Second Thessalonians: Understanding the Day of the Lord

second thessalonians

In Second Thessalonians, Paul wrote to encourage those who were facing persecution and to correct a misunderstanding about the timing of Christ’s return. The teaching about the Lord’s return promoted idleness in this young church. The imminent coming of Christ should never make us idle; we should be even busier – living purely, using our time well, and working for his kingdom. We must work not only during easy times when it is convenient but also during difficult times. Christians must patiently watch for Christ’s return, and work for him while we wait.

Writer of Second Thessalonians

Written by the apostle Paul, in the company of Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus (Timothy) (1 Thessalonians 1:1). The vocabulary, style, and thought of the Thessalonian correspondence are genuinely Pauline. Both letters bear his name as author and were most likely written from Corinth.

Date Written

Between A. D. 50-54, after Paul’s visit, during his second missionary journey. Probably written from Corinth in Achaia a few months after the first epistle.

To Whom Written

To “the ekklesia of the Thessalonians” (II Thessalonians 1:1).

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Purpose of Second Thessalonians

The purpose of Second Thessalonians was to alert the leadership in Thessalonica about the false epistle written to the believers thereby an impostor claiming to be Paul, saying that the day of the Lord had already come and that they had somehow missed it. Paul also addressed those among the Thessalonians who had refused to work and were taking advantage of the generosity of their brothers who were supporting them. Paul wrote to condemn these and to establish the principle that one who will not work shall not eat.

Historical Setting

Paul founded the church at Thessalonica in A.D. 49 or 50 during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9). The church consisted of a few Jewish converts and a larger number of former pagans (1 Thessalonians 1:9; Acts 17:4). Desiring not to handicap the young church, Paul worked at his own job as a tent maker – and at some sacrifice to himself, he adds (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12) – twice receiving aid from the ever faithful Philippians (Philippians 4:6).

Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was cut short, however, when the Jews gathered some local troublemakers and an uproar broke out; Paul was escorted out of town, leaving Timothy to patch up the work (Acts 17:1-15). Separated so suddenly from the infant church, Paul describes his feelings as one who had been “orphaned” (Greek text, 1 Thessalonians 2:17).

Once he was safe in Athens, Paul sent Timothy (who apparently had since rejoined him) back to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage the believers. When Timothy returned to Paul, who had since moved on to Corinth (Acts 18:1-5), he brought news of the love and faith of the Thessalonians. In response to Timothy’s encouraging report, Paul wrote the first epistle to Thessalonica. Evidently, the Thessalonians were unsettled over the second coming of Christ, because Paul discusses the issue in the subsequent letter as well.

Theological Contribution

Paul writes the epistle in the spirit of a true pastor. He is overjoyed with their enthusiastic response to the gospel and longs for the day when they will stand with him in the presence of the Lord Jesus.

He compares himself to a nursing mother caring for her children and to a father working on behalf of his family. He gives himself body and soul to the Thessalonians and dares to hope that they will give themselves likewise to God.

Special Consideration in Second Thessalonians

On the subject of the Second Coming, Paul assumes the Thessalonians what will happen, but not when it will happen. The end, however, will follow widespread rebellion and abandonment of the faith. Paul appeals for them to be level headed during the time of trouble and warns Christians not to despair when they see the Antichrist pretending to be God.

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