Reading through the Bible together

Friday, May 8, 2015

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A simple phone call could have cleared up a lot of the problems faced by the churches of Paul. But there were no phones in the ancient world. So believers had to track Paul down and hand deliver a letter containing their questions. The apostle would then dictate a response and have it hand delivered back to the church. The process might take months. In the meantime false beliefs and misunderstandings would have time to develop and spread.

This seems to have happened in Thessalonica. In the time it took for Paul to gather information and write the response we know as First Thessalonians, new problems arose in the church. These problems may even have become worse due to misunderstanding or misapplication of what Paul wrote in the first letter. Second Thessalonians was Paul’s attempt to further correct the situation (see introductory notes to 2 Thessalonians in the NKJV Study Bible [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997], p. 2031).

In the first chapter of Second Thessalonians Paul again looks forward to the outcome of his work for the Thessalonians. At the Second Coming, the believers will be rescued from their persecutors by God’s spectacular intervention in Christ (1:5-10). Paul’s goal in this passage is not rejoicing in vengeance (1:8-9), but encouragement of the abused and oppressed (1:5-7). The day of justice is coming. We don’t need to take justice into our own hands. A righteous God who measures justice with care will handle that. The core of this judgment is actually the opposite of First Thessalonians 4. There the Second Coming enables the Thessalonians to be “with the Lord.” Here their persecutors are driven away from the face of the Lord, not because He hates them, but because their characters cannot handle the glorious presence of God.

 

Jon Paulien

Loma Linda University

United States