The seven year long Tribulation period that is coming is transitional period that leads from our present fallen world with Satan as the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) into the next period in world history, the righteous kingdom age with Christ as King for a thousand years. The Tribulation is a time of God’s righteous outpoured wrath on a Christ-rejecting world (Rev. 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15). It is a period that prophetically will bring the world into full focus on Israel and the Holy Land (Daniel 9:24-27). It is also a time during which Satan will do his most obstinate, rebellious, maniacal best to defy God and His plans. But He will be soundly defeated (Rev. 19 and 20).
The purpose of the Tribulation is that through God’s strong hand His wrath would wake up Israel to their Messiah Jesus making them a force for the spread of the gospel in the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 7 and 14). God’s just judgment on the world during this time is also meant to shake up Christ rejecters so that they would repent of their sins and turn to Jesus. (Unfortunately we know most will persist in unbelief – cf. Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9-11). Lastly, God’s judgment on the world will serve as a type of fumigation of this world to prepare it for the return of Jesus Christ at the Second Coming when He will descend to the Mount of Olives, establish His capitol in Jerusalem and rule this earth for a Millennium (cf. Zech. 14; Rev. 19-20).
Christians, (those genuinely born again of the Spirit through faith in Christ by God’s grace) will not go through the Tribulation. Christians are saved from the coming wrath of God (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9). The means by which Christians will be saved from the coming period of wrath is the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church described by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:1-11).
If Christians aren’t going through the Tribulation why should they care to know about the Tribulation? When Jesus taught His disciples about the Tribulation period He said it would be a time unmatched in history. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). We may see events in history that are similar to those found in the Tribulation (e.g. wars, natural disaster, plagues, persecution). But the intensity of the events of the Tribulation will dwarf what has occurred previously in history or will ever happen again. There is a build up to the Tribulation. That being the case Jesus in His Olivet discourses exhorted His followers to “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mat. 24:44). “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37). “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36). Why would Jesus tell us to watch? If this is something believers will not go through, why would Jesus speak in such detail about it and then tell His followers to be watchful?
We are to watch because, as Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians these end times events will come “as labor pains upon a pregnant woman” (1 Thess. 5:3). These events will show themselves gradually in increasing intensity so to a certain extent we will be able to gauge the season in which the end times events are unfolding (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
In the opening lines of Revelation John says, “Things which must shortly take place” (Rev. 1:1). The word “shortly” (Greek en tachei) speaks of something speeding up. The idea is much like a tachometer with the revolutions per minute of an engine revving higher and higher. Tachometers have redlines that revving the engine beyond a certain point will lead to damage of the engine that could be terminal. The events of the end times and in particular the Tribulation period will at first appear at an idle speed but then they will rev up to redline explosive levels. If that is the case we will be able to notice the increasing intensity of the developing prophetic events.
Here’s the reason why we should be ready and watching for the Tribulation: If we pay attention we will be able to discern the pieces of the prophetic puzzle falling into place. If we watch and pray we will see the pre-Tribulation impregnation of the world with the events that will be fully birthed in the Tribulation. And if we can see the beginning of Tribulation pieces falling into place and the Rapture of the church occurs before that Tribulation, then we know that it’s almost time to go home, to be Raptured by Jesus out of this world. That is why we should be aware and ready for the Tribulation.
The Thessalonians thought the Tribulation period was upon them. They had been shaken because of this. If the Tribulation was upon them it meant they weren’t righteous. God was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if only 10 righteous people were in the cities. If the Tribulation had come upon them it apparently meant God didn’t see them as righteous; they were not saved from their sins (cf. Genesis 18). If they were righteous then it meant God wasn’t because they were recipients of an unjust wrathful judgment on justified in Christ people. And if the Tribulation was upon them it meant they couldn’t trust God’s word (1 Thess. 2:13) or the Apostle Paul who had previously taught them about the end times and the Rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:1-11). So you can see why it was important for Paul to address this confusion.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Paul will lay out some particulars of the Tribulation. By doing this he will show that the Tribulation wasn’t upon the Thessalonians; he will sooth their heart; strengthen their faith; and help them to be informed and ready for the future. And while the Tribulation did not come in their lifetime, it just may occur in our time. So Paul’s inspired letter is important for us to study closely so we can discern the times in which we live. Hopefully we are living in the times leading up to Jesus’ return and the culmination of all things. So let’s go to the word and see some of the particulars of the Tribulation.
