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2 Thessalonians 2:2 speaks of the church as being concerned that Christ had already come. What is the impact of Christ's return; why such concern?

2 Thess 2:2 (ESV) - not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

BLB: for you not quickly to be shaken in mind, nor to be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as if by us, as that day of the Lord is present.

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  • The behavior of the verb ἐνίστημι in 1 Mac 8:24-25 and 2 Mac 12:3; demonstrates a context of being on notice, of readiness for war, so it is necessary to remember here the order of Jesus in Matthew 6: 25-34 and especially Luke 21:34.
    – Betho's
    Feb 4, 2023 at 14:57

4 Answers 4

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It is always correct to use the first audience perspective when reading the Scriptures. We know when reading the accounts from the Old Testament that we are reading historical events that happened long ago. But, somehow when we begin reading the accounts from the New Testament many people start applying the words written almost 2,000 years ago to our current generation.

Paul was comforting those of the assembly at Thessalonica who were believers of Christ in the 1st century AD. The two letters Paul wrote to the Thessalonians were written approx. 50 - 51 AD. (1) We know from 2 Thess. 2:4 that the temple was still standing in Jerusalem at the time the letter was written. The Herodian temple at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. So, the letter predates the destruction of Jerusalem.

The assembly was concerned that the "day of the Lord" had already happened. This idea could only have been promoted in Thessalonica by a false teacher, or false prophet, and Paul was assuring them that they had not missed it. Christ had not yet returned when Paul wrote this letter about 51 AD. And, he was letting them know that certain events were just about to happen, specifically the man of sin that would sit in that Jerusalem temple and claim to be God.

"3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2 Thess. 2:3-4, KJV))

As there is no Herodian temple in existence today in Jerusalem, then Paul's assurance to the Thessalonians would have no meaning to anyone in Thessalonica today. Further, Paul assured them that the "man of sin" was alive and working when he wrote that letter in the first century AD.

"5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." (2 Thess. 2:5-7 KJV)

"Now letteth", present tense when the letter was written. Compare to the YLT:

"7 for the secret of the lawlessness doth already work, only he who is keeping down now [will hinder] -- till he may be out of the way,"

There are many who speculate about the man who was restraining the one who was working lawlessness, and there are some candidates proposed. But, the key here was that this man of iniquity would sit in the temple in Jerusalem and claim to be God. That could only have happened while that temple still stood, sometime before its destruction in AD 70. And, it would have to have been one of the men who claimed to be a High Priest in the Jerusalem temple.

We do not have a written record of the spoken words of the men ruling within Jerusalem during its last days of the siege during the Roman-Jewish wars of 67-70 AD, so we do not know if it was the appointed high priest Phinehas ben Samuel of Havta, who was chosen by the Zealots through the casting of lots, who made that false claim to be God, or if it was another. (2) (3)

Paul's point was that the events were even on-going when he wrote to Thessonica in 50-51 AD. They were happening during their lifetime, in their generation. It is not applicable to us in our generation. The lawless one was going to be destroyed on the day of judgment that God appointed for the destruction of that temple which Christ promised would happen in their generation (Matt. 24), and which we know was destroyed in AD 70.

Christ's second appearance (Heb. 9:28) was promised to the same generation that saw His first appearance / manifestation during the 1st century AD, and could not have happened to any other generation after the the 1st century AD, as no other generation saw His first manifestation. It is mathematically impossible to have a second occurrence when there is not a first occurrence.

The Thessalonians would not have been concerned that they had missed the day of judgment of Christ's second appearance if they had not been already told that He was returning in their lifetime. Paul was assuring them they would live to see Christ's return.

"8 and then shall be revealed the Lawless One, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the manifestation of his presence," (2 Thess. 2:8, YLT)

That day of judgment was promised to THEM, and was set for that generation (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21: 22-24; all of Revelation). God sent the unbelieving Jews a delusion (vs. 10-12) which played out during the siege by the continual false prophets who lied to the people in that city making them believe that God would protect them. The people in Jerusalem became insane in their continued resistance and rebellion of that war. (4) (5)

But, to those who believed Christ, and kept the faith was promised salvation and deliverance (2 Thess. 2:13-15). And, that deliverance came with the death of their persecutors. (6) When the temple was destroyed, the Sanhedrin was no longer able to exert their influence on Rome and the severe tribulation and persecution the believers had been subjected to under Nero was removed.

