This letter to the church at Thessalonica is a follow-up to 1 Thessalonians. When Paul had written to them earlier, he had affirmed their faith that was flourishing in spite of hardships and persecution. He comforted them by teaching them about the Rapture of the church, the first event of the “Day of the Lord” (i.e., the Second Coming of Christ).
Paul intended to encourage the church in their suffering, but that intention was lost in translation. A few months after he sent the letter, word came back to him that some had misunderstood the teaching on end times. Some took Paul’s statements (in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3) that Jesus could return at any moment to mean that they could stop working in their jobs and their ministries and just sit idly by, waiting out the Rapture. Their idleness had turned into laziness and they expected others to support them. The intensity of their persecution also led them to assume that the Day of the Lord was upon them.
So the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this second letter to give the Thessalonian believers a more complete understanding of the timing of the Day of the Lord. He wrote to discourage idleness, encourage diligence, and inspire hope.
In this introductory chapter, Paul first acknowledged what the church was doing right: love was on the rise, faith was trending upward, and disciples were growing — all in the face of “persecutions and afflictions” (v.4). The first letter they received gave them hope that Christ’s return would mean deliverance from persecution. Paul elaborated on that in verses 5-10, stating that someday Jesus will return, bringing justice for the persecuted. At His Second Coming, He will avenge His suffering followers by bringing “the punishment of eternal destruction” on those who harassed them (v.9). (Note: in verse 8 Paul refers to unbelievers as “those who do not obey the gospel”. The gospel is more than an offer to be accepted, it is a command to be obeyed — a command to repent of sin and be reconciled to God. Just sayin’.)
But believers can’t live in the future. We live with one eye on the horizon, expecting and hoping for the relief of Christ’s return, but we also keep an eye on the work He has left us to do. Jesus will certainly be glorified when He comes again (v.10), but we can glorify Him now by faithfully, diligently fulfilling our assignments where we are (v.11-12). That adds meaning to the hard days, doesn’t it? When we endure hardships and joyfully serve Jesus in spite of our circumstances, we give the world a glimpse of future glory — the power of God (v.11) and the grace of God (v.12) shining through our lives.
So give Jesus glory today, and remember that He might come back before tomorrow!