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 (NKJV) - Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
Paul opens his description of the particulars of the Tribulation by referencing the base point of the Rapture. It is at the Rapture; before the Tribulation period begins that there will be a “gathering together to Him” of Jesus followers.
We know that Paul is referring to the Rapture (which occurs before the Tribulation) and not the Second Coming (which occurs at the conclusion of the Tribulation) because it is at the Rapture that Jesus comes for His saints “our gathering together to Him,” to rescue and remove them from the world to save them from God’s coming outpoured wrath (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the Second Coming Jesus comes with His saints (Zachariah 14:5; Revelation 19:14). At the Rapture Jesus comes “in the clouds” to receive His saints (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the Second Coming Jesus comes with His saints to the earth on the Mount of Olives to defeat those who have surrounded Jerusalem and begin His reign on earth (Zechariah 14:3-4). If Paul were referring to the Second Coming then you would have a situation where the saints on earth at His coming would rise up to meet Jesus in the air and then make the largest U-turn in the history to return with Him to the earth. That just doesn’t jive with the prophetic revelation of Jesus returning to earth.
2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
The issue at hand is whether or not the Tribulation is upon the Thessalonian Christians. But if that were the case, it would also imply that the Rapture had occurred and they had been left behind. The Thessalonians found that possibility very troubling. It shook their faith. It would mean God had treated them unjustly by leaving them where he was pouring out His wrath. It would also mean His word and promise were unreliable. And it would shake their faith for the future; their hope.
Those teaching such a falsehood did so “by spirit” or insinuating it by tones in conversation, “by word,” by actually saying as much, “or by letter, as if from us,” which implies the false teachers were using Paul’s name on pseudepigraphal letters that taught their falsehood. Pseudo means false. Pigraphal refers to writings. False teachers would circulate their falsehoods with the names of apostles used to lend them credibility.
3 Let no one deceive you by any means;
Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to not allow themselves to be deceived in any way or “by any means.” There is one sure fire way to protect yourself from deception. The best protection against false teaching, cults, heresy, and those who would try to manipulate and abuse you is the truth of God’s word (John 17:17; Eph. 4:15). . Therefore our best defense against deception is to study and know God’s word. To the Colossian church Paul exhorted, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). In his letter to his protégé Timothy Paul exhorted, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). There is no substitute to knowing God’s word as best you can. I would encourage you to read through the Bible each year. Commentaries and devotionals have their place, but they can never replace the direct prayerful study of God’s word and relying on the Holy Spirit to illuminate its contents (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:9-14).
for that Day will not come unless
Now Paul is going to address the false teaching that the Tribulation had come upon them by giving particulars about the prerequisites to the Tribulation coming. Paul is going to indicate what must happen before the Tribulation period takes place. By doing this and showing these things have not taken place he proves the Tribulation has also not yet come about. What are these prerequisites to the Tribulation?
the falling away comes first,
The first prerequisite to the Tribulation is “the falling away.” The phrase “falling away” is a translation of the Greek term apostasia. We get the English term apostasy from this word too. But the basic literal meaning of apostasia is a removal, a departure. The word can also mean backsliding, rebellion, or apostasy, but the basic meaning is a departure.
