Rev. HARRINGTON C. LEES, M.A.
Vicar of St. Johns, Kenilworth
KESWICK HOUSE, PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.
THE writer of a book of this size almost inevitably finds himself dissatisfied at the close. It is selective, and therefore leaves much unsaid; suggestive, and, on that account, apt to be disjointed. It is not a commentary, but a brief guide for elementary students.
Questions of textual criticism, though not here discussed, have been duly considered in relation to translation and comment. Any available source of information has been utilized, especially the works of Lightfoot, Farrar, Ramsay, Ellicott, and Conybeare and Howson.
Words within double inverted commas are intended as translations, while single inverted commas enclose a paraphrase. May the Lord who gave the Word make it increasingly a joy and rejoicing to our hearts (Psa. 68: 11; Jer. 15: 16).
H. C. L.
* * *
INTRODUCTION PAGE 9
OUTLINE OF THE FIRST EPISTLE PAGE 17
THE PUBLIC CHAR WTERISTICS
OF THE CHURCH PAGE 21
THE ADVENT OF THE APOSTLE PAGE 40
THE INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERISTICS
OF THE CHURCH PAGE 47
THE ADVENT OF THE LORD PAGE 56
THE ABSENCE OF THE LORD PAGE 60
THE CONGREGATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS
OF THE CHURCH PAGE 64
THE SECOND EPISTLE
TO THE THESSALONIANS PAGE 88
PERSECUTION PAGE 91
APOSTASY PAGE 95
* * *
THE letters to Thessalonica mark a double epoch in Bible literature. Now first the epistle takes its place in the realm of Inspiration. As a medium for combining tender familiarity with sublimity of topic a letter is unrivalled, and twenty-one such find their place in the New Testament.
And if, as appears probable, the Gospels were written later, we have in these two epistles the first use of the Greek tongue in the Bible - the transition from the stately simplicity of the Hebrew to that flexible delicacy of expression which Greek affords, for which, too, the Septuagint had already paved the way. These two suggestive points alone might occupy a whole essay.
Connection with the History in the Acts.
(About 51 A.D.).
The second missionary journey had not
long begun. The three pioneers, Paul,
Silas, and Timothy, driven by [Page10] the [Holy] Spirit from Asia, laid the foundations
With the stripes of the Philippian lectors still unhealed, the three men of God entered Thessalonica. There Pauls kinsman, Jason (Acts 17: 5; Rom. 16: 21), was living, and became their host, perhaps their convert. They preached a threefold message:-
1. THAT THE MESSIAH OF SCRIPTURE WAS TO SUFFER.
2. THAT HE WAS TO DIE AND RISE AGAIN.
3. THAT JESUS OF
having satisfied the conditions and proved His claims.
The Apostles, as always, subjected themselves to the test of Scripture, but the Jews, as a whole, were too prejudiced [Page 11] even to examine the question (Acts 17: 11). After three Sabbaths they fiercely rejected the teaching, but the Apostles probably continued their labours for some weeks longer, and their work was crowned with success.
Envying the success of the mission, the Jews incited the scum of the city to riot. In the Acts, religious charges in Roman courts fail, while political succeed. Here the charge was political: these men were working to overturn society, and introduce a new king. The Kingship of Christ had evidently been a favourite topic of their preaching (1 Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 1: 5), and, as in the case of Christ Himself (Luke 23: 2; John 18: 36; 19: 12, 15, &c.), this was perverted into an absurdly false accusation. Thessalonica was a free city, governed by a demus, or popular assembly, and officials called politarchs.*
* This title, unknown elsewhere in literature, is confirmed by a local inscription. Lukes accurate use of titles is a most reassuring study for the doubter.
The title King was likely to
be obnoxious to them, and as it certainly was so at
Subsequent Movements of the Party
The actions of the trio are not absolutely clear after this,
but the following items seem fairly probable.* All three removed to
* Lightfoot and Ramsay.
** To study the Pauline epistles profitably the student should read them with the Acts, - 1 and 2 Thess. at Acts 18: 5-11; Gal. at Acts 18: 22, 23 (Ramsay), or 20: 3 (Lightfoot); 1 Cor. at Acts 19, 10; 2 Cor. at Acts 20: 1; Phil., and Eph. Col. and Phile. at Acts 28: 30.
So from the lodging, shared with Aquila and Priscilla, in the intervals between meetings at the house of Justus, and the weaving which provided the daily food, these letters were sent forth, rich oil from the Jewish olive, pressed out for a Gentile community, and enriching the whole Church of Christ.
* * *
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THE FIRST EPISTLE
TO THE THESSALONIANS.
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Outline of the First Epistle.
EVERY Church may be studied from three points of view, its influence on outsiders, its individual piety, and its internal harmony and economy. These will be affected or modified by two forces, the influence of men and the influence of God. Now the First Epistle consists of five main sections, which deal with these very five questions. Three are descriptions of Thessalonian characteristics, and they are linked together by two passages dealing with the two external forces.
The outline of the Epistle is as follows:-
SALUTATION 1: 1.
A, CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHURCH (public, walk before men) 1: 2-10.
B. THE ADVENT OF THE APOSTLE. 1. His Presence 2: 1-16. 2. His Absence 2: 17-3: 13.
C. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHURCH (individual, walk before God) 4: 1-12.
D. THE ADVENT OF THE LORD. 1. His Presence 4: 13-18. 2. His Absence 5: 1-11.
E. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHURCH (congregational, walk before one another) 5: 12-24.
Final Greeting 5: 25-28.
Salutation, 1: 1.
The three men who had evangelised the City now join in sending the Epistle:-
(1). PAUL, the Apostle of the Gentiles,
propagating a Yewish revelation in a
(2). SILVANUS, or Silas, a Prophet (Acts 15: 32) was, like Mark, in turn the friend of both the Apostle of the Gentiles, and the Apostle of the Circumcision (1 Pet. 5: 12). He possessed two qualifications, being a Hebrew (Acts 15: 22) and a Roman citizen (16: 37).
(3). TIMOTHY, an Evangelist (2 Timothy 4: 5), was a Eurasian (Acts 16: 1), an inhabitant of Lystra, a convert and lifelong companion of Paul.
It is interesting to note that when Paul sent his two friends
The Church of the Thessalonians
What kind of men were they who were thus addressed? St. Luke tells us the converts were drawn
from three classes (Acts 17: 4, in
Alexandrian and Bezan MS.), the Jews, the devout men
or Proselytes (Gentiles who had previously embraced the Jewish faith), and the
Greeks (or heathen hitherto untouched).
Here, too, as elsewhere, in
In God and in the Lord Jesus Christ 1: 1
Amidst all her vicissitudes, the storm-tossed Church has a permanent address, and her door of safe-keeping is double-locked, - in God, in Christ (see Phil. 1: 1; 1 Thess. 2: 14, and cp. John 10: 28, 29).
* * *
THE PUBLIC CHARACTERISTICS
OF THE CHURCH.
HER WALK BEFORE MEN,
Prayerful Mention, 1: 2.
