The apostle is very careful to hinder the spreading of an error into
which some among them had fallen concerning the coming of Christ, as
being very near,
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
Then he proceeds to confute the error he cautioned them against, by
telling them of two great events that were antecedent to the coming of
Christ--a general apostasy, and the revelation of antichrist, concerning
whom the apostle tells them many remarkable things, about his name, his
character, his rise, his fall, his reign, and the sin and ruin of his
2 Thessalonians 2:4-12.
He then comforts them against the terror of this apostasy, and exhorts
them to stedfastness,
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.
And concludes with a prayer for them,
2 Thessalonians 2:16,17.
Cautions against False Alarm.
A. D. 52.
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither
by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day
of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means--
From these words it appears that some among the Thessalonians had
mistaken the apostle's meaning, in what he had written in his former
epistle about the coming of Christ, by thinking that it was near at
hand,--that Christ was just ready to appear and come to judgment. Or, it
may be, some among them pretended that they had the knowledge of this
by particular revelation from the Spirit, or from some words they had
heard from the apostle, when he was with them, or some letter he had
written or they pretended he had written to them or some other person:
and hereupon the apostle is careful to rectify this mistake, and to
prevent the spreading of this error. Observe, If errors and mistakes
arise among Christians, we should take the first opportunity to rectify
them, and hinder the spreading thereof; and good men will be especially
careful to suppress errors that may arise from a mistake of their words
and actions, though that which was spoken or done was ever so innocent
or well. We have a subtle adversary, who watches all opportunities to
do mischief, and will sometimes promote errors even by means of the
words of scripture. Observe,
I. How very earnest and solicitous this apostle was to prevent
mistakes: We beseech you, brethren, &c.,
2 Thessalonians 2:1.
He entreats them as brethren who might have charged them as a father
charges his children: he shows great kindness and condescension, and
insinuates himself into their affections. And this is the best way to
deal with men when we would preserve or recover them from errors, to
deal gently and affectionately with them: rough and rigorous treatment
will but exasperate their spirits, and prejudice them against the
reasons we may offer. He obtests and even conjures them in the most
solemn manner: By the coming of Christ, &c. The words are in the
form of an oath; and his meaning is that if they believed Christ would
come, and if they desired he would come, and rejoiced in the hope of
his coming, they should be careful to avoid the error, and the evil
consequences of it, against which he was now cautioning them. From this
form of obtestation used by the apostle, we may observe,
1. It is most certain that the Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge the
world, that he will come in all the pomp and power of the upper world
in the last day, to execute judgment upon all. Whatever uncertainty we
are at, or whatever mistakes may arise about the time of his coming,
his coming itself is certain. This has been the faith and hope of all
Christians in all ages of the church; nay, it was the faith and hope of
the Old-Testament saints, ever since Enoch the seventh from Adam, who
said, Behold, the Lord cometh, &c.,
2. At the second coming of Christ all the saints will be gathered
together to him; and this mention of the gathering of the saints
together unto Christ at his coming shows that the apostle speaks of
Christ's coming to judgment day, and not of his coming to destroy
Jerusalem. He speaks of a proper, and not a metaphorical advent: and,
as it will be part of Christ's honour in that day, so it will be the
completing of the happiness of his saints.
(1.) That they all shall be gathered together. There will then be a
general meeting of all the saints, and none but saints; all the
Old-Testament saints, who got acquaintance with Christ by the dark
shadows of the law, and saw this day at a distance; and all the
New-Testament saints, to whom life and immortality were brought to
light by the gospel; they will all be gathered together. There will
then come from the four winds of heaven all that are, or ever were, or
ever shall be, from the beginning to the end of time. All shall be
(2.) That they shall be gathered together to Christ. He will be
the great centre of their unity. They shall be gathered together to
him, to be attendants on him, to be assessors with him, to be presented
by him to the Father, to be with him for ever, and altogether happy in
his presence to all eternity.
(3.) The doctrine of Christ's coming and our gathering together to him
is of a great moment and importance to Christians; otherwise it would
not be the proper matter of the apostle's obtestation. We ought
therefore not only to believe these things, but highly to account of
them also, and look upon them as things we are greatly concerned in and
should be much affected with.
