New Testament Lesson 43 (1 & 2 Thessalonians)
The Epistles To Thessalonica
● Paul visited Thessalonica early in his second missionary journey and taught them for 3 weeks.
● He and his companions were driven from Thessalonica by Jews who rejected the message of Christ’s atonement and resurrection.
● Nevertheless, the gospel did take root there among some Jews and Gentiles.
● Knowing of constant persecution of members there, he sent Timothy and Silvanus (Silas) to check on the Saints (1 Thess. 3:2; Acts 17:15; 18:5).
● When they returned from their trip, they brought Paul a favorable report (1 Thess. 3:6).
● 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the first (chronologically) of Paul’s surviving epistles.
● The letters to the Thessalonians were, as nearly as can be determined, written from Corinth several months after Paul had left Macedonia, probably near the close of AD 52.
● The main theme of 1st Thessalonians is the Second Coming.
● The members at Thessalonica had doctrinal questions about the Second Coming:
— The order of resurrection in relation to the Lord’s coming in explained.
— Whether faithful Saints who died before the Second Coming would be damned.
Remaining Faithful To The End
● Paul’s introductions to each of his epistles are all quite similar. They mention God the Father and (separately) his Son Jesus Christ ( 1 Thess. 1:1).
● Praise for their faithfulness despite affliction. He also promised them deliverance from “the wrath to come,” which is “the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come.” (D&C 88:85) (1 Thess. 1:2–10).
● Paul reminded them of the way he preached the gospel unto them (1 Thess. 2:1–10).
— v. 2 Speaking the Gospel “with much contention” means with much opposition.
● Paul’s motivation was to see them exalted in the Kingdom of God (1 Thess. 2:17–20).
● Paul taught that tribulation is an inescapable part of mortal experience (D&C 58:2–4) (1 Thess. 3:1–5).
● What does it mean to be “sanctified?”
Bruce R. McConkie said: “To be sanctified is to become clean, pure, and spotless; to be freed from the blood and sins of the world; to become a new creature of the Holy Ghost, one whose body has been renewed by the rebirth of the Spirit. Sanctification is a state of saintliness, a state attained only by conformity to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The plan of salvation is the system and means provided whereby men may sanctify their souls and thereby become worthy of a celestial inheritance.”1
What Must We Do to Become Sanctified?
● Men and women must control their bodies and treat them with honor. Concupiscence is Latin for “passion” or “to desire ardently” (1 Thess. 4:3–5).
● Saints must avoid taking undue interest in other people’s affairs and live lives of brotherly love, quiet dignity, honesty, and work (1 Thess. 4:6–12).
● We must improve our relationships with our fellow men (1 Thess. 5:11–15).
● We must Honor (sustain) ecclesiastical leaders who preside over us (vv. 12–13).
● “Feebleminded” means “faint-hearted”—those who lack courage or resolution to live the gospel (v. 14).
● We must Improve our relationship with God (1 Thess. 5:16–22).
● Quench not the Spirit: “In the true Church there will always be powerful manifestations of the Spirit of God. Inclinations to bridle and submerge these is of the world” (v. 19).2
● Paul’s promise is that if we do this, then God will sanctify us, making it possible for our “whole spirit and soul and body [to] be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 23).
● To “greet all the brethren with an holy kiss” means with a “holy salutation” (v. 26).
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
● Paul’s teachings concerning salvation for the dead (1 Thess. 4:13–18).
— v. 15 indicates that these teachings came from the Savior.
● Paul’s teachings about preparing for the Second Coming (1 Thess. 5:1–10).
— v. 2 “Day of the Lord” is an Old Testament phrase meaning when God will come with judgment—in other words, the Second Coming.
— v. 2 “As a thief in the night” means “unexpectedly.” JST Luke 12:44 confirms that Jesus himself used this expression, and also told more about the Second Coming than most versions of the New Testament disclose.
— The “children of the night” are the people of the world who dwell in darkness. Therefore they will not “see” the signs which herald the approach of this great event. The “day of the Lord” shall be a dreadful day for them.
— The “children of the day” are those who dwell in light and truth. They “see” the warning signs and therefore are spiritually prepared for the coming of Jesus. For them, the “day of the Lord” shall be a great day.
— v. 10 “Whether we wake or sleep” means whether dead or alive.
● Paul’s first letter to Thessalonica did not resolve all their questions about the Second Coming.
● He also learned that persecution of the Church had not abated, but the members had followed his counsel and rallied around one another (2 Thess. 1:3–4).
