Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

This epistle was written by the Apostle Paul at Corinth shortly after he, for his own safety, had been sent away from Thessalonica by the brethren there. According to Acts 17:1-2, Paul preached at Thessalonica only about three weeks before the Jews created such an uproar that he had to leave. Yet the Thessalonian Church seems to have been very well established in at least some of the most important points of Christian doctrine. In this letter Paul praises them for their faith by which they had "received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost;" for their works, in that they have turned away from idolatry, and are now serving "the living and true God;" and their patience, in that they are waiting "for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead." In chapter IV he gives a very comforting discussion of the return of our Lord to rapture away the church; and in chapter V he gives more instructions for Christian living.

Chapter 1

(Verse 1) Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."


This verse is what we might call, "Paul's standard greeting," at least in form, to all the churches. In it he identifies himself and his two companions, Silvanus and Timotheus, identifies those addressed, and prays for them peace and grace "from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." There are some slight differences between this and the beginning of most of his letters. These are the omission of any reference to himself as an apostle, and omission of any mention of himself or his companions as "servants of Jesus Christ." When we consider the tone of very intimate fellowship between the apostle and these brethren, as indicated in this epistle, we are brought to the conclusion that no such was necessary, since they were already well acquainted with his office, authority, and conduct.


(Verses 2 through 4) "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."


Evidently Paul, notwithstanding the brevity of his acquaintance with these brethren, was very favorably impressed by them. He tells them that he is constantly thanking God for them, and praying for them. There are three things about them that are so outstanding that he never ceases to remember them. These are "your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." With all these things so clearly manifested in them, the apostle says, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." When such outstanding characteristics are manifested there is every assurance that those manifesting them are both beloved of God, and the objects of His election, and we therefore should esteem them very highly.


(Verses 5 through 7) "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye became ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia."


Continuing the thought of verse 4, Paul's assurance of the election of these beloved brethren, he says that the reason for the success of the gospel among them is that it did not come in word only. Paul is well aware that all the preaching in the world accomplishes little, if anything, when it is in word only. This was not the case in Thessalonica. He says, "our gospel," not with any thought of claiming credit for it, nor claiming ownership of it, but because God has called him to preach it. This gospel came to these brethren then, not in word only, but accompanied by the Holy Ghost, and the power of God, which wrought so forcefully in the hearts and minds of these brethren as to give them much assurance of the truth of it. Paul reminds them of how he and his companions conducted themselves among them, and tells them that this was for their sake, that they might set before them the example of living according to the principles of the gospel. Evidently, this example was blessed of God to be very effective: for the apostle says, "And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia." Although, as witnessed in Acts 17:1-10, the Thessalonians did receive the word "in much affliction," it was also with such "joy of the Holy Ghost," that they were so obedient to it that they were themselves examples to all the believers throughout the region.


(Verse 8 through 10) "For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus Which delivered us from the wrath to come."


These brethren were such outstanding examples of obedience to the gospel of Christ, that from them the word of the Lord "sounded out," or spread forth, all over Macedonia and Achaia. And not only so, but the report of their faith has spread so that wherever the apostle goes, instead of his having to tell the people about it, they already know of it, and are telling him about how these Thessalonians have turned away from idolatry, and are serving "the living and true God." Not only are they serving the true God. But they are also well enough grounded in the doctrines of the resurrection of our Lord, and His promise to return for His bride, the church, that they are "waiting for," or expecting, Him from heaven, being fully persuaded that God has raised Him up from the dead, and that He is the One by whom we are delivered from the wrath to come.

Chapter 2

(Verses 1 and 2) "For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi , we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention."


As explanation of this passage, we offer our own translation of the whole sentence. "For, brethren, you yourselves know our coming unto you, that it was not in vain. But even, as you know, after we had suffered, and were shamefully abused at Philippi , we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God in much solicitation." The word, "entreated," in verse 2, according to modern usage, means "begged" or "besought," which hardly fits the situation to which Paul refers. In archaic and obsolete usage, it meant "treated", "handled," or as was the case in this particular instance, "abused" or "mistreated." The Greek word, "hybridzo", used by the apostle, means, "to act insolently and shamefully toward one; to treat shamefully;" and Paul, using the passive form of the verb, indicates that he and his associates were thus treated. The word, "contention," at the end of the sentence, may still be thus used if understood to mean that he and his companions, in spite of the evil treatment they had received, were still contending vigorously for the truth of the gospel of God. Yet, in view of what the apostle next says, it seems better to use "solicitation," or "anxiety," which are also acceptable translations of the Greek word used by Paul.


