"Grace To The End"; I, II Thessalonians
August 1, 2012

C. R. Oliver

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August 1, 2012

"Grace To The End"
I, II Thessalonians

Paul again takes up his pen, after writing the Galatians letter, writing to those in Macedonia (having gone under the Spirit's leadership in what is known as the "Macedonian Call"). Macedonia's capitol, Thessalonica, was a thriving free city with a population of over 200,000 and home for a large contingent of Jews. The Jews prided themselves because of their many proselytes (due to the local disgust with pagan culture among its inhabitants). Paul came preaching a better gospel, with a better way, and many turned from Judaism to put their faith in Christ (they grew in number to be a goodly congregation of saints). These saints soon came under fire from the Jews, who were jealous and angry about their own lessening prospects. They also encountered persecution from Roman officials, who did not embrace the gospel. The lax culture of Thessalonica afforded many opportunities for prejudice and injustice both in work and social life toward these believers.

Paul was himself forced to leave the city under just such persecution. Jason, who hosted Paul and Silas (Sylvanias), had to pay assurance money to authorities to guarantee Paul's departure. Now, from Corinth, Paul demonstrates his love for those left behind and his concern over their steadfastness to the true gospel. His first epistle to them addressed those concerns and was followed a few months later by a second epistle, which tore into false doctrines he saw as a threat to their spiritual walk. One of the major issues in both epistles is the return of Jesus to the earth and what the saints should do to prepare for His coming.
Letters to the Thessalonians

          Each of Paul's letters began and ended with a reminder of God's grace. He knew the pervasiveness of God's manifestation of grace and His desire for all to grow into the maturity of His Son. Paul knew the quantity of His grace that must be continually poured forth like a libation into each saint's life. Foundationally, the investment of grace began before the earth was formed. Jesus, the beginning and end of grace, was like a lamb slain BEFORE the foundation of the world. Predestination and man's free will cannot be separated from manifold grace. Over and again, Paul interjects this truth throughout his work. Always, the Apostle wishes his reader's to be aware of the favor of God pushing them toward the "plan" of God for their lives.

          In this epistle, one can see the caring heart of the missionary. (Whoever initiates a work among people knows there is a sense of "birthing them." They are your children. The shape and character of the mission takes form in the persons comprising it.) Paul knew their names, knew their hearts and he loved them. He did not wish to leave them without the full range of his teaching, He was fully aware of some gaps in his message to them, due to his quick departure under pressure.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-10'
... what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God,
10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?
He wanted them to know he gave them his heart to keep them. When persecution came from all sides, he wanted them to know he was there with them. This is the missionary's heart (I have witnessed this many times during my life time from those on the field).
1 Thessalonians 2:8-12
8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,
12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
(Let the underlined portion spell, Grace. It is God who calls one into His grace. It was not the initiative of Paul or the receptivity of the Macedonians, but grace at work-- bringing them into kingdom.and glory. Paul followed the vision of grace and the congregation that formed was a "God and His Grace" thing. For missionary work to be successful, it must be from Call and from seeing the flow of grace toward a people. The Spirit never directs one to a work of ministry that grace has not gone before and paved the way. )

In the second epistle, Paul breathed a prayer of grace.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,
12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, in chapter two, the work of grace from eternity to Paul's present was made real in them.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,
17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
How can any group of people, claiming the Lord Jesus, escape the truth of the grace of God? It is the reason for songs of highest praise, the basis for worship and the very power of the gospel message.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.
In the first epistle, the overriding issue was the soon return of Christ. (Since Jesus had ascended within their life time, it stood to reason they would believe He would descend during their lifetime.) They believed He would make a short work and establish His kingdom on earth and they would escape persecution.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
How you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
"The wrath to come" was not, however, for the saints, but those who did not heed the gospel. God would inflict His judgment on the wicked, but deliverance from persecution was not in the deal. Grace gives power to stand in the midst of trial. The Thessalonian church experienced persecution from the Jews and the Romans in the same manner as the Jerusalem believers, and they were encouraged to stand just as the church did in Judea. Paul was teaching a doctrine of "standing," not escapism.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans,
15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men,
16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.

1 Thessalonians 3:3-5
No one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.
5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
Again, Paul commends:
1 Thessalonians 3:7-8
7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith.
8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
Who, then, is appointed to wrath? Those who work iniquity, whether devout Jews persecuting the church (and all other religious bodies that do the same) or the unbelieving world ruled by satan, both are destined to wrath. From this context, Paul introduced his revelation about the second coming of Christ.

