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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Introduction to 2 Thessalonians

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The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET

INTRODUCTION

Its GENUINENESS is attested by POLYCARP [Epistle to the Philippians, 11], who alludes to 2Th 3:15. JUSTIN MARTYR [Dialogue with Trypho, p. 193.32], alludes to 2Th 2:3. IRENAEUS [Against Heresies, 7.2] quotes 2Th 2:8. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 1.5, p. 554; The Instructor, 1.17], quotes 2Th 3:2, as Paul's words. TERTULLIAN [On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 24] quotes 2Th 2:1, 2, as part of Paul's Epistle.

DESIGN.--The accounts from Thessalonica, after the sending of the first Epistle, represented the faith and love of the Christians there as on the increase; and their constancy amidst persecutions unshaken. One error of doctrine, however, resulting in practical evil, had sprung up among them. The apostle's description of Christ's sudden second coming ( 1Th 4:13, &c., and 1Th 5:2 ), and the possibility of its being at any time, led them to believe it was actually at hand. Some professed to know by "the Spirit" ( 2Th 2:2 ) that it was so; and others alleged that Paul had said so when with them. A letter, too, purporting to be from the apostle to that effect, seems to have been circulated among them. (That 2Th 2:2 refers to such a spurious letter, rather than to Paul's first Epistle, appears likely from the statement, 2Th 3:17, as to his autograph salutation being the mark whereby his genuine letters might be known). Hence some neglected their daily business and threw themselves on the charity of others, as if their sole duty was to wait for the coming of the Lord. This error, therefore, needed rectifying, and forms a leading topic of the second Epistle. He in it tells them ( 2Th 2:1-17 ), that before the Lord shall come, there must first be a great apostasy, and the Man of Sin must be revealed; and that the Lord's sudden coming is no ground for neglecting daily business; that to do so would only bring scandal on the Church, and was contrary to his own practice among them ( 2Th 3:7-9 ), and that the faithful must withdraw themselves from such disorderly professors ( 2Th 3:6, 10-15 ). Thus, there are three divisions of the Epistle: (1) 2Th 1:1-12. Commendations of the Thessalonians' faith, love, and patience, amidst persecutions. (2) 2Th 2:1-17. The error as to the immediate coming of Christ corrected, and the previous rise and downfall of the Man of Sin foretold. (3) 2Th 3:1-16. Exhortations to orderly conduct in their whole walk, with prayers for them to the God of peace, followed by his autograph salutation and benediction.

      DATE OF WRITING.--AS the Epistle is written in the joint names of Timothy and Silas, as well as his own, and as these were with him while at Corinth, and not with him for a long time subsequently to his having left that city (compare Act 18:18, with Act 19:22; indeed, as to Silas, it is doubtful whether he was ever subsequently with Paul), it follows, the place of writing must have been Corinth, and the date, during the one "year and six months" of his stay there, Act 18:11 (namely, beginning with the autumn of A.D. 52, and ending with the spring of A.D. 54), say about six months after his first Epistle, early in A.D. 53.

      STYLE.--The style is not different from that of most of Paul's other writings, except in the prophetic portion of it ( 2Th 2:1-12 ), which is distinguished from them in subject matter. As is usual in his more solemn passages (for instance, in the denunciatory and prophetic portions of his Epistles, for example, compare Col 2:8, 16, with 2Th 2:3; 1Cr 15:24-28, with 2Th 2:8, 9; Rom 1:18, with 2Th 2:8, 10 ), his diction here is more lofty, abrupt, and elliptical. As the former Epistle dwells mostly on the second Advent in its aspect of glory to the sleeping and the living saints ( 1Th 4:1 - 5:28 ), so this Epistle dwells mostly on it in its aspect of everlasting destruction to the wicked and him who shall be the final consummation of wickedness, the Man of Sin. So far was Paul from laboring under an erroneous impression as to Christ's speedy coming, when he wrote his first Epistle (which rationalists impute to him), that he had distinctly told them, when he was with them, the same truths as to the apostasy being about first to arise, which he now insists upon in this second Epistle ( 2Th 2:5 ). Several points of coincidence occur between the two Epistles, confirming the genuineness of the latter. Thus, compare 2Th 3:2, with 1Th 2:15, 16; again, 2Th 2:9, the Man of Sin "coming after the working of Satan," with 1Th 2:18 3:5, where Satan's incipient work as the hinderer of the Gospel, and the tempter, appears; again, mild warning is enjoined, 1Th 5:14; but, in this second Epistle, when the evil had grown worse, stricter discipline ( 2Th 3:6, 14 ): "withdraw from" the "company" of such.

      Paul probably visited Thessalonica on his way to Asia subsequently ( Act 20:4 ), and took with him thence Aristarchus and Secundus: the former became his "companion in travel" and shared with him his perils at Ephesus, also those of his shipwreck, and was his "fellow prisoner" at Rome ( Act 27:2 Col 4:10 Phm 1:24 ). According to tradition he became bishop of Apamea.

Introduction to 1 Thessalonians ← Prior Book
Introduction to 1 Timothy Next Book →
Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5 ← Prior Chapter
Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1 Next Chapter →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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