2Th 2:1-17. CORRECTION OF THEIR ERROR AS TO CHRIST'S IMMEDIATE COMING. THE APOSTASY THAT MUST PRECEDE IT. EXHORTATION TO STEADFASTNESS, INTRODUCED WITH THANKSGIVING FOR THEIR ELECTION BY GOD.
1. Now--rather, "But"; marking the transition from his prayers for them to entreaties to them.
we beseech you--or "entreat you." He uses affectionate entreaty, rather than stern reproof, to win them over to the right view.
by--rather, "with respect to"; as the Greek for "of" (2Co 1:8).
our gathering together unto him--the consummating or final gathering together of the saints to Him at His coming, as announced, Mt 24:31 1Th 4:17. The Greek noun is nowhere else found except in Heb 10:25, said of the assembling together of believers for congregational worship. Our instinctive fears of the judgment are dispelled by the thought of being gathered together UNTO HIM ("even as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings"), which ensures our safety.
2. soon--on trifling grounds, without due consideration.
shaken--literally, "tossed" as ships tossed by an agitated sea. Compare for the same image, Eph 4:14.
in mind--rather as the Greek, "from your mind," that is, from your mental steadfastness on the subject.
troubled--This verb applies to emotional agitation; as "shaken" to intellectual.
by spirit--by a person professing to have the spirit of prophecy (1Co 12:8-10 1Jo 4:1-3). The Thessalonians had been warned (1Th 5:20,21) to "prove" such professed prophesyings, and to "hold fast (only) that which is good."
by word--of mouth (compare 2Th 2:5,15); some word or saying alleged to be that of Paul, orally communicated. If oral tradition was liable to such perversion in the apostolic age (compare a similar instance, Joh 21:23), how much more in our age!
by letter as from us--purporting to be from us, whereas it is a forgery. Hence he gives a test by which to know his genuine letters (2Th 3:17).
day of Christ--The oldest manuscripts read, "day of the Lord."
is at hand--rather, "is immediately imminent," literally, "is present"; "is instantly coming." Christ and His apostles always taught that the day of the Lord's coming is at hand; and it is not likely that Paul would imply anything contrary here; what he denies is, that it is so immediately imminent, instant, or present, as to justify the neglect of everyday worldly duties. CHRYSOSTOM, and after him ALFORD, translates, "is (already) present" (compare 2Ti 2:18), a kindred error. But in 2Ti 3:1, the same Greek verb is translated "come." WAHL supports this view. The Greek is usually used of actual presence; but is quite susceptible of the translation, "is all but present."
3. by any means--Greek, "in any manner." Christ, in Mt 24:4, gives the same warning in connection with the same event. He had indicated three ways (2Th 2:2) in which they might be deceived (compare other ways, 2Th 2:9, and Mt 24:5,24).
a falling away--rather as the Greek, "the falling away," or "apostasy," namely, the one of which "I told you" before (2Th 2:5), "when I was yet with you," and of which the Lord gave some intimation (Mt 24:10-12 Joh 5:43).
that man of sin be revealed--The Greek order is, "And there have been revealed the man of sin." As Christ was first in mystery, and afterwards revealed (1Ti 3:16), so Antichrist (the term used 1Jo 2:18 4:3) is first in mystery, and afterwards shall be developed and revealed (2Th 2:7-9). As righteousness found its embodiment in Christ, "the Lord our righteousness," so "sin" shall have its embodiment in "the man of sin." The hindering power meanwhile restrains its manifestation; when that shall be removed, then this manifestation shall take place. The articles, "the apostasy," and "the man of sin," may also refer to their being well known as foretold in Da 7:8,25, "the little horn speaking great words against the Most High, and thinking to change times and laws"; and Da 11:36, the wilful king who "shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods; neither shall he regard any god."
