Introduction to 1 & 2 Thessalonians

By James M. Rochford

Authorship of 1 Thessalonians

Older NT critics (e.g. the Tubingen School) denied that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians. However, Carson and Moo comment that “few scholars have followed in their footsteps. 1 Thessalonians is one of the seven letters ascribed to Paul that is included in the critical canon of authentic Pauline letters.”[1] Robert Thomas concurs, “Only extremists such as the Tubingen scholars have questioned it.”[2] Early Christian thinkers like Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria acknowledged it as a genuine letter of Paul.

Authorship of 2 Thessalonians

Like 1 Thessalonians, this letter claims to be written by Paul. Unless we have adequate reasons to the contrary, we should take this self-identification at face value. Authorship of ancient documents are based on two independent lines of evidence: external and internal.

External evidence. The Church Fathers support Pauline authorship even more for 2 Thessalonians, than they do for 1 Thessalonians. Thomas writes, “Possible references to it are found in the Didache and Ignatius, and Polycarp has two passages that are almost assuredly from the Epistle. Justin Martyr also clearly refers to it.”[3]

Internal evidence. Because of the strong external evidence for Pauline authorship, critics must argue that there are reasons within the letter itself for thinking that Paul was not the author. Critics charge that (1) the eschatology is different in 2 Thessalonians, (2) the concept of judgment for unbelievers doesn’t fit with Pauline theology but to a later period, (3) Paul’s Christology is too developed to have been written at this time, and (4) Paul’s tone is much harsher in 2 Thessalonians.

These objections are not strong enough to overthrow the statement of the letter itself and its attestation from the early Church Fathers. After all, (1) we will demonstrate that Paul’s eschatology is not different in 2 Thessalonians, (2) Paul speaks of judgment for non-Christians throughout his letters, (3) Paul has a very high Christology in his letters, and (4) the situation could have worsened by the time Paul wrote this second letter. Moreover, there would be a certain level of irony that a pseudepigraphal author could’ve written these words in 2 Thessalonians: “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thess. 2:2).

What do we know about the Thessalonian Church?

They were very generous financial givers—even though they were poor (2 Cor. 8:1-5; 11:9; Rom. 15:26).

They served as models of faith to the greater region of Macedonia and beyond (1 Thess. 1:8).

Paul has no admonition for this church in his first letter, which is rare for Paul. This must’ve been a strong Christian group. Blomberg writes, “[Chapters 1-3] form the single longest uninterrupted stretch of sustained praise for a given congregation in any of Paul’s letters.”[4]

How long was Paul in Thessalonica?

In Acts, Luke records that Paul spoke in the synagogue for three weeks in a row (Acts 17:2). This would serve as the minimum time that Paul stayed there. However, it is possible that Paul could have stayed longer than this, and Luke simply didn’t mention it. When Paul was in Thessalonica, he mentions receiving two financial gifts from the Philippians (Phil. 4:16), which does not fit a three week stay.[5] Paul also mentions reaching a lot of Gentile converts in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:9), which is not mentioned in Luke’s brief account. Moreover, Paul stayed long enough in the city to leave an example of his work ethic (1 Thess. 2:9), which seems to fit better with a longer stay.

While this material could theoretically be squeezed into a three or four week period, it is more likely that Paul stayed longer than a few weeks. However, Blomberg notes, “Paul probably spent no more than a few months in Thessalonica on this specific missionary journey.”[6]

What was Thessalonica like?

Cassander (one of Alexander the Great’s generals) founded Thessalonica in 315 BC.[7] He named this city after his wife, who was Alexander’s half-sister.[8]

Strabo called Thessalonica “the metropolis of Macedonia” (Geography, 7.7.21). There were roughly 100,000 people in Thessalonica at Paul’s time.[9] Blomberg writes, “Thessalonica was the largest city and capital of the province of Macedonia, which occupied roughly the northern half of the modern country of Greece.”[10] Bock writes, “The poet Antipater of Thessalonica called it ‘the mother of all Macedonia’ (Palatine Anthology 4.228). It had a major harbor and was a key link to the Bosporus and the Black Sea. Its population has been estimated between twenty and a hundred thousand. As a senatorial province, it was very loyal to Rome.”[11]

When Paul came to Thessalonica, he frequently appealed to OT messianic prophecy to convince these people that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 17:2-4). Paul was only in Thessalonica for a short time before a lynch mob came for them, and he escaped to Berea. Yet his persecutors followed him into that city, too. So, Paul escaped to Athens, where he was quickly joined by Timothy. This was the first Greek city that Paul reached. Paul would have stayed longer, but he was forced to leave town.

Date

Emperor Claudius wrote a letter that mentions Gallio as the proconsul of Achaia.[12] The Delphi Inscription (which reproduces this letter) dates the letter to AD 52. Since proconsuls took office in July, this would begin Gallio’s service in July of AD 52.

Paul spent 18-20 months in Corinth (Acts 18:11, 18), and he left around AD 51-52. So the letter must’ve been written before then. Paul apparently wrote the letter after Timothy and Silas met him in Corinth to deliver news about Thessalonica (Acts 18:5; 1 Thess. 3:6). Based on this evidence, most scholars date the letter to either AD 50 or 51. These would include F.F. Bruce,[13] Craig Blomberg,[14] and Robert Thomas.[15]

Canonicity

The canonicity of 1 Thessalonians has not been seriously challenged. We find it in Marcionite Canon, the Muratorian Canon, and among the works of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, who all “acknowledge it as Pauline.”[16]

Was 2 Thessalonians actually written first?

There has been some debate as to whether 2 Thessalonians was actually written first.[17] After all, the two letters were written very close together, and the order of the NT books is not necessarily evidence of their chronology. However, Paul’s mention of “traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thess. 2:15) implies that 2 Thessalonians was written after 1 Thessalonians. At the same time, scholars believe the letters were written back to back.

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

1 Thessalonians 1 (The spread of the gospel in Thessalonica)

(1:1) “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” This letter is written from all three men: Paul, Timothy, and Silas. Timothy and Silas could be considered coauthors, or they could just be mentioned as being with Paul when he wrote the letter.

It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t identify himself as an apostle. In fact, he doesn’t identify himself beyond simply stating his name. This is probably because his apostolic identity wasn’t questioned in this church, as it was in Galatia and Corinth by false teachers there.[18] While Paul was persecuted in Thessalonica, his opponents didn’t specifically attack his apostleship.

Silvanus is the same person as Silas. Paul always calls him Silvanus, while Luke always calls him Silas.[19] He was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), and he replaced John Mark on Paul’s second missionary tour (Acts 15:40-18:6). He served faithfully with Paul—even taking a beating with him in Philippi (Acts 16:23-25). Earlier, Silas had “risked his life” in service to Jesus (Acts 15:26-27). We don’t see Silas after Paul’s second missionary journey, but we find him with Peter at the time of his writings (1 Pet. 5:12).

(1:2) “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.” Paul doesn’t give thanks for the Thessalonians. Here, he gives thanks “to God” for all of them. Paul’s focus of gratitude started with God and then moved to the believers themselves.