Pleasing Memories, 1: 3.
Public Manifestation, 1: 4.
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THE PUBLIC CHARACTERISTICS
OF THE CHURCH 1: 2-10
This section deals with the Churchs walk before men, and the
Apostles personal testimony serves to introduce its wide reputation for
consistency. As usual, the first note is
in the major key, - We give thanks.
(a) Prayerful Mention,
1: 2. At our Prayertimes, when the three, with Aquila and other
Corinthian Christians (named in
(b) Pleasing Memories,
1: 3. A double trio of good
points, faith, love, hope, and work, toil, endurance. Faith works:
(c) Public Manifestation, 1: 4. We give thanks, knowing your election. The topic of election is a well-trodden battle-ground, and the Apostles lines of proof are interesting here. They are two: He knows:-
1. Because of his own experience of his flock, ver. 5. He and his companions had spiritual liberty and power in addressing them. We were what we were, because you were what you were. Spiritual freedom in the preacher is one evidence of receptivity in the hearer. Atmosphere is a factor to be reckoned with in evangelistic work; and the force, the realised presence of the [Holy] Spirit, and the conviction of success, for which St. Paul gives thanks in ver. 5, were to him a positive proof of the election of his hearers.
2. Because of their consistent life before the world. He gives three progressive illustrations, drawn from the world of art, of what the grace of God had made them.
(a) Ye became followers, or imitators, ver. 6. The word is derived from the drama, and the thought occurs four times in the two epistles 1: 1, 6, 2, 14; 2: 3, 7, 9. It means to study from life, to attempt to copy someone elses activities. Nothing is too small to be worth noting if the mimic is to give an accurate reproduction of what he has seen. The reference then is to outward conduct. But this may be only a superficial conformity; the actor ceases his representation directly the curtain rings down and the people cease to watch him. His imitation is only temporary. Christs scathing epithet hypocrites illustrates the danger of mere imitation, for the hupokrites is an actor. So the Apostle uses a second illustration.
types ver. 7.
This illustration is derived from sculpture or engraving. It suggests not a temporary likeness, but a
permanent form; and that form must be implanted by a
force from without. As
applied to character (where we have the same metaphor of engraving) it suggests
that the true likeness is
only realised through the hand of another. We are His workmanship. Then, from
meaning a figure skilfully executed, it gains the sense of a pattern for
someone else, bearing the likeness ourselves we are [Page 25] to impress it on others. The art of
printing happily illustrates both thoughts; we are not only letters printed by
Christ, we are pages of type.
of the Thessalonians had made a striking impression.
(c) From you sounded out the word, ver. 8.
The re-productiveness of the type turns his thoughts to another image
taken from the art of music. The
Thessalonians are like trumpeters, sounding a clear note that carries far, not
only to all
If the note were only clearly sounded there was every reason why it should carry far, and why the echoes should hang on the air, as the original implies. And Thessalonica nobly sounded the reveille for the district, carrying the music of the Gospel on her lips, as well as its exquisite proportions in her life. Perhaps we might press the figure a little further and say that she was the trumpet through which the Lord sent His voice, not a trumpeter using her own. In after years the place was called the orthodox city and struck a Gospel chord in the hearts of Goths, Slavs, Bulgarians, and Wallachians successively.
* * *
THE COMING OF THE APOSTLE. 1. His presence, 2: 1-16. Having sketched the reputation gained by the Church, the Apostle passes to the lesser of the two external forces indicated in the outline, - the human agent who brought them the transforming message. We can picture how when read aloud to the gathering in Jasons rooms the lines would be punctuated with corroborative nods and reminiscent smiles. The passage is a wonderfully comprehensive description of what Gods messenger ought, and ought not, to be. Three kinds of men are mentioned, and each class is again sub-divided into three:-
1. THE MESSENGER OF ERROR, ver. 3.
2. THE UNWORTHY MESSENGER OF TRUTH, vers. 4-6.
3. THE WORTHY MESSENGER OF TRUTH, vers. 7-12.
1. The Messenger of Error, ver. 3.
(a) Deceit, or rather error. The man described by this title really believes the error that he teaches, but [Page 30] being blind he only leads others into the ditch. He deceives because himself deceived (2 Tim. 3: 13). Saul of Tarsus, before his conversion was of this class.
(b) Uncleanness. This is the false teacher with mixed motives; untrue even to his false creed, he wants to get some gain for himself out of it. Simon Magus may illustrate this type.
(c) Guile. This is conscious deception. The man is wrong, and although he knows it yet persists. Elymas will perhaps come under this heading.
2. The Unworthy Messenger of Truth, vers. 4-6.
Even a good man may be tempted to harbour unworthy aims. In Apostolic times, and to-day as well, the three great temptations of the preacher are: Will it please the people? Will it Pay me? Will it increase my reputation? He repudiates each of these in turn. He used neither flattering words nor a cloak of covetousness, nor sought he glory.
(a) Flattering words, ver. 5. Obsequiousness [i.e., being too willing to serve or obey someone] may be used in order to get a hearing; smooth words may fill a
church without filling the
(b) A cloak of covetousness, ver. 5. The preaching may be magnificent, while the real object is self-enrichment. Only God can really test this.
(c) Nor of men sought we glory, ver. 6. Many a man with not only a good congregation, but a safe income, is tempted to work for the sake of reputation. To meet all these, the way of victory is the solemn remembrance that God tests and attests (the word trieth in ver. 4 means both), and that mans opinion counts for nothing.
3. The worthy messenger of truth, vers. 7-12.
The service that stands the test is the service of love and the minister of God will try to be father (ver. 11), mother (ver. 7), and brother (ver. 9) to his flock.
THE MOTHER-SIDE OF THE MINISTRY.
As a nurse cherisheth her own children, ver. 7 R.V.
Three thoughts are implied in the words use here, sacrifice (children, things born,) sustenance (nurse), and tenderness (cherishes).
(a) Sacrifice. The life of children means the suffering, sometimes the death of the mother. The man of God bears much for his flock, without grudging. Through him comes their life, and for them he travails night and day (ver. 9).
(b) Sustenance. If the life is to be maintained it must be by feeding. The food is the Word of God, and that sincere milk, and strong meat, it is the ministers privilege to find [and disclose to his flock].
(c) Tenderness. The young life needs careful guarding, if it is to survive manifold temptations; and there must always be in the true pastors heart a mothers yearnings (affectionately desirous) over their failings, and pride in their triumphs.
THE FATHER-SIDE OF THE MINISTRY, ver. 12.
If the mother furnishes the tenderness, the father gives the counsel, and with that, too, this many-sided minister of Christ is equipped.
(a) We exhorted. The word means to encourage to further effort one whose record is satisfactory.
(b) We comforted. This implies rather a stirring up to spiritual ambition one who has rather lagged in the Christian walk.
(c) We charged. This is the solemn appeal, sometimes the protest and warning given to the stumbler. The Heavenly Father teaches His children to walk (Hos. 11: 3), and spiritual paternity in the minister carries with it the same duty, to encourage, to [Page 33] spur, to command. Macedonians were always eager to maintain their prestige. He bids them remember their heavenly stock, and live worthily of their Royal parentage.
