Second Thessalonians 001 – Introduction

Second Thessalonians 001 – Introduction
2 Thessalonians 1:1 • Dr. Andy Woods • July 16, 2023 • Second Thessalonians


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Second Thessalonians 001 – Introduction

2 Thessalonians 1:1 • Dr. Andy Woods • July 16, 2023

The handout that we put back there[1].  Did anybody not get that?  Okay, Pastor Jim, can you grab those handouts for people that have their hand up?  Okay, so if you didn’t get one, put your hand up.  I should clarify that when we say handout, we’re not talking about financial, because my hand is up too.  We don’t believe in handouts, we believe in hand-ups, amen?  But so if you didn’t get one, just put your hand up and you guys have all got your hands raised like your Charismatics or something.


All right, let me open us in a word of prayer and we’ll get started.  Father, we’re grateful for today, “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)  We’re grateful for Sugar Land Bible Church, the opportunity to meet in freedom, to worship You.  We’re thankful Lord for these books, 2000 years old yet they speak so mightily into our lives.  We’re thankful for 2 Thessalonians which we’re going to start to study today.  I do pray Father for the illuminating ministry of the Spirit of God, whereby the Spirit of God can take the things of God, even the deep things of God, and make them applicable to Your people.  Only You can do that ministry.  I do pray that You will use this human teacher as Your instrument today, but at the end of the day we want to get out of the way, and we want to let You have Your way in Your church with Your Word and Your people.

In preparation for that ministry of illumination, we’re just going to take a few moments of private silence to confess personal sins to You, if need be, not to restore our position which is eternally secure, but sometimes or when we sin, we can break fellowship with You, and when that happens, we can’t receive from You the way that You would like.  So we’re just going to take a few moments privately.

We remain thankful Lord for the promise of 1 John 1:9[2] which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We’re grateful Lord for the fact that our provision in You is so comprehensive that You’ve taken care of our position and that You even take care of the issue of enjoyment and fellowship.  We do pray Lord that at the end of the day that Your name would be glorified today at Sugarland Bible Church not just in the main sanctuary but in all the classes and all the meetings that are happening in this church from the moment the doors opened to the moment the doors close right into meetings that are going to take place even at Your church this evening.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said amen.


Well if you could kindly open your Bibles to the book of 2 Thessalonians.  Oh let’s see, there’s a few more people up here that need a handout.  I think there’s a couple up here.  Are we out of handouts?  We’re out of handouts guys, I’m sorry.  We’ll have more next week.  Online people don’t hit the panic button, we’ll have one posted for you next week also.  Me saying that saves me from 10,000 emails I’ll get this week.  I think Martin, there’s some people up here that needed a handout.  I think Mikey needed a handout.  Anybody need a handout?  Put your hand up.

Handout – Overview of 2 Thessalonians

All right, well what you’ve got there is a kind of just an overview that I did back in my seminary days of 2 Thessalonians.  I had to do this for all 66 books of the Bible.  So if you think my sermons are a little too long, you can blame that assignment because I just took that assignment and I use it with you guys.

So we finished 1 Thessalonians last week and today we’re moving into 2 Thessalonians.  There’s our new – what do you call these things?  Oh, I don’t know.  Opening slide[3], how’s that?  There’s our new– I know there’s a more technical word for it.  Opening slide to 2 Thessalonians.

2 Thessalonians – Balance Between Working and Waiting

It’s the balance between working and waiting.  That’s really the theme of the book, as we’ll see.  If you can’t find 2 Thessalonians in your Bible, it’s right after 1 Thessalonians.  How’s that for clarity?

So, whenever I start a new book of the Bible, rather than just jump into the verse-by-verse stuff, I like to kind of give you the background of the book.  So that’s what we’re doing now with 2 Thessalonians.

When I study the Bible, I have my five best friends with me.  You guys didn’t know I had five best friends.  Some of you are saying, “We didn’t know you had any friends at all.”  Who are my five best friends?  Here they are:  who, what, when, where, why, and then sometimes there’s a sixth guy that joins.  The sixth man, we call him “how.”  So those are the journalistic questions, as you know, and those are great questions to ask whenever you study any book of the Bible.  If you can answer those, you’re way ahead of the game in terms of studying a biblical book.


So the first question really relates to who, and we would call this authorship.  Who wrote this particular book?  Well, if you look at 1 Thessalonians 1:1, it says Paul, and Silvanus and Timothy.  So most take Paul as the author of this book, he’s the first name mentioned, if you go to the end of the book and look at 2 Thessalonians 3:17, it gets clearer.  The author says, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.”  So very clearly Paul is the author.

Paul, as the author of 2 Thessalonians, was accepted by scholarship for 1900 years.  And it wasn’t until the higher critical movement started in Europe that liberal scholarship began to second guess Paul is the author.  Why would they second guess Paul as the author?  Because Paul says, “I’m the author.”  So they obviously want to go the opposite direction on it, and if Paul never said, “I was the author,” they would be fine with Paul being the author.  That’s how these scholars work.  But it’s not until these people started to play games with the text and second guess everything, German rationalism, higher criticism, that Pauline authorship was even challenged.  So we accept Paul as the author of the book.