Notice he could find something to be thankful for in “all” of them—not just some of them.

(1:3) “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” Notice the balance of indicatives and imperatives here. I think NIV has this right. It isn’t that faith is a work, but that faith produces good works: Work produced by faith; labor prompted by love; endurance inspired by hope.

The Thessalonians did good work of being a beacon for Christ in Macedonia (1 Thess. 1:8).

(1:4) “Knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.” Paul recognizes that someone is chosen based on their reaction to the message of Christ (v.5).

(1 Thess. 1:4) Does God choose some for heaven and others for hell?

(1:5) “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” Instead of talking about how he came to Thessalonica, Paul writes that the gospel came there.

The gospel isn’t less than words, but it is more than mere words. These believers experienced the conviction that comes from hearing the gospel. Many factors are in play as we share our faith: The Holy Spirit’s conviction (Jn. 16:8-10), as well as our character and witness (Jn. 13:34-35). We make a mistake when we think that the effective spread of the gospel can be without (1) words, (2) the Spirit, or (3) a credible Christian witness. In Paul’s mind, effective evangelism utilizes all three. They aren’t contradictory to one another, but are complementary.

(1:6) “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” One of the goals of the Christian life is to imitate Jesus, as well as be a model that others can imitate. There was no false dichotomy between imitating Jesus and imitating credible Christian leaders (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1; Heb. 13:17; Phil. 3:17).

They received Christ during “tribulation.” This probably refers to the mob-rule mentioned in Acts 17:5-9.

(1:7) “So that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Just as they “imitated” Jesus and Paul’s example, they became the sort of people whom others could imitate. They became an “example” to the believers in the broader region of Macedonia. This term “example” (typhon) means “an archetype serving as a model, type, pattern, model” (BDAG).

(1:8) “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” These believers focused on faith, hope, and love (v.3). At the time, this probably didn’t feel like it would have such powerful ramifications for Macedonia and beyond. And yet, their faithfulness went beyond their expectations. Strategically, Thessalonica geographically was a great place for the gospel to go out to the surrounding regions. Thomas notes, “Part of the Thessalonians’ outreach stemmed from their location on the Egnatian Way and the Thermaic Gulf with access by sea to the whole Mediterranean world.”[20]

(1:9) “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” This must have been a largely Gentile audience, if they were turning from idolatry. After all, idolatry was uncommon in Jewish communities after the Exile.[21]

(1:10) “To wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” Christ will rescue the Church from the Tribulation, which Paul will later expound in 4:13-5:11. This was the source of their “hope” (v.3).

Discussion Questions

Based on verse 3, Paul mentions faith, love, and hope: What would it look like if we excelled in one of these, but not all three?

Based on verse 5, what would happen if we ignored the role of the Holy Spirit in sharing our faith with others? What might we see happen if we neglected to acknowledge God’s important role?

Based on verses 6-8, Paul emphasizes the importance of being a model for others. In what way is modeling important to our spiritual growth (both in being a model for others and looking to Christian models ourselves).

1 Thessalonians 2 (Servant leadership)

(2:1) “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.” Based on chapter 1, we see that this is quite an understatement. Paul’s work in Thessalonica had a massive effect on the ancient world.

(2:2) “But after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi…” In Acts 16, Paul and Silas brought the gospel to the Philippians. They were persecuted by the government there—beaten with rods and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-40). When they got out of prison, they made a five day walk to Thessalonica to preach the gospel.

Even though Paul was mistreated at Philippi, he found boldness to speak to these people in the next city on his mission: Thessalonica. We can’t punish the people in the present just because we were mistreated in the past by others.

“…as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.” The “opposition” (agōni) literally means “agony.” This could refer to the “opposition” of false teachers in Thessalonica, or it could refer to the “agony” of being beaten a week earlier in Philippi. We favor the latter interpretation. Paul and Silas would’ve had contusions all over their body. It was probably “agony” to continue to serve and teach the Thessalonians.

This also explains why it took “boldness” to speak to the Thessalonians. Many Christians would become timid after such a beating, but Paul and Silas continued to speak the very message that had just gotten them a beating a week earlier. Of course, they didn’t find this boldness in themselves, but “in our God.”

(2:3) “For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit.” Paul’s teaching wasn’t based on fallacies or fiction, but on fact. He wouldn’t have taken a beating like the one in Philippi and continued to preach, unless he was grounded in truth.

Paul’s influence also wasn’t based in “impurity” (akatharsia). Sexual sin was “prevalent among traveling religious teachers,”[22] but Paul wasn’t one of them. Paul wasn’t showing up to take from women sexually. In fact, he teaches on this topic explicitly in 4:1-5.

(2:4) “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.” Paul believed that he was ultimately responsible to God for his motives. He didn’t want to disqualify his credibility to the Thessalonians, but he knew that his ultimate Judge was God—not men.

The cure for man-pleasing is to have a more robust view of God’s calling (“approved by God”), God’s commission (“entrusted with the gospel”), and God’s omniscience (“examines our hearts”).

(2:5) “For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.” What would it look like for a leader to use “flattering speech”? This might refer to encouraging the believers for things that weren’t true. It could refer to trying to please people, rather than telling them the truth that they needed to hear (v.4). In short, it refers to using flattering words to gain influence for selfish reasons.[23]

“Greed” (pleonexia) is an inner attitude of the heart. It is “self-seeking of all types, a quest for anything that brings self-satisfaction.”[24] This can be hard to see from the outside looking in. This is likely why Paul calls on God as his “witness” that his motives weren’t for selfish gain (v.4).

(2:6) “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others…” Paul didn’t want praise from men, but praise from God (v.4; cf. Jn. 5:44).

“…even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.” Mature Christian leaders do not feel the need to display their authority all the time. Of course, spiritual authority is real; otherwise, Paul’s statement would lack any sort of meaning (“as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority”). But Paul chose not to exert his authority. Oswald Sanders asks leaders if they are able to lead without needing to make a display of authority.

Nurturing: like a mother

(2:7) “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” Instead of making a display of authority, Paul made a display of “gentleness.”

Paul isn’t saying that he was their mother. Instead, Paul uses the language of simile (“as a nursing mother”). This is the kind of love he had for them. It’s hard to picture a more nurturing image than a mother nursing her child. Paul “tenderly cared” (thalpō) for them, which can be rendered “cherished” or “comforted” (BDAG).

Vulnerable

(2:8) “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” We can’t just share what the Bible teaches with people we mentor spiritually. We have to share our lives with them also. What would it look like to teach, but not be relationally vulnerable with people whom we lead spiritually?

It isn’t that their relationship started with deep intimacy. It’s that the Thessalonians had become very dear to [them].” My friend Gary Delashmutt says that we should “love people until we feel affection for them.” We need to love people until we like them. God not only loves us, but he also likes us.

