New Defender's Study Bible Notes
Introduction to II Thessalonians
It is evident that Paul’s second letter to the young church at Thessalonica followed soon after the first. It seems to have been written while he was still at Corinth (he was there some eighteen months—Acts 18:11) in response to certain disturbing reports from some of the Thessalonian believers (II Thessalonians 3:6,11). At the same time, he had been greatly encouraged by the strong faith and courageous stand of the church as a whole, even under persecution (II Thessalonians 1:4).
There seem also to have been certain counterfeit letters written to the church in his name (II Thessalonians 2:1-2), confusing the church about the doctrine of Christ’s second coming, and conflicting with what Paul had written about this in his first letter. Consequently, II Thessalonians 2:1-12 contains a very important exposition of the coming Antichrist, as well as the coming of the true Christ (II Thessalonians 1:7-11).
Both I Thessalonians and II Thessalonians were accepted as authentic Pauline documents by the early church. Paul introduces himself as author of both (with the agreement of both Silas and Timothy in the messages he was sending) in the first verse of each epistle. He again refers to himself by name in I Thessalonians 2:18 and II Thessalonians 3:17, and makes many personal references in both epistles which could hardly have been faked by someone other than Paul. Although a few modern liberals have questioned Paul’s authorship of one or both of the epistles, practically all agree that the traditional view is right. There is really no valid reason to question the authenticity of either epistle.
1:1 Thessalonians. See the Introduction to I Thessalonians. This second epistle to the Thessalonians was apparently written soon after the first, while Timothy and Silvanus (i.e., Silas) were still with Paul at Corinth. Paul had received a reply to his first letter, and their response indicated that the Thessalonians needed still further instruction and correction. Apparently, some false teacher had written them in the name of Paul (II Thessalonians 2:2), and his erroneous teachings needed to be corrected. Also they were undergoing severe persecutions for their Christian stand, and Paul wanted to both commend and encourage them in this.
1:4 tribulations. The tribulations which all saints in all ages must endure (not just in the last generation—note Acts 14:22; II Timothy 3:12) are from men. The future tribulation visited on rebellious men, however, will be from God (II Thessalonians 1:6). They are not the same. In fact, our present tribulations can be considered a blessing, since we are therefore enabled to share, in small measure, the sufferings of Christ (II Thessalonians 1:5; see also Philippians 1:29; 3:10; II Corinthians 1:5).
1:7 rest. “Rest” here is a noun, not a verb. That is, those who are doing the troubling will receive tribulation; those who are being troubled will be given rest.
1:7 angels. The angels accompanying Christ at His first coming testified of peace and good will (Luke 2:13-14). At His second coming, they bring vengeance and flaming fire.
1:8 flaming fire. This fire may be the same as “the pillar of fire” that protected and guided God’s people in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). Alternatively, there are numerous references to fires in the tribulation period (e.g., Revelation 8:5-10; 18:8). Finally, climaxing the day of the Lord, the earth itself will be “burned up” (II Peter 3:10).
1:8 vengeance. “Taking vengeance” does not here imply taking revenge but rather exacting justice. God has been long-suffering, but “our God is a consuming fire” and “it [will be] a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 12:29; 10:31).
1:8 know not God. Knowing God means more than knowing about God; it means knowing Him as He is, personally and reverently acknowledging Him as sovereign Creator, redeeming Savior, and all-seeing Judge.
1:8 obey not the gospel. It is the gospel by which men are saved (I Corinthians 15:1-2) and there can be no other way of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The gospel is good news and salvation is offered freely to anyone who will receive it through faith in Christ. There is no acceptable excuse for rejecting His love and sacrificial death. For those who do reject Him, however, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).
1:9 destruction. This “everlasting destruction” is not annihilation of being, but of well-being. It means “everlasting ruin” or “everlasting punishment” (compare Matthew 25:41; Revelation 14:11).
1:9 presence of the Lord. The very essence of eternal hell is that it involves everlasting separation from God and all manifestation of His glorious power. Hell cannot be located on the new earth (see on Revelation 19:20; 20:10), since the lake of fire is in existence both before and after the disintegration of this present earth. Since God’s power pervades His entire universe, it seems that the lake of fire must be as far away from the presence of God on the new earth as possible. To be forever separated from all that God is—love, power, righteousness, beauty, intelligence, etc.—is essentially what men who reject Him have chosen, and this is what hell will be like.
1:10 all them that believe. When Christ returns and calls His saints to meet Him in the air (both dead and living—I Thessalonians 4:16-17), He will “be admired in all them that believe,” not just those who are maintaining a certain standard of spirituality at the time of His coming. The rapture is not a partial rapture, but is effective for all believers, whether carnal or spiritual, living or dead. The evaluation of one’s life after individual regeneration will be settled at Christ’s judgment seat (II Corinthians 5:10).