Have you ever tried walking through a dark room? You’ve probably tripped over shoes, books, or whatever else you left laying on your floor. Frustrated, you fumble around for a light to help you see clearly. But it’s dark, you’re flustered, and there is seemingly no way out.
The Thessalonians felt a lot like this.
If you have read 1 Thessalonians, you know that persecution and false teaching about Jesus’ return caused great anxiety for the Thessalonian church. Unfortunately, by the time of Paul’s second letter, their situation hadn’t gotten any better—the persecution worsened and the false teaching prevailed.
Paul wrote this second letter to the Thessalonians to encourage and instruct their hurting church. He wrote to turn the lights on for this church that was groping in the dark for the truth, tripping over hardship.
First, Paul reminded the Thessalonians that God was on their side. He does not ignore the sufferings of his people. Paul comforts the Thessalonians with the promise that “it is just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to give relief to you who are afflicted” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV). God promises in eternity to judge those who oppress his people and to save his people once and for all from their afflictions. Believers in Jesus will one day enjoy life forever with God (2 Thessalonians 1:10). Though the Thessalonians endure persecution now, there is an end date to their suffering.
Fear will paralyze us but hoping in and expecting Jesus’ return will lead to hard work and faithful living.
Second, Paul clarified for the Thessalonians that Jesus had not yet returned. Some taught that the beginning of the end had already come: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV).
Imagine knowing that your persecution would end when Jesus came back, and then hearing he had already come and gone. But your persecution continued. You would think there was no hope for you! This would feel like missing the bus for school. . . only a thousand times worse.
Imagine the discouragement and frustration this church must have felt. Do we not matter to God? Has God left us forever?
Paul proves that Jesus has not yet returned by pointing out that certain events hadn’t yet taken place. The man of lawlessness, who Christians call the Antichrist, had not yet come. After the Antichrist comes and is revealed, Jesus comes back to destroy him. Clearly, these things haven’t happened yet—or else the Thessalonians would have known! Paul reminds them that the Antichrist hasn’t come, he hasn’t been revealed, and Jesus hasn’t destroyed him—so Jesus hasn’t forgotten them.
So, what does this letter mean for us today? Like the Thessalonians, we live with the promise of Christ’s return, awaiting that day in anticipation. Jesus Christ has not forgotten us either.
As we wait on Jesus’ return, we are called to live active lives, working hard at whatever calling God has given us (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13). Fear will paralyze us but hoping in and expecting Jesus’ return will lead to hard work and faithful living. Trusting that Jesus will be faithful to each of his followers and faithful to his Word motivates us to work hard and make the most of the time we have to serve the Lord and others before he returns.
The end is coming. Jesus is coming back. When Jesus returns, will he find you idle or faithfully involved in his work?