After the introduction
(2 Thessalonians 1:1,2)
the apostle begins this epistle with an account of his high esteem for
2 Thessalonians 1:3,4.
He then comforts them under their afflictions and persecutions
(2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)
and tells them what his prayers were to God for them,
2 Thessalonians 1:11,12.
A. D. 52.
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the
Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is
meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the
charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for
your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations
that ye endure:
Here we have,
I. The introduction
(2 Thessalonians 1:1,2),
in the same words as in the former epistle, from which we may observe
that as this apostle did not count it grievous to him to write the same
in his epistles that he had delivered in preaching, so he willingly
wrote the same things to one church that he did to another. The
occurrence of the same words in this epistle as in the former shows us
that ministers ought not so much to regard the variety of expression
and elegance of style as the truth and usefulness of the doctrines they
preach. And great care should be taken lest, from an affectation of
novelty in method and phrases, we advance new notions or doctrines,
contrary to the principles of natural or revealed religion, upon which
this church of the Thessalonians was built, as all true churches are;
namely, in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. The apostle's expression of the high esteem he had for them. He not
only had a great affection for them (as he had expressed in his former
epistle, and now again in his pious wish of grace and peace for them),
but he also expresses his great esteem for them, concerning which
1. How his esteem of them is expressed.
(1.) He glorified God on their behalf: We are bound to thank God
always for you, brethren, as it is meet,
2 Thessalonians 1:3.
He chose rather to speak of what was praiseworthy in them in a way of
thanksgiving to God than by commendation of them; and, as what he
mentions was matter of his rejoicing, he accounted it matter of
thanksgiving, and it was meet or fit it should be so, for we are bound,
and it is our duty, to be thankful to God for all the good that is
found in us or others: and it not only is an act of kindness to our
fellow-christians, but our duty, to thank God on their behalf.
(2.) He also glories in them before the churches of God,
2 Thessalonians 1:4.
The apostle never flattered his friends, but he took pleasure in
commending them, and speaking well of them, to the glory of God and for
the excitement and encouragement of others. Paul did not glory in his
own gifts, nor in his labour among them, but he gloried in the grace of
God which was bestowed upon them, and so his glorying was good, because
all the commendation he gave to them, and the pleasure he took himself,
centered in the praise and glory of God.
2. For what he esteemed them and thanked God; namely, the increase of
their faith, and love, and patience. In his former epistle
(1 Thessalonians 1:3)
he gave thanks for their faith, love, and patience; here he gives
thanks for the increase of all those graces, that they were not only
true Christians, but growing Christians. Note, Where there is the truth
of grace there will be increase of it. The path of the just is as
the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day.
And where there is the increase of grace God must have all the glory of
it. We are as much indebted to him for the improvement of grace, and
the progress of that good work, as we are for the first work of grace
and the very beginning of it. We may be tempted to think that though
when we were bad we could not make ourselves good, yet when we are good
we can easily make ourselves better; but we have as much dependence on
the grace of God for increasing the grace we have as for planting grace
when we had it not. The matter of the apostle's thanksgiving and
glorying on behalf of the Thessalonians was,
(1.) That their faith grew exceedingly,
2 Thessalonians 1:3.
They were more confirmed in the truth of gospel-revelations, confided
in gospel-promises, and had lively expectations of another world. The
growth of their faith appeared by the works of faith; and, where faith
grows, all other graces grow proportionably.
(2.) Their charity abounded
(2 Thessalonians 1:3),
their love to God and man. Note, Where faith grows love will abound,
for faith works by love; and not only the charity of some few of them,
but of every one to each other, did abound. There were no such
divisions among them as in some other churches.
(3.) Their patience as well as faith increased in all their
persecutions and tribulations. And patience has then its perfect work
when it extends itself to all trials. There were many persecutions
which the Thessalonians endured for the sake of righteousness, as well
as other troubles which they met with in this calamitous life; yet they
endured all these, by faith seeing him that is invisible, and
looking to the recompence of reward; and endured them with
patience, not with an insensibility under them, but with patience
arising from Christian principles, which kept them quiet and
submissive, and afforded them inward strength and support.
Prospect of Persecuted Saints.
A. D. 52.
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God,
that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense
tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus
shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the
presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be
admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you
was believed) in that day.
Having mentioned their persecutions and tribulations, which they
endured principally for the cause of Christ, the apostle proceeds to
offer several things for their comfort under them; as,
I. He tells them of the present happiness and advantage of their
2 Thessalonians 1:5.
Their faith being thus tried, and patience exercised, they were
improved by their sufferings, insomuch that they were counted worthy
of the kingdom of God. Their sufferings were a manifest token of
this, that they were worthy or meet to be accounted Christians indeed,
seeing they could suffer for Christianity. And the truth is, Religion,
if it is worth any thing, is worth every thing; and those either have
no religion at all, or none that is worth having, or know not how to
value it, that cannot find in their hearts to suffer for it. Besides,
from their patient suffering, it appeared that, according to the
righteous judgment of God, they should be counted worthy of the
heavenly glory: not by worthiness of condignity, but of congruity only;
not that they could merit heaven, but they were made meet for heaven.
