Bible Book Number 53—2 Thessalonians
Place Written: Corinth
Writing Completed: c. 51 C.E.
1. What indicates the time and place of writing, and what prompted the second letter to the Thessalonians?
THE apostle Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians closely followed the first one. We know that it was written shortly after the first letter, and also from the same city of Corinth, for the same brothers, Silvanus and Timothy, again join with Paul in greeting the congregation at Thessalonica. They were all traveling servants of the early Christian congregation, and there is no record that all three came together again after this association in Corinth. (2 Thess. 1:1; Acts 18:5, 18) The subject matter and nature of the discussion indicate that Paul felt an urgent need to correct the congregation promptly with regard to an error into which it had fallen.
2. What attests the authenticity of Second Thessalonians?
2 The letter’s authenticity is just as well attested as the authenticity of First Thessalonians. It also is quoted by Irenaeus (second century C.E.) as well as by other early writers, including Justin Martyr (also of the second century), who apparently refers to 2 Thessalonians 2:3 when writing of “the man of lawlessness [sin].” It appears in the same early catalogs as First Thessalonians. Though it is now missing from the Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 2 (P46), it was almost certainly contained in the first two of seven leaves that are missing after First Thessalonians.
3, 4. (a) What problem had arisen in the Thessalonian congregation? (b) When and where was the letter written, and what did Paul seek to accomplish by it?
3 What was the purpose of this letter? From the counsel that Paul offered the Thessalonians, we learn that some in the congregation were contending that the presence of the Lord was imminent, that these speculators were actively preaching this theory of theirs, and that they were creating no little stir in the congregation. It appears that some were even using this as an excuse for not working to provide for themselves. (2 Thess. 3:11) In his first letter, Paul had made references to the presence of the Lord, and no doubt when these speculators heard the letter read, they were quick to twist Paul’s words and read into them meanings that were never intended. It is also possible that a letter wrongly attributed to Paul was interpreted as indicating that “the day of Jehovah is here.”—2:1, 2.
4 It seems that Paul had received a report on this condition, probably from the person who delivered his first letter to the congregation, and he would therefore be very anxious to correct the thinking of his brothers for whom he had such great affection. So in the year 51 C.E., Paul, in association with his two companions, sent a letter from Corinth to the congregation in Thessalonica. In addition to correcting the wrong viewpoint on Christ’s presence, Paul gives warm encouragement to stand firm in the truth.
CONTENTS OF SECOND THESSALONIANS
5. For what do Paul and his companions thank God, what assurance do they give, and what do they pray?
5 The revelation of the Lord Jesus (1:1-12). Paul and his companions thank God on account of the fine growth of the Thessalonians’ faith and their love toward one another. Their endurance and faith under persecutions are proof of God’s righteous judgment that they are counted worthy of the Kingdom. God will repay tribulation to those who make it for the congregation, and he will give relief to those who suffer. This will be “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels . . . at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones.” (1:7, 10) Paul and his companions always pray for the Thessalonians, that God may count them worthy of His calling and that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them and they in union with him.
6. What must come before the day of Jehovah, and how?
6 Apostasy to come before Jesus’ presence (2:1-12). The brothers should not become excited by any message that the day of Jehovah is here. “It will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.” They know now “the thing that acts as a restraint,” but the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work. When this restraint is removed, “then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.” The lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with powerful works and deception, and God is permitting an operation of error to go to those who did not accept the love of the truth that they may get to believe the lie.—2:3, 6, 8.
7. How may the brothers stand firm and find protection from the wicked one?
7 Stand firm in faith (2:13–3:18). Paul continues: “We are obligated to thank God always for you, brothers loved by Jehovah, because God selected you from the beginning for salvation by sanctifying you with spirit and by your faith in the truth.” To this end the good news was declared to them. The brothers should therefore stand firm and maintain their hold on the traditions they were taught, that Jesus Christ and the Father, who lovingly gave everlasting comfort and hope, may make them “firm in every good deed and word.” (2:13, 17) Paul asks for their prayers, “that the word of Jehovah may keep moving speedily and being glorified.” (3:1) The Lord, who is faithful, will make them firm and keep them from the wicked one, and it is Paul’s prayer that the Lord continue directing their hearts successfully into love of God and into endurance for the Christ.
8. What strong admonition is given, and wherein have Paul and his group set the example?
8 Strong admonition follows: “Now we are giving you orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition you received from us.” (3:6) The apostle reminds them of the example his missionary group gave, laboring night and day so as not to become an expense to them, so that they were able to give the order: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” But now they hear that certain disorderly ones are not working and are meddlers. These should get to earning their own food.—2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Thess. 4:11.
9. What does Paul say about doing right and shaming the disobedient, and how does he end his letter?
9 The brothers should not give up in doing right. But if one of them is not obedient to Paul’s letter, the congregation should shame him by marking him and no longer associating with him, at the same time admonishing him as a brother. Paul expresses the prayer that the Lord of peace may give them “peace constantly in every way,” and he concludes his letter with greetings in his own hand.—2 Thess. 3:16.
10. What are some of the basic teachings and principles covered in Second Thessalonians?
10 This short inspired letter to the Thessalonians touches on a vast array of Christian truth, all of which is beneficial for consideration. Consider the following basic teachings and principles that are covered: Jehovah is the God of salvation, and he sanctifies by spirit and faith in the truth (2:13); the Christian must endure suffering to be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God (1:4, 5); Christians are to be gathered together to the Lord Jesus Christ at his presence (2:1); Jehovah will bring righteous judgment on those who disobey the good news (1:5-8); those called will be glorified in union with Christ Jesus, in accordance with God’s undeserved kindness (1:12); they are called through the preaching of the good news (2:14); faith is a vital requirement (1:3, 4, 10, 11; 2:13; 3:2); it is proper to work in order to provide for oneself in the ministry; if a person does not work, he may become lazy and start to meddle in things that do not concern him (3:8-12); the love of God is associated with endurance (3:5). What a treasure of upbuilding information can be found in one short inspired letter!
11. What important information and assurance are presented in connection with the Kingdom?
11 In this letter Paul showed deep concern for the spiritual welfare of his brothers in Thessalonica and for the unity and prosperity of the congregation. He set them right on the timing of the day of Jehovah, showing that “the man of lawlessness” must first appear, to sit down in “the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god.” However, those “counted worthy of the kingdom of God” may have absolute assurance that the Lord Jesus will in due course be revealed from heaven, taking vengeance in flaming fire “at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones and to be regarded in that day with wonder in connection with all those who exercised faith.”—2:3, 4; 1:5, 10.