Hard working

(2:9) “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Paul worked a secular job, while serving in Thessalonica (most likely tent-making; Acts 18:3; cf. 2 Thess. 3:8). This further showed his motives: namely, he was there to give, rather than to take from these believers. Of course, Paul had the right to raise a salary, as he argues elsewhere (1 Cor. 9:1-12; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17), but he refused this right to show his integrity.

This hard work was a good example to the believers in Thessalonica, some of whom were prone to laziness (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-15).

Ethical

(2:10) “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers.” It would be hard to make these claims unless this really happened. Paul is assuming that the Thessalonians could see his lifestyle of hard work, and his lack of a selfish agenda. Paul is a model for Christian leaders: we should strive to have a lifestyle of selfless love in front of the people we are leading.

Directive: like a father

(2:11) “Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children.” Again, Paul uses the language of simile to describe the kind of love that he had (“as a father”).

These terms (“exhorting, encouraging, imploring”) cover a wide range of what it looks like to lead others for Christ. While there is a category for being nurturing, we should also exercise leadership in calling people to follow Christ:

“Exhorting” (parakaleo) is from the root words “call” (kaleo) and to be “at one’s side” (para). BDAG defines this as “calling” someone or to “invite someone.” It can also be rendered “to urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage.”

“Encouraging” (paramythoumenoi) means “console or cheer up” (BDAG; cf. Jn. 11:31).

“Imploring” (marturomai) means “to affirm something with solemnity, testify, bear witness” or “to urge something as a matter of great importance, affirm, insist, implore” (BDAG).

(2:12) “So that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” The goal of all of this is to bring others to the point where they are matching their beliefs and actions with their identity in Christ (cf. 1 Thess. 5:24).

Focused on Scripture

(2:13) “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God…” Paul’s teaching was written in letters like 1 Thessalonians. While we don’t have mp3’s of Paul’s teaching, we have the written word which is fully inspired (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:37).

“…which also performs its work in you who believe.” The Word of God actively works in us. Here is a major reason to spend our time reading the Word daily. Our role is to show up before God in his word, as well as to “believe.” Simply reading the word won’t change our lives unless we combine this with faith and trust.

Persecution

(2:14) “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews.” Not only did the Thessalonians imitate Paul, but they imitated the believers in the Jerusalem church. Thomas writes, “Apparently the way these earliest Jewish Christians handled themselves had become widely known, even before Luke wrote Acts about a.d. 62.”[25] While Paul goes on to describe persecution from Jewish people, he is obviously not being anti-Semitic, because he is teaching the unity between the Thessalonian Gentiles (1:9) and the Jerusalem Jews. Both groups were from different ethnicities, but Paul writes of unity through Christ between the two. According to Paul, the Jewish persecution of Christians was on both Gentile believers in Jesus and Jewish believers in Jesus.

(1 Thess. 2:14-16) Did Paul hate the Jews?

(1 Thess. 2:14-16) Was this passage added by later scribes, or did Paul really write this?

(2:15) “[The Jews] both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men.” The killing of the Messiah and the prophets fits with Jesus’ own teaching in his parable of the vineyard (Mt. 21:35-39; Mk. 12:5-8). Paul seems to be associating himself with the OT prophets (“drove us out”).[26]

(2:16) “Hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.” Not only did these persecutors play a role in killing Jesus (along with the Gentile rulers; Acts 4:27), but they also wanted to prevent Gentiles from meeting Christ. Jesus spoke harshly of those who block people from coming to God to receive forgiveness (Mt. 18:5-6).

Why does Paul write about the wrath of God having “come upon them to the utmost”? Note that he uses the past tense. Does this refer to the destruction of the Jewish Temple? We think not. Thomas writes, “The best explanation of the aorist tense of the verb comes from comparing the only other NT combinations of phanō epi (‘come upon’)—Matt 12:28; Luke 11:20—where Jesus speaks of the kingdom’s arrival in comparable terminology. The unique force of this verb connotes ‘arrival upon the threshold of fulfillment and accessible experience, not the entrance into that experience’ …Just as the kingdom reached the covenant people at Christ’s first coming without their enjoying ‘the experience ensuing upon the initial contact…,’ so the wrath that will precede that kingdom has come before the Jews’ full experience of it.”[27] In other words, this could be typical “already-not-yet” language.

(2:17) “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.” Because of the persecution, Paul felt like he had been torn away from these believers. Even though he had to leave, his “spirit” and his heart stayed there. He desired to see them again.

(2:18) “For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us.” Paul had a category for God closing doors on his ministry (Acts 16:6-10). But here, he holds that this refers to Satan.

(2:19-20) “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.” How does this passage connect with Paul’s heart for these believers (as described throughout this chapter)? Paul’s “joy” was not a what, but a who. He had built his values on the love of people, rather than the love of possessions. Only people will make it to eternity.

Discussion Questions

After reading verses 1-13, what are key aspects we can learn about Christian leadership? (Which qualities do you see in others around you? Which do you need to grow in the most?)

Based on verse 6: When is it appropriate to use spiritual authority? When is this inappropriate? (See our earlier article, “Counseling Christians from Unhealthy Churches”).

Based on verses 7 and 11: What would happen if we were nurturing to people without exhorting them? What would happen if we were exhorting with being nurturing?

1 Thessalonians 3 (Paul’s encouragement of the Thessalonians)

(1 Thess. 3:1-6) Does Paul’s history contradict Luke’s in the Book of Acts?

(3:1) “Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone.” This verse correlates nicely with the book of Acts, where Paul went to Athens “alone” (Acts 17:15). This shows Paul’s love for the Thessalonians. He would rather give up Timothy, than keep him for himself.

(3:2-3) “And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, 3 so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.” Paul sent Timothy to strengthen the faith of these believers. It is ambiguous whether the Thessalonians were the ones who were disturbed by their own suffering, or if they were disturbed by the report of Paul’s suffering (v.7). Based on the context, it seems that the Thessalonians were worried for Paul. Even though they knew that suffering is a part of the Christian life (v.3), it’s still difficult to endure it. It’s one thing to know you’re going to suffer, and it’s quite another to endure suffering.

Paul wrote that he was “destined” to suffer (Acts 14:22). Jesus taught that all believers are destined to suffer (Jn. 16:33), as did Paul (2 Tim. 3:12).

(3:4) “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.” Paul would warn even brand new Christians about the reality of suffering. That way, when suffering arose, they would be more resilient.

(3:5) “For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.” Paul believed that Satan (“the tempter”) could nullify his work with this church (“our labor would be in vain”). In context, this could refer to Satan accusing God of being cruel or incompetent to allow Paul to suffer like this. God allows suffering, but Satan can spin suffering as a way to accuse God. Paul was worried that these believers would agree with Satan’s accusations.

(3:6) “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you.” This correlates with Timothy and Silas coming to visit Paul in Acts 18:5. Paul probably wrote this letter just after hearing this great news. Paul didn’t hold back sharing his emotions for them (“long to see you”).

(3:7) “For this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith.” During this time, Paul was going through persecution (Acts 18:6-12). It comforted Paul to hear that they were still walking with God.

