Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1196 MP3 Audio File Video File

An Eschatological Epistle

2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

Delivered 12/10/23

Good morning Bereans, this morning we will be finishing up the little epistle of 2 Thessalonians. In my opinion the largest theological contribution of 1 and 2 Thessalonians is in what they say about eschatology. Which is an extremely important subject.

The return of Yeshua is mentioned in every one of the New Testament books except for Galatians (where it is alluded to) and the very short books of second and third John and Philemon. The return of Christ is a major theme of the New Testament. As you study this theme you will find that the first-century church expected the Lord to return in their lifetime. They thought this because Yeshua taught a first- century Parousia, and so did all the New Testament authors.

The theme of the second coming is nowhere stronger than in the epistles to the Thessalonians. Over a quarter of 1 Thessalonians and nearly half of 2 Thessalonians deal with problems and issues regarding the Parousia of Christ. It is obvious that the Lord's return was prominent in Paul's mind, from the beginning to the end of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. This is a subject found in every chapter. Now some may question that statement because it doesn't appear that the second coming is mentioned in chapter 3, but I think it is alluded to. Let's jump into our text.

As Paul wraps up this second letter to these new Thessalonian believers, he offers his fourth prayer for them in three chapters (see 2 Thess. 1:11-12; 2:16-17; 3:5).

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.  2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV

"The Lord of peace"who is this referring to? In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul writes, "may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely". The expression, "the God of peace," referring to God the Father is used five times. But this is the only time the phrase "the Lord of peace," occurs in the New Testament. Notice what Paul says in,

But now in Christ Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility Ephesians 2:13-14 ESV

We know that Yeshua is Lord and he is the Lord of peace. When he was reassuring his disciples on the eve of the crucifixion, He spoke pointedly about peace, saying,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27 ESV

The Lord the Thessalonian believers serve is the Lord of peace and, whatever their circumstances in life, they are to receive,

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Yeshua.  Philippians 4:7 ESV

Paul re-emphasizes the divinity of the Savior when he calls Christ "Lord". The Greek word translated Lord (kourios) comes from the word used to translate "Yahweh", the Hebrew name for God, in the Greek Septuagint version of the Tanakh.

So, the Father is called the God of peace and Yeshua is called the Lord of peace and the fruit of the Spirit is peace.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  Galatians 5:22 ESV

So, all three members of the trinity are the source of peace for believers. The Hebrew concept of "shalom," which was behind Paul's thinking, referred not just to the absence of strife, but to overall well-being or wholeness.

"Himself give you peace at all times in every way"—the pronoun "Himself," is emphatic in the sentence and it's emphasizing His personal involvement in this. The Thessalonians were going through persecution, battling false teaching, and dealing with unruly church members. Each of those situations can create tension and strife in a local church. In this battle, Paul prays for the reality of the Lord's peace continually and in every circumstance.

Peace with God is a gift that comes from Christ through justification by faith Romans 5:1.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua the Christ. Romans 5:1 ESV

Paul is addressing believers, the family of God. "Since we have been justified by faith" (the Greek here uses the aorist passive "having been justified"). The aorist points to a past act by God (divine passive) to declare sinners righteous. "Since we have been justified" indicates that God has already accomplished this work.

"We have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua the Christ." What does peace with God mean? It means the war is over. It means that God is no longer our enemy and is no longer promising judgment and death. Peace with God is the new status between God and the believer which flows from the reconciliation accomplished in Christ. By virtue of Christ's death on the cross, it is possible for men who are separated from God to become the friends of God and to have peace with God. Peace is one of the fundamental characteristics of the Messianic Kingdom anticipated in the Tanakh and fulfilled in the New Testament.

"Peace at all times in every way"—peace with God also results in inner peace even in difficult situations. It's that confidence that everything is right between myself and God and He is lovingly in control of every aspect of my life in time and eternity.