Another who question, number two, is the audience.  Who is Paul writing to?  Well, he is writing to the Thessalonians, and if you look at 2 Thessalonians 1:1, it says, “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:”  So he’s writing to the group known as the Thessalonians.  He’s not just writing a letter to Thessalonica in general, but he’s writing to the church in Thessalonica.  It says it right there in Verse 1.

We think that these Thessalonian Christians were in fact believers.  There’s Thessalonica there[4].  It’s a church that Paul had planted when you studied the book of Acts, Chapters 17 and 18.  It’s a church that he had planted on his second missionary journey.  He was with them for about six months to a year we think, and then he was forced out of it by unbelieving Jews who were jealous of his fruitfulness amongst the Gentiles.  And he gets down into Corinth, which I’ll show you in a second.  And it’s there he writes to this struggling church.

But you’ll notice there in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 the pronoun “our.”  “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father …”  So there wasn’t any doubt in Paul’s mind that these folks were believers, because Paul uses the word “our.”  So Paul is identifying with his audience.  Just as Paul was clearly a Christian and regenerated, so was this Thessalonian church that he was addressing.


And then you move into the subject of where.  Where was Paul writing this from?  He was writing it from a place called Corinth.  Why do we think that Paul wrote this from Corinth?  Well, if you look at 2 Thessalonians 1:1, he mentions there, all together at the same time, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.

Over in the book of Acts 18, is Paul’s ministry in Corinth after he ministered in Thessalonica, and in Acts 18:5, which is clearly in Corinth, it mentions all three together.  It says in Acts 18:5, “But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.”   So, Silvanus is another name for Silas.  So you have Silvanus there, Timothy, and Paul, all together in Corinth, Acts 18:5.  So when Paul mentions all three and his missionary team together, we would put that together with the book of Acts, which indicates that he was writing this letter from Corinth.

So there’s where Corinth is[5].  There’s kind of a little isthmian land bridge that separates Corinth from sort of the mainland there, and this is where Paul wrote the two Thessalonian letters.  He wrote First Thessalonians from Corinth, and he wrote Second Thessalonians from Corinth.

So here’s the big picture[6].  He’s writing from Corinth, the circle at the bottom, to this struggling church there in Thessalonica that he had planted.  So he’s writing to them very, very quickly after he planted the church.

So this is not like the letter to the Philippians, for example, where he addresses the church at Philippi ten years after he had planted that church.  This is very, very different in the sense that there’s a very short distance of time between Paul planting the church in Thessalonica and when he actually wrote to the church.  So he’s writing from Corinth to the church that he had planted on Missionary Journey 2, and he’s still on Missionary Journey 2 when he wrote this letter.


As far as the date of the book, this kind of gets to the when question, we basically believe that this is his second letter.  This letter arose out of concerns that he surfaces in his first letter.  So when you study the first letter, First Thessalonians, you start to get aware of issues, and it’s obvious that when you get to Second Thessalonians, those issues have gotten worse.  That’s probably one of the main reasons most people put First Thessalonians first and Second Thessalonians second.  So the second letter arose out of issues or concerns raised in the first letter.

So let me give you some examples of that if I could.  You might remember First Thessalonians 4:11-12, and I know this one well because my mother used to hang this verse on our refrigerator when I was growing up, and it says this, “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life [that’s why she put it up there] and attend to your own business [no wonder she put it there] and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”  So obviously there’s a problem in 1 Thessalonians of people kind of becoming lazy and not working a regular job.  That problem, as I’ll show you, gets way worse in 2 Thessalonians.

Then if you go over to 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul says, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”   And so when he says admonish the unruly, obviously there’s some unruly people that need to be admonished.  I’m glad that never happens in modern-day Christianity.  I’m being a little sarcastic there.  Well, these unruly people, the problem gets way worse in 2 Thessalonians.

So it’s obvious the problems that he’s dealing with in 1 Thessalonians, he’s got to deal with them in more detail in 2 Thessalonians.  So just to show you how bad things got, now go to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.  And you can see how this problem of unruly people and unproductive people got compounded.

Paul says over there beginning in Verse 6, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother …” so in other words even a Christian or a brother can act this way, “… that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.”   So the unruliness obviously got worse.

Verse 7 he says, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.”

And then verse 10, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.  11For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.”  So that’s kind of the problem when you have too much time on your hands because your productive energy should be spent supporting yourself and your family, and if you’re not doing that, you’ve got to do something with your time.  So these people were constantly inserting themselves into the affairs of other people.  He calls them busybodies, you know, people that are busy, but they’re not doing anything productive with their lives.

