The book of 2 Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1)

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Although this letter declares itself to be from Paul and fits perfectly well as a sequel to 1 Thessalonians, many scholars have been sceptical about its authenticity. The letter’s vocabulary and style have been subjected to minute analysis, but statistics in this regard are of dubious vale for so short a letter. Idiosyncrasies in its style, though real, are not substantial enough to overthrow Pauline authorship, and there are many similarities between the two letters. Another argument is that the eschatology of 2 Thessalonians differs from that of Paul’s earlier epistle to this congregation. While 2 Thessalonians implies that the coming of the Lord will be preceded by an observable event – the appearance of the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) – the argument goes, 1 Thessalonians teaches that Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). In fact, however, 1 Thessalonians 5 indicates that the end will be unanticipated by unbelievers, but not by believers. Both letters are brief responses to roblems among the Thessalonians, and the two should not be set against each other.

It appears that 2 Thessalonians was written soon after 1 Thessalonians, probably after Paul had received a response to his first letter. Thus, 2 Thessalonians was likely written from Corinth in about A.D. 51-52.

Paul wrote to the new believers in Thessalonica, a major military and commercial port along the Egnatian Way (see Thessalonica under 1 Thessalonians 1).

Second Thessalonians was clearly a response to ongoing issues among the Thessalonians. On the one hand, these believers were enduring in the faith despite persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:4). On the other hand, some had become frantic about the return of the Lord (2:1-16), while others had taken to living off the largesse of their fellow believers (3:6-15). Paul wanted to set the record straight.

As you read, note Paul’s words of encouragement to those experiencing persecution and his concern for the Thessalonians as expressed in his prayers. What lessons can be learned about perseverance in suffering? Make a list of the truths set forth by Paul concerning the end times and Christ’s second coming.

Did you know that “powerful angels” may refer to a class of angels (such a group is mentioned in apocalyptic writings) endowed with special power to do God’s will (1:7)? Did you know that until the New Testament was written, essential Christian teaching was passed on in the “traditions” (2:15)? Did you know that Paul normally dictated his letters, but toward the end of some of them he added a brief word in his own handwriting (3:17)?


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