Introduction: We rejoiced last week to discover in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 that God is even now planting within us “seeds of glory” so that on that great day of the Second Coming, Christ shall be glorified in us, as well as we in Him. But it is a long road of persevering in faith which lies before the Thessalonians and us. That is why Paul prepares the ground for his difficult teaching on the Second Coming in chapter 2 with prayer for the grace of God in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. In the same way, he follows up the sober realities of the ‘final rebellion’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 with more prayer in verses 13-17. We, therefore, must begin and end our study of Paul’s teaching on Christ’s return in 2 Thessalonians 2 by turning to Paul’s strategic prayers. In this week’s and next week’s Bible notes’ focus on Paul’s prayers, therefore, we will make sure we don’t get “ahead of ourselves” by jettisoning prayer in favor of dramatic “Last Days” teaching.
Mon/Tues: read 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. Paul’s prayers for the Thessalonians extend to the deepest foundation of their Christian experience: the call of God on their lives. Listen to him in verse 11: With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.
But what exactly does the beginning of this prayer mean by the words, “May God count us worthy of His calling? Surely Paul’s prayers cannot depend upon our worthiness? Absolutely not! After all, remember that Paul is not appealing to the Thessalonians’ track record (or ours) in terms of ability or effort, but asking God to make them worthy. In other words, just as Paul began with grace and peace in 1:1-2, so he ends this chapter praying that all will be accomplished “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:12). We are not surprised, therefore, to find that Paul’s prayer is packed with God’s gracious and effective work to make us worthy! Paul continues in verses 11-12, …and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God that not only the beginning, but every step of the Christian life is tied to God’s powerful work of grace and goodness in our lives. He alone is worthy. This is why John Calvin directs our praise to God alone as the One who makes us worthy to share in His calling as he comments on 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 as follows:
When, however, we are instructed that the gracious purpose of God is the cause of our salvation, and that that salvation has its foundation in the goodness of the same God, are we not worse than mad, if we venture to ascribe anything, however small, to our own merits? … Paul expresses the idea still more distinctly by saying, that God was prompted by nothing else than his own goodness, for he finds nothing in us but misery.
Weds/Thurs: read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 and Matthew 24:3-5. With such a prayer-emphasis that all must be accomplished “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” in 2 Thessalonians 1:12, we are not surprised that Paul adopts a similar gracious tone of brotherly concern as he introduces the subject of the coming rebellion in 2 Thessalonians 2. Several Bible versions bring out both the brotherly love and urgency which drive Paul’s teaching here:
2 1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him, 2 that ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as if from us that the Day of Christ is at hand. (KJV)
2 1-4 Now we do implore you, by the very certainty of Christ’s coming and of our meeting him together, to keep your heads and not be thrown off balance by any prediction or message or letter purporting to come from us, and saying that the day of Christ is almost here. Don’t let anyone deceive you by any means whatsoever. That day will not come before there arises a definite rejection of God and the appearance of the lawless man. He is the product of all that leads to death, and he sets himself up in opposition to every religion. He himself takes his seat in the temple of God, to show that he really claims to be God. (JB Philips)
2 Now we beg you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, 2 that ye be not soon shaken in mind, nor troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as [if it were] by us, as that the day of the Lord is present. (Darby)
Notice first how Paul uses the word to “beseech” to guard the Thessalonians against the tendency to have their head turned by every voice which says of Christ’s coming, “There He is!” (Matt. 24:4-5). This is a special word, always used of a respectful request made among equals. In other words, Paul is respectful of the Thessalonians and does not “talk down” to them or rebuke them as fools. Instead he respectfully pleads with them to be sober and cautious in the face of many who raise their voices in claiming “inside knowledge” about Christ’s return. Why does Paul adopt such a polite yet urgent tone with the Thessalonians? The answer is that he considers them his “brethren” and with brotherly affection earnestly desires their spiritual progress and encouragement in matters to do with the last days before Christ’s return. 2 Thessalonians 2, then, is meant to be a brotherly encouragement about what will happen in preparation for Christ’s Second Coming – not something to scare or terrify us.
Meditate and Pray: How high a value God the Father wants us to place on the Return of Christ! Let us pray, then, as follows:
Lord, please give us such a taste of your presence with us here and now that we long for more of you at your return. We plead for this because we live in an age which closes its eyes to every evidence of the closeness of your return. We plead this also because we find in ourselves a daily obsession with the fleeting pleasures of this world and a stubborn tendency to refuse to live for eternity in our daily thoughts, decisions and actions.
Give us enough of a glimpse of the splendor of your majesty in this dark world that we long to see the full brightness of your coming. By whatever means you must use, make us more and more, progressively and in your perfect timing, to “love your appearing” even as Paul declares in Titus that all believers will. We pray this in your Name, mighty and soon-to-return Savior, Amen.
Fri/Sat/Sun: read 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12. Leaving aside until a future time that strange, terrible antichrist figure, called in 2 Thessalonians 3:3-9 the “man of lawlessness,” we turn instead to the glorious brightness of Christ’s coming in verse 8: which will destroy all anti-Christian opposition to the Gospel. This destruction is declared in verse 8 and the grounds for it is outlined in verses 9-12. There is one point to especially highlight as we close this week’s Bible notes.
Note that the delusion under which the whole world will fall in preparation for justly being destroyed by Christ’s return (verses 9-11) is the result of one terrible quality which marks all unbelief and all anti-Christian activity (verse 10): “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
God’s truth is something that is sweet like honey; refreshing like water; precious like diamonds, pure like gold and enduring like lasting treasure. How valuable is it? So much so that to cast God’s truth aside and refuse to love and treasure it is tantamount to rejecting the very glory of God. It is to reject God by a casual apathy towards the truth! How does Jesus put it in John 5:39-40?
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
In other words, had Jesus’ enemies who crucified Him loved the true picture of Jesus Christ contained in their Scriptures (instead of ransacking them merely to justify their own man-made traditions and self-righteous, hypocritical behavior), they would have come to Him on their knees in broken repentance and faith. But without a love for Christ, they could not even find (let alone truly love) the truth that would set them free. Thus, the first ground for God’s righteous destruction of all unbelievers is that they never come to a knowledge or love of Gospel truth because they prefer to believe “lies” and to “delight in wickedness” as 2 Thessalonians 2:12 says.
Meditate and Pray: We cannot study such a sober description of the deep blindness and pervading delusion of the whole unbelieving world without having true and deep gratitude well up within us at God’s grace to make us see the salvation which so many refuse to behold by faith. Consider the gratitude in the following hymns and make it yours:
When this passing world is done,
When I hear the wicked call,
(McCheyne, # 545 Trinity Hymnal)
How sweet and awesome is this place
While all our hearts and all our songs
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
’Twas the same love that spread the feast
(Watts, # 469 Trinity Hymnal)