(3:8) “For now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” Paul thought that it was worth to suffering to hear about their steadfast faith. NLT renders this better: “It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.”

(3:9) “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account.” While Paul was thankful for the Thessalonians, he was ultimately thankful to God.

(3:10) “[What thanks can we render God…] as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?” The previous verse focused on thanksgiving, while this verse focuses on petition. He prayed frequently (“night and day”) and intensely (“earnestly”) for two things: (1) that he could see them and (2) that he could build up their growing faith.

(3:11) “Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you.” Paul hopes to meet with these Christians soon. He keeps praying that God would open a door to make this happen. After being blocked by Satan (2:18), he probably felt the great need to pray for this.

(3:12) “May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.” We need to learn the balance of loving fellow believers (Jn. 13:34-35; Rom. 13:8; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn. 3:11, 23), as well as loving lost people (Mt. 5:43-48; Lk. 10:25–37; cf. Mt. 19:19; 22:39; Mk. 12:31). This is a clear description of the tribal and diffuse love spheres in “Love Therapy.”

How do we increase in our love? Paul points to God as the ultimate cause (“may the Lord cause you to increase in love”), and he points to his own example to foster this (“just as we also did for you”). At one point, these people were non-Christians when Paul showed them love, and now he continues to show them love after they came to Christ.

(3:13) “So that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” Paul prays that Christ would “establish” (sterixai) their faith, which means “to fix firmly in a place, set up, establish, support” or “to cause to be inwardly firm or committed, confirm, establish, strengthen” (BDAG). He often does this through the work of believers—like Timothy (see verse 2 where the same Greek term is used).

Thomas[28] understands the “saints” to refer to Christians. When Jesus returns, “all” believers will return alongside of him.

Discussion questions

Based on verse 12: What might happen if we stopped loving a person (or ignored them) once they began a relationship with God? How might that affect their ability to grow spiritually?

1 Thessalonians 4 (Sex and sanctification)

(4:1) “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” Note how Paul doesn’t nag this group of believers, adding more and more on their plate. Instead, he acknowledges how well they were doing (“just as you actually do walk”), but then continues on to urge them to take further ground.

This passage reminds us of Jim Collins’ book From Good to Great. Paul just finished encouraging this church for three chapters on their radical dedication to Christ. Here he encourages that they would “excel still more.” We should always be content in our position in Christ, but never content with our condition in Him.

(4:2-3) “For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” Paul uses the strongest possible language in speaking about sexuality. It comes from the “commandments” and “authority of the Lord Jesus.” He calls it “the will of God.” To the Christian, sexual ethics are not culturally conditioned; they are bound up in the unchangeable nature of God himself. Culture may change, but God’s nature never changes. If we reject this, we are rejecting God himself! (v.8)

“This is the will of God, your sanctification.” This shows that God has a will (thelēma) for all believers—that they would grow spiritually. If we aren’t growing spiritually, we can’t blame God.

“Sexual immorality” (porneias) has a “broad definition here as including all types of sexual sins between male and female.”[29]

It isn’t clear if the Thessalonians were actually engaging in sexual immorality. Paul may have been bringing this up simply because it is a temptation for all Christians. It is a teaching we all need to hear (and rehear!), regardless of how we’re currently doing.

(4:4) “That each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.” The “vessel” here refers to our body (not our wives as some interpreters argue). Paul is calling for Christians to be in control of their sexual desires, rather than being slaves to them.

(1 Thess. 4:4) Does “vessel” refer to our wife or our own body?

(4:5) “Not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” When we don’t know God, it makes a lot more sense to simply reach out for whatever pleasure we can find.

(4:6) “And that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter…” To “defraud” (pleonektein) is the root word for “greed.” BDAG defines as “to take advantage of, exploit, outwit, defraud, cheat.” When we use a woman for sex, we’re using a woman who will eventually get married to another man. Pastor Ben Stuart tells the story of seeing a Victoria Secret poster at the mall (80 feet long). He points out that someone should be seeing that woman in her lingerie, but it isn’t him or his little son or the thousands of other men in the mall. That should be reserved for her husband.

“…because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.” God is the “avenger” of these things. This refers to both God’s active and passive wrath. He will judge everyone in the end, but in the meantime, he judges us by allowing us to do it and suffer the consequences (Col. 3:25; Rom. 1:24ff).

(4:7) “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.” God’s will for your life is not to lead you into moral bankruptcy and pain. God has a much better things in store for you.

(4:8) “So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” As noted above, it is common in postmodern society to speak of ethics as fluid and changing along with the culture. This may be true sociologically, but not theologically. God’s nature is the standard for ethics. To reject this teaching is not to reject a fellow human being, but God himself.

Discussion Questions

Consider reading our paper “The Bible’s Sexual Position.”

Based on verse 3 and verse 8, how might our thinking on sexuality change if we believed that ethics were grounded in culture, rather than in the nature (and will) of God?

Why does Paul use such strong language for sexual sin in verse 6 (“defraud your brother”)? Why do you think he compares sexual sin to greed?

More teaching on Christian love

One of the best ways to flee from sexual sin is to develop intimate friendships in the Christian community. It is to this subject that Paul now turns.

(4:9) “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” God teaches us about love through the Scriptures. This could be what Paul means. Paul could also be referring to the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit that teaches us to love others (Rom. 5:5).

(4:10) “Indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.” Even though they had a history of love, Paul urges them to never be satisfied with their love for others. Thomas writes, “‘More love’ is always a potentiality for Christians because the ultimate, the example of Christ himself (John 13:34; 15:12), is infinite and can only be approached, not fully reached.”[30] Paul references their love for the surrounding believers in chapter 1 (1 Thess. 1:8). Paul told them to “excel still more” earlier in the chapter (v.1). He seems to be pouring gasoline on the fire.

(4:11-12) “And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” One way to love others is to provide for yourself, so that you have money to share and give over to the cause of Christ. Thomas writes, “Nothing disrupts the peace of a Christian community more than the unwillingness of members to shoulder their part of the responsibility for it.”[31] After all, the believers in Thessalonica were not wealthy. Elsewhere, Paul refers to these believers living in “poverty” (2 Cor. 8:1-2), and yet they were incredibly generous (2 Cor. 8:3-5). Perhaps Paul saw a danger of “freeloaders” living off of the generosity of these believers. This problem in Thessalonica got worse with time, as we see in Paul’s second letter (2 Thess. 3:6-15).

“Work with your hands.” Thomas comments, “In a Greek culture that degraded manual labor, Christianity joined with Judaism in viewing it as an honorable pursuit. Most of the Thessalonian believers earned their living with their hands.”[32]

“Behave properly toward outsiders.” When we don’t have our lives in order, we can ruin our witness to the watching world. If even non-believers can work a job and pay the bills, why can’t able-bodied Christians?

Jesus’ return in light of death

Christ will return to rescue all believers, and he’ll bring our loved ones with him. This is a message of comfort for believers (v.18). For a full exegesis of this passage and a defense of the pre-tribulational rapture, see chapter 13 in Endless Hope or Hopeless End (2016).

