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2 Thessalonians 1-3
(Just a Friendly Reminder)
December 12th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

- 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

Paul wrote a relatively brief follow-up letter to the Thessalonians to re-emphasize some of the points in the first one, particularly with regard to his own conduct, the laziness of some of the people, and a few theological misunderstandings. The theological misunderstandings were regarding the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the faithful. Paul also re-asserts his praise for the good the Thessalonians have been doing.

Paul begins chapter 1 with the traditional greeting and praise. He also assures the people that Godís judgment will be delivered to the trouble-makers who attempt to thwart Godís plans, but the faithful will bask in Godís glory.

In chapter 2, Paul re-visits the topic of the second coming of Christ and makes clear that this day has not come yet (contrary to premature reports). The day will not arrive until God determines that the time is right.

    Now, friends, read these next words carefully. Slow down and donít go jumping to conclusions regarding the day when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come back and we assemble to welcome him. Donít let anyone shake you up or get you excited over some breathless report or rumored letter from me that the day of the Masterís arrival has come and gone. Donít fall for any line like that.

    Before that day comes, a couple of things have to happen. First, the Apostasy. Second, the debut of the Anarchist, a real dog of Satan. Heíll defy and then take over every so-called god or altar. Having cleared away the opposition, heíll then set himself up in Godís Temple as ďGod Almighty.Ē Donít you remember me going over all this in detail when I was with you? Are your memories that short?

    - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 (MSG)

In the third and final chapter, Paul expresses his confidence in the Thessalonians by asking them to pray for him and notes that he expects them to continue to receive the Lordís blessing.

Most of the remainder of the letter re-addresses the topic of the slackers. Paul says he set the example for hard work to put food on his own table and expects other to do the same. Those who disregard this community standard should be dealt with as brothers so that they have a chance to correct themselves.

Reflection and Application

This epistle has some elements of prophecy in it as Paul addresses misconceptions about the second coming of Christ. Firstly, he makes clear it has not yet come. Then he describes some of the events that will precede it, such as a period of lawlessness led by the Antichrist that will be allowed by God for a period of time.

It may be dangerous for us to assume that this person has arrived. There have been many super-evil people in our era, such as Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden, and Joseph Kony. Kony is former head of the so-called ďLordís Resistance Army (LRA)Ē in Uganda, which is accused of widespread human rights violations, including rape, torture, and abducting children to force them to serve in the rebellion. Regardless of the name, this army is not fighting on behalf of the Lord. Kony is evil on earth, but that does not mean the Antichrist has arrived in fulfillment of prophecy.

We may recognize evil and support our governmentsí fight against it, but that does not mean we can forecast the day when the Lord will come. There is a man in the US named Harold Camping who predicted the world would end in May 2011 and then revised it to October 2011. Many of his followers quit their jobs to focus on spreading this false information. Subsequently many people believed that the world would end on December 21st, 2012 based on a misinterpretation of the Mayan calender. All of these examples are the type of activity that Paul warns about in 2 Thessalonians. Many people in Thessalonica had been convinced that the Day was coming or had arrived, so they stopped working and became idle waiting for Jesus to return and save them.

Paul instructs the Thessalonians to continue working at their day jobs (except on the Sabbath) so they can feed themselves and earn the respect of the community. In addition, they are to continue spreading the Gospel. We do not know when Jesus will return, but should always be prepared and should continue working on his behalf.

The author Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 Ė December 10, 1968), aka Father Louie, provided a perspective on the balance of work and the spiritual life in his book, Life and Holiness. Merton was a monk who had lived and studied in New York and throughout Europe. He is recognized as an important Catholic writer of the 20th century who provided a modern perspective on practical spirituality and is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on December 10 (1). In one section of this book he wrote the following regarding the balance of work and spirituality:

    An activity that is based on the frenzies and impulsions (sic) of human ambition is a delusion and an obstacle to grace. It gets in the way of Godís will, and it creates more problems than it solvesÖ.At the same time we must not create a split in the Christian life by assuming that all activity is somehow dangerous to the spiritual life. The spiritual life is not a life of quiet withdrawal, a hot house of growth of artificial ascetic practices beyond the reach of people living ordinary lives. It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian should develop his spiritual union with God

    Work in a normal, healthy human context, work with a sane moderate human measure, integrated in a productive social milieu, is by itself capable of contributing much to spiritual life. But work that is disordered, irrational, unproductive, dominated by the exhausting frenzies and wastefulness of a worldwide struggle for power and wealth is not necessarily going to make a valid contribution to the spiritual lives of all those engaged in it (2).

Let us pray for guidance that we apply the proper balance of valuable work, spiritual work, and spirituality in our lives as we wait patiently for the return of our Savior.

We will return to more prophecy in the book of Revelation, which we begin studying in a couple of weeks. That book concludes the Bible and will conclude this year's edition of Bible 365. Be assured that, as described in Revelation, God wins in the end, and all forces of evil will pay an eternal price. Any apparent victories for evil on earth are temporary and fleeting in God's eyes. Therefore, we don't need to be pre-occupied with worrying about the spread of evil, but we can occupy ourselves with helping those affected by evil forces as many have done, and spreading the Good News, as Thomas Merton did.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What do you like to do when you are not working?
    2. What does Merton mean when he says that certain types of work gets in they way of Godís will?
    3. How do we achieve the balance that Paul and Merton write about?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge that you alone know your plans for our world. Help us to trust in your timing and use our time well to serve your children on Earth.

    Prayer Concern
    Orphans around the world


    (1) "Thomas Merton," Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Merton#Writer, December 11, 2011
    (2) Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993, p.1304

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading:
    Overview of the Pastoral Letters and a study of 1 Timothy (Guard What Has Been Entrusted to You)

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