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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

2 Thessalonians Notes

2nd Thessalonians Notes
By: LAZARUS CONLEY


2 Thessalonians Notes:
“A few maybe weeks or months had passed after St. Paul had sent his 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians. He received word that all wasn’t yet well with them. Some were still idling about, doing nothing but waiting on the Lord’s 2nd Coming and living off their friends. This heightened excitement and expectation of the Lord’s imminent return had been fueled by a number of things – by spurious spirits or prophetic utterances, by rumors that this was the authentic message and teaching of their apostle Paul, and by rumors of an epistle purporting to be from him to the effect that the Day of the Lord was at hand. It could be too that increased persecution had this byproduct, as they consoled themselves for their present afflictions by saying the Lord would soon return and end their suffering. For whatever reason, reception of his 1st epistle to them hadn’t had the desired effect… Therefore, he sent a 2nd epistle soon after the 1st, consoling them in their suffering for the Faith and teaching them further regarding the 2nd Coming, assuring them that it wasn’t imminently at hand and ordering them with fresh vigor and authority to cease idling and get back to work” [Farley, 59].

Chapter 1:

v. 3 – He offers consolation for their persecutions. He is proud of them for fighting the good fight and keeping the Faith.

v. 4 – “persecutions and in the afflictions”. Instance of persecution is recounted in Acts 17:5-9. The Thessalonian correspondence here reveals that this violence hadn’t disappeared.

v. 5 – They will be judged worthy he says for experiencing the suffering they currently undergo.

v. 6 – “repay with affliction”. In Romans 2:9 the same Greek word for “tribulation” (trouble) is used for th3e woe brought on evildoers at the Last Judgment.

v. 7 – “revelation of the Lord Jesus”: Christ’s coming will be an unveiling (apokalypsis) of the glory which he’s attained with the Father and in which Christians are to share (v. 10). In Jewish apocalyptic literature God comes in judgment with angels who execute the decrees of his power (2 Enoch 29:3; T. Judah 3:10; Enoch 61:10). The NT transfers this imagery to Christ (Mt 13:39, 49; 16:27; 24:30-31; 25:31; Mk 8:38; Lk 12:8-9), and the power of God becomes the power of Christ (1 Cor. 1:24; 6:14; 2 Cor. 13:4) [Jerome Study Bible, 234.]

v. 8 – “in flaming fire”: The glow of his majesty [Ex 3:2; Is 66:15; Acts 26:13]… Ignorance of God (1 Thess. 4:10) and refusal to accept the gospel preached by Paul (3:14; Rom 10:16) characterize the enemies of Christians. [Ibid. 234.]

v. 9 – The “punishment is eternal [unending] destruction”, a deprivation of the presence and glory of Christ, which is the lot of the faithful (1 Thess. 4:17; 5:10); their continued existence is presupposed. [Ibid. 234].

“eternal destruction”. Eternal punishment (Isa 66:24; Mt 25:42, 46; Mk 9:43, 48). Assures the Thessalonian Christians of final and perfect justice. They’re to refrain from taking personal revenge because God will judge justly.

[Isa 2:10, 19, 21.] “From the glory of His might (strength)”. St. Chrysostom: It’s enough that God comes and is seen, and all are to come to punishment and retribution. His coming on the one hand to some shall be light, but to others punishment”. [Homily 3 P.G. 62:522 (col. 479).]

v. 10 – “on that day”. The Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2). We don’t know how long the Day will be or last. It accompanies we know the 2nd Coming of Christ and His saints.
St. Chrysostom: “And to be marveled at”, he says, “in all those who believe”. See here again, “in” is used for “through”. For through them He’s shown to be wondrous when He brings to so much splendor those who were pitiable, and in distress and hardship, and who’d suffered 10,000 ills, and had believed, His might is shown then; because although they seem to be abandoned here, yet nevertheless they there enjoy great glory; then especially is shown all the glory and the might of God. [Homily 3, P.G. 62:523 (col. 480).]

“to be glorified in his saints”: Cf. Ps 68:36; 89:8; Isa 49:3; 66:5; en with the dative connotes both the place and manner of Christ’s glorification. The manifestation of the glory of God is the eschatological good (Isa 40:5) and takes place at the revelation of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 4:13; 5:10). Christians are to share in the divine glory of Jesus (Col 1:27; 3:4; Rom 8:18; Phil 3:21; 1 Cor. 2:7; 15:43).

“to be marveled at”: Cf. Wisdom 8:11; the admiration of the saved in Christ their Savior.
“on that day”: Placed at the end of the sentence, to create a triumphant effect (1 Thess 5:2). [Jerome Study Bible, 234.]

1:5-10 – “The Thessalonians surely have the same thoughts and temptations to doubt God’s justice. They’ve done nothing wrong! Why are they suffering so? St. Paul continues to assure them that, far from being evidence of God’s injustice, their perserverance in the midst of suffering is ‘evidence’ of His ‘righteous judgment’. Their suffering isn’t in vain. It’s changing them, purifying them, transforming them (compare 1 Peter 4:1) so that they’ll finally be ‘judged-worthy’ (Gr. Kataxioo) of the Kingdom of God. As St. Paul says elsewhere, the present suffering ‘is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison’ (2 Cor. 4:17). Their present suffering shows the justice of God’s future ‘judgment’, for God will give them a glorious ‘Kingdom’; and they’ll not be counted unworthy of it, for they’re ‘suffering’ for it now. More than that, God’s justice will be vindicated at the 2nd Coming. Then, those persecutors who ‘afflict’ them (Gr. Thliboo) will themselves be ‘afflicted’ and punished with ‘affliction’ (Gr. Thlipsis), while those who’ve been oppressed will be given ‘relief’ and eternal rest…There’s no chance for them to escape. The Lord will come from heaven ‘with the angels of His power in a fire of flame’, dealing out vengeance on the guilty and ‘being glorified in His saints’. He’ll show His glory by glorifying them, a transformation so astonishing that the sight will ‘be marveled at’ by all believers. Now they suffer in humility and pain. On that day, when Christ will be ‘glorified in’ them, they’ll be transformed in exaltation and power, beyond anything they dare imagine“. [Farley, 63-64].

v. 11 – Bl. Theophylact: What is this, “work of faith in power”? Patient endurance of persecutions. How? He gives us power and strength; for patience is a work of faith. [Explanation to the 2nd Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, P.G. 124:535B (col. 1337).]


Chapter 2:

v. 1- “Paul writes about the event that all Christians desire (1 Thess. 4:14, 17). The final ‘assembly’ (episynagoge) of the people of God is a traditional prophetic and apocalyptic notion (Isa 27:13; Sir 36:10; Ps 106:47; Mt 24:31; 2 Mac 2:18;). [Jerome Study Bible, 234].

v. 2 – St. Chrysostom: Here he seems to me to hint that certain ones went about having forged an epistle, as if from Paul. And showing this, they said that the day of the Lord has come, in order to lead astray many. [Homily 3, P.G. 62:524 (col. 481).]

“Something has shaken (saleuthenai, aorist infinitive) the peace of mind of the Thessalonians so that they’re in a perturbed state of mind (throeisthai, present infinitive; cf. Mt 24:6; Gal. 1:6-9). 3 possible causes: (1) a spirit: a charismatic gift, most likely of prophecy (1 Thess. 5:19-21); (2) an utterance: a charismatic discourse of wisdom or knowledge (1 Cor 12:8), or a supposed report from Paul; (3) a letter attributed to us: although Paul takes care to authenticate this letter (3:17), it is unclear that such forged letters were actually circulating. “that the day of the Lord is already here”: The Vulgate instat is a facilitating interpretation (cf. Rom 8:38; 1 Cor. 3:22). We don’t know how they would’ve understood this false teaching, but it appears to have confirmed some of them in idleness (2 Thess. 3:6-12). [Jerome Study Bible, 234.]

