2 Thessalonians 1:1-3
1. How have the Thessalonians responded to Paul’s first letter to them?
They are growing in both faith and love. This likely means that they are trusting God even though their circumstances are difficult. It also indicates that they are caring for one another through these challenges.
2. What is missing from Paul’s praise that might indicate the reason this letter was written?
Paul does not mention hope in his introduction. Apparently, the confusion about Jesus return that Paul addressed in his first letter had not relieved all their concerns. Without hope there was the real possibility that they would give up and return to life without Christ. Paul seems to have two purposes in writing this letter. The first is to encourage them and the second is to increase their hope by giving them more information on Jesus’ coming return.
2 Thessalonians 1:4-7a
1. What is happening to the church in Thessalonica?
They are experiencing persecution that is trying their faith. Persecution at this time could have been anything from economic to physical. In the case of economic persecution, the ability to work might have been limited or in more extreme situations, property could be taken away. Physical persecution could have been beatings or imprisonment. In extreme situations, death in the arena was a possibility.
2. How are the disciples in Thessalonica handling the situation?
They are doing more than simply hanging on. They are growing stronger and increasing their endurance. Paul wants to encourage them to continue and praises them for how they are handling a very difficult situation.
3. How will God respond to what they are experiencing?
First, God will reward all those who remain faithful despite suffering and persecution. God is just and He promises to repay the people who are persecuting the Christians. This is important because the powerful witness of the early church was the love they showed toward their enemies. It took several centuries before Christians, as a group, began defending themselves. Despite all the hardship they endured the church rapidly grew. Contrary to what we might expect, the more severe the persecution the more the church grew.
4. Who is God based on this passage?
God is aware of what His children are going through. He allows them to continue to suffer knowing that they will grow stronger and more like Jesus in the process. While this is happening God keeping an account of what the enemies of His children are doing. He is just and will make certain the scales are balanced in the end.
5. What will God do?
He will punish those who have done evil to His children. He will reward His children for their endurance.
2 Thessalonians 1:7b-10
1. What will life after death be like for those who have rejected Jesus?
The most important thing to me is that anyone who has rejected Jesus in this life will live in the next life in a place that is totally without God. All that God is will be removed. There will be no good. Paul gives us a description of the fruit of God’s Spirit in the letter to the Galatians. Image living in a world where there is no love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control.
2. What will happen to believers when Jesus returns?
The exact opposite will be the experience of those who believe in Jesus and have accepted Him as their Lord. They will experience all of who God is and be overwhelmed by that reality.
3. Why do the Thessalonians need this instruction?
They need hope to endure. They need to be reassured that their situation will get better, even if only after death.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
1. What do we need to grow to be like Jesus?
We need to desire God and all the things that characterize His nature. We need to want this more than we want anything else.
2. How does what we want shape who we become?
We pursue what we want. If we desire comfort and ease, then we will not have the strength and endurance to go through the difficult things that would make us stronger. Contrast the couch potato and the marathon runner.
3. What does it mean for Jesus to be glorified?
My understanding is that Jesus is glorified when He is made fully visible. This is hard for us to imagine because we look at everything through filters. Even the brightness of the sun is reduced by the dirt in the atmosphere. Jesus is much brighter than the sun and we could not look at His unfiltered glory with our current eyes without being blinded.
How do you feel after reading this first portion of Paul’s letter?
How do Paul’s words encourage you?
How do Paul’s words discourage you?
How strong is your hope in God?
How well do these words match your ideas about life after death?
Material for this and the other lessons from Thessalonians are drawn from two primary sources and my own observations: