Notes on

2 Thessalonians

2024 Edition

Dr. Thomas L. Constable



This epistle contains evidence that Paul had recently heard news about current conditions in the Thessalonian church. Probably most of this information came to him from the person who had carried 1 Thessalonians to its recipients and who had returned to Paul at Corinth. Perhaps other people as well who had news of the church had informed Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Some of the news was good. The majority of the Thessalonians were continuing to grow and to remain faithful to Christ in spite of persecution. Unfortunately some of the news was bad. False teaching concerning the day of the Lord had entered the church, caused confusion, and was leading some of the Christians to quit their jobs in expectation of the Lord's imminent return.

In view of these reports Paul evidently felt compelled to write this epistle. He commended his children in the faith for their growth and faithfulness, corrected the doctrinal error about the day of the Lord, and warned the idle to get back to work.

"It is primarily a letter of correction—correction concerning persecution (chapter 1), concerning prophecy (chapter 2), and concerning practice (chapter 3)."[1]

Place of writing and date

Almost all conservative scholars believe that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians from Corinth. The basis for this conclusion is that Paul, Silas, and Timothy were present together in Corinth (Acts 18:5). The New Testament does not refer to them being together from then on, though they may have been. Paul evidently wrote 1 Thessalonians from Corinth too. The topics that he treated in the second epistle seem to grow out of situations that he alluded to in the first epistle. They reflect a very similar situation in the Thessalonian church. Corinth, therefore, seems the probable site of the composition of 2 Thessalonians.

For the above reasons it appears that Paul composed 2 Thessalonians quite soon after 1 Thessalonians, perhaps within 12 months.[2] This would place the date of composition in the early A.D. 50s, perhaps A.D. 51, and it would make this the third of Paul's canonical writings, assuming Galatians was his first. A few scholars argued that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians before 1 Thessalonians.[3] But this view has not found wide acceptance.[4]

"The external evidence for the Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians is stronger than for 1 Thessalonians."[5]


Three purposes are evident from the contents of the epistle: Paul wrote to encourage the Thessalonian believers to continue to persevere in the face of continuing persecution (1:3-10). He also wanted to clarify the events—and their chronological order—preceding the day of the Lord in order to dispel false teaching (2:1-12). Finally he instructed the church how to deal with the lazy Christians in their midst (3:6-15).


I.       Salutation 1:1-2

II.       Commendation for past progress 1:3-12

A.      Thanksgiving for growth 1:3-4

B.      Encouragement to persevere 1:5-10

C.      Prayer for success 1:11-12

III.      Correction of present error 2:1-12

A.      The beginning of the day of the Lord 2:1-5

B.      The mystery of lawlessness 2:6-12

IV.     Thanksgiving and prayer 2:13-17

A.      Thanksgiving for calling 2:13-15

B.      Prayer for strength 2:16-17

V.      Exhortations for future growth 3:1-15

A.      Reciprocal prayer 3:1-5

1.      Prayer for the missionaries 3:1-2

2.      Prayer for the Thessalonians 3:3-5

B.      Church discipline 3:6-15

1.      General principles respecting disorderly conduct 3:6-10

2.      Specific instructions concerning the idle 3:11-13

3.      Further discipline for the unrepentant 3:14-15

VI.     Conclusion 3:16-18


We could contrast 1 and 2 Thessalonians by saying that Paul wrote the first epistle primarily to comfort the Thessalonians whereas he wrote the second epistle primarily to correct them.

Paul had said some things in his first epistle from which his readers drew a false conclusion. He had said that Christ would return and that His return could be very soon (1 Thess. 4:15-18). He also said that the day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night: unexpectedly (1 Thess. 5:2).

In view of what Paul had taught the Thessalonians about the day of the Lord when he was with them (2 Thess. 2:5), they wondered if that day had already begun. They wondered if they were in the Tribulation and if the Second Coming of Christ was imminent. Teaching from several other sources had confirmed their suspicions (2 Thess. 2:2) and intensified their questions about Paul's statements regarding future events that he had written in 1 Thessalonians.

The apostle wrote 2 Thessalonians in order to correct these erroneous ideas. The return of Christ, about which Paul had written, was not His Second Coming but the Rapture. While the day of the Lord would arrive unexpectedly, it would be unexpected only by unbelievers. Several predicted events would precede its commencement.

The central message of this epistle is the truth about the day of the Lord.

Paul made an important distinction in this epistle about future events. In 1 Thessalonians he had taught that the Lord's return could take place very soon and that the day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night. Consequently he urged his readers to wait expectantly for the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 5:2). In 2 Thessalonians he wrote that the day of the Lord cannot begin immediately. Therefore his readers should continue their work (2 Thess. 2). These statements—that the day of the Lord could begin soon, but it could not begin immediately—may seem contradictory, but they are not. Paul distinguished these two truths in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. The distinction is between "our gathering together to Him" (2:1) and "the day of the Lord" (2:2).[7] He wrote 2:1-12 in order to show the difference between the first event and the second period of time.

Paul also gave definite new revelation about the day of the Lord:

First, he said that presently "the mystery of lawlessness is at work" (2:7a). Paul did not say the mystery of sin, or of evil, but of lawlessness. He did so because lawlessness (rebellion against divine law) is the root trouble with human life individually, socially, nationally, and in every other sphere of life. The mystery of lawlessness is the new revelation that he expounded here concerning the course of lawlessness in the world and history, in space and time.

Second, Paul revealed that in the future God will remove what is presently restraining lawlessness (2:7b). The restrainer probably refers to the church, which is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Lawlessness produces corruption, but the church is the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13), and salt prevents the spread of corruption. Lawlessness also produces darkness, but the church is the light of the world (Matt. 5:16), and light dispels darkness. Lawlessness is presently working, but what keeps it from running wild is the Holy Spirit's ministry through the church: through Christian men and women. The Holy Spirit will not leave the earth when the Rapture occurs, because He is always omnipresent. But His ministry of restraining lawlessness through Christians in the church will end, because the people whom He presently indwells will leave the earth.

Third, Paul announced that in the future there will also be a crisis: "that lawless one" will be revealed (2:8a). When will God withdraw the Spirit's present restraining ministry from the world? He will do so when He withdraws the church from the world. When will He withdraw the church from the world? He will do so at "our gathering together to Him" (2:1, i.e., the Rapture).[8] After that the human leader of lawlessness will appear. He will be entirely godless, but he will be such a remarkable character that he will convince most people that he is divine. This man is the Antichrist.

Finally, Paul taught that after this crisis Jesus Christ will return to the earth to set up His kingdom (2:8b). Jesus will come at the end of the Tribulation, when the "lawless one" is the prominent character on the stage of history. However, when Christ comes He will destroy this Antichrist and curtail lawlessness (cf. Ps. 2).

In view of this revelation Paul called on his readers to do two things:

First, he called on them to be courageous. He did not want them to be mentally upset (2:2), but comforted and established in their understanding of future events (2:17). A clear understanding of the course of future events, and the Lord's return, is essential for the mental and spiritual encouragement and stability of Christians. We need this to be courageous in the face of all the lawlessness that we encounter in the world.

Second, Paul called his readers to responsible conduct. He instructed them to go on with life, to wait but also to work. Christians must behave responsibly by providing for their own needs. The hope of Christ's imminent return at the Rapture is no excuse for irresponsibility. Paul was not just urging activity (witnessing, praying, etc.) but, specifically, earning a living.

The gravest danger that we face in our world today is not socialism, or communism, or fascism, or terrorism—but lawlessness, specifically, refusal to submit to God's laws. The person who lives this way is anti-Christ. We need to recognize this danger for what it is, and combat it, by being salt and light in the world. However we should also remember that Christ will eventually be victorious. This will keep us from becoming frantic and losing our stability.

Each of us Christians also needs to make sure that lawlessness does not characterize our personal lives. We must be submissive to divine rule if we would be consistent and confident Christians.[9]


I.      SALUTATION 1:1-2

The Apostle Paul opened this epistle by identifying himself and his companions to the recipients. He also wished God's grace and peace for them. He wanted to express his continuing good will toward his children in the faith.

Verses 1 and 2 are almost identical to 1 Thessalonians 1:1. One change is that Paul called God "our Father" here rather than the Father.

The benediction (v. 2) is fuller than the one in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. Paul mentioned both "grace" (God's unmerited favor and divine enablement) and "peace" (the cessation of hostility and the fullness of divine blessing) again, but he identified their Source here. Both blessings come "from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul again asserted the deity of Christ, and he balanced the fatherhood of God with Christ's Lordship over the church and the believer. In this epistle Paul was especially concerned that the Thessalonians enjoy peace, knowing that they were not in the day of the Lord.


Paul thanked God for the spiritual growth of his readers, encouraged them to persevere in their trials, and assured them of his prayers for them. He did so in order to motivate them to continue to endure hardship and thereby develop in their faith (cf. James 1:2-4).

