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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

2 Thessalonians Chapter 1

Analysis Of The Chapter

Th2 1:1-12 comprises the following points:

(1) The salutation; Th2 1:1-2.

(2) an expression of thanks for the progress which the Thessalonians had made in piety, and especially for the manner in which they had been enabled to bear their trials; Th2 1:3-4.

(3) an assurance that the manner in which they had been enabled to bear their trials was an evidence that they were true Christians; Th2 1:5.

(4) a declaration that those who had persecuted them, and all others who were wicked, would be punished when the Lord Jesus should come, and that when this should occur the righteous would appear in glory and honor; Th2 1:6-10.

(5) the expression of an earnest desire that they might be prepared for the solemn scenes of that day; Th2 1:11-12.

2 Thessalonians 1:1

th2 1:1

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus; - See the notes on Th1 1:1.

2 Thessalonians 1:3

th2 1:3

We are bound to thank God always for you; - See the notes on Th1 1:2. "As it is meet." Since it is fit or proper. "Because that your faith groweth exceedingly." It would seem probable from this that Paul had heard from them since his First Epistle was written. He had doubtless received intelligence of the error which prevailed among them respecting his views of the coming of the Lord Jesus, and of the progress which the truth was making, at the same time. "And the charity of every one of you all toward each other." Your mutual love.

2 Thessalonians 1:4

th2 1:4

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God - That is, we mention your example to other churches, and glory in it, as an evidence of what the gospel is suited to do; see the notes on Th1 2:19-20; compare the notes on Co2 9:2.

For your patience - Your patient endurance of trials.

And faith - Fidelity, or constancy. You have shown unwavering confidence in God in your afflictions.

In all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure - See the notes on Th1 2:14; Th1 4:13. It would seem from this that the persecutions and trials to which the apostle referred in his First Epistle were still continued.

2 Thessalonians 1:5

th2 1:5

Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God - The word "which" is supplied by our translators, and there may be some doubt to what the apostle has reference as being "a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God." The general sense seems to be, that the fact that they were thus persecuted was an evidence that there would be a future judgment, when the righteous who were persecuted would be rewarded, and the wicked who persecuted them would be punished. The manner in which they bore their trials was an indication also of what the result would be in regard to them. Their patience and faith under persecutions were constantly showing that they would "be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which they were called to suffer." It is evident that a relative must be supplied here, as our translators have done, but there has been a difference of view as to what it refers. Some suppose that it is to "patience," others to "persecutions and tribulations," and others to the "whole sentence" preceding. The latter is probably the true construction, and the sense is, that the endurance of affliction in a proper manner by the righteous is a proof that there will be a righteous judgment of God in the last day:

(1) It is evidence that there will be a future judgment - since the righteous here suffer so much, and the wicked triumph.

(2) these things are now permitted in order that the character may be developed, and that the reason of the sentence in the last day may be seen.

(3) the manner in which these afflictions are borne is an evidence - an indication (ἔνδειγμα endeigma) of what the results of the judgment will be. The word rendered "manifest token" (ἔνδειγμα endeigma), occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means an indication, token, proof - anything that shows or points out how a thing is, or is to be (from ἐνδείκνυμι endeiknumi, to show, to point out). The meaning here is, therefore, that the course of events referred to - the persecutions which they endured, and the manner in which they were borne - furnished a proof that there would be a righteous judgment, and also afforded an indication of what the result of that judgment would be. We may, in general, learn what will be the issues of the judgment in the case of an individual from the manner in which he bears trials.

Of the righteous judgment of God - That there will be a just judgment hereafter. The crimes of the wicked who go unpunished on the earth, and the sufferings of the good who are unavenged, are a demonstration that there will be a judgment, when all these inequalities will be adjusted.

That ye may be counted worthy - As the result of your affliction, that you may be fitted for the kingdom of God. This does not mean that Christians will merit heaven by their sufferings, but that they may show that they have such a character that there is a fitness or propriety that they should be admitted there. They may evince by their patience and resignation, by their deadness to the world and their holy lives, that they are not disqualified to enter into that kingdom where the redeemed are to dwell. No true Christian will ever feel that he is worthy on his own account, or that he has any claim to eternal life, yet he may have evidence that he has the characteristics to which God has promised salvation, and is fitted to dwell in heaven.

