International Standard Bible EncyclopediaTHESSALONIANS, THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE
I. IMPORTANCE OF THE EPISTLE
II. CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
1. Luke's Narrative in Acts
2. Confirmation of Luke's Narrative in the Epistle
III. CONDITIONS IN THE THESSALONIAN CHURCH AS INDICATED IN THE LETTER
IV. ANALYSIS WIENER, ORIGIN OF THE PENTATEUCH THE EPISTLE
1. Paul's Past and Present Relations with the Thessalonians and His Love for Them
2. Exhortations against Vice, and Comfort and Warning in View of the Coming of Christ
V. DOCTRINAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE EPISTLE
VI. THE EPISTLE'S REVELATIONS OF PAUL'S CHARACTERISTICS
I. The Importance of the Epistle.
The letter is especially important as a witness to the content of the earliest Gospel, on account of its date and its well-nigh unchallenged authenticity. According to Harnack it was written in the year 48 A.D.; according to Zahn, in the year 53. It is likely that these two dates represent the extreme limits. We are thus justified in saying with confidence that we have before us a document that could not have been written more than 24 years, and may very easily have been written but 19 years, after the ascension of our Lord. This is a fact of great interest in view of the contention that the Jesus of the four Gospels is a product of the legend-making propensity of devout souls in the latter part of the 1st century. When we remember that Paul was converted more than 14 years before the writing of the Epistles, and that he tells us that his conversion was of such an overwhelming nature as to impel him in a straight course from which he never varied, and when we note that at the end of 14 years Peter and John, having fully heard the gospel which he preached, had no corrections to offer (Galatians 1:11-2:10, especially 2:6-10), we see that the view of Christ and His message given in this Epistle traces itself back into the very presence of the most intimate friends of Jesus. It is not meant by this that the words of Paul or the forms of his teaching are reproductions of things Jesus said in the days of His flesh, but rather that the conception which is embodied in the Epistle of the person of Christ and of His relation to the Father, and of His relation also to the church and to human destiny, is rooted in Christ's own self-revelation.
II. Circumstances of the Founding of the Church.
1. Luke's Narrative in Acts:
For the founding of the church we have two sources of information, the Book of Acts and the Epistle itself. Luke's narrative is found in Acts 17. Here we are told that Paul, after leaving Philippi, began his next siege against entrenched paganism in the great market center of Thessalonica. He went first into the synagogues of the Jews, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures. Some of them, Luke tells us, "were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." This very naturally excited the jealousy of the Jews who found themselves losing the social prestige that came from having a large number of Greeks, including some of the nobility, resorting to them for instruction. Accordingly, they raised a mob of the worst men in town and brought the leading members of the church before the magistrate. These brethren, Jason and certain others, who seem to have been men of some property, were compelled to give bond to preserve the peace, and the intense feeling against Paul made it necessary for him, for the sake of these brethren as well as for his personal safety, to flee from the city.
2. Confirmation of Luke's Narrative in the Epistle:
The historicity of Luke's story of the founding of the church is strongly supported by the text of the Epistle. Paul, for instance, notes that the work in Thessalonica began after they had been shamefully entreated at Philippi (1 Thessalonians 2:2). He bears witness also in the same verse to the conflict in the midst of which the Thessalonian church was founded (see also 1 Thessalonians 2:14). Paul's exhortation to salute all the brethren with a holy kiss, his solemn adjuration that this letter be read unto all the brethren (1 Thessalonians 5:26, 27), and his exhortation to despise not prophesying (1 Thessalonians 5:20) are harmonious with Luke's account of the very diverse social elements out of which the church was formed: diversities that would very easily give rise to a disposition on the part of the more aristocratic to neglect the cordial greetings to the poorer members, and to despise their uncouth testimonies to the grace of God that had come to them (Acts 17:4).
Paul tells us that he was forced to labor for his daily bread at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:9). Luke does not make mention of this, but he tells us of his work at tent-making in the next town where he made a considerable stop (Acts 18:1-3), and thus each statement makes the other probable.
Perhaps, however, the most marked corroboration of the Acts which we have in the letter is the general harmony of its revelation of the character of Paul with that of the Acts. The reminiscences of Paul's work among them (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12) correspond, for instance, in a marked way, in essence though not in style and vocabulary, with Luke's report of Paul's account of the method and spirit of his work at Ephesus (Acts 20:17-35). This, however, is only one of many correspondences which could be pointed out and which will at once be evident to anyone who will read the letter, and then go over Acts 13-28.
