Disinformation

Disinformation about the “day of the Lord” caused alarm among many in the congregation at Thessalonica – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2.

Letters - Photo by sue hughes on Unsplash
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul addresses a claim that the “
Day of the Lord has set in." Rumors are disrupting the congregation with false information about the “arrival” of Jesus that is being attributed either to a “spirit,” a word (logos), or a letter “as if from us” - [Photo by sue hughes on Unsplash].

In response, Paul first lists two events that must occur BEFORE the “parousia” of Jesus - the “revealing of the man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy,” and the fact that they have not occurred demonstrates that the Thessalonians are receiving disinformation about the future.

In the preceding chapter, Paul prepared the ground for what now follows. Despite hostility from without, the Thessalonians have exhibited “endurance and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations.” But God will recompense “tribulation to them that trouble you,” but provide “release” and “glory” to the beleaguered saints at the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven” - (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).

FALSE ALARMS

But the greater danger is posed by deception from within the church, and this could quite easily cause some if not many to apostatize.

Years earlier, Jesus warned disciples not to be alarmed by deceivers who spread false reports and thereby cause anxiety about the “end.” That warning has now become all too real in Thessalonica. Therefore, Paul warns the Thessalonians not to heed claims that the “day of the Lord” is imminent or has even arrived.
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2) - “But we request you, brethren, in behalf of the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, that you be not quickly tossed from your mind nor be put in alarm, either by spirit or by discourse or by letter as by us, as that the day of the Lord has set in.”

In this passage, “arrival” translates the Greek noun parousia, the term applied most often by Paul to the “coming of Jesus” in his letters to the Thessalonians. It denotes an “arrival” or “presence,” the arrival of someone or something - (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8-9).

Our gathering together” translates the Greek noun episunagogé. Whatever this “gathering” is, Paul connects it to the “arrival” of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.” The Greek word is related to the verb episunagō, which means “to gather together.”

The same term was applied by Jesus to the “gathering of his elect” at his “coming” in his ‘Olivet Discourse’ (“Then shall he send his angels and gather together his elect from the four winds”), the same event Paul now states will occur on “Day of the Lord” - (Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

BE NOT TROUBLED

That you are not quickly troubled.” The verb rendered “troubled” is throeō. In the New Testament, it occurs only here and on the lips of Jesus in his ‘Olivet Discourse.’ Thus, Paul echoes Christ’s warnings about coming deceivers:
  • (Matthew 24:6) – “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you be not TROUBLED: for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” – (Also, Mark 13:7).

Whether by spirit or by discourse or by letter, as by us.” Paul is unsure how this disinformation is being spread. “Spirit” is ambiguous but could refer to the exercise of a spiritual gift, perhaps the gift of prophecy.

Discourse” or logos can refer to several types of verbal communication, and the significance of “letter” is obvious. “As by us” points to the communication being attributed falsely to Paul.

DAY OF THE LORD

The Day of the Lord.” Paul links this day to the “arrival” of Jesus and the “gathering” of the elect. Elsewhere he relabels this event as the “day of Christ.

The “Day of the Lord” is a common term in the Hebrew Bible for the time of visitation and judgment by God, the “day of Yahweh,” the day when He rescues His people and judges His enemies - (Isaiah 2:12, Joel 1:15, 2:1, 2:31, 3:14, Malachi 4:5).

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul used the same phrase and compared its sudden arrival to “a thief in the night,” the same analogy Jesus applied to his “coming” at the end of the age. According to Paul, that day will bring “sudden destruction” upon those who oppose the gospel and persecute the saints.

Elsewhere in his epistles, the “Day of the Lord” becomes the “day of Jesus Christ,” the hour when he vindicates his righteous one but also judges the wicked - (Matthew 24:42-44, Luke 12:39, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14, Philippian 1:6-10, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).

Has set in” translates the Greek verb enistemi, meaning “to stand in, to set in,” and here it is in the Greek perfect tense. It signifies a completed action. In this context, it indicates an imminent event, or more likely, one that has already commenced. Unfortunately, Paul does not detail exactly how the Thessalonians understand this alleged scenario.

Sunrise Scotland - Photo by Raphael Andres on Unsplash
[Photo by Raphael Andres on Unsplash]

In the next paragraph, 
Paul will begin to defuse the situation. That day cannot arrive until after two key events occur. In all this, he does not provide “signs” by which believers can ascertain the imminence of the end. Instead, he presents evidence proving why that day had not yet arrived.

His reference to a “word” received “as from us” is a verbal link to the conclusion of this literary section when he exhorts the Thessalonians to adhere strictly to the “traditions” they have received from Paul and his coworkers “whether through discourse or through our letter.”

Regardless of their source, disciples must not heed any voices that deviate from the apostolic teaching. By adhering to the apostolic teachings, they will avoid apostasy and deception, and thereby attain the “acquisition of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” when he does appear.



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