(Verses 3 through 8) "For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor of guile: but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, Which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us."


Here the apostle tells us his reasons for the great solicitation, or anxiety, with which he preached the gospel of God unto the Thessalonians. His exhortation to them was not "for deceit, nor uncleanness, nor guile." He had no desire to deceive them in any way, to lead them into any uncleanness, whether of thought, word, or deed, nor was he trying to beguile them in any manner. Every thing was straightforward and in accord with the truth of God. His first, and most important reason for this is, that God has entrusted him with preaching the wonderful gospel of His Son, Christ Jesus our Lord. And having, as he so often expressed it, such a feeling of unworthiness of so great a calling; because he had been a persecutor of the church; and being constantly amazed at the grace and mercy of God manifested in calling him to this work, Paul could never rest with mediocre effort in preaching. So he did indeed preach the gospel faithfully, and with much solicitation, that his efforts might be pleasing unto God, whether it suited men or not, for God is He, Who "trieth the hearts." He reminds them that they know that what he is telling them is the truth, and that God also is Witness to the truth of his testimony. As he continues, he says that, as an apostle of Christ, he "might have been," that is, he had the authority to be, burdensome on them, (he could have required that they take care of his temporal needs). But, as they knew, he did no such; neither did he seek any glory of them, nor of anyone else. But because these brethren were so dear to him, and he was so desirous of having them receive and believe the gospel he and his companions became "childish," that is, gentle as children among them, just as a nurse with tender love takes care of her children. In fact, these brethren were so dear to Paul and his associates that they were willing not only to preach the gospel of God to them, but, had it been possible, even to give them their own souls.


(Verses 9 through 12) "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are our witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: and ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye should walk worthy of God, Who hath called you into His kingdom and glory."


Again Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they know already how his party conducted themselves while among them, both in that they labored night and day to keep from in any way being a burden upon them, and in that they set before them the example of living according to the high standards of the gospel. He would not permit himself nor his companions to be "chargeable unto" any of them, that is supported by any of these brethren. He calls to their attention that both they and God are witnesses of the purity of his manner of living among them. When he says, "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe," it is not to be thought that he or his associates behaved any differently among those who do not believe. But his meaning is that, although they may not have been with him elsewhere and therefore may not be witnesses of that, they are witnesses, and do know how he behaved among them. In addition to setting excellent examples before them, he and his companions "exhorted and comforted and charged" every one of them with the same loving care that a father would manifest toward his children. The burden of his exhortation and charge was that they would walk "worthy of God," Who has called them into His kingdom and glory. Paul certainly recognizes the fact that, in the strict sense of the words, no one can walk worthy of God. But in his usage here, and in other places also, those who are striving to follow our Lord Jesus the Christ and the principles He and His apostles have taught are accounted "worthy of God."


(Verse 13)"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."


It is no wonder that Paul thanked God without ceasing for these brethren and their manner of receiving the word of God, which he preached unto them. They surely realized that the actual voices speaking to them were the voices of men; but they received the message as the word of God. This is a simple statement, but it carries a world of meaning. Since they received it as the word of God, they had no thought of questioning either the truth or the authority of it; nor did they wonder whether the word meant what it said, or whether it must be interpreted to fit some pre-conceived idea which they or someone else may have had. There was no concern about whether or not it needed to be changed to accommodate changing circumstances. As the apostle says, they "received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God." He further declares that this word works effectually in those who believe; and this we find to be true today. It still works effectually in those who believe it as "the word of God."


(Verses 14 through 16) "For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye have also suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us: and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sin alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."