● To end speculation about the precise time of the Second Coming, Paul taught that a great rebellion or apostasy from the Lord’s true Church must precede it.
● 2 Thess. 1:9 Bruce R. McConkie said: [To experience everlasting destruction is to partake of spiritual death], “which is to be cast out of the presence of God and to die as pertaining to the things of righteousness.”3
The Great Apostasy
● A great apostasy will precede the Second Coming (2 Thess. 2:1–7).
— v. 2 “Letter as from us” suggests that phony letters were circulating
— v. 3 “Falling away” sounds gradual and passive; the Greek word is apostasia, which means to “revolt.”
— v. 3 “That man of sin” is Satan.
— v. 3 “The Son of perdition” also means Satan and his followers. The word perdition is derived from the Latin perditus, meaning “to destroy,” and is a title given to Satan (D&C 76:26), and also to Cain (Moses 5:24).
Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Satan and those with him who rebelled against God in heaven and were cast out are known as sons of perdition. These rebellious spirits “chose evil by choice after having had the light. While dwelling in the presence of God they knowingly entered into their rebellion. Their mission on earth is to attempt to destroy the souls of men and make them miserable as they themselves are miserable.”4
— v. 4 “The temple of God” in this case is the body of believers, that is, the Church.
— v. 7 “The mystery of iniquity doth already work” means the Great Apostasy was already under way by the time of Paul’s ministry.
— v. 7 “Until he be taken out of the way” refers to Satan, who was and still is causing misery, unhappiness, and sin throughout the world. He will continue to do so until he is bound by the Lord at the beginning of the Millennium.5
● The evil one and all things evil will be destroyed at the Lord’s appearance (2 Thess. 2:8–12).
— v. 9 Satan has power to produce false signs and wonders.
— He has the ability to imitate the miracles of God.
— He has power over the elements.
— He is a master of deceit.
— He can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor.11: 14).
— He has the gift of tongues.
— Those spirits who follow Satan have these same capacities in lesser degrees (Rev. 16:14).
— In all this, “the power of the devil is limited; [and] the power of God is unlimited.”6
— v. 10 God allows men who “receive not the love of truth” to be deluded.
— v. 11 In other words, God shall leave them and allow them to believe a lie.
— David O. McKay said: “If man is to be rewarded for righteousness and punished for evil, then common justice demands that he be given the power of independent action. A knowledge of good and evil is essential to man’s progress on earth. If he were coerced to do right at all times, or were helplessly enticed to commit sin, he would merit neither a blessing for the first nor punishment for the second . . .
“God is standing in the shadow of eternity, it seems to me, deploring the inevitable results of the follies, the transgressions and the sins of His wayward children, but we cannot blame Him for these any more than we can blame a father who might say to his son, ‘There are two roads, my son, one leading to the right, one leading to the left. If you take the one to the right it will lead you to success and to happiness. If you take the one to the left it will bring upon you misery and unhappiness and perhaps death, but you choose which you will. You must choose; I will not force either upon you.’. .”7
Separating from the Wicked
● We are to withdraw from those who “behave disorderly” (2 Thess. 3:6–7).
Bruce R. McConkie said: “Enemies from within, traitors to the Cause, cultists who pervert the doctrines and practices which lead to salvation, often draw others away with them, and added souls lose their anticipated inheritance in the heavenly kingdom. When cultists and enemies become fixed in their opposition to the Church, and when they seek to convert others to their diverse positions, the course of wisdom is to avoid them, as Paul here directs, and to leave them in the Lord’s hands.”8
● Some members were passively waiting for the Second Coming and did not want to work. But work is a commandment (2 Thess. 3:8–15).
Bruce R. McConkie said: “Even Paul and his ministerial associates, who were in fact entitled to temporal help from the Saints, chose to set an example of self-support. There are perils in a paid ministry.”9
● Paul closes with a blessing of “peace always” (2 Thess. 3:16),
Important Historical Information
● 2 Thess. 3:17–18 Paul’s usually dictated his epistles to a scribe and then added a few words in his own handwriting. This is a typical handwritten note from Paul at the end of an epistle.
● 2 Thess. 3:18 This is historical information possibly added later by a scribe rather than by Paul. And it is not correct. Both of Paul’s letters to Thessalonica were written from Corinth, not from Athens.