THE BROTHER-SIDE OF THE MINISTRY, ver. 9.
The Apostle calls them 18 times by this title in the first epistle and 9 times in the second.
Again we may find three thoughts in his treatment of the term:-
(b) Helpfulness: We preach the Gospel. Every brother is glad to render another brother a service, and St. Pauls ministry extended into giving temporal help to others out of the proceeds of his weaving (Acts 20: 34).
(c) Example.. Ye are witnesses how we behaved, ver. 10. A holy life God-ward, a just life man-ward, and a walk unblamed by his own conscience, - this was the pattern their brother Paul showed to Jason, Aristarchus, and the rest.
The man of God then gives the service of his heart, his head, and his hands in his threefold relationship to the souls he tends.
THE ENERGY OF THE WORD, ver. 13.
But after all, the man of God is only a man, and the real cause of triumph is a force of Heaven, and not of earth. The word of God is energetic; the good seed will always work if it can find an entrance.
THE ENERGY OF THE FOE, vers. 14-16.
Trouble generally follows triumph in missionary work Then appeared the tares also (Matt. 13: 26). The Jews usually took pains to ensure that persecution because of the word* (Matt. 13: 21) should arise. Here the Gentiles carried out the actual work, but the Jews planned it. The synagogue struck the match and the assembly (demus) kindled the fire.
[* Note the context here, it is shown in verse 19 to be: the word of the kingdom.]
Two interesting questions are worth answering before this section closes. (1) What was the [Page 35] crowning sin of the Jewish nation? Not merely the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. That did indeed fill the cup of their iniquity nearly to the brim, but the Apostle says their culminating crime was their anti-missionary spirit: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved (ver. 16). Not only did they stay outside the Kingdom themselves, but if they possibly could they would turn others from the door. That sin filled up their cup and sounded the knell of their occupation of the Promised Land. The very words which had been used to usher them into their prospective possession nearly two thousand years before (Gen. 15: 16) are repeated to announce their exclusion from it.
(2) What is the meaning
of those difficult words, the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost? (ver. 16).
There seems to be a doubt as to the correctness of the A.V. translation,
for as a matter of fact the uttermost wrath had not come when
* * *
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SECTION B. 2: 1 - 3: 13 (continued).
The Advent of the Apostle. 2.
2: 17 - 3: 13.
COMMUNICATION BY LETTER. 2: 17.
COMMUNICATION BY MESSENGER. 3: 2.
COMMUNICATION BY PRAYER. 3: 10.
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SECTION B. (continued).
THE ABSENCE OF THE APOSTLE. 2: 17 - 3: 13.
The hatred of the Jews bereaved (orphaned, ver. 17) the parental heart of the Apostle,
and he was obliged to move to
What does he mean by Satan here? The phrase sometimes denotes the anti-Christian influence of the synagogue (Rev. 2: 9). Again in 2 Cor. 12: 7. Satan apparently means some form of illness. But probably the first suggestion is correct. Separated from his beloved flock, what can the Apostle do? The section gives us three answers. He can write, - he can send Timothy, - he can pray.
(a) He can write. And indeed he does with a direct simplicity and freshness of loving solicitude to which the whole epistle bears eloquent witness.
(b) He can send Timothy, 3:
2. Having been rejoined
by Silas and Timothy he had sent them back to
Remembering that in the parallel section (D) the subject is the absent Christ, an interesting correspondence may be noted. The Lord being taken away for a little while (John 16: 19) sent the Comforter (John 16: 7) to his orphaned disciples (John 14: 18). Paul being taken away for a little while (2: 17) sent Timothy to be the comforter (3: 2) of the orphaned church (2: 17).
Several points in the following verses may be briefly noted.
(1) Timothy has a three-fold character: brother, minister, fellow labourer (ver. 2).
(2) Appointed, ver. 3, is a military metaphor for a sentry posted by his officer.
(3) Moved is an illustration drawn from the wagging of a dogs tail, and means allured from faithful following by a tempting bait. The Christian in affliction remembers his duty to the Captain of his Salvation, and stands his ground nor does the tempting [Page 43] possibility of a smoother path cause him to forget his Master, and swallow the Devils bait.
(4) There is an interesting change of mood in ver. 5, - lest he that is always tempting have tempted you (as we know he has), and our labour have proved in vain (as we pray it has not).
(5) Affliction and
distress, i.e., at
(6) Now we live ver. 8. In his hardships he dies daily (1 Cor. 15, 31), but this gospel in Timothys mouth (ver. 6) makes him live again. They stand because Christ lives; Paul lives because they stand.
(c) He can pray vers. 9-13. Though the Thessalonians are absent, Jesus the Lord is always present, so to Him Paul prays with very intense earnestness (huperekperissou), and the utmost simplicity (deoinenoi). It is worth noticing that out of 136 verses in these two epistles 24, or rather more than one-fifth, are occupied with prayer, or teaching about prayer.
(1) The Lord direct, or pilot,
ver. 11. The [Page 44] helm of Pauls vessel is in Divine hands, and his lifes voyage follows a
course laid down on a heavenly chart, The Lord Himself, in contrast to Pauls futile
efforts. This prayer was in all probability
granted, since we know that
(2) We notice in ver.
11 that prayer is offered to Jesus Christ
directly. Compare also Acts
7: 59, and John
14: 14, R.V. It is most convincing to find that the man
Jesus of Nazareth, who had been personally known by more than 500 people then living, is regarded in this first of the New Testament
writings as unquestionably God. They had
seen Him dead, - many of them, at least.
They saw Him again alive, and to them He was declared
to be the Son of God with power, by the
resurrection [out] from the dead (
(3) The Lord ver. 12. Two Persons of the Divine Trinity have already been mentioned. May it not be that here and in 2 Thess. 3: 5, we have the third Person also? Basil thought so, at least (Cp. 2 Cor. 3: 18, R.V., and the Holy Ghost, the Lord, in the Nicene Creed).
* * *
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CHARACTERISTICS OF THE
Her Walk Before God.
AN OVERFLOWING LIFE, ver. 1.
A GOD-PLEASING LIFE, ver. 1.
The Commandment of Chastity, vers. 3-8.
The Commandment of Charity, vers. 9-10.
The Commandment of Calmness, ver. 11.
The Commandment of Consistency, ver. 12.
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The Individual Characteristics
of the Church, 4: 1-12.
In Section A (chap. 1)
An Overflowing Life, ver. 1.
Their life is to be an abounding,
or overflowing one. Thessalonica was a
famous centre of
A Life of Pleasing God, ver. 1.
is possible to please God. This is in
itself encouraging, for we are apt to think we cannot. The fulfilment of the possibility centres
round the will of God (ver. 3), and the commandments
given (ver. 2). Gods will for His people is their
vers. 3, 4, 7; 2, 2: 13). The
word indicates the process, and means acquired holiness. Hagiosune is the
result of the process, active holiness (1, 3:
13; 2 Cor. 7: 1;
1. The Commandment of Chastity, vers. 3-8.
The appalling corruptions of the Empire made the ever-perilous
possibility of uncleanness especially likely.
