2 Thessalonians Chapter 1: The Apokolusis

Jun 8th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

2 Thessalonians Chapter 1

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

2 Thess. 1:2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first epistle started with the same introduction, and it was from the same three disciples listed in the same order. In both epistles Paul gave thanks for the Thessalonian brethren (see verse 3).

Generally speaking, Paul’s epistles are sequential in the Bible, but 1 and 2 Thessalonians are out of place, for they were written earlier, about AD 54. Moreover, the two epistles were received close together, with only about six months elapsing between them, because Paul wanted to correct a misunderstanding and misreading of the first epistle.

Comment: The short time between the two epistles makes the growth of the Thessalonians even more remarkable. In just six months, their growth was very pronounced.

2 Thess. 1:3 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;

Despite their continuing persecutions, the Thessalonian brethren kept growing in faith and in love toward one another. In fact, their faith grew “exceedingly.” Probably their “love” grew in a practical or monetary way for each other’s needs as well as in their concern and brotherly love for one another. When persecutions occurred, as in the Dark Ages, houses and property were confiscated and jobs were lost, among other problems. Down through the Gospel Age, those in more fortunate circumstances helped those in less fortunate circumstances.

2 Thess. 1:4 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:

Other ecclesias were aware of the severe persecutions that were taking place in Thessalonica at that time. The patience and the faith of the Thessalonian brethren were apparent in their persecutions.

Comment: Patience and faith go hand in glove. One does not exist without the other.

Reply: Yes, to endure the persecutions, they had to have both faith and patience. The Thessalonians were solidly committed to serve God; they were not wavering. However, that does not mean “once in the truth, always in the truth.” In spite of their present situation, Paul was concerned.

2 Thess. 1:5 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:

2 Thess. 1:6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

Persecutions are “a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God.” If a person is being severely persecuted and there is no just cause for that experience—if he is an innocent victim because of his loyalty to God’s Word—then if God punishes and inflicts judgment on the persecutors, He is a righteous God. But that raises another question, which we will have to address as we go along.

Comment: The Amplified reads: “This is positive proof of the just and right judgment of God to the end that you may be deemed deserving of His kingdom, a plain token of His fair verdict, which designs that you should be made and counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for the sake of which you are also suffering.”

Reply: The Amplified is bringing up an additional standpoint; namely, “if we suffer [with Christ], we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). That principle is similarly stated in Romans 8:17, “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Therefore, if God rewards those who faithfully suffer, He is a just God. However, the battle must be fought to the end of one’s course. Paul was saying, “You are giving evidence that you are on the right path. I thank God that I can see the truth means something to you. If you continue on that path, you will inherit the Kingdom. You will be accounted worthy of Kingdom honors and will reign with Christ.”

God is righteous and just both ways: (1) in rewarding Christians for their faithfulness and (2) in recompensing judgment upon the persecutors. God manifests righteous judgment. The persecution came primarily from Jews. “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews” (1 Thess. 2:14).

2 Thess. 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

Comment: The Thessalonians were told to “rest” in faith, for God’s judgment would come in due time.

Reply: Probably there was some judgment back there too, but generally speaking, judgment will come at the end of the Gospel Age. Certain statements in this chapter indicate that some of the persecutors will not be alive for a future judgment because they were judged worthy of Second Death in the present life.

Two types of Jews caused problems: (1) Some who came into the meetings as fellow Jews were not really consecrated and, in fact, proved to be enemies. (2) Others who came into the meetings were true Jews who did make a full consecration but subsequently turned against the truth. Paul addressed this second class as deserving a Second Death judgment. The first element will be judged in the Kingdom. The very fact they will have a resurrection shows they did not sin unto Second Death. In succeeding verses, Paul was also speaking prophetically, indicating that something along this line would happen in our day. In other words, he used the experience of the Thessalonian brethren to ominously imply that a somewhat similar development would occur in the Truth movement at the end of the age.

Comment: Acts 17:5,6 provides background information for conditions in Thessalonica. “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.”