"Just as I Th. begins with a thanksgiving which slides over with no real break into a description of how the readers became Christians, so too in this letter the opening expression of thanks comes to a climax in the thought of the readers' steadfastness in enduring persecution and then slides over into a comment on the situation which is meant to encourage them to continue to hold to their Christian beliefs."[10]

A.     Thanksgiving for growth 1:3-4

1:3             In his earlier epistle to the Thessalonians Paul prayed for them to grow in faith (1 Thess. 3:10) and to increase in love (1 Thess. 3:12). He now rejoiced that they were doing both of these things (v. 3). This is one clue that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians after 1 Thessalonians. God had answered his prayer. Paul began each of his epistles, except Galatians, with thanksgiving for the spiritual progress of his readers. The Greek word translated "increasing abundantly," huperauxanei, which Paul used to describe their faith, occurs only here in the New Testament. It means that their faith had grown abnormally, not just at a normal rate. Their love for one another had also increased significantly. The Thessalonians' growth had been unusual. They were a model congregation in this respect. In the Greek text verses 3-10 are one sentence.

"We ought always to give thanks" means: We must give thanks (cf. 2:13). Paul was not saying that he knew he should give thanks but did not, but rather that he felt obligated to give thanks and did so.

"Clearly in this entire passage … the writers reveal themselves as men who are elated … rather than reluctant, exuberant rather than hesitant."[11]

"Paul was well aware of the shortcomings of the Thessalonian believers, but he did not allow their faults to blind him to their strong points. … Instead of criticizing, he is eager to commend."[12]

1:4             No wonder Paul said that he recommended the Thessalonians to other churches as an example to follow. Their growth had come in the midst of persecution, and this made it even more commendable. "Faith" (Gr. pistis) usually refers to faith in someone or something, but often it means faithfulness (e.g., Rom. 3:3; Gal. 5:22; Titus 2:10). It probably has the latter meaning here. "Perseverance and faith" is probably a hendiadys meaning faithful perseverance.[13] Paul's readers were enduring hostile actions ("persecutions") as well as other painful experiences ("afflictions") at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles because of their Christian faith (cf. 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14; Acts 17:5-9).

"The former ["persecutions"] is a special term for external persecutions inflicted by the enemies of the Gospel; the latter ["afflictions"] is more general, and denotes tribulation of any kind."[14]

B.     Encouragement to persevere 1:5-10

These verses explain what God's future "righteous judgment" (v. 5) is.

1:5             Paul explained that suffering for Christ demonstrates the believer's worthiness to participate in God's kingdom (cf. Luke 20:35).[15] This is the kingdom that a person becomes a part of when he or she trusts in Christ. A hot fire burning under gold ore separates the gold from the dross and reveals the gold to be what it actually is. In the same way the fire of trials can separate the Christian from the unsaved and show him to be what he really is. He is what he is by God's grace. It is God's grace that qualifies a person for God's kingdom, not suffering. But suffering, if properly responded to, exposes the quality of the person whom God's grace is transforming.

Paul taught elsewhere that God will reward Christians who endure the temptation to abandon their commitment to Jesus Christ with the privilege of reigning with Christ in His millennial kingdom (2 Tim. 2:12). Whereas all Christians will enter the millennial kingdom at His Second Coming, only those who follow Him faithfully in this life will reign with Him.[16] What this will involve remains to be seen.

"Jesus encouraged his disciples to rejoice when they were persecuted for his sake because, he said, 'your reward is great in heaven' (Matt 5:11, 12 par. Luke 6:22, 23). This note recurs again and again throughout the NT."[17]

1:6-8          In the future God in His justice would repay with affliction the Thessalonians' persecutors and give relief to his readers, as He will do for all Christians who suffer affliction for the gospel. There are two promises here: (1) "to repay with affliction those who afflict you" (v. 6), and (2) "to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us" (v. 7a). The first promise will be fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns to the earth in judgment. This is not a reference to the Rapture but to Christ's second coming, which Paul described as "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire" (v. 7b-8a). The second promise might be fulfilled in the immediate future—the Thessalonians might experience relief soon—but it would definitely be fulfilled at the Rapture if the Rapture occurred soon after Paul wrote this epistle. The second promise seems to be a parenthesis in the sentence (vv. 6-7). Paul's purpose in mentioning this second promise was evidently to give his readers another reason to be encouraged, in addition to his assurance that God would punish their oppressors. The Rapture, whenever it occurs, will give relief to God's people who are afflicted by oppressors.

The judgments described in the following verses (vv. 8-10) continue to describe what will take place at Christ's second coming at the end of the Tribulation (cf. Ps. 2:1-9; Matt. 25:31). Then He will appear "in flaming fire" and punish unbelievers by "dealing out retribution to those who do not know God" (cf. Rom. 1:18-32; Jer. 10:25; Ps. 79:6; Isa. 66:15), and "to those who do not obey the gospel" (cf. John 3:36). Some commentators have taken the former group ("those who afflict you") to be Gentiles, and the latter group ("you who are afflicted") to be Jews.[18] However this is probably a case of synonymous parallelism in which both descriptions refer to both Jews and Gentiles.[19] Christ will put them to death and will not allow them to enter the millennial kingdom (cf. Ps. 2; Ezek. 20:33-38; Joel 3:1-2, 12; Zeph. 3:8; Zech. 14:1-19; Matt. 25:31-46).[20]

"… the revelation of Christ will in itself inflict the severest punishment on the wicked, by opening their eyes to what they have lost."[21]

"This is the only passage in which Paul welcomes God's vengeance on the enemies of the church as an element in the recompense of Christians."[22]

1:9             These non-Christians will "pay the penalty of eternal destruction." Their fate is eternal separation "away from the presence of the Lord" and from the manifestation of His glory (i.e., eternal death; cf. Isa. 2:10, 19, 21). It is not annihilation or reincarnation. This is Paul's most explicit reference to the eternal duration of unbelievers' judgment in all of his writings. It is both ironic and talionic (i.e., punishment that exacts a penalty just like the crime) that those who reject Christ will, in turn, experience God's rejection.

"Olethros ('destruction') does not refer to annihilation, which cannot be 'everlasting' (Hendriksen, p. 160). The word in LXX and NT usages never has this meaning but rather turns on the thought of separation from God and loss of everything worthwhile in life …"[23]

"The phrase everlasting destruction occurs only here in the New Testament and is everything opposite from eternal life."[24]

"Heaven is primarily the presence of God. Hell is the loss of that presence."[25]

1:10           When Christ returns to earth at His second coming His saints will accompany Him (cf. 1 Thess. 3:13). Paul referred here specifically to Christians (i.e., believers of the Church Age who previously experienced the Rapture), not all believers. Old Testament saints will not experience resurrection until the Second Coming (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2). Another view is that the "saints" are Old Testament believers and "all who have believed" are Church Age believers.[26] A third view is that "saints" and "all who have believed" both refer generally to believers who will be present when the Lord returns. Jesus Christ's second coming will be a day of great glory and vindication for Him.

"The idea is that the glory of that day will far surpass anything of which we can have any idea before we behold it, and when we do behold it we shall be lost in amazement."[27]

Paul's readers would participate in this day because they had believed Paul's testimony when he had preached the gospel among them. The Thessalonians will reflect Christ's glory as will all other believers who will accompany Him at His second coming.

"Just as Paul is elusive about the nature of the vengeance to be inflicted by the Lord Jesus, he is also elusive about the nature of the reward to be bestowed."[28]

"That day" is a clear reference to the day of the Lord (cf. Isa. 2:11, 17). It will include Jesus Christ's return to the earth at His second coming (cf. Mark 13:32; 14:25; Luke 21:34; 2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8).[29] Then He will be glorified in the presence of His saints (the locative use of the Greek preposition en).[30] By using the Greek preposition en, Paul could have meant that Christ will be glorified both among them and in them.

At first reading it may appear that verses 5-10 offer hope that God would judge the Thessalonians' persecutors very soon and that the Thessalonian Christians would find relief very soon (v. 7) in the Rapture. However the return of Christ in fire (v. 7), dealing out punishment (vv. 8-9) when He comes with His saints (v. 10), must refer to the Second Coming. Thus it appears in this section as though the Second Coming follows the Rapture immediately. This is what posttribulationists believe.[31] It is also what amillennialists and postmillennialists believe.[32] However, the seven-year Tribulation will first precede the Second Coming, as posttribulationists agree. This passage needs to be understood in the context of what Paul had written previously in 1 Thessalonians. There he made clear the course of future events, specifically an imminent pretribulational Rapture that is distinct from the Second Coming.

Paul proceeded to explain that the Thessalonians were not in the Tribulation (2:1-12). Only if they were already in the Tribulation could the hope of relief by a posttribulational Rapture have been a comfort to them. Consequently, it seems that in 1:5-10 Paul was seeking to comfort his readers by assuring them that ultimately they would experience relief by entering rest in the Millennium following Christ's second coming. Ultimately God would punish their persecutors at the Great White Throne judgment, at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:11-15). This knowledge of God's ultimate justice comforts all believers: the Thessalonians and us.