The Second Coming: Pauline Doctrine
In the first epistle, Paul allayed the issue of the living preceding the dead in the second coming. Evidently, there was someone teaching that the Parousia was for the living only. This was just a mild mis-teaching and thus with a gentle manner, Paul corrects their theology.

I Thessalonians 4:13ff.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
This very plain explanation about the dead in Christ, and verse 17 especially, was truly a comfort to those early saints. Even though there are today some religions who baptize for the dead, they practice their art apart from the word of God (which is characteristic of cultic belief and those who follow it). The closer we come to that day and hour (of His return), the greater should be our holiness. (Paul took the opportunity to weave several teachings alongside this main one. Some of those teachings will come later in this study.)

In the second epistle, however, Paul attacked deception and false teaching. Someone was falsely telling the people Paul had issued a letter stating the Lord had already returned. (Another false teaching was circulated, as if from Paul, that took the form of a belief in the immanency [within a very short time span] of Jesus' return. Because they believed the time was so close, many of the believers had stopped working and were living off the good graces of their neighbors.) Paul really doubled down his attack about these notions.
II Thessalonians 2:1ff
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,
12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness
As the time draws closer to the return of Christ, scrutinizing prophecies, preachments and opinions concerning the events of the day grow more important. Paul said in essence, "Christ had not returned." (Since the Thessalonians had not seen Jesus ascend into the clouds, they may have assumed His return took place and they had not witnessed it.)

Paul expanded their understanding on this subject by teaching the universality of Jesus' visible return. (It is interesting today to hear theological discussions that declare, "Christ has already returned and Antiochus Epiphanies in 70 AD was the fulfillment of the man of perdition and how his act of sacrificing a pig on the altar in Jerusalem was what Paul was prophesying.) It amazes me the misinformation that floats about in the Christian world on the subject of Christ's return. However, there are events shaping up now which lend themselves to Bible prophecy.

For instance, the futuristic one-world government, which has alluded previous generations, with the exception of this one, seems like a great possibility today. With its birth will enter a retinue of those hailing the triumph of man against God; there will be propaganda stating the new world order needs no God to meet and supply every nations' need. It will thrive by having a highly deceived subject population, who will believe the lies promoted by world leadership. (Currently, the church is witnessing the rise of such organized lawlessness and stands mostly mute as it materializes, seeing prophecy fulfilled just as Paul predicted.) As the great restraining force of the U.S. and other free world governments decay and fall prey to the deceptions of the hour, there will be no restraining force (except God). Then, the chaos which will ensue from these final acts will be of a kind and nature the world has never known. Evil power without restraint flexing its might is an awful sight.

          (I chose these following select passages from Wycliffe Commentaries, because they reflect my personal beliefs.)
Falling Away:
2 Thessalonians 2:3
"A falling away," literally means the apostasy. The meaning of the word was known to Paul's readers, but we are not so fortunate. Apostasia usually means "rebellion," whether in a political or religious sense. The reference here is probably to the marshaling of the powers of evil against the people and purposes of God. Christ and Paul both warned against this final wicked conspiracy. (Rejection of Christian morals and mores with government approval such as sanctioning homosexual union, abortion etc., is one thing, but the overt action of that government targeting the people of God is another.)

Apparently the rebellion will be of sufficient scope and intensity as to mark itself off from the spirit of general opposition to God which characterizes the world's attitude ("mystery of lawlessness, 2 Thess 2:7). The capstone of the rebellion will be the revelation of the man of lawlessness. The term, "be revealed" suggests that the chosen man is waiting behind the scenes until the time for his public appearance is ripe

Restraining Force removed:
2 Thessalonians 2:6
It seems probable that the restraining influence refers to the principle of human government manifest in the Roman state. Human institutions are part of God's program of common grace, whereby he bridles the forces of evil to provide the proper setting for the revelation of his special, redemptive grace.* Totalitarian in the extreme (cf. Rev 13:15-17), Antichrist's government is so diabolical in nature and so ruthless in practice that it utterly disqualifies itself for being considered a God-ordained human institution. In his (God's) time shows that God is in ultimate control.
          (*READER, Grasp the starred sentence. This is grace expanded in dimension.)

Anti-Christ's Doom:
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8
Literally, lawless-Antichrist's basic characteristic, as "man of lawlessness" and "mystery of lawlessness" (vv. 3,7,) show up. No sooner is his unveiling (revealed) mentioned than his doom is described. The phrase, "The Lord will consume ..." is interpreted in better manuscripts as slay). "Spirit," i.e., breath. "Destroy" means to render useless, make powerless. "Brightness (epiphaneia)" or "manifestation" speaks of the brilliant display of Christ's power at his coming (cf. 2 Thess 1:7-8; Rev 19:11-21).

