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2 Thessalonians 1:1  Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

Paul wrote his second letter to the church in Thessalonica around AD 52, while he was staying in the city of Corinth. He wanted to encourage the Thessalonians to live responsibly in light of Christ’s return, and to endure persecution. 

2 Thessalonians 1:3 [Y]our faith is growing more and more

Paul was pleased the Thessalonians were growing in their faith, since faith is always growing or declining—never staying the same. This is why the Bible often commands spiritual growth. 

[Be] growing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10), wrote Paul. [G]row up in your salvation (1 Peter 2:2), wrote Peter. [G]row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), wrote Peter again. Spiritual growth is not optional for believers, and does not happen by accident.

A master violinist was asked the secret of his success, and he replied: Planned neglect. He did not have time to practice sufficiently and keep up with the rest of his life, so he neglected everything else until he had practiced his violin. He used to take care of other things first, and practice his violin second, but this resulted in mediocrity. So he began to practice his violin first, and do everything else second, and this made him a master. Many have found the best time for prayer and Bible study is first thing in the morning. 

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

I spoke to a young man about his need for Jesus Christ but he had little interest. We can’t be certain of what the Bible means because it’s all a matter of interpretation, he said. So I read the above passage and asked, How would you interpret that?

Some passages are clearer than others, but the meaning of any passage is what the writer intended to communicate to his original readers. Given this starting point, the Bible can be understood by ordinary people. 

A comparison of study Bibles also shows that the Bible is essentially clear. If the scholars believe the Bible alone is God’s word, their notes will be remarkably similar, regardless of their church affiliation. This shows the Bible is not a matter of interpretation, but is essentially clear in most places.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

The Thessalonians were concerned about the end of this present evil age (Galatians 1:4), so Paul informed them of the coming of the antichrist, whom he called the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He will not submit to God’s law, or any other law. He will decide what is right for himself. 

The devil’s opposition to Christ will reach its climax when this man sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. He is the one whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8), wrote Paul. 

Throughout history, many political leaders have claimed to be divine, including Egyptian pharaohs, Chinese emperors, and Roman emperors. One of the worst was Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. He was the pre-antichrist foretold by the prophet Daniel. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. . . . He will show no regard for . . . any god, but will exalt himself above them all (Daniel 11:36-37).

Antiochus IV took the title Theos Epiphanes, meaning manifest god. In 167 BC he tried to destroy Judaism by desecrating the temple, burning copies of the Old Testament, and killing faithful Jews. He died of a disease, a few years later, but we will see his type again when the ultimate antichrist comes to power. 

2 Thessalonians 3:2 [P]ray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 

As Paul traveled and preached the gospel, he encountered wicked and evil people who fiercely opposed him. He wanted to be delivered, and sometimes he was (Acts 23:12-35). But other times, God used Paul’s opponents to further advance the gospel. While he was under house arrest in Rome, Paul wrote four letters that we have in the Bible. If he had not been arrested, we might not have those letters. 

Another government opposed Christianity by limiting the size of churches that met in people’s homes. They thought this would limit the spread of Christianity, but it only caused the number of house churches to multiply. This helped even more people come to faith in Jesus Christ. Wicked and evil people will often oppose the gospel, but God can overrule their actions for the good of his church.

Reflection and Review
Is the Bible hard to understand?
Why do some rulers pretend to be divine?
Why is Christianity often opposed?