"The Lord be with you all"—Paul gives what Jewish-Christians would have recognized as an echo of the ancient Aaronic blessing. We see this in Numbers 6.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them." Numbers 6:22-27 ESV

This idea here in the Hebrew is that the priest is to take Yahweh's name and put it on the people. How does he do that? By taking His character and putting it on the people. In the previous verses the Aaronic blessing spells out the character of Yahweh.

This helps us see that peace is an attribute of God. He has no lack of perfect peace in His being. God is at all times at perfect peace. God is never stressed. God is never in anxiety. God never worries, God lives in perfect calm, God lives in perfect tranquility, God lives in perfect contentment. Why? Because He's in charge of everything and He can operate everything perfectly according to His own will exactly the way He wants it all the time. There is nothing in the entire universe that goes on that He is not controlling.

This prayer should be understood as a petition that the Lord would bring an end to the conflict the Thessalonians were experiencing.  The nature of the prayer stands in contrast with the agonizing situation that the church was dealing with.

False doctrine causes anxiety and destroys peace. Paul's earlier prayer about the "God of peace" (1 Thess 5: 23) comes directly after a warning to avoid every evil kind of false teaching (5: 22).  We see the anxiety today that the false teaching of Zionism causes. How many today are anxious because of what is happening in the Middle East? People thinking it's about start world war 3, or the great tribulation or the day of the Lord, all because of false teaching.

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.  2 Thessalonians 3:17 ESV

Paul dictated this letter and as he comes to the very end he takes the pen away from his amanuensis or his secretary and with his own hands he writes, "I am writing this greeting with my own hand and this is the sign off genuineness in every letter of mine."

Paul's amanuensis was probably Silvanus, who we know was with Paul, and who most likely acted as Paul's secretary. We know that Peter used Silas as his amanuensis.

By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.  1 Peter 5:12 ESV

Paul's personal signature and closing remarks authenticate the letter. He did this in other letters (1 Cor. 16:21 and Col 4:18), but this time his intention may be to dispel any concerns that the letter is legitimately from him. This is because they had earlier received a forged letter that claimed to come from Paul containing false teaching, and he now intends to sign every letter himself, so there is no question that it came from him.

This false teaching that he is talking about has to do with the second coming. It doesn't appear that chapter 3 has anything to do with eschatology until we understand why he now uses "the sign of genuineness in every letter." They had gotten a letter from someone telling them that the day of the Lord had come.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV

The word "letter" here is epistolē and this is the same word that Paul uses in our text for "letter." They had received a false letter claiming to be from Paul so now he closes ever letter as a sign of genuineness.

The fact that they believed this false letter saying that the day of the Lord had come tells us something very important about their view on eschatology. Let's examine this text.

"To the effect that the day of the Lord has come"—"has come" is from enistēmi which means "has come." Some commentators do cartwheels around trying to make it mean something else. It cannot. It simply means they believed that it had come, had arrived, and, therefore, it was actually there. They were in the Day of the Lord. It had arrived and they were in it.

The Greek commentator Dean Alford translates the passage, "To the effect that the day of the Lord is present; not, 'is at hand': the verb used here occurs six times in the New Testament, and always in the sense of being present; in two of those places, Romans 8:38, 1 Corinthians 3:22, the things present are distinguished expressly from the things to come." The Thessalonians were not afraid that the day of Christ was coming but that they were in it.

What exactly is the "day of the Lord" that had come? Notice how Peter describes it.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  2 Peter 3:10 ESV
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  2 Peter 3:12 ESV

Most Christians would say that the day of the Lord as Peter describes it is the end of the world as we know it. They claim that it is the destruction of the physical heavens and earth that is to happen in our future.

If you are not familiar with the apocalyptic language of the Scriptures, you will not understand what Peter is saying here. If you approach the New Testament's apocalyptic language without recognizing it for what it is and do not know how to deal with its tone, images, and symbols, you are sure to go astray.