Some will not have a resurrection because they deflected from the truth, but others—“lewd fellows of the baser sort”—will come forth in the Kingdom, for they “believed not.” In many of the epistles, we see two kinds of Jews who infiltrated the movement. Many of the Christian Jews were sincere, real believers, but because of their past training, other Jews tried to manipulate them and get them to obey the Law of Moses as well as the law of Christ. The claim was that the Law had to be obeyed because faith was not sufficient. Some succumbed to that line of reasoning; others did not. The Thessalonians were a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles.

The Jews, being by nature mercantilists, were good sellers, so they tended to live in the cities. As a result, there were synagogues in most of the important cities of Asia Minor and also in Greece.

When will “the Lord Jesus … be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels”? That will occur when the Church is complete and after the marriage. This text refers to the epiphania and the apokalupsis, which are the future aspect of the parousia, the time when the world is apprised of the fact that a radical change has taken place in earth’s affairs. The world will then realize that a new government has taken control. Instead of Satan being the “god of this world,” Jesus Christ will be the ruler (2 Cor. 4:4; Isa. 9:6,7). Certain events will make manifest that a new power has come.

The parousia, which began in 1874, is a 1,000-year presence that will continue throughout the Kingdom—it is the base—but the initial period of the parousia is a secret. During that phase the world is unaware of Jesus’ Second Presence. The second and third phases of the parousia, which are the epiphania and the apokalupsis, are also a presence but a manifestation of that presence.

Comment: In regard to Jesus’ being revealed from heaven “with his mighty angels,” the Diaglott has “with messengers of power of himself,” that is, with the glorified Church, who will have divine power. Therefore, the time for this revealment is after the Church is complete.

2 Thess. 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

We can easily see how many have taken this verse literally, but when harmonized with other Scriptures, it is clearly recognized as figurative. A number of other texts also use “fire” in a figurative sense. However, although figurative, the fire will be realistic in a sense—it is just not physical.

2 Thess. 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

This verse is obviously referring to Second Death, even though the Greek word aionian is used. “Age-lasting” means a predetermined period of time, but that time period varies according to context. For example, it can mean a thousand years or an eternity. Sometimes, but not always, the word is repeated (aionian aionian) in order to emphasize the eternal aspect.

In regard to those who went into Second Death back there, when will their fate be known? It will be apparent when they are not raised from death in the Kingdom. But what about individuals who were very reputable and/or were leaders who appeared to be right but were not right from God’s standpoint? Would not the reason for their judgment be revealed? Yes, there will be some revelation in the Kingdom as to why certain individuals do not get a resurrection. And with regard to other well-known persons who are raised from death in the Kingdom Age but are given judgments, the world will be apprised as to why they were not recognized.

Let us consider the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. Both classes in the parable are true spiritual virgins, yet Jesus says of the foolish, “I know you not” (Matt. 25:12). It will be revealed in the future as to why the foolish virgins were not recognized as part of the Bride of Christ. The same is true of the Second Death class. The reason will be made apparent in cases where people might question God’s judgment. In other words, those who were influential in the present life became historic figures in the time in which they lived, and it will be made manifest in the Kingdom whether they were right or wrong according to God’s principles. Evidently God is sensitive on these matters, and thus He wants to show His intelligent creation His love, His justice, His power, and His wisdom. While He has the right and the prerogative to do as He pleases and is not required to give explanations, He condescends and will be pleased to show why He approves certain individuals and disapproves others.

2 Thess. 1:10 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.

“To be glorified in his saints” means that the saints’ lives will be made public, at least to the extent of showing why they are kings and priests. Otherwise, how could the world admire those they did not know at all? Why God selected and honored certain members of the human race to be associated with Christ and reign with him in the Kingdom will be made known. A brief public exposition will be given in regard to each of the 144,000.

Additional Thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 1:5–9, As Presented in the 1981 Study

2 Thess. 1:5 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:

How are the persecutions a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God? The reward of being of the Bride of Christ is so high—with its attendant glory, honor, and immortality— that it is only right for us to be thoroughly tested. Even Jesus had to be tried before receiving immortality. Therefore, if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him. There is no injustice on God’s part when He severely tests us. The danger to the Thessalonians was that under long-term persecution, some might think the persecutions were punishment for wrongdoing. However, persecution can come from right doing, from living a proper Christian life. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Persecution should not discourage us, for this was part of the terms of our consecration, i.e., to suffer for Christ and walk the narrow way of sacrifice. At consecration we knew we were taking up our cross to follow Jesus.