I think it’s John Wooden and his pyramid of success, the famous basketball coach, he said something, he’s got these different, you know, things in the pyramid.  I went to the John Wooden basketball camp when I was really young, and they taught this pyramid of success, but one of the things he said in there is don’t confuse effort with success.  Don’t confuse the use of energy with success.  I mean, there’s a lot of people that are very energetic, but it’s channeled the wrong way, and we have a tendency to do that when we’re not doing what it is God has called us to do, to live an economically productive life.  Paul calls them busybodies.

2 Thessalonians 3:12, “Now such persons we command …” and Paul could give commands because he was an apostle.  “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.  13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”

Verse 14, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.”  And then verse 15, “Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”  He’s dealing with church discipline.

So obviously the unruly and unproductive nature of people that he kind of hints at in the first letter, it obviously got a lot worse in the second letter.  So the second letter kind of grows out of concerns raised in the first letter.  So we basically believe that the second letter was written about 6 to 12 months later after the first letter.  You’d be really safe to date the letter in late AD 51 or early 52.  The first letter was written in AD 51, and this one is written in late AD 51 or early AD 52, which means that this is the third, only the third letter Paul wrote.

So he hasn’t written the Corinthian letters yet.  He hasn’t written Romans yet.  He hasn’t written Ephesians yet.  He’s still on Missionary Journey No. 2, and he’s writing these letters to deal with this church that he had just planted about a year, six months to a year later.

Paul’s 13 Letters (Chart)

So whenever we talk about Paul’s letters[7], one of the things I like to do is just to sort of teach you how to put Paul’s letters together because there’s 13 of them.  It’s hard to understand the background of Paul’s letters unless you watch what he’s doing in the book of Acts.  But when you put the book of Acts together with Paul’s 13 letters, you can put an easy order to them.  It’s very easy to memorize this, believe it or not.  It’s a mnemonic device that we’ve shared before.

It’s like this, 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 1.  Easy, right?  So you guys want to repeat that with me?  1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 1.  Now, that makes you an expert on the New Testament right there.  Because if you can remember that mnemonic device, you know exactly which letter Paul wrote when.

Missionary Journey 1 = 1 Book (Galatians)

So Paul is going to go on three missionary journeys in the book of Acts.  In his first missionary journey into southern Galatia, one first journey, he wrote one book.  And that’s the book of Galatians.  He wrote that after he had gone into southern Galatia.  He got back to Syrian Antioch, which is on the northern tip of the nation of Israel, and that’s where he launches all three of his missionary journeys, by the way, Syrian Antioch.

He notices that the churches that he had planted on missionary journey number one, which is described in Acts 13 and 14, AD 48 and 49, had been completely overtaken by legalism.  He planted the church, or churches, left and the legalists came in and took over.  So that’s why he writes the Galatian letter to those churches that he had planted, trying to free them from legalism.  So the point of the book of Galatians is you’re free.  You were justified by faith alone, and that’s how you’re going to grow in Christ, by faith alone, through the power of the Spirit alone, not through someone putting you under a  maze of rules and regulations where you’re trying to produce your personal sanctification through your own energy.

Missionary Journey 2 = 2 Books (1 and 2 Thessalonians)

Then he goes on Missionary Journey No. 2, and you can see in the book of Acts where that missionary journey happened, end of Chapter 15 through most of chapter 18, he’s on that missionary journey from AD 50 to 52.  So we’re now on number two, second missionary journey.  So how many books is he going to write?  Two.  And those are our Thessalonian books.

The first one written from Corinth to the Thessalonians within six months to a year of planning the church.  Because they didn’t understand that the rapture, when it occurs, because he had taught them about the rapture, what’s going to happen to our deceased loved ones in Christ?  Are they going to be raptured too?  How do they fit in?  And so he writes 1 Thessalonians to explain that issue and other issues.  And you know about all those other issues because we just completed 1 Thessalonians in our study.

Well then you get to the book that we’re studying here, 2 Thessalonians, and now they’re all confused because they think they’re in the tribulation period, because they had received a forged letter (I’ll talk about that in just a second) allegedly coming from Paul indicating that they were in the tribulation period, and they were panicked.  The reason they were panicked is because Paul had taught them the opposite, that they would be spared from the tribulation period.

Which, by the way, proves that he taught them pretribulationalism.  Because if he had taught them post-tribulationalism, you’re going through the tribulation, they would be saying, “All right, thumbs up.”  This is what Paul said would happen.  But that’s not what’s going on.  They’re scared out of their minds.

So Paul writes 2 Thessalonians primarily to explain to them that you are not in the tribulation period right now, because five things haven’t materialized.  And he identifies those five things in Chapter 2.

Missionary Journey 3 = 3 Books (1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans)

Then he goes on Missionary Journey No. 3.  You can see in the book of Acts when that happens, there’s the years about AD 53 to 57.  And this is third missionary journey, so he’s going to write how many books?  Three, and those are 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Romans.

Now you’ll notice that your organization of the New Testament, the Protestant organization, doesn’t help you with this chronology at all, because Romans is the first book in that section, when chronologically Romans is the sixth book.  So our organization of the New Testament gives you no clue on how to put these books in order, because our Protestant New Testament is organized by, you know, kind of like the major prophets, minor prophets, as you see in the Old Testament.