It may seem irrelevant thus to emphasize the historicity of Acts in an article on Thessalonians, but the witness of the Epistle to the historicity of the Gospels and of Acts is for the present moment one of its most important functions.
III. Conditions in the Thessalonian Church as Indicated in the Letter.
A New Testament epistle bears a close resemblance to a doctor's prescription. It relates itself to the immediate situation of the person to whom it is directed. If we study it we can infer with a great deal of accuracy the tendencies, good or bad, in the church. What revelation of the conditions at Thessalonica is made in the First Epistle? Plainly, affairs on the whole are in a very good state, especially when one takes into account the fact that most of the members had been out of heathenism but a few months. They were so notably devoted to God that they were known all over Macedonia as examples to the church (1 Thessalonians 1:7). In particular the Christian grace of cordial good will toward all believers flourished among them: a grace which they doubtless had good opportunity to exercise in this great market town to which Christians from all parts would resort on business errands and where there would be constant demands on their hospitality (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).
There were, however, shadows in the picture. Some persons were whispering dark suspicions against Paul. Perhaps, as Zahn suggests, they were the unbelieving husbands of the rich ladies who had become members of the church. It was in answer to these criticisms that he felt called upon to say that he was not a fanatic nor a moral leper, nor a deceiver (1 Thessalonians 2:3). When he is so careful to remind them that he was not found at any time wearing a cloak of covetousness, but rather went to the extreme of laboring night and day that he might not be chargeable to any of them (1 Thessalonians 2:9), we may be sure that the Christians were hearing constant jibes about their money-making teacher who had already worked his scheme with the Philippians so successfully that they had twice sent him a contribution (Philippians 4:16). Paul's peculiar sensitiveness on this point at Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:14, 15) was possibly in part the result of his immediately preceding experiences at Thessalonica.
One wonders whether Greece was not peculiarly infested at this time with wandering philosophers and religious teachers who beat their way as best they could, living on the credulity of the unwary.
Paul's anxiety to assure them of his intense desire to see them and his telling of his repeated attempts to come to them (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20) show rather plainly also that his absence had given rise to the suspicion that he was afraid to come back, or indeed quite indifferent about revisiting them. "We would fain have come unto you," he says, "I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us."
Some also were saying that Paul was a flatterer (1 Thessalonians 2:5), who was seeking by this means to carry out unworthy ends. This sneer indeed, after the reading of the letter, would come quite naturally to the superficial mind. Paul's amazing power to idealize his converts and see them in the light of their good intentions and of the general goal and trend of their minds is quite beyond the appreciation of a shallow and sardonic soul.
More than this, we can see plain evidence that the church was in danger of the chronic heathen vice of unchastity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). The humble members also, in particular, were in danger of being intoxicated by the new intellectual and spiritual life into which they had been inducted by the gospel, and were spending their time in religious meetings to the neglect of their daily labor (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12). Moreover, some who had lost friends since their baptism were mourning lest at the second coming of Christ these who had fallen asleep would not share in the common glory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is a quaint proof of the immaturity of their view of Christ, as though a physical accident could separate from His love and care. There was likewise, as suggested above, the ever-present danger of social cliques among the members (1 Thessalonians 5:13, 15, 20, 26, 27). It is to this condition of things that Paul pours forth this amazingly vital and human Epistle.
IV. Analysis of the Epistle.
The letter may be divided in several ways. Perhaps as simple a way as any is that which separates it into two main divisions.
First, Paul's past and present relations with the Thessalonians, and his love for them (1 Thessalonians 1:1-3:13):
1. Paul's Past and Present Relations with the Thessalonians and His Love for Them:
(1) Greeting and Thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10).
(2) Paul reminds them of the character of his life and ministry among them (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
(3) The sufferings of the Thessalonians the same as those endured by their Jewish brethren (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16).
(4) Paul's efforts to see them (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20).
(5) Paul's surrender of his beloved helper in order to learn the state of the Thessalonian church, and his joy over the good news which Timothy brought (1 Thessalonians 3:1-13).
Second, exhortations against vice, and comfort and warning in view of the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5, 28):
2. Exhortations against Vice, and Comfort and Warning in View of the Coming of Christ:
(1) Against gross vice (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
(2) Against idleness (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12).
(3) Concerning those who have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
(4) Concerning the true way to watch for the Coming (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
(5) Sundry exhortations (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28).