2 Thess. 1:6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

It is “righteous … [for] God to recompense tribulation” to those who trouble the true Christian. Not only is God just in allowing the sufferings of the Christian, but in due time He will inflict justice on those who cause the persecution. God is just in dealing with both classes, but the “vengeance is mine; I will repay” aspect is delayed (Rom. 12:19).

2 Thess. 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

2 Thess. 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Thess. 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

God is just and will inflict righteous judgment on the world in due time, but He is not delaying the enactment of justice on the Church, for they must make their calling and election sure in the present life—and progressively from beginning to end. Thus Paul was saying, “Be patient. God will take care of the persecutors. Rest with us in this matter.” Then Paul revealed when part of the retribution would come: “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [apokalupsis] from heaven with his mighty angels.”

Jesus and his mighty angels will take “vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The “Man of Sin” chapter in the Second Volume covers this text from the standpoint of two classes. There will be a balancing of the scales in regard to the world and their iniquity and injustice. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and [with] some men they follow after” (1 Tim. 5:24). In other words, some men’s sins are punished before the Kingdom and some during the Kingdom, but all injustice and iniquity will be balanced out eventually. Certain sins will receive stripes. For example, nominal Christians who oppose the true Church are proportionately culpable according to their degree of knowledge.

Can a person know about God and yet not know God? Yes, in the sense that one is not in harmony with God’s principles. Verse 8 refers to just one class—a class who are more knowledgeable—and verse 9 indicates that the punishment for this class is Second Death (they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power”). This is an enlightened class who have the gospel but do not obey it. An individual does not incur the Second Death penalty unless he sins against light. This retribution will have a dispensational fulfillment at the end of the age.

If the Thessalonians realized that in due time God would take care of the troublemakers, the instruments of persecution, then whether the retribution happened in the present life or in the next life was really immaterial. The satisfaction of “resting” with the Apostle Paul in the confidence that vengeance is God’s to repay was the important thing. In the early Church and all down through the Gospel Age, there was a Second Death class. However, there will also be a Second Death class at the end of the age, in the time of the Lord’s presence, who will be dealt with in the present life, and Paul is referring to them here. The fact that Jesus will be revealed from heaven taking vengeance and that this will be an everlasting destruction indicates a dispensational fulfillment during the Second Advent. Having been taken up to the “third heaven,” Paul had great understanding, which is

reflected in his language and knowledge without his telling too much of the time-period aspect (2 Cor. 12:2). For example, it would have been very discouraging for Paul to tell the Thessalonians that Jesus would not come for almost 2,000 years. Therefore, he just said, “When the Lord comes . . .”

Not only, then, is this judgment limited to the period of the Second Advent, but it is further limited to a certain time within the Second Advent. Those who “know not God” and “obey not the gospel” are a class with information. The “gospel” is the heavenly calling, not restitution.

This Second Death class will exist during the Harvest period but will receive “vengeance” after the Church is gone. It is an enlightened class that will prove unfaithful, for although they know a lot about God, they “know not God”—they do not know His ways and are not in harmony with His principles. The “gospel” is the good news that one can become a member of the Bride of Christ, that one has the opportunity to suffer with Christ so that he might reign with him. Hence this vengeance does not apply to the world in the Kingdom.

2 Thess. 1:10 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.

The vengeance pertains to the period of time when Jesus’ Second Presence is revealed with “flaming fire,” and this revealment will require a little time. These judgments have an educational feature in that they will open the eyes of the consecrated who remain on the earth after the Church is gone. (Jacob’s Trouble, not these judgments, will open the eyes of the world to know that God is God!) Thus there will be degrees of revealment. The world will be the last to know because those Gentiles who escape Jacob’s Trouble will return to their respective nations and testify what they have seen. Israel will know before the nations, but the Great Company will know before Israel. The message will come to the Great Company that the Lamb’s “wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). In the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, the foolish virgins are informed that the door is closed. Since the foolish virgins will get this revelation in tribulation, in the Time of Trouble, they are called “tribulation saints.” In the process of the Lord’s descending from heaven in “flaming fire” (judgments), the foolish virgins will know what is happening.

