2 Thessalonians is a follow-up letter to 1 Thessalonians. The Apostle Paul probably wrote 1 Thessalonians from the Greek city of Corinth, when Timothy came to him with news that the Thessalonians were withstanding persecution and continuing in the faith. Corinth is in southern Greece, about 350 miles south of Thessalonica, which was in Macedonia.The first letter to the Thessalonians communicated Paul’s anxiety for their spiritual wellbeing prior to hearing Timothy’s report, his joy to learn from Timothy that they were doing well, his encouragement that they increase all the more in their love for one another, some ways in which they could mature in their faith, as well as clearing up a question about Christ’s second coming. The Thessalonians were concerned that if any of them died physically before Jesus came back, they would miss out on being with Jesus. Paul answered that concern, and explicitly tells them that believers who have died will be raised back to life and will join Jesus when He returns in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
This second letter to the Thessalonians was likely written soon after the first, and it proceeds to further clarify questions the Thessalonians had about the end times, and about Jesus’s return. In it, Paul also underscores the importance of working hard and not being a burden on other people, because it seems that some of the Thessalonians weren’t earning their own way. They probably reasoned that since Jesus was coming back soon, they should sit around and wait for His return. Paul condemns this and urges the Thessalonians to live a disciplined life and continue to work diligently as preparation; to be ready for Jesus to come back any day, and be living a life that pleases Him upon His return.
Someone has deceived the Thessalonians into believing that that the Day of the Lord had come already and that they had missed Jesus’s return to earth. Paul reminds them of what he taught when he was with them: before Christ returns to earth, the ultimate enemy of God—the antichrist—will first declare himself to be God and seat himself in the temple in Jerusalem before the Day of the Lord occurs.
For now, something holds the antichrist back from rising to power. This greater power that restrains him, which is probably the Holy Spirit and the church, will eventually be removed from the earth and the antichrist will take over the world. It is Satan who will work through this evil ruler. Together they will display power, wonders, and false miracles. They will deceive many people. But God will return and by His presence He will slay this enemy and judge the people who did not believe in Jesus, but chose sin and rebellion.
The Thessalonians should remember God’s love for them, how He chose them to be saved from sin and death, and be justified in His sight. Now they have the amazing opportunity to walk in a sanctified manner, and to become Christlike through obedience and faith. Paul reminds them that as God’s children, they have the incredible opportunity to share in Jesus’s glory as ruler over earth when He returns, if they stand firm and follow Paul’s teaching. Paul has countered several deceptions in both of his letters to the Thessalonians, so the point is very clear that the believers in Thessalonica need to rely on Paul as an authority in truth, not whoever keeps attempting to dissuade them through false teaching. They should be comforted by focusing on their identity in Christ and living out good works and speaking good words to one another.