Category Archives: 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

The Present Age of Restrained Rebellion

“…all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:12


Paul is writing a personal letter to one particular church – the gathering of Christians in Thessalonica. He knows them and has taught them many things. He boasts of their faith and especially of the work of God that He is doing amongst the believers. Paul is impressed that God is growing them and keeping them in the faith despite strong opposition. We don’t know everything about the relationship between Paul and this church and there are hints of what we do not know in chapter 2. Verse 5, for example, shows us that we do not remember what Paul has told them because we were not there. This is a personal letter from Paul to the church at Thessalonica. We will now read the beginning of chapter 2 and eavesdrop on his correspondence to them.



  • 1-3a – Don’t be deceived
  • 3b-4 – The Man of Lawlessness
  • 5-8 – God is restraining him
  • 9-12 – Belief in the Lie or the Truth

1-3a – Don’t be deceived

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul moves on to a topic that may well be the primary purpose for writing. Paul’s teaching in this passage has a few mysteries which we are unlikely to clear up in a single study and it is important to take note of the things we are undoubtedly being taught here. The first thing is that Jesus will return and he has not returned yet. The second coming of Christ is not debatable in the New Testament. The one unmissable thing that this passage teaches is the fact that Christ’s return will be unmissable.

“…and being gathered to him…” Recall chapter 1 verse 10 – When Jesus comes, he will be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. The project of God throughout all time has been to gather his people together in his presence. The word used for ‘gathered’ is the same word used for church. That is because church is about the gathering of God’s people and he, through His Spirit, is present with us. It is jarring to find a ‘Christian’ who does not like to gather with God’s people. The prerequisite is not that church ought to be good or enjoyable or filled with people my age but that we are joined together in Christ.

“…not to become unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us…” Here we have two mysteries. Firstly, what did Paul know from the Thessalonians that led him to conclude they may be unsettled. Secondly, what correspondence is he referring to? Both questions are answered only through speculation. What we will focus on is that Paul wishes to calm any anxiety that has arisen in Thessalonica concerning the second coming. The church were not to be ‘shaken in mind’ (ESV) because they thought that Jesus had already returned. Paul will later make the point that the second coming will not be overlooked by anyone! See also 1:7

“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way…” Here we have the conclusion of part one and the opening also of part two. Don’t be deceived. The rest of this passage will circle the concept of deception and lies. We are to be seekers of the truth and this includes being detectors of untruth. We go now to a description of our age of deception.

3b-4 – The man of lawlessness

“…until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” Speculation begins to run wild again at this point and passages like this one lead people to discuss what the end of the world will look like. For further investigation, look up a respected reference on the definitions of Premillennialism, Postmillennialism and AMillennialism. We want to focus on the aim of the passage though and listen to what we can be sure of. There will be a rebellion in the future and the man of lawlessness, who is hidden now, will be revealed. This man is either ‘doomed to destruction’ (NIV) or else ‘son of destruction’ (ESV). Either way, he is aligned with destruction. We get the message that his destiny is set. We’ll read further on that God is holding him back right now and it will be in God’s time that the rebellion occurs. We want to be careful about what we add to this discussion lest we too become alarmed at deceptive teaching on this subject. A rebellion and a revealing is yet to take place.

“He will…” Notice the description here expands on the description of lawlessness. This is not saying that he will break laws. He is not a lawbreaker. He is much more than that. He is without law. He will oppose everything about God. He will ignore the truth that God is God and will place himself in this position. People have tried to map descriptions of such a character onto people or religions or corporations or nations of our recent time. Such attempts miss the obvious point of this passage: the rebellion will not need interpreting since it will be unmissable. He will have a message and it will be oozing with lie. He will not accept any other to be worshiped other than himself and that will also be a lie.

He will be the man of law-less-ness.

5-8 – God is restraining him

“Don’t you remember…” The fact is that we don’t, and we can’t, because we were not there. At this point, again, people begin to speculate and fill in holes in the story but we don’t need to waste time digging for historic context. Perhaps Paul had a fuller understanding of the second coming but his letters focus on what is important to know. If Jesus knew more or thought that we ought to know more, then he’d tell us.

