2 Thessalonians 1
You’ve got a fine reputation
Hello from Paul, Silas, Timothy1 From: Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
To: The Thessalonian church, the people of God the Father, and the people of our leader, Jesus the Messiah. 2 Hello. I hope you’re experiencing kindness and peace that come from God the Father and from our leader, Jesus the Messiah.
We’re so proud of you3 We’ve got to keep thanking God for you, dear family. It’s the right thing to do because you’ve grown so much in your faith and in the love you have for each other.
4 We brag about you in God’s churches. We tell the people about your patience and your faith in the middle of all the persecution and trouble you’re suffering. 5 What you’re going through and how you’re handling it is proof that God has already made a judgment call about you. He considers you worthy of his eternal kingdom. In fact, your devotion to God and his kingdom is why you’re suffering.
“Everlasting death” ahead for some folks6 It’s only right for God to do what he’s going to do: prosecute your persecutors. 7 He’s also going to relieve you of your troubles—of our troubles, too. This is going to happen when Jesus returns from heaven, with his entourage of mighty angels. 8 He will come in flaming fire to administer the punishment for those who don’t know God and who don’t embrace the Good News about our leader, Jesus. 9 Their punishment is everlasting death. They will be separated from the Lord and his great power.
10 This will happen when he comes, showered in glory by his people and with his people. He will amaze them all. This will happen because you believed the Good News we brought you. 11 That’s why we never stop praying for you. We want God to see that you were worth his invitation. We also want God to do great things through you because of the faith you have in him. 12 May the life you live bring honor to the name of our Lord Jesus. May God and our Lord Jesus Christ kindly grant our request.
Paul used the Greek version of his name: Silvanus.
The Greek word, charis, is often translated “grace.” It also means “loving-kindness,” “good will.” And it often refers to the merciful kindness of God.
“Lord Jesus Christ” works today like a divine title, “Lord,” followed by a set of names, “Jesus Christ.” But in the early days of the church, “lord” referred to a boss, a master, or a person of high status or respect. “Christ” was the Greek version of “Messiah,” which in Hebrew meant “Anointed One,” as in a king anointed under the authority of God.
Paul opens his letter by saying, “I hope you’re experiencing kindness and peace that come from God the Father and from our leader, Jesus the Messiah” (1:2). That might sound like a bad joke since Paul and the people to whom he is writing know the people are suffering “persecution and trouble” (1:4). What do you think kindness and peace that come from God looks like when you are in the middle of intense suffering? If it helps, the Greek word behind “kindness” is charis, a word much richer in meaning. It’s usually translated “grace,” and it often refers to the merciful kindness of God.
Paul wrote as though he believed Jesus was coming back any minute. He said he expected that the people in Thessalonica, like himself, would be relieved of their troubles “when Jesus returns from heaven, with his entourage of mighty angels” (1:7). Didn’t happen. Jesus did not come back, as far as we can tell from reading ancient Christian writings. Christians continued to suffer. Paul was executed, beheaded according to some reports. Did Paul get it wrong?
Paul said Jesus would come “in flaming fire to administer the punishment for those who don’t know God” (1:8). Do you think we should read that literally, or is Paul using some metaphor here when he describes the fire and the punishment?
Paul said that the punishment for refusing to embrace the Good News is “everlasting death” (1:9). The footnote in the Casual English Bible says the term is also translated “eternal destruction.” Some Christians argue that punishment is not eternal suffering in hell. They argue that it is eternal death—that the soul is annihilated and ceases to exist. In other words, sinners won’t suffer endlessly. They’ll be destroyed, which is what fire does. It’s the destruction, not the suffering, that will last forever. Christians who say they believe this find support in something Jesus said: “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 New Living Translation). That is not the traditional Christian way of understanding hell. What do you think about this?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul wrote that “We tell the people about your patience and your faith in the middle of all the persecution and trouble you’re suffering” (1:3). Do you have any examples you can tell us about—of people who suffered, but who deserved admiration for the way they handled it?