“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”- 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2
The Apostle Paul had great affection for the church at Thessalonica, as we saw in our study of 1 Thessalonians. This church, located in one of the most important cities in the Roman province of Macedonia, brought Paul great joy and moved him to gratitude for the believers’ reception of the gospel and its perseverance in suffering. Though Paul spent only a few weeks in Thessalonica when he planted the church, the Christians there were thriving, needing only some further instruction in eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) and a reminder of the Christian sexual ethic and view of vocation (1 Thess. 1–5).
Yet, while Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church benefited them greatly, some confusion in the congregation remained about certain matters after they read the epistle. Thus, shortly after 1 Thessalonians was completed, Paul sent the church in Thessalonica a second divinely inspired letter, known to us today as 2 Thessalonians. This letter, written from Corinth in about AD 51, features some of the most important teaching on the end times and on the importance of labor that we find in the Scriptures.
As we begin our study of 2 Thessalonians, let us note that in recent years, some scholars have questioned whether this epistle really came from the Apostle Paul. Because much of the subject matter from 1 Thessalonians is covered again in 2 Thessalonians, some thinkers have argued that the second epistle is a forgery wherein another writer co-opts Paul’s name to advance his own teaching. It has also been alleged that the view of the last things in each letter is different, with 1 Thessalonians teaching that the end is to come immediately and 2 Thessalonians contradicting this by arguing for certain signs that will precede the return of Christ. However, the early church fathers agree that this letter is genuinely Pauline. Furthermore, as we will see, there is no contradiction in saying that the end could happen at any time and that certain signs will precede it. No good reason exists for thinking that 2 Thessalonians is not from Paul himself.
Second Thessalonians comes to us from God the Holy Spirit through the pen of the Apostle Paul to instruct us in doctrine and life. Studying it in humble submission to the Spirit will help us grow in the grace and peace of God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:1–2).
Second Thessalonians goes over some of the same ground as 1 Thessalonians, but this is a good thing. We are slow to learn, and we need God to repeat Himself to us if we are to grow in the knowledge of His truth. Let us be grateful that the Lord graciously repeats Himself often in Scripture so that we better understand. Let us also pray that we will take to heart God’s message as we study His Word.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 1:3
2 Peter 1:2