2 Thessalonians 2
Pulpit Commentary
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
Verse 1. - Now; literally, but; a particle of transition. We beseech you. Passing from what he besought God for them to what he beseeches them. Brethren, by. Considered by some, as in the A.V., as a form of adjuration. Thus Calvin: "He adjures believers by the coming of Christ; for it is customary to adjure by those things which are regarded by us with reverence." But such a construction is unknown in the New Testament, and is besides unnatural. Others render the preposition "in behalf of" or "in the interest of," "as though he were pleading, in honour of that day, that the expectation of it might not be a source of disorder in the Church" (Jowett); but such a sense is too artificial. It is best to render it "concerning," or, as in the R.V., "touching." The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some (Whitby, Hammond) suppose that by the coming of the Lord Jesus was here meant his coming in spirit at the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the apostasy was the revolt of the Jews from the Romans; the restraining power being differently interpreted. But this is a forced and extravagant interpretation, and is completely overthrown by what the apostle says in the next verse, for the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent. Besides, the Thessalonians, who were chiefly Gentile converts, were too distant from Jerusalem to be much troubled by the destruction of that city. By the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, then, is here meant, as is the uniform meaning of the phrase in the writings of Paul, the second advent. And by (or, concerning) our gathering together unto him. The word translated "gathering together" occurs only once again in the New Testament, where it is used with reference to the assembling of Christians for worship (Hebrews 10:35). Here it is used with reference to the assembling of believers to Christ, when he shall be revealed from heaven; it refers, not to the raising of the dead, but to the gathering together of those who are then alive (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
Verse 2. - That; to the end that, the purpose for which the apostle besought the Thessalonians. Ye be not soon; quickly. This has been variously interpreted, "so soon after my exhortation," or "so soon after my departure from Thessalonica," or "so soon after your reception of the gospel," or "so soon after this opinion of the imminence of Christ's coming was promulgated." Others refer it to manner rather than to time - "soon and with small reason" (Alford). Shaken; agitated like the waves by a storm, as the word signifies. In mind; or rather, from your mind;from your sober reason. Or be troubled; a still stronger expression; "terrified." Neither by spirit; not any falsely understood prophecies of the Old Testament, nor any mistaken revelations, whether by visions or dreams; but prophetical discourses delivered by members of the Church in a state of excitement, announcing the immediate coming of Christ, and which were mistaken for Divine communications. There does not appear to have been any intention to deceive; the Thessalonians erred in neglecting "to try the spirits" and to "prove the prophecics." Nor by word; not any traditional word of Christ, nor any misinterpretation of his prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, nor a calm discourse in distinction from prophetic utterances; but the report of some of the apostle's words, either erroneous or misunderstood. Nor by letter. Not the apostle's former Epistle to the Thessalonians, the passages in which concerning the advent had been misinterpreted (Paley); for, if this were the case, the apostle would have expressed himself more plainly and would not have repudiated it; but some letter, either forged in the apostle's name or pretending to inculcate his views. As from us. These words apply to the last two particulars: "Let no pretended saying or pretended letter of mine disturb you in this matter." As that - to the effect that - the day of Christ; or, as the best manuscripts read, of the Lord. Is at hand; literally, is present, so R.V. The verb is so translated in the other passages where it occurs (Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 3:22; Galatians 1:4; Hebrews 9:9), except in 2 Timothy 3:1, where it ought also to have been so rendered. It is, however, difficult to conceive how the Thessalonians could think that the day of the Lord was actually present. We cannot imagine that they thought that Christ had already come for judgment. To escape the difficulty, some conceive that "the day of the Lord" is not identical with "the coming of the Lord," but that, besides the actual advent, it includes the events which are its antecedents and concomitants (Eadie). It appears, however, best to suppose that the word is a strong expression for the imminence of that day; that the hour of the advent was about in strike. The Thessalonians ought always to be living in a state of preparation for the day of the Lord, as that day would come suddenly and unexpectedly; but they were not to be so impressed with a sense of its immediateness as to be deprived of their sober reason.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Verse 3. - Let no man deceive you by any means; in any way, not only in any of the foregoing methods, "by spirit, or word, or letter," but in any way whatever. For (that day shall not come). The bracketed words are not in the original, but are correctly supplied for the completion of the sense. Except there come a falling away; or, the apostasy; namely, that apostasy about which the apostle, when in Thessalonica, had instructed his readers. The falling away here alluded to is evidently religious, not political. Hence it cannot be the revolt of the Jews from the Romans, or any of those revolts and disturbances which then occurred in the political world. Nor must we conceive that the man of sin himself is here meant; for this apostasy precedes his coming - prepares the way for his advent; it is not the result, but the cause, of his appearance. The word, then, is to be taken generally to denote that remarkable "falling away" from Christianity concerning which Paul had instructed the Thessalonians (comp. 1 Timothy 4:1-3). First; namely, before the coming of the day of the Lord. And that man of sin; in whom sin is, as it were, personified, as righteousness is in Christ. Be revealed. The apostle considers the man of sin as the counterpart of Christ; as Christ was revealed, so shall the man of sin be revealed. The son of perdition; whose sin necessarily conducts to perdition; not here the perdition of his followers, but his own perdition. The same name which was applied by our Lord to Judas Iscariot (John 17:12).