the son of perdition--a title applied besides to Judas (the traitor, Joh 17:12), and to none else. Antichrist (the second "beast" coming up out of the earth); therefore he shall at first be "like a lamb, while he speaks as a dragon" (Re 13:11); "coming in peaceably and by flatteries," "working deceitfully," but "his heart shall be against the holy covenant" (Da 11:21,23,28,30). Seeds of "the falling away" soon appear (1Ti 4:1-3), but the full development and concentration of these anti-Christian elements in one person are still to appear. Contrast the King of Zion's coming as JESUS: (1) righteous or just; (2) having salvation; (3) lowly; whereas Antichrist is: (1) "the man of (the embodiment of) sin; (2) the son of perdition; (3) exalting himself above all that is worshipped. He is the son of perdition, as consigning many to it, and finally doomed to it himself (Re 17:18,11). "He whose essence and inheritance is perdition" [ALFORD]. AS "the kingdom of heaven" is first brought before us in the abstract, then in the concrete, the King, the Lord Jesus; so here, first we have (2Th 2:7) "the mystery of iniquity," then "the iniquitous one" (2Th 2:8). Doubtless "the apostasy" of Romanism (the abstract) is one of the greatest instances of the working of the mystery of iniquity, and its blasphemous claims for the Pope (the concrete) are forerunners of the final concentration of blasphemy in the man of sin, who shall not merely, as the Pope, usurp God's honor as vicegerent of God, but oppose God openly at last.
4. Da 11:36,37 is here referred to. The words used there as to Antiochus Epiphanes, Paul implies, shall even be more applicable to the man of sin, who is the New Testament actual Antichrist, as Antiochus was the Old Testament typical Antichrist. The previous world kingdoms had each one extraordinary person as its representative head and embodiment (thus Babylon had Nebuchadnezzar, Da 2:38, end; Medo-Persia had Cyrus; Greece had Alexander, and Antiochus Epiphanes, the forerunner of Antichrist); so the fourth and last world kingdom, under which we now live, shall have one final head, the concentrated embodiment of all the sin and lawless iniquity which have been in pagan and papal Rome. Rome's final phase will probably be an unholy alliance between idolatrous superstition and godless infidelity.
Who opposeth and exalteth himself--There is but one Greek article to both participles, implying that the reason why he opposeth himself is in order that he may exalt himself above, &c. ALFORD takes the former clause absolutely, "He that withstands (CHRIST)," that is, Antichrist (1Jo 2:18). As at the conclusion of the Old Testament period, Israel apostate allied itself with the heathen world power against Jesus and His apostles (Lu 23:12; and at Thessalonica, Ac 17:5-9), and was in righteous retribution punished by the instrumentality of the world power itself (Jerusalem being destroyed by Rome), Da 9:26,27; so the degenerate Church (become an "harlot"), allying itself with the godless world power (the "beast" of Revelation) against vital religion (that is, the harlot sitting on the beast), shall be judged by that world power which shall be finally embodied in Antichrist (Zec 13:8,9 14:2 Re 17:16,17). In this early Epistle, the apostate Jewish Church as the harlot, and pagan Rome as the beast, form the historical background on which Paul draws his prophetic sketch of the apostasy. In the Pastoral Epistles, which were later, this prophecy appears in connection with Gnosticism, which had at that time infected the Church. The harlot (the apostate Church) is first to be judged by the beast (the world power) and its kings (Re 17:16); and afterwards the beasts and their allies (with the personal Antichrist at their head, who seems to rise after the judgment on the harlot, or apostate Church) shall be judged by the coming of Jesus Himself (Re 19:20). Anti-Christian tendencies produce different Antichrists: these separate Antichrists shall hereafter find their consummation in an individual exceeding them all in the intensity of his evil character [AUBERLEN]. But judgment soon overtakes him. He is necessarily a child of death, immediately after his ascent as the beast out of the bottomless pit going into perdition (Re 17:8,11). Idolatry of self, spiritual pride, and rebellion against God, are his characteristics; as Christ-worship, humility, and dependence on God, characterize Christianity. He not merely assumes Christ's character (as the "false Christs," Mt 24:24), but "opposes" Christ. The Greek implies one situated on an opposite side (compare 1Jo 2:22 2Jo 1:7). One who, on the destruction of every religion, shall seek to establish his own throne, and for God's great truth, "God is man," to substitute his own lie, "Man is God" [TRENCH].
above all that is called God--(1Co 8:5). The Pope (for instance, Clement VI) has even commanded the angels to admit into Paradise, without the alleged pains of purgatory, certain souls. But still this is only a foreshadowing of the Antichrist, who will not, as the Pope, act in God's name, but against God.