“And now you know what is holding him back…” Again, we don’t. Just as we don’t know who or how he is taken away in verse 7. The obvious lessons are that the lawless man is not stronger than God and we will see that the lawless man will be revealed exactly when God chooses to reveal His Son again. ‘He may be revealed at the proper time.’ It’s ironic that the one who will claim to be God is currently being held back ultimately by God. The deceiver himself will believe the lies he spins.

“…the secret power of lawlessness…” The power is the lie. This is the way Satan works and the man (whether Satan or else) will and already uses deceit and lies to gather in the wicked who will not believe the truth.

“…is already at work…” This evil waiting for its day is not totally constrained. There is a hidden force working in this world to deceive and trick and destroy. It is secret in that we simply don’t see it plainly.

“…now holds it back…till he is taken out of the way.” This is where we see the real power of this passage. We are not to have our eyes set on the future and what that will look like because we live in a present danger. We live in the age of secret deceit. Since Christ has come, we live in the age of the proclamation of the gospel. Those who believe the truth must proclaim what we know. But we also live in the age of deceit where many will reject the truth in favour of lies. This age will continue until Christ returns and the restraint on lawlessness is taken away.

“…the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow…” The rebellion is not given any amount of time (could be a thousand years or could be a day). But the battle will be infinitely in favour of our Lord. He will breath of his mouth and his very coming will mean the overthrowing of the lawless one. We cannot maintain a thought that God strives against an equal opponent.

9-12 Belief in the lie or the truth

“The coming of the lawless one…” Paul is pairing the coming of the Lord (verse 1) with the coming of the lawless one. Not that they will come together but that the coming of the Lord will happen when the lawless one’s restraint is lifted.

“…in accordance with how Satan works.” Satan has a method which matches that of the lawless one. He won’t be a whole new variety of evil, he will use the same strategies that Satan has been using to oppose God and that will be deception.

“…that serve the lie…” Those who will be condemned at judgment will be those who have been fed by deception. There are two types of believers in this this world, those who believe lies and those who believe the truth. This isn’t simply a one off foolishness or gullability, but an attraction to believe that God is not real, or he is other than who he really is. Those who have been seduced through trickery will perish because they have not obeyed the truth.

“…signs and wonders…” Astrology comes to mind here as a present deception. The power is in deception and the signs and wonders are anything used to give ‘concrete’ appearance of believability. See Matthew 24:24. What we need to seek is not signs and wonders but truth.

“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” This is the sober bit. Put aside future apocalypse. Put aside signs and wonder. Put aside answering many of the gaps in our knowledge of this passage. Here is the crux. Do we love the truth. If we do, we will be saved. Those perishing are those who are not for the truth but will treat a lie as truth and will be happy to believe what they have decided to believe. We don’t need to be nervous about how much we do or don’t know. We only need to be lovers of the truth. John 8:32 ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ We need to be careful what we grasp hold tightly of as truth when we may not know for sure what it is. I am thinking again about what brand of ‘millennialism’ we subscribe to. A firm hold of one over another may well taint our pursuit of truth.

The ultimate truth is that there is one God who made the heavens and the earth and so is worthy of our respect and obedience. He has spoken to us in his word and ultimately through his Son whom died for our sins and was raised to life again in victory over sin and death. Jesus is the name that is above all names. He is the Lord and Saviour. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. Those on the side of truth will have life while those who deny this in favour of a lie are perishing.

“…God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie…” A tricky truth no doubt. What is it that we believe about God? Do we subscribe to the thought that God is idly waiting and watching us to see what we will do? Whether we will come to him or reject him? Or do we believe what the bible teaches and that He is active in this world for both those who receive him and those who reject him? In God’s sovereignty he allows (but not passively) deception to exist and flaunt its power in our world so that the lie can be believed if that is our choice! He allows us to choose between The Truth and The Lie.

