Introduction to the Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Why study this book?

In his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote words of counsel and clarification to members of the Church who misunderstood certain aspects of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Studying his teachings can help students understand the nature of the Apostasy and how to prepare appropriately for the Lord’s return.

Who wrote this book?

Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians (see 2 Thessalonians 1:1; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:5; 3:17). The beginning of the epistle also contains a greeting from Silas and Timothy (2 Thessalonians 1:1).

When and where was it written?

“Paul wrote the epistles to the Thessalonians from Corinth during his second missionary journey” around A.D. 50–51 (Guide to the Scriptures, “Pauline Epistles,” scriptures.lds.org).

To whom was it written and why?

Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians to members of the Church in Thessalonica. The themes of 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians are similar, suggesting that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians to clarify and expand on the first epistle. It appears that the Thessalonians had received a fraudulent letter that claimed to be from Paul and that this letter had caused some to believe that the Second Coming had already occurred (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2).

“In the short interval between the two epistles the Church suffered from persecution (2 Thes. 1:4); the prospect of an immediate return of the Lord fostered an unhealthy excitement (2:2)” (Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles”). Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians in order to strengthen the faith of these members and to correct doctrinal misunderstandings.

What are some distinctive features of this book?

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians provides significant details about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Some examples include the ideas that the Lord will return in “flaming fire” and that the wicked will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9).

In this epistle we read that Paul also prophesied of the Great Apostasy, teaching that the Church would undergo a “falling away” from the gospel prior to the Second Coming of the Lord (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2–12). Paul’s teachings about the Apostasy remind modern Church members why the latter-day Restoration of the gospel was necessary.

Outline

2 Thessalonians 1 Paul greets and commends the Saints in Thessalonica. He teaches that the ungodly will experience the Lord’s vengeance at the Second Coming.

2 Thessalonians 2 Paul corrects the false idea that the Second Coming has already occurred and prophesies that an apostasy will occur prior to the Lord’s return. He encourages the Thessalonian Saints to remain faithful.

2 Thessalonians 3 Paul counsels Church members to work to provide for their temporal needs and not to be weary in well doing.