Second Thessalonians seems to have been written shortly after 1 Thessalonians, in response to some follow-up questions the church had for Paul based on his former letter. Given the travel time between Thessalonica and Corinth, where Paul wrote the first letter (compare Acts 17:15; 18:5 with 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6), it is likely that Timothy could have delivered 1 Thessalonians and returned to Paul with their questions in just a couple of months, so A.D 51 or 52 is the probable timeframe.
As with the first letter, Paul included Silvanus and Timothy in his greeting, as they were instrumental in getting the Macedonian churches started (Thessalonica, Berea, and others). It seems the specific reason for their letter was that the Thessalonians had received information that pretended to come from Paul, contradicting what he had previously taught them about the end times, specifically the coming Great Tribulation and satanic world ruler. Paul wrote this letter to remind them of his former teachings and to clarify a few other matters.
Chapter one begins with a similar theme as in 1 Thessalonians – Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the believers’ continued growth and public faith (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). In 1 Thessalonians Paul did not find it necessary to tell others about the Thessalonian believers, because their reputation preceded him wherever he went (1 Thessalonians 1:7-10). In this letter he said that he was able to “boast” about them “in the churches of God” because of how they were persevering “in all the persecutions and afflictions” that they had to endure. Similar to other passages in his later writings, Paul noted that present suffering prepares believers for the coming kingdom, where someday we will find our “rest” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7). 1 He also reminded them that God will “repay with affliction those who afflict” them. One wonders if Paul often thought of the many psalms in which David called to the Lord to deliver him from his enemies and encouraged his readers, “Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed!” (Psalm 37:1)
Paul greatly looked forward to the day when Jesus would finally return as judge. Paul had already noted that those who afflict Christians “are displeasing to God and are opposed to all people…[and] constantly fill up their measure of sins” (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16). These, he wrote again, “will undergo eternal destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Specifically, and most importantly to Paul, they would forever be “away from the presence of the Lord,” the presence he so greatly anticipated (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:17; 5:23). Paul’s greatest prayer for his Thessalonian friends was that they would be worthy of the Savior at his coming, something Paul was convinced God himself would make sure of (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
- The Millennial / Messianic Kingdom described in terms of rest is a major aspect of the book of Hebrews. ↩