(4:13) “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” It’s biblical to grieve the loss of loved ones (Acts 8:2; Jn. 11:33-35). As believers in Jesus, we simply do not grieve the same way. Since we know that our loved one is in a place “better by far” (Phil. 1:23 NIV), we grieve with the hope that our loved one is in the presence of God. In the meantime, it still hurts because we are separated from them in the present—even though we look forward to being with them in the future.

(1 Thess. 4:13) Did Paul believe in soul-sleep?

(4:14) “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” Believers who have died will come with Jesus at his return (cf. 1 Thess. 3:13).

(4:15) “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” Some take “the word of the Lord” to refer to Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21). This would fit nicely with a post-tribulation rapture. However, the lack of agreement in the details of these passages leads others to believe that this was a revelation given from the Lord to Paul.

According to Paul, Jesus will raise all of the dead believers before he raises the living believers. Like Lazarus, the graves will be empty.

(1 Thess. 4:15) Did Paul believe Christ would return in his lifetime?

(4:16) “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Again, Jesus will raise the dead before he raises the living to immortal, resurrection bodies. Since Jesus will come in the “twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52), Thomas writes, “The interval separating the two groups will be infinitesimally small by human reckoning.”[33]

(1 Thess. 4:16-17) Does this describe a pre-tribulation rapture or a post-tribulation rapture of the church?

(4:17) “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” Some interpreters hold that this “meeting” (apantēsin) of the Lord is a technical term in Hellenistic Greek, where citizens would “meet” an individual and ceremonially escort them into the city. For instance, Josephus uses the word in this way: “When the people of Antioch were informed that Titus was approaching, they were so glad at it, that they could not keep within their walls, but hasted away to give him the meeting” (Wars of the Jews, 7.100). Tanchuma (an ancient Jewish rabbi) used it in that sense too: “The great of the city moved out to meet the king” (Tanchuma, 178a). From this, some interpreters infer a post-tribulation rapture, because the believers will likewise come with Jesus back to Earth.

However, this term is not always used this way. While the NT does use this term as a meeting of an important person outside of the city (Jn. 12:13; Acts 28:15), it also uses this term in a variety of ways:

  • The virgins “meeting” the bridegroom (Mt. 25:6).
  • The man who “met” the disciples carrying a pitcher of water (Mk. 14:13).
  • The 10 lepers “meeting” Jesus (Lk. 17:12).

Likewise, the Septuagint doesn’t always use this term in such a restrictive sense.[34]

  • “Meeting” men in battle (1 Sam. 4:1).
  • Samuel “meeting” Saul (1 Sam. 13:10).
  • David “meeting” the Philistines in battle.
  • Men “meeting” David and “meeting” his army (1 Sam. 30:21).

Furthermore, the context of this passage does not fit the restricted sense. Instead, it speaks of Jesus yanking believers from the Earth (“caught up”), rather than them voluntarily going out to meet him.

Finally, even if we held to such a restricted and technical meaning of this term, a pre-tribulational view could still hold. After all, we could meet Jesus in the air, and stay with him for a while before descending back to Earth.

“We shall always be with the Lord.” Once Jesus comes back, we will not be separated from him ever again.

(4:18) “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” The purpose of Paul’s teaching is not abstract or esoteric. He taught on the return of Christ to “comfort” believers in their suffering.

1 Thessalonians 5 (The Day of the Lord and practical theology)

A key to properly interpreting the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5 is to understand that this chapter division is uninspired and even arbitrary. Paul is still speaking of the same subject (i.e. the return of Christ), elaborating further here.

The Day of the Lord

(5:1) “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.” Why didn’t the Thessalonians need to know about the timing of the day of the Lord? This could be because God has not revealed this (Acts 1:7), so it would be pointless to write about. Or, as Thomas writes, “During his first visit Paul had effectively communicated the basic features of precise times and accompanying circumstances of future events.”[35] We hold to this latter view.

(5:2) “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”

What is the “Day of the Lord”? The NT uses the expression “the day of the lord” four times (Acts 2:20; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). The OT uses it nineteen times (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezek. 13:5; 30: 3; Joel 1:15; 2: 1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18; 5:20; Obad. 1:15; Zeph. 1:7, 14; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5). Hitchcock notes, “The Old Testament refers to the Day of the Lord nineteen specific times, but dozens of other places refer to ‘the day’ or ‘that day.’ …Putting these passages together, the day of the Lord is any time God intervenes directly and dramatically in history either to judge or to bless. God has intervened in this way in the past, and he will do so again in the future. There have been specific, past ‘days of the Lord’ when God intervened dramatically to judge. For instance, the destruction of Egypt was called the ‘day of the LORD’ (Ezekiel 30: 1-4). The locust plague in Joel was a day of the Lord when God intervened directly to judge Israel (Joel 1: 15). Yet, it is important to remember that all these past, historical days of the Lord prefigure the final, future Day of the Lord.”[36]

Paul uses the imagery of a “thief in the night,” because you do not expect when a thief will rob you. Similarly, God’s judgment will be sudden and unexpected for the world.

(5:3) “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” Notice that the pronouns shift from “you” over to “they” or “them” (v.3) or “others” (v.6). Could this point to the fact that believers will be rescued before the day of the Lord? This would fit with the chronology of Paul’s teaching on the rescue of the Church at the end of chapter 4.

The consequence of this judgment will be universal for those outside of Christ (“they will not escape”).

(5:4-5) “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness.” Since believers are “in Christ” in their identity, they are not “in darkness.” This passage makes a lot of sense from a pre-tribulational rescue of the Church. The reason that they will not be overtaken is because they will not be there.

(5:6) “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” People in the world are dull to these deep spiritual realities. To one extent or another, they move on day after day as though history has no purpose. That is understandable for a non-believer, but certainly not for the Christian.

(5:7) “For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.” Paul is simply appealing to everyday experience to make his point about being sober and alert.

(5:8) “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” This is similar imagery to Ephesians 6:14-17. Paul is connecting spiritual sobriety with the truths of faith, love, and hope.

(5:9) “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We will be saved from the wrath of God in hell, but the wrath specified here is the wrath of the “day of the Lord” (i.e. the Tribulation). This passage implies a pre-tribulational rescue of the Church.

(5:10) “Who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” Believers suffer in this world, but we are no longer under the wrath of God. Why not? This is because “Jesus died for us.”

The language of being “awake or asleep” fits with Paul’s teaching of the rescue of the Church in 4:13-18. Though it is also possible to understand these terms to refer to spiritual alertness in context, as Thomas does.[37]

(5:11) “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Here, Paul uses the same term (“encourage” parakaleite) as he did in his discussion about the rescue of the Church in 4:18 (“comfort” parakaleite).

Leadership

(5:12) “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction.” Just as Paul proved his integrity through his hard work (1 Thess. 2:9), Paul contends that Christian leaders should also be respected for their hard work.