I believe the Spirit who inspired these words (2 Tim. 3:16-17) chose the term apostasia to communicate a dual prerequisite sign for the Tribulation. I believe that apostasia points us to a departure and removal of the saints from the earth in a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the saints. Secondly, I believe that leading up to the Tribulation period we will see an increased apostasy; a departure from sound scriptural doctrine in the church. Interestingly, when we look at the church of today we do see an increase in deviating from God’s word and sound doctrine; we do see a rise in apostasy. New Evangelicalism is watering down and redefining the classic and true definition of Biblical inerrancy (i.e. that the Bible in its original autographs is without error: God does not err; The Bible is God’s word; therefore the Bible does not err). We see a rise of Replacement Theology where Israel is cast aside and replaced by the church. Replacement Theology awkwardly tries to take God’s promises to Israel and apply them to the church. Where such attempts come up against difficulty in transferring God’s promises to Israel to the church then scripture is allegorized to force an application. Cults are on the rise as well. The gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone is being altered. Segments of the “church” are now teaching that faith in Christ is not the solitary necessary mandatory criteria for a person’s being forgiving their sins, born again by the Spirit, and entering God’s kingdom. The truth of the necessity of being born again is purposefully neglected and discarded. Yes, apostasy is on the rise.
There is something very important for us to grasp here. Understand that the idea of an apostasy implies that not everyone in the church is of the true church. Apostasy means there are tares among the wheat in the church (Mat. 13:24-30). Just because you attend a church doesn’t guarantee you will be among those who are raptured and ultimately spend eternity with the Lord. Not everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus is a follower of Jesus (e.g. Matthew 7:21-24). Each person should take Paul’s closing cautionary words to the Corinthians to heart – “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5). If you aren’t already, get serious with God. Examine yourself to see if you are truly genuinely saved. Is Christ in you? Without Jesus in you by the Spirit you do not belong to Him (cf. Romans 8:9-10).
If apostasy is on the rise we can be sure that the time of the Rapture is near. Look up my brethren, our redemption is drawing nigh!
The Rapture and rising departure from the faith are the first two prerequisites for the Tribulation to occur.
and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
Paul here refers to a third evidence of the Tribulation and that is the revelation or public rise of the Antichrist. Satan is a deceiver. He is a counterfeiter. He sees himself as “God Almighty” or deserving of such a place. And he will counterfeit Jesus with a false christ, an antichrist. The prefix “anti” in the original language does not only mean opposite of or opposed to, it means instead of.
The Antichrist will be a “man of sin.” He will be a man and he will be the embodiment of sin. He will deceive and encourage sin. He is referred to here as “the son of perdition.” “Perdition” (Greek apoleiai) means destruction, destruction, waste. “Perdition” is a name for hell because hell is a place for ruined people, people who have forfeited all good because of their sin. The Antichrist will be a “son of perdition” because he will be known for the destruction, waste and ruin he leaves in his wake. Those who follow the antichrist, who take his mark, will be ruined (Rev. 16:2; 19:20).
The Antichrist figure will be the prime and most powerful political world leader during the Tribulation. The book of Revelation devotes an entire chapter to him (Rev. 13). He will mesmerize and manipulate unbelievers throughout the world. How will he be able to gain such power? Satan the counterfeiter will counterfeit the incarnation of God in Christ by himself incarnating himself in Antichrist. The Bible says, “The dragon [Satan] gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2).
Now in the days of the writing of 2 Thessalonians, throughout history and up to our day, while there have been many with the “spirit of antichrist” (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:1-3) “the Antichrist,” the particular figure with this title has not come to power. The spirit of Antichrist is characterized by lying, denying Jesus is the Christ, and denies the Father and the Son. We see this spirit on the rise. But we do not see the rise of Antichrist. The Antichrist has not been revealed. Therefore the Tribulation could not be what the Thessalonians are experiencing.
4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
The most identifiable action of the Antichrist will be that he opposes and exalts himself above all other authority both politically, ecclesiastically and militarily in this world, but also over and against God Almighty Himself. The Antichrist will exalt himself as “God.” He very literally will insert himself in the place of God in God’s most Holy Temple.