Paul's letter to the Thessalonians was for THEIR comfort and THEIR assurance, and we can be assured that every word of it was true.

Notes:

  1. Dating The New Testament - here

  2. The last high priest at the temple - Chabad

  3. High Priests of the 2nd Temple - here

  4. Baseless hatred - here

  5. Josephus, Wars Bk VI - here

  6. Which Salvation Arrived in AD 70 - ShreddingTheVeil

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That is not what the verse means that Jesus Christ has already come. The Apostle Paul is telling them that the day of Christ is at hand.

Please read the context, especially at vs3, "Let no one in any way deceive you for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction." This man is the Antichrist.

Please not Hebrews 9:28, "so Christ also having been offered once to bear the sins of many, SHALL APPEAR A SECOND TIME for salvation/deliverance WITHOUT reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."

In the meantime as believers we should be about the Lord's business of preaching the gospel. The Apostle Peter stated at 1 Peter 3:15, "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

One last point from Paul at 2 Timothy 2:15-18, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed handling accurately the word of truth. vs16, But avoid worldly and empty, chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness vs17, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, vs18, men who have gone astray from the truth saying the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some."

You can see the Apostle Paul was upset that these two men were teaching the resurrection/second coming had already taken place. That's why it's important to know your Bible.

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If Christ had already returned, that would be a major concern for any professing believer for several related reasons:

  1. It would mean that any professing believers left are the counterfeit ones. Counterfeit-believers will be “….ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28), for having a faith that was shallow, pretentious, self-righteous, or otherwise fake.

  2. Those who remain can still be saved, but they would have missed the resurrection. If they do get saved, and don’t get killed as martyrs (which is way different than being destroyed by God’s wrath), they will still enter the kingdom of God but in a non-resurrected state.

  3. Those who remain will have to endure the wrath of God which is ushered in on the day of the Lord and will be a very challenging experience for mankind. The wrath is designed to punish and kill and then continue punishing the wicked – but to lead to repentance any remaining people who may be so inclined. So when the wrath kills people, they are lost forever. On the day of the Lord, God will basically be revealing this message: “Okay, let’s wrap this up. I’ve taken all the faithful, and all the wicked are hereby being sent to their destruction. As for everyone in the middle – get on one side or the other.”

  4. In reality, once the day of the Lord has come and the resurrection is passed, counterfeit believers will have a crisis of faith. The only remaining hope for those who remain will be to genuinely repent and turn to Jesus. For a professing believer, realizing that one still needs to repent will be a challenging message to hear. First, they will have to realize that their present faith is false. Then they will have to learn how to have genuine faith.

So the best hope is to be a believer in Jesus now because anyone could die at any moment. Nevertheless being a non-believer at the end of the age is better than being a non-believer who dies prior to the day of the Lord. The non-believers at the end of the age are being provided a final ultimatum to repent and turn to Jesus in faith so as to get right with God. In the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24–25, Mark 13, Luke 21) and Luke 17, Jesus warns us to “watch,” to be spiritually “sober-minded,” and not to be deceived. All of his warnings boil down to one thing: Make sure you are a genuine believer in Jesus now. Jesus is cautioning us not to be damned to hell. It helps to be concerned for your eternal destination; to hold to the authority of Scripture; believe and do what it says; study theology; ask questions; examine yourself; and make sure you are leading the life that would result from having received salvation, etc.

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More properly reading, it was not the significance of Christ's return for the Thessalonian Church; it was the significance of the "False Teaching" of Christ's return, and how it causes damage to Christian lives.

The change of Paul's tone in 2 Thessalonians was significant compared to 1 Thessalonians, that he condemned the people who brought false teaching to the church as well as those who believed in the false teaching. Let's read a few verses that demonstrate it;

1:9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (NIV)

3:6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. (NIV)

3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (NIV)

14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. (NIV)

It was the correct attitude of a Christian in Paul's concern, that even if we knew Christ is returning tomorrow, today we still have to fulfill our duties as usual.

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