This is Bible study being conducted on Wednesday nights at Berean Bible Church in Knoxville TN. If you are in town, please join us. I will be adding to the study each week until it is complete. The completed notes for 1 Thessalonians is HERE Feel free to comment on, share or use these notes. I hope this study is a blessing!
The letter we call the book of 2 Thessalonians was written only a few months after 1 Thessalonians. It would appear that this letter was written in response to some false teaching that had infiltrated the young church and caused them to believe they had missed the coming of the Lord. Once again, Paul commends them for holding up under persecution and this time, he gives some very specific admonitions. Obviously, Paul had heard from them after the first letter and this was a response.
- V.1-4 – Paul has obviously has heard reports of the conditions for the church and the believer's response to those conditions. The key passage here is in V.3 “your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”
This is a way we can gauge our spiritual maturity by how we love others. The more we grow in our faith, the more others-centric we will be.
This week, imagine a scale where on one end you care only about yourself and on the other end, you never consider your own needs in regard to others. As you go about your daily business, note where your interactions with others land the spectrum. This can be your selfishness quotient. Often, we are unaware of how selfish we really are and usually we do not have someone in our lives willing to tell us.
- V. 5-10 –first we see that our worthiness comes from Christ.And no matter how bad things get in persecution, no matter how corrupt our government gets, no matter how marginalized we get as believers, God will avenge us against those who made life difficult and who perpetuated sin into the world. We may not see this in our lives but we know by faith that God sees the affliction of His children.
When we see the victims of Isis, we can know that God will avenge those deaths at the second coming. Look at what their end will be:
- 9 – they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord.
- 10 – Paul also reiterates that the Thessalonians are secure in their faith because they believed. This is a great eternal security passage. By virtue of their having believed, they will be participants in Christ's glory(as we will also be) - no baptism, no works, or stipulations. We must be careful not to have the Gospel And – or faith plus something.
Popular theologian Francis Chan writes, “Failing to help the poor could damn you to hell.” So, if in light of Matthew 25, Chan is right, Paul is wrong in this passage. This is why exegesis and understanding end time events is so important. Clearly Paul is stating that we are saved because we believed.
III. V. 11-12 – the more we study scripture, the more we realize we can do nothing of eternal value, under our own power. Clearly, we can do good.
Luke 6:32-33 "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same This is why we believe that man is basically evil with an ability to do good, while the world believes that man is basically good with a propensity to evil.
But, the real message here is, in Christ, we have unlimited resource to accomplish God's will. Though often misused, Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me., this passage shows that we do have unlimited power from God to accomplish what He calls us to do and to endure all He leads us through.
God calls us and equips us to do His will. Our part is to believe, submit, and abide. As we seek first His kingdom, meaning we are not making decisions based on what suits us or our own agenda.
It is a matter of retraining our thinking and our natural desire to be liked and to come out ahead.
Here is a scenario - you go to a car lot and buy a car, as you are making the deal, you feel naturally converse with the salesman and he inadvertently shares some things with you about which you are able to encourage him in a Biblical way. You walk away feeling happy about your new car purchase and that you were able to share your faith and plant some seeds with the salesman. After you get home, you do a little research and realize that you were burned on the trade and the price of the new car. How you react to this can be a test of your seeking first the kingdom.
You A) curse the salesman in your heart for making a fool of you
B) are mildly miffed about being ripped off and recognize that the guy is a lost sinner and pray for him
C) rejoice that you had the opportunity to share your faith and continue to pray and even follow up with the salesman
These are the most likely responses and is a good indicator as to your spiritual mindset.
II Thessalonians 2:1-8
This passage pertains to the return of Christ and is written to encourage the church members who had been deceived into believing they had missed the return of Christ and were somehow out of His grace. This passage sometimes raises more questions than it answers and we will look at a couple of different views on tis subject.
- V. 1-2 – apparently, false teachers told the church that they had missed the return of Christ. Paul is writing to reassure them that they had not missed the second coming and that some things would precede that event.
It is important that we remain aware of the fact that there are false teachers out there, some purposely deceiving and some deceiving due to their own ignorance.
