YOU CAN STAY CALM
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 February 15 2009
When Paul first went to Thessalonica, he proclaimed
the coming of Jesus as King (Acts 17:7). Many people there
believed in Jesus, but Paul was forced to flee the city
before he could instruct them in detail about this second
coming of Jesus. Both letters he later wrote to the church
include extensive references to the second coming.
Paul’s first letter especially emphasized the comfort
that believers will have in Christ’s return, whether they are
alive or already have died when He comes. After Paul sent
this letter, however, many believers in Thessalonica had
been thrown into confusion. They had believed false
information about the time of Christ’s coming. Second
Thessalonians 2 provides Paul’s extensive instruction,
correcting errors and encouraging these Christians to
Admittedly, we have difficulty understanding all the
details of the apostle’s teaching. The Thessalonians read
the letter through the lenses of Paul’s previous oral
comments to them. Since Paul did not repeat these
comments, we often can only guess at what he meant.
1. Reject (2 Thess. 2:1-4)
2Ths. 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2:2
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. 2:3
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.
2:4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything
that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself
up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Paul announced his subject in (2 Thess 2:1-2) and then
responded in (2 Thess 2:3-4) by asking the Thessalonians
to reject unfounded rumors in light of his insight into
Coming . ( 1Thess. 2:19). The second coming of Christ
is the principal topic of 2 Thessalonians. What Paul wrote
was supplemental to his oral teaching and the instructions
contained in his earlier letter. Gathered to him . (1Th 4:17).
Unsetted . The Greek for this verb was often used of a ship
adrift from its mooring, and suggests lack of stability.
Alarmed . Jesus issued a similar instruction, using the same
verb (Mark 13:7). Some . Paul seems to be uncertain about
what was disturbing them, so he uses a general expression.
Prophecy . “spirit,” denoting any inspired revelation.
Report . Lit. “word,” perhaps referring to a sermon or other
oral communication. Letter supposed to have come from us .
A forgery. Day of the Lord . (1Thess. 5:2). Has already come .
Obviously Christ’s climactic return had not occurred, but
Paul was combating the idea that the final days had begun
and their completion would be imminent. The rebellion . At
the last time there will be a falling away from the faith
(Matt. 24:10-12; 1Tim. 4:1). But here Paul is speaking of
active rebellion, the supreme opposition of evil to the
things of God. The man of lawlessness . The leader of the
forces of evil at the last time. Only here is he called by
this name. John tells us of many “antichrists” (1John 2:18),
and this may be the worst of them —the antichrist of
(Rev. 13) —though Paul’s description of the man of
lawlessness has some distinctive features. He is not Satan,
because he is clearly distinguished from him in (2 Thess.2: 9).
Revealed . Since the Greek for this word is from the same
root as that used of Jesus Christ in (2 Thess.1:7), it may
indicate something supernatural. Doomed to destruction . For
all his proud claims, his final overthrow is certain. The same
expression is used of Judas Iscariot (John 17:12). Everything
that is called God or is worshiped . He is not merely a
political or military man, but claims a place above every god
and everything associated with worship. He even claims to
be God. God’s Temple . Apparently refers to a physical building
( Mark 13:14) from which he makes his blasphemous
pronouncements ( Daniel 11:36-45; Rev 13:1-15).
2. Remember (2 Thess. 2:5-10)
2Ths. 2:5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I
used to tell you these things? 2:6 And now you know what
is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper
time. 2:7 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. 2:8 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. 2:9 The coming of the lawless one
will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in
all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 2:10
and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are
perishing. They perish because they refused to love the
truth and so be saved.
The Thessalonians were upset partly because they had
forgotten Paul’s oral instructions. He already had offered
them enough information to stay calm. We cannot be
certain how much of this passage is new instruction and
how much is review. Clearly, however, Christians today
have more than enough basic biblical truth about Jesus’
return to keep us from confusion \\-hen we encounter
What is holding Him back . The expression is neuter, but
the masculine equivalent is in (2 Thess.2:7). There have
been many suggestions as to the identity of this restrainer:
the Roman state with its emperor, Paul’s missionary work,
the Jewish state, the principle of law and government
embodied in the state, the Holy Spirit or the restraining
ministry of the Holy Spirit through the church, and others.