I mean, you would think reading through the Old Testament that Isaiah was the first prophet.  He was not.  It was a man named, let’s see, Obadiah.  He’s the first chronological prophet.  Well, why does the Old Testament put Isaiah first then?  Because he’s a major prophet.  He wrote the biggest book, so they stuck him first.  They did that with Paul’s writings.  Romans is his most famous book, so we’ll put that first.

But really, if I was going to come up with my own study Bible, for example, I would just mess everybody up.  That’s why I’m not going to do this.  I’s just get so much hate mail.  I would put Galatians first, the two Thessalonians books second, the two Corinthian books third, then Romans, so people could understand the chronology.

But when he’s in Ephesus on Missionary Journey No. 3, he discovers immorality and things of that nature taking place in Corinth, and he therefore writes First Corinthians to straighten them out on that issue.  As he continues to travel into Macedonia, he discovers that there are people in Corinth challenging his authority as an apostle, so he writes Second Corinthians.

Then he gets down into Corinth, which is by the way is the same place where he wrote the Thessalonian books.  What was Corinth known for?  Immorality.  I think what happened, I can’t prove this, but I think Paul looked out the window and he saw one of these LGBTQU type parades going by.  And it really got under his skin and so he writes Romans 1.  That’s how I think it happened, I can’t prove that.

But he’s writing to the Church of Rome to lay out systematically the doctrine of salvation because the Church of Rome was one of the few churches that was started without the help of an apostle.

  • First missionary journey, one book, Galatians.
  • Second missionary journey, two books, the two Thessalonian books.
  • Third missionary journey, three books, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans.

Missionary Journey 4 = 4 Books (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians)

Then I have here a fourth missionary journey, which most don’t call a missionary journey because it’s his imprisonment.  But I call it a missionary journey because Paul knew exactly what he was doing.  He was being taken to Rome in chains, and as a Roman citizen he understood the Roman legal system.  He kept insisting on a trial before Caesar, which meant he had to be shipped to Rome for this trial.

So he actually used his chains after his arrest to get to Rome because it was always his ambition to preach the gospel in Rome since Rome is one of the churches that was started without the help of an apostle.  So he finally makes it to Rome about AD 60-62.  You’ll see his Roman imprisonment there at the very end of the book of Acts.  Acts 28:16-31.

In prison, we call these the what letters?  The prison letters, because they were written from prison, he writes four letters.  Fourth missionary journey, four letters, and those are Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians.  Ephesians describing the body of ChristColossians describing the head of the body, who was Jesus Christ.

Philemon, because an escaped slave from Philemon that Paul had actually led to Christ, named Onesimus, finds Paul in Rome, and so Paul writes this one-chapter letter called Philemon to his convert Philemon, and he’s basically saying, I’m going to send Onesimus back to you, but he’s coming back as a brother in Christ, because I’ve won him to Christ.  So treat him accordingly.  So the rights of slaves, how do you treat someone that is a runaway slave that comes back as a brother in Christ?  That’s all dealt with in the book of Philemon.

Then his last book from prison is Philippians, where he writes to the church of Philippi.  And that’s where he describes the walk of joy of the Christian.  How do you walk in joy?  How do you spell joy?  J-O-Y.  J stands for Jesus, O stands for others, Y stands for yourself, and if you get the order wrong, if you put the Y before the O or the Y before the J, you’re not having joy anymore because you’ve misspelled the word.  You only walk in joy when your life is arranged Jesus first, others second, yourself last.  And what a message that is, because we need to hear that, because we’re self-centered by nature.

I mean, maybe not you guys, maybe the church down the street, but I know I am.  I have no problem looking out for number one.  I have a big problem looking out for others before I look out for number one.  I have even a bigger problem putting Jesus before others and even myself, and that’s why my joy frequently leaves, because I misspell the word and I put the Y in front of the J or whatever.  Paul says keep the order straight and you’ll walk in joy.  That’s really what the book of Philippians is about.

  • First missionary journey, one book, the book of Galatians.
  • Second missionary journey, two books, the books of 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians.
  • Third missionary journey, three books, those are 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans.
  • Fourth missionary journey, so called four books, those are the prison letters, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians.

Between Imprisonments = 2 Books (1 Timothy, Titus)

Then the book of Acts ends, and we think Paul got out of prison for about four or five years, and that’s where he starts writing the pastoral letters.  They’re called the pastoral letters because they were written to pastors that were struggling that Paul himself had put in charge of various assemblies that he had planted.  So the first struggling pastor he writes to is a young guy with health issues and confidence problems.  A guy named Timothy who’s trying to pastor the church at Ephesus.  So Paul writes to Timothy from Macedonia as he’s out of prison, and he’s basically telling Timothy how to put the church in order.

Then there’s another struggling pastor.  Paul gets down to a place called Nicopolis.  There’s another struggling pastor named Titus on the island of Crete.  Which is, I’ve been there.  There’s nothing going on there.  I mean talk about a tough ministry assignment being stuck out on this island.  By the way, Paul says the Cretans are a bunch of lazy gluttons.  How would you like to pastor that group?  So he’s explaining to Titus how he can actually have a fruitful ministry in those circumstances.