Of the kingdom of God. - In heaven, see the notes on Mat 3:2.

For which ye also suffer. - The sufferings which you now endure are because you are professed heirs of the kingdom; that is, you are persecuted because you are Christians; see Th1 2:14.

2 Thessalonians 1:6

th2 1:6

Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you - The sense is: "There will be a future judgment, because it is proper that God should punish those who now persecute you. It is not right that they should go unpunished, and triumph forever. It is not an arbitrary thing, a thing which is indifferent, a thing which may or may not be done; it is a just and proper thing that the wicked should be punished." The doctrine is, that the future punishment of the wicked is just and proper; and that, being just and proper, it will be inflicted. Many suppose that there would be no justice in the eternal punishment of the wicked; that the threatening of that punishment is wholly arbitrary; that it might easily be dispensed with, and that because it is unjust it will not be inflicted, and need not be dreaded. But that it is just and proper, a very slight degree of reflection must show. Because:

(1) it is inconceivable that God should threaten such punishment unless it were just. How can it be reconciled with his perfections that he can hold up before mankind the assurance that any of them will be punished forever, unless it be right that it should be so? Can we believe that he deliberately threatens what is wrong, or that, in the face of the universe, he publicly declares his intention to do what is wrong?

(2) people themselves believe that it is just that the wicked should be punished. They are constantly making laws, and affixing penalties to them, and executing them, under the belief that it is right. Can they regard it as wrong in God to do the same thing? Can that be wrong in him which is right in themselves?

(3) if it is right to punish wickedness here, it is not wrong to punish it in the future world. There is nothing in the two places which can change the nature of what is done. If it is right for God to visit the sinner here with the tokens of his displeasure, there is nothing which can make it wrong to visit him in like manner in the future world. Why should that be wrong in another world which is right and proper in this?

(4) it will be a righteous thing for God to punish the wicked in a future state, for they are not always punished here as they deserve. No one can seriously maintain that there is an equal distribution of rewards and punishments on the earth. Many a man goes to the grave having received no adequate punishment for his crimes. Many a murderer, pirate, robber, traitor, and plunderer of nations under the name of a conqueror, thus dies. No one can doubt that it would be a just thing to punish them here if they could be arrested. Why should it be any the less "just" to punish them when they enter another world? In like manner, many a man lives a life of profligacy; or is an open scoffer; or aims to cast off the government of God; or is a seducer of innocence; and yet lives in the midst of wealth, and goes down in calmness and peace to the grave; Psa 73:3-5; Job 21:23-33. Why is it not just that such an one should be punished in the future world? compare Psa 73:16-20. But, if it is right that God should punish the wicked in the future world, it will be done. Because:

(1) There is nothing to hinder him from doing it. He has all power, and has all necessary means of inflicting punishment, entirely at his disposal.

(2) it would not be right not to do it. It is not right for a magistrate to treat the righteous and the wicked alike, or to show that he has as much regard to the one as to the other.

(3) it cannot be believed that God has uttered a threatening which he never meant to execute, or to appear before the universe as having held up before men the terror of the most awful punishment which could be inflicted, but which he never intended to carry into effect. Who could have confidence in such a Being? Who could know what to believe when he makes the most solemn declaration?

(4) the Judge of all the earth "will do right;" and if it is right to declare that "the wicked shall be turned into hell," it will not be wrong to inflict the sentence. And if, on the whole, it is right that the sinner should be punished, it will be done.

Them that trouble you. - Those who persecute you; see Th1 2:14.