Jesus will take “vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel.” The implication is that this class know about God but are disobedient and hence go into Second Death. Apparently, a significant number, proportionately speaking, of the enlightened ones will sell out the truth and forsake the Lord at the end of the age, thus incurring Second Death. The Great Company will not sell the truth but will be shocked into renewing their consecrations when they see what is happening around them—for, sad to say, some brethren, some of “like precious faith,” will abandon that faith. Such abandonment will merit Second Death, as represented by Lot’s wife, who looked back and was, therefore, destroyed. However, Lot (picturing the Great Company) was saved, and he was closely associated with his wife. Abraham viewed the trouble from afar (picturing the Little Flock’s viewing the great Time of Trouble from heaven), whereas Lot was saved (or rescued) at the last minute. Lot’s wife pictures those who will sell out the truth, that is, the Judas class who will sell out the feet members. This element will be right in the midst of the brethren. At the very end of the age, this class will reveal their true character and be dealt with.

Back in the apostle’s day, when he wrote this epistle, the sorest trouble that was visited on the Thessalonian brethren came from those closely connected with the truth. The charges were brought against Paul and others by some of the Jewish Christians, and the civil authorities wanted to get out of the situation (just like Pilate). The point is that there were Judaizing brethren. During Paul’s day, some right in the truth had a change of heart and mind in regard to the truth and became persecutors of the Church. These were “Judases,” a turncoat element. When the Gospel Age ends and the Lord is revealed, all will then know what previously occurred and who went into Second Death including the Judas element of Paul’s day. Thus Paul was telling the Thessalonians to “rest” in the matter of unfaithful brethren, for at the time Jesus is revealed from heaven in flaming fire, God’s vengeance upon this entire class throughout the Gospel Age will be revealed, made manifest.

Verse 8: This verse refers to one class who “know not God” and will, therefore, go into Second Death. Then Paul elaborated so that we can identify the class. He said, further, that they “obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Apostle Jude elaborated even more and showed that some of this class will be Spirit-begotten and some will not. However, the latter individuals will have a sufficient understanding of truth to make them culpable and accountable. Anyone who truly knows Jesus is the Savior, whether he consecrates or not, is fully responsible. That is what Jesus died for—that all men should come to a knowledge of the truth that he is Savior. With knowledge comes responsibility. One who knows about Present Truth but does not consecrate has some responsibility in the sense that he has more knowledge than those in the world. All are judged in proportion to the understanding they possess.

Just as at the First Advent much of Jesus’ strife was internal at first because Judas sold him out, so at the end of the age internal strife will occur in the Church because some will sell out the truth as the external persecution is beginning. The requirement will be to identify ourselves with the cause of Christ. The character of each one will be tested. Worldly people will be manifested as worldly; nominal Christians, as nominal Christians; etc. That is why the tares will be “burned”; that is, they will cease their profession to be Christians.

However, here Paul is talking not about mere professions but about souls, about individuals, who are on trial for life. Incidentally, the “flaming fire” is retributive justice.

Suppose we were of the Thessalonian brethren and this letter came from Paul telling us to “rest.” We would have seen some in the movement begin to oppose, and we would know their relationship with God was in jeopardy. And if they were particularly spiteful, we would know their fate, yet we would “rest,” as Paul said. Jesus did not come and destroy this Judas element; however, their evil character was manifested in their opposition. Those of the consecrated who later deny Jesus often suffer some kind of retribution whereby their fate becomes apparent to the brethren. The following is a true example. An individual turned back on his consecration and called Jesus the false Messiah. For a while he had an excellent job, but he ended his life as a Bowery bum in New York City. Matthew 6:23 says, “If thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be[come] darkness, how great is that darkness!” When one utterly forsakes the truth, the revelation of that darkness can sometimes be seen by others in the body. In fact, to a large extent this judgment could be discerned not only in the apostles’ day but throughout the Gospel Age. The judgment was manifested by the total darkness that followed. However, Paul carefully worded this second epistle to also give it a dispensational fulfillment. Although in principle much of this judgment could be discerned in the present life throughout the Gospel Age, Paul’s strongest emphasis was on the end of the age—our day. All should “rest” in the assurance that God’s retributive justice will operate. That is the issue here: the just recompense of God in due time upon the consecrated who oppose their brethren.

