II Thessalonians

Author

·         Most scholars believe Paul wrote this letter

 

Place and Time of Writing

·         Probably written a few months after I Thessalonians in Corinth in 51

 

Unique Characteristics

·         The shortest of Paul’s nine letters to churches.

·         It answers a question that the Thessalonians had after reading I Thessalonians.

·         Does not have the second part on how to live as a Christian, probably because Paul included that in I Thessalonians, which he wrote a few months prior to this letter.

 

Audience

·         Christians in Thessalonica.

 

Theme

·         Correcting that incorrect belief that Christ had already come.

 

Opening II Thessalonians Up

 

Why did Paul write this letter?

After Paul wrote I Thessalonians and sent it, he learned that some of the Christians thought Jesus’ return had occurred, and apparently some of them had ceased to work.  Paul, therefore, wrote them and explained that Jesus’ return had not occurred because the “man of lawlessness” had not come yet.  He then encouraged those who no longer worked to begin working again.

 

The return of Jesus:  The Antichrist comes first

Both I and II Thessalonians focused on the return of Jesus, but for different reasons.  Whereas I Thessalonians concentrated on giving a description of the return of Jesus, II Thessalonians concentrated on describing the “man of lawlessness” who would precede Jesus.  I will include the passage in full:

·         2:1-10:  “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.  Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.  He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called good or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.  Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?  And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.  For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.  The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the word of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refused to live the truth and so be saved.”

This passage refers to a “man of lawlessness.”  Some Christians use a different term for him:  Antichrist.  According to this passage, the Antichrist will come before Jesus, and Jesus will defeat him. 

    Concerning the return of Jesus:  different theories have developed about the return of Jesus, Judgment Day, and the end of time.  The first four bullet points are definitions and the other two  are different theories:

·         Rapture:  Jesus will appear in the sky but will not come to earth.  Dead Christians will rise first and then Christians who are alive will rise next.  [This comes from the passage in I Thessalonians.]

·         Tribulation:  A seven-year period of terror

·         Second Coming:  Jesus will return to earth and fight a battle, which he will win, with Satan

·         Millennium/Millennial:  This refers to a 1000-year period of peace on the earth.  This idea comes from Revelation 20:4-6. 

·         Some of the theories involve the timing of Jesus return to the Tribulation and the Millennium.  For example, Pre-Tribulation/Pre-Millennial [which is the most prominent type among Protestants] has this progression:  Rapture first, then Tribulation, then the Second Coming, then the Millennium, and finally Judgment Day

·         Some theories teach that one or more of the first four definitions are to be taken as metaphor and not literally.  For example, some Christians believe that Jesus will return and Judgment Day will occur.  Therefore, the Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming, and the Millennium are taken as metaphors.

 

Outline

 

Chapters

1:1-2:  Greetings

1:3-12:  Thankfulness and prayer for the Thessalonian Christians

2:  Description of the Antichrist and encouragement to stand strong

3:1-5:  Request for prayer

3:6-15:  People need to return to work

3:16-18:  Concluding remarks

 

Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate

 

63BC

Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting

44BC

Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.

40BC

The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel

37BC

Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt

31BC

Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.

27BC

Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 

AD

All years after this point are AD

Before

6

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem

6

Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors

8

Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah

8-27

Jesus probably worked as a carpenter

26-36

The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate

27

Jesus baptized by John the Baptist

27-30

Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles

30

1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel

30-50

Peter was the leader of the Christian movement

33

Paul became a Christian

48-50

Paul went on his First Missionary Trip

50

Council of Jerusalem

51-90

We do not know what John did during this time period

50-55

Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Galatians, I Thessalonians, and II Thessalonians

54-68

Nero was Roman emperor

55-60

Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians

60-62

Paul arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Rome, and lived under house arrest

·         Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians

63

Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain

64

Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 

65

1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome

66

Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.

66-70

The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.

68

Mark written around this year

70

The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 

80

Matthew and Luke written around this year

81-96

Domitian is Roman emperor

90

John and Acts written around this year

95

1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian

96

1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life

100

John died

367

First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop

390s

Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books

1200s

NT divided into chapters

1500s

NT divided into verses

 

 

©2016 Mark Nickens All Rights Reserved

 

Questions/comments, contact Mark at marknickens@gmail.com