(a) Impurity is dishonour, vers. 3-5. A man can offer no greater insult to his own manhood than impure living. Greek aestheticism never grasped this. The meaning of the word vessel (ver. 4) has been much discussed. On the whole I think it refers to a mans divinely given mastery of his bodily passions (cp. 1 Cor. 6: 18; 2 Cor. 4: 7). At any rate, if the decent veiling of the terms makes the translation obscure, the general meaning is clear.
(b) Impurity is defrauding, ver. 6. The greatest wrong a man can do his fellow is in the matter (see R.V.) of this same awful sin which God speedily avenges.
(c) Impurity is despising, ver. 8. It despises man, for it thinks lightly of his rights. It despises God, because the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
2. The Commandment of Charity, vers. 9, 10.
The hot springs that well up from the Spirit-filled life (John 4: 14 R.V.) are already overflowing; but there seems in these verses a hint that the spiritual knowledge of the Church was a little in front of their practice, or at least that they were in danger of resting satisfied with present attainments. They made a noble response to the command. Famine was raging, and bread was at six times its usual price; yet out of their deep poverty love found its overflow (2 Cor. 8: 2), not only to the other Macedonians but to the poor at Jerusalem.
3. (The Commandment of Calmness, ver. 11)
Be ambitious to keep still. Ambition is a word often tarnished with mean
4. The Command of Consistency.
Walk honestly, or honourably (ver. 12). The Thessalonians were inclined to be lazy. Perhaps the rich Macedonian ladies (Acts 17: 4) had given too freely; perhaps expectations of the Advent had unsettled the Church for her daily life (2: 3, 7-12). Greek thought, too, had yet to learn from Christianity the dignity of work. Slavery discredits free labour, and to the Greek the tradesman and the artizan were incapable of intellectual and spiritual distinction. It was left for the Gospel, which, on the earthly side came from a carpenters bench, and was carried abroad by fishermen, to show Thessalonica, through the teaching of a weaver, that the beauty of holiness might well be shown in the transforming of drudgery. The aim of the Church should be to (need help from no man ver. 12). So the Apostle in his Corinthian room, dictating as he weaves, draws in and out those threads of the Word which shall darn the holes (perfect, 1: 3, 10, same word as mend, Matt. 4: 21) in the spiritual garments of his absent children, turning his sermons into a prayer, and his prayers into a sermon.
* * *
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THE ADVENT OF THE LORD
4: 13 - 5: 11.
His Presence, 4: 13-18.
A Revelation, ver. 13.
A Re-union, ver. 14.
A Return, ver. 16.
A Resurrection, ver. 16.
His Absence, 5: 1-11.
Sons of the Sunshine, ver. 1-5,
Soldiers of Light, ver. 6-11.
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The Advent of the Lord
His Presence, 4: 13-18.
In Section B. we saw the relations between the Apostle and his converts described, first in his presence, and then in his absence. So now the relation between the Lord and His people is discussed in the same two aspects. The teaching concerning the events at the Advent will be treated in a later Chapter; we only note here the results upon the Church.
The introduction of the subject at ver. 13 may seem a little abrupt. The connection of thought is probably that the unsteadiness in daily work reproved in vers. 11-12 was caused by mistaken views of the Advent (2: 3, 5-12).
(1) A Revelation: We would not have you [Page 58] ignorant. Faith does not mean blind ignorance; it is often confidence in a revealed message. This Advent teaching unveils a hope which others have not. A heathen inscription discovered at Thessalonica says
After death no reviving,
After the grave no meeting again.
The Christian, on the contrary, finds the prospects after death full of hope [in the First* Resurrection]: We shall ever be with the Lord.
[* Compare with Lk. 20: 35; Phil. 3: 11. Not all regenerate believers will be raised at this time! See Heb. 11: 35b.]
(2) A Re-union: Those which sleep will God bring (ver. 14). The phrase, Those which sleep in Jesus, is very difficult to translate, for the Greek is Through Jesus. And again it is not certain whether these two words through Jesus should be attached to bring or sleep. If the former, then 2 Cor. 4: 14 is a parallel passage and the reference is to the fulfilment of the atoning work. But the translation Sleep through Jesus seems the more correct. This will mean either that to the Christian death is only a sleep, because Jesus has borne the full weight of deaths bitterness (Jesus died, ver. 14; 1 Cor. 15: 56, 57), or the words may mean that they had been martyred in persecutions through their belief in Jesus (2: 14, 15).
(3) A Return,
ver. 16. To the fact of the personal return of
to the date he gives no definite clue.
It is not fair to say that the words we which
are alive imply that he expected to see the Advent. The phrase neither affirms nor denies
means we Christians, but
(4) A Resurrection. Not a resuscitation as in the three Old Testament and three Gospel instances, but a complete transformation, - it is raised a spiritual body. This was an entirely new doctrine to the Greek world (Acts 17: 18, 32).
Shout (keleusma), the cry of the captain to his soldiers.* In this Advent connection we may compare Matt. 25: 6.
[* See 2 Tim. 4, 5. cf. 2 Tim. 4: 7, R.V.]
Ever with the Lord: the words are the complement of Matt. 28: 20. Now He is ever with us, then we shall be ever with Him.
Comfort: the Advent is meant to be a consolation, not a nightmare.
SECTION D (continued)
The Absence of the Lord
The joy of the Advent re-union will doubtless be great, but what are we to say of the space between? Pessimism and forgetfulness are not to overwhelm the waiting Church, for the Master has provided against it. There are two advantages which the Christian possesses over the rest of mankind in regard to the Advent, - he can be restful because he has certain information to rely on; he can be ready because he has resources to draw from. These two privileges are spoken of here under two figures, daylight and armour.
Sons of the Sunshine, vers. 1-5.
Concerning dates and
significant occurrences (ver. 1) the Apostle does not here write.
Christ had said a good deal about them, and the
Thessalonians had doubtless [Page 61] heard it by word of mouth. But
Soldiers of Light, vers. 6-12.
If Advent knowledge gives the restfulness of the child, Advent strength gives the readiness of the warrior. Drowsiness overtakes others, but he who watches for the morning (Psa. 136) keeps guard like a sentry. The world may be drunk with frivolity; the Church is steadied by the anticipated joy of the marriage-feast. Forewarned of her dangers, she is already forearmed against her foes. The armour of Christs soldier is a three-fold equipment of faith, hope and love as in 1: 3.
The parallel description in Isa. 59:
17 and Eph.
should be compared with this. Here the
breast-plate is a double one whose outer surface gleams with faith, and whose
inner lining glows with love. These
guard the Christians heart in temptation; his head is preserved by the helmet
whose plume is the Advent hope, and whose stout impenetrability is the
salvation won by Christ on the Cross. He whose brain is occupied with
the Advent is secure from pessimism, and he whose thoughts look back to
* * *
Her walk before her own members. Vers. 12-24.