Verses 8 and 9: The manifestation of this class at the end of the age will be after the Church is gone but at the end of the Harvest, for in the Harvest the “unripe wheat” (the Great Company) also have to be dealt with. Jesus will be with the “angels of his power” (the glorified Church, the ripe wheat) when this judgment is enacted.

Verse 9: This Second Death element’s “not knowing God” refers to something much more intimate than just talking about God. Through their disobedience they will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Not only is our obtaining eternal life with Jesus predicated on our “knowing God,” but any of the world of mankind who get life in the next age will also have to “know God.”

Verse 10: 1 Thessalonians 1:10 mentions that the Church is “to wait for his [God’s] Son from heaven.” However, in getting that first epistle, some of the Thessalonian ecclesia mistakenly thought they would be on this side of the veil when Jesus came. Some also misconstrued Paul’s writing to think they would literally see Jesus appear while they were still in the flesh, but no, for the Church will be with Jesus when he comes in that sense, when he is revealed (apokalupsis). That is why Paul added, “and to be admired in all them that believe … in that [Millennial] day,” in the Kingdom, during the reign of Christ. The Church will be with Jesus, a part of his “mighty angels” at that time. There are many “comings” of Jesus. The First Advent was the initial coming, but he also comes knocking on the door, with a sickle in his hand, with a sword in his mouth, etc. The Church will be admired with Jesus during his reign.

Paul was preparing the Thessalonians for the last part of this second epistle. They thought he was hinting that the reign of Christ had already begun, and he had to correct that misconception. They reasoned wrongly on Paul’s letter, on what they heard, and possibly on a false letter that was circulated, written by someone else. All of these things together precipitated the thought that a secret reign had begun. They thoroughly knew there would be a secret presence (1 Thess. 5:2), but when Paul wrote that the dead in Christ would be raised first, they began to think that the reign had already started with the dead on the other side and that those remaining would see a manifestation and then be caught up in connection with the manifestation. But Paul was not saying that. When Jesus “shall appear,” all his saints will be with him (Col. 3:4); that is, the Church cannot be partly on this side of the veil in connection with this manifestation.

Jesus will “come to be glorified in his saints [not in 1874 but after the marriage], and to be admired in all them that believe … in that day [in the Kingdom].” It will give Jesus glory when the world of mankind realizes and appreciates that 144,000 down through the age followed in his footsteps. The world will then understand why the Kingdom was delayed. The fulfillment of this verse is after the trouble. In the Kingdom the world will see that the great Time of Trouble was needed as a corrective judgment. The admiration of Jesus and the Church will begin when the Kingdom is established and continue throughout the Millennium.

2 Thess. 1:11 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:

Paul prayed for all of the churches, no doubt concentrating on each one. From our standpoint, wouldn’t it be nice if a great number of us made our calling and election sure? Wouldn’t that be a happy occasion? Any sincere Christian will be happy for the ones who are successful in making the Little Flock and reigning with Christ. Just as the acclamation was made, “Worthy is the Lamb,” so sincere Christians who see things in the proper perspective will say, “Worthy is this one who was faithful” and “Worthy is that one” (Rev. 5:12). The more who make the grade of each ecclesia, the better. Paul certainly rejoiced, for those who were successful and obeyed his message were like stars in his crown. “We pray … that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his [God’s] goodness, and the work of faith with power.” The Pastor used an illustration of faith and power with the trolley car. The flexible arm that grabbed onto the power cable was like the arm of faith grabbing the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Comment: The NIV says, “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.”

Making our calling and election sure is based upon our obedience to God and our pleasing Him. If we are thus faithful, we will be in the class that is admired. Paul prayed that the brethren would be faithful and “fulfil all the good pleasure of his [God’s] goodness.” It was hard for the Thessalonians to see God’s goodness while they were being persecuted unless they had great faith like Paul and could sing in the dungeon.

2 Thess. 1:12 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.

Paul began the epistle by speaking of the grace of God and Jesus. He greeted the Thessalonians this way because he hoped that when all was said and done, he could say they had made the grade. Chapter 1 is a preface to the epistle. In Chapter 2 Paul got down to his purpose in writing the letter, that is, to the pertinent point that was troubling him.

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