Thomas, a pretribulationist, understood the revelation of Jesus Christ, spoken of in verses 5-10, to be a general one that embraces both the Rapture and the Second Coming:

"Many have chosen to limit apokalypsei ('revelation,' 'appearance') to a single event, identifying it with Christ's return to earth at the close of the tribulation. The role of 'his powerful angels' in the revelation favors this understanding in the light of Matthew 24:30, 31; 25:31. It is more persuasive, however, to explain apokalypsei as a complex of events, including various phases of end-time happenings. The present context associates the word with Christ's coming for his own as well as his coming to deal with opponents. Since the primary thrust of vv. 5-10 is to encourage suffering Christians, the meaning of apokalypsei for them should receive the emphasis. God's dealings with the rest of the world are included only to enhance the 'relief' experienced by believers at the righteous judgment of God."[33]

It seems to me, as I have tried to explain above, that the references to what will happen at this appearing describe the Second Coming exclusively. Thomas admitted that the full enjoyment of the future glory of Christ's coming—and only His Second Coming will be characterized by universally observed glory—is the leading idea of this chapter.[34]

"In the Scriptures in general and in Thessalonians particularly, a contrast is drawn between the coming of Christ for His church, which is pictured in 1 Thessalonians 4, and the coming of Christ to set up His millennial kingdom. … The question arises in verse 10 as to which coming is being discussed. The best explanation seems to be that in this verse Christ is referring to the coming to establish His [earthly] kingdom."[35]

C.     Prayer for success 1:11-12

Paul and his companions always prayed that the Thessalonians would continue to experience purification through their trials rather than experience apostasy (i.e., departure from the truth).[36] They also prayed that God would consider them worthy of their calling. It may be final acceptance that the apostle had in mind here, namely, that God would count them worthy to be called into the kingdom of His glory.[37] On the other hand, Paul may have meant that God would count them worthy of the calling that they had received to become His children.

"God counts men worthy as they consent to and endeavor to do that which He works in them."[38]

The apostle also asked that God would, by His power, bring to full expression every good purpose of his readers to glorify God and every act motivated by their faith in Him. The ultimate goal was the glory of the Lord Jesus manifested through the Thessalonian believers.

"The 'name' in Biblical times stood for the whole personality and was an expression of the personality."[39]

This is the first of five prayers for the Thessalonians contained in this short letter (cf. 2:16-17; 3:5, 16, 18).

"The duties of a preacher or evangelist do not cease with the utterance of his message."[40]

"… Christlike behavior is more important than words of praise in the glorifying of the Lord. For praise from a life transformed by the power of the Spirit rings true and sweet, but godless living makes a mockery of praise."[41]

"Here strict syntax requires, since there is only one article with theou ["God"] and kuriou ["Lord"] that one person be meant, Jesus Christ, as is certainly true in Titus 2:13; II Peter 1:1 … This otherwise conclusive syntactical argument … is weakened a bit by the fact that Kurios is often employed as a proper name without the article, a thing not true of soter [savior] in Titus 2:13 and II Peter 1:1. So in Eph. 5:5 en tei basileiai tou Christou kai theou the natural meaning is in the Kingdom of Christ and God regarded as one, but here again theos, like Kurios, often occurs as a proper name without the article. So it has to be admitted that here Paul may mean 'according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ,' though he may also mean 'according to the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.'"[42]

This section of verses (1:3-12) gives us great insight into God's reasons for allowing His saints to undergo affliction for their faith (cf. James 1). Persecution can be a great blessing from God, and can bring great glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, both now and in the future.


Paul next dealt with a doctrinal error that had come into the Thessalonian church in order to correct this error and to stabilize the Thessalonian believers.

Verses 1-12 contain truth about the end times that is revealed nowhere else in Scripture as well as some familiar truth. This section is key to understanding future events, and it is central to the argument of this epistle.

"There are few passages in the N.T. for which more varied interpretations have been proposed than for 2 Thess. ii. 1—12."[43]

A.     The beginning of the day of the Lord 2:1-5

2:1             Paul introduced his teaching by urging his readers not to be quickly shaken from their adherence to the truth that he had taught them by what they were hearing from others. The issue centered on Paul's instructions concerning the Rapture and the day of the Lord.

"The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "our gathering together to Him" both refer to the Rapture of the church. Paul had used the phrase the "coming" (parousia) of the Lord four times in 1 Thessalonians (2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23), and in every case it refers to the Rapture. "Our gathering together to Him" also refers to what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 about the Rapture.[44]

2:2             An unidentified teacher or teachers were telling the Thessalonians that "the day of the Lord" had already begun. This seemed to be a distinct possibility to them since Scripture describes that day as a time of tribulation as well as blessing. The Thessalonians were experiencing intense persecution, or tribulation, on account of their faith (1:4).

"False starts have been a common phenomenon among movements predicting the imminent end of the age as people's expectations exceed their patience."[45]

Many people throughout church history have confused the teaching of the apostles—that Christ could come at any moment (for believers at the Rapture)—with the unbiblical idea that He would come very soon. The first correct view is the doctrine of imminence, but the second incorrect view involves date setting. "Sudden" (Gr. aiphnidios, 1 Thess. 5:3, unforeseen, unexpected) does not mean soon (Gr. tachei, without delay).

The false message seems to have gained a hearing because it came from several different sources. Paul referred to three of them: a claimed prophetic revelation ("a spirit"), the recent teaching of another authority ("a message"), and a letter that Paul had supposedly written that had arrived in Thessalonica ("a letter"; cf. 3:17). If the day of the Lord (which starts with the Tribulation) had begun, how could Paul teach that the Lord's return for His own would precede that day (1 Thess. 5:1-11)? Note that Paul had taught them a pretribulation Rapture.[46]

"The supposed doctrinal difficulty lies in the failure to distinguish between parousia ["coming," v. 1] and the day of the Lord. The advocates of the false teaching at Thessalonica conceived that the day of the Lord was not merely 'at hand,' which was true (Ro 13:12), but actually 'present,' which Paul denied. Such a view denied the believer the hope of the imminent rapture."[47]

The subject of verses 1-12 is "the day of the Lord." This day, as the Old Testament and the New Testament refer to it, includes the Tribulation, the Second Coming, the Millennium, and the Great White Throne judgment (cf. Ps. 2:9; Isa. 11:1-12; 13; Joel 2; Amos 5:18; Zeph. 3:14-20; et al.).[48] It is not the Eternal State, as some amillennialists believe.[49]

Some premillenarians include the Rapture ("the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him," v. 1) in the day of the Lord.[50] But others exclude it.[51] Those who include it point to the Rapture as the beginning of God's direct intervention in human history once again. They also stress that the parousia ("coming") refers in Scripture to the Lord's coming and to events that follow the Lord's coming.

Those who exclude the Rapture from the day of the Lord do so for two reasons: First, the Rapture is a church or day of grace event, whereas "the day of the Lord" is an Israel event. The Rapture will end God's dealings with the church on earth, and the day of the Lord will resume His dealings with Israel on earth. Second, the beginning of that day resumes the chronology of Daniel's seventy weeks. The seventieth week begins when the Antichrist signs a covenant with Israel that allows the Jews to return to their land (Dan. 9:27).

I favor the second view, though the difference is not that important. While the term parousia (lit. appearing, arrival, "coming") is broad and refers to the Rapture and to many events that follow it, the term "the day of the Lord" seems more narrowly defined in Scripture and nowhere specifically includes the Rapture.

"This great contrast of attitudes toward the beginning judgment phase of the Day of the Lord and the Rapture [in these verses] is another indicator that the Rapture is not the beginning or any part of the Day of the Lord. Rather, it will be a separate event. Therefore, Paul's reference to the Day of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 is not a reference to the Rapture."[52]

Many amillennialists take "the day of the Lord" here as referring only to Christ's second coming.[53] However the Second Coming is only one of the things involved in the day of the Lord as the Old Testament prophets described that day.

2:3-4          Paul explained that three events had to take place before the judgments of the day of the Lord began (i.e., the judgments of the Tribulation). These were: "the apostasy" (v. 3), the unveiling of "the man of lawlessness" (vv. 3-4, 8), and the removal of the restraint of lawlessness (lit. "the mystery of lawlessness," vv. 6-7). The presence of the definite article "the" with each event identifies it as unique. There are no other events exactly like them.[54] The word "first" (v. 3) may refer to the fact that the apostasy will occur at the very beginning of the day of the Lord or just before the day of the Lord begins. It probably indicates that the apostasy will occur before the revelation of the man of sin.[55]

"As his corrective to the false teaching, Paul names two events [in verse 3] which must occur before the day of the Lord can be truly said to have come."[56]

One major event is "the apostasy" (v. 3, lit. falling away). The English word "apostasy" is a transliteration of the Greek word apostasia. By definition an apostasy is a departure, an abandoning of a position formerly held (cf. Josh. 22:22 LXX; Acts 21:21). It does not mean simply disbelieving but an aggressive and positive abandonment of what was formerly believed (cf. Acts 21:21; Heb. 3:12).

"In classical Greek the word apostasia denoted a political or military rebellion; but in the Greek Old Testament we find it used of rebellion against God (e.g. Jos. xxii. 22), and this becomes the accepted Biblical usage. Paul's thought is that in the last times there will be an outstanding manifestation of the powers of evil arrayed against God."[57]

It seems that Paul was referring here to the departure from the Christian faith of unbelievers, including professing (not genuine) Christians, soon after the Rapture at the beginning of the day of the Lord.[58] All genuine Christians will go to be with the Lord at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-17). Paul wrote elsewhere about this apostasy, namely, that it would increase as time passed (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; cf. 2 Pet. 3:3-6). Other apostles also warned that apostasy would characterize the last days of the Church Age, before the Rapture (James 5:1-8; 2 Pet. 2; Jude). After the Rapture the departure from the truth that has been growing through the ages will burst forth with even greater strength.