2:1-2 – “The Thessalonians are under the impression that ‘the Day of the Lord’, the 2nd ‘Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ with our attendant ‘coming-together to Him’ to meet Him and be with Him forever (see 1 Thess. 4:13-18), is ‘upon us’. (The word translated here ‘is upon us’, Gr. Enistemi, literally means ‘is present’.) The apostle did indeed teach that the 2nd Coming was imminent – that no historical developments had to occur before the final events of the Coming could take place. This didn’t mean that the 2nd Coming was soon to occur. Some commentators have inferred from statements like these that the apostles expected the Lord to come in their own lifetimes, but this misunderstands the import of their words. The apostle wasn’t talking about calendars, dates, and earthly schedules. He meant that history didn’t need to evolve any more before the final events of the end could begin. ‘The end of the ages’ had already come upon them (1 Cor. 10:11); they already were living in ‘the last hour’ (1 John 2:18). Others in Paul’s day may have thought that certain historical developments must occur before the time was right for the end – that an age of universal peace and plenty must 1st be ushered in. But the apostles taught that the Lord would come unexpectedly, ‘like a thief in the night’ (1 Thess. 5:4). The next thing on the divine agenda was the end, with all its attendant precursors. The Thessalonians have apparently misunderstood this…They’ve misinterpreted the apostolic teaching that ‘the Lord is near’ (compare Phil. 4:5) to mean that He’s going to come in the next few months or perhaps years. This misunderstanding has apparently been fueled by rumors and by spurious prophetic utterance. Some among them have apparently prophesied (in a ‘spirit’ or spiritual utterance) that the Lord’s soon to come. Others have perhaps heard rumor of a message or ‘word’ from the apostles confirming this. Others have spoken of an ‘epistle’ from them to this effect (is this a garbled report and misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching in his 1st epistle to them?). By whatever means, many among the Thessalonians believe that the Coming ‘is upon us’ – that the final countdown has begun and the Lord is soon to return. Some have therefore ceased working and spend their time idling, being busybodies, living in a fever of anticipation. St. Paul writes this present epistle to tell them not to be ‘shaken from’ their ‘mind’ and rattled by rumor. They’ve been thrown off their spiritual equilibrium by these things. Paul writes to restore their inner balance and to give them further clarification and teaching”. [Farley. 67—68.]

v. 3 – St. Chrysostom: Here he discourses concerning the Antichrist, and reveals great mysteries. What is “the apostasy”? He calls the Antichrist apostasy, as being about to destroy many, and make them give themselves up….And he calls him “the man of the sin”. For he shall work a myriad of dread things and contrive that others also do them. But he calls him “the son of the perdition” because he’s also to be destroyed. [Homily 3, P.G. 62:525 (col. 482).] Note the definite articles.

St. Kyril of Jerusalem: Hatred of the brethren makes room next for Antichrist; for the devil prepares beforehand the divisions among the people, that he who’s to come may be acceptable to them. But God forbid that any of Christ’s servants here, or elsewhere, should run over to the enemy! Writing concerning this matter the Apostle Paul gave a manifest sign, saying, “For that day shall not come unless the apostasy should come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of the perdition”. [St. Kyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XV(9), in Nicene, 2nd Ser., VII:106.]

St. Hippolytus: Learn, beloved, the wickedness of the men of that time, how they spoil houses and fields, and take even justice from the just; for when these things come to pass, ye may know that it’s the end. [Appendix to the Works of Hippolytus, in Ante-Nicene, V:243.]

St. Ephraim the Syrian: After iniquity shall have multiplied, and all creatures have become defiled, then divine justice shall appear, and shall wholly destroy the people, and, coming forth from perdition, the man of iniquity shall be revealed upon the earth, the seducer of men and the disturber of the whole earth. [Toal, “Sermon on Antichrist and the End and Consumnation”, Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, 3rd ed., Vol. IV:355-338.]

“The danger of seductive error in the last days is a NT theme (Mt 24:4, 11, 24; 1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33; 2 Tim 3:13). 2 signs must precede the coming of Christ: (1) the apostasy; (2) the revelation of the Man of Sin (hamartias) or of lawlessness (l.v. anomias), a word that connotes all opposition to God… Since that time [of Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ persecutions on the Jews] apostasy was a recognized phase of the final drama (Enoch 91:7; Jub 23:14-16; 2 Esdras 5:1-2; cf. Mt 24:12, the cooling of love in face of anomia). The theological content of the apostasy is the final attempt of Satan to destroy God’s kingdom through the defections of men. “Man of sin”: Satan’s agent in this work… The man of sin has commonly been identified with the Antichrist of the Johannine epistles (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7); Paul describes him as an individual (2:4, 9-10), although 1 John sees Antichrists in the heresiarchs of his day (1 John 2:18-19). The “Man of Sin” is an apocalyptic symbol for which Paul doesn’t provide an historical identification.” [Jerome Study Bible, 234].

v. 4 – St. Chrysostom: And who is he? Is it Satan then? Not at all, but he’s a man that accepted all of Satan’s energy. He’ll not introduce idolatry, but will be against God. He’ll abolish all the gods, and command all to be paying homage to him instead of God. He’ll be seated in the temple of God, not that in Jerusalem only, but in the churches everywhere, “showing himself that he’s God”. He didn’t say, “Saying (he’s God)”, but attempting to show himself. For he shall work great works, and show signs of wonder. [Homily 3, P.G. 62:525 (col. 482).]

St. Kyril of Jerusalem: Paul says that the man of the sin, the son of perdition, “opposes and exalts himself above all which is called God or an object of worship, so as for him to sit in the temple of God as God, showing himself that he’s God”. What temple? He means the ruined temple of the Jews, already destroyed. God forbid that it be the one in which we are (in Jerusalem)! ... He’ll create the impression that he’s the descendent of David who’s to restore the temple of Solomon. Antichrist will come when in the temple of the Jews not a stone upon a stone will be left, as our Savior foretold [Mt 24:2]. [Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. IV, Ch. XXVI, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., IX:98.]
St. Ephraim the Syrian: Rulers shall cease from judgment, and priests shall tremble in the sanctuary. The power of the strong shall collapse. There shall be stupor upon the earth. The hands of all shall be undone. The man of evil will prepare, and coming he’ll enter Jerusalem. He’ll build up and establish Sion, making himself to be God; and entering, he’ll sit in the temple….Then he’ll begin to show false signs in the heaven and upon the earth, sea, and dry land. But the elect shall fly from his face to the mountaintops and hills; and there shall be tribulation on earth, such as hasn’t been from the beginning of the world [Mt. 24:21]. And being thrown into confusion by this commotion, terror shall invade the hearts of all. Sons will deny their fathers, and follow the evil one. Priests will leave their altars; and going forth, they’ll become his heralds. Some will take refuge in tombs and hide among the dead, saying that the dead are blessed in being snatched away from such afflictions. [Toal, “Sermon on Antichrist and the End and Consumnation”, IV:355-358.]