WORD TO THE RANKS, vers. 12, 13.
WORD TO THE OFFICERS, vers. 14, 15.
THREE WORDS OF COUNSEL, vers. 16-18.
THREE WORDS OF WARNING, vers. 19-22.
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The Congregational Characteristics
of the Church.
The Apostle has previously described the Christians walk before the world and before God in Sections A. and C. This passage describes his walk before his fellow-Christians. The terse sentences ring sharp and clear like military orders, perhaps following up the thought in ver. 3. The Macedonians were a soldierly people and the metaphors are at least semi-military. We may indeed call them rules for the Christian soldier in camp and on march, and if without appearing to lower the dignity of the Epistle we may paraphrase to illustrate their crispness, they will run something like the following:-
A word to the Ranks vers. 12, 13.
Take the trouble to understand your officers. First, because they work hard; second, because of their rank; third, because what they say is for your good. Avoid quarrels. Your work is to fight the foe, not one another.
A word to the Officers, vers. 14, 15.
(1) If your men can march, and will not, warn them.
(2) If they can and think they cannot, encourage them.
(3) If they are really unable, give them a helping hand.
(4) Keep your temper.
(5) Place your scouts against the ambushed foe; his name is evil for evil.
(6) The best commander to follow is General Good.
Applied to present day church-life these thoughts are most suggestive. The ministry is still sometimes unappreciated, because those concerned do not trouble to get to know the man, or fail to estimate the amount of varied work demanded of him. Christs regiments are still tempted to turn their guns on one another instead of on the battalions of Satan. And it is equally important that the minister of Christ should [Page 67] diagnose with careful patience the symptoms of his people. Malingerers need a stern treatment, but there are many who, for lack of a word of cheer, are weary and footsore; all of us march best to the music of the band. There are some, too, on the sick-list needing the ambulance and the bandage. The temptation to retaliation has always to be keenly watched; and the best remedy is not negative repression, but positive effort to confer a benefit on the wrong-doer, whether he be Christian or unbeliever.
THREE WORDS OF COUNSEL
1. Be joyful, ver. 16. As later to the Philippians, so to these other
2. Be prayerful, ver. 17. Constant intercourse with Heaven is the next
ceasing (adialeiptos) occurs four times in the New Testament
3. Be thankful, ver. 18. There is something to praise God for in every event, if we could only see the direction in which it is working. We cannot see, but we can trust, because we know (Rom. 8: 28).
THREE WORDS OF WARNING
1. Beware of spiritual constraint, ver. 19. The Holy Ghost is a fire. To put a light under a bushel is to extinguish it. To neglect the prompting of the Spirit is to quench Him. They must beware, too, of pouring water on the spiritual flame in anothers heart, lest they find only the ashes left to reproach them. Perhaps the reckless enthusiasm of some in the church had made the rest too cool and critical. Bengel finely says: The Spirit where He is found is a fire; therefore He is not to be quenched either in ourselves or in others.
2. Beware of spiritual callousness, ver. 20. Prophesying, or inspired preaching, is bound to have some effect. If the hearers made something of it by obedience (which, be it remembered, means attentive [Page 69] listening), then all is well. But if they made nothing of it (despise, exoutheneite) only spiritual hardening could result.
3. Beware of spiritual credulity, vers. 21, 22. This is the other extreme. Do not treat Gods Word as mans, or, on the other hand, treat mans word as Gods. Test the thing spoken by that which is written, the coin of the lips in the flame of the Word. Hold the good fast. Throw away evil in every form.
The God of Peace, ver. 23. If successful war is to be waged without, God must have a peaceful kingdom within from which to work. This noble title is found in seven other passages (Rom. 15: 33; 16: 20; 1 Cor. 14: 33; 2 Cor. 13: 11; Phil. 4: 9; 2 Th. 3: 16; Heb. 13: 20).
Himself, ver. 23 R.V. After the fifteen imperatives which have gone before, the Apostle guards against the thought that the emphasis of spiritual power is to be laid on the second person. It is easy to command, but whence comes the power to do? He turns in answer from Ye to He, from the second to the great Third Person, Himself, that grand expression, as Bengel calls it. God is not only calling us to face our responsibility, He undertakes to [work through us and enable us to] carry it out (ver. 24). [Page 70] It is a great task; no less than the annexation to His Kingdom of every corner of our being. And as if that were not enough, He adds the guardianship of the nature annexed, so that no part of it, spiritual or intellectual or bodily, shall be re-conquered by the enemy, but shall issue blameless at the Advent. It is helpful to notice in what a practical way the Advent is brought to bear upon every subject discussed. Every section is clinched with the thought. When Christ comes again, the consistent witness of the Church will reach its consummation (1: 10); then the judgment poured out upon the malevolent Jew will spend its force (2: 16); then the frequent intercessions for the absent flock shall find their crowning answer (2: 20; 3: 13); then the walk with God shall, like Enochs, terminate in a translation, and the souls long parted by death find a joyful re-union (4: 16, 17); then the watching soldier shall join his Captain (ver. 10); then the delicate inter-action of the differing members shall issue in one personality whole and unblemished (ver. 23).
Final Greeting, vers. 25-28.
A SOLEMN CHARGE, ver. 27. The weighty words of this verse emphasise not only the right of each individual church member to hear the whole word of God, but also [Page 71] the Heavenly authority which was immediately acquired by the earthly document (cp. 1 Th. 2: 13). It was an official reading of liturgical importance.
The kiss, ver. 26, was the ordinary act of salutation, though endowed in early Christian days with a special religious significance. We sometimes forget that in the estimation, even of our English forefathers of the Sixteenth Century, shaking hands was a warmer mode of greeting than the kiss.
These concluding verses are apparently
Advent Teaching in Both Epistles
These two letters are the epistles of the Advent. Not only are they full of its practical bearing on Christian holiness, but nowhere else do we find so many details of the events leading up to and accompanying the Second Coming of Christ. These demand a chapter to themselves; and as a great part of the Second Epistle is occupied wholly with them, it seems best to treat the subject of the Advent here, and afterwards to deal with what remains to be noted in the later letter.
A Personal Coming
The Church is looking for a Person rather than a thing, the Lord Himself (1. 4: 16; 1: 10), and not merely His Kingdom. The striking word parousia (personal presence in contrast to previous absence, 1 Cor. 16: 17; 2 Cor. 7: 6; 10: 10), is six times used to emphasise this fact (1 Thess. 2: 19; 3: 13; 4: 15; 5: 23; 2 Thess. 2: 1, 8).
The Attitude of the Faithful
Until the Lord comes, those who love Him are to be sustained by hope to endure (1. 1: 3) what hardship may come, to serve with expectancy (1. 1: 10), to be [Page 73] steadied with the sense of solemn reverence (1. 5: 6), and to intelligently comprehend what has been revealed on the subject (5: 1, 4).
The Apostle specially assures them that the Day of the Lord was not actually imminent (2: 2: 2), and certain indications are given for the guidance of the watching church. The Lord when He comes will find, not so much glory to rejoice in, but shame to mourn over. The definite statements made on this subject here appear to necessitate a belief in a pre-millenial date for the Advent (Luke 18: 8, R.V.).