"In other words, apostasy which today is general is going to become specific."[59]

"It is not so much forsaking one's first love and drifting into apathy that is meant, as setting oneself in opposition to God."[60]

"… it seems likely that the apostasy Paul had in mind expanded on Jewish apocalyptic [catastrophic end-of-the-world] expectations and envisioned a dramatic and climactic falling away from the worship of the true God (by both Jews and some portion of the Christian church) as a part of the complex of events at the end of the age."[61]

The portion of the Christian church referred to in the quotation above in Paul's view would be the non-genuine Christians who compose Christendom. The word "Christendom" refers to all professing Christians: genuine and non-genuine. Such a departure had begun in Paul's day, but it had not yet reached the proportions predicted to characterize the apostasy about which the apostle had instructed his Thessalonian readers when he was with them (cf. v. 5). When the Rapture takes place and all true Christians leave the earth this great apostasy, which is connected with a worldwide delusion or deception, will characterize the human race.

"This worldwide anti-God movement will be so universal as to earn for itself a special designation: 'the apostasy'—i.e., the climax of the increasing apostate tendencies evident before the rapture of the church."[62]

"It appears more probable from the context that a general abandonment of the basis of civil order is envisaged. This is not only rebellion against the law of Moses; it is a large-scale revolt against public order, and since public order is maintained by the 'governing authorities' who 'have been instituted by God,' any assault on it is an assault on a divine ordinance (Rom 13:1, 2). It is, in fact, the whole concept of divine authority over the world that is set at defiance in 'the rebellion' par excellence."[63]

Some pretribulationists take a different view. They believe that this "apostasy" is a reference to the Rapture, and some of them find support for their view in Paul's reference to the Rapture in verse 1.[64] But the meaning of the word "apostasy" itself, as a revolt or rebellion, argues against this view.

"Nowhere else does the Scripture speak of the rapture as 'the departure.' A departure denotes an act on the part of the individual or company departing. But the rapture is not an act of departure on the part of the saints. In the rapture the church is passive, not active. At the rapture the church is 'caught up' or 'snatched away,' an event wherein the Lord acts to transport believers from earth into His presence (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Everything that takes place with the believers at the rapture is initiated by the Lord and done by Him. Paul has just referred to the rapture as 'our gathering together unto him' (v. 1); why then should he now use this unlikely term to mean the same thing?"[65]

"… (1) the organization of the church [as contrasted with the true church] has separated from the faith—it has apostatized and (2) there has been another departure, the departure of the true church from the earth. The departure of the true church leads into the total apostatizing of the organized church."[66]

Another major event, in addition to the apostasy, is the unveiling of "the man of lawlessness" (v. 3).[67] This is a person yet to appear who will be completely lawless and whom God will eventually doom to everlasting destruction (cf. Rev. 19:19-21). The prophet Daniel spoke of such a person. He will make a covenant with the Jews but then break it after three and a half years (Dan. 9:27). The making of that covenant seems to be the event that unmasks this individual for who he is: the Antichrist. After he has come to power he will seek to make everyone worship himself, and he will claim to be God (cf. Rev. 13:5-8). The title "son of destruction" (v. 3) means one of whom destruction is a distinguishing characteristic.

The reference to the man of lawlessness (Antichrist; cf. 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3) taking his seat in the temple of God (v. 4) may be figurative, representing him as taking the highest position possible.[68] More likely it is literal. This is probably a reference to the material temple of God that will stand in Jerusalem during the second half, at least, of the Tribulation (cf. Dan. 11:36).[69] Amillennialists, who do not believe in a future reign of Christ on the present earth, often take this temple as the one that stood in Jerusalem when Paul wrote this epistle.[70] They believe that Paul was predicting a desecration of that temple. This person, the Antichrist, had not yet appeared when Paul wrote, nor has he appeared yet.[71]

"In A.D. 40, only a few years before Paul wrote this letter, Gaius Caesar (Caligula), who had declared his own divinity, attempted to have his image set up in the holy of holies in Jerusalem."[72]

"All attempts to equate the Man of Lawlessness with historical personages break down on the fact that Paul was speaking of someone who would appear only at the end of the age."[73]

Furthermore Paul wrote that the Lord would eliminate him "with the breath of His mouth" and bring him to an end "by the appearance of His coming" (v. 8).

2:5             Paul reminded his readers that he had told them of these things when he was with them. Since Paul was evidently only in Thessalonica for a few weeks or months, this reference is very significant. Paul did not regard prophecy as too deep or unimportant or controversial for even new Christians to understand. Many Christians today play down the importance of this part of God's revelation. Paul believed prophetic truth was a vital part of the whole counsel of God and was essential to victorious Christian living. Consequently he taught it without hesitation or apology. So should we.

B.     The mystery of lawlessness 2:6-12

Paul continued his instruction concerning the events that must take place at the beginning of the day of the Lord and described further the apostasy of that period. His purpose was to explain more clearly that his readers had not missed the Rapture and had not entered the eschatological day of the Lord.

2:6             When he had been with them previously Paul had told the Thessalonians what was restraining the unveiling of the man of lawlessness (i.e., Antichrist, v. 3). He did not clearly identify the restrainer in this present passage. Nevertheless it seems that the Holy Spirit is the restraining influence in view.[74]

"To one familiar with the Lord Jesus' Upper Room Discourse, as Paul undoubtedly was, fluctuation between neuter and masculine recalls how the Holy Spirit is spoken of. Either gender is appropriate, depending on whether the speaker (or writer) thinks of natural agreement (masc. because of the Spirit's personality) or grammatical (neuter because of the [neuter] noun pneuma; see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 14) …"[75]

Posttribulationists and some pretribulationists have suggested other possible restrainers. These include the Roman Empire[76] and/or the emperor,[77] God the Father,[78] the archangel Michael,[79] Antichrist, Satan, and human government (or law and order).[80] These suggestions do not fit Paul's description.[81] The restrainer must be more powerful than Satan, since He presently restrains evil in the world, and Satan promotes evil. Some commentators after discussing the passage eventually confess ignorance.[82]

The Holy Spirit accomplishes His ministry of restraining lawlessness in the world mainly through the influence of Christians whom He indwells, especially through their gospel preaching.[83] However He also uses what the Bible teaches and human government.[84]

"Whoever the restrainer is, He must be more powerful than Satan, who empowers the man of sin. Only a person of the Godhead would so qualify, and since each and all of the persons of the Godhead indwell the believer (Eph. 4:6; Gal. 2:20; I Cor. 6:19), the removal of the restrainer requires the removal of believers whom He indwells. Thus the rapture of the Church must precede this tribulation period when the man of sin holds sway."[85]

"One of the distinctive features of the dispensation of grace in contrast to prior periods is the fact that the Holy Spirit indwells everyone who is regenerated. In the coming period of the kingdom on earth this divine blessing will also be a prominent feature and everyone who is saved will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit."[86]

Some interpreters who believe that the Holy Spirit's ministry of restraining lawlessness through believers will cease at the Rapture believe that people who come to faith in Christ after the Rapture will not be indwelt by the Spirit. These interpreters use the absence of specific revelation about the Spirit's indwelling during the Tribulation to argue for no indwelling during the Tribulation.

"There is little evidence that believers will be indwelt by the Spirit during the tribulation. The possibility of a universal indwelling of all believers in the tribulation is opposed by the revelation of 2 Thessalonians 2:7, that the one restraining the world from sin, i.e., the Holy Spirit, will be 'taken out of the way' during the tribulation. Unrestrained evil characterizes the tribulation, though the lack of restraint is not total (cf. Rev. 7:2; 12:6, 14-16). The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the saints in itself would contribute to the restraint of sin, and it, therefore, is taken away. The tribulation period, also, seems to revert back to Old Testament conditions in several ways; and in the Old Testament period, saints were never permanently indwelt except in isolated instances, though a number of instances of the filling of the Spirit and of empowerment for service are found. Taking all the factors into consideration, there is no evidence for the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in believers in the tribulation."[87]

Other interpreters, who also believe that the removal of the restrainer is the removal of Spirit indwelt believers, believe that the absence of specific revelation concerning the indwelling of believers after the Rapture assumes that indwelling continues. These interpreters believe that the Holy Spirit's ministry of indwelling believers began on the day of Pentecost and continues thereafter. For them it is not so much the removal of the Spirit who indwells as the removal of those whom He indwells.

In summary, "what restrains him now" probably refers to God's power at work through Christians whom the Holy Spirit indwells and works through to restrain evil. When this influence has been removed, by means of the Rapture of true Christians, the man of lawlessness will be revealed.

2:7             The "mystery" (truth previously not revealed but now made known) that Paul referred to here is the revelation of a future climax of lawlessness that will follow the removal of the restrainer.[88] Many interpreters believe that the word "lawlessness" refers to disregard of law in general. Some believe that it refers to disregard of God's Law in particular: His Word.[89] This lawless movement was already underway in Paul's day, but God was holding it back until His appointed time. Then He will remove the restraining influence. This removal is probably a reference to the Rapture, when God's restraint of evil through Christians will end as He removes the church from the earth.[90]

God will remove the Holy Spirit's restraining influence from the earth in the sense that God will remove those whom He indwells. He will not entirely abandon the earth, of course, since God the Holy Spirit is omnipresent.[91] "He," rather than "it," describes the Holy Spirit acting as a person—preventing evil from taking control—like a strong teacher, law enforcement official, or a good king. He is now working through Christians, whom He indwells, presently restraining lawlessness. But in the future Tribulation He will cease to restrain it as He does now.