Paul says that the Thessalonians have become followers of the Christian churches in Judaea , because they have received the same treatment from their own countrymen that those churches have from the Jews. He is not saying that they have selected the churches in Judaea as "role models," and set out to follow them, but only that they have experienced the same things. He says that the Jews have not only killed the Lord, and their own prophets, but also are continuing to persecute those who will follow our Lord. This also is what the countrymen of these brethren are doing to them, showing that man in nature is the same, whether Jew or Gentile. The apostle lays further charges against the Jews: "And they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sin alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." Paul is fully aware, and in other places teaches, that at God's appointed time He will restore Israel ; but if one reads his writings carefully, he will see that nowhere does he teach that the restoration will be retroactive. The Jews, as he views them at this point, are displeasing to God, contrary to, or against, all men, and attempting to prevent God from calling forth a people from among the Gentiles, as He is doing through the ministry of the apostles. This, he says, is the complete filling up of their sin, and proves that "the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." The seriousness of the language used by the apostle indicates that this is not God's chastening of His disobedient children, but His pouring out of His wrath upon His enemies. Although, in the day of the restoration, "All Israel shall be saved," there is no retroactive provision to give salvation to a single one of those upon whom "the wrath is come to the uttermost."


(Verses 17 through 20) "But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again: but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy."


This passage seems to need little explanation. It seems that the primary message here is his great love for these brethren, and his explanation that his failure to come back for another visit with them is not by his choice, but because of the hindrances placed in his way by our arch enemy, Satan. He then tells them that they are his crown of rejoicing even in the presence of our Lord at His return. He says, "For ye are our glory and joy."


Chapter 3

(Verses 1 through 3) "Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto."


In verses 1 and 2 Paul's message is of primary importance and interest only to the Thessalonians. He is continuing to assure them of his love for them, and to explain to them why he sent Timothy to visit them at this time. He was so involved in his ministry in Athens that he felt he could not leave it at this point. But being so concerned about these brethren, he felt it necessary to send Timothy, whom he trusted as a "brother, and minister of God, and fellow-labourer," to establish and comfort them concerning their faith. Evidently, Paul was concerned that the persecutions the Thessalonians were having to bear at this time might discourage them, in spite of the fact that he had already taught them that "we are appointed thereunto". So Timothy was to remind them of this lest anyone should be discouraged by these afflictions which are the heritage of all "who will live godly in Christ Jesus."


(Verses 4 through 10) "For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: therefore, brethren, we are comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: for now we live, if ye stand fast in the faith. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?"


The apostle continues by reminding these brethren that he told them when he was with them that tribulation was ahead, both for himself and for them. Yet, because of his great anxiety to know how their faith is holding up under these afflictions, he sent Timothy to find out their state, as well as to encourage them in the faith. Now that he has returned with a good report of both their faith and their love for Paul, as well as for one another, he is greatly comforted, so much so that he declares, "For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord." That is, until he received Timothy's report, doubts and fears had so cast him down that it was almost as if he were near death. But being refreshed by this report, his spirits have revived so that now he feels alive, and if they stand fast in the Lord, he will continue in this reinvigorated condition. An acceptable paraphrase of verse 9 seems to be, "What greater thanks can we render to God than that which we give for all the joy your continued faith in the face of these persecutions gives us before God?" He continues praying constantly, "night and day," that he will be able to see them again and be able to bring them to even greater maturity of faith.


(Verses 11 through 13) "Now God Himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love toward one another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints."


Paul sets forth his prayer, first, that God our Father, and our Lord Jesus the Christ, will direct his way in such a manner that he may soon visit the Thessalonians again; and that God will make them to increase more and more in their love, not only toward one another, but also toward all. The word, "men," was added by the translators to bring this into harmony with our Lord's teaching in Matt. 5:44. However, since Paul's prayer is not just that they "love all," but that they "increase and abound" in that love, it is not at all clear that, in such a setting, his meaning is not "all saints," instead of "all men." The climax of his prayer is that God will establish their hearts in holiness that they may remain so until the coming of our Lord Jesus the Christ with all His saints. This is the goal to which Paul is constantly looking, and of which he often makes mention in his writings to all the churches.

Chapter 4

(Verses 1 and 2) "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how that ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."


Having prayed that God will establish these brethren in holiness before God even until the coming of our Lord Jesus the Christ, Paul begs and exhorts them "by the Lord Jesus," or for the sake of the Lord Jesus, and by His authority, that they continue, and even abound more and more in their obedience not only to his teachings, but to his examples also. And he reminds them that they know the commandments he has given them, and these commandments are by the authority of our Lord Jesus.


