After explaining the coming “Apostasy” and the “Man of Lawlessness,” Paul instructed believers in Thessalonica on how to avoid the coming deception and thereby find themselves standing “blameless” before Jesus when he “arrives.” To do so they must “stand fast” by adhering to the teachings and “traditions” of the Apostles. The conclusion to his discussion includes verbal links to his first letter to the Assembly. The second letter was written within a few weeks or months at the most of the first letter.
In his second letter, Paul addressed additional issues concerning the future, especially the “Day of the Lord.” This was necessitated by false information that was being propagated in the Assembly about that event and the ‘Parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus.
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- (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17) - “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning for salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth to which he called you through our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, stand fast and hold the traditions that you were taught, whether by word or by letter of ours. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us everlasting comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
Paul writes, “God chose you…for the acquisition (peripoiésis) of the glory of our Lord Jesus.” This echoes statements in his first letter about how “God appointed us not for wrath, but for the ACQUISTION (peripoiésis) of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Both statements use the same Greek noun or peripoiésis - (1 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 5:9).
In his first epistle, after referring to the “times and seasons,” the stress falls on right conduct and belief, not on knowing “signs” and prophetic schedules. Disciples who remain watchful and live as “sons of the light” will not be overtaken by the sudden arrival of the “Day of the Lord.” In 2 Thessalonians, Paul instructs believers further on how to avoid deception, namely, by “standing firm” in the teachings the Assembly received from the Apostle and his coworkers.
The Thessalonians must “stand fast and hold the traditions” to persevere through the coming onslaught. The term “stand fast” translates the Greek verb for “remaining stationary,” and so, “to persevere.” Paul uses the same verb in his first letter to the Assembly and in a similar context.
- “But when Timothy came even now from you and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love… for this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and tribulation through your faith: for now we live, if you STAND FAST in the Lord” - (1 Thessalonians 3:6-8).
When he states, “Whether by word or by epistle of ours,” Paul reiterates his warning from the start of the Chapter. The believer must not be “shaken from his mind, nor be troubled, either by spirit or by discourse or BY EPISTLE AS FROM US.” Some of the false claims being disseminated in the congregation were attributed falsely to Paul.
The words to which Paul now refers, the apostolic “tradition,” were received from him in person AND by letter (“of ours”), unlike the false information being spread “as if from us.” The genuine words of the Apostles were and remain trustworthy.
The clause translated here as “comfort your hearts” parallels the two admonishments given at the close of Paul’s discussions in his first letter regarding the “dead in Christ,” and knowing the “signs and seasons.” At the end of both exhortations, the Thessalonians were told to “comfort one another with these words.”
Paul desired to see the Thessalonians “established in every good work and word.” This wish paralleled the one he gave at the close of the first half of First Thessalonians:
- “And the Lord make you increase and abound in love, one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end, he may establish your hearts blameless in sanctification before our God and Father, at the arrival of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” – (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).
Paul will make practical applications of his exhortations in the closing verses of his Letter, instructions that are not unrelated to his comments about the coming “Apostasy” and the “Man of Lawlessness.”
For example, Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us.” He again stressed the need for believers to follow the apostolic tradition. What marked an individual as “disorderly” was his refusal to abide by the teachings of Paul and his apostolic coworkers – (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).
Not only so, but the Thessalonians were summoned to “imitate” the Apostle and his companions who certainly did not behave in any disorderly fashion – (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9).
Certain members of the Assembly refused to work for a living, and that is a clear example of “walking in a disorderly” way (“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you: If any will not work, neither let him eat”). Paul dealt with the same problem in his first letter. Considering the heightened apocalyptic expectations permeating the congregation, some members had chosen not to work.
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Even when considering the return of Jesus, the disciple must not become “weary in well-doing” between now and that final day. Whether the Lord comes today or centuries from now, the believer must “stand fast” in the apostolic tradition and conduct his daily life properly; otherwise, he will be overcome by the “Mystery of Lawlessness” that even now is working in the world.
Finally, this body of Apostolic teachings is preserved on the pages of the New Testament, the only reliable source for what Jesus and his apostles taught.