God does give spiritual authority to leaders. The term for “have charge over” (proistemenous) means “to exercise a position of leadership, rule, direct, be at the head (of)” (BDAG). It was used in a military sense: For instance, in 1 Maccabees we read, “Take charge (proistemenous) of this people, but do not engage in battle with the Gentiles until we return” (1 Macc. 5:19). There is an instability that occurs when we stop respecting the leadership in our local church.

Note that Paul speaks of plurality in leadership (those who diligently labor… that you esteem them).

(5:13) “And that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” The reason we esteem leaders in love is not because of their office or their title, but because of their “work.”

The normal Christian worker

(5:14) “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Early church fathers like Chrysostom understood these commands to be for leaders—not lay people.[38] But this contradicts the text. It is addressed to all of the “brethren.” Biblical love should be carried out by all Christians—not just leaders (“one another,” v.15).

Note how we do not have a monolithic or one-size-fits-all approach with fellow believers. We have a wide variety of tools at our disposal: admonition, encouragement, help, and patience. If we desire to do Christian work, we need to learn how and when to use all of these.

(5:15) “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” When we correct others, it should never be retributive—but for the good of the other person (“always seek after that which is good for one another”).

We don’t merely passively refuse to retaliate. We actively seek the good of all people.

(5:16) “Rejoice always.” The key to happiness is to learn to rejoice. This isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. Rejoicing will bring joy. (See “The Lost Virtue of Gratitude”)

(5:17) “Pray without ceasing.” In Paul’s letters, we sometimes see him spontaneously burst into prayer (3:11-13). He practiced his own command continually. Thomas writes, “Adialeiptōs… does not mean some sort of nonstop praying. Rather, it implies constantly recurring prayer, growing out of a settled attitude of dependence on God. Whether words are uttered or not, lifting the heart to God while one is occupied with miscellaneous duties is the vital thing.”[39] See Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God.

(5:18) “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We don’t give thanks for everything. We give thanks in every circumstance. A hyper-Calvinist once told my professor that God causes everything, so we should give thanks for even evil and suffering! My professor said, “My wife just died of cancer two weeks ago… You’re not saying that I should give thanks for that, are you?” The man was silenced. While my professor could give thanks while in the midst of suffering, he didn’t give thanks for that natural evil (e.g. suffering).

Thomas concludes this section by writing, “The true victories in life are won by Christians who are joyful, prayerful, and thankful.”[40]

Charismatic gifts

Here we see a great balance for the charismatic gifts: We aren’t supposed to banish these (e.g. cessationism), or accept them uncritically (e.g. many in charismatic circles). Instead, we should allow these through the grid of biblical discernment (see “The Charismatic Gifts”).

(5:19) “Do not quench the Spirit.” To “quench the Spirit” would mean to not allow God to speak through the charismatic gifts. If someone was trying to impart enthusiasm for God by bringing a timely word or speaking of an answered prayer, we shouldn’t be cynical or negative to what the Holy Spirit could be doing through that person.

(5:20) “Do not despise prophetic utterances.” As we argued in our paper on the charismatic gifts above, the gift of prophecy is designed to show how the word of God is relevant to our contemporary situation. This could be through personal sharing of a passage’s application or through rallying people behind a biblically informed vision for the church.

(5:21) “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” While we should allow for the charismatic gifts, we should also use discernment in testing their use (1 Jn. 4:1; 1 Cor. 12:3, 10; 14:29). Thomas adds that we should apply a “general criterion of whether a positive contribution to the body’s edification and mutual love has been made.”[41]

(5:22) “Abstain from every form of evil.” The word “form” (eidous) can be understood to refer to the “appearance” of evil, or it could refer to any “kind” of evil.[42]

(5:23) “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God is the one who sanctifies us. Our role is to seek him, trust him, and receive from him through the means of growth.

Some interpreters understand this passage to refer to a three-fold component to human nature: body, soul, and spirit.[43] However, others merely see this as a way of Paul speaking of the whole human person (see “Trichotomy or Dichotomy”).

(5:24) “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” How do we know that God will sanctify us entirely? He is faithful! He is going to accomplish this through us.

(5:25) “Brethren, pray for us.” When asked why he had such influence for Christ, Charles Spurgeon once said, “My people pray for me.” Paul coveted people’s prayers (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12). This isn’t selfish, because he would also pray for them regularly (v.17).

(5:26) “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.” Thomas argues that we can follow this imperative by following the principle of the passage, which is to show tenderness and love. He writes, “It was quite appropriate that a symbolic greeting be adopted.”[44]

(5:27) “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.” Paul believed in the public reading of Scripture. He even uses strong language to make his appeal (“I adjure you…”). Paul may have known that people were promoting false teaching in his name, and he wanted his true letter read to thwart this (2 Thess. 2:2).

(5:28) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Paul likes to open and close his letters focusing on the grace of God.

Discussion Questions

Based on verse 6, how would you be able to recognize the difference between a believer who was “alert” versus one who was “asleep”?

Based on verses 12-13, what would extremes look like with our view of leaders? What would it look like to blindly follow leaders versus respect and follow leaders? What would it look like to disagree with leaders, without being disrespectful or divisive?

Based on verse 19-22, what does it look like quench the Spirit versus being discerning of how the Spirit might be working?

Commentary on 2 Thessalonians

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Paul probably wrote this letter only months after he wrote 1 Thessalonians.[45] Paul must have heard reports that problems were quickly arising in this church, so he felt the need to write a second letter.

2 Thessalonians 1 (God’s judgment)

(1:1) “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is still with Timothy and Silvanus (Silas), when he writes this second letter (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1).

(1:2) “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1:3) “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren…” Just like his opening in 1 Thessalonians, Paul says it is right to sit and give thanks for this church, because of their faith and love. They were persevering even though they were under heavy persecution.

“…as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater.” Paul had earlier prayed for their faith and their love to grow (1 Thess. 3:10, 12). Here, he is giving thanks to see these prayers being answered.

(1:4) “Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.” This was a persecuted church. It must have felt encouraging to read these words from three men whom they respected so much. Paul was like a proud father bragging to the other churches about the tenacity and faithfulness of this church.

(1:5) “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” Why is their persecution evidence of God’s righteous judgment? It might be in the sense that God’s future judgment is righteous (cf. Rom. 2:5). In effect, Paul is saying, “Look at how they’re persecuting you… This is why the judgment of God will be considered righteous in the future.”

The term “worthy” (kataxiothenai) means “to consider someone worthy to receive some privilege, benefit, or recognition, consider worthy” (BDAG). It isn’t that suffering brings us into the kingdom, but rather, suffering will bring reward in the kingdom. Those who suffer for Christ in this life will be honored and given responsibility in the next.

(1:6) “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you.” This is why Paul calls God’s judgment “righteous” (v.5). It will be completely fair. God will judge people based on how they hurt others—in this case, the Thessalonians.

(1:7) “And to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.” God’s judgment is also “righteous” (v.5) because he will give “relief” to these afflicted Christians. God’s judgment is connected with a “judgment day,” when Jesus returns to Earth.