I once heard someone describe this removal this way: It is presently as though the Holy Spirit was blocking the doorway so that Lawlessness (personified) could not enter. But at the Rapture, He will step aside, and Lawlessness will rush in.[92] Even though lawlessness is already at work, after the Rapture it will overwhelm the world.

Gundry believed that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit's ministry of restraining lawlessness apart from the influence of Christians.[93] This is a reasonable conclusion if one believes that Christians will go through the Tribulation. But the order of events that Paul revealed argues against that conclusion.

"Since the removal of the Restrainer takes place before the manifestation of the lawless one, this identification implies a pretribulational rapture."[94]

The order in which Paul described these three indicators has puzzled some students of this passage since they are not in chronological order. I think the order reflects the importance of the apostasy. Paul discussed the apostasy first, then the man of lawlessness who will be the sign that the apostasy has come, and then the removal of the restrainer who will allow the apostasy to become full-blown.

2:8             After the Rapture the lawless one will have greater freedom to enact his lawless policies. He will do things that will result in his being identified as the Antichrist. However the mere "breath" of the Lord Jesus' "mouth" will eliminate him when Christ comes to the earth at the Second Coming (cf. Rev. 19:15). The Lord's "appearance" (Gr. epiphaneia) event is a different and later event than the "gathering" (Gr. episynagoges) event (v. 1). The first event is the Rapture, and the second is the Second Coming.

"While there is apostasy in our midst, the man of sin has not been revealed, and the Holy Spirit has not been removed. All of this constitutes real evidence that the tribulation time has not come and that it cannot come until Christ comes and takes His church home to glory."[95]

2:9-10        The "lawless one" will be Satan's instrument. Scripture also calls him the beast coming out of the sea (Rev. 13:1-10), the scarlet beast (Rev. 17:3), and simply the beast (Rev. 17:8, 16; 19:19-20; 20:10).

"The use of parousia here [v. 9] probably suggests a parody of Christ's Parousia (v 8)."[96]

Satan will empower this man to deceive most people into thinking that he is God by enabling him to perform awe-inspiring, powerful miracles (cf. Rev. 13:2-4; 17:8).[97] The Greek word for "power" used here (v. 9, dunamis) refers to potential power, not power in action (energeia).[98] So the power in view may be his authority rather than his powerful miracles. "Signs" refer to miracles that unbelievers will think signify the lawless one's supernatural ability. The term "false wonders" stresses the counterfeit nature of his awe-inspiring feats. "Deception" (v. 10) identifies the intent and outcome of his wicked acts.

"Deception of the world with deepening darkness; deception of the Church through 'teachings' and 'manifestations' will reach the highest flood tide climax at the close of the age."[99]

The writer quoted above believed that Antichrist's deception would begin before the Rapture.

"In a word, instead of the assembly [i.e., the church], the apostasy; instead of the Holy Ghost, Satan; and, instead of the authority of God as a restraint upon evil, the unbridled man setting himself up as God on the earth."[100]

2:11-12      "For this reason" refers back to "because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved" (v. 10). Thousands of people, but only a small proportion of the entire population, will place their faith in Jesus Christ during the Tribulation (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:4, 9-17; et al.).[101] Some interpreters have concluded from these verses (vv. 11-12) that no one who has heard the gospel and rejected it before the Rapture will be able to be saved during the Tribulation. This view rests on taking the antecedents of "them" and "they" as referring to "those who perish" (v. 10) and interpreting "those who perish" as referring to those who heard but rejected the gospel before the Rapture.[102] However it seems more likely that verse 10 describes all unbelievers in the Tribulation, not just those who heard and rejected the gospel before the Rapture.

"It is unlikely that a person who rejects Christ in this day of grace will turn to Him in that awful period of tribulation. But the usual principle of Scripture is that while there is life there is hope. It is possible, though very improbable, that a person who has heard the gospel in this present age of grace will come to Christ after the rapture."[103]

Satan's and Antichrist's power, signs, wonders, and evil deception (vv. 9-10) will impress all people living on the earth during the Tribulation. Paul could say that those people "did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved" (v. 10), and that they "did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness" (v. 12). He could do so since these phrases describe all unbelievers, not just those who hear the gospel and willfully reject it before the Rapture (cf. John 3:19, Rom. 1:24-32).[104]

"Those who refuse to believe and accept the truth find that judgment comes upon them in the form of an inability to accept the truth."[105]

This is what happened to the Pharaoh of the Exodus and what typically happens to people when they repeatedly harden their hearts against God.

"By 'the lie ["what is false," v.11]' is apparently meant the denial of the fundamental truth that God is God; it is the rejection of his self-revelation as Creator and Savior, righteous and merciful Judge of all, which leads to the worship due to him alone being offered to another, such as the 'man of lawlessness.'"[106]

"It is a solemn thought that when men begin by rejecting the good they inevitably end by forwarding evil."[107]

"It becomes clear that divine condemnation results not from human intellectual errors but much rather from delight in what is evil and immoral."[108]

Verses 10-12 present the same downward career of the wicked that Paul wrote about in Romans 1:18-32: First, they set themselves against the truth. Second, God gives them over to their desires so that they become slaves to their passions. Third, He punishes them eternally.

If Paul wanted to correct the Thessalonians' erroneous conclusion that they were then in the day of the Lord, why did he not just tell them that the Rapture had not yet taken place? Evidently he did not do so because he wanted to reveal, or perhaps reemphasize, the events that will result in the culmination and destruction of lawlessness in the world. The timing of the lawlessness of the Tribulation, and the fear of having missed the Rapture, were the Thessalonians' primary areas of concern.

Paul's readers could, therefore, be confident that the day of the Lord had not yet begun. The tribulations that they were experiencing were not those of the day of the Lord, about which Paul had taught them while he was with them. Furthermore three prerequisite events had not yet taken place. Following the general apostasy that started in the first century and has subsequently increased throughout the Church Age, these events are: (1) the great apostasy, (2) the revelation of the man of lawlessness, and (3) the removal of the restrainer at the Rapture.[109]


Paul proceeded to give thanks for his readers' salvation and to pray for their steadfastness in order to help them appreciate their secure position in holding fast to apostolic teaching. These verses form a transition between the didactic (teaching) and hortatory (exhortation) sections of the epistle.

A.     Thanksgiving for calling 2:13-15

2:13           In contrast to the lawless unbelievers just referred to (v. 12), Paul was grateful that he could always "give thanks" for his readers (cf. 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3). Moreover he did so. The reason for his joy was God's choice of them for salvation before He created the world (v. 13; cf. Eph. 1:4). Most interpreters take this as a general reference to salvation from sin, but some believe that Paul meant salvation from the Tribulation.[110]

Though God loves all people (John 3:16), He does not choose all for salvation.

"The revelation that is stated here so simply is one of the most profound doctrines of the whole Word of God. In fact, it is more difficult than the subject of the coming of the Lord. Our salvation did not originate in human choice. God willed our salvation long before we ever came into existence. This divine choice was based upon divine love and divine determination."[111]

Paul consistently taught what the rest of Scripture reveals, namely, that the initiative in salvation comes from God, not man. God accomplishes salvation through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11-12; 1 Thess. 4:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:2).[112] He makes it effective when individuals believe the truth of the gospel. The order is significant. Note too the balance of divine sovereignty ("sanctification by the Spirit") and human responsibility ("faith in the truth"). Even though unbelievers oppose us Christians we can take courage because God loves us and He will deliver us.

"It is a travesty of God's electing grace to suppose that, because he chooses some for salvation, all the others are thereby consigned to perdition. On the contrary, if some are chosen for special blessing, it is in order that others may be blessed through them and with them. This is a constant feature in the pattern of divine election throughout the Bible story, from Abraham onward. Those who are chosen constitute the firstfruits, bearing the promise of a rich harvest to come."[113]

2:14           God's purpose in choosing the Thessalonians was that they might one day share in the splendor and honor ("glory") that their Lord does and will enjoy—beginning at the Rapture. Ultimate glorification is in view. Note the same three stages (i.e., predestination, calling, and glorification) in Romans 8:29-30.

2:15           In view of their calling, Paul urged his readers not to abandon what he and his associates had taught them in person and by letter. He wanted them to hold firmly to the inspired instructions that he handed on to them (i.e., "the traditions").[114]

"The prominent idea of paradosis ["tradition"] then in the New Testament is that of an authority external to the teacher himself."[115]

"We are almost incurably convinced that the use of notebooks is essential to the learning process. This, however, was not the case in the first century. Then it was often held that if a man had to look something up in a book he did not really know it. The true scholar was a person who had committed to memory the things he had learned. Until a man had a teaching in his memory he was not considered really to have mastered it."[116]

"There is a distinction in the Pauline writings between the gospel received by revelation (as in Gal 1:12) and the gospel received by tradition (as in 1 Cor 15:3), and the language of didache [teaching] and paradosis [tradition] is appropriate to the latter, not to the former. Even communications made dia pneumatos [by the Spirit] must be tested by their conformity to the paradosis and if they conflict with it they are to be refused (cf. 1 Thess 5:19-22)."[117]

"Inspired tradition, in Paul's sense, is not a supplementary oral tradition completing our written Word, but it is identical with the written Word now complete; then the latter not being complete, the tradition was necessarily in part oral, in part written, and continued so until, the latter being complete before the death of St. John, the last apostle, the former was no longer needed."[118]

B.     Prayer for strength 2:16-17

As part of a bridge between his instructions (2:1-12) and exhortations (3:1-15), Paul added this prayerful wish for the Thessalonians. He petitioned God for their encouraging comfort and strength (cf. 1 Thess. 3:2, 13; 2 Thess. 3:3).