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Verse 4. - Who opposeth; or, the opposer, taken substantively. The object of opposition is not so much believers, as Christ; he is antichrist, the opponent of Christ. And yet antichrist is not Satan, the great adversary (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10), for he is expressly distinguished from him (2 Thessalonians 2:9), but the instrument of Satan. As Satan entered into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition, so does he take possession of the man of sin. And exalteth himself above; or rather, against, in a hostile manner. All that is called God; not only against all the false gods of the heathen, but also against the true God (comp. Daniel 7:25; Daniel 11:36). Or that is worshipped; that is an object of worship. The same word that is used in Acts 17:23, "As I passed by and beheld your devotions" - the objects of your worship. So that he as God. The words "as God" are to be omitted, as not found in the best manuscripts. Sitteth in the temple of God. According to some, the temple of Jerusalem (De Wette, Lunemann, Eadie), either as it then existed or as restored according to the prophecy of Ezekiel But it appears more correct to refer the expression metaphorically to the Christian Church. It is a favourite metaphor of Paul to compare believers in particular, or the Church in general, to the temple of God (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:20-22). Showing - exhibiting - himself that he is God. His sitting in the temple of God was an assertion of his divinity; he claimed to be regarded and worshipped as God. This was the crowning act of his impiety; not only, like the Roman emperors, he demanded to be worshipped as one of many gods, but he claimed to himself the prerogative of the Godhead, not only to the exclusion of the false gods of heathenism, but even of the tree God.
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
Verse 5. - Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? These words contain a reproach. Had the Thessalonians remembered the instructions of the apostle, they would not have been so soon shaken from their sober reason or troubled. The apostle, when he was in Thessalonica, had told them of these things; he had instructed them concerning the nature of the apostasy and the coming of the man of sin; so that, as already observed, this description, so obscure to us, was not obscure to the Thessalonians, - they possessed the key to its interpretation.
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
Verse 6. - And now. The particle "now" has been variously interpreted. Some connect it with the restraining influence: "And ye know what now withholdeth;" but if so, there would have been a different arrangement of the words in the original Others consider it as a mere particle of transition: "Now, to pass over to another subject;" but there is no transition, the apostle continues his description of the man of sin. It is rather to be considered as a particle of time: "Now ye know, because you have been instructed on this point." Ye know; Paul having told them when he was at Thessalonica. What withholdeth; hindereth. The hindrance does not refer to the prevention of the apostle from speaking freely on this subject, lest he should involve himself in political difficulties; nor to any delay in the coming of Christ; but to a restraint upon the appearance of the man of sin: "Ye know what prevents his open manifestation." That he; namely, the man of sin. Might be revealed in his time; literally, in his season; in his proper time, the time appointed by God. Events were not yet ripe for his appearance. Just as there was a "fulness of time" when Christ should appear (Galatians 4:4), so there was a "fulness of time" when the man of sin should be revealed; there was a series of events going on which would culminate in his revelation. The nature of this restraining or withholding influence will afterwards be considered; whatever it was, the Thessalonians were formerly explicitly informed.