or that is worshipped--Rome here again gives a presage of Antichrist. The Greek is Sebasma; and Sebastus is the Greek for Augustus, who was worshipped as the secular ruler and divine vicegerent. The papacy has risen on the overthrow of Cæsar's power. Antichrist shall exalt himself above every object of worship, whether on earth as the Cæsar, or in heaven as God. The various prefigurations of Antichrist, Mohammed, Rome, Napoleon, and modern infidel secularism, contain only some, not all, his characteristics. It is the union of all in some one person that shall form the full Antichrist, as the union in one Person, Jesus, of all the types and prophecies constituted the full Christ [OLSHAUSEN].
in the temple of God . . . that he is God--"He will reign a time, times, and half a time" (Da 7:25), that is, three and a half years, and will sit in the temple at Jerusalem: then the Lord shall come from heaven and cast him into the take of fire and shall bring to the saints the times of their reigning, the seventh day of hallowed rest, and give to Abraham the promised inheritance" [IRENÆUS, Against Heresies, 30.4].
showing himself--with blasphemous and arrogant DISPLAY (Compare a type, Ac 12:21-23). The earliest Fathers unanimously looked for a personal Antichrist. Two objections exist to Romanism being regarded the Antichrist, though probably Romanism will leave its culmination in him: (1) So far is Romanism from opposing all that is called God, that adoration of gods and lords many (the Virgin Mary and saints) is a leading feature in it; (2) the papacy has existed for more than twelve centuries, and yet Christ is not come, whereas the prophecy regards the final Antichrist as short-lived, and soon going to perdition through the coming of Christ (Re 17:18,11). Gregory the Great declared against the patriarch of Constantinople, that whosoever should assume the title of "universal bishop" would be "the forerunner of Antichrist." The papacy fulfilled this his undesigned prophecy. The Pope has been called by his followers, "Our Lord God the Pope"; and at his inauguration in St. Peter's, seated in his chair upon the high altar, which is treated as his footstool, he has vividly foreshadowed him who "exalteth himself above all that is called God." An objection fatal to interpreting the temple of God here as the Church (1Co 3:16,17 6:19) is, the apostle would never designate the apostate anti-Christian Church "the temple of God." It is likely that, as Messiah was revealed among the Jews at Jerusalem, so Antimessiah shall appear among them when restored to their own land, and after they have rebuilt their temple at Jerusalem. Thus Da 11:41,45 (see on Da 11:41; Da 11:45), corresponds, "He shall enter the glorious land (Judea), and he shall plant the tabernacles of his palaces between the seas in the glorious holy mountain"; and then (Da 12:1) "Michael, the great prince, shall stand up" to deliver God's people. Compare Note, see on Da 9:26,27. Also the king of Assyria, type of Antichrist (Isa 14:12-14). "Lucifer" (a title of Messiah, assumed by Antichrist, Re 22:16); "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." "I will sit upon the mount of the congregation (that is, God's place of meeting His people of old, the temple), in the sides of the north (Ps 48:2); I will be like the Most High." Re 11:1,2, "The temple of God . . . the holy city" (namely, Jerusalem, Mt 4:5), compare Ps 68:18,29, referring to a period since Christ's ascension, therefore not yet fulfilled (Isa 2:1-3 Eze 40:1-44:31 Zec 14:16-20 Mal 3:1). "In the temple of God," implies that it an internal, not an external, enemy which shall assail the Church. Antichrist shall, the first three and a half years of the prophetical week, keep the covenant, then break it and usurp divine honors in the midst of the week. Some think Antichrist will be a Jew. At all events he will, "by flatteries," bring many, not only of the Gentiles, but also of "the tribes" of Israel (so the Greek for "kindreds," Re 11:8,9), to own him as their long-looked-for Messiah, in the same "city where our Lord was crucified." "Sitteth" here implies his occupying the place of power and majesty in opposition to Him who "sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3), and who shall come to "sit" there where the usurper had sat (Mt 26:64). See on Da 9:27; Re 11:2,3,9,11. Compare Eze 38:2,3,6,9,10,13,14,16, as to Tyre, the type of Antichrist, characterized by similar blasphemous arrogance.
5. Remember, &c.--confuting those who represent Paul as having labored under error as to Christ's immediate coming when writing his first Epistle, and as now correcting that error.
I told you--more than once, literally, "I was telling," or "used to tell."