II. The thing itself against which the apostle cautions the
Thessalonians is that they should not be deceived about the time of
Christ's coming, and so be shaken in mind, or be troubled. Note,
Errors in the mind tend greatly to weaken our faith, and cause us
trouble; and such as are weak in faith and of troubled minds are
oftentimes apt to be deceived, and fall a prey to seducers.
1. The apostle would not have them be deceived: Let no man deceive
you by any means,
2 Thessalonians 2:3.
There are many who lie in wait to deceive, and they have many ways of
deceiving; we have reason therefore to be cautious and stand upon our
guard. Some deceivers will pretend new revelations, others misinterpret
scripture, and others will be guilty of gross forgeries; divers means
and artifices of deceit men will use; but we must be careful that no
man deceive us by any means. The particular matter in which the apostle
cautions them not to be deceived is about the near approach of Christ's
coming, as if it was to have been in the apostle's days; and harmless
as this error might seem to many, yet, because it was indeed an error,
it would have proved of bad consequences to many persons. Therefore,
2. He gives them warning, and would not have them be soon shaken in
mind, nor be troubled.
(1.) He would not have their faith weakened. We should firmly believe
the second coming of Christ, and be settled and established in the
faith of this; but there was danger lest the Thessalonians, if they
apprehended the coming of Christ was just at hand, upon finding that
they, or others whom they too much regarded, were mistaken as to the
time, should thereupon question the truth or certainty of the thing
itself; whereas they ought not to waver in their minds as to this great
thing, which is the faith and hope of all the saints. False doctrines
are like winds, that toss the water to and fro, and they are apt to
unsettle the minds of men, who are sometimes as unstable as water.
(2.) He would not have their comforts lessened, that they should not be
troubled nor affrighted with false alarms. It is probable that the
coming of Christ was represented in so much terror as to trouble many
serious Christians among them, though in itself it should be matter of
the believer's hope and joy; or else many might be troubled with the
thought how surprising this day would be, or with the fear of their
unpreparedness, or upon the reflection on their mistake about the time
of Christ's coming: we should always watch and pray, but must not be
discouraged nor uncomfortable at the thought of Christ's coming.
A. D. 52.
3 --For that day shall not come, except there come a
falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called
God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the
temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who
now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall
consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the
brightness of his coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with
all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that
perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that
they might be saved.
11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that
they should believe a lie:
12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth,
but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
In these words the apostle confutes the error against which he had
cautioned them, and gives the reasons why they should not expect the
coming of Christ as just at hand. There were several events previous to
the second coming of Christ; in particular, he tells them there would
I. A general apostasy, there would come a falling away first,
2 Thessalonians 2:3.
By this apostasy we are not to understand a defection in the state, or
from civil government, but in spiritual or religious matters, from
sound doctrine, instituted worship and church government, and a holy
life. The apostle speaks of some very great apostasy, not only of some
converted Jews or Gentiles, but such as should be very general, though
gradual, and should give occasion to the revelation of rise of
antichrist, that man of sin. This, he says
(2 Thessalonians 2:5),
he had told them of when he was with them, with design, no doubt, that
they should not take offence nor be stumbled at it. And let us observe
that no sooner was Christianity planted and rooted in the world than
there began to be a defection in the Christian church. It was so in the
Old-Testament church; presently after any considerable advance made in
religion there followed a defection: soon after the promise there was
revolting; for example, soon after men began to call upon the name of
the Lord all flesh corrupted their way,--soon after the covenant with
Noah the Babel-builders bade defiance to heaven,--soon after the
covenant with Abraham his seed degenerated in Egypt,--soon after the
Israelites were planted in Canaan, when the first generation was worn
off, they forsook God and served Baal,--soon after God's covenant with
David his seed revolted, and served other gods,--soon after the return
out of captivity there was a general decay of piety, as appears by the
story of Ezra and Nehemiah; and therefore it was no strange thing that
after the planting of Christianity there should come a falling
II. A revelation of that man of sin, that is
(2 Thessalonians 2:3),
antichrist would take his rise from this general apostasy. The apostle
afterwards speaks of the revelation of that wicked one
(2 Thessalonians 2:8),
intimating the discovery which should be made of his wickedness, in
order to his ruin: here he seems to speak of his rise, which should be
occasioned by the general apostasy he had mentioned, and to intimate
that all sorts of false doctrines and corruptions should centre in him.