The Antichrist will exalt himself in a particular place. The Antichrist will exalt himself as “God” “in the temple of God.” This is important. While the Temple was still standing when Paul first wrote this letter to the Thessalonians, no one had exalted himself as God in the Temple. Some would say that Antiochus Epiphanies did this. Some would say that the presence of Roman standards with emblems of pagan gods brought into the Temple in 70 AD fulfill this. But the Tribulation did not ensue and any such figures fail to meet the requirement of being a world figure.
What is important for us today to recognize is that in order for the Antichrist to exalt himself in the Temple of God THE TEMPLE MUST BE REBUILT. There is no Temple of God standing today. But if ever the Temple is rebuilt or we here of plans for it’s rebuilding, then we need to be ready because a major part of the Tribulation period will be in place when the Temple is rebuilt. Keep an eye out for this.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
Paul reminds the Thessalonians of what he had previously taught them. As we see this reminder by Paul to them it should urge us to regular review and check up on the prophetic teachings of scripture. We need to be like “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times” (1Cchronicles 12:32).
6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.
Paul refers to something “restraining” (Greek katecho) something holding back, hindering, preventing, restraining. Paul tells the Thessalonians “you know what is restraining.” We may not know immediately what is restraining but they knew. And whatever is restraining is holding back the revealing or rise to power of the Antichrist. This is what Paul means when he says, “that he may be revealed in his own time.” The context is Paul speaking about Antichrist. And the thing to understand here is that God has a time for this Antichrist to rise to power. That tells us that God is in control; Satan is not in control. Satan and his diabolical counterfeit incarnation are being restrained by God. The Antichrist cannot rise until God says so. And we know that before the Tribulation and rise of Antichrist God’s saints must be raptured out of the way.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work;
Ever wonder how evil can so rapidly and thoroughly proliferate? I’m sure the Thessalonians were wondering that as they were persecuted for their faith. Don’t you wonder how our own nation could so rapidly decline and fall away from its Christian heritage? It’s mysterious to us.
The word “mystery” (Greek musterion) is not so much a hide and seek idea. It’s not as though God has hidden certain things and people have to figure it out. But musterion simply refers to things that have not yet been revealed by God. The church was a “mystery” until it was revealed in Christ at Pentecost (cf. Eph. 2:11 – 3:21). The “mystery of lawlessness” refers to a lawlessness that will be revealed in the Tribulation. Such lawlessness will be pervasive in the Tribulation. Legislation will be used not to protect and guide but to throw off restraint. And such lawlessness “is already at work.” There is a spirit of lawlessness. An example of such lawlessness already at work would be the present day legislation to allow for the murder of unborn children and the legalization of same-sex marriages. What we are seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg of what will be during the Tribulation.
only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
Paul gives further information on the restraining force. This restraining entity is not an inanimate entity but in some way a personal “He.” And this “He” will be “taken out of the way.” This has led to some commentators (and I agree with them) to interpret these words as referring to the Holy Spirit who works in and through the church to restrain evil in the world. Before Antichrist can be revealed the church must be raptured or “taken out of the way.
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
Only when there is a noticeable apostasy and true believers have been raptured can the “lawless one,” the Antichrist “be revealed. We may look at this figure and fear him. But the Antichrist is no problem for the Lord. “The Lord will consume” the Antichrist, “with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” Notice that the One who is coming is Jesus and that Jesus is referred to here as “the Lord.” Jesus is “the Lord,” He is God and he is in control. Jesus never ceases to be in control, no matter how bad things look, Jesus is in control.
9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
Now Paul gives us particulars about the working of the Antichrist. He is the “lawless one” which means he will be characterized by throwing off restraint of God’s law and law in general. Antichrist will revel in anarchy, rebellion, and revolution.
Antichrist will operate “according to the working of Satan.” Satan is a liar, deceiver and murderer (John 8:43-44). Therefore Antichrist, the instrument of Satan, will serve to implement all of Satan’s anti-God and antichrist ambitions. Antichrist may very well try to lead people to worship Satan. Antichrist will be closely connected, either overtly or covertly, with the worship of Satan. He may promote and redaction of Biblical history to sympathize with the serpent of old.