6. now ye know--by my having told you. The power must have been one "known" to the Thessalonians.
what withholdeth--that which holds him back; "keeps him in check": the power that has restrained the man of sin from his full and final development, is the moral and conservative influence of political states [OLSHAUSEN]: the fabric of human polity as a coercive power; as "he who now letteth" refers to those who rule that polity by which the great upbursting of godlessness is kept down [ALFORD]. The "what withholdeth" refers to the general hindrance; "he who now letteth," to the person in whom that hindrance is summed up. Romanism, as a forerunner of Antichrist, was thus kept in check by the Romanemperor (the then representative of the coercive power) until Constantine, having removed the seat of empire to Constantinople, the Roman bishop by degrees first raised himself to precedency, then to primacy, and then to sole empire above the secular power. The historical fact from which Paul starts in his prediction was probably the emperor Claudius' expulsion of the Jews, the representative of the anti-Christian adversary in Paul's day, from Rome, thus "withholding" them in some degree in their attacks on Christianity; this suggested the principle holding good to the end of time, and about to find its final fulfilment in the removal of the withholding person or authority, whereupon Antichrist in his worst shape shall start up.
that he might be--Greek, "in order that": ye know that which keeps him back, in God's purposes, from being sooner manifested, "in order that he may be revealed in his own time" (that is, the time appointed by God to him as his proper time for being manifested), not sooner (compare Da 11:35). The removal of the withholding power will be when the civil polity, derived from the Roman empire, which is to be, in its last form, divided into ten kingdoms (Re 17:3,11-13), shall, with its leading representative head for the time being ("he who now letteth," Greek, "withholdeth," as in 2Th 2:6), yield to the prevalent godless "lawlessness" with "the lawless one" as its embodiment. The elect Church and the Spirit cannot well be, as DE BURGH suggests, the withholding power meant; for both shall never be wholly "taken out of the way" (Mt 28:20). However, the testimony of the elect Church, and the Spirit in her, are the great hindrance to the rise of the apostasy; and it is possible that, though the Lord shall have a faithful few even then, yet the full energy of the Spirit in the visible Church, counteracting the energy or "working" of "the mystery of lawlessness" by the testimony of the elect, shall have been so far "taken out of the way," or set aside, as to admit the manifestation of "the lawless one"; and so DE BURGH'S'S view may be right (Lu 18:8 Re 11:3-12). This was a power of which the Thessalonians might easily "know" through Paul's instruction.
7. the mystery of iniquity--the counterwork to "the mystery of godliness" (1Ti 3:16). Anti-Christianity latently working, as distinguished from its final open manifestation. "Mystery" in Scripture means, not what remains always a secret, but that which is for a while hidden, but in due time manifested (compare Eph 3:4,5). Satan will resort to a mode of opposition more conformed to the then imminent "appearing" and "presence" of the Saviour, and will anticipate Him with a last effort to maintain the dominion of the world [DE BURGH], just as at His first advent he rushed into open opposition, by taking possession of the bodies of men. "Iniquity," Greek, "lawlessness"; defiant rejection of God's law (compare Note, see on Zec 5:9, Zec 5:10). "Wickedness" (translated by the Septuagint by the same Greek, meaning "lawlessness," which Paul employs here), embodied there as a woman, answers to "the mystery of iniquity," here embodied finally in "the man of sin": as the former was ultimately banished for ever from the Holy Land to her own congenial soil, Babylon, so iniquity and the man of sin shall fall before Michael and the Lord Himself, who shall appear as the Deliverer of His people (Da 12:1-3 Zec 14:3-9). Compare Mt 12:43. The Jewish nation dispossessed of the evil spirit, the demon of idolatry being cast out through the Babylonian captivity, receives ultimately a worse form of the evil spirit, Christ-opposing self-righteousness. Also, the Christian Church in course of time taken possession of by the demon of Romish idolatry, then dispossessed of it by the Reformation, then its house "garnished" by hypocrisy, secularity, and rationalism, but "swept empty" of living faith, then finally apostatizing and repossessed by "the man of sin," and outwardly destroyed for a brief time (though even then Christ shall have witnesses for Him among both the Jews, Zec 13:9, and Gentiles, Mt 28:20), when Christ shall suddenly come (Da 11:32-45 Lu 18:7,8).
already--(2Jo 1:9:10 Col 2:18-23 1Ti 4:1); compare "even now already" (1Jo 2:18 4:3) as distinguished from "in his own time" of being revealed hereafter. Antiquity, it appears from hence, is not a justification for unscriptural us.ages or dogmas, since these were "already," even in Paul's time, beginning to spring up: the written word is the only sure test. "Judaism infecting Christianity is the fuel; the mystery of iniquity is the spark." "It is one and the same impurity diffusing itself over many ages" [BENGEL].
only he who now letteth will let--The italicized words are not in the Greek. Therefore, translate rather, "only (that is, the continuance of the MYSTERY of iniquity-working will be only) until he who now withholdeth (the same Greek as in 2Th 2:6) be taken out of the way." "Only (waiting, Heb 10:13) until he," &c. Then it will work no longer in mystery, but in open manifestation.