“And so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth…” The opposite of believing the truth is to ‘delight’ in wickedness. This is reminiscent of Proverbs and the rest of scripture. Matthew 12:30 ‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.’ We tend to get passionate about what we believe because what we believe defines who we are and what is important to us. Those who have turned away from the truth will be passionate about what they believe even though it is a lie. Humans are very capable of standing firm on things that do not hold up to scrutiny. Christians ought never be wary of scrutiny to what they believe. If it is truth, it will stand. Be wary when we put aside truth in favour of what we desire to believe.

Those who love the truth will be saved while those who do not believe the truth but delight in wickedness will be condemned and perish.


We live in a world of restrained rebellion. All around us is information pleading with us to reject the truth and delight in wickedness with the lawless one. His power is in deceiving the world secretly. God’s power is in restraining his full ability right up to the moment that he will be destroyed. Don’t worry about the end of the world, you won’t miss it. Rather, be concerned about the pursuit of truth.


  • Ways of nurturing the truth and discerning lies. How do we pursue the truth in a world that is seduced by wickedness? List ways that our lives are exposed to the lies of Satan. List also ways that our hearts and minds can be fed with truth. Discuss whether you are pursuing truth or being unsettled in your faith by untruth.
  • Having an ever present awareness of Christ’s return. Paul is not doubting the return of Christ and in fact positive that when it comes, it will be a hell of a show! Is the return of Christ a truth that shapes your goals and priorities in life? Why or why not? What, if anything, should change because of this reality?
  • Praising God for his power and might. Any hint or idea that the power of the lawless one is a challenge to God is removed in verse 8 as well as verse 6. We can praise God that despite the hiddenness of his power in this world now, we know that he is completely in control. Use this as a theme to pray together now and encourage one another to dwell on this in the week that remains. How can knowledge of God’s supremacy help you in your work and personal life?

Prayer of the Week

Our Lord and our God, keep us directed to the Truth and away from the lure of the evil one. Help us in this age of evil restraint to share with others the nature of the truth and so lead many to you, Lord Jesus. May we meditate on your word and bring to mind the promise and hope of the gospel so that we will pursue truth and reject wickedness. Amen.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

God will…

“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8


Paul, with Silas and Timothy, came to Thessalonica on his second missionary journey which we read in Acts 17 (mostly verses 1-10). Although it appears he was only in Thessalonica for a few weeks, there is reason to believe that he spent more time there than is implied. He describes in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 that he had worked among them and so was there long enough to establish himself in his trade.  Also Philippians 4:15 mentions financial support being sent more than once to him while in Thessalonica. Perhaps he returned on another occasion or perhaps the account in Acts 17 is somewhat truncated. Either way, Paul had quite an impact on the church and the church had an impact on him. The persecution he received from the citizens, including the Jews of this town, was impressive and forms the backdrop to the first chapter of this letter.



  • 1-2 Initial Greetings
  • 3-4 The cause for Paul’s prayer
  • 5-10 Paul’s encouragement to stay faithful
  • 11-12 The content of Paul’s prayer

1-2 Initial Greetings

“Paul, Silas and Timothy” Paul authored the letter in the company of Silas and Timothy whom the Thessalonian believers would remember as part of Paul’s ‘company’ in Acts 17. Paul may have used a scribe to pen the letter but he at least concludes it in his own hand (2 Thessalonians 3:17).

“…in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the distinguishing feature of the church – that the assembly (church) in Thessalonians meet to worship God the Father and Jesus Christ their Lord.

“Grace and peace to you…” much of these opening verses are standard greetings in Paul’s letters. The starting point in any Christian communication is that we have grace and peace with God and one another. We are not a people trying to find or fight for peace but those who have been gifted it from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Peace with God has been paid for through Christ and peace with one another has been gifted to us because we have one Lord, one Master, one Saviour, one Judge.

The Thessalonians know who has sent the letter, that it comes in peace and are reminded of their connection to the author by faith in the same Lord and God.