Now think with me on this. If the Thessalonians thought the Day of the Lord was the end of the world and the destruction of the physical heavens and earth, how could they have thought that it had already happened? Does that make any sense?

not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.  2 Thessalonians 2:2 ESV

This verse shatters the paradigm that views the Second Coming as the fiery destruction of the whole earth. Do you see that? If the Thessalonians believed the modern view that the nature of the Second Coming was to involve an earth-burning, total destruction of the planet, how could they have been deceived about its arrival? Why wouldn't Paul have written them and said, "Look out the window, the earth is still here, so the Lord has obviously not come." They thought it had already happened, so they must have viewed the nature of the Second Coming differently than most folks today view it. They must have viewed it as a spiritual event. They thought it happened but there was no physical evidence of it. Throughout the Scriptures we see that Time Defined Nature.

Unlike the Thessalonians, most believers today think that the Lord's coming and the day of the Lord must be physical. G.K.Beale in his commentary on 2 Thessalonians dealing with 3:16  writes, "We too often think that those who habitually oppose false teaching are pugnacious and cause dissension and that peace comes by agreeing to disagree. Although this is true about certain things, there are a number of issues about which the church must take a stand (e. g., the deity of Christ, the Trinity, justification by faith). Paul is defending the truth that Christ must come back bodily to raise his people bodily." Where does Paul teach the second coming is a bodily coming? Time defines nature.

Where do the Scriptures say that Christ's coming would be a bodily coming. Nowhere in the New Testament is it stated that the Parousia of Christ was "in the flesh."  The Bible is emphatic that the first coming of Christ was in the flesh,

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Yeshua the Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.  2 John 1:7 ESV

But nowhere does it say that the second coming would be in the flesh. The Bible doesn't talk about a physical bodily return of Christ. Let's look at a few Second Coming texts.

And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. Mark 13:21-23 ESV

In these verses, Yeshua seems to stress that his coming will not be a physical, bodily coming. If someone says, "Here is Christ, or there," they were not to believe it. Why? If His coming was to be physical and bodily, why would someone not be able to say, "He is over there"? They were not to believe that because his coming would not be physical and bodily, and yet it would be plainly seen. How would they see His coming? They would see it in the judgment that was to fall upon Jerusalem.

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7 ESV

This is reminiscent of cloud comings in the Tanakh, when Yahweh came in judgment:

He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; Psalms 104:3 ESV
An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. Isaiah 19:1 ESV

We know from chapter 20 that God used the Assyrians as instruments of His wrath on Egypt, yet it says, "The LORD is riding on a swift cloud…, Egypt will tremble at His presence." God came to Egypt. Did He physically come to Egypt? No, how did He "come" to Egypt? He came in judgment. His presence was made known in judgment. But it was the Assyrians who were literally present.

He is coming upon "those who pierced Him." That refers to Israel. As a consequence of His coming in judgment, "all the tribes of the earth [or land] will wail on account of him." Earth is translated from the Greek word ghay, and it means: "soil, country, earth, ground, land, world." "The tribes of the land" is a familiar designation for Israel. The Jews crucified Yeshua, and they were punished for it.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Yeshua whom you crucified." Acts 2:36 ESV

Peter tells the Sanhedrin the Jewish high court, the one that had condemned Christ to death, "Whom you crucified." The Jews, those who pierced him, would wail at his coming. Their wailing would be caused by the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army.

Yeshua told them that they would see his coming.

But Yeshua remained silent. And the high priest said to him,"I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."Yeshuasaid to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." Matthew 26:63-64 ESV

The destruction of Jerusalem was evidence of Yeshua's coming in the clouds for that historical group of people. But are we to see it only as a coming in judgment on Israel? The full Preterist or consistent Preterist sees this judgment coming on Israel as the Second Advent of Christ. Yeshua said that He would come in the lifetime of His disciples, not just to judge Israel. He said that He would come in the glory of His father, with His angels, to reward every man.

We must see that this is not a physical, bodily coming of Christ but a coming in judgment. The idea of "seeing" here is not seeing with the physical eyes but is rather seeing in the sense of "to recognize, to be aware, to perceive." The destruction of Jerusalem would cause the tribes of Israel to recognize that Yeshua was indeed the Son of man and the Messiah.