2:3-4 – All this delusion of the Lord’s soon return must be completely dispelled. The Day of the Lord, with all its attendant signs in the heavens (see Luke 21:25-26), won’t come ‘unless the apostasy comes first’…St. Paul refers to it as ‘the apostasy’ (with the emphatic definite article), indicating that he spoke of this final rebellion to them before. The concept of the final apostasy is rooted in the Jewish apocalyptic teachings of that time. These writings taught Israel to expect a final time of trial, crisis, and chaos before the end. The apocalyptic book of 2 Esdras spoke of men being ‘seized with great terror’, of ‘truth being hidden and the land being barren of faith’, of ‘chaos breaking out in many places’ and the land ‘being thrown into confusion’ as ‘unrestraint increases on earth’ (2 Esdras 5:1-10). The apostles echo this teaching. Before the events of the end, and as a precursor to it, there must come the expected ‘apostasy’ and universal rebellion, the final breakdown of all order. It’s out of this chaos that ‘the man of lawlessness’, the great champion of sin, will arise. He’ll manifest and embody this final apostasy of the world, deifying himself and opposing God. As one who sets himself against the Most High, he’s called here ‘the son of destruction’ – A Hebraism for someone destined for destruction and doom. We find this concept of an eschatological rebel against God, who leads the final charge against all righteousness and embodies the lawlessness of the last days in one of the so-called Sibylline Oracles (3, 46ff): ‘From among the Sebastenoi [Ceasars?] Beliar will come and will cause the sea to be silent and will also cause the dead to be raised and perform many signs among them. But no consummation will be in him but only deceit and so he’ll cause many men to err… But the warnings of the great God [will] appear and a power of fire [will] come and burn Beliar and all overbearing men who’ve yielded their faith to him’. We find the same teaching in the Ascension of Isaiah (4:2): ‘After the consummation has arrived, the Angel Berial will descend from his heaven in the form of a wicked king and all the powers of this world will obey him in whatever he desires’. Though some of these Jewish apocalyptic works are contemporaries with St. Paul, they express traditions that go well back into the intertestamental period and contribute to the Church’s understanding of the eschatological assault on the Kingdom to which St. Paul here refers… ‘the man of lawlessness’… is better known under the title ‘the antichrist’. In the Didache…from about AD100, he’s referred to as ‘the World-deceiver’, who shall ‘appear as the Son of God’ so that ‘the world shall be delivered into his hands and he shall do unholy things’. The concept of the final antichrist forms the background of some of the latter chapters of the Apocalypse of St. John, where the final assault of the Beast is described (Rev 16:14-16). Paul speaks of the man of lawlessness as being ‘revealed’ (the same word used for the 2nd Coming of Christ in 1:7), making him an inverted parallel to the Lord. In saying that the man of lawlessness will be ‘revealed’, St. Paul means that the antichrist will be present in the world as a man before his career as the eschatological rebel, and that his manifestation as the antichrist will be part of the convulsion of the end times. The antichrist will be known by his self-deification and his prideful, blasphemous self-exhibition as ‘God’. Though he won’t necessarily claim to be the uncreated Creator, he’ll ‘oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of veneration’ (The phraseology is reminiscent of Daniel 11:36)”. [Farley. 68, 69, 70].
“sitting in the sanctuary of God”. “There is no sound consensus in the early Church, and Paul doesn’t explain in enough detail for us to make a conclusion so we should be tentative ourselves in our conclusions. What’s certain is that St. Paul means us to understand the final antichrist will intrude on the worship of the true God, usurping His place in an act of daring blasphemy” [Farley. 71.]

v. 5 – He doesn’t complete his sentence here. Concludes in a different manner.

v. 6 – “That which restraineth”; neuter here, but masculine in verse 7. St. Chrysostom: One may inquire what’s “that which restraineth”? …. He said this of the Roman empire. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:529 (col. 485).]

v. 7 – St. Chrysostom: One may inquire, what’s that which withholds? …. Some say the grace of the Holy Spirit, but others the Roman rule, to which I much rather accede. Why? Because if he meant to say the Spirit, he wouldn’t have spoken obscurely, but plainly, that even now the grace of the Spirit, that is the gifts of grace, withhold him….If he were about to come when the gifts of grace cease, he ought now to have come, for they’ve long ceased. But he said this of the Roman rule,…speaking covertly and darkly, not wishing to bring upon himself superfluous enmities and senseless dangers. He says, “Only there’s the one who restraineth now, until he should come to be taken out of the midst; that is, whenever the empire is taken out of the way, then he shall come. For as long as there’s fear of the empire, no one will willingly exalt himself. But when that’s dissolved, he’ll attack the anarchy, and endeavor to seize upon the sovereignty both of man and of God”. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:529, 530 (cols. 485, 486).]

Take note that: Chrysostom does not believe the gifts have ceased. He is not a cessationalist because he does believe that the sacraments are all still valid. Sacraments are gifts from God which means he can’t be a cessationalist. He believes that the gifts have dispensed through the sacraments instead.

2:6-7 – “The present conflict goes on in secret, for there’s someone or something impeding the revelation of the Man of Sin. The ‘restrainer’ (neut. Katechon, masc. katechon) is a new element in the drama, of which the Thessalonians are already aware; the word appears without an object and both as a neuter and a masculine singular. The meaning is literally: ‘And now you know that which restrains, until he is revealed in his own time; for the mystery of lawlessness has already been put to work; (it operates in secret) only until he who is at present restraining gets out of the way’. Satan has a secret plan (mysterion) and the Man of Sin will have a Parousia, just as God has a secret plan (mysterion), and Christ will have a Parousia. Among the Church Fathers, the civil order of the Roman Empire was always a favorite candidate for the ‘restrainer’.” [Note: it doesn’t have to be]. [J.S.B. 234].

One way to look at it is that Rome embodies social order. If Rome or whichever Empire (or empires) fell, the Antichrist would come up from the ashes promising things like order, peace, etc. This is what Paul has in mind when he’s talking of the restrainer. Rome didn’t fall until 1453 (and even that is somewhat debatable as Rome still survives in some essence through many of the broken off nations that can claim to be Rome like Russia for example or Britain, etc.).  

v. 8 – St. Chrysostom: Such is the nature of good things: they not only correct that which is akin to them, but also destroy the opposite – and in this way is their power most displayed. For so fire, not only whenever it gives light, and whenever it purifies gold, but also whenever it consumes thorns, it very greatly displays its proper strength. And Vhrist too herein also demonstrates His own majesty whenever He shall consume the Antichrist with the breath of His mouth. [Homily 5 on 2 Cor. 2:16, P.G. 61:468 (col. 430).]

v. 9 – St. Irenaeus: We may discover in many instances that the apostle frequently uses a transposed order in his sentences, due to the rapidity of his discourses, and the impetus of the Spirit which is in him….And again, here,….he doesn’t mean that the coming of the Lord is after the energy of Satan, but the coming of the wicked one, whom we also call Antichrist. If, then, one doesn’t attend to the proper reading of the passage, and if he doesn’t exhibit the intervals of breathing as they occur, there shall be not only incongruities, but also, when reading, he’ll utter blasphemy, as if the advent of the Lord could take place according to the energy of Satan. So therefore, in such passages, the transposition must be exhibited by the reading, and the apostle’s meaning following on, preserved. [Against Heresies, Bk. III, Ch. VII(2), in Ante-Nicene, I:420, 421.]

2:8, 9 – St. John of Damascus: 1st, it’s necessary that the Gospel should be preached among all nations [cf. Mt 24:14]; “and then the lawless one shall be revealed” [2 Thess. 2:8]….The devil himself, therefore, doesn’t become man in the way that the Lord was made Man. God forbid! But Antichrist shall become man as the offspring of fornication, and shall receive all the energy of Satan. For God, foreknowing the choice that he’d make, allows the devil to take up his abode in him. [Exposition, Bk. IV, Ch. XXVI, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., IX:98, 99.]

Damascus: [Now] he is, as we said, the offspring of fornication, and is nurtured in secret, and on a sudden he rises up and rebels and assumes rule….In the beginning of his rule, or rather tyranny, he assumes the role of sanctity. But when he becomes master, he persecutes the Church of God and displays all his wickedness. But he’ll come “with signs and lying wonders” [2 Thess. 2:9], fictitious and not real; and he’ll deceive and lead away from the living God those whose mind rests on an unsound and unstable foundation, so that even the elect, if it be possible, shall be made to stumble [Mt 24:24]. But Enoch and Elias the Thesbite shall be sent and shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children [Mal 4:6; Rev. 11:3], that is, the Synagogue to our Lord Jesus Christ and the preaching of the apostles. But they shall be slain by him. And the Lord shall come out of heaven, just as the holy apostles beheld Him going into heaven perfect God and perfect Man, with glory and power [Acts 1:11], and will destroy the man of the lawlessness, the son of the perdition, “by the breath of His mouth” [2 Thess. 2:8]. Let no one, therefore, look for the Lord to come from earth, but out of heaven, as he Himself has made sure. [Ibid. IX:99.]