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
Verse 7. - For the mystery. "Mystery" here denotes something which was unknown or secret before it was revealed (comp. Ephesians 3:3-5). So also one of the names of Babylon, the seat of the antichristian power, is Mystery (Revelation 17:3). Of iniquity; rather, of lawlessness; namely, this apostasy which shall precede the coming of the man of sin. The genitive here is that of apposition - "that mystery which is lawlessness," whose essence and sphere of operation is lawlessness. Doth already work; or, is already working. The mystery of iniquity even now works in secret; but the man of sin himself will not appear until the restraining power be removed. Even at the time the apostle wrote the seeds of apostasy were already sown; the leaven of lawlessness was fermenting inside Christianity; the foundations of a false Christianity were being laid. Thus the apostle warned the Ephesians that false teachers would arise from among themselves; to Timothy he writes of those perilous times which were then present; and, in his Epistles, mention is made of false practices and doctrines, such as the worship of angels, abstinence from meats, bodily mortifications, and the honour conferred on celibacy. So also John, in his First Epistle, refers to this working of this antichristian power when he says, "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists .... Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3). "Antichrist does not step on the scene suddenly without any preparations; on the contrary, a stream of anti-christian sentiment and conduct pervades the whole history of the world" (Olshausen). Only he that now letteth; or, restraineth, the old meaning of the word "let." Will let. These words are not in the original, and ought to be omitted. Until he be taken out of the way. The whole clause ought to be rendered, "The mystery of lawlessness is already working, only until he who restraineth is removed;" when that takes place, when the restraining influence is removed, the mystery of lawlessness will no longer work secretly, but will be openly manifested.
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
Verse 8. - And then; namely, so soon as he that restraineth is taken out of the way. Shall that Wicked; or, that lawless one, in whom the mystery of lawlessness is realized; not different from, but the same with, the "man of sin, the son of perdition." Be revealed; appear unveiled in all his naked deformity. No longer working secretly, but openly, and in an undisguised form; no longer the mystery, but the revelation of lawlessness. The apostle now interrupts his description of the man of sin by announcing his doom. Whom the Lord; or, as the best attested manuscripts read, whom the Lord Jesus. Shall consume; or rather, shall slay (R.V.). With the spirit (or, breath) of his mouth. Various interpretations have been given to this clause. Some refer it to the Word of God, and others to the Holy Spirit, and suppose that the conversion of the world is here predicted; but this is evidently an erroneous interpretation, as the doom of antichrist is here announced. Others refer the term to a cry or word, and think that the sentence of condemnation pronounced by the Lord Jesus on the wicked is intended. But the words are to be taken literally as a description of the power and irresistible might of Christ at his coming - that the mere breath of his mouth is sufficient to consume the wicked (comp. Isaiah 11:4, "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked"). And shall destroy (or, annihilate) with the brightness (or, appearance) of his coming. The two words, epiphany and parousia, which are elsewhere used separately to denote the coming of Christ, are here employed. There is no ground for the assertion that the first is the subjective and the second the objective aspect of Christ's coming (Olshausen). The brightness of Christ's coming is not here expressed; but the meaning is that the mere appearance of Christ's presence will annihilate the wicked.
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
Verse 9. - The apostle resumes his description of the man of sin. Even him; not in the original, but necessary for the sense. Whose coming. The use of the same term, parousia, employed to denote the coming of Christ exhibits the counterpart of the man of sin. Is after the working - according to the energy - of Satan. Satan is the agent who works in the man of sin; he being the organ or instrument of Satan. With all power and signs and lying wonders. The adjective "lying" ought to be rendered as a substantive, and applied to all three: "With all powers and signs and wonders of falsehood;" whose origin, nature, and purpose is falsehood. Here, also, the counterpart to Christ is manifest; for the same terms - "powers," "signs," and "wonders," are employed to denote his miracles (Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:4). The miracles of Christ were miracles of truth; the miracles of the man of sin would be miracles of falsehood. There does not seem to be any essential difference between powers, signs, and wonders; but the words are employed as a mere rhetorical enumeration. It is not to be supposed that the man of sin will be enabled to perform real miracles; they are the wonders of falsehood; but still by them his followers will be deceived (comp. Matthew 24:24).
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Verse 10. - And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness; or rather, with all deceit of unrighteousness (R.V.); either with all deceit leading to unrighteousness or with all deceit which is unrighteousness. The man of sin works by deceit and falsehood; and by means of imposture and wonders and high pretensions he will succeed in imposing on the world. The energetic power of the man of sin is, however, by no means irresistible; only they who perish will succumb to it. In them. In the best manuscripts the preposition "in" is wanting; therefore the words are to be translated for them or to them. That perish (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:15); because they received not the love of the truth. Not only did they not receive the truth when it was offered them, but, what was worse, they were destitute even of a love of the truth. By the truth here is meant, not Christ himself, as some expositors think, but primarily the Christian truth, and secondarily the truth generally. There was in them a want of susceptibility for the truth, and thus not only were they prevented embracing the gospel, but they were led astray by numerous errors and delusions. That they might be saved. The result which naturally would arise from the reception of the truth.