"Addressing his prayer to the first two persons of the Trinity, Paul names the Son before the Father (contra 1 Thess 3:11), probably in line with the Son's worthiness of equal honor with the Father and his special prominence in the chapter's emphasis on future salvation and glory."[119]

There are few undisputed instances of people praying to God the Son following His ascension into heaven that the New Testament records (cf. Acts 7:59-60; 9:10). Here Paul said that he prayed to the Son for the Thessalonians. Though his words here are technically a prayerful wish rather than a prayer, they undoubtedly represent what he prayed and to whom he prayed (cf. 1 Thess. 3:11).

God's "grace" is the basis for eternal "comfort" in the face of temporary distress. Our hope is "good" because it motivates us to live in the light of our victorious Savior's return, and it results in "every good work and word."

"The phrase 'good hope' was used by non-Christian writers to refer to life after death."[120]

The Thessalonians needed comforting encouragement in view of their recent anxiety that erroneous information had produced. They also needed God's grace to enable them to stand firm and to do everything as unto the Lord (cf. 3:7-13). In addition, they needed His grace as they continued proclaiming the gospel.


Paul requested the Thessalonians' prayers for him, and he assured them that he was praying for them. He also encouraged them to deal with problems that needed correction in their assembly. Obedience in these matters would result in continued growth toward maturity for these believers.

"We cannot fail to be struck with the similarity of structure between the first and second Epistles. Both are divided into two parts, the first being chiefly narrative or explanatory, and the second hortatory: the second part in both commences in much the same way (compare 1 Thess. iv. 1 … with 2 Thess. iii. 1 … ): and each part in both Epistles concludes with a prayer couched in similar language …"[121]

A.     Reciprocal prayer 3:1-5

Paul requested the prayers of his readers, and he assured them of his own prayers for them. He prayed that they would be strengthened in their mutual bonds in Christ and in the gospel.

1.     Prayer for the missionaries 3:1-2

3:1             "Finally" introduces the last major section of the epistle. As was so often his custom, Paul first exhorted his readers to "pray" (1 Tim. 2:1-2; cf. 1 Thess. 5:25; et al.). He believed that God will work in response to the requests of His people. To fail to pray is to fail to receive God's blessings (James 4:2). Specifically, Paul asked the Thessalonians to ask God to facilitate the rapid and wide spread of the gospel and thus glorify (honor) His Word. Paul's readers had seen God do this in their midst when Paul and his fellow missionaries first visited their city.

"Paul was a very great apostle. But his greatness consisted not so much in sheer native ability (though he had his share of that) as in his recognition of his dependence on God. It arises out of this that he so often requests the prayers of those to whom he ministers."[122]

3:2             Also Paul desired that God would grant him and his colleagues deliverance from unreasonable and harmful unbelievers ("troublesome and evil people") who sought to limit the spread of the gospel. This is the negative side of the former positive request. To oppose the spread of the gospel is unreasonable behavior since the gospel brings spiritual life to those who are dead in sin. These people were probably unbelieving Jews who were opposing Paul in Corinth (cf. Acts 18:5-6, 12-13).

"I find that the spreading of the gospel is hindered more by people in the church than by anything else. No liquor industry, no barroom, no gangster ring has ever attacked me—at least I have never known about it. But I have had so-called saints in the churches attack me."[123]

"There is something deeply moving in the thought of this giant among men asking for the prayers of the Thessalonians who so well recognized their own weakness. Nowhere is Paul's humility more clear to see. And the fact that he, as it were, threw himself on their hearts, must have done much to bind even his opponents to him, because it is very difficult to dislike a man who asks you to pray for him."[124]

2.     Prayer for the Thessalonians 3:3-5

3:3             Paul was confident that God would provide strength and protection for the Thessalonians in view of His promises to provide for His own.

"Probably we are to understand it ["the evil one"] as a reference to Satan here in light of Paul's previous concern as expressed in 1 Thessalonians 3:5."[125]

3:4             Paul was also confident that his readers, strengthened by the Lord, would continue to follow apostolic instruction as they had done in the past. Paul had confidence in these Christians. Note the chiastic structure of Paul's thought in verses 1 through 4.[126]

3:5             Paul also prayed that God would give these brothers and sisters a greater appreciation of God's love for them and of Christ's perseverance in the midst of His earthly afflictions.[127] He wanted this so that their love and patient endurance might increase (cf. 1 Chron. 29:18; 2 Chron. 12:14). Paul may have meant both God's love for them and their love for God.[128]

"Christians need to be established. Right now the home is in disarray, the church is in disarray, and the lives of believers are in disarray. We need to be established. How can you as a believer be established? By coming to the Word of God and letting it have its influence in your life. The Lord operates through His Word. The Word of God will keep you from evil. Someone has said, 'The Bible will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from the Bible.'"[129]

"Consistent Christian behavior can result only from genuine inward commitment."[130]

B.     Church discipline 3:6-15

The false teaching that had entered the church had produced some inappropriate behavior in some of the Thessalonians. This teaching may simply have been the influence of the world, or it may have been specific instruction. Paul did not identify its source. He wrote what to do about this situation in order to guide the Thessalonians in bringing their behavior, as well as their belief, back into conformity with God's will.

"… his attitude throughout is not that of an apostle exercising his apostolic authority but that of a brother appealing to brothers in the name of a common authority, the Lord Jesus Christ."[131]

"As important as it is to identify the cause and nature of the problem behavior addressed in vv. 6-15, we should not ignore the fact that our passage both begins (v. 6) and ends (vv. 14-15) with exhortations, not to the idle but to the rest of the church. The admonition addressed directly to those Christians who were living improperly (v. 12) is, in fact, rather brief."[132]

1.     General principles respecting disorderly conduct 3:6-10

3:6             Paul introduced the words that follow in order to help the readers realize that obedience was essential. This was a "command" given with the full authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The faithful majority in the church was to separate, probably individually and socially, from the disorderly in order to alert the offenders to the fact that their behavior was not acceptable (cf. v. 14).[133] The desired result was that they would repent. Paul had earlier told the Thessalonians to warn those who were unruly (1 Thess. 5:14), but evidently they, the church and/or the unruly, had not responded adequately. Now firmer measures were necessary (cf. Matt. 18:15-17). The offenders constituted a minority who lived undisciplined lives contrary to the teaching and example of the missionaries ("the tradition which you received from us," cf. 4:15).

"The tradition to which Paul refers has a twofold character, as vv. 7-12 indicate. In vv. 7-9 the apostle elaborates on his and his colleagues' example as a guide for responsible behavior for their converts. The introductory words of v. 7 reveal that his and his fellow missionaries' behavior was intended to have the normative character of a received tradition. In addition, as a matter of course, Paul issued ethical instruction to new converts in order to regulate their behavior as Christians. In v. 10 he cites the specific tradition involved with regard to work."[134]

3:7-9          Evidently some in the church were not working to support themselves but were living off the charity of their brethren. In Thessalonica, as elsewhere, Paul and his companions sometimes supported themselves by making tents in order to give their converts an "example" (v. 7) of responsible Christian living (v. 9; cf. 1 Cor. 9:3-14; 1 Tim. 5:18). They had the right to receive monetary support in payment for their spiritual ministry (Gal. 6:6), but they often gave up this right for the greater needs of their converts.

3:10           Paul reminded his readers of his well-known instruction that he frequently repeated when he was with them: If anyone is not willing to work, his brothers and sisters in Christ should not provide for him. Paul may have been alluding to a Jewish proverb based on Gen. 3:19a: "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread."[135] The idle in this case were not unable to work, but unwilling to work. W. E. Blackstone's comment is noteworthy in this regard:

"I'm looking for the Lord every day, but I'm hustling to get the chores done before He gets here."[136]

2.     Specific instructions concerning the idle 3:11-13

3:11           Perhaps the teaching that Christ could return at any moment had led some of the believers into idleness. This is not certain, but it has been the conclusion of several commentators.

"If the epistle is charging people with trespassing in that which concerns God alone, it might be referring to their calculations of the date of the day of the Lord."[137]

The undisciplined Thessalonians had quit their jobs and were idle, "doing no work at all," and were simply waiting for the Lord to return. This interpretation seems justified, and it is certainly consistent with life. These idle ones most likely believed in the imminent return of Christ for them (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Such deductions have led other Christians to do the same thing at various other times throughout church history: quit working and simply wait for the Lord to appear. When people are not busy with their own work they may tend to meddle in the business of others. They may become busybodies, rather than busy bodies, neglecting their own business in order to mind other people's—even minding everybody else's business but their own.

"The mind of man is a busy thing; if it be not employed in doing good, it will be doing evil."[138]

3:12-13      Paul commanded the idle to settle down, to do their work peacefully, and to support themselves ( cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; Gen. 3:19). He counseled the obedient majority to endure this added affliction patiently, to continue doing right, and to not grow weary of doing good.