(Verses 3 through 8) "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: for the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, Who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit."


In verse 3 the apostle says that it is God's will that we be sanctified, and in explanation of what he here means by "sanctification," he adds, "that ye should abstain from fornication." Although "sanctification" does have several different shades of meaning, it is obvious that at this point his definition of it would be, "abstaining from the lusts of the flesh." In order to clarify verses 4, 5, and 6, let us give a little more literal translation of them than is given in the King James Version. "That every one of you should understand to have his own vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the passion of lust, even as the pagans who know not God: that he not go beyond and take advantage of his brother in the matter: because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified." In verse 4, the phrase, "have his own vessel," is one which was commonly used, and understood to mean, "have his own vessel for sex gratification," or "have his own wife," as opposed to going with prostitutes. Prostitution was a common practice in those days among the "pagans who knew not God." In fact, some of the fertility religions of the day maintained prostitutes at their temples. The fact that it was so common among the heathens is the reason for Paul's specifically strict instructions concerning this subject. He commands that every man "understand," or be taught, to have his own wife, and keep the marriage bed in sanctification and honor; and not to take unfair advantage of his brother by going with his wife instead of his own: "because the Lord is the avenger of all such." This is not a new commandment, but one about which he has already testified to them and warned them. We are not called to uncleanness, as seem to be "the pagans who know not God," but unto holiness. The apostle makes it clear that this is God's commandment, not his, as he says, "He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, Who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit."


(Verses 9 through 12) "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing."


Having very sternly warned the Thessalonians against immoral living, Paul says that it is unnecessary that he write them concerning brotherly love, because God has already taught them to love one another, and not only have they been taught, but they also have obeyed that instruction. Yet he begs them to increase more and more in this. He also exhorts them to be not riotous, but quiet, attending to their own business, and working with their own hands, so that they can prove to those "that are without," that is, the unbelievers, that they are walking honestly, and that they are not in need of anything from them, thus showing that they are no threat to them in any way.


(Verses 13 through 18) "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."


Without question this passage contains as great comfort for the believer as can be found in any scripture. Paul introduces it by saying, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." This tells us that it is a very important message; that it is concerning "them which are asleep," that is, those who, believing in our Lord Christ Jesus, have already been laid to rest in that sleep which we call "death;" and that it will lessen our sorrow for their passing. While those who have no hope of this wonderful truth he is about to present would certainly be in the depths of sorrow. He then presents to us the most detailed description of the rapture of the church that can be found in the word of God. And although he starts his description before he uses the expression, "For this we say unto you by the word of God," we can be well assured that it applies to the whole. Some object to the use of the phrase, "the rapture of the church", saying that such a phrase is not in the scriptures. While it is true that this phrase does not occur in the scriptures, the doctrine is fully set forth here and elsewhere in scripture. The phrase only means, "the powerful removal of the church," or "the taking away of the church by power." One thing, which seems to bother some, is the apostle's repetitive use of the phrase, "we which are alive and remain." They point out that Paul has been dead for centuries; and the Lord has not yet come. So because of this they try to make him out to be a false prophet, which is certainly not the case. In the first place, he indeed, as witnessed by what he says in many places, did believe that the return of our Lord was imminent, but he would have been the first to declare that neither he nor any other man knows when it will be. Then, secondly, he uses the expression to mean that whether or not he is still here at that time, there will be some of our Lord's saints living on earth when He returns. Now the message is that, at the appointed time Jesus will return, bringing with Him the souls of all his saints who at that time have already died; and the saints who are still living on earth will not "prevent" those who are in the graves. (Our modern use of the word, "prevent," is to mean "keep from taking place," or "hinder," which those who are "alive and remain" will not do to those who sleep; but the meaning here is primarily that for which the word was originally used, "go before." So those who are alive cannot go to meet the Lord before those who are in the graves.) Instead, "the Lord Himself shall descend with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." It is noteworthy that in this account it is specifically stated that "we shall be caught up_ _ _to meet the Lord in the air," indicating that at this time our Lord will not come to the actual earth, while at the time of His great battle against the nations, (Zechariah 14:4,) it is said, "And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem_ _ _." They are two separate and distinct instances; the one Paul describes is the rapture of the church, while Zechariah's description pertains to the time of the judgments God will send upon the world after that. None of the wicked dead will be raised at the rapture of the church; they are reserved to the "resurrection of damnation." But when our Lord comes, we, whether living or dead will be caught up together to meet Him in the air: "and so shall we ever be with the Lord". Since this account, as he says in verse 13, is for the purpose of comforting the saints, and making their sorrow less, he closes it thus: "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."


