What is the Book of 2 Thessalonians About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read 2 Thessalonians!


Historical Context

Shortly after writing 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul received a report (2 Thessalonians 3:11) that the Thessalonian church had accepted the strange claim that “the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV). Paul sent them a second letter in AD 49–51. He was probably in Corinth at the time.

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote 2 Thessalonians for your good and to lead you into joy.

Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians (1) to reassure those terrified that the day of the Lord had already come (2 Thessalonians 2:1–3:5); (2) to strengthen the Thessalonians in the face of continuing persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:3–12); and (3) to deal with the problem of some of the church members refusing to earn their own living (2 Thessalonians 3:6–15). Paul assumes that the Thessalonian church knew that the second coming of Jesus Christ would occur at the same time as the coming of the “day of the Lord.” Yet the Thessalonians may simply have fallen victim to a belief that the day of the Lord had already come. The persecution they were undergoing may have fueled their confusion about the end times. Some of the Thessalonians may have stopped working to await and proclaim the second coming. More likely, lazy Christians may have been exploiting the generosity of wealthier Christians in order to avoid work. In contrast to the warm emotional tone of 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians includes some blunt commands as Paul addresses bad behavior and bad thinking. Further, this letter is note-worthy for Paul’s tough-mindedness in predicting judgment on the ungodly and in rebuking church members who behave and think incorrectly. Still, there is a regular swing back and forth between reproof and warm encouragement.

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Until He Comes by Drew Hunter

Check out these three messages from Pastor Drew Hunter on the book of 2 Thessalonians. Pastor Drew preaches through the tough subjects in 2 Thessalonians like the antichrist, hell, work, and church, with gentleness and clarity. You will be motivated to live with greater faithfulness to Jesus until he comes!

2 Thessalonians Dictionary

As you read through 2 Thessalonians, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

Heavenly beings created by God before he created Adam and Eve. Angels act as God’s messengers to men and women. They also worship God.

To have faith or to trust that something is true. The Bible tells us that we can believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and trust him to keep his promise to forgive sins. We show that we believe that God loves us and wants what is best for us by obeying his commands.

The Greek word that means “God’s Chosen One.” “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning the same thing. Jesus was the Christ.

An assembly or gathering. The word church is used to refer both to local groups of believers in Christ (church) as well as to all believers (Church).

(1) To find someone guilty of doing something wrong and to declare or pronounce a punishment. (2) To be against or disapprove of something because it is wrong.

(1) To be certain about the things we cannot see or to trust someone because of who he or she is. For example, a Christian has faith that Jesus is God’s Son. (2) The whole message about Jesus Christ—that he is God’s Son and that he came to take the punishment for our sin so that we may become members of God’s family. This describes the faith of a Christian.

Love and kindness shown to someone who does not deserve it—especially the forgiveness God shows to us. We don’t deserve God’s grace because we sin against him. God showed grace to all people by sending his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. God’s grace allows us to become members of his family (see Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace also helps us live as God wants us to (see Acts 20:32). A person cannot earn God’s grace by trying to be good; it is God’s free gift.

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

What the Bible Is All About NIV Henrietta Mears

Dictionary Source

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?


The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of 2 Thessalonians.

Now these two letters, as we have gone through them, hold together two themes. The first theme is the future return of Jesus—that Christ will come again. So our hope is not in some kind of utopia we can create here on earth but it’s the new creation that Jesus is going to bring. So these letters focus on Jesus’ return. 

The other theme that these letters focus on more than any other part of the Bible is the importance of work. One of the repeated concerns of these letters is that Christians work. They work for certain reasons. They work in a particular way. They contribute to the common good. 

. . . 

So Jesus is coming—these letters set that hope in front of us—but there’s work to be done in the meantime, until he comes. Both of those [themes] are held together. We are waiting for Jesus but we are serving the common good until he comes.  

Drew Hunter 

Source: Drew Hunter, quoted from his message, “A Christian Vision of Work” from his series Until He Comes on 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18, preached at Zionsville Fellowship on November 27, 2016. 

It is fascinating to note that the title “Lord Jesus” appears 12 times in this three-chapter letter—more than in any other New Testament epistle. (The title appears 11 times in 1 Thessalonians.) Paul remains intent on spotlighting Jesus’ lordship over human history as well as over our individual lives. 

—Matt Smethurst 

Source: Content taken from 1–2 Thessalonians: A 12-Week Study © 2017 by Matt Smethurst. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The letters of 1–2 Thessalonians resound with the news that salvation—deliverance from God’s wrath through the blood of his Son—is available, for free, to all who will turn to, trust in, and treasure the Lord Jesus. These letters resound with the news that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in the hearts of Christians, empowering us to walk in a manner worthy of God. And these letters resound with the news that this world is not the way it always will be. One day, King Jesus will split the skies and return for his people, establishing justice and renewing all things. 