3-4 The Cause For Paul’s Prayer

Note: verses 3-10 are all one sentence in the original Greek. That is not weird but rather helps us to see Paul’s flow of these two apparent sections into one thought flow. That is, he begins to praise them for their growth despite persecution (v3-4) and before concluding what he prays in verses 11-12 he exhorts them to remain faithful because they know the future.

“We ought always to thank God for you…” The interesting word in this phrase is the word ‘ought’. Paul feels obligated or compelled to thank God. It is only right and correct to be thanking God for what Paul has observed.

“…your faith is growing more and more…” The first reason for Paul’s obligation to thank God is that the Christians in Thessalonica are growing in their faith. Put this another way: their trust in God and his promises is getting stronger. Verses 5-10 will show us that it is the promises of God that they are showing trust or faith in. When persecution comes and faith is evident, that is the work of God, not man.

“…and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” The second reason for Paul’s obligation to thank God is that the church is growing in their love for each other. Again, under persecution, the church will exercise love by the grace of God.

So, trusting God more instead of fleeing and loving one another more instead of abandoning their church are two signs that Paul diagnoses as the work of God.

“Therefore, among God’s churches we boast…” The reports from Thessalonica need to be shared with the churches of God for the encouragement of the hearer, for examples to the hearer and to spur the hearer on to praise God for the church growing despite strong opposition.

“…in all the persecution and trials you are enduring.” Thessalonica, like many other cities of the time, viewed religion as a primary source of unification. One way to establish peace and unity is to enforce one political religion. This may be the background to persecution referenced here. Background historical data can be useful but a simple reading of Acts 17:1-10 (and 11-15) gives enough information to know that the persecution was violent and life threatening.

5-10 Paul’s Encouragement to Stay Faithful

“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right…” We come to a real test of our understanding in this passage. What does ‘all this’ refer to? Is it the faith and love of the Thessalonians? Is it the persecution of the Thessalonians? Or is it the faith and love despite the persecution? How is the growing faithfulness and increase in love of the Thessalonian church evidence that God’s judgment is right? Philippians 1:27-30 may shed some light on this, especially verse 28.

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

The word “sign” in Phil 1:28 is the same root word for ‘evidence’ in 2 Thess 1:5. The sign is that God is preserving the faith of them through persecution and this shows God’s alignment with the persecuted rather than the persecutors. The former will be saved in the end while the latter will be destroyed.

An alternate view is that the evidence that God’s judgment is right (or God’s righteous judgment) is the persecution and affliction that the Thessalonians experienced. This interpretation goes something like this: look at the way people are treating you – this is evidence that justice must come. This is the view that I am holding and it is based on the outflowing of the rest of the paragraph (verses 5-10). Let’s keep reading.

“…worthy of the kingdom of God…” this is not a celebration of works based religion but rather that the way the Thessalonians are responding to persecution is exactly how a kingdom kid would respond.

V6 “God is just: He will…” Paul merges now into a monologue about the future day of the Lord. This is the theme of chapter 2 and is introduced here in the opening stage of the letter.

“…pay back trouble…and give relief…” The future includes a judgment toward men based on what they have done. Trouble will come to those who are against the church of God and relief will come to those who have suffered for the kingdom of God. Ultimately, as spelled out in verse 8, this boils down to those who are for Jesus and those who are against.

“When the Lord Jesus is revealed…” The judgment will come when all is wrapped up on the final day of the Lord. We will discuss some of the controversies about the end of time when we come to chapter 2. The Lord’s coming is briefly described in mighty imagery: blazing fire and powerful angels. Paul will want to reassure his readers in chapter 2 that this has not happened yet and here he indicates quickly that it will not be a show people will miss. The immediate context is contrasting the trouble for those who don’t know God with the relief for those who do.

  • The Trouble: everlasting destruction; shut out from the presence of the Lord and his glory.
  • The Relief: brought to the presence of the Lord and his glory; holy; marveling at Him.