The Attitude of the Unfaithful
The second chapter of the second Epistle gives the following account of the shadow-side of the picture; quotations here are from the R.V.
(a) Before Christ comes there will be the falling away, ver. 3. The words imply a rebellion of those formerly loyal; they may include both a lapse of Jews from theism to unbelief, and a decline of [regenerate] Christians from healthy faith to a state of doubt [leading into apostasy].
(b) This unhappy state is to be produced by an evil force animated by Satan, ver. 9. In the first instance it is spoken of as a system or principle, the mystery [Page 74] of lawlessness, (ver. 7), already working, even in Apostolic times.
(c) But the principle finds its representation ultimately in a Person called the lawless one (ver. 8).
(d) We note also that on the other side there is a force working for good,- that which restraineth (ver. 6). This also is represented by a person, - one that restraineth now (ver. 7).
(e) The question naturally arises, Who are these Persons and principles good and bad? Many answers have been suggested, none completely satisfactory. The lawless one has been said to be the Pope of Rome, some great Anarchist, or some despotic ruler. The restrainer has been interpreted as the Power of Imperial Rome, the Holy Ghost in the Christian Church, &c. I confess it seems best to say I do not know who they are, and confine myself to indicating what they are. The personal manifestation of the principle of evil will one day be unveiled (ver. 8) in a kind of incarnation of Satan (ver. 9). He is called the Man of Sin (ver. 3) and the Lawless One (ver. 8), for he revolts against God. He also bears the name of the Son of Perdition, for that is to be his end; curiously enough the name is only applied [Page 75] elsewhere to Judas (John 17: 12). This mysterious personality evidently corresponds to the Anti-christ of St. John (1 John 2: 18, 22; 4: 3). He will apparently possess miraculous powers (ver. 9), which will induce men who let go [i.e., reject, apostasize from] the truth to accept the lie (ver. 11), the great delusion of all time; possibly, however, this miracle-working will be simply a gigantic fraud. Note that judicial blindness, even then, had begun to accompany the working of lawlessness; God is sending (ver. 11). The false teaching thus accredited by wonder-working, attempts to overturn the worship of God, or indeed of anything except the Man of Sin himself - (ver. 4).
He seats himself in the
On the other hand, Guinness, Elliott, and others have collected many very striking points to prove the identity of the Papacy with the Man of Sin and his workings. There are others again who consider that the temple in question is a Jewish one yet to be built, when the Jews are restored to their own land (Ezek. 37: 26 - [Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them (Israel): it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will give it them, and multiply them, and will SET MY SANCTUARY in the midst of them for evermore, R. V margin. Again (in the LXX): And I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish my SANCTUARY in the midst of them for ever.]
A Parody of the Truth
The Coming of Christ for His People
The personal nature of the coming has already been dealt with. We note further, that it will be sudden, and heralded by the Lords victorious shout, by an archangelic summons, and a trumpet call (1 Thess. 4: 16; cp. Matt. 24: 31 and 1 Cor. 15: 32).*
[* Note. All three texts, have to do with the resurrection of the the dead in Christ at the end of the Great Tribulation.]
The First Stage of the Advent is Christs
Re-union with His People
The dead in Christ are first raised, and accompany the Lord (1 Cor. 4: 14, 16). The living in Christ [that are alive, that are LEFT] are caught up from the earth (cp. same word in Matt. 13: 19, Acts 23: 10). We in ver. 17 means we Christians [that are alive, that are LEFT]. The result of this rapture [of living saints] is a meeting with the Lord (1 Thess. 4: 17; 2 Thess. 2: 1). This union [of both dead and living saints] is of a festal character and is celebrated by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19: 7, 9). The same word translated meet is used in connection with the same event in Matt. 25: 1, 6 [& 10].
Out of Christ*
[* That is, not out of Christ as unregenerate; but out of Christ relative to the time of this rapture of those that are left (1 Thess. 4: 17, R.V.), and out-resurrection out from the dead. (Phil. 3: 11, Lit. Gk.). cp. Lk. 20: 35; Rev. 20: 4-6.]
What becomes of the dead out of Christ and the living [not found] in the same spiritual condition at this first stage of the Advent?* They are omitted here from the reckoning, because they do not take part in the event. But other passages supply the information. The dead out of Christ await their resurrection until after the Millennium (Rev. 20: 5, cp. John 5: 29). The living out of Christ are simply at this stage left behind (see Matt. 24: 40; Luke 17: 35): left as totally as the disciples left their nets, [Page 78] and the fever left Peters mother-in-law (Matt. 4: 20; 8: 15, where the same word is used). The dead and living in Christ on the other hand are taken away as Peter and James, and John were taken from the other Apostles both on the Mount of Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane, subsequently to return with the Lord (Matt. 17: 1; 26: 37, same word).
[* This first stage of the advent takes place before the Great Tribulation commences. Keep in mind, only those who watch and make supplication, that ye may prevail to escape stand before the Son of man (Lk. 21: 35, R.V.). There is no mention of a resurrection out from the dead at this first stage. See G. H. Langs Firstfruits and Harvest.]
The Second Stage of the Advent
This is reached when the Lord comes back with His saints [or holy ones (Jude 14); it also has reference to angels] to judge the earth and commence His [millennial] reign. That there will be two stages (not, of course, two Advents) is clear from the fact that if the Lord comes back with His people, it follows He must have taken them up to Him first (Jude 14; Col. 3: 4; Zech. 14: 5). We pause for a moment to inquire if there is any interval of time between the two stages. Without attempting to dogmatise on so uncertain a point I venture to think that there will be. If the Marriage supper of the Lamb takes place immediately after the [first] rapture, [of living saints accounted worthy to escape (Lk. 21: 36, A.V.) the Great Tribulation events] an interval of some time appears necessary (Matt. 25: 10. cp. also Rev. 19: 7, with 14: 15). Dr. Guinness calls it a halt in the journey, a pause in the royal progress. To [Page 79] reverently use a simile endorsed by the Lord Himself, we may say that as an earthly bridegroom and bride celebrate their union by a brief period of absence before returning to their daily sphere, so the Lord and His Bride before returning to reign together over the earth (Rev. 3: 21; 2 Tim. 2: 11, 12) enjoy a brief time of fellowship [in heaven] together.
Then, too, another consideration leads us to the same conclusion, for the lot of the unready in Matt. 25: 12 is not (at this stage) the outer darkness of judgment, but simply exclusion from the feast.