- V. 3-5 – Paul had apparently discussed this with the church but they seemed to have forgotten. We have to abide in the Word and in Christ or we are in danger of forgetting key things about our faith and relationship with God. It is when we forget truth, we are susceptible to deceit and lies from the enemy and his false teachers.Now we can look at the passage and attempt to decipher it. A cryptic warning is given with no further explanation – rebellion or falling away, depending on your translation. The Greek word used here is apostasia which can be translated as defection from truth. We get the idea that it is a falling away of those who claim to be of Christ. It is a rejection of truth by those who claim to possess it.We see a great defection of young believers taking place right now and that may be part of it, but I believe it goes beyond just people growing up and leaving the church. I believe it pertains to churches that retain their identity as “Christian” yet embrace sin and evil. We also see that taking place today on a grand scale.The Roman Church claims 1.2 billion adherents, about 50% of the Christian world. The Methodist Church, the Presbyterian USA, the Episcopal church, just to name a few, have embraced sin are weak on the exclusivity of the Gospel. J. Vernon McGee said, “the persecution of the church will be led by the denominational churches.” and I believe he was right.When someone like Hillary Clinton quotes scripture and gets up in front of a Catholic audience and says, “I'm not Catholic, but I am Methodist and we both know that salvation comes from faith and works.” and then we find out the top level people running her campaign are involved in occultic and satanic rituals, we can see the apostasy happening before our very eyes.
- V.6-8 - this is another very difficult passage to interpret as the Thessalonians apparently knew the identity of the restrainer, yet we are not given his specific identity.
Here is what we do know – the spirit of lawlessness that will fuel the Anti-Christ is already at work and there is one whom the Bible tells us is restraining his coming to power.
WHO DO YOU THINK THE RESTRAINER IS?
There are two schools of thought on who this might be one claims the Holy Spirit is the restrainer and concludes that a Pre-tribulaional rapture is necessitated. The other school believes the restrainer is Michael the Archangel and allows for all 3 rapture views. Next week we will look at both views in more depth and see what conclusion, if any, we come to.
2 Thessalonians 2:6-12
Last week we looked at a very well known passage pertaining to the second coming of Christ and the coming anti-christ. We saw that the anti-christ cannot come until the restrainer is removed. We discussed possibilities as to who the restrainer might be and the two most prevalent theories are that the restrainer is either the Archangel Michael or the Holy Spirit.
As we look at the original language, 2 words are used. To katecho and ho katecho. The first is gender neuter, in other words, an it, while the second is masculine referring to a definite him.
First we will look at the theory that Michael is the restrainer:
Paul writes to the Thessalonians as if they should be well aware of who the restrainer is and Paul references the anti-christ taking his seat in the temple. This event is most likely the abomination of desolation spoken of by Jesus and the prophet Daniel. Matthew 24:15-22 speaks of the abomination of desolation and references Daniel 12:1 - "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.
Those who see Michael as the restrainer believe the word arise amad in the original language really means he is no longer restraining. Michael is the angel who guards over Israel and who, twice in scripture we see battling Satan. Once in Jude when he is battling over the body of Moses and once in Revelation when he is seen throwing Satan our of heaven once and for all.
Next, we will look at the theory that the Holy Spirit is the restrainer:
Because that which is being restrained is global, we would believe that the restrainer has global influence. The Neuter and masculine form used to describe the Holy Spirit is consistent with scripture. Pneuma, used to describe the Holy Spirit is neuter, and at the same time we know that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead, a definite He. AS Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in the upper room at the last supper, He switched back and forth between neuter and masculine.
Problem with Michael theory:
Michael is a regional force, he is the angel over Israel. The anti-christ
is not a regional phenomenon and Michael is not omnipresent. Michael is never mentioned in neuter terms, though an angel, Michael is never referred to in neuter or gender neutral terms. In Daniel 12:1 we read - "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. The word for arise amad is the same word used for “has charge of”. Amad is used in both instances and therefore precludes the first use of amad as being used to infer Michael releasing his protection over Israel.
Problems with Holy Spirit theory:
The passage in 2 Thessalonians seems to indicate that the church will not be gathered until after the man of sin is revealed. If that were the case, the church would be left without the indwelling as clearly the passage states that the restrainer will continue to restrain until he is taken out of the way. The Holy Spirit theory necessitates a pre-tribulational rapture model.
This is a thumb nail sketch of a deep theological subject and I encourage you to research it yourself more deeply.