(1:8) “Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” The term “retribution” is the same root word for “right” (v.5) and “just” (v.6). The term “has no overtones of selfish vindictiveness or revenge, but proceeds from the justice of God to accomplish appropriate punishment for criminal offenses.”[46]

Thomas sees two groups of people being described here: (1) “those who do not know God” are the Gentiles (Eph. 2:12) and (2) “those who do not obey the gospel” are Jews (Rom. 10:16).[47] There may be some substance to this, but it seems to be splitting too many hairs. After all, these expressions are sometimes used to describe all people (Jn. 8:54-55; Rom. 11:30). The point is that persecutors will be judged according to the light they had been given.

The One who paid for our sins will also be the one who judges sin.

(1:9) “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” Those who reject forgiveness will be separated from the glory of Christ.

(2 Thess. 1:9) Is hell really annihilation of the soul?

(1:10) “When He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” Those who accept forgiveness will be joined with the glory of Christ. The term for “marveled at” (thaumasthenai) means “to be extraordinarily impressed or disturbed by something” (BDAG). The context determines whether it will be good or bad. Will we marvel at Christ and his generous forgiveness? Or will we marvel at the fact that we have been given the glory and praise of God? In other words, will we marvel at Christ’s glory or the objects of his glory? Both meanings are likely in view in light of verse 12.

(1:11) “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.” This relates back to their reward mentioned in verse 5. To be “worthy” relates to fulfilling our calling of goodness. Of course, this is only by God’s “power,” not our own.

(1:12) “So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The thought here is not that God needs our glory. Instead, because we are “in Christ,” we share in the glory of God. Thomas writes, “The thought is that of reciprocity resting on the union of the Lord with his people. They are to share the future moment of glorification together—as a unit.”[48]

Discussion Questions

How can we believe in God in light of the doctrine of hell? See our earlier article, “Is Hell Divine Overkill?”

2 Thessalonians 2 (The End of the World)

(2 Thess. 2:1-8) Does this passage describe the rapture?

(2:1) “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.” This undoubtedly refers to the return of Christ. Paul uses the words “coming” (parousia) and “gathering together” (episynagōgēs) which refer to Jesus’ rescue of the Church.

(2:2) “That you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” False teachers had apparently spread rumors that Jesus had already come and gathered believers to himself (i.e. the rescue of the Church).

What does it mean that this false teaching came through a “spirit”? This could refer to demonic spirits. In this case, the Thessalonians should “test the spirits” (1 Jn. 4:1ff). It could also mean that the false teaching came through a prophetic utterance. In this case, Paul had already warned these believers to “examine everything,” especially the teachings of so-called prophets (1 Thess. 5:20-21; cf. 1 Cor. 14:29).

The false teaching could’ve also spread through the form of a “letter” being falsely ascribed to Paul. In this case, Paul urges them to reread his first letter (2 Thess. 2:15) and remember his teaching (2 Thess. 2:5, 15). Paul also signs this letter with his own hand to avoid any more impersonations (2 Thess. 3:17-18).

(2:3) “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” What does Paul mean when he writes, It will not come…” Is he referring to the coming of Christ? The gathering of believers? Or the Day of the Lord?

The nearest antecedent is the “day of the Lord,” which is the time of judgment and wrath on the Earth (i.e. the Great Tribulation). Paul is arguing that they haven’t entered the Tribulation, because two things are necessary:

(1) The apostasy. This term (apostasia) has religious connotations in the Septuagint and the NT (Josh. 22:22; 2 Chron. 29:19; 33:19; Jer. 2:19; Acts 21:21).[49] Other passages speaking about the time of the Great Tribulation also mention an apostasy of believers (Mt. 24:11, 24; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:3-6; Jude 17-18).

(2) The man of lawlessness is revealed. Lawlessness will increase toward the end of history (Mt. 24:12). This “man of lawlessness” is the Antichrist himself. Jesus will personally judge and destroy this man (v.8). The expression “son of destruction” is the same term used of Judas, who was called the “son of perdition” (Jn. 17:12).

(2:4) “[The son of destruction] opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” Jesus predicted that a single man would commit this “abomination of desolation” (Mk. 13:14 ESV), using the masculine singular pronoun. The Antichrist will do this halfway through the seven year Tribulation (Dan. 9:27). Note the similarities between the “man of lawlessness” and the “beast” of Revelation 13 and 17.

(2:5) “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” This verse always bothers us. It makes us think, “No, Paul… We don’t remember you telling us these things! Why couldn’t you have written more in the letter?!” While the 21st century believer wasn’t there to hear Paul teach, we have his inspired letters to instruct us (2 Thess. 2:15).

(2:6) “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.”

(2 Thess. 2:6-7) Who is the restrainer?

(2:7) “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.” This principle of lawlessness has and is present in the Church Age. But it will be unrestrained during the Great Tribulation.

(2:8) “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.” There is no use trying to identify the Antichrist right now. He won’t be “revealed” until the Great Tribulation.

Regarding the “breath of his mouth,” Thomas notes, “The breath of God is a fierce weapon according to the OT (Ex. 15:8; 2 Sam. 22:16; Job 4:9; Ps. 33:6; Isa. 30:27, 28).”[50]

(2 Thess. 2:9-12) A deluding influence?

(2:9) “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders.” Just like Jesus gave “signs” (semeiois), this figure will give “signs” as well.

(2:10) “And with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” Rather than clinging to truth, these people will give themselves over to signs and wonders. They will be enamored with the Antichrist who is claiming to be God incarnate (v.4). People are held responsible for rejecting the truth about God “so as to be saved.”

(2:11) “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” This “deluding influence” will only work on those who reject the truth. To fall prey to this “deluding influence,” they would need to believe that the “man of lawlessness” (v.3) is actually God incarnate (v.4)! No true believer would ever accept this as truth.

(2:12) “In order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” The deluding influence is a form of divine judgment—similar to how God strengthened the heart of Pharaoh in order to judge him.

(2:13) “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” After hearing all of these scary events about the end of history, we might be prone to worry. But Paul has another view. We should be thankful that God has a different plan for believers in Christ (“we should always give thanks to God”).

God “chose” us based on his foreknowledge (Rom. 8:29). He also chose us for glorification (v.14).

(2:14) “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God’s calling was not irresistible as Calvinists contend. He calls believers “through the gospel.” We are responsible (literally “response” + “able”) for trusting in Jesus.

(2:15) “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” Remember, the Thessalonians had heard false reports from false teachers (v.2). Paul tells them to reject that, and instead accept apostolic teaching.

(2 Thess. 2:15) Does this passage support the Roman Catholic doctrine of the teaching magisterium?

(2:16) “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace.” Instead of worrying about the end of history, believers have a different hope that brings “eternal comfort” and “hope.” In other words, God doesn’t tell us about this to scare us, but rather to prepare us.

(2:17) “Comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” Our “works” and “words” are not contradictory concepts. These complement one another. It’s only as we gain the comfort and strength of God that we are able to work and speak for him.

