Further Instruction about the Lord's Coming
Written, probably about A.D. 52, only a few weeks, or months, after the First Epistle. In that Paul had spoken of the Lord's Coming as being sudden and unexpected. In this he explains that it will not be till after the Apostasy.
Chapter 1. The Day of the Lord
The particular feature of the Lord's Coming emphasized in this chapter is that it will be a day of terror for the disobedient.
In I Thessalonians 4 Paul had said that He would descend from heaven, and, at the shout of the archangel, the Church would be caught up to be forever with the Lord.
Here he adds that the Lord will be accompanied with "the angels of his power in flaming fire" (7), rendering vengeance to the disobedient. Jesus had spoken of "eternal fire" (Matthew 25:41), and "unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:43 ). In Hebrews 10:27 "devouring fire" is connected with the day of judgment. In II Peter 3:7, 10 it is stated that the destiny of the earth is to be burned with "fire" (see more on that passage).
Chapter 2. The Apostasy
The express purpose of this Epistle was to caution the Thessalonians that the Lord's Coming was not immediately at hand; that it would not be till after the Apostasy.
What is the Apostasy? It is called the "falling away," in which a person called the "man of sin," in the temple of God professes himself to be God, and exalts himself against God (3, 4). A False Church headed by an Impostor.
The early fathers unanimously looked for a Personal Antichrist, to be manifested after the fall of the Roman Empire.
The Protestant Reformers, being directly in touch with the awful corruption of .the.Church of the Middle Ages, believed the Papacy, an institution headed up in a person, usurping to itself authority that belongs only to Christ and being itself responsible for the prevailing corruption, to have been a manifestation of the man of sin.
In our own times, after 2,000 years of church history, there is still wide difference of opinion. There are many who think it refers to a period immediately before the Lord's Coming.
The spirit of the thing was already at work in Paul's day (7). The story of the Church as a whole, even to this day, makes a sorry looking picture. Talking a broad general view of the visible Church, as it has existed from the first century to the present time, it is not inaccurate to call it an Apostate Church. What the final culmination is to be is yet to be seen.
"That which restrains" (6), was generally understood by the early fathers to have been the Roman Empire. Come take it to mean the Holy Spirit.
Paul's Ideas of the Second Coming. It is quite common among a certain class of critics to say that Paul "had to reconstruct his ideas about the Lord's Second Coming," that his "earlier and cruder view" contradicts his later view. This is absolutely not true. Paul's earlier view was his only view, first, last and always. The Thessalonians Epistles are his earliest extant writings. In them he specifically states that he did NOT expect the immediate appearance of the Lord, and that is would not be till after the Apostasy, which in his day was only beginning work. It may not have been revealed to Paul what the Apostasy would be. But whatever his idea of it, it did not preclude the possibility that the Lord would come in his own lifetime, evidenced by the expression "we that are alive" (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:52). First and last Paul looked for the Lord's Coming as a glorious consummation, meanwhile anticipating the eventuality of, in death, "departing to be with Christ" (Philippians 1:23); it not being any great matter whether he was in the body or out of it at the time of the Coming. In his last written word (2 Timothy 4:6, 8), at the time of his "departure," his mind was on the "appearing" of the Lord.
Chapter 3. The Disorderly
"Pray for US" (1-2), that we may be delivered from "unreasonable and evil men." At that very time Paul was in trouble in Corinth. Their prayer was answered (Acts 18:19-10).
The Disorderly (6-15), were lazy people who, taking advantage of the charitable disposition of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10), and making their expectation of the immediate appearance of the Lord an excuse for abandoning their ordinary occupations, were claiming the right to be supported by the brethren who had means.
Paul though he was an ardent advocate of charity toward those who were really in need, and though he spent a good deal of time gathering offerings of money for the poor, yet he spared no words in condemning the able-bodied who could but would not work. In these verses he positively forbids the brethren to support such people; even commands the church to withdraw fellowship from them.
There is nothing in the teaching of Paul, or of Christ, or anywhere in the Bible, to encourage charity to able-bodied lazy men whose profession is begging.