2 Thessalonians 1:7

th2 1:7

And to you who are troubled - That is, "it will be a righteous thing for God to give to you who are persecuted rest in the last day." As it will be right and proper to punish the wicked, so it will he right to reward the good. It will not, however, be in precisely the same sense. The wicked will deserve all that they will suffer, but it cannot be said that the righteous will deserve the reward which they will receive. It will be right and proper, because:

(1) there is a fitness that they who are the friends of God should be treated as such, or it is proper that he should show himself to be their friend; and,

(2) because in this life this is not always clearly done. They are often less prospered, and less happy in their outward circumstances, than the wicked. There is, therefore, a propriety that in the future state God should manifest himself as their friend, and show to assembled worlds that he is not indifferent to character, or that wickedness does not deserve his smiles, and piety incur his frown. At the same time, however, it will be owing wholly to his grace that any are ever admitted to heaven.

Rest - The future happiness of believers is often represented under the image of rest. It is rest like that of the weary laborer after his day of toil; rest, like that of the soldier after the hardships of a long and perilous march; rest, like the calm repose of one who has been racked with pain; see the notes on Heb 4:9. The word "rest" here (ἄνεσις anesis) means a letting loose, a remission, a relaxation; and hence composure, quiet; Co2 2:12; Co2 7:5.

With us - That is, with Paul, Silas, and Timothy; Th2 1:1. It would increase the comfort of the Thessalonians derived from the anticipation of the future world, to reflect that they would meet their religious teachers and friends there. It always augments the anticipated joy of heaven to reflect that we are to share its blessedness with them. There is no envy among those who anticipate heaven; there will be none there. They who desire heaven at all, desire that it may be shared in the highest degree by all who are dear to them.

When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven - Shall appear; shall come from heaven; see the notes, Th1 4:6.

With his mighty angels - Margin, "angels of his power." So the Greek. The sense is, that angels of exalted rank and glory will accompany him; see the Th1 4:16 note; Mat 24:31; Mat 25:31 notes.

2 Thessalonians 1:8

th2 1:8

In flaming fire - This is a circumstance which is not noticed in the account of his appearing in the parallel place in Th1 4:16. The object of the apostle here seems to be to represent him as coming amidst vivid flashes of lightning. He is commonly described as coming in clouds, and to that common description there is here added the image of incessant lightnings, as if the whole heavens were illuminated with a continued blaze.

Taking vengeance - Margin, "yielding." Greek, "giving. The word "vengeance" is used in the sense of punishment, for there cannot be in God what literally corresponds with the passion of revenge; compare the notes on Rom 12:19.

On them that know not God. - On all who are strangers to him; that is, who are living in pagan darkness, or who, having heard of him, have no practical acquaintance with him.

And that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Who do not embrace it, and practice its precepts in their lives; compare the notes on Rom 2:9.

2 Thessalonians 1:9

th2 1:9

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction; - see the notes on Mat 25:41, Mat 25:46. The word which is here rendered "destruction" (ὄλεθρον olethron), is different from that which occurs in Mat 25:46, and which is there rendered "punishment" - κόλασις kolasis. The word ὄλεθρον olethron - "olethron" - occurs only here and in Co1 5:5; Th1 5:3; Ti1 6:9; in each of which places it is rendered destruction. It does not denote annihilation, but is used in the same sense in which we use the word when we say that a thing is destroyed. Thus, health is destroyed when it fails; property is destroyed when it is burned or sunk in the ocean; a limb is destroyed that is lost in battle; life is destroyed when one dies. In the case before us, the destruction, whatever it be, is:

(1) to be continued forever; and,

(2) is to be of the nature of punishment.

The meaning then must be, that the soul is destroyed as to the great purposes of its being - its enjoyment, dignity, honor, holiness, happiness. It will not be annihilated, but will live and linger on in destruction. It seems difficult to conceive how anyone can profess to hold that this passage is a part of the Word of God, and yet deny the doctrine of future eternal punishment. It would not be possible to state that doctrine in clearer language than this. It is never is in clearer language in any creed or confession of faith, and if it is not true that the wicked will be punished forever, then it must be admitted that it would not have been possible to reveal the doctrine in human language!