v. 10 – St. Chrysostom: “And in all deveit of the unrighteousness in those who are perishing”. Why then, do you say does God permit this to be? And what economy is this? And what is to be gained at his coming, if it takes place for our ruin? Fear not, beloved, but hear Him saying, “In them that are perishing”; it’s in them that he has strength, who, even if he hadn’t come, wouldn’t have believed. What then is the advantage? That these very men who are perishing will be censured. How? Because both if he’d come, and if he hadn’t come, they wouldn’t have believed in Christ; He comes therefore to convict them. For that they may not have occasion to say that “since Christ said that He was God” – although He nowhere said this openly – “and those who came after proclaimed it, we haven’t believed. Because we’ve heard that there’s one God from Whom are all things, therefore we’ve not believed”. This their pretext then Antichrist will take away. For when he comes, and comes commanding nothing sound, but all things unlawful, and is yet believed from false signs alone, he’ll stop their mouths. For if thou believes not in Christ, much more ought you not to believe in Antichrist. For the former said that He was sent from the Father, but the latter the contrary. For this reason Christ said, “I’ve come in the name of My Father, and ye receive Me not; if another should come in his own name, that one ye will receive” [Jn 5:43]. But we’ve seen signs, you say. But many and great signs were also wrought in the case of Christ; much more therefore ought ye to have believed in Him. And yet many things were predicted concerning this one, that he’s the lawless one, that he’s the son of perdition, and that his coming is after the energy of Satan. But the contrary concerning the other, that He’s the Savior, that He brings with Him myriads of good things. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:530, 531 (col. 487).]

2:6-10 – These verses develop vv.3 and 4 by a theological and apocalyptic description of the conflict between Christ and the man of sin, now and at the end of time. [J.S.B., 234]

v. 11 – St. Kyril of Jerusalem: In his time there shall be the evil inducement both of fear and deceit, so that if it be possible the very elect shall be deceived. Let it never enter into the heart of any then alive to ask, “What more did Christ? For by what power does this man work these things? Were it not God’s will, He wouldn’t allowed them”. The apostle warns you, and says beforehand, “And on this account God shall send (that is, shall allow to happen) to them an influence (a mode or impulse to action) of error for them to believe the lie”, not that they might make excuse, but that “they all might be judged” [2 Thess. 2:12]. Wherefore? “They”, he says, “who believe not the truth”, that is, the true Christ, “but had pleasure in the unrighteousness,” that is, in Antichrist. [Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XV(17), in Nicene, 2nd Ser., VII:109.] Cf. Romans 1:25, “the lie”.

2:10-12 – St. Irenaeus: When Antichrist has come, and of his own accord concentrates in his own person the apostasy, and accomplishes whatever he shall do according to his own will and choice – sitting also in the temple of God, so that his dupes may adore him as the Christ – for which reason also shall he deservedly be cast into the lake of the fire. This’ll happen according to divine appointment, God by His prescience foreseeing all this, and at the proper time sending such a man, that they may believe the lie, that they all may be judged who didn’t believe the truth, but consented to the unrighteousness, whose coming John has thus described in the Apocalypse. [Against Heresies, Bk. V, Ch. XXVIII(1), in Ante-Nicene, I:557.]

St. Chrysostom: He doesn’t say that “they might be punished”, for even before this they were about to be punished, but “that they all might be judged” [2 Thess. 2:12]; that is, at the dreadful Seat of Judgment, in order that they might be defenseless, they “who believe not the truth”, “but had pleasure in the unrighteousness”. He calls Christ “the Love of the Truth”. “For because”, he says, “they received not the love of the truth”. For He was both and came for the sake of both: both as loving men and on behalf of things that were true. “But they had pleasure”, he says, “in the unrighteousness”. [Homily 4. P.G. 62:531 (col. 487).]

2:8-12 – “The Antichrist will be ‘consumed with the breath’ of Christ’s ‘mouth and abolished by the appearance of His Coming’. The triumphant career of the antichrist and his persecution of the Church will be overthrown by the Lord Himself when He returns. The ‘appearance’ (Gr. Epiphaneia, ‘divine manifestation’) of the true Christ will refute and ‘abolish’ the lies of the false christ. But the battle will not be long. The antichrist is described as being ‘consumed’ and destroyed by the mere ‘breath of His mouth’ – a simple word of command from the sovereign Lord will be enough to overthrow him and all his hosts as Christ returns and manifests the glorious Presence and judgment ‘from which earth and heaven flee away’ (Rev 20:11). The image of destroying the antichrist by ‘the breath of His mouth’ is drawn from Isaiah 11:4 (LXX), where the prophet says the Messiah will ‘strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and destroy the ungodly one with the breath of His lips’. St. Paul thus assures the Thessalonians of their ultimate victory in the ensuing conflict”. [Farley. 75].

v. 14 – St. Chrysostom: This too is no small thing, if Christ deems our salvation His own glory. For it’s the glory of the One Who loves mankind that those being saved are many. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:531, 532 (col. 488).]

v. 15 – Holy tradition. This is to be preserved by the Church, for God is its source. Holy Tradition is what Jesus taught to the apostles, and which they in turn taught the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in (a) their instructions as they visited the churches and (b) their writings. Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance we as Christians adhere to Holy Tradition as it’s present in the apostles’ writings and as it’s resident in the Church to which the truth is promised (Jn 16:13). [Orthodox Study Bible.]

St. Chrysostom: Hence it’s clear that they didn’t deliver all things by epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let’s think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It’s a tradition, seek no farther. Here he indicates that there were many who were shaken to the foundations. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:532 (col. 488).]

v. 16 – St. Chrysostom: Where now are those who lessen the Son, because He’s named in the grace of the baptismal laver after the Father? For behold, here it’s the contrary. “The One Who loved us and gave everlasting consolation”. Of what sort is this? Even the hope of things future. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:535 (col. 488).]

“The One Who loved us”. The apostle uses the singular, articular participle. There’s probably no instance in St. Paul’s writings of a plural adjective or verb when the 2 hypostases of the Godhead are mentioned.

Chapter 3:

Paul exercises his apostolic authority to remedy an abuse that must’ve worsened since the 1st letter; there’s no indication that it was widespread though. To correct it, he invokes the author of Christ (v.6). They needn’t support the lazy and disorderly… he’s not suggesting excommunication here but is trying to shame the lazy into repentance here and a conversion of life. The undisciplined here remain brothers, though being sternly corrected. [J.S.B. 235]

v. 2 – St. Chrysostom: “For not all have the faith”. He’s speaking of those who contradict the preaching, who oppose and fight against the doctrines. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:533 (col. 489).]

v. 3 – St. Chrysostom: He says, “Faithful is the Lord”. And having promised to save, He’ll save assuredly; but as He promised. And how did He promise? If we be willing, and hear Him; not simply (hearing), nor like stocks and stones, being inactive. [Homily 5, P.G. 62:537 (col. 493).]

3:2-3 – St. Leo the Great: Now because “not all have the faith”, and the crafty tempter never delights so much in wounding the hearts of men as when he can poison their unwary minds with errors that are opposed to Gospel truth, we must strive by the mighty teaching of the Holy Spirit to prevent Christian knowledge from being perverted by the devil’s falsehoods. And against this danger it behooves the rulers of the churches especially to guard and to avert from the minds of simple folk lies which are colored by a certain show of truth….And they seek to entrap men not so much by watching their actions as by nice distinctions of meaning, corrupting the force of sentences by some very slight addition or alteration, whereby sometimes a statement, which is made for salvation, by a subtle change is turned to destruction. But since the apostle says, “There must be also heresies among you, that the approved might become manifest among you” [1 Cor. 11:19], it tends to the progress of the whole Church, so that, whenever wickedness reveals itself in setting forth wrong opinions, the things which are harmful may not be concealed, and thus the things which will inevitably end in ruin may not injure the innocence of others. [“Letter CXXIX, To Proterius, Bp. Of Alexandria”, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., XII:95, 96.]

v. 5 – St. Chrysostom: What’s “into the patience of the Christ”? That we should endure even as He endured, or that we should practice those things, or that with patience also we should wait for Him, that is, that we should be prepared….Wherever he speaks of patience, he intimates affliction. For this is to love God: to endure, and not to be clamorous. [Homily 5, P.G. 62:537, 538 (col. 493).]

v. 6 – St. Cyprian: We must withdraw, rather flee from those who fall away, lest, while one is joined with them as they walk wickedly, and passes over the paths of error and crime, wandering apart fro the way of the true road, he himself also be caught in a like crime. God’s one and Christ one and His Church one and the faith one and the people one joined together by the tie of concord into a solid unity of body. The unity can’t be torn asunder, nor can the one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into bits by the wrenching asunder of its entrails by laceration. Whatever departs from the parent-stem will not be able to breathe and live apart; it loses the substance of health. [Treatises: The Unity of the Church, Ch. 23, in FC, 36:118, 119.].

