1 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.

3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.

5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? 6 And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming.

9 The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, 10 and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, 12 so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

13 But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.



  • Now Paul comes to the point of the letter.
    • The day of the Lord will not come at once (vv.1-2). Even though we are to live in anticipation, we are also be be prepared for the long term.
    • Some people were trading in Paul's authority (v.2), and had apparently concocted a letter or prophecy from Paul.
  • "Let no one deceive you," warns Paul (v.3). Even so today, many teachers would mislead us about the end of the world.
    • The end will not come before the rebellion and the coming of the man of lawlessness (v.3). Unfortunately, defining either is quite difficult!
      • What is this rebellion? Could it refer to the Jewish rebellion against the Romans in the First Jewish War (66-73 AD)? This seems possible.
      • Or is Paul referring to a spiritual (not political) rebellion? The Greek apostasia, from which derives the English apostasy, can equally well refer to a spiritual rebellion. The spiritual rebellion of Christians seems to have taken place only in the 4th century, with the alliance between church and state.
    • Who is this man of lawlessness?
      • To begin with, the passage nowhere speaks of an "antichrist" (though this may be implied). Yet many commentators assume he is the Antichrist. (Listen to the Antichrist podcast.)
      • Is it Hitler? Hussein? Mao? Bush? The pope? All these -- and countless more -- have been suggested.
      • Yet this man would claim to be a god (v.4). This seems to point to one of the Roman emperors. Claudius Caesar (41-54 AD)? Nero Caesar (54-68 AD)? Domitian Caesar (81-96 AD)? Another emperor, or all the emperors collectively?
      • He sets up his image in "the temple of God." This seems to refer to the Jerusalem Temple, which was no longer in existence after 70 AD. If the passage refers to an emperor, one candidate would be Vespasian (69-79 AD)—and yet it is known that he did not claim divinity until he was on his death-bed, and then only in jest. An emperor during the time of 2 Thessalonians was the mad Caligula (37-41), who in 39 or 40 AD directed that a statue of himself be erected in the Jerusalem Temple (Philo, Embassy to Gaius, 203; also 346). This was order was never executed. And it's 10 years too early, if our passage is intended to be prophetic.
      • Daniel prophesied about the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), referring to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (168 BC). This piece of history seems to lie in the background of our passage.
    • As of the time Paul writes the Thessalonians letters, there was a power holding back the forces of evil. In other words, God was placing some sort of temporary limitation on the power of the evil one. Once that was lifted, the impostor would be revealed.
    • Paul says that Jesus would overthrow this pretender by his "coming."
      • Has this already taken place? To the objector, there are many "comings" in the Bible; whenever God steps onto the stage of history in judgment, he "comes." Judgment is pronounced, even if this is not final judgment (at the last day). So it may have taken place.
      • Or is it yet future? This has probably been the dominant interpretation through the centuries.
      • Or was Paul's prediction correct at the time, but the situation changed and so God revised his plan? (Of course even this "revision" would have been anticipated by the omniscient God; it would be a revision only from our perspective, not his.)
    • The lawless one would deceive others through counterfeit miracles (v.9ff).
      • It is well known that pagan temples were sites of false miracles and alleged cures: voices from within the stone statuary, healings, "tongues," etc.
      • Satan is ultimately behind these so-called wonders.
      • This could mean that the signs are wrought directly by the power of Satan.
      • Or this could mean that they are fully explicable in natural terms, whether physicial or psychosomatic, but the devil influences people to believe they are from him.
      • Those who fall for the false miracles are those who refuse to love the truth.
        • In other words, they have a motive for giving credence to nonsense.
        • In a sense, since God relegates them to their spiritual obstinacy, it can be said that God "sends them" their powerful delusion.
        • Once again, it may be that God directly causes it to come on them.
        • More likely, in keeping with common biblical language, what God causes indirectly (that is, only allows to happen) is described as though it were directly caused by him.
      • Sometimes people exclaim, "Hey, I saw that miracle. I know it was genuine!" But they miss the point. Only an expert can tell the difference between a counterfeit and the genuine article. Yet the Thessalonians are not about to be fooled by counterfeit miracles (v.13). Why is Paul so confident in them?
        • This is not because they have some expertise in analyzing the paranormal.
        • It's because they loved the truth. See also 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2:13.
    • Paul is equally certain of their salvation. The Thessalonians were both called and chosen (vv.13-14).
      • They were called through the gospel.
      • They were chosen. This was not a violation of their free will.
      • As Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).
      • In other words, God's call goes out to all, yet he chooses only those who answer the call.
      • Since they've made a good beginning, he urges them to hold on and keep going (v.15).
  • The chapter ends with some words of encouragement (vv.16-17).


  • A spirit means a prophecy (v.2). Though this is not the way we define the word in modern times, this was one of its meanings in the N.T. See 1 John 4:1.
  • Critics who reject the authenticity of certain epistles ignore the culture of the early church. False authorial attribution was a serious breach, as we can see in Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 and 3:17. The early church preferred not to attach an author's name to a work if it wasn't sure -- hence the anonymity of Hebrews and other N.T. documents. Finally, pious forgers were subject to discipline. The pseudonymous second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla illustrates the point. Tertullian (On Baptism, 17) informs us, "In Asia, the elder who composed [the Acts of Paul and Thecla], as if he were augmenting Paul's fame from his own store [by writing 'under Paul's name'], after being convicted and confessing that he had done it from the love of Paul, was removed from his office."
  • For more on the end of the world, click here (my audio series, once again).
  • For more on false miracles, please see my analysis in the second half of The Spirit (IPI, 2014). Two other books to read are John Macarthur's Charismatic Chaos and Hank Hanegraaff's Counterfeit Revival.
  • What are the traditions of verse 15? They were:
    • Traditions relayed by word of mouth.
    • Traditions in his letters (the Thessalonian correspondence).
    • Following apostolic traditions [things passed on] doesn't undermine the authority of scripture.
    • In the first century, the apostles' teaching were mediated through personal visits and letters; face-to-face and through written media. Since no churches (initially) had all the apostles' letters or the record of Acts, the few documents they did have would have needed to be supplemented by further instructions.
    • In the twenty-first century, we are just as obligated to follow the apostles' teaching as were the early Christians.
    • But now that we have all their teachings in scripture, there is no need for extrabiblical tradition.
  • The word is enough. The Spirit led the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). All we need to do is walk in their footsteps, even as they walked in Christ's (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Thought questions:

  • Does it make you uncomfortable that there are some parts of the Bible that are hard to understand? See Psalm 131.
  • Are you easily taken in by internet hoaxes? Practical jokes? Counterfeit miracles? Jesus urged us to be as innocent as doves, yes, but also as shrewd as serpents.