8. Translate, "the lawless one"; the embodiment of all the godless "lawlessness" which has been working in "mystery" for ages (2Th 2:7): "the man of sin" (2Th 2:3).
whom the Lord--Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "the Lord Jesus." How awful that He whose very name means God-Saviour, should appear as the Destroyer; but the salvation of the Church requires the destruction of her foe. As the reign of Israel in Canaan was ushered in by judgments on the nations for apostasy (for the Canaanites were originally worshippers of the true God: thus Melchisedek, king of Salem, was the "priest of the most high God," Ge 14:18: Ammon and Moab came from righteous Lot), so the Son of David's reign in Zion and over the whole earth, is to be ushered in by judgments on the apostate Christian world.
consume . . . and . . . destroy--So Da 7:26, "consume and destroy"; Da 11:45. He shall "consume" him by His mere breath (Isa 11:4 30:33): the sentence of judgment being the sharp sword that goeth out of His mouth (Re 19:15,21). Antichrist's manifestation and destruction are declared in the same breath; at his greatest height he is nearest his fall, like Herod his type (Isa 1:24-27 Ac 12:20-23). As the advancing fire, while still at a distance consumes little insects [CHRYSOSTOM] by its mere heat, so Christ's mere approach is enough to consume Antichrist. The mere "appearance of the coming" of the Lord of glory is sufficient to show to Antichrist his perfect nothingness. He is seized and "cast alive into the take of fire" (Re 19:20). So the world kingdoms, and the kingdom of the beast, give place to that of the Son of man and His saints. The Greek for "destroy" means "abolish" (the same Greek is so translated, 2Ti 1:10); that is, cause every vestige of him to disappear. Compare as to Gog attacking Israel and destroyed by Jehovah (Eze 38:1-39:29), so as not to leave a vestige of him.
with the brightness of his coming--Greek, "the manifestation, (or appearance) of His presence": the first outburst of His advent--the first gleam of His presence--is enough to abolish utterly all traces of Antichrist, as darkness disappears before the dawning day. Next, his adherents are "slain with the sword out of His mouth" (Re 19:21). BENGEL'S distinction between "the appearance of His coming" and the "coming" itself is not justified by 1Ti 6:14 2Ti 1:10 4:1,8 Tit 2:13, where the same Greek for "appearing" (English Version, here "the brightness") plainly refers to the coming itself. The expression, "manifestation (appearing) of His presence," is used in awful contrast to the revelation of the wicked one in the beginning of the verse.
9. whose coming--The same Greek as was used for the Lord's coming (2Th 2:8) or personal "presence."
is--in its essential character.
after--according to the working ("energy") of Satan, as opposed to the energy or working of the Holy Spirit in the Church (see on Eph 1:19). As Christ is related to God, so is Antichrist to Satan, his visible embodiment and manifestation: Satan works through him. Re 13:2, "The dragon gave him (the beast) his power . . . seat . . . great authority."
lying wonders--literally, "wonders" or "prodigies of falsehood." His "power, signs, and wonders," all have falsehood for their base, essence, and aim (Joh 8:44), [ALFORD]. In Mt 24:24 Jesus implies that the miracles shall be real, though demoniac, such mysterious effects of the powers of darkness as we read of in the case of the Egyptian sorcerers, not such as Jesus performed in their character, power, or aim; for they are against the revealed Word, and therefore not to be accepted as evidences of truth; nay, on the authority of that sure Word of prophecy (here, and Mt 24:24), to be known and rejected as wrought in support of falsehood (De 13:1-3,5 Ga 1:8,9 Re 13:11-15 19:20). The same three Greek words occur for miracles of Jesus (Ac 2:22 Heb 2:4); showing that as the Egyptian magicians imitated Moses (2Ti 3:1-8), so Antichrist will try to imitate Christ's works as a "sign," or proof of divinity.
