestation in ἰσχὺς The precise phrase used here does not appear elsewhere in N.T. In lxx, Isaiah 2:10, Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21. The power ( δύναμις ) and glory of God are associated in Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 19:1. Comp. κράτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ strengthof his glory, Colossians 1:11.

Additional Note on ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον eternaldestruction, 2 Thessalonians 1:9

Ἁιών transliterated eon is a period of time of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end, and complete in itself. Aristotle ( περὶ οὐρανοῦ , i. 9,15) says: “The period which includes the whole time of each one's life is called the eon of each one.” Hence it often means the life of a man, as in Homer, where one's life ( αἰών ) is said to leave him or to consume away (Il. v. 685; Od. v. 160). It is not, however, limited to human life; it signifies any period in the course of events, as the period or age before Christ; the period of the millennium; the mytho-logical period before the beginnings of history. The word has not “a stationary and mechanical value” (De Quincey). It does not mean a period of a fixed length for all cases. There are as many eons as entities, the respective durations of which are fixed by the normal conditions of the several entities. There is one eon of a human life, another of the life of a nation, another of a crow's life, another of an oak's life. The length of the eon depends on the subject to which it is attached.

It is sometimes translated world; world representing a period or a series of periods of time. See Matthew 12:32; Matthew 13:40, Matthew 13:49; Luke 1:70; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:6; Ephesians 1:21. Similarly οἱ αἰῶνες theworlds, the universe, the aggregate of the ages or periods, and their contents which are included in the duration of the world. 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 11:3.

The word always carries the notion of time, and not of eternity. It always means a period of time. Otherwise it would be impossible to account for the plural, or for such qualifying expressions as this age, or the age to come. It does not mean something endless or everlasting. To deduce that meaning from its relation to ἀεί is absurd; for, apart from the fact that the meaning of a word is not definitely fixed by its derivation, ἀεί does not signify endless duration. When the writer of the Pastoral Epistles quotes the saying that the Cretans are always ( ἀεί ) liars (Titus 1:12), he surely does not mean that the Cretans will go on lying to all eternity. See also Acts 7:51; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 6:10; Hebrews 3:10; 1 Peter 3:15. Ἁεί means habitually or continually within the limit of the subject's life. In our colloquial dialect everlastingly is used in the same way. “The boy is everlastingly tormenting me to buy him a drum.”

In the New Testament the history of the world is conceived as developed through a succession of eons. A series of such eons precedes the introduction of a new series inaugurated by the Christian dispensation, and the end of the world and the second coming of Christ are to mark the beginning of another series. See Ephesians 3:11. Paul contemplates eons before and after the Christian era. Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:9, Ephesians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 10:11; comp. Hebrews 9:26. He includes the series of eons in one great eon, ὁ αἰὼν τῶν αἰώνων theeon of the eons (Ephesians 3:21); and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews describes the throne of God as enduring unto the eon of the eons (Hebrews 1:8). The plural is also used, eons of the eons, signifying all the successive periods which make up the sum total of the ages collectively. Romans 16:27; Galatians 1:5; Philemon 4:20, etc. This plural phrase is applied by Paul to God only.

The adjective αἰώνιος in like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting. They may acquire that sense by their connotation, as, on the other hand, ἀΐ̀διος , which means everlasting, has its meaning limited to a given point of time in Judges 1:6. Ἁιώνιος means enduring through or pertaining to a period of time. Both the noun and the adjective are applied to limited periods. Thus the phrase εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα , habitually rendered forever, is often used of duration which is limited in the very nature of the case. See, for a few out of many instances, lxx, Exodus 21:6; Exodus 29:9; Exodus 32:13; Joshua 14:9; 1 Samuel 8:13; Leviticus 25:46; Deuteronomy 15:17; 1 Chronicles 28:4. See also Matthew 21:19; John 13:8; 1 Corinthians 8:13. The same is true of αἰώνιος . Out of 150 instances in lxx, four-fifths imply limited duration. For a few instances see Genesis 48:4; Numbers 10:8; Numbers 15:15; Proverbs 22:28; Jonah 2:6; Habakkuk 3:6; Isaiah 61:8.