If there is an interval, the length of time is not told us in Scripture, but it is probable, in that case, that the final development of the man of sin takes place between the two stages. The height of his impious audacity is reached in the temporary absence of the witnessing Church, to be suppressed however by the manifestation of the Lord (2 Th. 2: 8). The day-star of the advent then (2 Peter 1: 19) appears on investigation to be a double star. This is found in other Scripture passages where, at first sight, no interval was apparent. In Isaiah 61: 2, - the acceptable year and the day of vengeance are - separated only by a comma. Yet the space is already nineteen centuries wide. Christs pause in the synagogue is most significant (Luke 4: 19). Another double-star passage is Isaiah 9: 6, 7.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
The testing of each Christian, and the giving of rewards for faithful service, may probably be assigned to this time. The standard of holiness is applied to each mans walk and conduct (1 Thess. 3: 13), and his position regulated accordingly. Now comes the promised rest (2 Thess. 1: 7) to the labourers in the vineyard who have borne the burden and heat of the day. Now the soul-winner is crowned with the fruit of his toil (1 Thess. 2: 19). Now every corner of the life, spirit and soul and body (1 Thess. 5: 23), is searched with the clear ray of that holy Presence, and the results declared.
The Presence, the Unveiling, and the
Manifestation of the Lord
Christ then continues His triumphal and judicial progress, illumined by flames of glory and escorted by hosts of angels (2 Thess. 1: 7), as well as
by His redeemed. Then is he
seen by the eyes of unbelieving men for the first time since the
crucifixion. He shines forth in
convincing majesty, and the veil of unbelief drops from their hearts; [Page 81] admiration, too, at the transfigured company of redeemed souls brings
added lustre to the glory of the Redeemer (2 Thess. 1: 10). Three
words are used by
(1) Presence (parousia), usually translated coming occurs in 1 Thess. 2: 19; 3: 13; 4: 15; 5: 23; 2 Thess. 2: 1; 2: 8. It denotes the personal presence of Jesus Christ in contrast to that absence which is the special feature of the present period, in which He is calling out His Church [of the firstborn (Heb. 12: 23)*]. It is found in at least eleven other passages in the New Testament in this sense, and is applied to the whole series of events which will take place at the Advent.
[* Note. Only firstborn sons of God will reign in both Millennial and Eternal kingdoms. See Fistborn Sons Their Rghts and Risks by G. H. Lang.]
(2) Revelation (apokalupsis) is found in the special Advent sense in 2 Thess. 1: 7, and elsewhere in 1 Cor. 1: 7; 1 Pet. 1: 7, 13; 4: 13. It denotes the removal of the existing barriers to sight and sense, which at present intervene between the Bridegroom and His Bride (the Church [of the firstborn]), and also between the Judge and the judged (the world).
(3) Manifestation (epiphaneia) is translated [Page 82] Brightness in 2 Thess. 2: 8, and is elsewhere used in the Advent sense in 1 Tim. 6: 14; 2 Tim. 1: 10; 4: 1, 8; Titus 2: 13. It denotes that active shining forth of Christs Majesty which is, in His millennial reign, to be such a complete contrast to his previous lowly walk on earth (cp. Phil. 2: 6-11).
The three words together give a realisation of what Christ will be at the advent, - present instead of absent, visible instead of veiled from view, in glory instead of humiliation.
The Rod of Iron
The puzzle of the present time is
Right for ever on the scaffold,
Wrong for ever on the throne.
It will remain for the Advent to demonstrate that
Beyond the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.
This will necessarily include not only the awarding of the palm, but the meting out of punishment. Note the distinction between (a) the judging of believers in regard to their position in [or during the time of the coming] glory* (1 Thes. 2: 19; 1 Cor. 4: 5; 2 Cor. 5: 10), and the judgment of those out of Christ [Page 83] (b) at the beginning of the Millennium (2 Thess. 1: 8; Rev. 19: 15); and (c) at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20: 11).
[* Possibly TWO classes of persons are shown in verses 8 & 9, who are separated by the disjunction and. (1) The unregenerate: them that know not God and (2) the regenerate: and (disjunction) them that obey not the gospel: the first class, - who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord - the second class, - and (disjunction) from the glory of his might, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints.]
Our present concern is solely with (b). On the awful solemnity of future punishment there rests an obscurity into which we cannot in this life fully penetrate. If we had full light, our minds would be unable to grasp it. One day, however, we shall understand (1 Cor. 13: 12). But Gods Word has definite information to give, and to that we are bound to adhere, if we accept a revelation at all. We know of a heaven only on the same evidence which assures us there is a hell. But it is desirable to carefully note what the Bible does not say, as well as what it does. It does not say that those who reject truth offered will in the Advent day have their rejection condoned. Nor, on the other hand, does it say that those who have never had an opportunity of acceptance will then, on that ground, be condemned.
Who are the Objects of Condemnation?
1. The Man of Sin, that mysterious personality and typical representative of all rebellion against God, will be consumed, and his far-reaching influence paralysed, by the light of the Son of Righteousness (2 Thess. 2: 8).
2. Those who know not God (2 Thess. 1: 8). That is, those who would not enter into the knowledge of Him, even according to the light they had. Such are those heathen (Rom. 1: 18, 28) who consciously disobey even such twilight knowledge as they possess, - their responsibility for conduct to a Divine Being. Whether this dim light is an intuition of nature or, as I venture to think, the faint survival of primeval truth and revelation, their position is plainly one which differs from that of evangelised though hostile heathen. They will be judged on what they had, not on what they lacked. But disobedience to a half truth is not the less disobedience.
3. Those who obey not the Gospel (2 Thess. 1: 8). These will be, firstly, all those who refused [or apostatised from] the light, and persecuted those who welcomed it (2 Thess. 1: 6). Secondly, those (heathen) who chose to abide by their false gods and rejected the truth. And, thirdly, those who while grasping something of the truth fall away from what they know. They take pleasure in wrongdoing (2 Thess. 2: 12), and refuse to follow Him Who is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life (2 Thess. 2: 10, 12). Such are the children of darkness and night (1 Thess. 5: 5). They wilfully close their eyes, and upon them comes even now a punitive blindness (2 Thess. 2: 11; Rom. 1: 24), the atrophy [Page 85] of the negligent, - universal in the world of nature, as in that of grace. They are perishing already (2 Thess. 2: 10). But at the Advent they will have a fair trial (judged, not condemned, in the first instance, 2 Thess. 2: 12, R.V.), and then will come their punishment, sudden and decisive (1 Thess. 5: 3), even banishment for ever from the presence of the Lord (2 Thess. 1: 9; Luke 13: 27).
Such is the solemn tribunal which will usher in the triumph of righteousness, the dominion of peace, the [millennial] reign of the Lamb. Further than what is revealed we may not speculate. The justice of the Divine verdict we dare not question. The very idea is a thoughtless insult to our all-loving Father. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? But let it be remembered that upon every one who sees and hears the truth, rests the responsibility of welcoming it as a means of salvation and holiness (2 Thess. 2: 10, 13). None need perish, but by their own action. Be it ours to open the door, as it shall be His to enter in,* at this present time, so that in the day which is coming it may be His to open the door, and ours to enter in.
[* Rev. 3: 19-21.]
* * *
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THE SECOND EPISTLE TO
The Second Epistle to the
A LARGE part of this Epistle has already been dealt with in the preceding chapter on the Advent, and many of the phrases commented on in the first Epistle recur in the second. But it remains for us to sketch the outline, and indicate some points of interest not yet touched upon.