Works Used:
Jerome Study Bible (J.S.B.)
The Orthodox New Testament
Orthodox Study Bible.
Words of Fire. Fr. Lawrence Farley

Monday, June 3, 2019

1 Thessalonians Notes

1 Thessalonian Notes:
By: Lazarus Conley

Thessalonica was founded about 316 BC by Cassander, a general under Alexander the Great, named after the former’s wife who was a half sister of Alexander. It was conquered by the Romans in 168 BC and then became the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia after 146 BC. The city supported Octavius at the battle of Philippi (42 BC) and consequently became a free city, with its own deme, boule, and politarchs (cf. Acts 17:5-6). In the 1st Ce. AD, it was a cosmopolitan city with a large Jewish colony and many pagan cults. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy arrived in Thessalonica in AD 50. Paul and Silvanus had been arrested and expelled from Philippi (Acts 16:16-40). Passing along the Via Egnatia, through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, about 97 miles west of Philippi. There they began to preach the gospel in a Jewish synagogue “amid much anxiety” (1 Thess. 2:2). [Jerome Study Bible, 227).

The coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead is an integral part of Christian faith and hope; it’s embodied in the later creeds… at that time Christians will share with the Risen Christ the glory he already enjoys (1 Thes 3:12; 2 Thes 1:10). Paul had already instructed the Thessalonians in this faith (1 Thes 1:9-10). Since Christ hadn’t revealed the time of His coming (Mt 24:36 par; Acts 1:7; 1 thes 5:2), it was natural that early Christians would’ve desired it and expected it to happen soon, even in their own lifetime. Paul writes from such a point of view in 1 Thes 4:15-17 (in other words, he speaks in imminence language as we all should and are called to do). These Christians were nonetheless anxious about those who died before the coming of Christ. Paul writes to assure them that those who are living at the time of the Parousia will have no advantage over the dead; the dead will rise first and together with the living all will go to meet Christ and be with Him forever. In 2 Thes Paul teaches that before the Parousia of Christ takes place, there will be an apostasy and the appearance of an Antichrist, an agent of Satan who will attempt to destroy the work of Christ. Satan is already at work, but the Antichrist can’t appear because someone or something is at present preventing it. When he does appear, Christ will come and destroy him. In the eschatological passages of both letters (1 Thess 4:13-18; 2 Thess 1:7-10; 2:1-12) Paul uses the “apocalyptic” form of writing, where concrete symbols are used to convey a more transcendent message and mystery. In such writing, the correspondence between figure and reality will escape us because it is a Divine Mystery [Jerome Study Bible, 228].

Chapter 1:

v.1 – Paul, Silas/Silvanus, and Timothy are the writers sending this letter to the Church of Thessaloniki.

v.2 – Gives thanks to God like he did in Romans 1:8 and 1 Cor 1:4, etc. epistles.

v.3 – “labor of love” – Their love was shown especially in the welcome they gave to the travelers (v.9). Paul commends their love again in 4.9, 4.10, where he says they are “taught by God” in their love for one another.

St. Chrysostom: What is “your work of faith”? That nothing has turned you aside from your inheritance. For this is the work of faith. If thou believes, suffer all things; but if thou suffers not, thou believes not….He therefore who believes will suffer all things. Faith then is shown through his works.” [Explanatory Notes for the 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians, Homily 1. P.G. 62:426 (col. 394)].

Blessed Theophylact: You were patient under many and lengthy temptations. You endured being strengthened in hope. [Explanation to the 1st Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, P.G. 124:504C (col. 1281).]

v.4 – “chosen you” – Divine election is a theme of both Thessalonian epistles (5.9; 2 Thess. 2.13). Paul isn’t afraid to assure this young, predominantly Gentile church that they were elected by God. Paul sees in them the fruit of God’s electing grace, manifested in their response to the preaching of the gospel and their early progress in sanctification.

v.5 – he was granted to do many things that confirm his apostleship is genuinely part of the Christian faith.

v.6 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). He confirms the Thessalonians did this.

v.7 – They were examples for all of the surrounding areas: Macedonia and in Achaia.

v.8 – Paul is likely writing from Achaia, having travelled from Macedonia and come through Athens to Corinth. Their faith has been made evident as many other churches Paul founded know of them and their deeds and accomplishments. They’ve become well known in the Christian community.

v.9 – “What sort of entrance we had with you”. St. Chrysostom: What does this mean? That it was full of perils, and myriads of deaths, but that none of these things troubled you. But as if nothing happened, so you took hold of us; as if you’d suffered nothing bad, but had enjoyed 10,000 good things, so you received us after these things….The expression is complicated, and contains an encomium both of them and of themselves. [Homily 2, P.G. 62:433 (col. 400).]

The Thessalonians have been representing the Christian faith very well according to Paul.
Their “turning from idols” probably means the Church of Thessaloniki are primarily former heathens (pagans) and are mostly Gentile Christians. They’re likely not mostly Jewish Christians because Paul would not normally talk about Jewish Christians in this manner based on his other letters

v.10 – Jesus is the main topic here in v. 10. His Son-ship to God is pointed out. The text embraces the topic that it is the Church waiting on Him from heaven. “Wrath to come” is mentioned which “is an expression taken from the OT prophets who used it to tell their people that God’s coming won’t necessarily mean the overpowering of nations and the glorification of the Israelite people, but that it will be ‘a day of wrath’ (Zeph 1:18) in case the people, and especially their leaders, are carrying on their evil deeds. The emphasis on the idea of ‘wrath’ derives from the fact that God is holy and that His holiness can’t bear sin but consumes it totally. Thus the day of the coming of God started to carry with it the idea of the wrath to come, in that judgment is in His hand and He will judge all beings. Due to his sin (Rom 3:9-12) man always sees God’s judgment under the image of a coming wrath. Therefore the expression, ‘wrath to come’ means God’s just judgment at the end of days… Jesus’ coming [is] in close relation to the last judgment (see 1 Thess 3:13). [The] believer has a continuous hope that Jesus will save him/her from the divine wrath, in that ‘God made Christ our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption’ (1 Cor 1:30)” (71-72. Paul Tarazi).

v.9-10: “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” – Through Christ’s intervention on the Cross and His Resurrection, believers on Judgement Day will be spared the condemnation and punishment their sins would otherwise deserve.

Chapter 2:

v.1-2 – Paul suffered in Philippi. Acts 16:22-24 supports this. If he and the apostles had been charlatans then no fruit would’ve come. Yet it had.

vv.3-6: Paul clears his name that he is honest, without error, trustworthy, and there is no wickedness in him trying to deceive his followers.

v.8 – St. Chrysostom: He says, “So much do we love you, that, if it could be yielded, we’d have given even our souls. He who loves, ought so to love, that if he were asked even for his soul, and it were possible, he wouldn’t withhold it”. [Homily 3, P.G. 62:437 (col. 403).]

v.9 – He declares he’s labored much and suffered much to get the Gospel to them.

v.12 – Called to enter this kingdom, believers know its power and enjoy its life here and now (Rom 14:7; 1 Cor 4:20; Col 1:13, 14) while they long for the day they’ll enter its fullness.

v.14 –They suffered (the Church of Thessaloniki) persecution from their countrymen as fellow members of the Church elsewhere did by Jewish persecution.

v.15 – Consoles them with the fact that they had persecuted Christ long before them. Count it worthy if you suffer like Christ did.

v.14-15: Persecution did come primarily to the Church of Thessalonica by Greeks but Paul also discusses how they have been persecuted by Jews like Christ was.

v.16 – St. Chrysostom: “But the wrath came upon them”. By saying “the wrath”, he shows that it was long ago due, and foreordained, and prophesied”. [Homily 3, P.G. 62:443 (col. 408).]