Words which are habitually applied to things temporal or material can not carry in themselves the sense of endlessness. Even when applied to God, we are not forced to render αἰώνιος everlastingOf course the life of God is endless; but the question is whether, in describing God as αἰώνιος , it was intended to describe the duration of his being, or whether some different and larger idea was not contemplated. That God lives longer than men, and lives on everlastingly, and has lived everlastingly, are, no doubt, great and significant facts; yet they are not the dominant or the most impressive facts in God's relations to time. God's eternity does not stand merely or chiefly for a scale of length. It is not primarily a mathematical but a moral fact. The relations of God to time include and imply far more than the bare fact of endless continuance. They carry with them the fact that God transcends time; works on different principles and on a vaster scale than the wisdom of time provides; oversteps the conditions and the motives of time; marshals the successive eons from a point outside of time, on lines which run out into his own measureless cycles, and for sublime moral ends which the creature of threescore and ten years cannot grasp and does not even suspect.

There is a word for everlasting if that idea is demanded. That αἰώνιος occurs rarely in the New Testament and in lxx does not prove that its place was taken by αἰώνιος . It rather goes to show that less importance was attached to the bare idea of everlastingness than later theological thought has given it. Paul uses the word once, in Romans 1:20, where he speaks of “the everlasting power and divinity of God.” In Romans 16:26he speaks of the eternal God ( τοῦ αἰωνίου θεοῦ ); but that he does not mean the everlasting God is perfectly clear from the context. He has said that “the mystery” has been kept in silence in times eternal ( χρόνοις αἰωνίοις ), by which he does not mean everlasting times, but the successive eons which elapsed before Christ was proclaimed. God therefore is described as the God of the eons, the God who pervaded and controlled those periods before the incarnation. To the same effect is the title ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν αἰώνων theKing of the eons, applied to God in 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 15:3; comp. 2Timothy href="/desk/?q=2ti+1:9&sr=1">2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2), cannot mean before everlasting times. To say that God bestowed grace on men, or promised them eternal life before endless times, would be absurd. The meaning is of old, as Luke 1:70. The grace and the promise were given in time, but far back in the ages, before the times of reckoning the eons.

Ζωὴ αἰώνιος eternallife, which occurs 42 times in N.T., but not in lxx, is not endless life, but life pertaining to a certain age or eon, or continuing during that eon. I repeat, life may be endless. The life in union with Christ is endless, but the fact is not expressed by αἰώνιος . Κόλασις αἰώνιος , rendered everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46), is the punishment peculiar to an eon other than that in which Christ is speaking. In some cases ζωὴ αἰώνιος does not refer specifically to the life beyond time, but rather to the eon or dispensation of Messiah which succeeds the legal dispensation. See Matthew 19:16; John 5:39. John says that ζωὴ αἰώνιος is the present possession of those who believe on the Son of God, John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47, John 6:64. The Father's commandment is ζωὴ αἰώσιος , John 12:50; to know the only true God and Jesus Christ is ζωὴ αἰώνιος , John 17:3.

Bishop Westcott very justly says, commenting upon the terms used by John to describe life under different aspects: “In considering these phrases it is necessary to premise that in spiritual things we must guard against all conclusions which rest upon the notions of succession and duration. 'Eternal life' is that which St. Paul speaks of as ἡ ὄντως ζωὴ thelife which is life indeed, and ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ θεοῦ thelife of God. It is not an endless duration of being in time, but being of which time is not a measure. We have indeed no powers to grasp the idea except through forms and images of sense. These must be used, but we must not transfer them as realities to another order.”