V. Doctrinal Implications of the Epistle.
The Epistle to the Thessalonians is not a doctrinal letter. Paul's great teaching concerning salvation by faith alone, apart from the works of the Law, is not sharply defined or baldly stated, and the doctrine of the cross of Christ as central in Christianity is here implied rather than enforced. Almost the only doctrinal statement is that which assures them that those of their number who had fallen asleep would not in any wise be shut out from the rewards and glories at Christ's second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). But while the main doctrinal positions of Paul are not elaborated or even stated in the letter, it may safely be said that the Epistle could scarcely have been written by one who denied those teachings. And the fact that we know that shortly before or shortly after Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians, and the fact that he so definitely describes his attitude at this very time toward the preaching of the cross of Christ, in his reminiscences in 1 Corinthians (see especially 1 Corinthians 2:1-5), show how foolish it is to assume that an author has not yet come to a position because he does not constantly obtrude it in all that he writes.
The Epistle, however, bears abundant evidence to the fact that this contemporary of Jesus had seen in the life and character and resurrection of Jesus that which caused him to exalt Him to divine honors, to mention Him in the same breath with God the Father, and to expect His second coming in glory as the event which would determine the destiny of all men and be the final goal of history. As such the letter, whose authenticity is now practically unquestioned, is a powerful proof that Jesus was a personality as extraordinary as the Jesus of the first three Gospels. And even the Christ of the Fourth Gospel is scarcely more exalted than He who now with God the Father constitutes the spiritual atmosphere in which Christians exist (1 Thessalonians 1:1), and who at the last day will descend from heaven with a shout and with the voice of an archangel and the trump of God, and cause the dead in Christ to rise from their tombs to dwell forever with Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
VI. The Epistle's Revelations of Paul's Characteristics.
We notice in the letter the extreme tactfulness of Paul. He has some plain and humiliating warnings to give, but he precedes them in each case with affectionate recognition of the good qualities of the brethren. Before he warns against gross vice he explains that he is simply urging them to continue in the good way they are in. Before he urges them to go to work he cordially recognizes the love that has made them linger so long and so frequently at the common meeting-places. And when in connection with his exhortations about the second coming he alludes to the vice of drunkenness, he first idealizes them as sons of the light and of the day to whom, of course, the drunken orgies of those who are "of the night" would be unthinkable. Thus by a kind of spiritual suggestion he starts them in the right way.
Bishop Alexander, the Speaker's Commentary (published in America under the title, The Bible Comm., and bound with most excellent commentaries on all of the Pauline Epistles), New York, Scribners; Milligan, The Epistles to the Thessalonians (the Greek text with Introduction and notes), London, Macmillan; Moffatt, The Expositor's Greek Test. (bound with commentaries by various authors on the Pastoral Epistles, Philemon, Hebrews and James), New York, Dodd, Mead and Co.; Frame, ICC, New York, Scribners; Stevens, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Philadelphia, American Baptist Publication Society; Adeney, The New Century Bible, "1 and 2 Thessalonians" and "Galatians," New York, Henry Frowde; Findlay, "The Epistles to the Thessalonians," Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, New York, Putnams; James Denney, "The Epistles to the Thessalonians," Expositor's Bible, New York, Doran; the two latter are especially recommended as inexpensive, popular and yet scholarly commentaries. The Cambridge Bible is a verse-by-verse commentary, and Professor Denney on "Thess" in Expositor's Bible is one of the most vital and vigorous pieces of homiletical exposition known to the present writer.
Rollin Hough Walker
THESSALONIANS, THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE
I. IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING 1 THESSALONIANS AND 2 THESSALONIANS TOGETHER
1. Arguments against the Pauline Authorship
2. Arguments for the Pauline Authorship
III. THE MAN OF SIN
1. Primary Reference
2. Permanent Value of the Teaching concerning the Man of Sin
V. PAUL'S EXHORTATION TO QUIET INDUSTRY
I. Importance of Studying 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians Together.
Those who hold to the Pauline authorship of the Epistle unite in ascribing it to a time but little subsequent to the writing of the First Letter. It is simply a second prescription for the same case, made after discovering that some certain stubborn symptoms had not yielded to the first treatment. 2 Thessalonians should be studied in connection with 1 Thessalonians because it is only from an understanding of the First Epistle and the situation that it revealed that one can fully grasp the significance of the Second. And more than that, the solution of the problem as to whether Paul wrote the Second Letter is likewise largely dependent on our knowledge of the First. It would, for instance, be much harder to believe that Paul had written 2 Thessalonians if we did not know that before writing it he had used the tender and tactful methods of treatment which we find in the First Letter. It is as though one should enter a sick rook where the physician is resorting to some rather strong measures with a patient. One is better prepared to judge the wisdom of the treatment if he knows the history of the case, and discovers that gentler methods have already been tried by the physician without success.