“It seems then that the sins of the Jews against God’s will were piling up til the day when they went beyond measure; that is precisely what’s meant by ‘filling up the measure of sin’. The adverb ‘always’ results from the fact that the apostles’ preaching of Christ is the last essential stage in the life of the Jews regarding their relation to God: with the gospel the last chance has gone and their sins are fulfilled. Consequently, the time unfolding after the appearance of Jesus Christ is a time for declating what the Lord Jesus has done ‘once and for all’. As for the Jews’ rejection of the apostles’ preaching after their rejection of the prophets and the Lord Jesus, it means that this sin of reection/refusal has been repeated ‘always’ – that is generation after generation until the fullness and completeness of salvation time in Jesus Christ. The result of filling up the measure is the wrath (the wrath to come) which means here damnation (or lack of salvation) as is clear from 5:9: ‘For God’s not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’.” (113-114. Tarazi). 

In other words, they’re under damnation and need to come to repentance. 

v. 15-16: There was Jewish opposition to Paul and the Church of Thessalonica. “Jews who are hostile to Christ and persecute Christians are left to multiply their sins in view of divine vengeance. “wrath has already come upon them”: God’s avenging justice is already manifest in his failure to affect their conversion.  The interpretation of the final phrase, eis telos is [sometimes] disputed: CCD, ‘to the utmost’; NEB, ‘for good and all’; RSV, ‘at last’; Moffat ‘to the bitter end’. Paul’s point of view is eschatological; it’s already the end time when God’s justice [here] will be manifest”.  [Jerome Study Bible, 230]

v.13-16: “[For all the Jews’] boasting of knowing God, of doing His will and thus being a blessing to the world, they’ve proven themselves to be ‘contrary to all men’ – i.e. true hostile adversaries of mankind (Gr. Enantion; compare its use in Mt 14:24 for a severe and contrary wind). The final result for them is that they ‘always fill up their sins’. Here St. Paul refers to the idea of one having a certain allowed limit of sin. When one ‘filled it up’, one exceeded the patience of God and the divine ‘wrath’ descended. (Thus Abraham was told it was not then time to inherit Canaan because ‘the iniquity of the inhabiting Amorites wasn’t yet full’, Genesis 15:16; thus the Lord told the Pharisees to ‘fill up the measure of the guilt of their fathers’ so that the ‘blood-guilt of all the generations’ would come upon them, Mt 23:32-36.) In like manner, the Jews opposing St. Paul were ‘filling up their sins’ by persecuting the apostles. Thus ‘the wrath’ of God was sure to come ‘to the end’ (Gr. Eis telos), leaving no room for escape.” (p. 33. Farley).

v.17 – “St. Paul continues his defense by affirming his sincerity and love for the Thessalonians. In recalling the fervency of their conversion (v.13) and the persecution it subsequently brought (vv.14-16), he recalls as well his own concern for them. When he left them, being involuntarily ‘made orphans’ (note the passive, which witnesses to Paul’s sense of loss), and hurried out to Thessalonica to nearby Berea (Acts 17:10), Paul worried greatly about his new converts. Indeed, he misses them as ‘orphans’ miss their parents and feels quite desolate. Though he’s been away from them for a short while (literally ‘the time of an hour’) – and he hastens to assure them that he’s not away from them ‘in heart’ – yet he agonizes still over them. Will they persevere in the Faith? Will they fall prey to those who are slandering him? For this reason, he’s ‘eager’ to return to visit them. The word translated ‘to be eager (Gr. Spoudazo) combines the idea of haste with that of intense effort. This is no merely token effort, but an all-out attempt – ‘abundantly’ and ‘with great desire’ (Gr. Epithumia)… The apostle is very intent on seeing them!” (Farley. 35).

v.18 – Satan had hindered them from coming to see them as they’d desired to.

v.19 – St. Chrysostom: Are the Macedonians, tell me, thy hope, O blessed Paul? “Not these alone”, says he. Therefore he added, “Are not also ye?” …For he said not “ye”, but “also ye”, together with the others. [Homily 3, P.G. 62:444 (col. 409).]

“At the mention of the devil and his continual effort to hinder the apostolic mission, Paul’s mind is suddenly overwhelmed with the image of the Lord Jesus as judge of all at His 2nd Coming. And Paul is fully aware that the issue at stake in his case will be essentially whether he’ll have accomplished his work as an apostle or not: ‘…For I’d rather die than have any one deprive me of my ground for boasting’ For necessity is laid upon me. Woe is me if I don’t preach the gospel!’ (1 Cor 9:15-16). In this same sense the Apostle is saying his hope, joy, and crown of pride are the Thessalonians themselves, i.e., those who’ve accepted the faith at his hands. Why? Because they’ll be an indubitable proof before the Judge that Paul has done his duty, and thus his Master will say to him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you’ve been faithful over a little; I’ll set you over much; enter into the joy of our master’ (Mt 25:21 and 23)”. (117. Tarazi)

“They are his ‘hope’ and ‘joy’ and ‘crown of boasting’, his ‘glory’ before the Lord Jesus ‘at His Coming’. It is they (the pronoun is emphatic in the Greek) who are the crown of his work and the source of his joy at the Lord’s judgement seat. How could his heart be separated from them?” (Farley. 36).

v.20 – “you are our glory and joy!”

Chapter 3:

v.10 – St. Chrysostom: “To instruct the deficiencies of your faith”; what then is this? They hadn’t enjoyed the full benefit of his teaching, nor learned as much as was proclaimed to them to learn. And this he declares toward the end. Perhaps there’d been inquiries among them concerning the resurrection, and there were many who made an uproar among them, not by temptations, nor by dangers, but by playing the part of teachers. This is what he says are the deficiencies of your faith….He hasn’t said that you should be established or set firm but that you may be put in proper order,….which is much rather a matter of teaching than of confirming. [Homily 4, P.G. 62:455 (col. 419).]

v. 13 – “Paul’s concern is that the heart, even the whole being, of the faithful be in a full state of holiness before God the Judge at the coming of the Lord Jesus. Now this the Apostle’s stand can be explained by the fact that the concept of holiness – in the NT summarizes all that which Christians should be” (131. Tarazi).

3:11-13: “The apostle prays that the Lord will work in them an ever increasing abundance of love as that which will ‘establish’ their ‘hearts faultless’ on the last day. For the Lord will commend them with his ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord!’ (Mt 25:21), if He finds they have ‘love for the least of their brethren’ (Mt 25:40). This is the ‘faultless holiness’ which ‘our God and Father’ looks to find in us at His judgment seat, when the Lord Jesus will have come ‘with all His saints’, the entire heavenly court of men and angels” (Farley. 38).

Chapter 4:

v.1 – Paul praises them and urges them to continue and continue to grow in their faith.

v.6 – St. Chrysostom: To each man God has assigned a wife. He has set bounds to nature-that of intercourse with one only….Herein he speaks about adultery, but above also about every fornication….You mustn’t have the wives of others at all, nor even women that have no husbands, and those for common use. [Homily 5, P.G. 62:461 (col. 424); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:518B (col. 1308).]

v.8 – Paul may very well claim divine authority here.

“God, Who gave His Holy Spirit to you”. KJV reads “to us”.

