Rumors and Disinformation
Disinformation about the return of Jesus is causing alarm among some believers. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul addresses rumors and even claims that the “Day of the Lord has set in." False information and incorrect expectations about his “arrival” at the end of the age are disrupting the assembly. Moreover, this false information is being attributed by some either to a “spirit,” word (logos), or a letter “as if from” the Apostle Paul and his coworkers.
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 had occurred yet in Thessalonica demonstrated that his return remains in the future.
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In the preceding chapter, Paul 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,” and provide “release” and “glory” for the beleaguered saints at the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven” - (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).
In Thessalonica, the greater danger was posed by deception and deceivers working in the church rather than hostility from the outside community, and false teachers and disinformation about the future could easily have caused some if not many believers to apostatize.
Years earlier, Jesus warned his followers not to be alarmed by deceivers who spread false reports and cause anxiety about the “end.” That warning became all too real in the church of Thessalonica. Therefore, Paul warned the congregation not to heed claims that the “Day of the Lord” was imminent or had even arrived already.
- (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 the passage, the English term “arrival” translates the Greek noun parousia, the word applied most often by Paul to the future “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 rendered “our gathering together” translates the noun episunagogé. Whatever this “gathering” is, Paul connects it to the parousia of Jesus 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
The Apostle writes this warning so the Thessalonians will not be “quickly troubled.” The verb rendered “troubled” or throeō 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 come to pass; but the end is not yet” – (Also, Mark 13:7).
The misinformation must not 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. The term “spirit” is ambiguous but may refer to the exercise of a spiritual gift, perhaps the gift of prophecy.
The word rendered “discourse” or logos can refer to several types of verbal communication, and the significance of the noun “letter” is obvious. The clause, “as by us,” points to this communication being attributed falsely to the Apostle Paul.
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 and their enemies - (Isaiah 2:12, Joel 1:15, 2:1, 2:31, 3:14, Malachi 4:5).
In his first letter, Paul used the same phrase and compared 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).
The phrase, “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.