Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians

Discovery for Teachers

Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
2 Thessalonians 1:1 through 3:18

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Therefore brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

BACKGROUND

Thessalonica, the largest city of Macedonia, was an important trade city. Located on the main roadway between Rome and the Orient, it was a thriving seaport. During Paul’s second missionary journey, around A.D. 50, after preaching for a short time in the synagogue in Thessalonica (Acts 17), he started the church there. Within two years or less, Paul felt the need to write a letter to the new church to encourage the believers there and counsel them in several areas, including the Second Coming of the Lord. That letter is the Book of 1 Thessalonians.

A short time after writing that letter, Paul received word that some in the church had misinterpreted his teaching about Christ’s second coming. Thinking the event was imminent, these people had quit working and had simply settled back to wait (2 Thessalonians 3:11). Continued persecution of the church caused some people to feel that they must be living immediately prior to the “Day of the Lord.” To correct these misunderstandings, Paul wrote another letter — the Book of 2 Thessalonians. In this epistle, he explained the events that would precede Christ’s return, what the believers were to avoid, and how they were to conduct themselves until the Lord’s return.

Paul’s loving concern for the infant church is evident in his epistles. He used the endearing term “brethren” twenty-eight times in his two letters to the Thessalonians. He expressed his love in the way he greeted them, in his warm praise and thanksgiving for the progress and growth he had observed, his careful admonition on the points that had brought confusion, and his closing benediction.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. In the opening of his second letter to the believers in the Thessalonian church, what attributes did Paul commend? 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

    He listed four commendable attributes: 1) Their faith was growing. 2) Their love was abounding toward each other. 3) Their patience was increasing, 4) Their testimony was helping others.

    Ask your class what lesson we can learn from Paul’s pattern of beginning a letter with a message of commendation. How do you suppose Paul’s commendation impacted the believers? Discussion should bring out that his words were an encouragement. Learning that Paul had mentioned them to others no doubt intensified the affirmation, and let the Thessalonians know that they had a reputation to live up to, thus challenging them to continued perseverance.
  2. In 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10, Paul referred to persecutions and tribulations that the Thessalonians were experiencing. How did Paul encourage them regarding their sufferings, and how can we apply his message when we face persecution in our day?

    Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to have patience in spite of troubles and hardship. He let them know that because God is just, He will ultimately reward His faithful followers and judge the wicked that persecute them.

    Class discussion of the second question should bring out that Paul’s words to the Thessalonians can help us remember that evil will not prevail. The promise of the eventual balancing of accounts in the future will not remove suffering from our lives, but it will help us put suffering in perspective and cause us to persevere. We can be comforted in knowing that our trials strengthen us and help make us ready for Christ’s kingdom.
  3. Following his words of encouragement in chapter 1, Paul gave some warnings in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. Identify these warnings and cite the reason Paul gave for people being deceived. What are some things we can do to ensure that we are not led away from the truth of the Gospel?

    Paul warned the believers not to be “shaken in mind” or “troubled,” and he said they were to guard against being deceived. He told them that people are deceived because they do not have a love for the truth.

    Discussion could begin with identifying events and ideas in our day that could cause us to be “shaken” or led away from the truths we have been taught. We can guard against these by staying in close connection with God through regular personal devotions, filling our minds with the Word, being faithful in church attendance, and asking God to put in our hearts a love for His work, Word, and people of like mind.
  4. The phrase, “Day of the Lord,” refers to the Second Coming of Jesus. The Second Coming encompasses two separate events: the Rapture of the Church, when Jesus comes to catch away His waiting Bride, and the Revelation of Christ, when He returns with His saints to execute judgment upon the ungodly and to set up His millennial kingdom on earth. In attempting to clarify for the Thessalonians the events of the end time, Paul laid out three occurrences that must take place before “the day of Christ” (the Revelation of Christ). What are these occurrences? 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8

    Paul said before the day of Christ, there must be:
    •    A great falling away — a time of rebellion or apostasy in which some desert their faith.
    •    A revelation of the man of sin — the Antichrist.
    •    The removal of the restrainer — “he who now letteth,” The word let means “to hinder or restrain.” When the restraining Spirit is removed, the lawless one “will be revealed” and his display of power will increase.

    Encourage your students to refer to the booklet “Glimpse Into the Future” for further details regarding the Antichrist and end time chronology.

  5. How did Paul describe the way the Antichrist will come in and the manner in which the Lord will defeat him? 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10

    Paul said that the Antichrist will be a deceiver (verses 2-4) who will exalt himself and demand worship as God. Just as Pharaoh’s magicians copied the miracles of God, the Antichrist will display satanically inspired counterfeit miracles, thus drawing many away from the truth. These miracles will look real but will exalt the Antichrist and not God. When the Lord comes on the scene, He will destroy the Antichrist with the brightness of His coming.  
  6. What two requests did Paul make of the believers at Thessalonica in chapter 3:1-2 regarding the spread of the Gospel? What does this teach us about how we should pray?

    Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him and his co-workers that (1) their preaching would go forth unhindered and with power and that (2) God’s protecting hand would be over them. The discussion will naturally lead toward our responsibility to pray for all those around us, and especially our spiritual leaders. Satan would like to hinder and turn our teachers, pastors, and ministers aside, so our backing for them is vital.
  7. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul expressed his desire that God would direct the Thessalonians into two things. What were these things, and why were and are they so important?

    Paul desired that the Lord would direct the hearts of the believers into the love of God and into patient waiting for His return. Class discussion about the importance of love for God may bring out that love is what will hold us steady in persecution, maintain our connection with God, and provide a witness to unbelievers. A “patient waiting for Christ” implies a strong and determined attention on His coming, and a careful aligning of our lives that we might be prepared. You might want to bring out that the word “wait” in this place is different from the one used in 1 Thessalonians 1:10. What Paul had in mind here is courage on the part of the Thessalonians to continue to live for God in spite of the problems facing them.
  8. What problem in the church did Paul address in verses 6-12 of Chapter 3?

    Paul addressed the fact that some members of the church were living in an idle manner. They were using their time and energy to stir up trouble, rather than being productive individuals. Paul wanted them to lead orderly lives instead of being troublemakers, so he commanded them to work “with quietness” and to provide for themselves. Ask your class what principle of godly living can be derived from this instruction of Paul. The point should be made that times of relaxation and recreation do provide a necessary and much needed balance in our lives. However, we should make the most of our talents and time, doing whatever we can to provide for ourselves and our dependents, and for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.
  9. What key points did you derive from reading the Book of 2 Thessalonians? Why were they particularly meaningful?

    Use your students’ responses to this question to summarize again the key points of this Book: the value of commendation, the role of suffering, the Lord’s return, the Antichrist, the necessity of perseverance, and a Christian’s work ethic.

CONCLUSION

Some day, Christ will come back to earth for those who trust in Him. If we are ready, we need not be concerned about when He will return. We should stand for the truth, keep working for Christ, and patiently wait and watch for Him.