St. Chrysostom: “The one who refuses, refuses not man, but God”. God vindicates not the persons who are injured, but Himself….And though thou shouldn’t commit adultery, but fornication, though the harlot hasn’t a husband, yet nevertheless God makes retribution, for He avenges Himself. For thou does this act, not regarding slightly that one (that is, the husband), so much as God. And it’s manifest from this, that thou does it concealing thyself from man, but thou takes to thyself what doesn’t belong to thee, assuming that God doesn’t see thee. [Homily 5, P.G. 62:461 (col. 425); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:519CD (col. 1308).]

vv. 10-12: “Although Paul’s aware there’s no need for him to write to them concerning brotherly love…as apostle and spiritual father he didn’t miss the opportunity to exhort them to continue and improve on that path. But what about manual work, and why’d he mention this topic in conjunction with the brotherly love? It appears from both epistles – especially the 2nd – to the Thessalonians that some of the faithful there thought that the Lord was coming again very soon. These started to see no reason to work for livelihood; they even tried to convince others to follow their way and thus were disturbing the serenity and orderliness of the community life. Further, after some time spent in idleness these people came to be in need of being fed. Naturally all this made more difficult and even hindered the brotherly love prevailing in the community. Besides, this type of behavior started to distort the image of God’s church in the sight of non-Christians. This is precisely the reason that made Paul not only exhort them to live quietly, to each mind his own affairs and to work with their own hands for livelihood, but even made him instruct, i.e., order them to do so…This is what made the Apostle emphasize that we are unable to pinpoint the time of the Lord’s coming (1 Thess 5:1-2) as well as comment lengthily that there are signs which are to precede that coming (2 Thess 2:1-12).” (144 & footnote 12. Tarazi).

v.13 – “the dead in Christ will rise first”. Those “in Christ” also constitute a subcategory of those “in Adam” (the whole human race), and comprise of all who participate in salvation by Christ, whether they lived before or after Christ. This rising of the “dead in Christ” is a resurrection of all the righteous dead, and not merely of NT believers, at the time of Christ’s return (as in 1 Cor 15:23; John 5:28, 29). The resurrection of the unrighteous will also happen (Acts 24:15), though he also presupposes it in his warnings of a universal judgment of individuals at the time of Christ’s return (Acts 17:31; Rom 2:5-16).

“We do not wish” KJV reads as “I wouldn’t have you”. –

St. Basil: All things are directed by the goodness of the Master. Nothing which happens to us should be received as distressful, although at present it affects our weakness. In fact, even if we’re ignorant of the reasons for which each event is applied as a blessing to us from the Master, nevertheless, we ought to be convinced of this – that what happens is assuredly advantageous either for us as a reward for our patience, or for the soul which is taken up, lest, tarrying too long in this life, it should be filled with the evil which exists in this world. [Letter 101, in FC, 13:225.]

The topic is deceased Christians. “Paul’s teaching made it clear that death had no power any longer over the faithful who will be accompanying the Lord at His coming in glory. Now doubt had overtaken some of the Thessalonians, who started asking: If that’s true, then why have some of us died before the Lord’s coming? Does this mean that the deceased won’t have a part in the welcoming procession of the Lord? The Apostle starts by saying that only non-believers grieve in the face of death, and the reason for this is that they have no hope. For the Christian, the heathen is defined as the one without hope; hence the importance of hope not only in the life of the faithful, but also in the definition of his being. The believer is the one who hopes for victory over death in Christ. [Note also] that Paul uses in the verses 13, 14, 15 the verb ‘to lie down’ when speaking of death. This is what he’ll also do in 1 Cor 15 in the context of his teaching regarding our forthcoming resurrection in Christ, where he uses 4x ‘to lie down’ (vv.6, 18, 20, and 51) besides the verb ‘to die’…This use itself is a consolation since it means that the believer falls asleep in his death awaiting the dashing victory over death at the Lord’s coming. This explains why the terms ‘those who are asleep’ and ‘those who’ve fallen asleep’ to speak of our deceased have made their way into Christian tradition”. (145-146 Tarazi).

v.14 – “So also those who fell asleep through Jesus will God bring with Him”; literally “through”, or “by means of Jesus”; ambiguous in position, as even St. Chrysostom notes: How “through Jesus”? Either that they fell asleep through Jesus, or that through Jesus will He bring them, that is, the faithful….But why does he say “those who fell asleep”? So that he’s not speaking of a general resurrection, but about a partial one….But how do the faithful fall asleep through Jesus? Clearly they’ve Christ in themselves. And the verse, “He’ll bring with Him”, indicates that they’re brought from many places. [Homily 7, P.G. 62:473 (cols. 435, 436); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:520 BC (col. 1312).]

“Jesus died and rose again”. “Since the apostles’ teaching and the faith of the Church is that those who are asleep in Jesus will share in his lot (1 Cor 15), it’s only logical that God will bring them in the company of the Lord Jesus at His coming in glory.” (147. Tarazi).
It should be noted Paul says “we” because he is giving a teaching of the Apostles. And this teaching applies to the entire Church. Whenever the 2nd Coming does happen, the 2nd Coming will affect and happen for WE, all as believers. Paul doesn’t know the day nor the hour of His coming so naturally there’s no reason for him not to use and apply what’s called imminence language.  

V. 13-18: “Their present anxiety concerns not the judgement of the living and the dead (1:10), but the participation of their dead friends in the glorious coming of Christ. V.13: ‘we’d not have you ignorant concerning those who sleep’: The Christian dead. Death is spoken of like a sleep even in pagan literature, without necessarily presupposing faith in immortality or resurrection. The image is used in the OT (Gen 47:30; Dt 31:16; 3 Kings 2:10, etc.), but in Christianity it acquires a special sense because of faith in the resurrection of Jesus (Mt 9:24; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor. 15: 18, 20, 51, etc.). lest you should grieve: Not with a natural sorrow at the loss of dear ones, but with a pagan sorrow that is without Christian hope (Col 1:27; E[j 2:12; 1 Thess 4:5). The object of this hope is specific, viz., the resurrection and a life of glory with Christ. V.14: if we believe: …the death and resurrection of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-4; Rom 14:9; Acts 17:3 at Thessalonica itself) bear a causal relationship to the resurrection of Christians (houtos kai). God will bring into his company those who have fallen asleep through Jesus: The resurrection of Christians is likewise attributed to God (1:10). Jesus isn’t the cause of death, but a bond persists between the Christian and Christ in death as in life (Rom 14:7-9; 1 Thess 5:10). Moreover, his death is full of hope because of Jesus; cf. ‘the dead in Christ’ (4:16). The goal of God’s activity is the reunion of the believer with the Risen Christ. … Not knowing the time of the Lord’s coming (5:2; Mt 24:43 par), Paul cherishes the hope of living until the day of the Parousia (cf. Dan 12:12-13; 2 Esdras 5:4; 13:24) and so includes himself and his Christians among the survivors on the last day… The living ‘shall not precede’: …shall have no advantage over” the dead when He comes. V.16-17 a partial description of the Parousia… heaven, the dwelling place of God and the Risen Christ is above the earth and so the Lord descends; in going out to meet Him, Christians must therefore ascend into the air… God Himself is the cause of this… [we see clearly this is] the reunion of Christians with Christ their King. ‘We shall always be with the Lord’ [Jerome Study Bible, 232].