I fully, and even more strongly, believe the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, especially after having researched it more fully. I believe the problems with the Michael theory are insurmountable. I see no scriptural evidence to support a neuter term used for Michael, I agree with the fact that the restrainer is restraining on a global scale and Michael is a regional force. I also believe the word amad cannot, in any context, mean removed or taken away.
As far as the problems with the Holy Spirit, I believe in a pre-tribulational rapture, which fits with the Holy Spirit's ministry of restraining ending along with His ministry of indwelling. As far as the order of things found in this passage, there is no definite chronology given. Prophecy is often not chronological as it is given. When the prophets spoke of end times, they spoke as if they were not only immanent, but also coinciding with the coming of Messiah. Paul taught people to have an immanent expectation the return of Christ. There could not be an immanent return if there were prerequisites. Even when John ends Revelation, he ends with the cry to Christ, “come Lord Jesus.” John could not be calling for Christ to come knowing there were a minimum of 7 years of upheaval to precede His coming.
I am, obviously, not the final authority on this subject. There is room for disagreement. I encourage anyone interested in this subject to research it for themselves and see what God reveals.
The bottom line is that there is a real anti-christ that is being restrained by supernatural forces and one day that which is restraining him will no longer restrain him and he will rule over the earth.
This leads us to verses 9-10
- V.9-12 – the anti-christ will come by the power of Satan and he will be successful until Christ comes and destroys him. We wonder how he can be successful, well, we know from this passage that God Himself will send them delusion to believe what is false because they refused to believe what was true. These are not people ignorant of the truth, these are people who have rejected the truth and in so doing, making themselves enemies of God. God is not causing them to make a bad choice as much as He is greasing the tracks for them, helping them go faster in the direction they have already chose.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 – keeping in the theme of the second coming, we see Paul describing how we will be transformed and what we can expect after the resurrection.
- V.13 – Paul references the Feast of Firstfruits – Firstfruits was the 3rd of 4 Fall feasts fulfilled by the Christ in His first coming. We read about this in Leviticus 23:9-14 - And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
- Jesus fulfilled the Spring feasts at His first coming – Passover, Unleavened bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost.
On the first Sunday after the 1st sabbath after Passover this Feast was to be observed by every Jew every year since the Exodus. Something very significant to our faith happened on the Feast of Firstfruits – the resurrection of Christ.
The idea was to celebrate what comes out of the ground naturally. Jesus, by nature of the fact He was God, came out of the ground and we, who are made a new creation are also destined to come out of the ground. 1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
So, in verse 13, we are called firstfruits, identifying us with Christ – which is important to remember as we go into the next verse.
V. 14 – The Gospel called us to this resurrection and the glory spoken of here is referring to our state after we are resurrected.
1 John 3:2 – Beloved, we are God's children now and what we will be has not yet approached, but we know, when He appears, we will be like Him because we shall see Him as He is.
We shall be transformed – and we see what that looks like in the Gospel accounts of the transfiguration: Luke 9:29-32 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
Peter, James and John saw, not only the glorified Christ, but the glorified Moses and Elijah as well.
Christ glorified was bright and shining so to, according to 1 John, will we be bright and shining after the resurrection.
Right now, we have the righteousness of Christ, but then, we shall share in His glory
III. V. 15-17 – Our future state should motivate us to live lives pleasing to God. We comfort in the hope of what is ours through grace. The Thessalonians were not comfortable, wealthy believers, they were persecuted and struggling, so, if they could take comfort in these things, how much more should we be not only comforted but busy doing the Lord's work. We have a scenario, which for the first time in modern history, and for at least the next 4 years, is unprecedented. We have a government which seems to be predisposed to our cause, at every level. We have an opportunity which will not last but which must be taken advantage of. If our country enters into a period of prosperity we cannot indulge our flesh, but must make the most of the resources which will be available to do the work of the Lord. We will, more than ever, be able to care for the poor and implement good outreach and discipleship programs. We may be entering a very small window of great opportunity and we cannot squander it.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-18
2 Thessalonians 3:1-18
As paul wraps up his letter to the Thessalonian church, he leaves them with some final instructions. These are good instructions and should be followed by the church today as well.
- V. 1-2 – We need to pray for our leaders. The enemy know if you strike the shepherd, the sheep will scatter. When Jesus was arrested, only 2 of the 12 stuck with him and one of those denied even knowing him.