"'With quietness ["peacefully"],' emphatic by its forward position [in the Greek text], points to the quality of mind that is to be associated with their working. It denotes a condition of inward peace and tranquility reflecting itself in outward calmness; it is the opposite of their fussy activity as busybodies."[139]

"Exemplary conduct serves as a constant reprimand to wrongdoers and is an incentive for them to turn from their delinquency."[140]

Why were these Thessalonians not working? The answer probably lies in the word "peacefully."

"The root trouble apparently was their excitability. The thought of the nearness of the Parousia had thrown them into a flutter, and this had led to unwelcome consequences of which their idleness was the outstanding feature."[141]

This word "peacefully" "… is to be understood as the opposite of … the feverish excitement of mind stimulated by the belief that the Parousia was at hand …"[142]

"It seems apparent, then, that these idle Christians believed in the imminent coming of Christ; however, they had concluded wrongly that 'imminent' equals 'soon.' Thus, instead of believing that Christ could come soon, they were convinced that He definitely would come soon, and work was therefore no longer necessary for them."[143]

"Why did the Thessalonian Christians believe in the imminent coming of Christ? It must have been because they had been taught the imminent coming of Christ by a person whose authority they trusted. It would appear that Paul is the one who taught them the imminent coming of Christ. His negative reaction to their actions, however, implies that their wrong conduct was the result of a perversion of his teaching (cp. vv. 6, 10). Contrary to them, Paul did not equate 'imminent' with 'soon' and think, therefore, that work was unnecessary."[144]

3.     Further discipline for the unrepentant 3:14-15

3:14           If the idle Thessalonians failed to abandon their lifestyle after having received the warnings in this epistle, the rest of the believers should not associate with them (cf. Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 2:6-7; Titus 3:9-11).

"… they [the idle] must be deprived of intimate association with the rest of their fellows (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9, 11). But even so, absolute separation from the companionship of the brethren is not in mind; for Paul does not add here, as he does in 1 Cor. 5:11, the mede sunesthiein ["not even to eat with"]; and above all he does add here the significant v. 15 [i.e., 2 Thess. 3:15].)"[145]

This discipline would hopefully shame the offender into changing his or her ways. Shame would have been a more powerful motivation in Paul's shame-honor culture than it is in modern western culture, which is more weakness-power oriented.

"… allowing a believer to persist in blatantly unchristian, exploitive, and disruptive behavior is not a kindness—neither to the church nor to the errant believer nor to the watching non-Christian public."[146]

Paul put social pressure to good use here. It is regrettable that in our day social pressure often has very little influence on erring believers. Rather than submit to church discipline many Christians simply change churches. Strong measures may be necessary ("not to associate with him") in some cases so that they will be put to shame, repent, and live in harmony with the will of God.[147]

"The treatment of such a man is to withdraw from close fellowship with him. … It [the Greek verb sunanamignusthai] literally means 'Don't mix yourselves up with him'."[148]

"Church discipline is ultimately the denying of fellowship to a believer in Christ who is involved in open sin. Church discipline involves Christians engaged in overt sin (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13), especially sexual immorality; those creating division within the body of Christ (Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10); and those in open defiance of God's appointed leadership in the church (3:6, 7, 14; Heb. 13:17). A church must exercise discipline because the church must remain pure (1 Cor. 5:8). The goal of church discipline is to cause the sinning person to repent (James 5:19, 20); to 'gain back' or restore an erring brother (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1); to make the sinful person feel ashamed enough to change (3:14). There are several distinct steps to church discipline. First, meet one-on-one with the person. Second, if necessary meet with the person and another church member. Third, if there is no change in behavior, announce the matter to the congregation so that the whole church can corporately encourage the person to repent. Finally, if all else fails put the sinning person out of the assembly (Matt. 18:15-17). The tone of church discipline should be firm gentleness (Gal. 6:1). The people exercising church discipline should put away any spite, hatred, or malice so that they can facilitate true restoration."[149]

3:15           However Paul warned against overreacting to the idle in the church. The church should always treat the offender as a "brother or sister," not an "enemy." The Christian majority should not associate with the idler but should positively admonish him or her as a loved family member. We warn brothers and sisters, but we denounce and condemn enemies. "Admonish" is a present imperative in the Greek text (noutheteite) and can be translated "keep on warning." The aim of all church discipline must be repentance followed by restoration.[150]

"The situation is different from that envisaged at Corinth, where 'someone who is called a brother' (ean tis adelphos onomazomenos …) lives and acts in such a way as to give the lie to his Christian profession; that person is to be treated as an unbeliever, with no entitlement to the privileges of Christian fellowship (1 Cor 5:11)."[151]

VI.    CONCLUSION 3:16-18

Paul concluded this epistle with an emphasis on peace and unity in the church in order to motivate his readers to work out their problems and reestablish peaceful conditions that would glorify God.

3:16           Paul concluded with two more prayers, his fourth and fifth in this epistle (cf. 1:11-12; 2:16-17; 3:5). He knew that without the Lord's convicting work his instructions and exhortations would be ineffective. His main concern was for "peace" in the church that could only take place as all the Christians obeyed God's truth. God is the source of peace that a church enjoys to the extent that all of its members relate submissively to the will of God. Peace from God is possible in every circumstance, even in the midst of persecution (cf. John 16:33).

3:17           In view of the letter claiming to have been from Paul that the Thessalonians had previously received (2:2), the apostle felt it necessary to prove that the present one really came from him. He added a word of greeting in his "own hand" here, as he often did in order to authenticate his epistles for the benefit of the recipients (cf. Gal. 6:11; 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18). An assistant evidently penned the rest of the letter (cf. Rom. 16:22).

"It was no uncommon thing in ancient letter-writing for the sender, having dictated the bulk of the letter, to write the last sentence or two in his own hand. This is the best explanation of the change of script at the end of several papyrus letters which have been preserved. This practice would help to authenticate the letter (for readers who recognized the sender's writing); a more general purpose would be to make the letter look more personal than one written entirely by an amanuensis."[152]

3:18           The final benediction is the same as the one that ends 1 Thessalonians except for the addition of the word "all" here.

"If any theological point is to be made from the inclusion of 'all,' it is perhaps that Paul asked for Christ's grace even on those who were not holding to the Christian pattern of behavior regarding work."[153]

Paul's concern for the peace and unity of the whole Thessalonian church ("you all," plural "you" in Greek) was his great passion in this epistle.


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[1]Charles C. Ryrie, First and Second Thessalonians, p. 87.

[2]George Milligan, St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. xxxix.

[3]E.g., T. W. Manson, "St. Paul in Greece: The Letters to the Thessalonians," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 35 (1952-53):438-46; and Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, pp. 37-45.

[4]See Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 543-44; Milligan, p. xxxix; Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon, p. 374.

[5]Robert L. Thomas, "2 Thessalonians," in Ephesians-Philemon, vol. 11 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 302.

[6]For an outline based on rhetorical analysis, see Wanamaker, p. 51.

[7]Quotations from the English Bible in these notes are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 2020 edition, unless otherwise indicated.

[8]See my comments on 2:7.

[9]Adapted from G. Campbell Morgan, Living Messages of the Books of the Bible, 2:2:27-45.

[10]I. Howard Marshall, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, p. 169.

[11]William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of I and II Thessalonians, p. 154.

[12]D. Edmond Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles, p. 280.

[13]A hendiadys is the expression of a single idea by two words connected with "and," when one could be used to modify the other.

[14]J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of Paul, p. 99.

[15]See René A. López, "A Study of Pauline Passages on Inheriting the Kingdom," Bibliotheca Sacra 168:672 (October-December 2011):458-59.

[16]See Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, pp. 69-77.

[17]F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, p. 154.

[18]Thomas, p. 313; James E. Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, p. 233; Marshall, pp. 177-78.

[19]Wanamaker, p. 227.

[20]For further information concerning the judgments on Israel and the Gentiles at the Second Coming, see John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, pp. 276-95.

[21]Lightfoot, p. 102.

[22]James Moffatt, "The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians," in The Expositor's Greek Testament, 4:45.

[23]Thomas, p. 313. LXX refers to the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament that was made in the third century B.C. Cf. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "olethros, et al.," by J. Schneider, 5(1967):169; Leon Morris The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 205; D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, p. 213; Wanamaker, p. 229; Marshall, pp. 178-79; and Robert A. Peterson, "Does the Bible Teach Annihilationism?" Bibliotheca Sacra 156:621 (January-March 1999):13-27.

[24]Ryrie, p. 95.

[25]E. J. Bicknell, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 70.

[26]Bruce A. Baker, "The Two Peoples of God in 2 Thessalonians 1:10," Journal of Dispensational Theology 13 (April 2009):5-40.

[27]Leon Morris, The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians, p. 120.

[28]Wanamaker, p. 230.

[29]Thomas, p. 314. Cf. Milligan, p. 92.

[30]Wanamaker, pp. 230-31.

[31]See Douglas J. Moo, "The Case for the Posttribulation Rapture Position," in Three Views on the Rapture, pp. 186-90.

[32]See Vern S. Poythress, "2 Thessalonians 1 Supports Amillennialism," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37:4 (December 1994):529-38.

[33]Thomas, p. 312.