Toby Sumpter who is an associate pastor at Doug Wilson's Church in Moscow, Idaho in a video titled "The Gary DeMar Debacle" says, "I want to be clear, denying a central creedal confession doctrine like the coming of Christ in person to raise our physical bodies from their graves and the final judgment is a deadly and lethal disease like the black plague." We see from this that he puts the resurrection at the time at the judgment and second coming. And to prove his doctrine of physical resurrection, Sumpter sites Job 19.

And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:26-27 ESV

The ESV says, "Yet in my flesh I shall see God." But, is that what the original text says? A study of the Hebrew reveals that this verse isn't translated correctly. As a matter of fact, it says the exact opposite. Keil and Delitzsch translate verse 26 this way: "And after my skin, thus torn to pieces, and without my flesh shall I behold Eloah" (Job 19:26-27). In their commentary on verse 26, Keil and Delitzsch write, "We cannot in this speech find that the hope of a bodily recovery is expressed."

So, the Bible doesn't teach a physical resurrection, but it does tell us the time of the resurrection. The Scriptures testify that the time of the resurrection was to be at the end of the Old Covenant age.

But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days." Daniel 12:13 ESV

We know this to have happened in AD 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The disciples knew that the fall of the Temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant Age and the inauguration of a New Age.

Why would the teaching that the Day of the Lord had already come so upset the Thessalonians? It was upsetting them because Paul had promised them relief at the Second Coming, Resurrection, and Judgment. The believers at Thessalonica were suffering greatly for their faith.

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.  2 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV

Paul compares their suffering with the persecution of the Christians in the churches in Judea. This was a severe persecution which included the deaths of the Christian martyrs, Stephen and James, son of Zebedee. The persecution against the Thessalonian church began during the time when Paul and his companions were in the city and which continued afterward. Listen to what he is saying. This brand-new church in Thessalonica was dealing with persecution equal to that an older, mature church might expect to suffer because they too were abiding in Christ. They were walking in obedience to the Spirit of God and the Word of God.

since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV

Whom is he talking to in these verses? He is addressing the believers in Thessalonica in the first century. He assures them that God is going to repay with affliction those who afflict—any believer all believers? No, those who afflict "YOU"—the believers in Thessalonica in the first century. He would "grant relief to YOU." Clearly, Paul was telling the first-century Thessalonian believers that they would receive relief from suffering. WHEN? When they died? No! He says it would occur "when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven." That's the second coming (called here the Revelation of Yeshua). So, if the Lord has not yet returned two thousand years later, what did this mean to the Thessalonian believers to whom it was written? Nothing! It would have been deceptive to them because the only relief they would get would come at death since the second coming was thousands of years in their future.

Can you show me something in this letter that would indicate that Paul switched his intended audience to people thousands of years in the future?

Are we to believe that Paul wrote this to the first-century believers in Thessalonica who were suffering but that it had absolutely no meaning to them? This would never fly with thinking people.

Let me add here that there is no Scripture that explicitly teaches that Yeshua would return in a physical, bodily fashion. But there are many texts that tell us that His coming would be "soon" to His first-century audience. An understanding of the language of Scripture will help us see that His coming was not to be physical but was to be a coming in judgment on Old Covenant Israel. The judgment was physical; His presence was not.

Our text in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 clearly tells us that Paul and the Thessalonians expected the return of Christ to happen in their lifetime. The Parousia could not give them relief and punish those who were afflicting them if it did not happen in their lifetime. This is consistent with what Paul had already taught them in the first letter.

The view that the church today holds on the Parousia is at odds with Paul's teachings. So, who got it wrong? Was it Paul or the majority of the church? The Church at large is still waiting for the Parousia, over two thousand years since it was prophesied. But Paul said the first-century believers would see it. Who is right?

In light of all of the clear time texts, why does the majority of churchianity today reject a first-century coming of Christ? Why can't they see this? I think it is because they look for a physical coming of Christ. Just like the Jews missed the first coming of Christ because they were looking for a physical deliverer, the church has missed the second coming.

Paul closes the epistle with prayer.

