13 February 2023

Disinformation about the Parousia


Disinformation about the day of the Lord caused alarm in the congregation at ThessalonicaIn his second letter, Paul addresses claims that the “Day of the Lord has set in." False information and incorrect expectations about the “arrival” of Jesus were disrupting the congregation. This disinformation was being attributed either to a “spirit,” a word (logos), or a letter “as if from” the Apostle.

In response, Paul lists two events that must occur BEFORE the “parousia” of Jesus - the “revelation of the man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy.” The fact that neither has occurred demonstrates that the parousia of Jesus remains in the future.

In the preceding chapter, he prepared the ground for what now follows. Despite hostility from without, the Thessalonians have exhibited “endurance and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations.”

But God will recompense “tribulation to them that trouble you,” but provide “release” and “glory” for the beleaguered saints at the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven” - (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).

FALSE ALARMS


The greater danger is posed by deception from within the church rather than hostility from without, and this can easily cause some if not many believers to apostatize.

Years earlier, Jesus warned us not to be alarmed by deceivers who spread false reports and cause anxiety about the “end.” That warning has now become all too real in Thessalonica. Therefore, Paul warns the church not to heed claims that the “day of the Lord” is imminent or has even arrived.

  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2) - “But we request you, brethren, in behalf of the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, that you be not quickly tossed from your mind nor be put in alarm, either by spirit or by discourse or by letter as by us, as that the day of the Lord has set in.”

In this passage, “arrival” translates the Greek noun parousia, the term applied most often by Paul to the “coming of Jesus” in his Thessalonian correspondence. It denotes an “arrival” or “presence,” the arrival of someone or something - (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8-9).

The clause “our gathering together” translates the noun episunagog├ę. Whatever this “gathering” is, Paul connects it to the parousia and the “day of the Lord.”

Jesus applied the same term to the “gathering of his elect” at his “coming” in his ‘Olivet Discourse’ (“Then shall he send his angels and gather together his elect from the four winds”), the same event Paul now states will occur on “day of the Lord” - (Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

BE NOT TROUBLED


He writes so the Thessalonians will not be “quickly troubled.” The verb rendered “troubled” or throe┼Ź occurs only here and on the lips of Jesus in his ‘Olivet Discourse.’ Thus, Paul echoes Christ’s warnings about coming deceivers:

  • (Matthew 24:6) – “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you be not troubled: for these things must need come to pass; but the end is not yet” – (Also, Mark 13:7).

The misinformation is not to be heeded “whether by spirit or by discourse or by letter, as by us.” Apparently, Paul is unsure how these false rumors are being spread. “Spirit” is ambiguous but may refer to the exercise of a spiritual gift, perhaps the gift of prophecy.

Discourse” or logos can refer to several types of verbal communication, and the significance of “letter” is obvious. “As by us” points to the communication being attributed falsely to the Apostle.

DAY OF THE LORD


The Day of the Lord.” Paul links this event to the “arrival” of Jesus and the “gathering” of the elect. “Day of the Lord” is a common term in the Hebrew Bible for the time of visitation and judgment by God, the “day of Yahweh” when He rescues His people and judges His enemies - (Isaiah 2:12, Joel 1:15, 2:1, 2:31, 3:14, Malachi 4:5).

In his first letter, Paul uses the same phrase and compares its sudden arrival to “a thief in the night,” the same analogy Jesus applied to his “coming” at the end of the age. According to Paul, that day will bring “sudden destruction” upon those who oppose the gospel and persecute the saints.

Elsewhere in his epistles, the “day of the Lord” becomes the “day of Jesus Christ,” the hour when he vindicates the righteous but also judges the wicked - (Matthew 24:42-44, Luke 12:39, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14, Philippian 1:6-10, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).

Has set in” translates the Greek verb enistemi, meaning “to stand in, to set in,” and here it is in the Greek perfect tense, signifying a completed action. In this context, it indicates something imminent, or more likely, an event that has already commenced.

His reference to a “word” received “as from us” is a verbal link to the conclusion of this literary section where he exhorts the Thessalonians to adhere strictly to the “traditions” they received from Paul and his coworkers - “whether through discourse or through our letter.”

Regardless of their source, disciples must not heed any voices that deviate from the apostolic tradition. By adhering to the teachings, they will avoid apostasy and deception, and attain the “acquisition of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” when he does appear.