Secret power. Lit. “mystery,” which in the NT usually
denotes something people could not know by themselves but
that God has revealed (see note on (Romans 11:25). It is most
often used in reference to the gospel or some aspect of it.
The expression here indicates that we know some things
about evil only as God reveals them. This evil is already at
work and will continue until the restrainer is removed at the
end time. The lawless one will be Revealed . Evidently refers
to some supernatural aspects of his appearing (2 Thess.2:9).
Overthrow with the breath of his month . Despite his
impressiveness (2 Thess.2:4), the man of lawlessness will
easily be destroyed by Christ (Daniel 11:45; Rev 19:20).
Splendor . In (2Tim 1:10) (“appearing”) the Greek for this
word refers to Jesus’ first coming, but everywhere else in
the NT to his second coming. Coming . The same word used
of Christ’s coming in (2 Thess 2:8). Satan empowers him
with miracles, signs and wonders (Matt 24:24). Counterfeit .
Not “bogus,” but “producing false impressions.” Deceives .
The aim of the miracles of (2 Thess 2:9). Refused . Their
unbelief was willing and intentional. Truth . Often closely
connected with Jesus ( John 14:6; Eph 4:21) and with the
gospel (Gal 2:5; Eph 1:13).
3. Stand Firm (2 Thess. 2:11-17)
2Ths. 2:11 For this reason God sends them a powerful
delusion so that they will believe the lie2:12 and so that
all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but
have delighted in wickedness. 2:13 But we ought always
to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because
from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the
sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the
truth. 2:14 He called you to this through our gospel, that
you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2:15
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we
passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
2:16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our
Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal
encouragement and good hope, 2:17 encourage your
hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Paul began these verses by describing God’s future
condemnation of the wicked. Then he went on to encourage
believers and prayed for God to help them remain calm.
For this reason . Because of their deliberate rejection of
the truth (2 Thess.2:10). God sends them a powerful delusion .
God uses sin to punish the sinful ( Romans 1:24-28). The Lie.
Not just any lie, but the great lie that the man of lawlessness
is God (2 Thess.2:4). Loved by the Lord . . . God chose . For the
connection between God’s love and election (Col 3:12; 1Thess.
1:4; Eph 1:4). From the beginning . Election is from eternity
( Eph 1:4). Sanctifying work . A necessary aspect of salvation,
not something reserved for special Christians (1Thess 3:13;
4:3 ). Truth . (2 Thess.2: 10). All three persons of the Trinity
are mentioned in this verse (1Thess 1:1). Called . . . Through
our gospel . The past tense refers to the time when the
Thessalonians were converted; but the divine call is a present
reality in (1Thess. 2:12; 5:24. Our Gospel . (1Thess 1:5). Glory
of our Lord Jesus Christ . (1Thess 2:12). Ultimately there is
no glory other than God’s. Teachings . Lit. “traditions.” Until
the NT was written, essential Christian teaching was passed
on in the “traditions,” just as rabbinic law was ( Matt 15:2);
it could be either oral or written. In (1Con 15:3) Paul uses the
technical words for receiving and handing on traditions.
(2 thess.2:16-17) There is a similar prayer in about the same
place in the first letter (1Thess 3:11-13). Encourage . . .
Strengthen . Also used together in (1Thess 3:2). The prayer is
for inner strength that will produce results in both action
This exact phrase appears only here in the New Testament.
For Paul, a "mystery" was an open secret, that is, a truth once
hidden but now made known (for example, Eph. 3:4). Thus, to
help calm the fears of the Thessalonians, he spoke about a
"mystery of lawlessness" already working in the world.
Believers are not to be shaken because evil is active in the
world, nor are they to give up. Even more powerful than evil is
the "mystery of godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16).
This working of evil in the world is more covert now because
of the restrainer Paul described in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8. After
that force or person is removed, evil will run rampant in
unprecedented ways until Christ returns to smash it. We can
stay calm whenever sin and evil seems to prevail. We know God
is never surprised by such and He has a plan to condemn all evil
at Christ’s coming.