Chapter 5

(Verses 1 through 3) "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For ye know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."


Evidently Paul has already taught the Thessalonians very clearly that, as our Lord Himself said, "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father," for he tells them in verses 1 and 2 that they have no need that he should write them about the times and seasons, because they already are fully aware that "the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night." The Apostle Peter also says, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night." This brings us to the question, "What is the day of the Lord?" This exact phrase appears seventeen times in the Holy Bible; fourteen in the Old Testament, and three in the New. There is also another phrase, "the day of the Lord Jesus," which appears twice, (I Corinthians 5:5 and II Corinthians 1:14 ,) but it is not to be confused with the first, as is readily obvious from the context. In II Thessalonians 2:2, an incorrect translation gives us, "the day of Christ." However the Greek wording at that point is, "he hemera tou kuriou" (the day of the Lord), not "he hemera Xristou" (the day of Christ). The context also agrees with "the day of the Lord," for in every place in scripture where "the day of the Lord" occurs, it has reference to the pouring out of God's judgment against wicked men. Sometimes it embraces local and temporal judgments, and at others the final judgment of the wicked world. Paul's statement here is so nearly identical with that of the Apostle Peter, as quoted above, that it is obvious they are speaking of the same thing; and Peter leaves no doubt as to which sort of event he is considering. (See II Peter 3:10-13.) Paul has already told the Thessalonians, in Chapter IV, what is the happy lot of all saints, living or dead, when our Lord comes for us. We are all to be caught up to be with Him, before the time of His pouring out of judgments upon the wicked which, is "the day of the Lord," of which he is here speaking. And it will come as a thief in the night, that is, at a time when not expected. Notice that, as in Chapter IV when speaking of the rapture of the saints, Paul uses the first and second person personal pronouns, "I," "Ye," and "we," which continue in verses 1 and 2 of this chapter; but in verse 3 he changes to the third person, "they" and "them." Some may not consider this important. But it clearly shows that he is speaking of someone else beside those who have been his subject; and, since, at this point in the account, the saints have all been raptured away, the only ones left are the wicked, to whom he refers as "they" and "them". So of them he says, "When they shall say, Peace and safety: then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."


(Verses 4 through 7) "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night."


Although "the day of the Lord" will indeed come as a thief in the night upon those who have not been enlightened of God, Paul says that it should not so come upon us. Because, as he says, "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness." Our Lord has indeed told us that no one but the Father knows of that day and hour; but in immediate connection with that statement, both before and after it, (See Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.) He tells us of many things that will take place to signal its coming. Then He cautions us thus: "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: so ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors." (Mark 13: 28-29) The only way one can fail to be aware of its approach is that he be in the darkness of unbelief. Those who believe what the Master has said will be looking for its coming. Since we are not of the darkness, nor of the night, let us be awake and vigilant, as soldiers manning an outpost in a combat zone. Those who are of the darkness, or of the night, may indeed be asleep, or even drunken; but this is not for us who are of the light.


(Verses 8 through 11) "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as ye also do."


The apostle continues his line of reasoning, that since we are of the day, and not the night, it is our responsibility to live the part, by being soberly watchful for our Lord's coming, that we not be taken unawares. We are to be armed with the breastplate of faith and love, and to have our head protected by a helmet, "the hope of salvation." As long as our faith remains firm, our hearts are filled with the love of God, and our minds are fixed upon the confident expectation of that great salvation which the Apostle Peter says is "ready to be revealed in the last time," that day cannot come upon us as a thief. And this is how we are commanded to be armed, because God, instead of having appointed us to wrath, as we most certainly deserved, has appointed us to obtain salvation by Christ Jesus our Lord. In verse 10, Paul's usage of the clause, "whether we wake, or sleep," has reference not to the sleeping mentioned in verses 6 and 7, but to whether we are "asleep in Jesus," or are "alive and remain to the coming of the Lord," as discussed in Chapter IV. So in either case we shall live together with our Lord Jesus the Christ, because He has died for us for this very purpose. Therefore we are to use this truth to comfort and strengthen one another.