10. deceivableness--rather as Greek, "deceit of (to promote) unrighteousness" (2Th 2:12).
in--The oldest manuscripts and versions omit "in." Translate, "unto them that are perishing" (2Co 2:15,16 4:3): the victims of him whose very name describes his perishing nature, "the son of perdition"; in contrast to you whom (2Th 2:13) "God hath from the beginning chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
because--literally, "in requital for"; in just retribution for their having no love for the truth which was within their reach (on account of its putting a check on their bad passions), and for their having "pleasure in unrighteousness" (2Th 2:12 Ro 1:18); they are lost because they loved not, but rejected, the truth which would have saved them.
received not--Greek, "welcomed not"; admitted it not cordially.
love of the truth--not merely love of truth, but love of THE truth (and of, Jesus who is the Truth, in opposition to Satan's "lie," 2Th 2:9,11 Joh 8:42-44), can save (Eph 4:21). We are required not merely to assent to, but to love the truth (Ps 119:97). The Jews rejected Him who came in His divine Father's name; they will receive Antichrist coming in his own name (Joh 5:43). Their pleasant sin shall prove their terrible scourge.
11. for this cause--because "they received not the love of the truth." The best safeguard against error is "the love of the truth."
shall send--Greek, "sends," or "is sending"; the "delusion" is already beginning. God judicially sends hardness of heart on those who have rejected the truth, and gives them up in righteous judgment to Satan's delusions (Isa 6:9,10 Ro 1:24-26,28). They first cast off the love of the truth, then God gives them up to Satan's delusions, then they settle down into "believing the lie": an awful climax (1Ki 22:22,23 Eze 14:9 Job 12:16 Mt 24:5,11 1Ti 4:1).
strong delusion--Greek, "the powerful working of error," answering to the energizing "working of Satan" (2Th 2:9); the same expression as is applied to the Holy Ghost's operation in believers: "powerful" or "effectual (energizing) working" (Eph 1:19).
believe a lie--rather, "the lie" which Antichrist tells them, appealing to his miracles as proofs of it . . . (2Th 2:9).
12. they all . . . damned--rather as Greek, "that all," &c. He here states the general proposition which applies specially to Antichrist's adherents. Not all in the Church of Rome, or other anti-Christian systems, shall be damned, but only "all who believed not the truth," when offered to them, "but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (Ro 1:32 2:8). Love of unrighteousness being the great obstacle to believing the truth.
13. But--In delightful contrast to the damnation of the lost (2Th 2:12) stands the "salvation" of Paul's converts.
are bound--in duty (2Th 1:3).
thanks . . . to God--not to ourselves, your ministers, nor to you, our converts.
beloved of the Lord--Jesus (Ro 8:37 Ga 2:20 Eph 5:2,25). Elsewhere God the Father is said to love us (2Th 2:16 Joh 3:16 Eph 2:4 Col 3:12). Therefore Jesus and the Father are one.
from the beginning--"before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4; compare 1Co 2:7 2Ti 1:9); in contrast to those that shall "worship the beast, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Re 13:8). Some of the oldest manuscripts read as English Version, but other oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "as first-fruits." The Thessalonians were among the first converts in Europe (compare Ro 16:5 1Co 16:15). In a more general sense, it occurs in Jas 1:18 Re 14:4; so I understand it here including the more restricted sense.
chosen you--The Greek, is not the ordinary word for "elected," implying His eternal selection; but taken for Himself, implying His having adopted them in His eternal purpose. It is found in the Septuagint (De 7:7 10:15).
through--rather as Greek, "in sanctification" as the element in which the choice to salvation had place (compare 1Pe 1:2), standing in contrast to the "unrighteousness," the element in which Antichrist's followers are given over by God to damnation (2Th 2:12).
of the Spirit--wrought by the Spirit who sanctifies all the elect people of God, first by eternally consecrating them to perfect holiness in Christ, once for all, next by progressively imparting it.
belief of the truth--contrasted with "believed not the truth" (2Th 2:12).
14. you--The oldest manuscripts read, "us."
by our gospel--"through" the Gospel which we preach.
to . . . glory--In 2Th 2:13 it was "salvation," that is, deliverance from all evil, of body and soul (1Th 5:9); here it is positive good, even "glory," and that "the glory of our Lord Jesus" Himself, which believers are privileged to share with Him (Joh 17:22,24 Ro 8:17,29 2Ti 2:10).