Thus, while αἰώνιος carries the idea of time, though not of endlessness, there belongs to it also, more or less, a sense of quality. Its character is ethical rather than mathematical. The deepest significance of the life beyond time lies, not in endlessness, but in the moral quality of the eon into which the life passes. It is comparatively unimportant whether or not the rich fool, when his soul was required of him (Luke 12:20), entered upon a state that was endless. The principal, the tremendous fact, as Christ unmistakably puts it, was that, in the new eon, the motives, the aims, the conditions, the successes and awards of time counted for nothing. In time, his barns and their contents were everything; the soul was nothing. In the new life the soul was first and everything, and the barns and storehouses nothing. The bliss of the sanctified does not consist primarily in its endlessness, but in the nobler moral conditions of the new eon, - the years of the holy and eternal God. Duration is a secondary idea. When it enters it enters as an accompaniment and outgrowth of moral conditions.

In the present passage it is urged that ὄλεθρον destructionpoints to an unchangeable, irremediable, and endless condition. If this be true, if ὄλεθρος isextinction, then the passage teaches the annihilation of the wicked, in which case the adjective αἰώνιος is superfluous, since extinction is final, and excludes the idea of duration. But ὄλεθρος does not always mean destruction or extinction. Take the kindred verb ἀπόλλυμι todestroy, put an end to, or in the middle voice, to be lost, to perish. Peter says, “the world being deluged with water, perished ” ( ἀπολοῦνται 2 Peter 3:6); but the world did not become extinct, it was renewed. In Hebrews 1:11, Hebrews 1:12quoted from Isaiah href="/desk/?q=isa+51:6&sr=1">Isaiah 51:6, Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1. Similarly, “the Son of man came to save that which was lost ” ( ἀπολωλός ), Luke 19:10. Jesus charged his apostles to go to the lost ( ἀπολωλότα ) sheep of the house of Israel, Matthew 10:6, comp. Matthew 15:24. “He that shall lose ( ἀπολέσῃ ) his life for my sake shall find it,” Matthew 16:25. Comp. Luke 15:6, Luke 15:9, Luke 15:32.

In this passage the word destruction is qualified. It is “destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, “ at his second coming, in the new eon. In other words, it is the severance, at a given point of time, of those who obey not the gospel from the presence and the glory of Christ. Ἁιώνιος may therefore describe this severance as continuing during the millennial eon between Christ's coming and the final judgment; as being for the wicked prolonged throughout that eon and characteristic of it, or it may describe the severance as characterizing or enduring through a period or eon succeeding the final judgment, the extent of which period is not defined. In neither case is αἰώνιος to be interpreted as everlasting or endless.


Verse 10

To be glorified ( ἐνδοξασθῆναι )

Only here and 2 Thessalonians 1:12in N.T. Repeatedly in lxx. See Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:17; Isaiah 45:26. oClass.

Verse 11

Wherefore ( εἰς ὃ )

Better, to which end. Comp. Colossians 1:29. The end is, “that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God,” 2 Thessalonians 1:5. The same thought is continued in 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

Count - worthy ( ἀξιώσῃ )

Comp. 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 3:3; Hebrews 10:29.

Your calling ( τῆς κλήσεως )

Including both the act and the end of the Christian calling. Comp. Philemon 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Ephesians 4:1.

All the good pleasure of his goodness ( πᾶσαν εὐδοκίαν ἀγαθωσύνης )

Wrong. Paul does not mean all the goodness which God is pleased to bestow, but the delight of the Thessalonians in goodness. He prays that God may perfect their pleasure in goodness. So Weizsäcker, die Freude an allem Guten. The Rev. desire for εὐδοκίαν is infelicitous, and lacks support. Ἁγαθωσύνη goodness(P. see on Romans 3:19) is never predicated of God in N.T. In lxx, see Nehemiah 9:25, Nehemiah 9:35. Ἑυδοκία goodpleasure, delight, is a purely Biblical word. As related to one's self, it means contentment, satisfaction: see Song of Solomon 3:4; 16:12. As related to others, good will, benevolence. Luke href="/desk/?q=lu+10:21&sr=1">Luke 10:21, Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:9; Philemon 1:15; Philemon 2:13; Ps. of Song of Solomon 8:39.

Verse 12

The name ( τὸ ὄνομα )

In no case where it is joined with Jesus, or Christ, or Lord Jesus, does it mean the title or dignity. Paul follows O.T. usage, according to which the name of the Lord is often used for all that the name covers; so that the name of the Lord = the Lord himself.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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