2 Thessalonians 1 – Persecutions Tribulations and Sufferings

Dear Friends,

This week we begin a new study in Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians. Although Paul had already written to them, there were still a lot of unanswered questions that Paul needed to address. It is widely believed that the church in Thessalonica had received a forged letter from someone claiming to be the apostle Paul. (2 Thess 2:2-5; 3:17) This letter confused the Thessalonians and deceived some of them into believing they had missed the rapture. In his book Illustrations of Bible Truths (Moody Bible Institute, 1945), H A Ironside relates an instance where a woman got off a train in a snow storm because another passenger told her it was her stop. She should have asked the conductor before believing the passenger, because the train had to make unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere and the lady froze to death by the time they found her. There are a lot of people who want to talk about God and heaven but I trust the Bible. Some in the church had stopped working and were relying on other believers to support them, while they loafed and waited for Lord’s return. So, although the church in Thessalonica was thriving and spreading the gospel, there were still some things that needed fixing. Hence, Paul sends this second epistle for their further edification. Thessalonica was a Roman colony, busy with people traveling through the Empire. Undoubtedly, Paul’s letters were copied and given to people who were passing through Thessalonica. [T]he word of God grew and multiplied.

Father, give us understanding as we read your word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

2 Thessalonians 1
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

As in his first epistle, Paul indicates that this letter is not just from him, but Silas and Timothy as well. Paul was still in Athens, working on spreading the gospel.  Acts 17:17 says Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. It was around this time that Paul preached his famous Mars Hill sermon to the Greek philosophers that inhabited Athens. 

2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, Paul begins with the cornerstones of grace and peace, laying a firm foundation for the rest of his epistle.

3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

Paul was thankful for his fellow believers. Are you? When you pray do give thanks to God for your fellow Christians? If you are a Christian I thank God for you.

Persecution was causing their faith to grow. We want peace and a smooth ride but we grow in times of trials. (See next verse.) The LORD trieth the righteous. In his first letter Paul said he prayed that their faith would be perfected. (1 Thess 3:10) Now, he thanks God for answering his prayer.

In verse 3 we have faith and charity (Gk agape), so why did Paul not include hope as he did in his first epistle to them? (Faith, hope, and love.) I think it is because the theme of 2 Thessalonians is the day of Christ and the Second Coming. Our hope (our blessed hope) is in the rapture, which precedes the tribulation period, or day of Christ. The Second Coming is at the end of the tribulation period.

4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

In other words, they should be glad that they were being persecuted. Their patience in their trials was proof positive that their faith was genuine. Paul would later write to Timothy, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Tim 3:12) Jesus said, Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matt 5:11-12)

6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

There are two different judgments in these two verses: 1.) Tribulation recompensed to them that troubled the Thessalonian Christians. 2.) Rest with the brethren when Christ returns for the Thessalonian Christians.

When we (Christians) return with Christ at his Second Coming, we will be riding white horses (Rev 19:14). In Revelation 19:14, the Christians returning with Christ are referred to as the armies of heaven, but it is not going to be the sort of battle that requires any energy on our part. Jesus will fight for us while we enjoy his rest.

8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

Jehovah’s Witnesses (and other cults) say that those who reject Christ will cease to exist, but that is not what Paul (or Jesus) taught. (Matt 25:46 et al) Everyone will live for eternity, either in heaven or hell.

10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

I have read a lot of different explanations for what the work of faith means. In 1 Thessalonians we talked about the difference between works of the law and works of faith. This verse probably relates to what Paul previously said about that. Jesus said This is the work of God, that ye believe on [ie have faith in] him whom he hath sent. (John 6:29)

12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1

 

First of all, Paul’s second letter refines and adds to what he taught the Thessalonians about eschatology in his first letter:

1 Thessalonians 4             2 Thessalonians 1

Christ returns in the air.                 Christ returns to the earth.

He comes secretly for                    He comes openly with
the church.                                      the church.

Believers escape the                      Unbelievers experience
tribulation.                                       tribulation, judgement.

Occurs at an undisclosed              Occurs at the end of the
time.                                                  tribulation period, the Day of the Lord (1)

Secondly, Paul talks a lot about faith in the chapter. Faith leads to love (v 3), endurance (v 4), and power (v 11). True faith believes what the Bible says and does what the Bible says. Over the years I have met Christians who claim to believe the Bible, but come up with all sorts of mental gymnastics to essentially say ‘well yes it says that but what it really means…’ or ‘yes it says that but I don’t think God wants us to be unhappy…’ or ‘yes it says that but __________ (fill in the blank)…’ That is not real faith. Real faith takes God’s word at face value and does what it says. When someone with genuine faith finds something in the Bible they do not understand, they ask God to show them what it means and increase their understanding. And He does.