Great disputes have been as to who or what is intended by this man of
sin and son of perdition: and, if it be not certain that the papal
power and tyranny are principally or only intended, yet this is plain,
What is here said does very exactly agree thereto. For observe,
1. The names of this person, or rather the state and power here spoken
of. He is called the man of sin, to denote his egregious wickedness;
not only is he addicted to, and practises, wickedness himself, but he
also promotes, countenances, and commands sin and wickedness in others;
and he is the son of perdition, because he himself is devoted to
certain destruction, and is the instrument of destroying many others
both in soul and body. These names may properly be applied, for these
reasons, to the papal state; and thereto agree also,
2. The characters here given,
2 Thessalonians 2:4.
(1.) That he opposes and exalts himself above all that is called
God, or is worshipped; and thus have the bishops of Rome not only
opposed God's authority, and that of the civil magistrates, who are
called gods, but have exalted themselves above God and earthly
governors, in demanding greater regard to their commands than to the
commands of God or the magistrate.
(2.) As God, he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he
is God. As God was in the temple of old, and worshipped there, and
is in and with his church now, so the antichrist here mentioned is some
usurper of God's authority in the Christian church, who claims divine
honours; and to whom can this better apply than to the bishops of Rome,
to whom the most blasphemous titles have been given, as Dominus Deus
noster papa--Our Lord God the pope; Deus alter in terrâ--Another
God on earth; Idem est dominium Dei et papæ--The dominion of God
and the pope is the same?
3. His rise is mentioned,
2 Thessalonians 2:6,7.
Concerning this we are to observe two things:--
(1.) There was something that hindered or withheld, or let, until it
was taken away. This is supposed to be the power of the Roman
empire, which the apostle did not think fit to mention more plainly at
that time; and it is notorious that, while this power continued, it
prevented the advances of the bishops of Rome to that height of tyranny
to which soon afterwards they arrived.
(2.) This mystery of iniquity was gradually to arrive at its height;
and so it was in effect that the universal corruption of doctrine and
worship in the Romish church came in by degrees, and the usurpation of
the bishops of Rome was gradual, not all at once; and thus the mystery
of iniquity did the more easily, and almost insensibly, prevail. The
apostle justly calls it a mystery of iniquity, because wicked
designs and actions were concealed under false shows and pretences, at
least they were concealed from the common view and observation. By
pretended devotion, superstition and idolatry were advanced; and, by a
pretended zeal for God and his glory, bigotry and persecution were
promoted. And he tells us that this mystery of iniquity did even then
begin, or did already work. While the apostles were yet living,
the enemy came, and sowed tares; there were then the deeds of
the Nicolaitans, persons who pretended zeal for Christ, but really
opposed him. Pride, ambition, and worldly interest of church-pastors
and church-rulers, as in Diotrephes and others, were the early working
of the mystery of iniquity, which, by degrees, came to that prodigious
height which has been visible in the church of Rome.
4. The fall or ruin of the antichristian state is declared,
2 Thessalonians 2:8.
The head of this antichristian kingdom is called that wicked
one, or that lawless person who sets up a human power in
competition with, and contradiction to, the divine dominion and power
of the Lord Jesus Christ; but, as he would thus manifest himself to be
the man of sin, so the revelation or discovery of this to the world
would be the sure presage and the means of his ruin. The apostle
assures the Thessalonians that the Lord would consume and destroy him;
the consuming of him precedes his final destruction, and that is by the
Spirit of his mouth, by his word of command; the pure word of
God, accompanied with the Spirit of God, will discover this mystery of
iniquity, and make the power of antichrist to consume and waste away;
and in due time it will be totally and finally destroyed, and this will
be by the brightness of Christ's coming. Note, The coming of Christ to
destroy the wicked will be with peculiar glory and eminent lustre and
5. The apostle further describes the reign and rule of this man of sin.
Here we are to observe,
(1.) The manner of his coming, or ruling, and working: in general, that
it is after the example of Satan, the grand enemy of souls, the great
adversary of God and man. He is the great patron of error and lies, the
sworn enemy of the truth as it is in Jesus and all the faithful
followers of Jesus. More particularly, it is with Satanical power and
deceit. A divine power is pretended for the support of this kingdom,
but it is only after the working of Satan. Signs and wonders, visions
and miracles, are pretended; by these the papal kingdom was first set
up, and has all along been kept up, but they have false signs to
support false doctrines; and lying wonders, or only pretended miracles
that have served their cause, things false in fact, or fraudulently
managed, to impose upon the people: and the diabolical deceits with
which the antichristian state has been supported are notorious. The
apostle calls it all deceivableness of unrighteousness,
2 Thessalonians 2:10.
Others may call them pious frauds, but the apostle called them
unrighteous and wicked frauds; and, indeed, all fraud (which is
contrary to truth) is an impious thing. Many are the subtle artifices
the man of sin has used, and various are the plausible pretences by
which he had beguiled unwary and unstable souls to embrace false
doctrines, and submit to his usurped dominion.