From the presence of the Lord - That is, a part of their punishment will consist in being banished from the immediate presence of the Lord. There is a sense in which God is everywhere present, and in that sense he will be in the world where the wicked will dwell, to punish them. But the phrase is also used to denote his more immediate presence; the place where are the symbols of his majesty and glory; the home of the holy and the blessed. It is in that sense that the word is used here, and the idea is, that it will be one of the circumstances contributing to the deeper woe of the place of punishment, that those who dwell there will be banished from that holy abode, and will never be permitted to enter there.

And from the glory of his power - The meaning seems to be, that they will not be able to endure the manifestation of his power and majesty when he shall appear, but will be driven away by it into outer darkness; see Th2 2:8. The Saviour, in describing his second coming, uses this language: "They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;" Mat 24:30. There will be a great exhibition of both. The power will be seen in the convulsions of nature which will precede or attend him; in the resurrection of the dead; and in the bringing of all to judgment: and the glory will be seen in his own person; the dignity and number of his attendants; and the honor that shall then be conferred on him as the final Judge of all mankind. By the manifestation of that power and glory the wicked will be driven away into eternal ruin. They will not be able to stand before it, and though, in common with the righteous, they may see the majesty of the Redeemer in the last day, yet they will be driven away to witness it no more.

2 Thessalonians 1:10

th2 1:10

When he shall come to be glorified in his saints - That is, the redeemed in that day will be the means of promoting his glory, or the universe will see his glory manifested in their redemption. His chief glory as seen in that day will be connected with the fact that he has redeemed his people; and he will come in order that all the appropriate honor of such a work may then be manifested. He will be "glorified" then by the numbers that shall have been redeemed; by their patience in the trials through which they have passed; by the triumphs which religion shall have made on the earth; by their praises and songs, and by their ascent with him to the realms of blessedness.

And to be admired in all them that believe - This may either mean that he will be admired among or by them that believe; or that the ground of the admiration which he will receive in that day will be what will be seen in them; that is, their graces, their numbers, their joys, their triumphs will be the occasion of producing admiration of him - for he will be regarded as the source of it all. Tyndale renders it: "and to be made marvelous in all them that believe." The latter interpretation seems to me to be the correct one. The general idea is, that Christ in that day will be manifested in a glorious manner, and that the source of his highest triumphs will be what is seen in the saints. His main honor when he returns to the world will not be the outward splendors which will attend his coming, nor the angels that will accompany him, nor the manifestation of his power over the elements, but the church which he has redeemed. It will then be seen that he is worthy of universal admiration, for having redeemed that church. He shall then be admired or glorified in his people:

(1) for having conceived the plan of redeeming them;

(2) for being willing to become incarnate and to die to save them;

(3) for the defense of his church in all its persecutions and trials;

(4) for raising his people from the dead;

(5) for the virtues and graces which they will exhibit in that day.

This appropriate honor of Christ in the church has never yet been fully seen. His people on earth have, in general, most imperfectly reflected his image. They have in general been comparatively few in number, and scattered upon the earth. They have been poor and despised. Often they have been persecuted and regarded as the "filth of the world and the offscouring of all things." The honors of this world have been withheld from them. The great have regarded it as no honor to be identified with the church, and the proud have been ashamed to be enrolled among the followers of the Lamb. In the last day all this will be changed, and the assembled church will show to admiring worlds how great and glorious is it, Redeemer, and how glorious was the work of redemption.

Because our testimony among you was believed. - The meaning of this seems to be, that they would be among the number of those who would in that day honor the Saviour, because they had embraced what the apostle had preached to them respecting these future scenes. Thus interpreted, this clause should be regarded as connected with Th2 2:7. "And to you it is a righteous thing that he should give rest with us, because our testimony among you was believed," That is, you have shown that you are true Christians, and it is proper that you should partake of the triumphs and hopes of that day.

2 Thessalonians 1:11

th2 1:11

Wherefore also we pray always for you - See the notes, Th1 1:2.