1. Arguments against the Pauline Authorship:
The different treatment of the subject of the second coming of Christ, the different emotional tone, and the different relationships between Paul and the church presupposed in the First and Second Epistles have been among the causes which have led to repeated questionings of the Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians. Scholars argue, in the first place, that the doctrine concerning the coming of Christ which we find in the Second Letter is not only differently phrased but is contradictory to that in the First. We get the impression from the First Letter that the Day of the Lord is at hand. It will come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and one of the main parts of Christian duty is to expect (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10). In the Second Letter, however, he writer urges strongly against any influence that will deceive them into believing that the Day of the Lord is at hand, because it will not be "except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).
Again very plainly also, say the critics, a different relation exists between the writer and the church at Thessalonica. In the First Letter he coaxes; in the Second Letter he commands (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 2, 9-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 12-14). Moreover, the whole emotional tone of the Second Letter is different from that of the First. The First Epistle is a veritable geyser of joyous, grateful affection and tenderness. The Second Letter, while it also contains expressions of the warmest affection and appreciation, is quite plainly not written under the same pressure of tender emotion. Here, say the critics, is a lower plane of inspiration. Here are Paul's words and phrases and plain imitations of Paul's manner, but here most emphatically is not the flood tide of Paul's inspiration. Moreover, the lurid vision of the battle between the man of sin and the returning Messiah in the Second Letter is different in form and coloring from anything which we find elsewhere in Paul. These, and other considerations have led many to assume that the letter was written by a hand other than that of the Apostle to the Gentiles.
2. Arguments for the Pauline Authorship:
The Hypothesis, however, that Paul was not the author of the Epistle, while it obviates certain difficulties, raises many more. Into a statement of these difficulties we will not go here, but refer the reader to a brief and scholarly putting of them in Peake's Critical Introduction to the New Testament, 12-16 (New York, Scribners, 1910).
There is accordingly today a manifest tendency among all scholars, including those in the more radical camps, to return to the traditional position concerning the authorship. The following are some of the positive arguments for the authenticity:
As for the opposing views of the coming of Christ in the two Epistles, it is to be noted that precisely the same superficial contradiction occurs in our Lord's own teaching on this same subject (Matthew 24:6, 23, 24, 25, 26 Luke 12:35, 40). Jesus exhorts His disciples to watch, for in such an hour as they think not the Son of man cometh, and yet at the same time and in the same connection warns them that when they see certain signs they should not be troubled, for the end is not yet. Paul, brooding over the subject after writing the First Letter, might easily have come strongly to see the obverse side of the shield. The apostle built his theology upon the tradition which had come from Jesus as interpreted by its practical effects upon his converts, and his mind was quick to counteract any danger due to overemphasis or wrong inferences. He was not nearly as eager for a consistently stated doctrine as he was for a doctrine that made for spiritual life and efficiency. During the fierce persecutions at the beginning of the movement in Thessalonica, the comfort of the thought of the swift coming of Christ was in need of emphasis but as soon as the doctrine was used as an excuse for unhealthful religious excitement the minds of the disciples must be focused on more prosaic and less exciting aspects of reality.
That Paul assumes a commanding and peremptory attitude in the Second Letter which we do not find so plainly asserted in the First is readily admitted. Why should not the First Letter have had its intended effect upon the Thessalonian church as a whole? And if Paul received word that his gracious and tactful message had carried with it the conviction of the dominant elements of the church, but that certain groups had continued to be fanatical and disorderly, we can easily see how, with the main current of the church behind him, he would have dared to use more drastic methods with the offending members.
It is also readily admitted that the Second Letter is not so delightful and heart-warming as the First. It was plainly not written in a mood of such high emotional elevation. But the question may be raised as to whether the coaxing, caressing tone of the First Epistle would have been appropriate in handling the lazy and fanatical elements of the church after it had persisted in disregarding his tender and kindly admonitions. Jesus' stern words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 are not so inspiring as John 14, but they were the words and the only words that were needed at the time. "Let not your heart be troubled" would not be inspired if delivered to hypocrites. Furthermore, we are not called upon to assume that Paul at all times lived in the same mood of emotional exaltation. Indeed his Epistles abound with assertions that this was not the case (2 Corinthians 1:8 1 Thessalonians 3:9), and it is unreasonable to expect him always to write in the same key. It must be added, however, that the suggestion that the Second Epistle is stern may easily be overdone. If 1 Thessalonians were not before us, it would be the tenderness of Paul's treatment of the church which would most impress us.