The chapters of the A.V. appear to be the best analysis of the Epistle. Each of these consists of three parts - assurance of the well-being of believers, judgment on wrong-doers, and prayer for preservation and peace.
GREETING, 1: 1, 2.
SECTION A, 1: 3-12. PERSECUTION.
(a) Assurance of their welfare in persecution, vers. 3-5.
(b) Penalty of persecutors, vers. 6-10.
(c) Prayer for further perfecting, vers. 11, 12.
SECTION B. 2. APOSTASY.
(a) Re-assurance for saints in view or apostasy, vers. 1-7.
(b) Penalty of apostates, vers. 8-12.
(c) Prayer for steadfastness, vers. 13-17.
SECTION C. 3. DISORDERLINESS.
(a) Assurance of preservation amid disorderliness, vers. 1-5.
(b) Judicial action towards the disorderly, vers. 6-15.
(c) Prayer for peace, ver. 16.
FINAL GREETING, vers, 17, 18.
2 Thess. 1: 3-12.
THE GRATIFICATION OF THE APOSTLE, ver. 3.
THE GLORY OF THE LORD, ver. 10.
THE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH, vers. 11, 12.
Three points are specially noteworthy in this section.
1. The Gratification of the Apostle, verse 3.
He is doubly thankful for what he hears of their spiritual life in its faith and its love, its inner working, and its outward manifestation. Their inward life grows exceedingly like a mighty tree; their faith has ceased to be merely a grain of mustard seed; amid the bitter storms of opposition it has become more like the giant oak.
Their outer life, too, is as satisfactory as their inward experience. He changes the figure from that of a tree to a river; their love overflows. In both cases the growth has been constant, and shows every sign of continued progress.
2. The Glory of the Lord, verse 10.
Here again a double thought finds expression with reference to believers, as they will appear to the eyes of others, when accompanying the Lord on His triumphal return to the earth.
Their holiness will bring glory to Him, for they are only the mirrors, who reflect that which is His. Their faith will bring amazement to the eyes of those who have witnessed its constancy, as they realize the Divine source from which it sprang. But the glory and admiration will be all for Him, and not for them; the perfected medium transmits all the light.
3. The Growth of the Church, verses 11, 12.
The Apostles prayer for their growth again takes a two-fold form, and two points call for comment. Firstly, the calling, of which they are to be counted worthy, is a [Page 93] future thing. It is therefore not their [eternal] salvation, but their coronation of which he speaks (cp. 1 Pet. 5: 10). The crown of joy [of glory R.V.] for soul-winning (1 Thess. 2: 19), the crown of life for patient endurance (Rev. 2: 10), the crown of righteousness for valour in the fight (2 Tim. 4: 8), the crown of glory for diligent ministration (1 Pet. 5: 4) - these are in the Apostles mind and find their place in his prayers. He would have his converts not saved so as by fire, but granted an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom* (2 Pet. 1: 11).
[* NOTE. How sad, when we see the redeemed people of God who appear to have given no thought for this abundant entrance into Gods everlasting kingdom! How sad, when the god of this age hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should not dawn upon them (2 Cor. 4: 4, R.V.)! They stumble at the word, being disobedient, (1 Pet. 2: 17, R.V.); and are unwilling to believe the thousand years (Rev. 20: 3, R.V.); and by well-doing refuse to make their calling and election sure, (2 Pet. 1: 10)!]
Secondly, the good pleasure of goodness is a difficult phrase. Good pleasure is used most frequently of God in the New Testament, while goodness is applied to man. It is tempting to render the phrase Gods good pleasure for your good life, but considering the parallel in work of faith with power, it is perhaps safer to render your divine delight in active well-doing.
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2 Thess. 2: 1-17.
CLING TO THE WORD, ver. 15.
CLING TO THE LORD, ver. 17.
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With the thought of the crowns in his mind, the Apostle beseeches his converts on behalf of (verse 1) the Advent not to let it be stained by unfaithfulness, but glorified by their steadfastness. He regards the Day as a kind of naval review, and longs that in that great gathering together (verse 1), those for whom he is anxious, may sail in with colours flying. They have been confused in mind (verse 2) with reports that the day of Christs coming is actually imminent, whereas certain preliminaries have yet to be fulfilled. He fears lest they should be tempted to hastily slip their moorings (shaken, verse 2). There are unsatisfactory members in the church, and he beseeches his faithful ones to sail away from (withdraw, 3: 6) such. His confidence is that the Lord will be their Pilot (direct, 3, 5). He warns them of four false lights which may wreck them:-
(a) Pretended revelations from the spiritual world, 2: 2.
(b) Alleged verbal messages from the Apostle, 2: 2.
(c) False letters purporting to come from him, 2: 2, and chap. 3: 17.
(d) The withholding of letters which had actually been sent by him, 1 Thess. 5: 27.
He has two great safeguards to offer.
1. Cling to the Word if you wish to be kept from delusion.
Note that traditions (vese 15) include Scripture messages either verbal, as at the first, or written, as afterwards. But always the word means the Gospel of Christ, not the man-made additions thereto, or defective reports of succeeding ages. It indicates the handing on of a securely guarded and well-defined deposit.
2. Cling to the Lord if you wish to be kept from defection.
He Himself (2: 16) is the one anchor which will keep the ship from drifting. Many of the thoughts in these concluding verses are echoes of the first Epistle, and have already been dealt with, but I cannot refrain from pointing out how the First and Second Persons of the [Page 99] Trinity are linked together as co-equal, with a singular verb in agreement. Note also that Salvation (verse 13) includes both initial belief, and daily sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Waller in his handbook to the Epistles of
St. Paul points out a very interesting line of study, Zechariah
4 and 5 are in marked contrast with one
another as illustrating the life controlled by good and by evil powers. The second chapter of 2 Thess. has some very interesting parallels with Zechariah 5 when the latter is read in the Greek
version, and the one throws considerable light upon the other. Compare unrighteousness
(adikia) in Zech. 5: 6, seated in verse 7, lawlessness (anomia) in verse
8, with the same words in 2 Thess. 2: 10, 4, 7. Compare
The concluding verses of this letter deal with dangers and foes, without and within the Church.
(a) Dangers from without, vers. 1-5.
(b) Dangers from Within. 3: 6-16
Certain mistakes as to the meaning of expressions in
He will, however, leave no shadow between himself, and any of those to whom he writes in love; witness the twice-repeated and emphatic all in vers. 16 and 18.
The phrase so I write (ver. 17) probably means This is my handwriting (cp. Gal. 6: 11).
Thus the Epistle draws to its close, and never was its message
more needed than to-day. The marks of apostasy are clearer than ever in the professing
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Break up the heavens, 0 Lord! and far,
Thro all yon starlight keen,
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.
He lifts me to the golden doors;
The flashes come and go;
All heaven bursts her starry floors,
And shows her light below.
And deepens on and up! the gates
Roll back and far within
For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits,
To make me pure of sin.
The Sabbath of Eternity,
One Sabbath deep and wide -
A light upon the shining sea -
The Bridegroom with His bride.