That our God would count you worthy of this calling. - Margin, "or, vouchsafe." The meaning is, "that he would regard you as worthy of this calling;" see the notes on ver. 5. Of this calling; see the notes, Eph 4:1. The "calling" here, is that which had brought them into the kingdom, and led them to become Christians.

And fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness. - That is, make the work of salvation complete and effectual. Oldshausen has well expressed the sense: "May God fill you with all that good which is pleasing to him." The thoughts in the passage are:

(1) that the purpose toward them on the part of God was one of "goodness" or benevolence;

(2) that there was a state of mind which would be regarded by him as pleasing, or as his "good pleasure;" and,

(3) that Paul wished that this might be accomplished in them. He desired that there might be in them everything which would be pleasing to God, and which his benevolence was fitted to secure.

And the work of faith - The work which faith is adapted to produce on the soul; see Jo1 5:4-5.

With power - Effectually, completely. The apostle prays that so much power may be exerted as will be sufficient to secure the object. The work of religion on the soul is always represented in the Bible as one of power.

2 Thessalonians 1:12

th2 1:12

That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - That is, that the Lord Jesus himself may be honored among you; the name often denoting the person. The idea is that the apostle wished that the Lord Jesus might be honored among them by the fair application and development of the principles of his religion.

And ye in him - That you may be regarded and treated as his friends when he shall come to judge the world.

According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ - That is, that you may experience all the honor which his grace is fitted to impart.

In view of the exposition given of this chapter, we may remark:

(1) That the wicked will certainly be punished when the Lord Jesus shall come to judgment. Words cannot reveal this truth more plainly than is done in this chapter, and if it is not to be so, then language has no meaning.

(2) the punishment of the wicked will be eternal. It is impossible for language to teach that doctrine more clearly than is done in this chapter. If it were admitted to have been the intention of God to teach the doctrine of eternal punishment, it is impossible to conceive that he could have chosen more plain and positive language to express the doctrine than has been done here. Can it be, then, that he means to trifle with people on so solemn a subject, by using words which have no meaning?

(3) it will greatly aggravate the punishment of the wicked that it will be "a righteous thing" for God thus to punish them. If they were to suffer as martyrs; if in their sufferings they could feel that they were oppressed and crushed beneath mere power; if they could feel that they were right and that God was wrong; if they could get up a party in the universe against God, sympathizing with them as if they were wronged, the case would be changed. A man can endure suffering much more easily when he has a good conscience, and feels that he is right, than he can when he feels that what he endures is deserved. But the sinner in hell can never have this consolation. He will forever feel that God is right and that he is wrong, and that every pang which he endures is deserved.

(4) if it be a "righteous thing" that the wicked shall be punished, then they never can be saved by mere justice. No one will go to heaven because he deserves or merits it. All dependence on human merit, therefore, is taken away in the matter of salvation, and if the sinner is ever saved, it will be by grace, and not by justice.

(5) if it is a "righteous thing" that the sinner should perish, he will perish. God will do right to all.

(6) it is amazing that the mass of men have so little concern about their future condition. God has plainly revealed that he will destroy the wicked forever, and that it will be a righteous thing for him to do it; and yet the mass of mankind are wholly unconcerned, and disregard all the solemn declarations of the Bible on this subject as if they were idle tales. One would suppose that the very possibility of eternal suffering would rouse all the sensibilities of the soul, and lead to the earnest inquiry whether it is not possible to avoid it. Yet the mass of people feel no concern in this inquiry. It is impossible to ever get them to think of it. We cannot get them even to ask the question, seriously, whether they themselves are to be happy or miserable for all eternity. This stupidity and indifference is the most unaccountable fact on earth, and probably distinguishes this world from all others.

(7) it is rational to think of religion; to reflect on eternity; to be serious; to be anxious about the future state. If there is even a possibility that we may be miserable forever, it is proper to be serious about it. And if there is a solemn declaration of God that it will be a "righteous thing" for him to punish the wicked, and that he will "punish them with everlasting destruction," assuredly the mind should be concerned. Is there anything more worthy the calm and sober attention of the human soul than such solemn declarations of the infinite God?

Next: 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2