THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE THESSALONIANS, CALLED
O U T L I N E
Overview of the Epistle. The first epistle was written shortly after Paul had visited Thessalonica. Probably the first epistle was written within the following year while Paul was residing in Corinth. The purpose of the first epistle was to comfort and strengthen the new converts in Thessalonica, and to clear up a misunderstanding they had about the Lord’s coming as it related to those of their number who had died. In the first epistle, we Paul unfolded the truth of the Lord’s coming for His saints (i.e. the rapture), how it would be at that time that that sleeping saints would be raised, and the living and raised saints together would be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air, nevermore to part. He then proceeded to emphasize that the judgments accompanying “the day of the Lord” would not overtake the saints, because the saints have not been appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation; indicating that the coming of the Lord for His saints would be the means of delivering them from the wrath to come. Now, after the first epistle was received, the Thessalonians began to experience even more persecution. In conjunction, they received several letters that claimed to be from the apostle Paul, which suggested that the Day of the Lord had already arrived. In other words, the false eschatology that had affected the Thessalonians and shaken them was that the Day of the Lord had come, and the suffering they were enduring was part of the wrath of God. This was wrong on two accounts. First, Paul had already explained that Christ is “our deliverer from the coming wrath” meaning that the church will not go through the tribulation. Second, the events the saints were observing were not the unfolding of prophecy, because the great “falling away” had not yet taken place. Paul wrote the second epistle to make this clear to the Thessalonians. We can summarize the two epistles as follows:
- 1 Thessalonians was written to correct an error concerning believers who had died: that they would miss out on the kingdom
- 2 Thessalonians was written to correct an error concerning believers who were living: that they would endure the wrath of God
The second error, that the saints would pass through the tribulation on earth, is still embraced by many believers today. It may not seem like an important issue, but it was important enough for Paul to write an epistle about it! If Satan can convince us we are suffering the judgment of God, it begins to erode our confidence in God. In addition to the issue of wrong eschatology, Paul addressed a growing concern of those who were “unruly” and “busybodies” in Thessalonica.
The structure of the epistle is that of an ordinary essay: introduction, body, and conclusion.
- In ch.1, we have Paul encouraging and strengthening the hearts of the saints in light of persecution.
- In ch.2, we have the doctrine concerning the day of the Lord and surrounding events unfolded.
- In ch.3, we have practical exhortations and conclusion.