4:13-18 – The Apostle next deals with some concerns the Church had with the 2nd Coming. “It seems they expect the Lord’s Coming to take place in a short time and are worried that those who recently died, before that expected Coming, would somehow be deprived of their final salvation. Given their belief that the Lord will come soon, they seem to think that one must be alive to welcome the Lord in order to participate in the age that will follow. It’s in order to correct these misunderstandings that St. Paul gives the following teaching…In correcting their erroneous notions, St. Paul once again deals with them tenderly, calling them ‘brothers’, for he’s dealing with those who are grieving the eternal loss (as they imagine) of their loved ones. He would not have them ‘sorrow as the rest’ of mankind ‘do who don’t have hope’. The pagan world around them did indeed grieve hopelessly over their dead. Though certain religions and philosophies spoke of a hope of eternal life after death, the basic pagan culture viewed death with unshakable despair. For them, the dead were forever lost to the living. There was no hope. The only consolation left for the bereaved was the iron certainty that one day they too would die and cease to exist, substituting annihilation for the pain of loss. The Gospel was 1st preached against this background of inevitable loss and despair. The Christians were those who were placed beyond the grip of death. ‘Through Jesus’ (Gr. dia tou Iesou), through the death of the humble carpenter of Nazareth, death has been transformed to become a mere sleep of the flesh, from which the Lord will take them to immortal transfigured life at the 2nd Coming. (In talking about the believers ‘sleeping’ in Jesus, we must be clear that it’s the body that reposes and sleeps, not the soul, which rejoices wakefully with the Lord in heaven after the death of the body. The image of sleep is used for the dead body because, just as those who sleep at night will wake and rise again in the morning, so the bodies of the faithful will rise again at the final resurrection). St. Paul here assures the Thessalonians that, just as the Lord ‘died and rose’ again, so will all those who have already died as believers. For our baptism is our participation in Christ’s death and Resurrection (Rom 6:3), and through our incorporation into Him, we share, even now, His resurrection life and His ascended glory (Eph 2:6). How then could we not also share His physical triumph over death? So it’s that God will ‘bring with’ Jesus at His 2nd Coming those believers who have already ‘fallen asleep’ in death. These departed Christians won’t be deprived of the age to come because they died before the 2nd Coming. On the contrary, the dead in Christ ‘will rise first!’ We who ‘live and remain’ at the time of the Coming ‘will not precede’ them in honor in the coming Kingdom. They’ll be glorified before us, and it’s we who shall ‘then’ (Gr. epeite, ‘next’) be caught up together with them in the clouds’ to welcome the Lord as He returns at the 2nd Coming”. (Farley. 43-45)

Chapter 5:

v.1-11: They’re told to prepare for the same thing that will come unexpectedly upon the ungodly – the day of the Lord (vv.2, 4). Paul assumes that Christians and non-Christians alike will be alive and present when this Day arrives. Christians watchful and ready, non-Christians surprised as a thief who comes at night. The rising of Christians spoken of in 4.17 won’t occur before the arrival of that Day that will also bring sudden and inescapable destruction to the wicked (2 Thess 2:1).

v.1 – “[They] have no need for him to remind them of the ‘times and appointed times’ (Gr. chronon kai kairon). The nuances of these Greek words defy easy English translation. 

Chronos time is time such as is marked by the clock and calendar – time as easily and objectively measured, wherein year succeeds year and each year is measured the same as the last. 

Kairos time is time as it’s charged and laden with critical meaning. It’s time as opportunity, time as the moment of action come at last. Chronos becomes Kairos when the time to act is at hand… [Paul says they] don’t need to be told again of how the ‘times’ and years will suddenly become the ‘appointed time’ of crisis and judgement. He told them when he was with them, so that they know this ‘exactly’ (Gr. akribos); they’ve been taught specifically how ‘the Day of the Lord’ comes as suddenly and unexpectedly as the breaking in of ‘a thief in the night’ (see Mt 24:42-44). They shouldn’t imagine that the Kingdom will be characterized and marked by gradual social changed and improvements. Men won’t be able to chart the steady progress and coming nearness of the Kingdom. One can’t bring it about (as many Jews thought) by military force or social moral reformation, nor see it gradually spread throughout the earth by the pious efforts of men. Like the lightning flash, it’ll come suddenly and independently of any earthly events or causes (Mt 24:27). The 2nd Coming, the ‘Day of the Lord’ long expected by all the prophets, wherein God’s cause and Name will be glorified over all others in the earth (Is 2:12; Joel 2:1; Amos 5:18), will finally come. Indeed, the Lord is now on His way. (The verb ‘comes’, Gr. erchetai, is here in the present tense.) The Day will come suddenly and take the world off guard”. (Farley. 46-47).

v.2 – “day of the Lord” – The association of the day of the Lord with judgment is carried on in the NT, where the last judgment and final regards and punishments are in view (Acts 17:31; Rom 2:5, 16; 2 Cor 1:14). In 2 Peter 3:10-13, the heaven, earth, and the elements will be changed and make way for a new heaven and a new earth.
[Cf. Rev 3:3, 16:15]

vv. 1-2: Paul proceeds to his next topic, “namely: the time of the Lord’s coming…[It’s] absolutely in God’s hand (Acts 1:7 and 17:26) and no one can know them except He (Acts 1:7). The Apostle starts by saying there’s no need for them to receive any further comment in this regard, since they know but too well the church’s teaching in this matter: the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. And a thief doesn’t inform anyone of the hour of his arrival (Mt 24:43/Lk. 12:39).” (155-156. Tarazi).

v.3 – “When people say, ‘There’s peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there’ll be no escape”. This Tarazi translates as a general truth (not as a specific future event). He reasons that such a translation follows the rules of Greek syntax, the subject in the main phrase is indefinite. And this verse follows the preceding one without any of the conjunctions needed “de”, “gar”, or “oun”; nor is even the coordinating word, kai, used. It thus seems to be a comment by Paul on his statement that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (157. Tarazi).

v.4 – St. Symeon the New Theologian: As many, therefore, as are children of the light also become sons of the day which is to come, and are enabled to walk decently as in the day. The day of the Lord will never come upon them, because they’re already in it forever and continually. The day of the Lord, in effect, isn’t going to be revealed suddenly to those who are ever illumined by the divine light, but for those who are in the darkness of the passions and spend their lives in the world hungering for things of the world; for them it’ll be fearful, and they’ll experience it as unbearable fire. [“The Church & the Last Things”, On the Mystical Life: The Ethical Discourses, Vol. I, 10th Discourse, 146, 147.]

v.8 – [Cf. Isa. 59:17]

v.10 – St. Chrysostom: Here, “whether we be asleep” (present, active subjunctive), signifies bodily death, that is, fear not dangers; though we should die, we shall live. [Homily 9, P.G. 62:491 (col. 451).]

v.15 – We must as Christians seek justice for others (Isa 56:1; 58:6-8).

v.19-21: He tells them not to despise legitimate prophecy; both Silas and Paul were “prophets” (Acts 13:1; 15:32). These claims must obviously be tested.

v.19, 20: St. Athanasius: He’s desirous that the grace of the Spirit not grow cold in us. It’s not because the Spirit is placed in the power of men, and is able to suffer anything from them, but because bad and unthankful men...wish to quench it, since they, like the impure, persecute the Spirit with unholy deeds. [“Letter III, for 331”, Paragraph 4, in Nicene, 2nd Sermon, IV: 514.]

v.23 – Paul gives a blessing and prays that, “as God is indeed in their midst, He will ‘sanctify’ them ‘completely’, so that their entire selves will be preserved ‘intact’ and ‘faultless at the Coming of our Lord’. Paul describes this entirety of person as consisting of ‘spirit, soul, and body’”. (Farley. 56-57)
St. Chrysostom: There were many among them who indeed prophesied truly, but some prophesied falsely….For the devil, defiled with blood, wished by means of this gift to overthrow everything pertaining to the Church. For since both the demon and the Spirit prophesied concerning the future, the one indeed uttering falsehood, and the Other Truth,….when the time came for them to be convicted, He gave also the “discerning of spirits [1 Cor. 12:10]”. Since therefore then also among the Thessalonians many were prophesying…he says, “Don’t, because there are false prophets among you, on their account hinder also these, and turn away from them. Cease quenching them; that is, cease setting at nought prophecies”. [Homily 11, P.G. 62:503 (cols. 462, 463).]

v.24 – St. Chrysostom: For if He called you to salvation, and He’s true, He’ll assuredly save you, in that He wills it. [Homily 11, P.G. 62:504 (col. 463).]
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Works Used:
Orthodox Biblical Studies - 1 Thessalonians: A Commentary by Fr. Paul Nadim Tarazi. SVS Press. Crestwood NY. 1982.
Words of Fire – Fr. Lawrence Farley. Conciliar Press. Chesterton Indiana. 2010.
Jerome Study Bible
Orthodox Study Bible
The Orthodox New Testament. Holy Apostles Convent. Bueno Vista, CO. 2000.

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