By the way Titus, Titus 2:13, don’t lose your hope through these circumstances because the blessed hope is Jesus is going to return and rescue us from the wrath to come.  Titus 2:13.  Makes sense if you’re dealing with a guy that’s struggling with trying to pastor lazy gluttons on a remote desert island.

Second Imprisonment = 1 Book (2 Timothy)

Then he gets back in prison, and this is it.  It’s curtains for him.  This is his swan song.  It’s his last letter he wrote.  He says in things like this, 2 Timothy 4:6, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”  The Neronian persecution, which is the first formal wave of persecution launched against Christianity by Rome, is starting to come into full flame.

He writes again to Timothy who’s saying, “I quit.  I’m not going to do this anymore.  I mean, every time I open my mouth I get into trouble.  Every time I try to be what Paul says I should be, I get into trouble.  I’ve just had enough.  I don’t want to do this anymore.”  So Paul writes 2 Timothy to Timothy telling him you have to endure in your calling.  He’s not second-guessing Timothy’s salvation.  He’s saying if you quit now, you’re not going to be fully rewarded at the bema seat judgment, etc.  So the whole letter of 2 Timothy is how to persevere as a Christian in the midst of adversity and difficulty.

  • First missionary journey one book, the book of Galatians.
  • Second missionary journey two books, the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
  • Third missionary journey three books, the books of 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans.
  • Fourth missionary journey four books, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. We went one, two, three, four, now we’re back to two.
  • He’s led out of prison, two books, 1 Timothy and Titus.
  • Then we go back to one. One, two, three, four, two, one.  His last book written from prison is called what?  2 Timothy.

Order of Paul’s Letters

So what I just explained is sort of captured on this list[8].  This is the order of Paul’s letters.

  1. First letter Galatians (A.D. 49)
  2. Second and third letters, the Thessalonian letters (A.D. 51)
  3. The next two letters were the Corinthian letters (A.D. 56)
  4. The next one was Romans (A.D. 57)
  5. The next four were the prison letters (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians) (A.D. 60‒62)
  6. Then came two of the pastoral letters, 1 Timothy and Titus (A.D. 62‒66)
  7. Then came the last pastoral letter, 2 Timothy (A.D. 67)

Then Paul dies and goes into the presence of the Lord.  With the missionary journeys accomplished, and God taking the mystery truths of the church, as Paul is dealing with churches in crisis, and people in crisis, and God sovereignly working in Paul’s writings in these 13 letters, where the mystery of the church has now been unfolded.  And if we didn’t have those 13 letters, we would know absolutely nothing about the church.  What is the church?  What’s it supposed to do?  What are its leaders like?  You’re not going to find much in the Old Testament on the church, because the Old Testament is all about Israel.

You’re not going to find much in the New Testament about the church, other than Jesus saying He was going to build His church.  But what you need is doctrine for the church, and that was the contribution of Paul, who was the greatest missionary the world has ever seen, and probably also the greatest theologian other than Jesus Himself, filling out those 13 letters, explaining the dispensation that we’re living in now, called the age of the church.

So the date of the book (2 Thessalonians), therefore, would be about AD 51 to 52.  This would be Paul’s third letter.


Which takes us to the occasion.  This kind of gets to the why question.  What was the problem taking place beneath the surface giving Paul an incentive to write this letter?

Now something I really want you to understand is the Bible is what we would call crisis literature.  Some have called this “occasional literature.”  In other words, when Paul wrote these different books, he didn’t sit down under a tree and say, “I have some random theological thoughts for you today.  I want to give you the areas of systematic theology today.  Are you ready for that?  Let’s start with angelology.”

That’s not how the New Testament, or really the whole Bible for that matter, came into existence.  It came into existence because there were problemsReal people with real problems that Paul had to address.

So there is no angel book.  If you want to do a theological work on angels, we need that, but you’re not going to be able to draw your information from one book of the Bible.  There’s no angel book.  You’ve got to go into all the books of the Bible and organize them systematically, your thoughts, in order to develop the doctrine of angels.  That’s a great practice, but that’s not how the New Testament came into existence.  It came into existence because of problems.

And as I went through this list, I tried to sort of explain the problems behind each of these circumstances.  Galatians, what was the problem?  Legalism.  First Thessalonians and Second Thessalonians, what was the problem?  Misunderstandings of eschatology.  Right through the list, you’ll notice that all of these books came into existence because of some sort of crisis lurking behind the scenes.  So the better you understand the crisis, the better you can make sense of any biblical book because largely the book is written to resolve the crisis.

One of the challenges of Bible study is listening to someone talk on the phone when it’s not speaker phone.  So I hear my wife talking to someone, and I can kind of piece it together.  Let’s see, is she talking to someone in the church?  Maybe she’s talking to her mom.  Not really having access to the whole conversation, I can sort of piece together who she’s talking to, and sometimes I don’t even know.  I just yell out, “Who are you talking to?”