Antichrist will be powerful. He will function “with all power.” This implies he will appear to have “all power,” no one will be able to challenge him. He will rise to a position of world prominence.
Antichrist will be associated with “signs, and lying wonders.” Antichrist, powered by Satan, will be able to perform “signs” (Greek semeion) which are used to establish him as having supernatural resources and which will establish and evidence his power. But “lying wonders” (Greek terasin pseudous) or false omens, false portents. Antichrist will be able to perform supernatural signs that give a false credibility to him. He will associate his authority and power as coming from an otherworldly source. That source some people will be deceived into believing is God. But in reality the Antichrist’s otherworldly source is Satan.
The only way we can keep from being deceived is by the discernment and illumination of the Spirit in those who are born again (1 Cor. 2:12-14; 1 John 2:27; 4:4). Have you been born again? Have you experienced the second birth; a spiritual birth through faith in Jesus?
10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Who is it that the Antichrist and in reality Satan deceives? The Antichrist will use powerful “unrighteous deception among those who perish.” “Perish” (Greek apollumi) means ruin, lostness, destruction, to be put to death, lost, perish. What characterizes those who “perish”? Paul defines the perishing as those who “did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” Those who willfully choose to NOT receive the love of the truth that God sent in Christ and in His word, those who reject God’s truth that could have saved them are those who Antichrist and Satan will own.
No one will be able to say on judgment day, “The devil made me do it!” Those who perish and join Satan in hell are those who were offered an opportunity to love God’s truth that could have saved them but chose not to. A willful rejection of God’s truth is what damns people and sets them up for deception by the devil.
11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,
Understand this principle that Paul lays out here: when you reject God’s truth you open yourself to delusion. Notice Paul states that “God will send them strong delusion.” God will allow those who refuse His gracious gospel to be deluded by Satan. Satan and Antichrist are in instrument of God’s judgment on the lost.
“Strong delusion” (Greek energeian planes) means literally working of error. Energeian means working, power, and efficiency. Planes means wandering from the path of truth, error, delusion. What is the nature of this strong delusion? Paul refers to this delusion that God will send and give people over to as “the lie.”
That “lie” (Greek pseudo) is preceded by a definite article “the” indicates that there is a particular lie god will give people who refuse his grace over to. What might “the lie” be? I believe “the lie” points us back to the first lie. The first lie occurred in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). It was delivered by Satan who had the form of an attractive serpent. This “lie” has three parts.
First, “the lie” began with getting Eve to question God’s word. “The lie” of Satan the serpent began with the words, “Has God said?” Similarly we can be sure that “the lie” we will see used by Antichrist in the end times will aim at undermining trust in God’s word. We see this today as inerrancy and inspiration of God’s word the Bible is under attack.
Second, “the lie” involved adding to God’s word. The serpent commented to Eve, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Satan misquoted God’s word and twisted its spirit. Indeed, God had said Adam and Eve could eat of every tree in the Garden except for “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Gen. 2:16). God’s word gave Adam and Eve only one restriction. Satan’s misquote of God’s word made it seem like God restricted them from eating of any of the trees in the Garden. Satan therefore manipulated God’s word to make God seem unreasonable, unfair, restrictive, and a tempter who put luscious trees all around Adam and Eve but then wouldn’t let them eat from them. Ever feel God’s word is unfair, unreasonable, or restrictive? Guess who is feeding you those lies? That’s right, Satan!
Third, “the lie” involved outright disobedience to God’s word. The serpent got Eve to question God’s word and then see it is unreasonable and unfair, then he hit her with an outright blatant temptation to defy and disobey God’s word saying, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4). Look at what’s going on in these tempting words. The serpent says to Eve, “You will not surely die.” In other words God lied to you. In other words, God doesn’t have the will or power to cause you to die if you eat of that tree.” And look at “the lie” about God’s character, His love, - “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words, God is withholding information from you to protect Himself. God doesn’t want you to be all you can be. God wants to keep you from fulfilling who you should be. He doesn’t want any competition and He knows if you eat of that fruit you will become “God.” This is a strike at the heart of the God of love. Satan attacks God’s love because his view of love is not to restrain in any way. But true love does warn and retrain those it loves when danger is around. Satan, who wants to be “God,” tempts Eve with a false promise that she could be “God.” He uses these words to tempt Eve to outright disobey and rebel against God just like he did! And in Eve’s and Adam’s following Satan’s lie they threw off the protective covering of God and took on the shackles of sin.
