Lesson 129

2 Thessalonians

“Lesson 129: 2 Thessalonians,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

Shortly after writing his first epistle to the Thessalonian Saints, Paul wrote them a second epistle, in which he clarified truths about the Second Coming. He taught that the Savior would not come again until after an apostasy had occurred. Paul then preached against idleness and counseled the Saints to “be not weary in well doing” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

Suggestions for Teaching

2 Thessalonians 1–2

Paul encourages the Saints by prophesying of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming

Invite a student to read aloud the following declaration by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“I say to all and especially the youth of the Church that if you haven’t already, you will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or perhaps even endure some personal abuse simply because you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (“The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 6).

Ask students to raise their hands if they have ever had to defend their faith or endure opposition because of their membership in the Church. Invite a few students to share their experiences.

Explain that Paul wrote a second letter to the Thessalonian Saints and addressed several topics, including opposition that the Saints were facing. Invite students to look for a principle as they study 2 Thessalonians 1 that can help them endure opposition and tribulations they may face as Church members.

Invite a student to read 2 Thessalonians 1:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why Paul praised the Thessalonian Saints.

  • Why did Paul praise the Thessalonian Saints?

  • According to verse 5, what reward would the Saints receive for enduring opposition and tribulation with “patience and faith”?

  • What principle can we learn from these verses concerning how we will be blessed if we endure opposition and tribulation with patience and faith? (Students may use different words but should identify a principle similar to the following: If we faithfully endure opposition and tribulation with patience and faith, we may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for what it means to patiently endure:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!” (“Continue in Patience,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 57).

  • According to President Uchtdorf, what does it mean to patiently endure?

  • Why do we need faith in order to patiently endure opposition or tribulation?

Invite students to consider someone they know or have read about in the scriptures who faithfully and patiently endured opposition and tribulation.

  • Whom did you think of, and how did he or she demonstrate faithfully and patiently enduring opposition and tribulation?

Invite students to reflect on the opposition or tribulations they might currently be experiencing and to determine how they can endure these challenges with patience and faith. Encourage them to pray for help.

Explain that as recorded in 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10, Paul prophesied of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. Divide students into groups of two or three. Invite each group to read 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10 together and to discuss the following questions. (You may want to write these questions on the board or provide them as a handout.) Ask students to record their answers in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

  • What words and phrases did Paul use to describe the Second Coming?

  • What will happen to the righteous when the Second Coming occurs?

  • What will happen to the wicked when the Second Coming occurs?

After sufficient time, invite a few students to report their group’s findings to the class. Write the following truth on the board: At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the righteous will rest and the wicked will be destroyed.

  • What do you think the righteous will rest from?

  • How can this doctrine comfort those who are currently enduring hardships because of their commitment to Jesus Christ?

Ask students to raise their hands if they have ever wondered when the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur. Explain that the Thessalonian Saints wondered about this too and that Paul was concerned that they might have been misled.

Invite a student to read 2 Thessalonians 2:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul thought the Thessalonian Saints might have concluded about the timing of the Second Coming.

  • What did Paul not want the Thessalonians to believe about the timing of the Second Coming? (That it would be soon.)

Ask students to read 2 Thessalonians 2:3 silently, looking for what Paul said would happen before the Second Coming. Explain that the phrase “that day” refers to the Second Coming, and “falling away” refers to apostasy.

  • What truth can we learn from these verses about what would happen before the Second Coming? (Students may use different words but should identify a truth similar to the following: Before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, an apostasy would occur.)

Point out that in these verses, Paul suggested that members of the Church in his day should be more concerned about the apostasy that had already begun among them than about the timing of the Lord’s Second Coming.

To help students further understand what the Apostasy was, ask a student to read aloud the following explanation:

“After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth. The Apostles had kept the doctrines of the gospel pure and maintained the order and standard of worthiness for Church members. Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service [2004], 35).

  • Based on this understanding of the Apostasy, why was a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church necessary?

Explain that the “man of sin” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers to Satan. The Restoration of the gospel, including the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, “revealed” (verse 3) the deceptions of Satan and his followers.

Summarize 2 Thessalonians 2:4–17 by explaining that Paul prophesied that the Lord would permit Satan to deceive the earth’s inhabitants until the Second Coming. Paul encouraged the Saints to “stand fast” in what he had taught them (verse 15).

2 Thessalonians 3

Paul warns of those who are undisciplined and preaches self-reliance

Explain that at the time Paul wrote his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Church members regularly held a feast in conjunction with partaking of the sacrament. However, some members in Thessalonica would attend the feast to eat but refused to help provide or prepare the food for the meal.

  • What problems might have resulted from this situation?

Summarize 2 Thessalonians 3:1–9 by explaining that Paul commended the Saints who were faithful and warned them about associating with those who were “disorderly,” or undisciplined (verse 6). Paul also wrote that he and his companions had set an example of temporal self-reliance by working to support themselves.