That’s kind of what Bible study is.  When you’re reading Paul, you’re only listening to one side of the telephone conversation.  You don’t really know what the other side is saying.  But the better you can figure out what the problem is on the other side that you can’t hear, the better you can understand why Paul writes the things that he writes.  That’s why we call this “occasional literature” or “crisis literature.”

So what’s the problem here?  What’s the crisis behind the scenes?  Well, on one end of the stick, he’s really happy with the Thessalonians, because they’re being persecuted.  The same crowd that drove him out of Dodge is the same crowd that turned on his flock.  He’s really happy that they’re continuing to grow spiritually in spite of persecution.

They didn’t even have a New Testament canon yet to rely upon.  I mean, they’ve only got Galatians, maybe, if it’s circulated that far.  They’ve only got First Thessalonians.  They don’t have the book of Revelation yet, for sure.  They don’t have any of the general letters yet.  They probably don’t even have most of the Gospels.  Probably the only Gospel that was written at this point would be Matthew, the first Gospel.  They maybe had some sort of awareness of the book of James, which is very early.  But you’re dealing with people that are struggling as Christians without a completed New Testament canon.  So they don’t really have the doctrine of suffering laid out for us like we do.

So in spite of all of these problems, they’re continuing to grow, and Paul is relieved about that, and that’s really good news.  But there’s also some bad news.  And to understand the book of Galatians, excuse me, Thessalonians, look at 2 Thessalonians 2:2, because there’s a forged letter that had come into their church, allegedly from Paul.  2 Thessalonians 2:2, “that you not be quickly shaken …”  Now that word for shaken is the same word used in the book of Acts for an earthquake.  An earthquake, theologically, had just erupted in Thessalonica.  I mean these people were shaken to their core.  2 Thessalonians 2:2, “that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter …”

We’re not told exactly which of these three it was.  I mean, was it an email, was it a phone message, was it a text?  I mean there’s some kind of communication.  “… by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, [allegedly from Paul and his team] to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”

What’s the day of the Lord?  The day of the Lord is the tribulation period.  The day of the Lord is Daniel 9:27.  This is a great verse describing the length of the tribulation period.  What starts it, what happens in the middle, what happens at the end.  Daniel was told way back in the 6th century,  “”And he [that’s Antichrist] will make a firm covenant with the many [that’s Israel] for one week [that’s a 7-year period], but in the middle of the week [that’s 3 1/2 years into it] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; …”  Now keep in mind that the temple, which is destroyed in AD 70, was still standing when the Thessalonians received this false letter.  So there was no destroyed temple yet.

“… in the middle of the week he [Antichrist] will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.””  So in other words, the Antichrist is going to desecrate the temple.  He’s going to set up a talking image in the temple.

By the way, you’re probably aware of an avatar in Germany that just led a church in worship.  Wow.  That kind of sounds like Revelation 13:15 to me.  Just saying.  And I’m not saying we’re in the tribulation, but talking statues leading people in worship.  Hmm.  That starts to make sense given the headlines.

What happens in the middle and what happens at the end?  Jesus comes back and here’s what the whole thing looks like on graphic form[9].  A covenant between Antichrist and Israel, which was still in their land at this point, AD 70 wouldn’t happen for 20 years when they were dispersed from their land.  A seven-year covenant.

By the way, did you know that the United Nations just said we need about seven years to get things under control?  I mean, they just said it.  And they’re talking about UN 2030 sustainable development goals.  2030.  Well, according to my old math, 2023 minus from 2030 equals seven.  Boy, isn’t it interesting that these globalists think in seven-year terms.  Kind of gives you the impression that they’re getting ready to enter into some kind of seven-year treaty.  But that’s not what we’re talking about today.

A covenant launches a seven-year tribulation period.  The Antichrist desecrates the temple midway through the tribulation period.  And at the end of the seven years, Jesus returns to rescue not the church, but unbelieving Israel and set up His kingdom upon the earth.

They just got a forged communication saying, “You’re in that time period right now,” and it set off a theological earthquake in Thessalonica.  So if you think you’re in the tribulation period, and Jesus is coming back in less than seven years, then why hold down a job?  Why put your kids into the school?  Why save money to put your kids in school?  Why save for retirement?  And this is what they started to do.  They just started to drop out of responsibilities.

See, eschatology matters.  Well, what’s the matter with these people?  Why don’t they just go home and read the Bible?  There is no Bible.  So they’re vulnerable to deception.  They don’t have the comprehensive eschatology that you and I take for granted, and quite frankly, a lot of the church doesn’t have that comprehensive eschatology because pastors don’t teach it anymore, and seminaries don’t emphasize it anymore.

So if you’re not going to give God’s people a comprehensive eschatology, then they’re vulnerable to anybody with the gift of gab on YouTube that says we’re in the tribulation period.  We get constant emails, “We’re in the tribulation period now.”  “Biden is the beast.”  And I don’t really argue with them too much on that one.  It could be.  You know, Bill Gates, all this stuff, they don’t see it as stage setting for the tribulation because they don’t have a comprehensive eschatology.