15. Therefore--God's sovereign choice of believers, so far from being a ground for inaction on their part, is the strongest incentive to action and perseverance in it. Compare the argument, Php 2:12,13, "Work out your own salvation, FOR it is God which worketh in you," &c. We cannot fully explain this in theory; but to the sincere and humble, the practical acting on the principle is plain. "Privilege first, duty afterwards" [EDMUNDS].
stand fast--so as not to be "shaken or troubled" (2Th 2:2).
hold--so as not to let go. Adding nothing, subtracting nothing [BENGEL]. The Thessalonians had not held fast his oral instructions but had suffered themselves to be imposed upon by pretended spirit-revelations, and words and letters pretending to be from Paul (2Th 2:2), to the effect that "the day of the Lord was instantly imminent."
traditions--truths delivered and transmitted orally, or in writing (2Th 3:6 1Co 11:2; Greek, "traditions"). The Greek verb from which the noun comes, is used by Paul in 1Co 11:23 15:3. From the three passages in which "tradition" is used in a good sense, Rome has argued for her accumulation of uninspired traditions, virtually overriding God's Word, while put forward as of co-ordinate authority with it. She forgets the ten passages (Mt 15:2,3,6 Mr 7:3,5,8,9,13 Ga 1:14 Col 2:8) stigmatizing man's uninspired traditions. Not even the apostles' sayings were all inspired (for example, Peter's dissimulation, Ga 2:11-14), but only when they claimed to be so, as in their words afterwards embodied in their canonical writings. Oral inspiration was necessary in their case, until the canon of the written Word should be complete; they proved their possession of inspiration by miracles wrought in support of the new revelation, which revelation, moreover, accorded with the existing Old Testament revelation; an additional test needed besides miracles (compare De 13:1-6 Ac 17:11). When the canon was complete, the infallibility of the living men was transferred to the written Word, now the sole unerring guide, interpreted by the Holy Spirit. Little else has come down to us by the most ancient and universal tradition save this, the all-sufficiency of Scripture for salvation. Therefore, by tradition, we are constrained to cast off all tradition not contained in, or not provable by, Scripture. The Fathers are valuable witnesses to historical facts, which give force to the intimations of Scripture: such as the Christian Lord's day, the baptism of infants, and the genuineness of the canon of Scripture. Tradition (in the sense of human testimony) cannot establish a doctrine, but can authenticate a fact, such as the facts just mentioned. Inspired tradition, in Paul's sense, is not a supplementary oral tradition completing our written Word, but it is identical with the written Word now complete; then the latter not being complete, the tradition was necessarily in part oral, in part written, and continued so until, the latter being complete before the death of St. John, the last apostle, the former was no longer needed. Scripture is, according to Paul, the complete and sufficient rule in all that appertains to making "the man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2Ti 3:16,17). It is by leaving Paul's God-inspired tradition for human traditions that Rome has become the forerunner and parent of the Antichrist. It is striking that, from this very chapter denouncing Antichrist. she should draw an argument for her "traditions" by which she fosters anti-Christianity. Because the apostles' oral word was as trustworthy as their written word, it by no means follows that the oral word of those not apostles is as trustworthy as the written word of those who were apostles or inspired evangelists. No tradition of the apostles except their written word can be proved genuine on satisfactory evidence. We are no more bound to accept implicitly the Fathers' interpretations of Scripture, because we accept the Scripture canon on their testimony, than we are bound to accept the Jews' interpretation of the Old Testament, because we accept the Old Testament canon on their testimony.
our epistle--as distinguished from a "letter AS from us," 2Th 2:2, namely, that purports to be from us, but is not. He refers to his first Epistle to the Thessalonians.
16, 17. himself--by His own might, as contrasted with our feebleness; ensuring the efficacy of our prayer. Here our Lord Jesus stands first; in 1Th 3:11, "God our Father."
which . . . loved us--in the work of our redemption. Referring both to our Lord Jesus (Ro 8:37 Ga 2:20) and God our Father (Joh 3:16).
everlasting consolation--not transitory, as worldly consolations in trials (Ro 8:38,39). This for all time present, and then "good hope" for the future [ALFORD].
through grace--rather as Greek "IN grace"; to be joined to "hath given." Grace is the element in which the gift was made.
17. Comfort your hearts--unsettled as you have been through those who announced the immediate coming of the Lord.
good word and work--The oldest manuscripts invert the order, "work and word." Establishment in these were what the young converts at Thessalonica needed, not fanatical teaching (compare 1Co 15:58).
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