2 Thessalonians 3 (Church discipline)

 

Pray to the God who is loving and steadfast

(3:1) “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you.” Paul often asked people to pray for him (Rom. 15:30-31; Eph. 6:18-19; Col. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; Phile. 22).

Paul didn’t just want the message of Christ to spread, but that they would “glorify” it. That is, Paul wanted people to accept the word and live it out. One of the central purposes of prayer is that the message of Christ would spread.

(3:2) “And that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men…” Paul didn’t merely want personal safety (though this is perfectly appropriate to pray for). He wanted protection from persecutors because this tied in with the spread of the gospel (v.1). As Paul wrote this (in Corinth), persecutors were lining up to oppose him (Acts 18:5-6, 12-13).

“…for not all have faith.” Regarding this statement, Thomas writes, “That the persecutors had had the opportunity to believe but had rejected it accounts for their vicious reaction against the message and those who preached it.”[51]

(3:3) “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” Here Paul shows God’s “faithfulness” in contrast to the faithless persecutors. We have no reason to fear in the face of persecution, when we know that we have a faithful God.

Amidst persecution, Paul reassures the Thessalonians that God is protecting them from their ultimate enemy: Satan. Earlier, Paul had mentioned Satan’s hindering influence and limited power (1 Thess. 2:18; 3:5; 2 Thess. 2:9). Satan has no authority over the believer in Jesus (cf. 1 Jn. 4:4; 5:18). Thomas writes that the word for “protect” (phylaxei) is often “used of military protection against a violent assault.”[52]

(3:4) “We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.” It isn’t that Paul placed his faith in people. He placed his confidence “in the Lord” concerning these believers.

(3:5) “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” The key to being faithful is to have God guide us into a greater understanding of “the love of God” and the “steadfastness of Christ.” When we see God’s love and stability, we are able to stay on course—even in the face of persecution.

Church discipline

(3:6) “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” The “unruly” (NASB) or “idle” (NIV) or “undisciplined” (NET) were believers who were refusing to work to pay their bills. Instead, they were collecting charity from their fellow believers in Christ. Paul had already told the Thessalonians to “admonish the unruly” (1 Thess. 5:14). Here he sees that the situation has only gotten worse, and he moves from verbal discipline to formal church discipline.

This might seem harsh, but remember that these Christians who were working were also in “deep poverty” according to Paul (2 Cor. 8:2). Imagine being a poor Christian who was not only supporting your own family, but also others who were unwilling to work!

(2 Thess. 3:6) Does this passage teach excommunication from the church? (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-13)

(3:7-8) “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” To support this claim, Paul notes that he himself set an example of a hard worker. Even though he had the right to accept financial support, he worked overtime to pay his own way.

(3:9) “Not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.” Leaders sacrifice their rights in order to be good models for others.

(3:10) “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” It isn’t that these “unruly” believers were unable to work. People in such a state need our aid, assistance, and charity. The problem with these believers is that they were unwilling to work. In this case, the best medicine is to let them go hungry until they become more willing.

(3:11) “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.” People who are not working full-time simply have too much time on their hands. In this case, they spent their time creating relational problems in the church.

(3:12) “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” Paul didn’t dehumanize these people. He didn’t name call or degrade them in any way. He simply calls them “such persons.” Thomas writes, “He might well have addressed the idle ones pejoratively as ‘you loafers,’ but instead he tactfully refers to them as ‘such people,’ doubtless hoping to lead them back to earning their own food.”[53]

(3:13) “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.” When you’re working with selfish people, it’s easy to become cynical or weary. Paul urges them to take a hard stance toward these believers, but not to grow a hardened heart. There are still people out there who need love and mercy. We shouldn’t take our frustration out on them.

(3:14) “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.” Thomas states that the man in 1 Corinthians 5 was totally removed from fellowship altogether, but he holds that these unruly brothers in 2 Thessalonians 3 were merely cut off from the “love feasts” and the Lord’s Supper. He writes, “The recalcitrant idler was not to be treated as an enemy cut off from all contacts, but was allowed to continue in a brotherly status. So lines of communication were kept open for continued warnings about his behavior.”[54]

By contrast to this view, it seems that the language of “do not associate with him… he will be put to shame” implies a stronger stance than this. Imagine how odd it would be to have believers like this in fellowship who no one talked to, or only talked to in order to admonish them. It seems more plausible that Paul was thinking of removal from fellowship, until the person had a change of heart about their lifestyle.

(3:15) “Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” When someone is removed from fellowship, we still show Christian love to them. They are still fellow believers and brothers in Christ. But when we spend time with them, it is for the purpose of seeing them brought to repentance—hence Paul’s language of “admonition.”

(3:16) “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” Paul believed that Christians could have access to peace—even in the midst of persecution or challenging ministry circumstances like this. Are you experiencing the “continual peace” of God in your circumstances? What might this imply if you are not?

(3:17) “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.” This passage supports the importance of apostolic authority. Paul wanted his readers to discern true from false letters (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2, 15). So, he ended his letter by picking up the quill pen himself (cf. 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18). This practice was common in ancient times.[55]

(3:18) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” God’s grace was not just for the mature believers in Thessalonica, rather than the “unruly” believers. Paul extended grace to them “all.”

Discussion Questions

Paul seems to think that believers have moral authority to remove someone from fellowship. What if someone said, “Who are YOU to judge?” How would you respond to that question?

What are the key differences between church discipline and retributive punishment?

[1] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 535.

[2] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 232). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[3] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[4] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 140.

[5] However, it should be noted that the syntax of this verse could refer to only one gift going to Thessalonica.

[6] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 140.

[7] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 229). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[8] Bruce, F. F. (1998). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Vol. 45, p. xxii). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[9] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 532.

[10] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 139.

[11] Bock, D. L. (2007). Acts (p. 550). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[12] Bruce, F. F. (1998). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Vol. 45, p. xxxv). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[13] Bruce, F. F. (1998). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Vol. 45, p. xxi). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[14] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 140.

[15] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 232). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[16] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 232). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[17] Bruce, F. F. (1998). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Vol. 45, pp. xli–xlii). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[18] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 237). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[19] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 237). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[20] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 247). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[21] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 247). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[22] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 251). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[23] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 252). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[24] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 252). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[25] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 258). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[26] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 260). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[27] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 260). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[28] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 268). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[29] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 271). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[30] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 273). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[31] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 274). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[32] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 274). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[33] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 279). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[34] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 279). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[35] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 281). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[36] Hitchcock, Mark. The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days. Tyndale House Publishers. 2012. 98, 100.

[37] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 286). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[38] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 289). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[39] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 291). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[40] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 291). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[41] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 293). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[42] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 293). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[43] See Thomas for a lengthy defense of this view of trichotomy. Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 295). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[44] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 1 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 297). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[45] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 306). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[46] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 313). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[47] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 313). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[48] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 316). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[49] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 321). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[50] Thomas, Robert. 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1981. 326.

[51] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 332). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[52] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 332). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[53] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 335). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[54] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 336). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[55] Thomas, R. L. (1981). 2 Thessalonians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 337). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.