The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Christ be with you all.  2 Thessalonians 3:18 ESV

Nearly all of Paul's letters begin and end with the idea of grace. The word "grace" means "free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment." The heart of the gospel is that God's grace or unmerited favor is extended to sinners. Because Christ paid the penalty for all our sins on the cross, God's holy justice is satisfied. Human merit plays no part in man's salvation. I think you understand that, but do you understand that, as Christians, we are to live by grace?

All of the Christian life is a matter of grace. We are brought into God's eternal kingdom by grace; we are positionally and practically sanctified by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we receive strength to live the Christian life by grace; and we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace. The entire Christian life is lived by grace.

To live by grace is to live solely by the merit of Yeshua the Christ. To live by grace is to base our entire relationship with God, including our acceptance and standing with Him, on our union with Christ. To live by grace is to recognize that in ourselves we bring nothing of worth to our relationship with God, because even our righteous acts are like filthy rags in His sight. To live by grace means that we understand that God's love is not conditioned by our obedience or disobedience but by the perfect obedience of Yeshua the Christ.

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.  Romans 5:19 ESV

The word "made" is not causative, but declarative. Those in Adam were declared sinners. It is imperative that we understand this: "By one man's disobedience many were regarded as sinners." He doesn't say, "made sinful," but "made sinners." The whole human race has been constituted legally as sinners. That is our judicial standing before God. And it is based entirely and solely on Adam's one act of disobedience.

That is one side, but thank God there is another side to the parallel—"so by." By the righteous act of One Man, the Lord Yeshua the Christ, the many are made righteous. Our salvation is based entirely on Him, and from Him, and in Him. As my being a sinner came entirely from Adam, all my righteousness comes entirely from the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

Yeshua was regarded and treated as a sinner that we might be regarded and treated as righteous in the sight of God. As a believer, I am righteous, and I will always be righteous because I am in Christ, and Christ never changes, so neither will I. Your salvation and mine depends only, and entirely, and exclusively upon the obedience of Christ.

The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Christ be with you all.  2 Thessalonians 3:18 ESV

This closing verse is identical with 1 Thess. 5:28, except for the addition of "all," which includes even the unruly. They need the Lord's grace. The entire church needs the Lord's grace to deal with persecution, false teaching, and with the unruly members.

Let me close this morning with this. If you have experienced the grace of the Lord Yeshua through the gospel, you are now to be a channel for that grace to flow to others.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Why should we watch our words and "let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but say things that build others up? "That it may give grace to those who hear"—"that" is hina, this is a purpose clause. The word "grace" here is the Greek word charis.

If you are at odds with anyone, perhaps because he or she has wronged you, you'll be inclined to think, "But this person doesn't deserve words that build him up! He deserves to be put down!" But, grace is undeserved favor! Grace extends to others what Yahweh has extended to you. We are to be like Yeshua, and He was gracious.

What is the means of grace here in Ephesians 4:29? It is our words to other believers. Yahweh uses our speech to give grace. Are you aware that you can be a means of grace in another believer's life? That is a very sobering thought. I can impart grace to a fellow believer! Peter put it this way.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:  1 Peter 4:10 ESV

The Greek word for "gift" here is charisma; it has the idea of: "grace." We have received grace, and we are to minister grace to each other. Think about this for a minute. How important is God's grace to you? We can't make it through one day apart from the grace of God. We need God's enabling power to live our lives, and this power, this grace, can come to us through the ministry of others.

Now you might be thinking, "How is this possible?" Have you ever been in the pit of despair, being overcome by your circumstances? I have. And in those times, Yahweh uses His Word to strengthen me, and He uses prayer. But He also uses "fellow believers." When I think of times of trial, I remember the comfort that I received from my friends; friends who gave me encouraging words, words of support, words of comfort. My friends reminded me of what I knew the Scripture said and reminded me of Yahweh's faithfulness. My friends ministered grace to me. They were used of God as a means of grace. Ministering to one another in time of need is an important means by which the Lord mediates His grace to us.

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