[34]Ibid., p. 315. Cf. Lightfoot, p. 105.

[35]John F. Walvoord, The Thessalonian Epistles, p. 68.

[36]See my comments on 2:3-4

[37]Lightfoot, p. 105.

[38]Hiebert, p. 296.

[39]Morris, The Epistles …, p. 122.

[40]Moffatt, 4:46.

[41]Martin, p. 219.

[42]A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:46.

[43]Milligan, p. 166. See his note "On the interpretation of 2 Thess. ii. 1—12," pp. 166-73.

[44]Henry Alford, The Greek New Testament, 3:2:288.

[45]Wanamaker, p. 238.

[46]See Thomas R. Edgar, "An Exegesis of Rapture Passages," in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 207-11; and David A. Dean, "Does 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 Exclude the Pretribulational Rapture?" Bibliotheca Sacra 168:670 (April-June 2011);196-216.

[47]Hiebert, p. 304. See Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, pp. 223-29, for an extended exegetical discussion of these verses that imply a pretribulation Rapture.

[48]See Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 7:110; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 229-32.

[49]E.g., Lenski, p. 405.

[50]E.g., Thomas, pp. 318, 319; and Bruce, p. 163. Cf. Marshall, p. 185; Robert N. Wilkin, The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians," in The Grace New Testament Commentary, 2:954-55.

[51]E.g., Walvoord, The Thessalonian …, p. 73.

[52]Showers, p. 66.

[53]Hendriksen, p. 168; et al.

[54]Lenski, p. 408.

[55]Thomas, pp. 320-21; idem, Evangelical Hermeneutics, pp. 72-75.

[56]Hiebert, p. 304.

[57]Morris, The Epistles …, p. 126.

[58]See Frame, p. 251; Hendriksen, p. 170.

[59]Walvoord, The Thessalonian …, p. 75.

[60]Morris, The First …, p. 219.

[61]Martin, p. 234.

[62]Thomas, "2 Thessalonians," p. 322.

[63]Bruce, p. 167. Cf. David A. Hubbard, "The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1363.

[64]E.g., E. Schuyler English, Re-Thinking the Rapture, pp. 67-71; John R. Rice, The Coming Kingdom of Christ, p. 188-91; Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, pp. 3:2:38-41; H. Wayne House, "Apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3: Apostasy or Rapture?" in When the Trumpet Sounds, pp. 261-96.

[65]Hiebert, p. 306. See also Paul D. Feinberg, "2 Thessalonians 2 and the Rapture," in When the Trumpet Sounds, pp. 297-311.

[66]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5:413.

[67]See Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan, pp. 94-110.

[68]See Marshall, pp. 190-92; Bruce, p. 169.

[69]See John F. Walvoord, "Will Israel Build a Temple in Jerusalem?" Bibliotheca Sacra 125:498 (April-June 1968):99-106; Thomas S. McCall, "How Soon the Tribulation Temple?" Bibliotheca Sacra 128:512 (October-December 1971):341-51; idem, "Problems in Rebuilding the Tribulation Temple," Bibliotheca Sacra 139:513 (January-March 1972):75-80; Alford, 3:2:290; and Bruce, p. 169.

[70]E.g., Wanamaker, p. 246.

[71]See the excursus on Antichrist in Bruce, pp. 179-88.

[72]Martin, p. 237.

[73]Morris, The First …, p. 221.

[74]See Gerald B. Stanton, Kept from the Hour, pp. 92-107, for a full discussion, and Ryrie, pp. 108-14, for a shorter one. See also Harry A. Ironside, Addresses on the First and Second Epistles of Thessalonians, p. 97; Arno C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible, 4:1:137; G. Campbell Morgan, An Exposition of the Whole Bible, p. 503; J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, 6:226-27; John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question p. 88; Gleason L. Archer Jr., "The Case for the Mid-Seventieth-Week Rapture Position," in Three views on the Rapture, pp. 126028; Charles R. Swindoll, The Swindoll Study Bible, p. 1518.

[75]Thomas, "2 Thessalonians," p. 324.

[76]William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, p. 247; Charles B. Williams, A Commentary on the Pauline Epistles, p. 46.

[77]Wanamaker, p. 256.

[78]George E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope, p. 95; Marshall, p. 199. Cf. Charles C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, pp. 57-58.

[79]Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, pp. 257-61. See John A. McLean, "Another Look at Rosenthal's 'Pre-Wrath Rapture,'" Bibliotheca Sacra 148:592 (October-December 1991):395-96; and Renald E. Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View: An Examination and Critique.

[80]Bruce, pp. 171-72; Hubbard, p. 1364; Morris, The Epistles …, p. 129; Milligan, p. 101; Hendriksen, p. 181.

[81]For refutation of the major views, see Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, pp. 122-25.

[82]E.g., Frame, p. 262; Morris, p. 130.

[83]See Charles E. Powell, "The Identity of the 'Restrainer' in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7," Bibliotheca Sacra 154:615 (July-September 1997):329.

[84]John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, p. 116.

[85]Charles C. Ryrie, Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p. 216, footnote 2. See also René Pache, The Return of Jesus Christ, p. 119.

[86]Walvoord, The Holy …, pp. 151.

[87]Ibid., p. 230. Cf. Thomas, "2 Thessalonians," p. 325; Ryrie, First and …, p. 113.

[88]See Arno C. Gaebelein, The Conflict of the Ages.

[89]E.g., Lenski, p. 424.

[90]See Theodore H. Epp, "The Restrainer Removed," Good News Broadcaster, March 1975, pp. 20-22; J. N. Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, 5:137-38.

[91]See Pentecost, pp. 262-63; Robert G. Gromacki, The Holy Spirit, pp. 238-39.

[92]Pastor Steve Dye, Crossway International Baptist Church of Berlin, Germany, in a sermon there on April 28, 2013.

[93]Gundry, pp. 125-28.

[94]Hiebert, p. 313.

[95]Walvoord, The Thessalonian …, p. 78.

[96]Bruce, p. 173.

[97]See Merrill F. Unger, Demons in the World Today, pp. 75-96.

[98]See Milligan, p. 104.

[99]Jessie, Penn-Lewis, War on the Saints, p. 17.

[100]Darby, 5:141.

[101]See Pentecost, pp. 263-74.

[102]E.g., Ironside, pp. 99-100.

[103]Walvoord, The Thessalonian …, p. 79.

[104]See Larry R. Thornton, "Salvation in the Tribulation in Light of God's 'Working unto Delusion'," Calvary Baptist Theological Journal 3:2 (Fall 1987):26-49.

[105]Marshall, p. 204.

[106]Bruce, p. 174.

[107]Morris, The Epistles …, p. 134.

[108]Marshall, p. 205.

[109]For a helpful summary of posttribulational interpretations of these verses, see John F. Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation, chapter 10: "Is the Tribulation Before the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians?"

[110]E.g., Wilkin, 2:957.

[111]Walvoord, The Thessalonian …, p. 82.

[112]Cf. Ernest Best, A Commentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, pp. 314-15.

[113]Bruce, p. 191.

[114]See Daniel P. Wiley, "Tradition and Sola Scriptura in 2 Thessalonians 2:15," Bibliotheca Sacra 175:699 (July-September 2018):323-37.

[115]Lightfoot, p. 121.

[116]Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition, pp. 38-39.

[117]Bruce, pp. 193-94.

[118]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1347.

[119]Thomas, "2 Thessalonians," p. 330.

[120]Martin, p. 259.

[121]Lightfoot, p. 122.

[122]Morris, The First …, p. 244.

[123]McGee, 5:419.

[124]Barclay, p. 250.

[125]Ryrie, First and …,  p. 121. Cf. Lightfoot, p. 126.

[126]A chiasmus is a rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form.

[127]Wanamaker, p. 279; Marshall, pp. 217-18.

[128]Lightfoot, p. 128.

[129]McGee, 5:419.

[130]Martin, p. 269.

[131]Frame, p. 297.

[132]Martin, p. 271.

[133]Marshall, p. 220.

[134]Wanamaker, pp. 282-83.

[135]Robertson, 4:59.

[136]W. E. Blackstone, Jesus Is Coming, cited by Harold L. Fickett Jr., Keep on Keeping on!, p. 154.

[137]Gary S. Shogren, "Were the Thessalonians 'Meddling in Divine Matters'? a Rereading of 2 Thessalonians 3:11," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 63:4 (December 2020):703.

[138]Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 1885.

[139]Hiebert, p. 347.

[140]Thomas, "2 Thessalonians," p. 335.

[141]Morris, The First …, p. 256.

[142]Frame, p. 307.

[143]Showers, Maranatha …, p. 134.

[144]Ibid. See also Stanton's discussion of imminence, pp. 108-37.

[145]Frame, pp. 308-9.

[146]Martin, p. 285.

[147]See John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4:12:5-11.

[148]Morris, The Epistles …, p. 149.

[149]The Nelson Study Bible, p. 2036.

[150]See J. Carl Laney, "The Biblical Practice of Church Discipline," Bibliotheca Sacra 143:572 (October-December 1986):353-64; and Ted G. Kitchens, "Perimeters of Corrective Church Discipline," Bibliotheca Sacra 148:590 (April-June 1991):201-13.

[151]Bruce, p. 210.

[152]Ibid., pp. 215-16.

[153]Wanamaker, p. 293.