(2.) The persons are described who are his willing subjects, or most
likely to become such,
2 Thessalonians 2:10.
They are such as love not the truth that they may be saved. They
heard the truth (it may be), but they did not love it; they could not
bear sound doctrine, and therefore easily imbibed false doctrines; they
had some notional knowledge of what was true, but they indulged some
powerful prejudices, and so became a prey to seducers. Had they loved
the truth, they would have persevered in it, and been preserved by it;
but no wonder if they easily parted with what they never had any love
to. And of these persons it is said that they perish or are lost; they
are in a lost condition, and in danger to be lost for ever. For,
6. We have the sin and ruin of the subjects of antichrist's
2 Thessalonians 2:11,12.
(1.) Their sin is this: They believed not the truth, but had
pleasure in unrighteousness: they did not love the truth, and
therefore they did not believe it; and, because they did not believe
the truth, therefore they had pleasure in unrighteousness, or in wicked
actions, and were pleased with false notions. Note, An erroneous mind
and vicious life often go together and help forward one another.
(2.) Their ruin is thus expressed: God shall send them strong
delusions, to believe a lie. Thus he will punish men for their
unbelief, and for their dislike of the truth and love to sin and
wickedness; not that God is the author of sin, but in righteousness he
sometimes withdraws his grace from such sinners as are here mentioned;
he gives them over to Satan, or leaves them to be deluded by his
instruments; he gives them up to their own hearts' lusts, and leaves
them to themselves, and then sin will follow of course, yea, the worst
of wickedness, that shall end at last in eternal damnation. God is just
when he inflicts spiritual judgments here, and eternal punishments
hereafter, upon those who have no love to the truths of the gospel, who
will not believe them, nor live suitably to them, but indulge false
doctrines in their minds, and wicked practices in their lives and
A. D. 52.
13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you,
brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning
chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and
belief of the truth:
14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of
the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions
which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
I. The consolation the Thessalonians might take against the terrors of
2 Thessalonians 2:13,14.
For they were chosen to salvation, and called to the obtaining of
glory. Note, When we hear of the apostasy of many, it is matter of
great comfort and joy that there is a remnant according to the election
of grace which does and shall persevere; and especially we should
rejoice if we have reason to hope that we are of that number. The
apostle reckoned himself bound in duty to be thankful to God on this
account: We are bound to give thanks to God always for you. He
had often given thanks on their behalf, and he is still abounding in
thanksgiving for them; and there was good reason, because they were
beloved by the Lord, as appeared in this matter--their security from
apostatizing. This preservation of the saints is owing,
1. To the stability of the election of grace,
2 Thessalonians 2:13.
Therefore were they beloved of the Lord, because God had chosen them
from the beginning. He had loved them with an everlasting love.
Concerning this election of God we may observe,
(1.) The eternal date of it--it is from the beginning; not the
beginning of the gospel, but the beginning of the world, before the
foundation of the world,
(2.) The end to which they were chosen--salvation, complete and eternal
salvation from sin and misery, and the full fruition of all good.
(3.) The means in order to obtaining this end--sanctification of the
spirit and belief of the truth. The decree of election therefore
connects the end and the means, and these must not be separated. We are
not the elected of God because we were holy, but that we might be holy.
Being chosen of God, we must not live as we list; but, if we are chosen
to salvation as the end, we must be prepared for it by sanctification
as the necessary means to obtain that end, which sanctification is by
the operation of the Holy Spirit as the author and by faith on our
part. There must be the belief of the truth, without which there can
be by true sanctification, nor perseverance in grace, nor obtaining of
salvation. Faith and holiness must be joined together, as well as
holiness and happiness; therefore our Saviour prayed for Peter that his
faith might not fail
and for his disciples
Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth.
