5 December 2014

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

‘we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed.’ (vv. 1-2)

Psalm: Psalm 71:15-24


This chapter addresses the main problem which caused the second letter to be written to the Thessalonians so soon after the first one. They have either misunderstood his words in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 about the unexpected timing of the return of Christ, or have assumed that what he said about being gathered to Christ was actually happening. It may also be that they have received a letter purporting to be from Paul, which has confused them still more. This is maybe why in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 he emphasises that this letter is his genuine composition. In chapter 2, he attempts to put right the misunderstandings, by saying that the appointed signs that will herald that event have not yet happened. There has been no rebellion, and the "lawless one" (v. 3) has not appeared.

The Thessalonians would have a better idea about this mysterious figure than we have today. They would accept a conflict between a personal God and a personal Devil. We cannot deny the presence of evil in the world, but not everyone would see that power in quite as personal terms as Paul seems to be describing here. He is described as the emissary of Satan (verse 9) who will engage in a battle with Christ. The victor in this cosmic conflict between God incarnate and evil incarnate would be Christ. Can we see the lawless one as a symbol of humanity's revolt against God?

Finally in this chapter, Paul gives thanks again for the Thessalonians. He affirms them in their faith, and encourages them to hold fast to the teachings which he has given them

To Ponder

  • What are your thoughts about the idea of a cosmic struggle between forces of good and evil?
  • Some people interpret world events such as wars, earthquakes and famines as signs of God's judgement and the imminent return of Christ. Do you agree? If not, what would you say to them?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Bielby

Richard is a supernumerary Methodist presbyter in Stockton on Tees. He is a part-time prison chaplain and also serves as a voluntary chaplain at Durham Cathedral.