It appears this second letter of Paul to the Thessalonian church followed soon after his first letter. Some suggest it might have only been a few months later. Although a much shorter letter, it is an indication that things were continuing satisfactorily, with added information as to Christ’s coming in glory and power for their encouragement and comfort.
Here again, as in his first letter, there is no reference to his apostolic authority. He knew there was no need for that because they acknowledged that his word was from God. He simply introduces himself, along with his co-workers, Silvanus and Timothy, who were well known to them. Positionally, he reminds them that they were in ‘God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’. They occupied a place of highest honour and privilege, even though their situation in Thessalonica was anything but conducive to such a holy calling.
They were not of this world but called out of it to be His holy temple, His church in the wilderness of this dark and barren world. That is why it is so important not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together unto Him. He blesses them with two wonderful blessings - grace and peace. Grace brings to us God’s enablement in our weakness and need. Peace brings the enjoyment of the calm assurance of God’s rest and refreshment for each day in this troubled world.
Notice his heart is full of thankfulness to God as he recalls the wonder of what the Lord has accomplished in them and through them. Three things stand out:
No wonder he is full of gratitude to God! The evidence of the work of God in their lives was so real and powerful. How do we compare or measure up to this? Remember, they were pagans, idol worshippers, but God by His Spirit worked wonderfully in them, just as He wants to work in us, if we will let Him. The secret was that their faith was growing exceedingly; their love for each other abounded; and their patience, even in their persecutions and tribulations (note plural, for they were many), endured, or stood fast. They were unmoved by all the evil around them for they had confidence in God and a strong affection for one another, which empowered them to withstand all the trials and testing that came their way.
‘Which is a manifest token’. It is proof positive that God is righteous, He is just, for in trusting Him they had become overcomers over all that is evil. Therefore, He will count them worthy of His kingdom for which they have suffered. Just as Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness, so too the Lord accounted them worthy of His kingdom because of their faith, love, and patience in this world. Amazing! What an assurance, promise, and guarantee for all who trust Him.
Yes, we will suffer here, but He has promised we shall reign with Him one day.
But to faithfully stand for Him in the hour of trial and testing here, is a witness and guarantee to the unbeliever that the judgement that will be meted out to them is also just; ‘it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you’, v. 6.
Paul puts it another way in his letter to the Philippians, ‘And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God’, Phil. 1. 28. Paul reminds us in Romans, ‘Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord’, 12. 19. There is a day when all the wrongs will be put right, and we shall be rewarded for our labours. That is why he proceeds to tell them of that day of glory that is ahead, and in which they are going to share.
As well as a day when the Lord Jesus Christ will come for us, there is a day when He will come with us. This is the day when He will be manifested to the world, not as the meek and lowly Jesus but as the judge of all. We don’t seem to hear much about this day of His manifest glory. We somehow feel that His coming for us His people at the rapture is all we want to know about. How sad, how selfish of us! When our Lord went back to His Father, after His death and resurrection, the Father said to Him, ‘Sit on my right hand [my Son], until I make thine enemies thy footstool’, Heb. 1. 13. This is the fulfilment of Psalm 2 verses 7 to 9. This is the day of His revelation to a wondering universe. I love the opening words of verse 7, ‘to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels‘. Does this not make you look back and recall His words to the mob when they came to take Him in the garden? ‘This is your hour and the power of darkness’, Luke 22. 53. Then, the tables will have been turned - this will be His hour and the power of revelation, as to who He whom they crucified really was.
But notice He is coming with His mighty angels. They would have been ready, waiting for His call, when He was nailed to the cross.
He could have called upon them and they would have immediately responded to deliver Him. Remember His words, ‘Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?’ Matt. 26. 53, 54. But then there would have been no salvation for us. Jesus had, however, spoken of this day with His disciples when He was with them, ‘For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works’, Matt. 16. 27. Again, at His trial before the religious leaders He said, ‘Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven’, Matt. 26. 64. How lovely that this coming day is the day His own will be able to rest. Rest from all their struggles against the forces of darkness and evil. Rest in His glorious victory over sin, death, and hell.
But he goes on to tell us that this is the day of retribution, vv. 8, 9, ‘in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Their punishment is described as ‘everlasting destruction’, not annihilation but loss of well-being, or ruin as far as the purpose of existence is concerned. The wineskins which the Lord Jesus described in Luke chapter 5 verse 37 were destroyed or perished (same root word as here).
They did not cease to exist, but they were ruined as far as their further usefulness was concerned.
But more, this is also the day of reward - ‘When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe … in that day’, v. 10. All in that day will stand in awe and wonder, marvelling at the exceeding beauty and glory of His new creation in His redeemed people. This is you and I, dear child of God. And, as an encouragement to these dear Thessalonian believers, he adds, ‘because our testimony among you was believed’. No wonder Paul could write to the Corinthian believers, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit’, 1 Cor. 2. 9, 10.
He draws this study to a conclusion by reminding them that the Thessalonians are always in their prayers (Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy), v. 1. Three things they ask of God for them.
How were these graces to be achieved in them, and also in us? ‘According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ’.
We owe everything to His grace, beloved. Our salvation and the daily outworking of His purpose in and through us, is all of Him. Like the apostle and his helpers, that is why we need to be continually before the throne of grace that we ‘may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need’, Heb. 4. 16.