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  • Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians.

  • So not long after Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians,

  • he got a report about the Christians in Thessalonica,

  • and that the problems he had addressed in that letter

  • not only had continued, but had gotten worse.

  • The persecutions had intensified

  • and the Thessalonian Christians had become confused and scared about the return of Jesus.

  • So Paul sent off this short letter

  • which is designed to have three sections that address the three problems in this church.

  • Paul first offers hope in the midst of their continued persecution

  • and then he offers clarity about the coming day of the Lord

  • and then finally he brings a really specific challenge to the idle,

  • people who were refusing to work normal jobs.

  • and the end of each of these sections is clearly marked by a short closing prayer.

  • Paul opens with a thanksgiving prayer

  • for the Thessalonians' continued faithfulness and love,

  • and specifically for their endurance.

  • He's learned that their Greek and Roman, and perhaps even Jewish neighbors

  • have intensified their persecution of these Christians.

  • There are religious minorities facing violent oppression

  • and Paul's worried that they might give up on Jesus if it gets worse.

  • So Paul reminds them like he did in the first letter

  • that they're suffering because of being associated with Jesus,

  • it's a way of participating in God's kingdom.

  • Jesus was inaugurated as king by His suffering on the cross

  • and so his followers will show their victory over the world

  • by imitating Jesus' non-violence and patient endurance.

  • Paul also reminds them that this won't last forever.

  • When Jesus returns, He will bring His justice to bear

  • on those that have oppressed them and shed the blood of the innocent.

  • Specifically, he says that their punishment is

  • to be banished away from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His power.

  • Paul does not speculate here on the fate of those who reject Jesus,

  • except to say that, throughout their lives, they wanted nothing to do with Jesus

  • and in the end, they get what they want:

  • Relational distance from their creator and their King,

  • and for Paul, this is the ultimate tragedy.

  • To choose separation from Jesus who is the source of all life and love

  • is to embrace one's own undoing.

  • He closes this thought by praying

  • that God would use their suffering to bring about deep character change inside of them

  • so that their lives would bring honor to the name of Jesus.

  • Paul then moves on to address a specific issue

  • related to the return of Jesus and the day of the Lord.

  • So somebody in the Thessalonian church community

  • had been spreading wrong information in Paul's name

  • saying that God's final act of justice on human evil, the day of the Lord

  • it was upon them, it has come

  • and these people had likely been predicting dates about the end of all things

  • and they were frightening other Chrstians

  • and you can see why.

  • Due to the intense persecution,

  • they were vulnerable to somebody claiming that Jesus had already returned like a thief in the night,

  • they've been left behind!

  • Maybe He abandoned the Thesslonians to their suffering.

  • This kind of talk really ticks Paul off.

  • It's misrepresenting his teaching.

  • The return of Jesus should never inspire fear

  • but rather hope and confidence.

  • Paul reminds them of everything he taught them about Jesus' return back when he was in town.

  • and he gives a short summary here, it's actually too short.

  • this paragraph has lots of puzzles and problems of interpretation,

  • but what's clear is that he cites the well known theme from the prophets Isaiah and Daniel

  • that the kingdoms of this world will continue to produce rulers who rebel against God

  • like Nebuchadnezzar or the King of the North did in the past.

  • These leaders had exulted themselves to divine authority

  • and for Paul, these ancient kings and prophecies ; they give us images , they set out a pattern

  • that he saw fulfilled in his own day in the Roman emperors, Caligula and Nero,

  • and he expected that it would be repeated again,

  • that history would culminate with such a rebellious rule, empowered by evil itself

  • someone who will wreak havoc and violence in God's world, but not forever.

  • When Jesus returns, He will confront the rebel and all who perpetrate evil, and He will deliver His people.

  • So Paul's point here is not to give later readers fuel for apocalyptic speculation.

  • Rather, he's comforting the Thessalonians. He's recalling the teaching of Jesus from Mark 13

  • who said that the events leading up to His return would be very public and obvious,

  • and so they don't need to be scared or worried that they've been left behind,

  • rather they need to stay faithful until Jesus returns to deliver them. And so in his closing prayer,

  • he asks Jesus and the Father to comfort and strengthen the Thessalonians to stay faithful to the way of Jesus,

  • which brings Paul to the final topic.

  • It's a challenge for those who were idle, which doesn't just mean lazy,

  • but this refers to people who were irresponsible and who refused to work and provide for themselves resulting in chaotic personal lives.

  • So Paul had actually addressed this problem in his first letter, and it seems like it's gotten worse.

  • Now we don't know for certain why some people in this church were refusing to work,

  • it's possible that this problem's connected to the previous one.

  • Maybe some people thought Jesus would return very soon and so they quit their jobs and dropped out of normal life.

  • But it's more likely that Paul's addressing a problem related to a practice in Roman culture called 'patronage'

  • So you'd have poor people living in cities and they would become clients,

  • kind of like personal assistants to wealthy people, and they would live off of their occasional generosity.

  • But there were lots of strings attached.

  • This sometimes involved the clients and their patrons' morally corrupt way of life, not to mention it was unpredictable income.

  • So this is what Paul seems to refer to when he says these people lead a disordered life.

  • They're not working, and they're meddling in the business of others.

  • So Paul reminds them of the example he gave when he was with them; he didn't ask for their money,

  • he worked a manual labor job so he could provide for himself and so he could serve the Thessalonians free of charge.

  • He says this is the ideal: a follower of Jesus should imitate Jesus's self-giving love

  • by working hard so they can provide for themselves and so their lives can be a benefit to other people.

  • He concludes this with a final prayer, that in the midst of all their confusion and suffering

  • that God would grant them peace through the Lord Jesus the Messiah.

  • This short letter to the Thessalonians , it helps us see that the early Christian belief in Jesus' return and the hope of final judgement.

  • These ideas were not meant for generating speculations about apocalytpic timelines.

  • Rather, these beliefs brought hope; they inspired faithfulness and devotion to Jesus,

  • especially for persecuted Christians facing violent opposition.

  • And so for later generations of Christians, whether they undergo persecution or not,

  • this letter reminds us that what you hope for shapes what you live for,

  • and that's what 2 Thessalonians is all about.

Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians.

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Read Scripture: 2 Thessalonians

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    sophia posted on 2017/01/25
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