Thirdly, Paul explains that suffering is a good thing for the Christian. Here is something that Warren Wiersbe wrote on this subject:

Trials work for us, not against us (2 Cor 4:15-18; James 1:1-5). If we trust God and yield to Him, then trials will produce patience and maturity in our lives. If we rebel and fight our circumstances, then we will remain immature and impatient. God permits trials that He might build character into our lives. He can grow a mushroom overnight, but it takes many years—and many storms—to build a mighty oak. (2)

It has been said that just as a silversmith refines silver in the fire, fashions the silver into a vessel, then polishes it until he can see his face in it, Christ refines us in the fire of trials, persecutions, and tribulations. He uses these things to fashion us into his own image, polishing us until He can see (and the world can see) his face in us.

When writing to the church in Rome, Paul said this about faith and tribulations:

….Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
….By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
….And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
….And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
….And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Romans 5:1-5

There are a lot of people suffering in our day. There are reports of people in India being killed for the gospel. Here in America, people are being persecuted for political reasons, but the real reasons are much deeper than that. Part of being a Christian is being salt and light and to say the reasons people are being persecuted are purely political would be a very trite and misleading explanation. You could say that the killings in India are political too, but of course that would not be the whole truth. I have long felt like our situation in America is similar to what people went through in Nazi Germany. That was the thesis of Dragon Slayer Jesus Christ, a book I published in 2014. The German Christians who stood up to the Nazi Party were persecuted and in many cases killed—not for the gospel directly, but for standing for righteousness when no one else would. A Fox News consultant is recommending yellow badges for children who are not vaccinated, in much the same way Jews were forced to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany. Just as the Jews were demonized by the Nazis, anyone who loves the truth and refuses the vaccines will likely be demonized in America. It’s already happening with the masks. I have already had someone ‘freak out’ on me for not wearing a mask. The Netherlands has rejected masks because there is no evidence they work against COVID. Holland was occupied by the Nazis in WWII so maybe the Dutch remember the history of how the Nazis used junk science to brainwash people a little more clearly than folks here in America. That is what this pandemic is all about. It is about brainwashing people (training them) to be obedient slaves. For example, the local government in Wisconsin has mandated that when employees are in their houses by themselves they still have to wear the mask if they are on a Zoom video conference.

But back to the theme of our chapter, which is persecution, tribulation, and suffering. When Navy SEALs go through their BUD/S training there is much suffering, but it makes them strong soldiers. Suffering helps us grow as Christians as well, and produces fruit in other ways. Roger Stone, a notorious libertine, has committed his life to Christ as a result of his political persecution. In every one of his interviews that I have seen since the court withdrew his gag order, Roger has talked about his newfound faith in Christ. Likewise, General Flynn has professed faith in Christ. Flynn recently wrote an opinion piece for Western Journal, explaining how important it is for America to return to God. Both Flynn and Stone have found that persecution and suffering have increased their faith. Journalist Millie Weaver was arrested yesterday just as she was uploading her completed documentary exposing new-world-order-operative John Brennan and his crimes against the American people.* I have never heard Millie Weaver express faith in Christ but I have always suspected she may be a Christian.

She needs our prayers.

What about the rest of us? Most of us are not going to be political prisoners, but maybe you are persecuted in other more subtle ways. Maybe you lost a promotion or even got fired because of your Christian faith. If that is the case, it’s a good thing. Now is no time to be lukewarm and persecution will increase your faith. I realize that some of you reading this may live in a country rife with persecution where being a martyr or a political prisoner is an ever-present danger for any Christian. Should the worst happen, you will receive a better resurrection.

In closing, I used to think that Jesus would return in my lifetime, but I am now of the opinion that He very well may return in the near future before too much longer. Jesus held the people of his day responsible to recognize the time of his first coming. (Luke 19:44) I believe He will hold us accountable as well, to recognize the time of his Second Coming.

Father, thank You for Millie Weaver and the courage You have given her, to tell the truth to the American people. Thank You for giving the midwives in Egypt the courage to defy Pharaoh and save the Hebrew children alive. Thank You for giving Saul’s servants the courage to defy him when he ordered them to kill Jonathan. Thank You for giving John the Baptist the courage to stand up to Herod. Please give us, your servants, the courage to stay true to the gospel and resist the new world order, to not be conformed to it but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may be ready against the day of your Son’s coming. If Millie Weaver is not a Christian then please give her the faith to believe on your Son. If she is a Christian then please increase her faith and give her courage. In any case, please give the grand jury the wisdom to see through the lies of the new world order. Come quickly Lord Jesus. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

….For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18

 

* Update: One of the main sources for Millie Weaver’s documentary, a former contractor who goes by the name Tore, uploaded the complete documentary to YouTube shortly after Millie Weaver was arrested. It can also be seen here. The film is very well done. It is loaded with information and extremely fast-paced. If you have not been closely following all the political intrigue that has unfolded over the last decade in DC you would probably have to watch the film several times to fully understand it. By the time I watched it on Saturday night, it had close to a million views. According to reports, Millie Weaver’s husband was arrested too. 

(1) Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, p195.
(2) Ibid, p193.