● “The Day of Wrath to Come.” (1Thess. 1:2–10)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “It seems to be deeply impressed upon our minds that the Saints ought to lay hold of every door that shall seem to be opened unto them, to obtain foothold on the earth, and be making all the preparation that is within their power for the terrible storms that are now gathering in the heavens, ‘a day of clouds, with darkness and gloominess, and of thick darkness,’ as spoken of by the Prophets which cannot be now of along time lingering . . .”10
Brigham Young asked: “Are you prepared for the day of vengeance to come, when the Lord will consume the wicked by the brightness of his coming? No. Then do not be too anxious for the Lord to hasten his work. Let our anxiety be centered upon this one thing, the sanctification of our own hearts, the purifying of our own affections, the preparing of ourselves for the approach of the events that are hastening upon us. This should be our concern, this should be our study, this should be our daily prayer. . . .Seek to have the spirit of Christ, that we may wait patiently the time of the Lord, and prepare ourselves for the times that are coming This is our duty.”11
● Sustaining Our Church Leaders.
David B. Haight said: “When we sustain the President of the Church by our uplifted hand, it not only signifies that we acknowledge before God that he is the rightful possessor of all the priesthood keys; it means that we covenant with God that we will abide by the direction and the counsel that come through His prophet. It is a solemn covenant.”12
John Taylor said: “We hold up our right hand when voting in token before God that we will sustain those for whom we vote; and if we cannot feel to sustain them we ought not to hold up our hands, because to do this, would be to act the part of hypocrites. . . . For when we lift up our hands in this way, it is in token to God that we are sincere in what we do, and that we will sustain the parties we vote for. . . . If we agree to do a thing and do not do it, we become covenant breakers and violators of our obligations, which are, perhaps, as solemn and binding as anything we can enter into.”13
Jeffrey R. Holland said: “It is no small thing to ‘sustain’ another person. The word literally means to ‘uphold’ or, if you prefer, to ‘hold up.’ When we sustain life, we nourish it, we keep it going. When we sustain a friend or a neighbor or a stranger in the street, we give support, we share strength, we provide help. We hold each other up under the weight of present circumstance. We bear one another’s burdens under the heavy personal pressures of life.”14
● When Will the Second Coming Occur? (1 Thess. 5:2)
Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I do not know when he is going to come. No man knows. Even the angels of heaven are in the dark in regard to that great truth. [See Matthew 24:36, 37.] But this I know, that the signs that have been pointed out are here. The earth is full of calamity, of trouble. The hearts of men are failing them. We see the signs as we see the fig tree putting forth her leaves; and knowing this time is near, it behooves you, and all men upon the face of the earth, to pay heed to the words of Christ, to his apostles and watch, for we know not the day nor the hour. But I tell you this, it shall come as a thief in the night, when many of us will not be ready for it.”15
● “The Mystery of Iniquity.” (2 Thess. 2:7)
James E. Talmage said: “The expression ‘mystery of iniquity’ as used by Paul is significant. Prominent among the early perverters of the Christian faith were those who assailed its simplicity and lack of exclusiveness. This simplicity was so different from the mysteries of Judaism and the mysterious rites of heathen idolatry as to be disappointing to many; and the earliest changes in the Christian form of worship were marked by the introduction of mystic ceremonies.”16
● “The Peace of Christ.” (2 Thess. 3:16)
David O. McKay said: “The peace of Christ does not come by seeking the superficial things of life, neither does it come except as it springs from the individual’s heart. Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you . . . ‘ (John 14:27). Thus the Son of Man, the executor of his own will and testament, gave to his disciples and to mankind the ‘first of all human blessings.’ It was a bequest conditioned upon obedience to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is thus bequeathed to each individual. No man is at peace with himself, who transgresses the law of right either in dealing with himself by indulging in passion, in appetite, yielding to temptations against his accusing conscience, or in dealing with his fellow men, being untrue to their trust. Peace does not come to the transgressor of law; peace comes by obedience to law; and it is that message which Jesus would have us proclaim among men.”17
1. Mormon Doctrine, 675.
2. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:58.
3. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:61.
4. Doctrines of Salvation, 2:219.
5. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:63.
6. Discourses of Brigham Young, 68.
7. Pathways to Happiness, 90–91, 93.
8. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:66.
9. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:67.
10. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 141.
11. Deseret News, Salt Lake City, 1 May 1861.
12. “Solemn Assemblies,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 14–15.
13. Journal of Discourses, 21:207.
14. “He Loved Them unto the End,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 25.
15. Doctrines of Salvation, 3:52–53.
16. The Great Apostasy, 41–42.
17. In Conference Report, Oct. 1938, 133.