They don’t understand the rapture happens first.  Then we have the seven-year tribulation period.  They’re in these spiritual environments where their pastors just keep giving them three points in a poem week after week.  So they’re left to their own devices trying to make sense of the world.

That’s sort of what’s going on here in Thessalonica, except they had an excuse for it because they only had a few books.  So they quit their jobs and dropped out of life.  Jesus is touching down in less than seven years.  And by the way, if this is true, that we’re in the tribulation period now, you just took Paul’s credibility and totally gutted it.

Because what did he teach them in the first letter?  He taught them in the first letter that you will be rescued from the tribulation period.  1 Thessalonians 1:10 remember this verse?  “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”  That’s what Paul told them in the book of First Thessalonians.  Now they get a forged letter saying you’re in the tribulation period, you’re in the wrath of God.

Remember what Paul explained in 1 Thessalonians 5:9?  “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”  So he had taught them over and over again that when the rapture happens it will happen before the wrath of God hits planet earth.

Now they get a forged communication allegedly from Paul saying you’re in the tribulation.  So Paul had taught them, “No, you are here in the church age[10].”  Far left side of the screen.  Suddenly they got a communication from Paul saying, “No, you’re not here, you’re here.  You’re in the tribulation period itself.”  Which was an assault on Paul’s credibility.  It was the opposite of what he had told them.

So this is why they’re shaken to the core of their being.  This is why there’s a theological earthquake that has just gone off in Thessalonica.  Well, just go home and read your New Testament.  Can’t do that.  There is no New Testament yet, other than a few books.

As I said before, the fact that they’re scared proves that Paul had really taught them pretribulationalism.  Because if Paul had taught them any other scenario, you’re going through half of it, you’re going through three quarters of it, you’re going through all of it, they wouldn’t have been scared because they would have said, “Well, this is exactly what Paul said would happen.”  The fact that they’re all bothered by this shows that whatever came across in this forged communication was different than what Paul taught.  And it was different than what Paul taught because Paul taught them pretribulationalism.  The forged communication had taught them some other scenario.

Once you understand this, then you start to understand why Paul writes the book of 2 Thessalonians.  So apparently whoever delivered 1 Thessalonians to them and came back to communicate with Paul in Corinth became aware of this is what the Thessalonians are now shaken about.  When Paul receives that word, he now writes them 2 Thessalonians, explaining to them that you are not in the day of the Lord.

Because if you were actually in the day of the Lord, you would see five things.  And those five things are mentioned there right in 2 Thessalonians 2.  And you haven’t seen any of them.  Not the least of which is you are still here.  You couldn’t be in the day of the Lord and be here at the same time because the departure happens first.  And he mentions that, and he mentions four other things.  The restrainer is still here.  The man of sin has not desecrated the temple the way Daniel describes.  That hasn’t happened yet.  The wrath of God through foreign or strange delusion hasn’t been poured out yet.  None of those things have happened yet.  So whatever bad email you got, it wasn’t from me.

So get back to the basics.  Get back to what I told you in 1 Thessalonians and calm down.  Everybody just take a deep breath.  Calm down.  You’re not in the tribulation period yet.  That’s really the point of 2 Thessalonians.  That’s why he’s writing this book.

I can piece this together like that because I have some kind of insight of sort of reading between the lines and hearing or having awareness of the conversation on the phone that I can’t hear.  I just hear my wife.  I don’t hear who she’s talking to.  But when I read 2 Thessalonians 2:2 and I read about this forged letter, I say, “Oh, that’s what they were upset with.”  Once I understand what they were upset about, then the rest of the book of 2 Thessalonians all falls nicely and neatly into place.

This is what I mean when I say crisis literature.  This is a crisis.  If you understand the crisis, you can better understand why Paul surfaces the information that he does in this letter.

One of the major deficiencies in modern day Bible interpretation, and we are really vulnerable to it here in a Bible church, because we can get into the details really fast.  We can get down into the weeds really fast.  But a major problem in Bible interpretation is you spend so much time studying the veins on the leaves of the trees that you forget what the forest looks like.  But the better you can back up and look at things from the 10,000-foot level, the better the details of the text start to make sense.

So my training academically is looking at things Bible exposition from the 10,000-foot level.  My training is not in getting into the intricate weeds.  Other people were trained differently, and we both need each other.  But the better you can sort of wrap your arms around the giant trunk of the tree, the better you can understand what the tiny minute details are about.


What is the book of 2 Thessalonians about at the 10,000-foot level?  Well, it has a really simple three-part outline, and each part of the outline is a chapter in the book.

  • Chapter 1, he’s commending them because they’re growing in spite of persecution.
  • Chapter 2, he’s correcting them because they’re not in the day of the Lord, despite what the forgery said. Because if you’re in the day of the Lord, you’d see five things that you’re not seeing.
  • Then in Chapter 3, he deals with the consequences of their bad eschatology, quitting their jobs, being busybodies, living an unruly life, being unproductive.