Invite a student to read 2 Thessalonians 3:10–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul instructed the Saints to do regarding those who refused to work.

  • According to verse 12, what instruction did Paul give those who refused to work? (To “work, and eat their own bread,” or be self-reliant by providing for their own needs.)

  • According to verse 13, what additional instruction did Paul give the faithful Saints?

  • What does it mean to “be not weary in well doing”?

  • What truth can we learn from these verses? (Students may use different words but should identify a truth similar to the following: We are commanded to strive to be self-reliant and to help others.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement from For the Strength of Youth. Ask the class to listen for how we can strive to be self-reliant.

“One of the blessings of work is developing self-reliance. When you are self-reliant, you use the blessings and abilities God has given you to care for yourself and your family and to find solutions for your own problems. Self-reliance does not mean that you must be able to do all things on your own. To be truly self-reliant, you must learn how to work with others and turn to the Lord for His help and strength.

“Remember that God has a great work for you to do. He will bless you in your efforts to accomplish that work” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 41).

  • How can we strive to be self-reliant?

  • What are some blessings of self-reliance?

Testify that as we strive to be self-reliant, the Lord will help us meet our needs and help us find solutions to our problems.

Ask students to consider what they can do to become more self-reliant now and in the future. Invite them to set a goal that will help them become more self-reliant, and encourage them to seek the Lord’s help in achieving it.

Summarize 2 Thessalonians 3:14–18 by explaining that Paul concluded his epistle by counseling the Saints to discourage idleness and withdraw from idle and disruptive people. However, the Saints were to not treat them as enemies but reprove them as brothers and sisters in the gospel.

Conclude by testifying of the truths taught in this lesson.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—2 Thessalonians 2:1–3

Invite each student to use scripture study helps (such as footnotes, the Guide to the Scriptures, or the Topical Guide) to find a scripture other than 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3 that teaches about the Apostasy. After sufficient time, ask a few students to share the scriptures they found and to explain what these scriptures teach about the Apostasy. You may want to list on the board the references they find. Invite students to choose one scripture as a cross-reference to 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3. You may want to suggest that they write this reference in the margin of their scriptures next to 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3. Explain that this mastery passage is most often used to teach about the Apostasy and the need for the Restoration. Invite students to use 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3 and one of the scripture references listed on the board to teach a partner about the Apostasy.

Commentary and Background Information

2 Thessalonians 2:3. The Apostasy

“‘Falling away’ is a translation of the Greek word apostasia, a word that is closer in meaning to ‘rebellion’ or ‘mutiny.’ Paul was therefore speaking of an intentional fight against the gospel of Jesus Christ rather than a gradual movement away from it. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi’s vision of the future taught him that ‘the house of Israel’ joined with those in the great and spacious building ‘to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb’ (1 Nephi 11:35). Apostasy is often not simply a passive letting go of truth but an active rebellion that originates within the covenant community” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 453).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the Apostasy occurred because the people rejected Christ and His Apostles:

“In the relatively short span of years covered by the New Testament … the people turned against Christ and His Apostles. The collapse was so great we have come to know it as the Great Apostasy, which led to the centuries of spiritual stagnation and ignorance called the Dark Ages.

“Now, I need to be very clear about these historically reoccurring periods of apostasy and spiritual darkness. Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and He wants them all to have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. Spiritual light is not lost because God turns His back on His children. Rather, spiritual darkness results when His children turn their collective backs on Him” (“Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 32).

2 Thessalonians 2:3. The Reformation and the Restoration

Many who lived after the Apostles’ deaths continued to follow the Lord. Their commitment to the Lord was so strong that they willingly suffered opposition and even death for their beliefs. During the period of the Reformation, many individuals recognized that some teachings of Christianity had been changed and did not coincide with the teachings in the Bible. These reformers sought to realign Christianity with the scriptures. President John Taylor said the following regarding those who sought truth during the Dark Ages:

“There were men in those dark ages who could commune with God, and who, by the power of faith, could draw aside the curtain of eternity and gaze upon the invisible world[,] … have the ministering of angels, and unfold the future destinies of the world. If those were dark ages I pray God to give me a little darkness, and deliver me from the light and intelligence that prevail in our day” (in Journal of Discourses, 16:197). (For additional information regarding the faithful efforts of these reformers, see Thomas S. Monson, “The Way Home,” Ensign, May 1975, 15–16; see also Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service [2004], 45–46.)

Due to the efforts of these reformers and other faithful followers of God, truths about Heavenly Father and His plan survived the Apostasy and can be found throughout the religions of the earth. However, truths necessary for our salvation were lost, as well as the priesthood authority to direct the work and administer the ordinances of salvation. The Lord assured those in other religions that the Restoration of the Church and the Book of Mormon did not declare that everything they taught was false: “Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build up” (D&C 10:52). For this reason, President Gordon B. Hinckley invited all the people of the earth to “bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it” (“The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 81).