2. To the efficacy of the gospel call,
2 Thessalonians 2:14.
As they were chosen to salvation, so they were called thereunto by the
gospel. Whom he did predestinate those he also called,
The outward call of God is by the gospel; and this is rendered
effectual by the inward operation of the Spirit. Note, Wherever the
gospel comes it calls and invites men to the obtaining of glory; it is
a call to honour and happiness, even the glory of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the glory he has purchased, and the glory he is possessed
of, to be communicated unto those who believe in him and obey his
gospel; such shall be with Christ, to behold his glory, and they shall
be glorified with Christ and partake of his glory. Hereupon there
II. An exhortation to stedfastness and perseverance: Therefore,
brethren, stand fast,
2 Thessalonians 2:15.
Observe, He does not say, "You are chosen to salvation, and therefore
you may be careless and secure;" but therefore stand fast. God's
grace in our election and vocation is so far from superseding our
diligent care and endeavour that it should quicken and engage us to the
greatest resolution and diligence. So the apostle John having told
those to whom he wrote that they had received the anointing which
should abide in them, and that they should abide in him (in Christ),
subjoins this exhortation, Now abide in him,
1 John ii. 27, 28.
The Thessalonians are exhorted to stedfastness in their Christian
profession, to hold fast the traditions which they had been
taught, or the doctrine of the gospel, which had been delivered by
the apostle, by word or epistle. As yet the canon of scripture was not
complete, and therefore some things were delivered by the apostles in
their preaching, under the guidance of the infallible Spirit, which
Christians were bound to observe as coming from God; other things were
afterwards by them committed to writing, as the apostle had written a
former epistle to these Thessalonians; and these epistles were written
as the writers were moved by the Holy Ghost. Note, There is no
argument hence for regarding oral traditions in our days, now that the
canon of scripture is complete, as of equal authority with the sacred
writings. Such doctrines and duties as were taught by the inspired
apostles we must stedfastly adhere to; but we have no certain evidence
of any thing delivered by them more than what we find contained in the
A. D. 52.
16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father,
which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation
and good hope through grace,
17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and
In these words we have the apostle's earnest prayer for them, in which
I. To whom he prays: Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even
our Father. We may and should direct our prayers, not only to God
the Father, through the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also
to our Lord Jesus Christ himself; and should pray in his name
unto God, not only as his Father but as our Father in and through
II. From what he takes encouragement in his prayer--from the
consideration of what God had already done for him and them: Who
hath loved us, and given us everlasting consolation and good hope
2 Thessalonians 2:16.
1. The love of God is the spring and fountain of all the good we have
or hope for; our election, vocation, justification, and salvation, are
all owing to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
2. From this fountain in particular all our consolation flows. And the
consolation of the saints is an everlasting consolation. The comforts
of the saints are not dying things; they shall not die with them. The
spiritual consolations God gives none shall deprive them of; and God
will not take them away: because he love them with an everlasting love,
therefore they shall have everlasting consolation.
3. Their consolation is founded on the hope of eternal life. They
rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and are not only patient, but
joyful, in tribulations; and there is good reason for these strong
consolations, because the saints have good hope: their hope is grounded
on the love of God, the promise of God, and the experience they have
had of the power, the goodness, and the faithfulness of God, and it is
good hope through grace; the free grace and mercy of God are what they
hope for, and what their hopes are founded on, and not on any worth or
merit of their own.
III. What it is that he asks of God for them--that he would comfort
their hearts, and establish them in every good word and work,
2 Thessalonians 2:17.
God had given them consolations, and he prayed that they might have
more abundant consolation. There was good hope, through grace, that
they would be preserved, and he prayed that they might be established:
it is observable how comfort and establishment are here joined
together. Note therefore,
1. Comfort is a means of establishment; for the more pleasure we take
in the word, and work, and ways of God, the more likely we shall be to
persevere therein. And,
2. Our establishment in the ways of God is a likely means in order to
comfort; whereas, if we are wavering in faith, and of a doubtful mind,
or if we are halting and faltering in our duty, no wonder if we are
strangers to the pleasures and joys of religion. What is it that lies
at the bottom of all our uneasiness, but our unsteadiness in religion?
We must be established in every good word and work, in the word of
truth and the work of righteousness: Christ must be honoured by our
good works and good words; and those who are sincere will endeavour to
do both, and in so doing they may hope for comfort and establishment,
till at length their holiness and happiness be completed.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '2 Thessalonians' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".