God is going to give those who choose to reject Him a strong delusion and that delusion is they will give in to a mistrust of His word. Antichrist will deceive those who will perish by undermining God’s word to them, twisting God’s word and then getting them to outright disobey God’s word all by misrepresenting God.
12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Lastly, the purpose of God sending them strong delusion of “the lie” is to leave no doubt about their just condemnation. “Condemned” (Greek krino) means judged, separated, decided, determined, condemned, punished, and decided. These “who did not believe the truth” will be condemned for their sinful decision.
We are given insight into the nature of their decision to not believe when Paul says of them, “but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” “Pleasure” (Greek eudokeo) refers to delighting in, consenting to, approving of, delighting in. “Unrighteousness” (Greek adikia ) refers to wickedness, injustice, wrongdoing, Instead of God’s righteousness offered in the truth of Christ these people chose to accept “the lie” and reject God. They then delight in, consent to, and approve of wickedness and those things which God abhors. Can anyone doubt that we see such a mystery of lawlessness at work and creeping over our world today? This is the spirit of antichrist. This will all climax in a proliferation of evil during the Tribulation period. It’s a time that has yet to come. It’s a time you don’t want to be around to experience.
Having covered some pretty heavy and serious Tribulation particulars Paul ends this chapter with some encouraging words and a benediction blessing.
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord,
Paul expresses his thankfulness for these faithful young in the Lord believers. He always thanks the Lord for them. He reminds them that they are “beloved of the Lord.”
because God from the beginning chose you for salvation
God loves them and “from the beginning chose you for salvation.” They can trust in the faithfulness of God to save them from His righteous coming wrath.
through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
And Paul reminds them of God’s means of encouraging them and helping them grow in their relationship with Him. “Through sanctification” God will continue to help them grow in understanding and their spiritual maturity. “Sanctification” (Greek hagiasmo) refers to consecration, holiness, sanctification; it refers to growing in faith and spiritual maturity. How do we live a sanctified life in Christ? “By the Spirit” who works in us and through us to give us “belief in the truth.” The Holy Spirit enables us to understand the scriptures (1 Cor. 2:9-14) and obey them (1 Peter 1:2). The Spirit working God’s word in us and helping us apply what He reveals to us is how we grow and mature in our faith (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul reminds them of God’s calling “by our gospel” and that the end of that gospel is “obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They had received Jesus as their Savior and Lord. According to the gospel the Father in love sent His only Son Jesus to die for our sins and whoever believes in Jesus is forgiven and given eternal life (e.g. John 3:16). Their salvation brings glory to God in Christ. Paul reminds them of this blessing.
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to “stand fast” (Greek steko), stand fast, persevere. In other words he tells them “don’t give up!” Yes they are going through hard times but they need to press on.
Paul exhorts them to “hold the traditions you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” He tells them to live by His teaching. “Traditions” (Greek paradosis) refers to “any kind of teaching, written or spoken, handed down from generation to generation.”  Traditions are good when they truly align with the word of God. In this verse traditions are referred to by Paul in a good sense. However, Jesus pointed out the danger of relying on traditions when they contradicted or undermined scripture (Mark 7:3, 9, and 13). When Paul wrote to the Colossians he warned them about the dangers of human traditions that could cheat believers and rob them by preventing them from the fullness of scripture truths (Col. 2:8).