Harnack has recently added the weight of his authority to the argument for the Pauline authorship of the letter. He thinks that there were two distinct societies in Thessalonica, the one perhaps meeting in the Jewish quarter and composed chiefly of Jewish Christians, and the other composed of Greeks meeting in some other part of the city. In addition to the probability that this would be true, which arises from the very diverse social classes out of which the church was formed (Acts 17:4), and the size of the city, he points to the adjuration in the First Letter (1 Thessalonians 5:27) that this Epistle be read unto all the brethren, as a proof that there was a coterie in the church that met separately and that might easily have been neglected by the rest, just as the Greeks in Jerusalem were neglected in the daily ministration (Acts 6:1). He thinks that the Second Letter was probably directed to the Jewish element of the Church.
It is to be noted also that Professor Moffatt (Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament, 76;), who calls in question the authenticity of nearly all of the books of the New Testament that any reputable scholars now attack, finds no sufficient reason to question the Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians.
III. The Man of Sin.
1. Primary Reference:
The question as to whom or what Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, when he speaks of the man of sin, whose revelation is to precede the final manifestation of Christ, has divided scholars during all the Christian centuries. (For a good discussion of the history of the interpretation of this difficult section, see Findlay, "I and II Thessalonians," Cambridge Bible, 170-80.) The reason why each age has had its fresh interpretation identifying the man of sin with the blasphemous powers of evil then most active is the fact that the prophecy has never yet found its complete accomplishment. The man of sin has never been fully revealed, and Christ has never finally destroyed him.
But Paul says that the mystery of iniquity already works (2 Thessalonians 2:7), and he tells the church that the restraining influence which for the time being held it in check is something that "ye know" (2 Thessalonians 2:6). Plainly, then, the evil power and that which held it in check were things quite familiar both to Paul and to his readers. We must therefore give the prophecy a lst-century reference. The alternative probably lies between making the mystery of iniquity the disposition of the Roman emperor to give himself out as an incarnation of deity and force all men to worship him, a tendency which was then being held in check by Claudius, but which soon broke out under Caligula (see Peake's Introduction above cited); or, on the other hand, making the mystery of iniquity to be some peculiar manifestation of diabolism which was to break out from the persecuting Jewish world, and which was then held in check by the restraining power of the Roman government.
In favor of making a blasphemous Roman emperor the man of sin, may be urged the fact that it was this demand of the emperor for worship which brought matters to a crisis in the Roman world and turned the terrific enginery of the Roman empire against Christianity. And it may be argued that it is hardly likely that the temporary protection which Paul received from the Roman government prevented him from seeing that its spirit was such that it must ultimately be ranged against Christianity. One may note also, in arguing for the Roman reference of the man of sin, the figurative and enigmatic way in which Paul refers to the opposing power, a restraint that would be rendered necessary for reasons of prudence (compare Mark 13:14, and also the cryptograms used by the author of the Book of Revelation in referring to Rome). Paul has none of this reserve in referring to the persecuting Jewish world who "please not God, and are contrary to all men" (1 Thessalonians 2:15). And in view of the fact that the Jews were in disfavor in the Roman empire, as is proved by then recently issued decree of Claudius commanding all Jews to depart from Rome (Acts 18:2), and by the fact that to proclaim a man a Jew helped at that time to lash a mob into fury against him (Acts 16:20; Acts 19:34), it would seem hardly likely that Paul would expect the subtle and attractive deception that was to delude the World to come from Jerusalem; and particularly would this seem unlikely in view of the fact that Paul seems to be familiar with our Lord's prophecy of the swift destruction of Jerusalem, as is shown by his assertion in 1 Thessalonians 2:16, that wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
On the other hand, however, to make the man of sin a person or an influence coming from Judaism is supported by the fact that he is to sit in the temple of God, setting himself forth to be God (1 Thessalonians 2:4), and by the fact that the natural punishment for the rejection of their Messiah was that the Jews should be led to accept a false Messiah. Having opposed Him who came in the Father's name, they were doomed to accept one who came in his own name. Again, and far more important than this, is the fact that during nearly the whole of Paul's life it was the Roman empire that protected him, and the unbelieving Jews that formed the malicious, cunning and powerful opposition to his work and to the well-being and peace of his churches, and he could very well have felt that the final incarnation of evil was to come from the source which had crucified the Christ and which had thus far been chiefly instrumental in opposing the gospel. Moreover, this expectation that a mysterious power of evil should arise out of the Jewish world seems to be in harmony with the rest of the New Testament (Matthew 24:5, 23, 24 Revelation 11:3, 1, 8). It is the second alternative, therefore, that is, with misgivings, chosen by the present writer.