We cannot by all our sufferings, any more than by our services, merit
heaven as a debt; but by our patience under our sufferings we are
qualified for the joy that is promised to patient sufferers in the
cause of God.
II. He tells them next of the future recompence that shall be given to
persecutor and persecuted.
1. In this future recompence there will be,
(1.) A punishment inflicted on persecutors: God will recompense
tribulation to those that trouble you,
2 Thessalonians 1:6.
And there is nothing that more infallibly marks a man for eternal ruin
than a spirit of persecution, and enmity to the name and people of God:
as the faith, patience, and constancy of the saints are to them an
earnest of everlasting rest and joy, so the pride, malice, and
wickedness of their persecutors are to them an earnest of everlasting
misery; for every man carries about with him, and carries out of the
world with him, either his heaven or his hell. God will render a
recompence, and will trouble those that trouble his people. This he has
done sometimes in this world, witness the dreadful end of many
persecutors; but especially this he will do in the other world, where
the portion of the wicked must be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing
(2.) A reward for those that are persecuted: God will recompense their
trouble with rest,
2 Thessalonians 1:7.
There is a rest that remains for the people of God, a rest from sin and
sorrow. Though many may be the troubles of the righteous now, yet God
will deliver them out of them all. The future rest will abundantly
recompense all their present troubles. The sufferings of this present
time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be
revealed. There is enough in heaven to countervail all that we may lose
or suffer for the name of Christ in this world. The apostle says,
To you who are troubled rest with us. In heaven, ministers and
people shall rest together, and rejoice together, who suffer together
here; and the meanest Christian shall rest with the greatest apostle:
nay, what is far more, if we suffer for Christ, we shall also reign
2 Timothy 2:12.
2. Concerning this future recompence we are further to observe,
(1.) The certainty of it, proved by the righteousness and justice of
God: It is a righteous thing with God
(2 Thessalonians 1:6)
to render to every man according to his works. The thoughts of this
should be terrible to wicked men and persecutors, and the great support
of the righteous and such as are persecuted; for, seeing there is a
righteous God, there will be a righteous recompence. God's suffering
people will lose nothing by their sufferings, and their enemies will
gain nothing by their advantages against them.
(2.) The time when this righteous recompence shall be made: When the
Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven,
2 Thessalonians 1:7.
That will be the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of
God; for then will God judge the world in righteousness by that man
whom he hath appointed, even Jesus Christ the righteous Judge. The
righteousness of God does not so visibly appear to all men in the
procedure of his providence as it will in the process of the great
judgment-day. The scripture has made known to us the judgment to come,
and we are bound to receive the revelation here given concerning
[1.] That the Lord Jesus will in that day appear from heaven. Now the
heavens retain him, they conceal him; but then he will be revealed and
made manifest. He will come in all the pomp and power of the upper
world, whence we look for the Saviour.
[2.] He will be revealed with his mighty angels
(2 Thessalonians 1:7),
or the angels of his power: these will attend upon him, to grace the
solemnity of that great day of his appearance; they will be the
ministers of his justice and mercy in that day; they will summon the
criminals to his tribunal, and gather in the elect, and be employed in
executing his sentence.
[3.] He will come in flaming fire,
2 Thessalonians 1:8.
A fire goeth before him, which shall consume his enemies. The earth,
and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up, and the elements
shall melt with fervent heat. This will be a trying fire, to try
every man's work,--a refining fire, to purify the saints, who shall
share in the purity, and partake of the felicity, of the new heaven and
the new earth,--a consuming fire to the wicked. His light will be
piercing, and his power consuming, to all those who in that day shall
be found as chaff.
[4.] The effects of this appearance will be terrible to some and joyful
First, They will be terrible to some; for he will then take
vengeance on the wicked.
1. On those that sinned against the principles of natural religion, and
rebelled against the light of nature, that knew not God
(2 Thessalonians 1:8),
though the invisible things of him are manifested in the things that
2. On those that rebel against the light of revelation, that obey
not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is the
condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness
rather than light. This is the great crime of multitudes--the gospel is
revealed to them, and they will not believe it; or, if they pretend to
believe it, they will not obey it. Note, Believing the truths of the
gospel is in order to our obeying the precepts of the gospel: there
must be the obedience of faith. To such persons as are here mentioned
the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ will be terrible, because of
their doom, which is mentioned,
2 Thessalonians 1:9.
(1.) They will then be punished. Though sinners may be long reprieved,
yet they will be punished at last. Their misery will be a proper
punishment for their crimes, and only what they have deserved. They
did sin's work, and must receive sin's wages.
(2.) Their punishment will be no less than destruction, not of their
being, but of their bliss; not that of the body alone, but both as to
body and soul.
(3.) This destruction will be everlasting. They shall be always dying,
and yet never die. Their misery will run parallel with the line of
eternity. The chains of darkness are everlasting chains, and the fire
is everlasting fire. It must needs be so, since the punishment is
inflicted by an eternal God, fastening upon an immortal soul, set out
of the reach of divine mercy and grace.