Traditions, along with human reason and personal experience are important but each of these must always bow to the authority of the word of God.  Traditions or any teaching that is outside of scripture must still be verified by and obedient to scripture. Human reason is important. We should ponder and think and use the minds God has given us. But what we think and reason about things must again bow to scriptural authority. Lastly personal experiences we have may excite our feelings and be a source of rich blessing as we taste the reality of God in our life. But human experiences must always be substantiated in scripture. If we have an experience, can we find a similar experience in the Bible? If not our experience becomes questionable.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,
Paul concludes this section with an awesome benediction. Paul speaks very personally saying, “our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” “Himself” is an emphasis on Jesus’ personal involvement in their lives. Paul is inserting that personal touch of Jesus in this benediction. And Paul again links Jesus with “and our God and Father” which exalts His deity. He also refers to “God and Father” as “our God and Father.” Again a personal touch for these persecuted believers. Paul is communicating that Jesus and the Father are right there with them.
Jesus Himself and their Father “has loved us and give us everlasting consolation.” God has loved us by sending His Son Jesus to redeem us on the cross. “Consolation” (Greek paraklesis) means exhortation, encouragement, or comfort. And this comfort is “everlasting” (Greek aionian) it will last forever. The trials and persecution they are experiencing can be overcome with this everlasting comfort that comes from God in Christ who loves them. The same is true for us. No matter what we go through Jesus is there to comfort us.
Jesus Himself and their Father in love has also provided them “and good hope by grace.” “Hope” (Greek elpida from elpis) is faith for the future or expectation of future good. “Good” (Greek agathein from agathos) is a rich word defined with such words as good, perfect, complete, upright, kind, benevolent, useful, acceptable, wholesome, beneficial, goods, good deeds. The hope Paul speaks of here couldn’t have been more hopefully described than using this word for “good” hope. This “good hope” isn’t something we manufacture ourselves from within. This “good hope” is a gift of God’s grace to be received by faith. When we are going through trials and hardship, persecution, what we need to do is simply take God at His word and live by “good hope” that the future belongs to Him and to us in our relationship to Him in Christ. Try that next time you are really going through a hard time that seems to destroy your hope; by faith live on with a bright expectation for future God that God has promised in His word. You won’t be disappointed.
17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
The personal Jesus and our Father who loves us, gives us an eternal comfort, good hope, all as a gift of His grace, may this personal loving Jesus and Father of heaven “comfort your hearts and establish you in every good work.” Those are beautiful words. They were not in the Tribulation. God hadn’t forgotten them. God was not pouring His wrath out upon them. Yes, they were going through hard times of persecution, but they must persevere.
Paul promised that by God’s grace He would continue to comfort them and “establish” them. “Establish” (Greek steridzo) means fix in place, stand steady and firm, to stand strong. Paul’s prayerful benediction was that they would stand strong in heart by the comfort God provides.
And Paul exhorts them to minister onward. They were not to be stifled or stop ministering because of their difficulties but they were to continue on “in every good word and work.” They were not to allow the enemy to stop them from furthering the plans of God. They were to cease every opportunity to minister with “every good word and work.” They were to minister in word and deed. There is something to be said to pressing on and continuing to minister even through difficulties. When we stop ministering because of hardship the tendency is to look inward or to focus on personal circumstances. This can lead to getting down in spirit and even depression. Instead the best tonic for trials is often to minister and look to help others despite our difficulties. This is the point Paul makes in this closing benediction.
Paul therefore in these verses lays out the particulars surrounding the Tribulation. The Thessalonians were apparently under severe persecution. However the persecution and suffering they were experiencing was not from God but from the world and the devil. Having heard Paul’s particulars about the Tribulation here he could begin to revive their hope in Christ. And that is what Paul does with a stirring benediction that exhorts and encourages these persecuted brethren to press on for the glory of God.
Are you going through a trial? Are you fearful of what is going on in the world at the present? Understand what God’s word says about the end times. Tap in to God’s graciously provided comforting encouraging loving resources. Don’t tap out. Stand fast in God’s grace. Prepare yourself for whatever is ahead of us. More than two thousand years later, we have even more reason to prepare!
 Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.
 Cf. Wesleyan Quadralateral - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesleyan_Quadrilateral