This section may be made clearer if read in reverse (sentence by sentence). The bullet points would look like this:

  • You Thessalonians believed our testimony to you (of God, Jesus and the gospel)
  • On the Day of the Lord you will marvel in his glorious presence because of your belief.
  • Others will be punished and excluded from God’s presence.
  • They will be punished because they neither know God nor obey (believe) the gospel.
  • This will happen when the Lord Jesus is made known (with heavenly fire and angels).
  • God is just and will pay back trouble for trouble and relief to the troubled.
  • You will be counted worthy because of your suffering for the kingdom.
  • You know that God’s judgment is right since you have endured such trouble.

Thus, the evidence in verse 5 refers to the trouble caused on the Thessalonians bearing testimony for God to judge and judge rightly. The encouragement is that the Thessalonians must keep enduring because they have believed Paul’s testimony and ought to recall the coming of the Lord. This persecution fits perfectly with the message of the gospel and is a sign that the gospel is true.

11-12 The Content of Paul’s Prayer

“With this in mind…” The present suffering from trouble makers is again in mind. Paul’s prayer will focus on the work of God to continue in the Thessalonians despite opposition.

“…we constantly pray for you…” Or ‘we always pray for you.’ It was routine for Paul to pray for his converts (Phil 1:9 and Col 1:3,9). Prayer for the body of Christ ought to be a major focus of our prayers. God does not promise to heal sickness or stop death or keep people safe in travel or to do well in exams but he does promise that he will complete the good work that he has started in a believer. Prayer, if nothing else, is the practice of those who believe God will fulfil his promises.

“…worthy of his calling…” This reflects the language of verse 5 and may be requesting that the church will continue to persevere and grow in faith as in verse 4.

“…he may bring to fruition…” God is asked in prayer to support the efforts of the church for good. No specifics are mentioned here – the prayer is far reaching and based on the desire of the Thessalonians for good. This may be answered in this life but is promised to be fulfilled on the Day of the Lord. This may be a request in line with the church to grow in faith – desiring the goodness of God.

“…every deed prompted by faith…” This may correspond to the love described in the church for one another. Both the growth in faith and the love for one another praised in verse 3 is the subject of Paul’s prayer in verse 11.

“…the name of our Lord Jesus…” lest we forget, the testimony believed (v10) and the gospel obeyed (v8) and the future of the church (v10) is all for the glory of the Lord Jesus.


There is a clear and present danger that Christians may take their eyes off our future hope and relief and be overcome by the suffering of persecution. By the grace of God we pray that the church will live lives worthy of the gospel, knowing that today’s trouble reminds us of future judgment and stirs us to desire God now. God will bring disaster on trouble makers and bring eternal peace and glory to those who stand firm with Him now.


  • Topic A: Prayer for the church. Take time to discuss prayer in your group. Think about the ease or awkwardness you experience together. Think also about the content of your prayers. How could you continue to grow in faith and love together through the things that you pray for and how you pray? Are your prayers gospel focused?
  • Topic B: Persecution and trials. There is no doubt that heavy persecution occurs around the world today against Christians. In Australia, physical persecution is not common. We can even enjoy great friendships with unbelievers in this country. Resistance is present though and our faith can be tested here too. Discuss ways you feel being Christian can be counter cultural to the point of discomfort or worse. How can you turn those feelings into hope for the future? How can or do you respond to such trials?
  • Topic C: Desiring to be in the presence of the Lord. The ultimate future described in 2 Thessalonians 1 is that we will stand amazed in the presence of the Lord. Share how this is or isn’t a compelling future for you. What can we do to set our hearts in this direction? Perhaps praying through verse 11 and 12 will be part of the answer.

Prayer of the Week

Heavenly Father and Jesus our Lord, thank you for calling us into your holy church. Please make us worthy of this calling. May our hearts desire goodness and may you bring those desires to fruition. May our actions be prompted by faith in you and not fear of man. We pray this so that Your name may be glorified in us and that we may be glorified in You. We pray all of this according to your grace our God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.