(4.) This destruction shall come from the presence of the Lord,
that is, immediately from God himself. Here God punishes sinners by
creatures, by instruments; but then he will take the work into his own
hands. It will be destruction from the Almighty, more terrible than the
consuming fire which consumed Nadab and Abihu, which came from before
(5.) It shall come from the glory of his power, or from his
glorious power. Not only the justice of God, but this almighty power,
will be glorified in the destruction of sinners; and who knows the
power of his anger? He is able to cast into hell.
Secondly, It will be a joyful day to some, even to the saints,
unto those that believe and obey the gospel. And then the apostle's
testimony concerning this day will be confirmed and believed
(2 Thessalonians 1:10);
in that bright and blessed day,
1. Christ Jesus will be glorified and admired by his saints. They will
behold his glory, and admire it with pleasure; they will glorify his
grace, and admire the wonders of his power and goodness towards them,
and sing hallelujahs to him in that day of his triumph, for their
complete victory and happiness.
2. Christ will be glorified and admired in them. His grace and power
will then be manifested and magnified, when it shall appear what he has
purchased for, and wrought in, and bestowed upon, all those who believe
in him. As his wrath and power will be made known in and by the
destruction of his enemies, so his grace and power will be magnified in
the salvation of his saints. Note, Christ's dealings with those who
believe will be what the world one day shall wonder at. Now, they are a
wonder to many; but how will they be wondered at in this great and
glorious day; or, rather, how will Christ, whose name is Wonderful, be
admired, when the mystery of God shall be finished! Christ will not be
so much admired in the glorious esteem of angels that he will bring
from heaven with him as in the many saints, the many sons, that
he will bring to glory.
The Apostle Prayer.
A. D. 52.
11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would
count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good
pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in
you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the
Lord Jesus Christ.
In these verses the apostle again tells the Thessalonians of his
earnest and constant prayer for them. He could not be present with
them, yet he had a constant remembrance of them; they were much upon
his thoughts; he wished them well, and could not express his good-will
and good wishes to them better than in earnest constant prayer to God
for them: Wherefore also we pray, &c. Note, The believing
thoughts and expectation of the second coming of Christ should put us
upon prayer to God for ourselves and others. We should watch and pray,
so our Saviour directs his disciples
Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be counted worthy to
stand before the Son of man. Observe,
I. What the apostle prayed for,
2 Thessalonians 1:11.
It is a great concern to be well instructed what to pray for; and
without divine instruction we know not what to pray for, as without
divine assistance we shall not pray in such a manner as we ought. Our
prayers should be suitable to our expectations. Thus the apostle prays
1. That God would begin his good work of grace in them; so we may
understand this expression: That our God would count you (or, as
it might be read, make you) worthy of this calling. We are
called with a high and holy calling; we are called to God's kingdom and
glory; and no less than the inheritance of the saints is the hope of
our calling, nothing less than the enjoyment of that glory and felicity
which shall be revealed when Christ Jesus shall be revealed from
heaven. Now, if this be our calling, our great concern should be to be
worthy of it, or meet and prepared for this glory: and because we have
no worthiness of our own, but what is owing purely to the grace of God,
we should pray that he would make us worthy, and then count us worthy,
of this calling, or that he would make us meet to partake of the
inheritance of the saints in light,
2. That God would carry on the good work that is begun, and fulfil
all the good pleasure of his goodness. The good pleasure of God
denotes his gracious purposes towards his people, which flow from his
goodness, and are full of goodness towards them; and it is thence that
all good comes to us. If there be any good in us, it is the fruit of
God's good-will to us, it is owing to the good pleasure of his
goodness, and therefore is called grace. Now, there are various and
manifold purposes of grace and good-will in God towards his people; and
the apostle prays that all of them may be fulfilled or accomplished
towards these Thessalonians. There are several good works of grace
begun in the hearts of God's people, which proceed from this good
pleasure of God's goodness, and we should desire that they may be
completed and perfected. In particular, the apostle prays that God
would fulfil in them the work of faith with power. Note,
(1.) The fulfilling of the work of faith is in order to the fulfilling
of every other good work. And,
(2.) It is the power of God that not only begins, but that carries on
and perfects the work of faith.
II. Why the apostle prayed for these things
(2 Thessalonians 1:12):
That the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified; this is the
end we should aim at in every thing we do and desire, that God and
Christ in all things may be glorified. Our own happiness and that of
others should be subordinate to this ultimate end. Our good works
should so shine before men that others may glorify God, that Christ may
be glorified in and by us, and then we shall be glorified in and with
him. And this is the great end and design of the grace of our God and
the Lord Jesus Christ, which is manifested to us and wrought in us. Or
thus: it is according to the grace of God and Christ, that is, it is an
agreeable thing, considering the grace that is manifested to us and
bestowed on us, by God and Christ, that we direct all we do to the
glory of our Creator and Redeemer.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '2 Thessalonians' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".