—Matt Smethurst

Source: Matt Smethurst, quoted from his article, “Don’t Underestimate 1-2 Thessalonians.” This article originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition

The main point so far is this: Paul tells us that two things have to take place before Jesus comes back to gather his church. First, an apostasy must take place, a rebellion against the faith. Second, a revelation of the man of lawlessness must occur. In other words, Paul is saying to Christians who are worried that they have missed this day, “Don’t worry, brothers and sisters. You have not missed the coming of Jesus Christ because the apostasy has not happened and the man of lawlessness has not been revealed.” The precise nature of these two “signs” is not the point right now. The point is that these two things have to happen before Christians are gathered together to Jesus. Perhaps I can paraphrase Paul this way: “I know you have heard that Jesus has come and you missed it. Don’t worry. Jesus will not come for you until two ‘signs’ take place first—rebellion and the man of lawlessness. Jesus will not come to gather you to himself until those two events take place.” 

—James H. Grant Jr.  

Source: Content taken from1–2 Thessalonians: The Hope of Salvation © 2015 by James H. Grant Jr. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Our final question concerns the content of this judgment: what will happen on that day when Jesus returns? What will this judgment look like? To answer this, we turn to Paul’s description of this judgment, a description that is unlike any other description that Paul gives of Jesus Christ. In fact, I think this description of Jesus is unrivaled until we get to the book of Revelation. Notice the description of Jesus Christ in these verses: “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels . . . ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7 ESV). When you read this verse, do not think of the little, cute, plump angels you see in a gift store. These angels in verse 7 are warriors, and Paul describes them in verse 8 as coming “in flaming fire” for the purpose of “inflicting vengeance” (2 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV). This is military language. This is the King coming with his army. Those who have believed and obeyed the gospel are safe, but those who are not will suffer the full fury of this King, Jesus Christ.  

This King did not come in fury and wrath during his first visit to this world. At that time he came with humility and love and grace. He came to ransom his people from the enemy. He died on the cross for rebels. The first coming was a rescue mission, but this second coming will be a war. There will be nothing to hold back King Jesus. He will come with the full force of the heavenly army that will be under his command, and Paul says that he will inflict vengeance “on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV). 

—James H. Grant Jr.  

Source: Content taken from1–2 Thessalonians: The Hope of Salvation © 2015 by James H. Grant Jr. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. 

Paul’s explanation of this punishment for those who reject Jesus is terrifying. At the end of verse 9 he describes them as being cast “away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV). Those who suffer this punishment will not behold the glory of the Lord. They will see his fury and wrath, and they will receive his vengeance. There will be no grace on that day. There will be no joy on that day. There will be no marveling at the Lord. On that day those who do not believe will be cast away from the only source of grace and eternal joy—Jesus Christ. 

Any good thing that we enjoy in this life, anything that brings us pleasure, ultimately comes from the hand of God. The description Paul gives of this eternal punishment implies that those joys will be taken away because those judged will be cast away from the source of all joy and pleasure. The Psalms describe God as providing joy unspeakable. Psalm 16 says that at God’s right hand are pleasures forevermore. The glory of Heaven is that we will have greater joy and satisfaction there than anything we ever had in this life. The terror of Hell is that sinners’ worst days and worst moments of this life will not compare to what happens there when they are cast away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might. 

—James H. Grant Jr. 

Source: Content taken from1–2 Thessalonians: The Hope of Salvation © 2015 by James H. Grant Jr. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The time of the glorious second coming is to be left with God. The delay in the Lord’s coming gives us real opportunities for service. We might have two wrong views of the Lord’s coming. Either we become restless and troubled because of having to wait so long, or we grow idle because we know that when he comes he will right every wrong and overthrow iniquity. But both of these attitudes are wrong. We are not just to stand and wait, but rather be prepared for service, making ready for the glorious day when he will come. Let us not abandon the work Christ has given us to do.  

—Henrietta Mears  

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

2 Thessalonians Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of 2 Thessalonians.

When Christ Our Life Appears
by Sovereign Grace Music | Praise & Worship
Grace and Peace
by Fernando Ortega | Piano 
We Constantly Pray for You
by Hosanna! Music | Scripture Memory
A Christian’s Daily Prayer
by Sovereign Grace Music | Hymn 
All Praise to Him
by Sovereign Grace Music | Praise & Worship
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