All of that flowed out of the fact that they actually thought that they were in the day of the Lord.

  • So Chapter 1 is commending them for growth. Three C’s.
  • Chapter 2 is correcting them that they’re not in the day of the Lord because five things haven’t materialized yet.
  • Chapter 3 is the consequences of their bad eschatology.

Do you realize that the Millerites, Google them sometime, oh, I don’t know, maybe a hundred something years ago.  They figured out, they thought, when Jesus was coming back in the second heaven, I think it was, and they just quit everything.  I mean, they quit their jobs.  They went out into the mountains, and they waited for Jesus.  And why would they do something like that?  Because they didn’t have a comprehensive eschatology, explaining these things to them.  And they brought tremendous shame on themselves, on their movement, and when you study accounts of what happened, there was massive economic dislocation in their personal lives because of this.

In other words, eschatology matters.  If you don’t have a comprehensive eschatology, you’ll start doing things like this.  Particularly today, as you see the stage being set for the tribulation period as never before.  I mean, you see all this stuff that they’re doing with microchip technology, nanotattoos, the World Economic Forum, calling for one world government.  I mean, if I didn’t have a comprehensive eschatology, I would be a mess myself, setting dates and dropping out of life.

So that’s why it’s almost like the book of 2 Thessalonians is tailor-made for our age.


So what is the message of the book?  Here it is.  A correct understanding of eschatology [hey, that’s Chapter 2] Leads to encouragement [hey, that’s Chapter 1] and a proper balance between waiting and working [hey, that’s Chapter 3].

A correct understanding of eschatology leads to encouragement and a proper balance between waiting and working.

Should we be waiting for the Lord?  Absolutely.  Should we be on the lunatic fringe setting dates and quitting jobs and all of these things?  No way.  When Jesus comes back, He wants to find you a productive, fulfilled person in life.  Yeah, but pastor, I may not be here in the next split second.  That’s true.  But then again, maybe you’ll still be here.  So you better be productive.  You don’t know exactly when Jesus is coming back for the church.

It looks to me like He’s coming back pretty quick, but I don’t know the date.  So I don’t have any right as a Christian to drop out of basic life’s responsibilities on the count of eschatology.

But if you have a deficient eschatology, you’ll start to do weird things.  That’s what the Thessalonians were doing.  This is why Paul writes the letter to them.


So the purpose of the book, this is the why question, is to exhort the Thessalonians to adhere to a correct eschatology, study of the end, that’s what eschatology means, and thus to live rightly.  That’s why this book provides a wonderful balance between waiting on the Lord and working.  You make decisions in your life as if you’re going to live your full life expectancy.  But you better have your priorities in order.  Because Jesus via the rapture can come back at any moment and summon you to Himself.

So what is the book of Second Thessalonians about?

  • Authorship: Who wrote the book?  Paul.
  • Audience: The Thessalonian Christians.
  • Place of writing: Anybody?  I was going to say Bueller.  But we have a Bueller in this church.  Bueller, Bueller.  You guys know what movie I’m talking about?  See, that’s my wrong priorities watching movies like that.  Place of writing:  Corinth.
  • Date: AD 51.
  • Occasion: Forgery.  You’re in the day of the Lord.
  • Structure: Three parts.  Chapter 1 commends them for growth.  Chapter 2 corrects bad eschatology.  Chapter 3 deals with the consequences of a bad eschatology.
  • Message of the book: The right balance between working and waiting.
  • The purpose of the book: Is orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy.  Orthodoxy, have you been to the orthodontist lately?  Ortho, correction.  Correct belief leads to correct practice.

Thessalonians Chapter 3 obviously involved in bad practice.  What’s the root of bad practice?  It’s bad doctrine.  This is why doctrine matters.  If you don’t have a correct understanding or a correct doctrine, you’ll start to do weird things with your life.  So anyway, I hope you guys are looking forward to the journey through 2 Thessalonians.  Only three chapters.  Only take us about 15 years to get through.

So let’s pray.  Father, we’re grateful for Your Word, grateful for Your truth.  Help us to glean what You would have us to glean from this somewhat short, but really significant book to our times.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said amen.

[1] Note there is a link to handout at the beginning of the transcript, which is

[2] “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. 1995. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

[3] See slide at minute mark 6:05,  Note:  All times are from the noted hyperlink.

[4] See map with Thessalonica circled at minute mark 10:19.

[5] See map with Corinth circled at minute mark 13:00.

[6] See map with Thessalonica and Corinth circled at minute mark 13:28.

[7] See chart Paul’s Ministry Chronology at minute mark 21:51.

[8] See Order of Paul’s Letters at minute mark 38:51.

[9] See Dan 9:27 Overview of Tribulation Period at minute mark 49:08.

[10] See chart Paul’s Correction of Their Error at minute mark 54:11 and The Thessalonians’ False Idea at minute mark 54:25