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24 July 2019

The Coming of Jesus in Second Thessalonians

Second Coming
Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was written in the months following his first letter or 1 Thessalonians. The first epistle was positive and expressed Paul’s joy at the receipt of good news about how the Thessalonians were persevering despite persecution.
In this letter, Paul addresses three main issues: Persecution (1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2:14-16, 3:2-4), church members who refuse to work (2:9, 4:11, 5:14), and questions related to the “coming” of Jesus (4:13-18, 5:1-11).
In the interim since Paul’s first epistle, persecution had increased (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10) and idle church members had become a bigger problem (3:6-13).
The problem with idleness was due in part to excitement and confusion about the coming of Jesus. Paul’s focus in the first chapter of this letter is on persecution and what it means in the light of the coming of Jesus.  He also sets the stage for the discussion in chapter 2 of why the Day of the Lord has not yet arrived.
We ought to be thanking God at all times concerning you, brothers, according as is fitting, because your faith is greatly increasing and the love of each of you all is abounding to one another, so that we ourselves are boasting in you among all the assemblies of God on account of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations, which you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
Paul declares it is fitting to thank God always for the faithful perseverance of the Thessalonians. This sets the tone for the next paragraph. Paul refers to “persecutions,” plural, indicating a hostile environment for some period. The word translated “tribulations” is plural, also.
This is the same Greek word used elsewhere in the New Testament for the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21Revelation 1:97:14. See also Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:19, 13:24).  This does not mean the tribulations endured by the Thessalonians were identical with that one, but Paul’s use here demonstrates that he did not believe Christians were tribulation (cp. 1 Thessalonians 1:63:33:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:6).
(2 Thessalonians 1:5-7) - “Evidence of the just judgment of God, so that you be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, on behalf of which also you are suffering, since [it is] just for God to requite affliction to those afflicting you, and relief to you, to those being afflicted with us; at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his angels of power.”
Their persecution and perseverance constitute “evidence” of God’s just judgment on the behalf of the Thessalonians.  Judgment means a decision in favor of or against someone and results in vindication or condemnation.
It is not clear whether “evidence” refers to their endurance, persecution or both.  If the former, then perseverance is evidence of the rightness of God’s decision for them to inherit His kingdom.  If the latter, then the persecuting activities by opponents validates God’s sentence of destruction on them.  In light of verse 6, probably both options are intended in light of verse 6.
 “Requite” translates the Greek verb antapodidōmi, “to give back, repay, requite, give in return.”  The emphasis is on equal payback, to recompense someone what he or she has earned. This verb here describes recompense by God to two different groups:  the persecutors and the Thessalonian Christians.  To the former God will repay “affliction,” to the latter “rest.”
The persecutors will be repaid “tribulation” or “trouble.”  The Thessalonians, on the other hand, will receive “rest with us.” This “rest” will come at a specific time, “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven.”  The word translated “revelation” is apokalypsis, meaning, a “revealing, uncovering, disclosure, unveiling.”  It is used elsewhere for the coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:71 Peter 1:71:13).
This “revelation” will occur when Jesus arrives “from heaven.” This is precisely the same clause Paul used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 when “he descends from heaven with a shout.” to raise the righteous dead and gather both dead and living saints to himself. In that previous passage Paul labeled this coming as the “arrival” or parousia of Jesus.  This shows Paul applying both Parousia and apokalypsis to the same event; the terms are used interchangeably.
(2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) - “In flaming fire giving vengeance to those who know not God and to those not hearkening to the gospel of our Lord Jesus, who will pay a penalty, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
 In flaming fire” may go with “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his angels of power in flaming fire,” but more likely refers to “fire” of destruction that will fall upon the wicked (i.e., “in flaming fire giving vengeance to those who know not God”). This last clause alludes to Isaiah 66:15, “Yahweh comes with fire and like a storm-wind are his chariots, to render with fury his anger and his rebuke with flames of fire.”
This vengeance will come upon those who do not know God and who do not hearken to the Gospel. “Hearkening” in verse 8 translates a Greek compound verb, hupakouō, with the sense, “hearken, submit, yield, obey.”  This refers not just to a failure to hear but a conscious refusal to submit. In other words, the refusal to obey “the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
When Jesus is revealed “from heaven” those who refuse to obey receive “everlasting destruction.”  This is set in apposition to “penalty”; everlasting destruction is the penalty they pay. “Everlasting” (aiōnion) refers to the length of time the results of this destruction last.  There will be no appeal or reprieve.
“Destruction” translates the noun olethros or “ruin, destruction, undoing,” the same word Paul used in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 for “unexpected destruction” that will come upon the unprepared when the day of the Lord arrives.  This is parallel to Jesus’ portrayal of the final judgment of the nations in Matthew 25:46, “and these will go away into everlasting (aiōnion) punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” The final fates of the righteous and the unrighteous are thus contrasted.
This verse likely alludes to Obadiah 12-13 (Septuagint): “you should not have looked on the day of your brother in the day of strangers; nor should you have rejoiced against the children of Judah in the day of their destruction [olethrosneither should you have boasted in the day of tribulation [thlipsis]. Neither should you have gone into the gates of the people in the day of their troubles.”
In Obadiah, this was a judgment pronouncement against Edom for its treachery against Israel. It is now applied to wicked men at Thessalonica that persecute the church.
This “everlasting destruction” cannot refer to a tribulation period before the end since it will be “everlasting.” Moreover, this punishment coincides with the arrival of Jesus from heaven. It means here separation “from the presence of the Lord” (cp. Matthew 7:2322:1325:41,  Luke 13:27).
Those who oppose the Gospel will be excluded from the presence of the Lord and “the glory of his might.”  This alludes to a saying of Jesus recorded in Matthew 24:29-31:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming [parousia] on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:10) - “Whenever he shall come to be made all-glorious in his saints and to be marveled at in all who believed, because our witness to you was believed, in that day.”
Paul states one’s reward or punishment will be received “whenever he comes,” now using the Greek verb erchomai or “come.” The same verb is used elsewhere several times for Christ’s “coming” (Matthew 24:3024:42-46, 25:31, Mark 13:26, 13:35-36Luke 21:27).
When Jesus is revealed from heaven, his faithful saints are gathered before him where they glorify and admire him. Nothing is said here about Jesus bringing his saints with him from heaven; both believers and unbelievers are present before him when he arrives from heaven. 
Throughout this passage future vindication of faithful believers is contrasted with the condemnation of the wicked.  Both occur at the same time, “on that day,” a reference to the “day of the Lord” to be discussed in the next chapter of this letter.
Paul’s purpose in this passage is to encourage the Thessalonians to persevere through persecution and “tribulation.”  He does so by emphasizing what awaits faithful believers when Jesus comes in contrast to what awaits the disobedient.
Vindication of the righteous and the condemnation of the wicked are not separate events that require separate “comings” of the Lord. The arrival of Jesus means the vindication of some and the punishment of others. Both occur at his one “revelation from heaven.”

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