God, You are awesome, and all people will marvel at Your majesty when You return in power. We pray You will help us stand firm until the end. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1-3
Christians live in expectation of Christ’s return. 2 Thessalonians follows up on Paul’s concern first addressed in the previous book: the church’s need to have a proper view of the future. We see how the Thessalonian church responded to Paul’s earlier letter and also how he continues to care for them. We only hear one side of Paul’s conversation but we can re-create the other side sometimes.
Before studying this letter, it will be important to refresh your memory by looking at your notes from 1 Thessalonians. Consider what themes are repeated in this book, and try to determine the areas in which it appears the Thessalonians listened, as well as those in which they still struggle.
We only hear one side of Paul’s conversation but we can re-create the other side sometimes.
There are some challenging parts to this letter, particularly the section about the man of lawlessness (2:1–12).This seems to refer to a 1st-century Satanic emperor, but it might also be a reference to a future ruler energized by Satan himself. But as you read, stay focused on the overall point of the section and the letter as a whole, even as the specifics resist easy explanation.
Here’s one way to outline the book:
- Introduction and thanksgiving (1:1–4)
- What’s coming: Christ’s return and the “man of lawlessness” (1:5–2:12)
- Response #1: Stand firm (2:13–17)
- Response #2: Pray for Paul and persevere (3:1–5)
- Response #3: Don’t be idle (3:6–15)
- Benediction (3:16–17)
MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
This seems to refer to a 1st-century Satanic emperor, but it might also be a reference to a future ruler energized by Satan himself.
Perhaps more practically, 2 Thessalonians features several wonderful prayers that you could easily pray for others (1:11–12, 2:16–17, 3:1–2, 3:16).
2 Thessalonians 1:4-7a
4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us.
- How do you think the Thessalonians reacted to Paul’s previous letter? We can tell by the ways Paul commends them and the ways he still challenges them. Though the Thessalonians still need to grow in their obedience, Paul is generally positive and encourages them (1 Thessalonians 1:3–4). Every disciple needs encouragement, and we should learn to look for areas to encourage in all true believers, as well as true churches.
- What do we learn about this “man of lawlessness”? What is Paul’s point in writing about him? What does he say will happen to him?
- It’s important to remember Paul’s words are reminders of what Christ previously told His disciples in Mark 13, especially Mark 13:32–37.
- Paul usually practiced what he preached. He worked hard himself, so his exhortation to the Thessalonians not to be idle held more authority. Paul also told them not to associate with those who refuse to obey his instruction; warn them as brothers, he said, so they might be ashamed. Talk with someone about what obedience to this command might look like today.
Choose two of the following:
- Praise God for the grace you see in another believer. Analyze the evidences of grace He has produced in them, and make sure to mention it to them, specifically.
- Talk with other believers about the ways you are looking forward to Christ’s return. What does it mean for you to stand firm in view of the future? How does this shape your evangelism and your pursuit of sanctification? Are there idle areas in your life?
- As you reflect on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, note how Paul’s teaching is corroborated by his personal example. Does your life commend your teaching? What areas are you encouraged by? What areas are discouraging? Pray God will help you live a life that commends the gospel, and praise Him for his promise to “comfort hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2:17).
- Paul repeatedly encourages and prays for the Thessalonians. He also asks them to pray for him. Think about how Paul is helping those who are suffering under persecution. Look at what he prays for them. Take time to pray today for Christians around the world who are suffering for their faith—and pray these things for them.
- Use the internet to locate vendors from among the people groups you found in your area; begin praying for them. Perhaps plan a visit to one of their restaurants, grocery stories, etc. [All Peoples]
- The church in Thessalonica was doing some things right. Write down how you would explain what a church does, and then review the definition of a church and the guidelines for church planting. [Local Church]