Thessalonika was the Roman capital of Macedonia. It was one of the most important trading centers in Roman Greece. The church in Thessaloniki was founded by Paul (Acts 17:1-10) and consisted, mostly, of gentile converts.
Second Thessalonians continues to address issues and themes found in First Thessalonians and to clarify misunderstandings. Second Thessalonians appears to have been written to counter worries that the end time is happening. Scholars think that when Paul, in First Thessalonians wrote about Christ’s return, without giving a timeline, he inadvertently fueled a preexisting concern about the end of the world. Paul also must address the Thessalonian’s persecution and also help them understand life in the time after the Resurrection and before the second coming.
Some scholars think Paul did not write Second Thessalonians, others believe he did. Whether Paul or someone else wrote this letter, it is part of our Bible.
A prayer from the Book of Common Worship, to use before your reading,
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out upon us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that, being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to know the things that pertain to life and holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1:1-12 Greetings and Thanksgiving
Verses 1-2 are the salutation. Verses 3-4 the thanksgiving. Verses 5-10 describe judgement against those who persecute the Thessalonian church. “Vengeance” means “just recompense” rather than revenge. Verses 11-12 are a prayer for the Thessalonians.
2:1-12 The Day of the Lord
2:1-2 False Teaching about the Parousia: An appeal to not be taken in by incorrect teaching.
2:3-9 The Coming of the Lawless One: Paul assumes his readers know who the “lawless one” and who is restraining him is. We, however, do not.
Nothing is murkier than the language of the apocalyptic, and this passage is no exception. We no longer know what some of Paul’s terms meant or to what events or persons he alluded. Some have suggested that the restrainer was the Roman Empire; others that it was God; still others that Paul’s own ministry was conceived by him as holding back the final retribution. Without further information, we will not know. The pastoral intent of the passage, on the other hand, seems clear:Paul wants to move the Thessalonians away from self-preoccupation and obsession about the end. (Johnson 290)
2:10-12 Condemnation of the Unrighteous: What do you make of these verses?
2:13-17 Salvation for the Elect
2:13-14 Thanksgiving for God’s Call
2:15-17 Stand fast in the Tradition
3:1-18 Closing appeals, rebukes, prayer
3:1-5 Prayer for Steadfastness: A request for prayers for Paul and a prayer by the Paul for the Thessalonians.
3:6-18 Instructions to the Community, Final Blessing: How to live in the current times. Paul corrects the behavior of those who are not working because they thought Christ’s return was imminent. Some believe that verses 13-15 don’t mean that those who do not obey Paul’s instructions should be excluded from the community but that they may have been excluded from community meals.
Read More About It:
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament:An Interpretation,Rev. Ed. Fortress Press,1999. 281-291.
Perkins, Pheme “1 and 2 Thessalonians” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed. James L. Mays ed. The Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.
Quanbeck, Warren A., Willian A. Beardslee, “The Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians”. in Metzger,Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy,The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books,NRSV Oxford University Press, 1994.