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
Verse 11. - For this cause; on account of their being destitute of a love of the truth. God shall send them; or rather, God sends them; the present being chosen because the apostasy had already commenced, the mystery of lawlessness was already working. Strong delusion; or, a working of error (R.V.). These words are not to be weakened, as if they meant merely that in righteous judgment God permitted strong delusion to be sent them; the words are not a mere assertion of judicial permission, but of actual retribution. It is the ordinance of God that the wicked by their wicked actions fall into greater wickedness, and that thus sin is punished by sin; and what is an ordinance of God is appointed by God himself. That they should believe a lie; or rather, the lie, namely the falsehood which the man of sin disseminates by his deceit of unrighteousness. Being destitute of the love of the truth, they are necessarily led to believe a lie - their minds are open to all manner of falsehood and delusion.
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Verse 12. - That; in order that. The statement of purpose depending, not upon "that they should believe a lie," but upon "God sends them a strong delusion" - denoting a still more remote purpose of God. God, as the moral Ruler of the universe, will pronounce sentence of condemnation against them, this sentence being the necessary result of their receiving not the love of the truth. Its reception would have been the cause of their salvation; its rejection results in their condemnation. They all might be damned; or rather, judged (R.V.). The verb employed does not here, or elsewhere, express the idea of condemnation, though this is implied by the context. Who believed not the truth; namely, the Christian truth; their unbelief of it was the consequence of their want of love of the truth, and was the cause of their being judged. But had pleasure in unrighteousness. Their delight in unrighteousness was wholly incompatible with their belief in the truth; their want of faith arose, not from any defect in their understanding, but from the perversion of their moral nature. Here the description of the man of sin concludes, and hence the second division of the Epistle closes. The succeeding verses should have been attached to a new paragraph, being the commencement of the third or hortatory portion of the Epistle.
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
Verse 13. - But; this may be considered as a simple particle of transition, or as containing a contrast to these alluded to in the previous verses. I thank God that you are not exposed to the delusions of the man of sin and to the destruction of his followers. We. By some restricted to Paul, and by others as including Silas and Timotheus (2 Thessalonians 1:1). Are bound to give thanks alway to God. Notwithstanding the disorders which had arisen in the Church of Thessalonica, Paul had abundant reason to thank God for his great grace vouchsafed to the Thessalonians, in retaining them in the gospel, and in enabling them to abound in faith and love. For you, brethren beloved of the Lord; that is, of Christ. In the former Epistle he calls them "beloved of God" (1 Thessalonians 1:4), here "of Christ;" one of the numerous indirect proofs in these Epistles of the 1)trinity of Christ. Because God hath from the beginning. Some valuable manuscripts read, "because God hath chosen you as firstfruits," and this rendering has been adopted by several eminent expositors (Jowett, Hofmann, Riggenbach); but the preponderance of authorities is in favour of the reading in our A.V. The phrase, "from the beginning, does not denote "from the beginning' of the gospel," but "from eternity." The apostle refers the salvation of the Thessalonians to the eternal election of God. Chosen you to salvation - the final purpose of God's election. Through; or rather, in, denoting the elements in which the salvation consisted, or, which is the same thing, the state into which they were chosen. Sanctification of the Spirit - the Divine side - and belief of the truth - the human side of the element in which the salvation was realized.
Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 14. - Whereunto; to which. The reference being to the whole clause, being "chosen to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." He called you. Whom God elects from eternity, he calls in time. By our gospel; the gospel preached by us. To the obtaining (or, acquisition) of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Different meaning's have been attached to these words; some render them "for the purpose of an acquisition of glory to Jesus Christ;" others, "for a glorious possession of Jesus Christ;" and others, "to be possessors or sharers in the glory of Jesus Christ." The last meaning is the correct one. Believers are constituted "heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ."
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
Verse 15. - Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions. Traditions generally denote statements orally delivered and reported; here the word denotes the apostle's instructions in Christianity, whether these are given by word of mouth or by letter. Which ye have been taught, whether by word; referring to the apostle's preaching when in Thessalonica. Or our Epistle; referring to the First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
Verse 16. - Now our Lord Jesus Christ, and God, even our Father, who hath loved us. These last words, "who hath loved us," are to be restricted to God our Father, whoso love was manifested in sending his Son to rescue sinners from destruction. And hath given us everlasting consolation; or, comfort; everlasting as contrasted with the temporary and deceitful comfort which the world gives. And good hope through grace; or, in grace. "In grace" belongs to the verb "hath given," and denotes the mode of the gift - of his own free grace, in contrast to personal merit.
Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
Verse 17. - Comfort your hearts, and stablish you; or, according to the best manuscripts, stablish them. namely, your hearts. These verbs are in the singular, but their nominative is our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, thus implying the unity between these Divine Persons. In every good word and work.

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