Lawlessness in Operation:
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
The Antichrist has his coming as Christ has His. Satan's working (power in operation) is Antichrist's dynamic (cf. Rev 13:2). His coming reveals itself in all power (to work miracles) and signs (significant, meaningful miracles) and wonders (amazing their observers). In the Greek, "lying" seems to apply to all three anti-Christ miracles as they are steeped in falsehood (Cf. Acts 2:22; Rom 15:19, etc.). Verse 10: "Deceivableness of unrighteousness," means "a form of Deceit" having its origin stemming from unrighteousness. "Them that perish" with the use of the present participle (apollymenois) suggests that the process is already in operation.

Increased Darkness:
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
"God shall send" is indicator of God's sovereignty, controlling the destinies not only of his own but of his enemies. "Rejected light" results in greater darkness ... 2 Thess 2:11-12 Effectively deceived, they trust the lie, not the truth (2 Thess 2:10,12). Satan's lie consists in getting men to believe him instead of God (cf. Gen 3:1 ff.; John 8:44). 12. "Condemned," damned and judged is the verdict implied, not expressed. Those judged as taking "Pleasure in unrighteousness ..." are not helpless victims, they willingly side with Satan against God and will share their captain's fate (John 16:11).

(Author's Note: Use these comments to assist you in understanding the end time importance of not being deceived into believing all the prophetic words spoken about these days. Some are saying that all the prophecies regarding the end time have been fulfilled and nothing remains. Many things have not yet been fulfilled and must come to pass before His arrival.)
In the Bible, the seasons and times surrounding the end times were mainly taught by Ezekiel, Daniel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Jude and John. Paul had revelation and shared it with the saints. Here are his main tenets.
1. There will be a falling away.
2. There will rise a "man of sin," a "son of perdition (son of the devil)."
3. The "mystery of lawlessness" will grow in size and dimension.
4. The "lawless one" will be revealed.
5. The Lord will destroy all the first four and their followers.
None of these personages, or these events, has been completed yet. However, at no time in the history of the world has the setting been riper for their manifestation than today!

It is the grace of God that has spared and repulsed the "man of sin." I remember sadly looking into the face of a beloved brother in Bogota, Columbia, who asked Clayt Sonmore, "Is there any hope for us?" I remember chiming in and saying, "There is always hope." God's grace is sufficient for the saints, but what is coming upon the earth at this very hour is disconcerting and often leads to despair. Paul's answer regarding his hope incorporated a huge prescription for the end time predicament.

First, STAND. Just as the early disciples were tested and thus prayed for more boldness ... So must we.

Paul commended the Thessalonians on their faith and how they had become examples of what Christians ought to be in all of Macedonia and ultimately the world. He urged them not to quit, but to stand.
1 Thessalonians 3:7-8
7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith.
8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord

2 Thessalonians 2:15-17
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,
17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
Second, live a life of HOLINESS:
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
(Read the preceding verses and realize that in our permissive age, the church has not dealt with the matters of uncleanness as they should and holiness has not been preached correctly ... Holiness is not an option. Read chapter 5:12 ff, in those verses Paul lays out a simple plan for holy living.)

Third: WORK
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
You also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
          Paul worked at tent making in Thessalonica, both as an example and because he needed expense money. Perhaps he felt perplexed in doing so because his missionary work might suffer. Tent making took away precious time that could have been spent in evangelism. Practically, he was not dependant on others or their offerings, for he was free to preach the unhindered message as, "He was paying his own way."

          Paul could not believe what he heard about the Thessalonica congregation once he had departed. Many had stopped working and spent their resources waiting around for the return of Christ. Other brethren were eventually having to assist them just to live. Paul rejected the welfare state and openly declared, "If you don't work, you shouldn't eat."
2 Thessalonians 3:7-10
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;
8 nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
Recently, welfarism has been touted as a Christian principle. It is time to review Paul. He even went so far as to call the recipients of assistance who refused to work, unruly and outside fellowship.

          Several times throughout this epistle, Paul encouraged the saints to be comforted by the fact Jesus is coming back for them. Yes, indeed, as believers we have read the final pages of the book and we are comforted that, "We shall reign with Him." Paul believed in being a "sealed" saint, sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise (see: Ephesians 1).

(There are as a matter of fact, certain portions of this epistle's scriptures that have found their way into the book, Sealed Unto His Coming. Two such passages are listed below.)
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(The meaning of "preserved" is "to seal" against any and all things. Paul sees the Thessalonica saints in terms of what they will become, not what they currently are.)

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,
17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

(Establish is another seal word. In other words, "take comfort that you are sealed unto Him." To be so established is a completed work and it is by grace.)

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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