(Verses 12 and 13) "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves."


Paul begs these brethren, "Know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord." This does not intend that there should be among you those who are masters over you; but the Lord has called men to be pastors, teachers, etc., in the church. These are, by their calling, overseers, and thus they are over the church, not as masters, but as watchmen and laborers for the spiritual welfare of all the members. These are to be acknowledged by the church, and to be esteemed very highly in love for the sake of the work they do. Paul further admonishes that they "be at peace among yourselves". These admonitions are fully as valuable to the church today as when they were written.


(Verses 14 and 15) "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."


Notice how Paul's exhortation covers the whole spectrum of conduct among professed Christians. We do not warn someone unless there is a danger into which he may come, or a penalty, which he may have to pay. In the case of the unruly, he who will not submit to the principles of righteousness commanded by our Lord and His apostles, there are two possibilities about which he should be warned. First, if he truly belongs to the Lord, God will most surely chastise him for his misconduct; and, second, if he is only a pretender, (and we do not make the judgment of this matter,) God will surely bring him to judgment. Therefore, in either case, he is to be warned. Comfort the "feeble minded". The word here translated "feebleminded," literally means "faint hearted," not one who is mentally incompetent. We are to comfort those who, by reason of the hardships along the way, seem about ready to give up. We must support, or lend strength, to the weak; and in all our dealings, both with one another, and with all men, we are to be patient. Not only are we not to render evil for evil, but insofar as we can we are to see that none of our brethren do so either; but we are all to constantly follow after, or cultivate that which is good, good habits, toward all men.


(Verses 16 through 24) "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it."


Surely none of this needs any explanation, but a few observations concerning parts of it might be in order. It seems easy to give thanks to God for the pleasant things of life; but we may be reluctant to thank Him for those which are unpleasant. Sometimes we even try to justify this by saying that God is not responsible for whatever unpleasant thing has befallen us. A short study of Job and his afflictions should convince us that, although we may not understand His purpose, He not only "suffers" such to take place, but even in some measure brings them about. He called Satan's attention to Job, with the question, "Hast thou considered My servant Job_ _ _?" and He gave Satan permission, within limitations, to afflict Job in any way he might choose. Of course the beauty of this account is found in Job 42:10. "And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before". It seems that the obvious lesson in the account of the afflictions of Job is that Satan, with all his efforts, can not destroy one of God's elect; but there are sometimes other reasons for unpleasant experiences. Sometimes they may be for chastisement; and the writer of the Hebrew letter says, (Heb.12:11) "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby." So it is important that we "in every thing give thanks," for both pleasant and unpleasant things. We are to "prove all things" and keep firm hold upon those that are good. To prove anything in a court of law, the evidence must be presented, and judged by, or compared to the law. In this case the word of God is the law; and we are to hold fast to that which will measure up to the requirements of that law. Obviously, that which will not, is to be discarded immediately. Sometimes we hear someone say, "I know this, or that looks bad, but I don't think it is really wrong." What is to be done in such case? LEAVE IT OFF. "Abstain from all appearance of evil." Although, in verse 23, the expression, "I pray God," is added by the translators, it is evident that the whole verse is actually a prayer to God for these brethren. Notice that his prayer is that God, Who is the God of peace, will completely, not just in part, sanctify, or purify, them; and that He will preserve their "whole spirit and soul and body unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Man is a trinity, made in the image of God.) Then he assures them that He Who has called them is faithful, and will do that for which he prays.


(Verses 25 through 28) "Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."


As is customary with the Apostle Paul, he asks for the continued prayers of the brethren for himself. Then he instructs them to "Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss." In Middle Eastern Culture, in the apostle's day, and even now, the kiss is the accepted greeting between men, while in Western Culture, for the most part, the handshake replaces the kiss. So among the saints, whatever the manner of greeting, it should be of true Christian love devoid of hypocrisy, and thus be holy. He then charges them to read this epistle to "all the holy brethren," thus indicating that the doctrines set forth herein are for all the saints, and not for the Thessalonians only. He closes with the prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may continue with all those addressed.


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