Big leaders fall big – Swaggart, Bakker, Coy, Haggard, Tchividjian, the list goes on and on.
If sin and human nature were not enough, wicked evil men also oppose leadership. Some people come into a church and have a good line of lies. These people attempt to gain positions of influence for less than spiritual reasons. We need to pray that men like this do not get footholds in the church or harm the leaders who are called by God.
- V. 3-5 – Notice that in all these things, it is the Lord who accomplishes them in, for or through us. Serving God has a supernatural component. We cannot, on our own, accomplish the things God has for us to do. We do not have the ability to love as God calls us to love, we do not have the power to stand up to the attacks of the enemy, Satan is a supernatural interdimensional creature and we are made of dust. God empowers us to overcome Satan.
In all that we do and all that we are, it is God who establishes us and it is God who sustains us as we submit to Him in faith. That is liberating, as we are free from works unto salvation.
This is the sabbath rest spoken of in Hebrews. Hebrews 4:9-11 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
- V. 6-12 – Here we have a warning against those who are idle. This is the second time Paul gives a warning to the Thessalonians about idleness. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all
In this passage, it seems Paul is speaking specifically about those who do not work but busy themselves in other's business. We see this today, even in the church, people who are perfectly capable of working but choose to rely on government assistance or the kindness of others. Clearly, Paul tells us we are not to assist people who can but won't. There are those who cannot and these should be helped, but able bodied but lazy people must learn to care for themselves.
I had a neighbor once, who owned his own business. He sold his business and moved in with his father, out of state. When his father died, he could no longer live off his father's pension. He did not want to work but he had a lifestyle and habit to maintain, so he told me that he was going to get a doctor to declare him unstable and get disability. He doctor shopped until he found one he could convince and got disability. This is the kind of person Paul is warning about.
When we help the lazy, we are perpetuating their laziness, we are enabling them to sin. Paul uses his own behavior as an example, when he was there, a stranger in the city, he was able to find work and provide for himself, not being a burden to other. Paul could, so he did.
- V. 13 – We are called to not grow weary in doing good. We can get discouraged when we see others prosper who are living in sin or actively harming others. When we try and try to accomplish good and see little fruit, we can get discouraged. Don't grow weary. God sees the good we do and He will reward our efforts, maybe not here, but certainly in heaven. Store up treasure in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy, and where our treasure is, there will be our hearts.
- V. 14-15 – We know that Jesus gave us a formula to follow when shunning someone. We must first go to them, then go to them with a another, then before the church and then shunning. This is how we treat a brother and show him love. Shunning should be painful for both the shunned and the ones doing the shunning, if it is done properly. Unfortunately, today, we cut off someone for the slightest offense or perceived offense. We have a plethora of churches to choose from, so if we get chased away from one, we just go find another one with lower standards. Often going to a person in love will clear up a good deal of problems.
Not long ago, I felt I needed to say something to a ministry leader here at Berean. I sent a carefully worded email to that person, I did not let anyone outside my immediate family know what I was doing or why and the matter had a wonderful outcome. We were both obedient to scripture and things went very well. Had I reacted like a hothead or just said, “that's it, no more of that!” I would have been in sin and probably would have blown a mole hill into a mountain. Vice versa, the other party responded in a Biblical manner and every thing worked out – I have been on the other side of this scenario many times and my response was not always great.
In college, some concerned upperclassmen came to me and a couple of friends to discuss our recreational activities. They came because they were concerned, and did not want to see us get in trouble or ruin our lives. We responded in typical worldly fashion and as colorfully as possible told them to mind their own business. Our bad behavior caught up to us and we were all expelled and had some legal issues to deal with. God granted us an opportunity to reform and to fall under some discipleship, we chose the path of the flesh and that was a very bad choice.
When we confront or deal with a situation, our motive cannot be justice or putting someone in their place. Our motive has to be restoration. Our motive has to be seeing a brother or sister restored to proper fellowship with God and proper service in the Body of Christ. Our motive will certainly dictate our behavior and response to others.
- V. 16-18 – As Paul asks God's peace on his readers, may God's peace be on all who read this study. Jesus is coming for His church and if you are in the church, rejoice, if you are not in the church, or are not sure, please contact me or leave a comment below. I would love to talk with you about God's love and God's justice and how that pertains to you.
God bless and thank you for taking the time to read this study