It may be objected that this cannot be the true Interpretation, as it was not fulfilled, but, on the contrary, it was Rome that became the gospel's most formidable foe. But this type of objection, if accepted as valid, practically puts a stop to all attempts at a historical interpretation of prophecy. It would force us to deny that the prophecies of the Old Testament, which are usually taken as referring to Christ, referred to Him at all, because plainly they were not literally fulfilled in the time and manner that the prophets expected them to be fulfilled. It would almost force us to deny that John the Baptist referred to Christ when he heralded the coming of the one who would burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire, because as the Gospels tell us Jesus did not fulfill this prophecy in the way John expected (Luke 7:19).
SeeMAN OF SIN.
2. Permanent Value of the Teaching concerning the Man of Sin:
Although Paul's prediction concerning the man of sin was not literally fulfilled, nevertheless his teaching has a permanent significance. It is always true in every battle for good that the Son of man does not come until the falling away comes and the man of sin is revealed. First, there is the fresh tide of enthusiasm and the promise of swift victory for the kingdom of heaven, but soon there is the reaction and the renascence of opposition in new and overwhelming power. The battle is to the death. And then above the smoke of the battle men see the sign of the coming of the Son of man with power and great glory; the conviction floods them that after all what Christ stands for is at the center of the universe and must prevail, and men begin to recognize Christ's principles as though they were natural law. This action and reaction followed by final victory takes place in practically all religious and reforming movements which involve the social reconstruction of society according to the principles of the Kingdom. It is exceedingly important that men should be delivered from shallow optimism. And this Epistle makes its contribution to that good end.
IV. Paul's Exhortation to Quiet Industry.
The exhortation that the brethren should work with quietness and earn their own bread (2 Thessalonians 3:12) is full of interest to those who are studying the psychological development of the early Christians under the influence of the great mental stimulus that came to them from the gospel. Some were so excited by the new dignity that had come to them as members of the Christian society, and by the new hopes that had been inspired in their minds, that they considered themselves above the base necessity of manual labor. This is not an infrequent phenomenon among new converts to Christianity in heathen lands. Paul would have none of it. Fortunately he could point to his own example. He not only labored among them to earn his own livelihood, but he worked until muscles ached and body rebelled (2 These 3:8).
Paul saw that the gospel was to be propagated chiefly by its splendid effects on the lives of all classes of society, and he realized that almost the first duty of the church was to be respected, and so he not only exhorts the individual members to independence, but he lays down the principle that no economic parasite is to be tolerated in the church. "If any man will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This forms an important complement to the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 5:42): "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." LITERATURE.
Seeunder 1 Thessalonians.
Rollin Hough Walker
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Thessalonians, Epistles to the
The first epistle to the Thessalonians was the first of all Paul's epistles. It was in all probability written from Corinth, where he abode a "long time" (Acts 18:11, 18), early in the period of his residence there, about the end of A.D. 52.
The occasion of its being written was the return of Timotheus from Macedonia, bearing tidings from Thessalonica regarding the state of the church there (Acts 18:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 3:6). While, on the whole, the report of Timothy was encouraging, it also showed that divers errors and misunderstandings regarding the tenor of Paul's teaching had crept in amongst them. He addresses them in this letter with the view of correcting these errors, and especially for the purpose of exhorting them to purity of life, reminding them that their sanctification was the great end desired by God regarding them.
The subscription erroneously states that this epistle was written from Athens.
The second epistle to the Thessalonians was probably also written from Corinth, and not many months after the first.
The occasion of the writing of this epistle was the arrival of tidings that the tenor of the first epistle had been misunderstood, especially with reference to the second advent of Christ. The Thessalonians had embraced the idea that Paul had taught that "the day of Christ was at hand", that Christ's coming was just about to happen. This error is corrected (2:1-12), and the apostle prophetically announces what first must take place. "The apostasy" was first to arise. Various explanations of this expression have been given, but that which is most satisfactory refers it to the Church of Rome.